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Nicaragua

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Summary

  • Reconsider your need to travel to Nicaragua due to civil unrest.
  • Violent protests are ongoing in various parts of Nicaragua, including Managua and Leon, and have resulted in a number of deaths and injuries. Looting and roadblocks have been reported around the country. Avoid all demonstrations as they may turn violent, and monitor the local media for further information and updates. See Safety and security.
  • Violent crime is common and widespread in Nicaragua, including in the capital Managua. Violent crime in Nicaragua often involves firearms and is frequently related to violent street gangs. See Safety and security.
  • If you plan to visit San Juan del Sur and take part in the partying scene, read Partying safely.
  • The hurricane season is June to November. Landslides, mudslides and flooding may occur. Nicaragua has active volcanoes. Earthquakes, tsunamis and landslides also occur. Find out the emergency instructions of each place you stay. See Natural disasters.
  • If travelling with medicines, you must satisfy specific requirements. See Health.

Entry and exit

Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Australian Government cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination's entry or exit requirements.

Visas

Tourists in Nicaragua must be in possession of a tourist card, which costs $US10 and is payable on entry.

Nicaragua is party to the Central America Border Control Agreement (CA-4). Under this agreement, foreigners may travel for up to 90 days between Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala without completing entry and exit formalities. This period begins at the first point of entry to any of these countries. This waiver is issued once per year and visitors can request an extension prior to its expiry. Visitors who stay more than 90 days without permission could be fined and expelled from any of the four countries. Visitors expelled from one country may be refused entry to the others.

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact the nearest Embassy of Nicaragua for the most up-to-date information.

More information: Embassy of Nicaragua (Japan)

Other formalities

Yellow fever vaccination certificate

If you travel to Nicaragua from a country where yellow fever is endemic, you must carry a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate.

More information: Countries in which yellow fever is endemic (World Health Organization)

Travelling to Nicaragua through the USA and Canada

If you are travelling to Nicaragua via the US, you must meet US entry/transit requirements. Check your visa requirements with the nearest US Embassy or Consulate well in advance of travel.

More information: Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) and Department of Homeland Security websites.

If you are travelling to Nicaragua via Canada by air, you will require an eTA (electronic Travel Authorisation) for Canada.

More information: Government of Canada website or at the Canadian High Commission.

Arrival and departure taxes

There is a $US10 arrival tax, which should be paid in cash.

The airport departure tax at the Augusto Sandino Airport in Managua is $US38 and is usually included in your airline ticket. Check with your travel agent that this is the case.

Passport

Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months from the date you intend to return to Australia.

Your passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.

If your passport is lost or stolen, you must notify the Australian Government as soon as possible.

Money

Australian currency and travellers cheques are not accepted in Nicaragua. The US dollar (cash and travellers cheques) is the only foreign currency freely exchangeable in Nicaragua.

There are relatively low daily withdrawal limits from ATMs in Nicaragua.

Safety and security

Crime

The risk of crime, including armed robbery, assault, 'express kidnapping' (where individuals are abducted and forced to withdraw funds from an ATM to secure their release), theft, and car/vehicle-jacking is significant.

  • Do not discuss your travel plans with strangers or in public areas.
  • Avoid non-essential travel at night.
  • Only travel within tourist areas and avoid isolated locations.
  • Only use official taxis, which have a clearly visible red number plate, or radio despatched taxis, which are available at the International Airport and larger hotels. Before starting your journey make a note of the taxi's registration number and telephone number. Robberies and assaults have occurred in unofficial taxis, often with weapons.
  • Do not share taxis with strangers at any time.
  • Do not travel on buses after dark.
  • Avoid taking public transport where possible. Be cautious of anyone offering assistance on public transport, including on long-distance trips, as they may have criminal motives.
  • Avoid walking alone, particularly on isolated beaches.
  • Be alert to pickpockets and bag snatchers, particularly on public transport and in tourist areas, hotels, markets and vehicles stopped in traffic.  Be extra careful in markets in the vicinity of the old cathedral in Managua, near the Tica Bus Station terminal and at public transport terminals.
  • Use only well-known, reputable tour operators. Thieves posing as tour guides, particularly on the Island of Ometepe, have robbed travellers.
  • Be careful using ATMs. Only use ATMs at banks and in well-trafficked areas such as shopping centres.
  • Be vigilant when using your credit card. Credit card fraud is on the increase. 
  • If you are held up, do not resist – many criminals carry weapons.

