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January 28, 2021

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January 15, 2021

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February 2, 2021

Update on U.S. Passport Operations

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Country Information

Nicaragua

Nicaragua
Republic of Nicaragua
Reconsider travel to Nicaragua due to COVID-19, limited healthcare availability, and arbitrary enforcement of laws. Exercise increased caution in Nicaragua due to crime.

Reconsider travel to Nicaragua due to COVID-19, limited healthcare availability, and arbitrary enforcement of laws. Exercise increased caution in Nicaragua due to crime.

Read the Department of State’s COVID-19 page before you plan any international travel.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 4 Travel Health Notice for Nicaragua due to COVID-19. Travelers should expect delays returning to the U.S. and there is reduced availability of flights. Visit the Embassy's COVID-19 page for more information on COVID-19 in Nicaragua.

The government of Nicaragua arbitrarily enforces laws for political purposes. Throughout Nicaragua, government officials and law enforcement continue to target those opposed to the rule of President Ortega. The government and its affiliated groups have been reported to:

  • Systematically target opposition figures (regardless of nationality), including former allies, political activists, business representatives, clergy, human rights advocates, and members of the press.
  • Arbitrarily detain pro-democracy advocates.
  • Prevent certain individuals from departing Nicaragua by air or land for political reasons.
  • Arbitrarily seize and/or search private property including personal phones and computers for anti-government content.
  • Arbitrarily detain individuals with unfounded charges of terrorism, money laundering, and organized crime for political motives.

Travelers should exercise increased caution and be alert to the risks of crime, including violent crimes such as sexual assault and armed robbery.

Poor infrastructure in parts of the country limits the Embassy’s ability to assist U.S. citizens in emergencies. U.S. government personnel may be subject to restrictions on their movements at any time.

Read the country information page.

If you decide to travel to Nicaragua:

  • See the U.S. Embassy's web page regarding COVID-19.
  • Visit the CDC’s webpage on Travel and COVID-19.
  • Consider arrangements to depart the country quickly.
  • Ensure your U.S. passport is valid and available for a quick departure from the country, if needed.
  • Avoid demonstrations and restrict unnecessary travel.
  • Do not attempt to drive through crowds, barricades, or roadblocks.
  • Maintain adequate supplies of food, cash, potable water, and fuel in case you need to shelter in place.
  • Use caution when walking or driving at night.
  • Keep a low profile.
  • Do not display signs of wealth such as expensive watches or jewelry.
  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Review the Crime and Safety Report for Nicaragua.
  • U.S. citizens who travel abroad should always have a contingency plan for emergency situations, and review the Traveler’s Checklist.

Last Update: Reissued with updates to Civil Unrest and Crime

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Embassy Messages

Alerts

Quick Facts

PASSPORT VALIDITY:


Length of stay.

BLANK PASSPORT PAGES:


One page per stamp.

TOURIST VISA REQUIRED:


No (90 days or fewer). Tourist card at airport. See Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements below.

VACCINATIONS:


Yellow fever (in some cases, see Entry Requirements section).

CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY:


Must declare $10,000 USD or more in cash.

CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT:


None.

Embassies and Consulates

U.S. Embassy Managua

Km 5 ½ Carretera Sur
Managua, Nicaragua
Telephone:
+(505) 2252-7100
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(505) 2252-7100
Fax: +(505) 2252-7250
Email:  

Destination Description

See the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on Nicaragua for information on U.S. - Nicaraguan relations. 

Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements

Please visit the Embassy's COVID-19 page for more information on entry/exit requirements related to COVID-19 in Nicaragua.

Since the 2018 civil unrest, Nicaraguan authorities have denied entry to or expelled foreigners, including NGO workers, academics, and journalists, for political reasons, including perceived support of pro-democracy or human rights movements. Travelers have also been arrested at the airport for political reasons while attempting to leave the country. 

