Nicaragua - Consular Information Sheet
February 15, 2001
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Nicaragua has a developing economy
and lacks an extensive tourist infrastructure. The capital is
ENTRY AND EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A U.S. passport, valid for
six months beyond the duration of the visit, is required to enter
Nicaragua. Tourists must also have an onward or return ticket
and evidence of sufficient funds to support themselves during
their stay. U.S. citizens do not require a visa, but a tourist
card valid for 90 days must be purchased upon arrival. Tourist
card fees and airport departure taxes must be paid in U.S. dollars.
Visitors remaining more than 90 days must obtain an extension
from Nicaraguan immigration. Failure to do so prevents departure
until a fine is paid. For further information regarding entry,
departure, and customs requirements, travelers should contact
the Embassy of Nicaragua at 1627 New Hampshire Avenue, N.W., Washington
D.C. 20009; telephone (202) 939-6570 or (202) 939-6531; e-mail
at firstname.lastname@example.org; or a Nicaraguan consulate in
Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Miami, New Orleans,
New York, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, or San Juan, Puerto Rico.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: Armed criminals operating in remote
areas in northern and central Nicaragua have committed robberies,
kidnappings and extortion against passersby. These actions are
primarily directed at local residents, but travel in these areas
is discouraged. If you decide to travel to these areas, please
travel only on major highways during daylight hours.
Though less frequent than in past years, political demonstrations
and strikes occur sporadically. U.S. citizens are advised to take
common-sense precautions and avoid crowds and blockades during
Boundary disputes involving the governments of Nicaragua, Honduras
and Costa Rica persist, particularly in the Caribbean coastal
waters adjoining these countries, the Gulf of Fonseca, and on
the San Juan River along the Nicaragua-Costa Rica border. Passengers
and crews of foreign fishing boats have been detained and/or fined
and vessels impounded. There also is a long-term boundary dispute
with Colombia over San Andres Island and surrounding waters.
Strong currents and undertows off sections of Nicaragua's Pacific
coast have resulted in a number of deaths by drowning. Warning
signs are not posted, and lifeguards and rescue equipment are
not readily available. U.S. citizens contemplating beach activities
in Nicaragua's Pacific waters are urged to exercise extreme caution.
Although hundreds of passengers travel daily on domestic flights
within Nicaragua without incident, these flights make use of small,
uncontrolled airstrips outside Managua, with minimal safety equipment
and little boarding security. Significant safety and security
improvements, however, have been made at the Bluefields, Puerto
Cabezas and Corn Island airports, all of which are located on
Nicaragua's Atlantic coast.
Extensive de-mining operations have been conducted to clear rural
areas of northern Nicaragua of land mines left from the civil
war, which ended in 1990, but visitors venturing off the main
roads in these areas are cautioned that the possibility of encountering
land mines still exists.
CRIME: Violent crime in Managua and other cities is increasing,
and street crimes are common. Pickpocketing and occasional armed
robberies occur on crowded buses and in open markets, particularly
the large Mercado Oriental. Though not at levels found in neighboring
Central American countries, carjackings and gang activity are
rising in Managua. Gang violence, including robberies, assaults
and stabbings, is most frequently encountered in poorer neighborhoods.
Purse and jewelry snatchings from motorists sometimes occur at
stoplights. Motorists should travel with their windows closed
and car doors locked.
U.S visitors to Nicaragua should be on the lookout for fraudulent
tour guides who target tourists, particularly on the Island of
Ometepe, a popular tourist destination. The U.S. Embassy has received
numerous confirmed reports of con artists posing as tour guides
to defraud tourists. In one of the most popular scams, the fraudulent
guide demands a deposit before scheduling a tour, provides a receipt,
and sets up a meeting for which he fails to appear. The guide
goes into hiding until the victims depart, apparently confident
that the victims will not have the time or linguistic ability
to pursue criminal charges. Although the Ministry of Tourism is
working on a licensing program for guides, there is currently
no professional identification system for tour guides. Anyone
intending to use guide services in Nicaragua, and particularly
in Ometepe, should inquire as to the reputation of the guide with
local hotel operators and authorities. Do not, for any reason,
accept the services of anyone approaching you on the street.
