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NICARAGUA - Exercise a high degree of cautionThere is no nationwide advisory in effect for Nicaragua. However, you should exercise a high degree of caution due to armed violence that is commonly used during criminal activities.
The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.
Street crime such as pickpocketing and bag snatching is common, and tends to increase during holiday seasons such as Christmas and Easter. Use only hotels that provide adequate security.
Remain alert when walking in markets, in the vicinity of the old cathedral in Managua, near Tica bus (the terminal for lines coming from Honduras and Costa Rica), at public transportation terminals and in poorer areas. Avoid the Mercado Oriental in Managua. Exercise common sense and ensure that your personal belongings, passports and other travel documents are secure at all times.
Carry a photocopy of the identification page of your passport and a photocopy of the page that was stamped by local immigration authorities at the point of entry, and keep the original in a secure place. Do not carry large sums of money, especially while travelling on buses. Purse, backpack and jewellery snatching occurs while drivers are stopped at intersections and while pedestrians are walking on the street.
Violent crime, including armed robbery and sexual assault, occurs in Managua, Granada and San Juan del Sur, as well as in Bonanza, La Rosita, Siuna and on Little Corn Island. Express kidnappings, in which victims are abducted for a few hours and forced to withdraw money from automated banking machines, also occur in these areas. If attacked, do not resist, as criminals often carry weapons and may become violent.
There have been incidents, some violent, of passengers being robbed by taxi drivers or by people posing as taxi drivers using unauthorized taxi signs on their cars. Take taxis from hotels or from main entrances to shopping malls, and make detailed arrangements for the return trip. Use only taxis that have red plates and that have a circle on the door that says Cooperativa or taxi services ordered by phone. Arrange with the taxi driver not to pick up any other passengers on the way to your destination, even if it is more expensive.
Police presence is extremely scarce outside of major urban areas. Restrict travel to tourist areas and to daylight hours. Hitchhiking in Nicaragua is highly unadvisable. Travel in groups whenever possible.
Demonstrations occur occasionally and may cause traffic disruptions as well as threats to physical security. Clashes have occurred between law enforcement and protestors and between rival political groups. Incidents have involved the use of rubber bullets, rock throwing, tire burning, road blocks, as well as the burning of buses and other vehicles. Stay alert, avoid large crowds and keep informed of possible roadblocks.
Periodic violence may occur on the streets, particularly in Managua, as a result of protests. Access to the Managua International Airport and to the area of Carretera a Masaya (where universities, shopping malls and restaurants are located) may be affected.
Despite regular security patrols by the Nicaraguan Army and Police, armed banditry occurs in areas near Bonanza, La Rosita and Siuna (the Mining Triangle) in northeastern Nicaragua. Carjackings have also been reported between Managua and Puerto Cabezas. Restrict road travel in these area to daylight hours, and travel in convoys of at least two vehicles. Due to this type of criminal activity, only travel overland to Honduras on highways with official border crossings at Guasaule, El Espino and Las Manos.
Driving standards are fair. Except for the Pan-American Highway, most roads lack shoulders, are narrow, potholed and poorly lit. Road signs are usually non-existent, and most streets are unnamed. Detours are common but are often not marked. Driving after dark is very dangerous. Roadside assistance is not available. Cell phone coverage outside urban areas is fair in the central and pacific areas, but can be lacking in mountainous areas and in the Caribbean. Keep your car windows closed and doors locked when driving through crowded areas.
Vehicles, especially taxis and buses, are poorly maintained. Avoid using public transportation, which is overcrowded, unreliable and often targeted by pickpockets. Avoid conversations with friendly strangers and do not reveal your intended destination. Do not agree to share a cab at the end of a bus ride, and be cautious of any advice and/or shortcut that could convince you to get off a bus earlier than planned. There have been many instances of travellers being assaulted in such situations.
The Caribbean and, to a lesser extent, the Pacific coasts of Nicaragua are known to be drug transit zones.
General safety information
Exercise caution when swimming, as strong currents and undertows have resulted in drownings. Warning signs, lifeguards and rescue equipment are often lacking.
Fraudulent tour guides have been known to operate on the island of Ometepe. Consult hotel staff and local authorities for information on reputable tour guides.
Nicaragua does not have an extensive tourist infrastructure. INTUR, the governmental agency responsible for developing, regulating and promoting tourism in Nicaragua, offers some information in English.
Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.