  • For visitors other than tourists, the Nicaraguan government recommends that you pre-register your trip by following the instructions available on the Nicaraguan immigration website (in Spanish only). See our website for additional information.
  • All travelers should have an onward or return ticket and evidence of funds to support yourself while in Nicaragua. You must carry a valid identity document at all times.
  • You must purchase a tourist card for $10 USD at the airport (exact change recommended), valid for up to a total of 90 days in any of the member countries of the Central America-4 Border Control Agreement. Visitors remaining longer must obtain an extension from Nicaraguan Immigration or be subject to large fines.
  • Many travelers must show proof of yellow fever vaccination administered at least 10 days before travel in order to be permitted entry to Nicaragua. Please review the requirements on our website to see if you need this vaccination before your travel to Nicaragua.
  • If you use a passport of a different nationality than you did on prior trips to Nicaragua, Nicaraguan authorities may deny you entry. If you possess multiple nationalities, you should carry a valid passport for all of them.
  • Medical officials conduct a remote body temperature scan of all disembarking passengers at Managua’s airport. Nicaragua may quarantine you or not allow you to enter the country if you exhibit signs of illness. For specific information, contact the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health.
  • You must exit Nicaragua with the same passport used for entry. If your U.S. passport is lost or stolen while in Nicaragua, you will need to get a new entry stamp from Nicaraguan Immigration before you can depart. This cannot be done at the airport on departure.
  • There is a $42 USD departure tax, normally included in the plane ticket price. If for some reason it is not, you can pay the tax at the airline counter when departing.
  • The Government of Nicaragua requires special notification for official travelers. All U.S. citizen employees of the U.S. government and their family members should inform the U.S. Embassy in Managua, regardless of whether they are entering Nicaragua by car, plane, or boat and regardless of whether they are traveling on their official/diplomatic/regular passports.
  • See the U.S. Embassy website for information regarding departure requirements for children under 18 who also are Nicaraguan citizens.

Advanced Coordination Required for Volunteer Groups: You should email both the Embassy of Nicaragua in the United States (asistente.emb@embanic.org) and the Nicaraguan Ministry of Foreign Affairs (enlace@cancilleria.gob.ni) to inform them of your trip if you are leading one of the following types of trips, even if your group has worked in Nicaragua previously or has a local office:

  • Volunteer mission;
  • Charitable or medical brigade (the latter also need permission from the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health); or
  • Assistance visit organized by NGOs, religious groups, schools, or any other group doing this type of work in Nicaragua.

For the latest visa and entry requirements, visit the Embassy of Nicaragua or Nicaraguan Immigration websites (Spanish only).

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors or foreign residents in Nicaragua.

Find information on dual nationalityprevention of international child abduction and customs regulations on our websites.

Safety and Security

  • The Government of Nicaragua is authoritarian, limits freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, represses internal dissent, and monitors and responds to perceived threats to its authority. Nicaragua’s Sovereign Security Law and its Terrorism and Money Laundering law allow for discretionary interpretation of unlawful activities that threaten the peace and economic stability of Nicaragua. Convictions under these laws are largely arbitrary and may result in long prison sentences.
  •    Nicaraguan authorities and violent, armed civilians in plain clothes acting extralegally and with impunity (“para-police”) may monitor, detain, deny entry to, expel, or question private U.S. citizens concerning their activities, including their contact with Nicaraguan citizens. Particularly sensitive topics are:
    • Elections; and
    • Criticism of the Government of Nicaragua or President Daniel Ortega.
  • The legal process can result in prolonged detentions of U.S. citizens. While Nicaraguan laws provide for a fair and transparent judicial process, it is not always provided in practice by Nicaraguan authorities, particularly in cases of politically motivated arrests.
  • Demonstrations or strikes may occur throughout the country; in the past, these have turned violent. Avoid demonstrations and exercise extreme caution around large gatherings.
  • Roads may be closed, and public transportation may be disrupted due to large crowds celebrating the following holidays:
    • Semana Santa (the week before Easter);
    • Repliegue Historico a Masaya (early July);
    • July 19 celebration of the Sandinista Revolution;
    • Celebration in Managua of Santo Domingo, the Patron Saint of the city (August 1st and August 10th);
    • Day of the Nicaraguan Army (September 2);
    • Nicaraguan Independence Day (September 14 and 15); and
    • Immaculate Conception (December 8). 