Travel to Honduras on other than the principal highways with
border crossings at Guasale, El Espino and Las Manos is potentially
hazardous because of criminal elements operating in parts of northern
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported
immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or
consulate. Anyone obtaining a new or replacement passport in Nicaragua
must go to the main Immigration office to obtain an entry stamp
in their new passport; anyone failing to do so will not be permitted
to leave the country. U.S. citizens can refer to the Department
of State's pamphlet, A Safe
Trip Abroad, for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. This
publication and others, such as Tips
for Travelers to Central and South America, are available
by mail from the
Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office,
Washington, D.C. 20402, or via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs.
MEDICAL FACILITIES: Very basic medical services are available
in Managua and in many of the smaller towns and villages around
the country. Treatment for more serious medical problems is either
unavailable or available only in Managua. Certain types of medical
equipment and medications are likewise unavailable in Nicaragua.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: U.S. medical insurance is not always
valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs
do not provide payment for medical services outside the United
States. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment
for health services. Uninsured travelers who require medical care
overseas may face extreme difficulties.
Please check with your own insurance company to confirm that your
policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation,
and for adequacy of coverage. Serious medical problems requiring
hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States
can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Please ascertain whether
payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or if
you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Some
insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment
and for disposition of remains in the event of death.
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas
insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau
of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical
Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via
of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.
OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations
and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international
travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX
(1-888-232-3299), or via the
CDC Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/.
TRAFFIC, SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: U.S. citizens may
encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those
in the United States. The information below concerning Nicaragua
is provided for general reference only, and it may not be totally
accurate in a particular location or circumstances.
Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: None
Availability of Ambulance Assistance: Poor
Driving is on the right side of the road, and speed limits vary
depending on the type of road. The Nicaraguan national police
are responsible for road safety, but because the government lacks
resources, traffic rules are rarely enforced.
Road travel after dark is hazardous in all areas of the country.
Road signage is usually poor to non-existent. Nicaraguan roads
generally lack shoulders, and are narrow, in disrepair and poorly
lit. Many roads, severely damaged as a result of Hurricane Mitch
in October 1998, have not been repaired; detours are common and
often are not marked. Oxcarts, horses and unlit and/or abandoned
vehicles are frequently encountered even on main thoroughfares
in Nicaragua. Motorcyles, often carrying two or more passengers,
dart in and out of traffic with little or no warning. Many vehicles
are in poor condition, travel very slowly and are likely to break
down at any time. Wheels have been known to fly off cars and axles
to collapse on moving vehicles.
Nicaraguan drivers do not usually signal when turning, slowing
or stopping. If signals are used, they often do not mean what
U.S. drivers would expect. The most common signal in Nicaragua
is a hand waving from the driver's window. This signal has no
specific meaning, except to alert other motorists that the person
signaling is about to take an unspecified action.
Drivers in Nicaragua should exercise the utmost degree of care.
Be especially careful on curves and hills because many drivers
pass on blind spots.
Due to the conditions discussed above, traffic accidents often
result in serious injury or death. Traditionally, vehicles involved
in accidents in Nicaragua are not moved (even to clear traffic)
until authorized to do so by a police officer. Drivers who violate
this norm may be held legally liable for the accident.
Nicaraguan law requires that motorists suspected of driving while
intoxicated be taken into custody. Any driver who is party to
an accident in which serious injury or death occurs will be taken
into custody, even if the driver is insured and appears not to
have been at fault. While the minimum detention period is 48 hours,
detentions frequently last until a judicial decision is reached
(often weeks or months), or a waiver is signed by the injured
party relieving the driver of further liability (usually as the
result of a cash settlement).