Plan your travels to avoid crime hot-spots:

  • The Caribbean coastal area of Nicaragua is a known transit zone for illegal drugs.
  • Managua, Granada and San Juan del Sur, Bonanza, La Rosita Siuna and Corn Island experience the highest rates of violent crime, including armed robbery and assault.
  • Major hotels, bus terminals, beaches and markets have all been sites of gang violence.
  • There is an extremely limited police presence outside of major urban areas, in particular the remote beach communities on the Pacific Coast and the Atlantic Coast autonomous regions. These areas are used by drug traffickers and other criminal elements.
  • Armed gangs carry out kidnappings, robberies and extortion in the northern border region. Travel to the Honduran border should only be undertaken on highways with border crossings (at Guassaule, El Espino and Las Manos).
  • Attacks on vehicles have been reported, including buses operated by hotels, along the Managua-Leon, Tipitapa-Masaya and Somotillo-Chinandega highways.

Civil unrest and political tension

Violent protests are ongoing in various parts of Nicaragua, including Managua, Leon and other urban centres, and have resulted in a number of deaths and injuries. The protests commenced on 18 April 2018 and clashes have involved the use of tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition. Looting and roadblocks have been reported across the country. 

  • Avoid all demonstrations as they may turn violent.
  • Monitor the local media for further information and updates and reconfirm the status of travel routes before setting out.
  • Do not attempt to cross roadblocks.
  • Follow the directions of local authorities.

There are boundary disputes in the Caribbean coastal waters between Nicaragua and neighbouring Honduras. Boats and fishing vessels have been detained and impounded.

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. 

More information: Terrorist threat worldwide

Local travel

The town of San Juan del Sur has a lively party scene. If you plan to party in San Juan del Sur, read our Partying safely bulletin.  

Check the safety conditions at the beaches on the Pacific coastline of Nicaragua as strong currents and undertows are prevalent. Lifeguards and warning signs may not be in place.

Adventure travel, including trekking in volcano or other remote areas should only be undertaken with an experienced local guide. Have sufficient provisions when preparing for any trip.

Road travel

Traffic conditions are dangerous due to poor quality and narrow roads, lack of signage and local driving practices. Traffic accidents are a common cause of death and injury. You are three times more likely to be killed in a motor vehicle accident in Nicaragua than in Australia.

Vehicles involved in an accident should not be moved until authorised by a police officer.

  • Only travel during daylight hours.
  • Travel in groups where possible.
  • Do not hitchhike.
  • Ensure vehicle windows are closed and doors locked.
  • Do not venture off main roads in the northern border region as unmarked landmines pose a significant danger. Affected areas are not always clearly marked.

More information: Road safety and driving

Taxis

It's a common local practice to share taxis with strangers. If you wish to avoid this, agree a fare with the driver for a solo journey. Always agree the fare before you set off.

Many assaults and robberies have occurred when using unlicensed taxis and when a stranger offers to call a taxi for you. Don't take a taxi if it's been called for you by someone you do not know well.

Air travel

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Nicaragua.

More information: Air travel

Laws

Local laws

You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Drug laws

Penalties for drug offences are severe, including heavy fines and lengthy prison sentences.

More information: Carrying or using drugs

Other laws

It is illegal to photograph official buildings in Nicaragua. Check with local authorities before taking photographs.

Drivers involved in road accidents resulting in death or injury are generally arrested and/or detained until responsibility has been established by the courts. This process can take a period of weeks to months.

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws apply overseas. If you commit these offences, you may be prosecuted in Australia. Laws include those relating to:

  • bribery of foreign public officials
  • child pornography
  • child sex tourism
  • female genital mutilation
  • forced marriage
  • money laundering
  • terrorism.

Dual nationals

Dual citizenship is recognised in Nicaragua. Minors who hold single or dual Nicaraguan Nationality may require specific documentation to leave the country with one parent or a third party. Seek advice from the Nicaraguan migration authorities.

More information: Dual nationals

Health

Travel insurance

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation.

Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive and cost you many thousands of dollars upfront.

Confirm:

  • what circumstances and activities are and are not covered under your policy
  • that you are covered for the whole time you will be away.

More information: Travel insurance

Physical and mental health

Consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

  • At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

More information:

Medication

Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in other countries. Some may even be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.

Take prescription medicine with you so you remain in good health. Always carry on your person a copy of your prescription or a letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you'll take and that it's for personal use only.