Crime: Vehicle burglaries, pick-pocketing, and occasional armed robberies occur in store parking lots, on public transportation, and in open-air markets like the Oriental and Huembes Markets in Managua. Petty street crime is common in Managua, Puerto Cabezas, Bluefields, San Juan del Sur, Popoyo, El Transito, and the Corn Islands. Police presence is extremely limited outside of major urban areas. The Caribbean Coast’s geographical isolation further limits the Embassy’s ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens living or visiting the area.

  • Uniformed police or para-police commit violence and intimidate civilians throughout the country, often for political reasons.
  • U.S. citizens have been sexually assaulted in beach resort areas.
  • There are no forensic doctors on the Corn Islands, so victims of violent crimes, including sexual assault, must travel to Bluefields at their own expense for medical examinations and collection of evidence. In several recent cases, police were reluctant to produce police reports or pursue charges. Please report such incidents to the Embassy.
  • Medical services outside Managua are limited, including for victims of crime.
  •   Exercise extreme caution when renting or driving vehicles. In one common scam, “Good Samaritans” pull over to help change a flat tire. While the driver is distracted, an accomplice steals the driver’s possessions.
  • Due to crime and other illicit activity, U.S. government personnel are prohibited from entering Managua’s Oriental Market and gentlemen’s clubs throughout the country.

 International Financial Scams: See the Department of State and the FBI page for information.

Victims of Crime: Report crimes, including sexual assault, to the local police at 118 (Nicaraguan equivalent of “911,” in Spanish) or 101 (Tourist Emergency Hotline, English-speaking operators but only reachable from Claro cell phones). Report serious crime to the U.S. Embassy at 2252-7100 immediately and minor crimes during business hours.

Local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting crimes.

See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.

The Embassy can:

  • Help you find appropriate medical care.
  • Assist you in reporting a crime to the police.
  • Contact relatives or friends with your written consent.
  • Provide a list of local attorneys.
  • Share information on victim’s compensation programs in the United States.
  • Provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or, limited financial support in cases of destitution.
  • Help you find accommodation and flights home.
  • Replace a stolen or lost passport.

Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence are encouraged to contact the Embassy for assistance.

Coastal Disputes: Be aware of the following border disputes:

  • Nicaragua and Colombia have an ongoing dispute over waters surrounding the San Andres Islands.
  • The Nicaraguan Navy has challenged vessels passing through its exclusive economic zone.
  • Nicaragua and Costa Rica have stationed security forces at Harbor Head (also called Isla Calero) at the eastern end of the San Juan River.
  • Nicaragua, Honduras, and El Salvador have maritime and land disputes over islands and access to fishing rights in the Gulf of Fonseca on the Pacific Coast, a closed sea under international law.

Tourism: The tourism industry is unevenly regulated, and safety inspections for equipment and facilities are uncommon. Hazardous areas/activities are not always identified with appropriate signage, and staff may not be trained or certified. In the event of an injury, appropriate medical treatment is typically available only in major cities. In the event of a diving injury, the only hyperbaric chamber is in Puerto Cabezas, over 100 miles from Corn Island where most tourists dive. U.S. citizens are encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.

Local Laws & Special Circumstances

Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.

Furthermore, some crimes are also prosecutable in the United States, regardless of local law. For examples, see our website on crimes against minors abroad and the Department of Justice website.

  • Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Nicaragua are severe, even for possession of small amounts of illegal drugs.
  • Even with a prescription, marijuana is illegal in Nicaragua.

There are severe penalties, including imprisonment, for domestic violence, psychological abuse, and non-payment of child support.