It is the sole prerogative of each country or region to determine who is allowed to enter. Canadian consular officials cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet entry requirements. The following information on entry and exit requirements has been obtained from the Nicaraguan authorities. However, these requirements are subject to change at any time. It is your responsibility to check with the Embassy of the Republic of Nicaragua or one of its consulates for up-to-date information.
Official (special and diplomatic) passport holders must consult the Official Travel page, as they may be subject to different entry requirements.
Canadians must present a passport to visit Nicaragua, which must be valid for at least six months beyond the date of expected departure from that country.
Tourist card: Required
Business visa: Not required
Student visa: Not required
Canadians must be in possession of a tourist card, which is usually obtained at a port of entry for a US$10 fee, payable in cash. The tourist card allows travel within the C-4 countries (see below).
You must also present a return or onward ticket and evidence of sufficient funds for the duration of your trip.
Central America-4 Border Control Agreement
Under the terms of the Central America-4 Border Control Agreement (C-4), Canadian tourists may travel within any of the C-4 countries – Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala – for a period of up to 90 days, without completing entry and exit formalities at border immigration checkpoints. This period begins at the first point of entry to any of the C-4 countries. Travellers who exceed the 90-day limit can expect to pay a fine. An extension of up to 90 days is permitted once a year. You must request this extension and pay the required fee to Immigration authorities before the initial 90 day-limit expires. The length of the extension is at the discretion of the Immigration authorities of Nicaragua.
Canadian-Nicaraguan dual citizens (including minors) may enter Nicaragua without a Nicaraguan passport, but require one in order to leave the country, unless their stay is less than 90 days. Children born in Nicaragua also require a Nicaraguan passport to leave. To obtain a Nicaraguan passport, dual citizens should contact the Embassy of the Republic of Nicaragua or the Ministerio de Gobernacion (in Spanish).
When travelling to Canada, all dual citizens require a valid Canadian passport. For more information, please consult our publication entitled Dual Citizenship: What You Need to Know.
An airport tax of US$32 is charged upon departure; however, it is usually included in the price of airline tickets. Agents will advise at the check-in counter if you must pay the airport tax.
Children and travel
Children need special documentation to visit certain countries. Please consult our Children page for more information.
Some countries require proof of yellow fever vaccination before allowing entry. Consult the World Health Organization’s country list to obtain information on this country’s requirements.
The Agency strongly recommends that you consult with a travel medicine clinic or health care provider preferably six weeks before departure.
The Agency publishes travel health advice for Nicaragua.
Medical care is limited, especially outside of Managua. Certain types of medical equipment or medications may be unavailable in the country. Most doctors and hospital personnel do not speak English or French. Many institutions often expect immediate cash payment for medical care, except for a few private hospitals that will accept major credit cards for payment and in which doctors usually speak English.
Laws & Culture
Laws & Culture
You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention FAQ for more information.
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are strict. Convicted offenders can expect heavy fines and jail sentences. The conditions in Nicaraguan prisons are extremely basic; prisoners are expected to supply their own food, bedding and medical care beyond basic first aid. A transfer of offenders treaty has not been signed with Nicaragua.
Canadians in Nicaragua may use their Canadian driver’s licence for no more than 30 days, after which they must obtain an international driving permit. Vehicle insurance is mandatory for foreigners (including residents).
The currency is the córdoba (NIO). Most restaurants and hotels in Managua accept credit cards. Canadian dollars cannot be exchanged for local currency anywhere, but U.S. dollars (in cash or traveller’s cheques) are widely used. Exchange foreign currency only at banks or official exchange offices.
Natural Disasters & Climate
Natural Disasters & Climate
The hurricane season extends from June to the end of November. The National Hurricane Center provides additional information on weather conditions. Stay informed of regional weather forecasts, and follow the advice and instructions of local authorities.
Nicaragua is located in a very active seismic zone. Familiarize yourself with your hotel’s earthquake security measures. Volcanic activity also occurs. The San Cristóbal and Cerro Negro volcanoes are particularly active. Officials continue to monitor the Santiago volcano, located in Parque Volcán Masaya, approximately 25 kilometres south of Managua. Eruptions are possible. Ash fall and gas emanations are hazardous. Do not visit the park while it is closed. Follow the advice of local authorities in the event of earthquakes and volcanic explosions or eruptions.
Managua - Embassy of Canada (Program Office)
San José - Embassy of Canada
For emergency assistance after hours, call the Office of the Embassy of Canada in Managua and follow the instructions. You may also make a collect call to the Emergency Operations Centre in Ottawa at 613-996-8885.