Before you leave Australia check if your medication is legal in each country you're travelling to.

More information: Prescription medicines

Health risks

Mosquito-borne illnesses

Malaria is a risk in rural areas throughout Nicaragua, including the outskirts of Managua. Dengue fever and Chikungunya virus are endemic in Nicaragua. There have been reported cases of cholera and leptospirosis. Other insect-borne diseases (including Chagas' disease and leishmaniasis) are also a risk, particularly during the wet season (April to November).

There is widespread transmission of Zika virus in Nicaragua. Pregnant women should discuss any travel plans with their doctor and defer non-essential travel to affected areas.

Protect yourself against mosquito-borne illnesses:

  • ensure your accommodation is mosquito proof
  • take measures to avoid insect bites, including always using insect repellent and wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing
  • take prophylaxis against malaria where necessary.

More information:

Other diseases and health issues

Water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (including tuberculosis, typhoid, hepatitis, and rabies) are prevalent with serious outbreaks occurring from time to time.

  • Boil all drinking water or drink bottled water.
  • Avoid ice cubes.
  • Avoid uncooked and undercooked food.

Seek urgent medical attention if you suspect poisoning, if you have a fever or suffer from diarrhoea.

Medical facilities

Medical facilities are good in the capital Managua, but are very limited in smaller towns and rural areas.

Doctors and private hospitals may require cash payment prior to providing treatment.

Emergency ambulance services and certain types of medical equipment, medications and treatments are not available in Nicaragua.

If you become seriously ill or injured, you may require evacuation to another country. Medical evacuation and medical treatment in other countries can be very expensive.

Natural disasters

Hurricanes, landslides and flash flooding

Landslides and flash flooding may occur throughout the year.

The hurricane season is June to November when landslides, mudslides, flooding and disruptions to essential services may occur. The direction and strength of hurricanes can change with little warning.

If you are travelling during hurricane season:

  • know your hotel or cruise ship evacuation plans
  • carry your travel documents at all times or secure them in a safe, waterproof location
  • contact your tour operator to check whether tourist services at your planned destination have been affected.

If there is a hurricane or one is approaching:

  • follow the instructions of local officials
  • monitor local media reports
  • check the latest hurricane information at the National Hurricane Center website
  • contact friends and family in Australia with updates about your welfare and whereabouts.

Flights in and out of hurricane-affected areas could be delayed or suspended. Available flights may fill quickly. Contact your airline directly for the latest flight information. A hurricane could also affect access to sea ports in the region.

In some areas, adequate shelter from a severe hurricane may not be available to all who choose to stay.

More information:

Earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes

Nicaragua is located in an active earthquake zone. All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but Nicaragua's susceptibility to earthquakes makes large, destructive tsunamis more likely.

Santiago Volcano, approximately 25km south of Managua, is active. San Cristobal and Cerro Negro volcanoes are also active.  

  • Do not hike near volcanoes or visit the parks or other remote areas near the parks without an experienced guide.
  • If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.

More information: Earthquakes

Where to get help

Depending on what you need, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, travel agent, travel insurance provider, employer, or airline. Your travel insurer should have a 24 hour emergency number.

Emergency phone numbers

  • Police: 118
  • Firefighting and rescue services: 115
  • Medical emergencies: 128
  • Criminal issues: 101 (tourist police) or contact the nearest police station. Always obtain a police report when reporting a crime. 

Tourism services and products

For complaints relating to tourism services or products, contact your service provider directly.

Australian Government

Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.

The Australian Consulate in Managua is headed by an Honorary Consul. It provides limited consular assistance to Australians in Nicaragua. The Consulate does not issue Australian passports, but can conduct passport interviews, and provide provisional travel documents for emergency travel to the nearest Australian Embassy.

Australian Consulate, Managua

Primera Entrada de Las Colinas, 2.5 cuadras al Este
Managua
Nicaragua   
Phone: +505 2298 5300
Email: aushonconsul.nicaragua@gmail.com

You can contact the Australian Embassy in Mexico for consular assistance.

Australian Embassy, Mexico City

Ruben Dario 55 (Polanco)
Col. Bosques de Chapultepec, C.P.
11580 Mexico D.F. MEXICO
Phone: (52 55) 1101 2200
Fax: (52 55) 1101 2201
Email: consularpassports.mexico@dfat.gov.au
Website: mexico.embassy.gov.au

Check the Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision. 

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the Embassy you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Additional resources