Visitors to Nicaragua may wish to consider hiring a professional
driver during their stay. Licensed drivers who are familiar with
local roads can be hired through local car rental agencies. In
case of accident, only the chauffeur will be taken into custody.
Travel on public transportation, such as buses and taxis, should
only be undertaken with great caution. Buses are often overcrowded
and poorly maintained, and breakdowns are frequent. Taxis often
stop to pick up other passengers. If using a taxi, please be alert
to the condition of the vehicle, agree on a fare beforehand and
insist that the driver not pick up other fares.
For specific information concerning Nicaraguan driver's permits,
vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact
government of Nicaragua at http://www.cancilleria.gob.ni.
Additional information can be obtained from Intur,
Nicaragua's national tourist organization, at http://email@example.com.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration
(FAA) has assessed the Government of Nicaragua's civil aviation
authority as Category 2 -- not in compliance with international
aviation safety standards for the oversight of Nicaragua's air
carrier operations. While consultations to correct the deficiencies
are ongoing, any of Nicaragua's air carriers with existing routes
to the U.S. will be permitted to conduct limited operations to
the U.S. subject to heightened FAA surveillance. No additional
flights or new service to the U.S. by Nicaragua's air carriers
will be permitted unless they arrange to have the flights conducted
by an air carrier from a country meeting international safety
standards. For further information, travelers may contact the
Department of Transportation within the U.S. at telephone 1-800-322-7873,
or visit the
FAA's Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/.
The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some
foreign carriers for suitability as official providers of air
services. In addition, the DOD does not permit its personnel to
use air carriers from Category 2 countries for official business
except for flights originating from or terminating in the U.S.
For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers,
travelers may contact the DOD at telephone (618) 229-4801.
CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Nicaraguan customs authorities may
enforce strict regulations concerning restrictions on the amount
of undeclared currency one may bring into Nicaragua, and on the
temporary importation into or export from Nicaragua of items such
as firearms, ammunition, antiquities, medications, etc. It is
advisable to contact the Embassy of Nicaragua or one of Nicaragua's
consulates in the United States for specific information regarding
Before excavating archaeological materials or agreeing to buy
artifacts of historical value, U.S. citizens are strongly urged
to consult with the National Patrimony Directorate of the Nicaraguan
Institute of Culture. Nicaraguan law and a recently concluded
bilateral accord limit the acquisition, importation into the U.S.
and commercialization of said goods. Severe criminal penalties
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S.
citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which
sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States
and may not afford the protections available to the individual
under U.S. law. Persons violating Nicaraguan laws, even unknowingly,
may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession,
use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Nicaragua are strict,
and convicted offenders can expect heavy fines and jail sentences
of up to 30 (thirty) years in prison.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: The Nicaraguan economy is primarily
cash-based. Although many restaurants and hotels now accept credit
cards, especially in Managua, acceptance is not as widespread
as in the U.S. Travelers checks are accepted at a few major hotels
and may be exchanged for local currency at authorized exchange
facilities ("casas de cambio"). There are few automatic
teller machines, particularly outside Managua. English is not
DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: Nicaragua is prone to a wide variety
of natural disasters, including earthquakes, hurricanes and volcanic
eruptions. General information about natural disaster preparedness
is available via the Internet from the
U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For
information on international adoption of children and international
parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site
at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone
REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: U.S. citizens living in
or visiting Nicaragua are encouraged to register at the Consular
Section of the
U.S. Embassy in Managua and obtain updated information on
travel and security in Nicaragua. The U.S. Embassy is located
at Kilometer 41/2 (4.5) Carretera Sur, Managua; telephone (505)
266-6010 or 268-0123; after hours telephone (505) 266-6038; Consular
Section fax (505)266-9943; e-mail:
firstname.lastname@example.org; web page at http://usembassy.state.gov/managua