Arrest Notification: Nicaraguan authorities may not notify the Embassy when a U.S. citizen has been detained, especially if the arrestee has dual nationality. If you are detained, ask police or prison officials and friends or family to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. After the Embassy learns of an arrest, it may be several days or weeks before the Government of Nicaragua permits a consular official to visit. See our webpage for further information.

  • The legal system operates arbitrarily, which can result in prolonged detentions of U.S. citizens without charges or due process, often for political reasons.
  • Authorities have ignored or significantly delayed implementing judicial orders to release, deport, expel, or transfer prisoners.

Purchasing Property: Exercise extreme caution before investing in property. Armed individuals have taken over privately owned land. U.S. citizens have been arrested or threatened over property disputes. See our website for more information.

Beach Safety: Exercise caution at the beach. U.S. citizens have drowned at Nicaraguan beaches, lagoons, and lakes. Warning signs are not posted. Lifeguards and rescue equipment are not readily available.

Hiking in volcanic or remote areas is dangerous. Wear appropriate clothing and footwear. Carry sufficient food, water, and communication equipment. If you travel to remote areas, hire a reputable local guide. Nicaraguan law requires tourists hire a local guide for several volcanoes, including the two volcanoes on Ometepe Island (Maderas and Concepcion).

Disaster Preparedness: Nicaragua is prone to earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, and volcanic eruptions. If you are at a coastal area when an earthquake occurs, move swiftly to higher ground (when safe to do so) to avoid possible tsunamis.

  • In the event of an earthquake, volcanic eruption, or other natural disaster, U.S. citizens should pay close attention to local media reports. Follow the guidance of local authorities and monitor the websites of the Nicaraguan Institute for Territorial Studies (INETER) and the Nicaraguan Emergency Alert System (SINAPRED). Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)  to receive important emergency information.
  • See the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website for information about disaster preparedness.

Customs Regulations: U.S. citizens planning to import items should contract a recognized local customs broker for assistance well in advance of their visit. The Embassy is unable to assist with the customs or import process.

  • Nicaraguan customs officials routinely delay or block import of goods, including items intended for donation.
  • If you are planning to bring vehicles or household goods, consult Nicaraguan customs officials prior to shipment.
  • When entering with your vehicle, you must have the original registration and title.
  • Drones and similar devices are not permitted and will be confiscated by Customs authorities.
  • Approval from the Ministry of Health’s Pharmacy Department is required to import large quantities of medicine, even for charitable purposes.
  • Before excavating archaeological materials or buying historical artifacts, you must consult with the National Patrimony Directorate of the Nicaraguan Institute of Culture. Otherwise, severe criminal penalties may apply.

Faith-Based Travelers: See the following webpages for details:

LGBTI Travelers: There are no legal restrictions on same-sex relations or the organization of LGBTI events in Nicaragua. While violence against LGBTI travelers is uncommon, widespread discrimination exists. See our LGBTI Travel Information page and the Department of State's Human Rights report for further details.

Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: There is limited or no accessibility assistance for public transportation and in many public areas. There are few sidewalks and pedestrian road crossings.

While Nicaraguan law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical and mental disabilities, in practice such discrimination is widespread in employment, education, access to health care, and the provision of state services.

Students: See our Students Abroad page.

Women Travelers: See our travel tips for Women Travelers.

Health

Please visit the Embassy's COVID-19 page for the most up-to-date information on COVID-19 in Nicaragua.

Government hospitals are understaffed and  some hospitals throughout the country may not be able to assist in emergencies. Only basic, limited emergency medical services are available outside Managua.

  • Ambulance services provide transportation and basic first aid only and are unreliable throughout the country.
  • Physicians and hospital personnel frequently do not speak English.
  • Tap water is not reliably potable. Drink only purified bottled water.

 The following diseases are prevalent:

  • Mosquito-borne diseases (e.g. ZikaDengue fever, and Chikungunya)
  • Upper respiratory viruses (e.g. Influenza)
  • Infectious bacterial diseases (e.g. Typhoid fever and Leptospirosis)
  • Intestinal illnesses (e.g. Giardia)

We do not pay your medical bills. Please be aware that neither the Embassy nor U.S. Medicare or Medicaid can pay for medical care overseas.

Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Even with health insurance, most care providers overseas require cash payments prior to providing service. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage. We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation.

If traveling with prescription medication, check with the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health's Pharmacy Department to ensure the medication is legal. Always carry your prescription medication in original packaging labeled with your doctor’s prescribing information.

Vaccinations: Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Further health information:

Travel and Transportation

Road Conditions and Safety: Main roads between major cities are paved and in good condition. Other roads may have potholes, be poorly lit, be narrow, and lack shoulders. During the rainy season, roads may become flooded or have additional damage. Horse carts, livestock, and pedestrians crossing roads in front of oncoming traffic are common, even on major roads in the main cities. Most roads on the Caribbean Coast are unpaved. Road signs throughout the country are limited or non-existent. Road travel after dark is hazardous in all areas. Carry a cellphone in case of emergency. Do not drive outside urban areas after dark.

Traffic Laws: If you are involved in a traffic accident, you must wait for the police and insurance company representatives to arrive. However, especially during overnight hours, police and insurance companies may not respond. Do not move your vehicle, unless a police officer tells you to do so, or you will be legally liable for the accident.

Nicaraguan law requires that police take a driver into custody for:

  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (the legal limit is 0.05% blood alcohol content); or
  • For being involved in an accident that causes serious injury or death.

The minimum detention period is 48 hours. In fatal accidents, drivers are held until they reach a legal settlement with the victim’s family.

To avoid liability, consider hiring a professional driver through a reputable hotel.

All drivers must carry:

  • Driver’s license;
  • Proof of insurance;
  • Vehicle registration;
  • Emergency triangle;
  • Fire extinguisher; and
  • Inspection and registration stickers 

These regulations also apply to drivers in rental vehicles. Penalties for not having any of the above include fines and towing. For more information, check with the Nicaraguan National Police or the Embassy of Nicaragua.

Traffic Stops: Transit police often stop those in rental cars and with foreign license plates.

  • If transit police demand a bribe in lieu of a fine, request a receipt and the officer’s name and badge number.
  • To report mistreatment by police, email a complaint to Nicaragua’s National Police and forward a copy to the U.S. Consular Section in Managua.
  • If you receive a traffic violation, police will confiscate your driver’s license until you pay the fine at a bank. Depending on your length of stay, you may not be able to recover your license in a timely manner.

Public Transportation: Buses, moto-taxis, and ferries often lack proper safety equipment.

  • U.S. government personnel are not permitted to use public buses and most taxis (including moto-taxis) due to safety and crime concerns.
  • Use only licensed taxis recommended by airport authorities, major hotels, restaurants, or other trusted sources.
  • Exercise caution in the face of possibly overloaded or unsafe ferries and boats. Check with local naval or police authorities about the safety of being on the water in local weather conditions. An insufficient number of life vests and other safety equipment are provided on most vessels.

Airports in remote locales often have short airstrips, minimal safety equipment, and little boarding security.

See our Road Safety page for more information and the Nicaraguan Institute of Tourism and National Transit Authority.

Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) assessed the government of Nicaragua’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Nicaragua’s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.

Maritime Travel: Mariners planning travel to Nicaragua should also check for U.S. maritime advisories and alerts on the Maritime Administration website. Information may also be posted to the websites of the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (select “broadcast warnings”). 

For additional travel information

International Parental Child Abduction

Review information about International Parental Child Abduction in Nicaragua. For additional IPCA-related information, please see the International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act (ICAPRA) report.

Last Updated: December 2, 2020

Travel Advisory Levels

Assistance for U.S. Citizens

U.S. Embassy Managua
Km 5 ½ Carretera Sur
Managua, Nicaragua
Telephone
+(505) 2252-7100
Emergency
+(505) 2252-7100
Fax
+(505) 2252-7250

Nicaragua Map