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Nicaragua - Exercise a high degree of caution
Exercise a high degree of caution in Nicaragua due to the volatile security situation.
Safety and security
There are reports of increases in crime in Nicaragua since April 2018. Police forces are limited throughout the country and extremely scarce outside of major urban areas.
Violent crime, including armed robbery and sexual assault, occurs. You should pay particular attention in tourist areas including the Corn Islands, Granada, Managua and San Juan del Sur.
Confrontations between rival gangs of youth have also led to violent incidents in certain neighbourhoods, particularly on the outskirts of Granada and on other urban peripheries.
Petty crime, such as pickpocketing and purse snatching, occurs.
These incidents occur often while drivers are stopped at intersections and while pedestrians are walking on the street. They often involve 2 people on a motorcycle, in which the passenger grabs the bag while the driver keeps driving.
Crime tends to increase during holiday seasons such as Christmas and Easter.
- Remain alert when walking in markets, near the old cathedral and the Tica bus terminal in Managua, at public transportation terminals and in poorer areas
- Restrict travel to tourist areas and to daylight hours
- Travel in groups whenever possible
- Avoid hitchhiking
- Ensure that your personal belongings, including your passport 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
- Don’t carry large amounts of money, especially while travelling on buses
- Use only hotels that provide adequate security
“Express” kidnappings have occurred, especially in areas where violent crime is prominent. In these abductions, criminals ask for small, immediate ransoms. The kidnappers usually force their victims to withdraw funds from an ATM or to arrange for family or friends to pay the ransom. This ploy is often used by criminal taxi drivers, who pick up the victim and then stop to pick up associates.
- Use only taxis that have red stripes on the top and bottom of the licence plate and the circular “Cooperativa” logo on the door
- Book your ride in advance, when possible
- Avoid sharing a taxi with strangers
- If attacked, don’t resist, as criminals often carry weapons and may become violent
Fraudulent tour guides
Tourists have been robbed by fraudulent tour guides offering a tour on the island of Ometepe.
Consult hotel staff and local authorities for information on reputable tour guides.
Women travelling alone may be subject to some forms of harassment and verbal abuse. Local authorities may not regard harassment as unlawful unless physical contact or explicit threats are made.
Safe-travel guide for women
The political situation remains unpredictable in Nicaragua. Demonstrations, civil unrest and outbreaks of violence occur regularly, particularly in Managua.
This can lead to disruptions to traffic and public transportation. Access to the Augusto C. Sandino International Airport and to the area of Carretera a Masaya in Managua may be affected.
According to the Nicaraguan constitution, it is illegal for foreigners to participate in Nicaraguan political affairs, including demonstrations and protests. Participation may result in detention and/or deportation.
Even peaceful demonstrations can turn violent at any time.
- Avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place
- Follow the instructions of local authorities
- Monitor local media for information on ongoing demonstrations
More about mass gatherings (large-scale events)
Coastal waters can be dangerous. Riptides are common. Warning signs, lifeguards and rescue equipment are often lacking.
Drownings occur regularly.
Water safety abroad
Road conditions and road safety are poor throughout the country. Except for the Pan-American Highway, most roads lack shoulders and are narrow, potholed and poorly lit. Road signs are usually non-existent. Most streets are unnamed. Detours are common but often unmarked. Livestock may be on the streets and highways. Therefore, driving after dark is very dangerous.
Vehicles are poorly maintained. Drivers do not respect traffic laws and can be reckless. Drinking and driving is prevalent.
Roadside assistance is not available. Cell phone coverage outside urban areas can be lacking, particularly in mountainous areas.
Despite regular security patrols by the Nicaraguan army and police, armed banditry and carjackings occur in areas near Bonanza, La Rosita and Siuna (known as the mining triangle) in northeastern Nicaragua. Carjackings have also been reported between Managua and Puerto Cabezas.
- Only travel overland to Honduras on Nicaraguan highways with official border crossings: El Espino, Guasaule and Las Manos
- Restrict road travel in these areas to daylight hours
- Travel in convoys of at least two vehicles
- Keep your car windows closed and doors locked when driving through crowded areas
- Avoid hitchhiking
Public transportation is unreliable and often overcrowded. Vehicles are generally in poor condition.
Pickpockets often target tourists in public buses. Travellers have also been assaulted when getting off a bus.
- Avoid conversations with friendly strangers
- Don’t reveal your intended destination
- Don’t share a cab at the end of a bus ride
- Be cautious of any advice or shortcut that could convince you to get off a bus earlier than planned
Many taxis are in poor condition and lack safety features such as seat belts.
It is common in Nicaragua for taxi drivers to pick up other passengers, unless it has been agreed upon that you want a private ride.
Unauthorized taxi drivers have robbed passengers.
- Use only taxis that have red stripes on the top and bottom of the licence plate and the circular “Cooperativa” logo on the door
- Avoid hailing a taxi on the street
- Take taxis from hotels or from main entrances to shopping malls
- Make detailed arrangements before your trip and consider coordinating your pick up at the same time
- Avoid sharing taxis with strangers
- Ensure that the driver doesn’t pick up any other passenger on the way to your destination; this needs to be agreed upon prior to entering the taxi and a higher fee will likely be requested
The Caribbean and the Pacific coasts of Nicaragua are known to be drug transit zones.
Mariners should take appropriate precautions.
We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.
General information about foreign domestic airlines
In an attempt to limit the spread of a novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), which originated in China, some governments have implemented special entry restrictions for their territory. Before travelling, verify if your destination’s local authorities have implemented any specific entry and exit restrictions related to this situation.
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Outbreak update – Public Health Agency of Canada
Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Government of Canada cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination’s entry or exit requirements.
We have obtained the information on this page from Nicaraguan authorities. It can, however, change at any time.
Verify this information with foreign diplomatic missions and consulates in Canada.
Entry requirements vary depending on the type of passport you use for travel.
Before you travel, check with your transportation company about passport requirements. Its rules on passport validity may be more stringent than the country’s entry rules.
Regular Canadian passport
Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the date you expect to leave Nicaragua.
Passport for official travel
Different entry rules may apply.
Other travel documents
Different entry rules may apply when travelling with a temporary passport or an emergency travel document. Before you leave, check with the closest diplomatic mission for your destination.
Tourist visa: not required for stays of up to 90 days*
Business visa: not required*
Student visa: not required*
* All Canadian travellers must obtain a tourist card on arrival. It’s available at the port of entry for a US$10, payable in cash.
The tourist card allows travel within the C-4 countries.
Central America-4 Border Control Agreement
Under the terms of the Central America-4 Border Control Agreement (C-4), Canadians 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.
Business, study or volunteering travel
If you are travelling to Nicaragua for any reason other than tourism, such as business, studying or volunteering, the Nicaraguan government recommends that you pre-register your trip by submitting a form to the Ministry of Governance, in Spanish by email, at least 7 days before the intended date of your arrival in Nicaragua.
The form should be completed by the organization or institution that will be visited and must include the nature of the trip, the number of intended travellers, and the name of the institutions you will visit.
Entry and exit application portal - Nicaraguan government (in Spanish)
Other entry requirements
Customs officials may ask you to show them a return or onward ticket and proof of sufficient funds to cover your stay.
Children and travel
Learn about travel with children.
Learn about potential entry requirements related to yellow fever (vaccines section).
Be sure that your routine vaccines, as per your province or territory, are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Some of these vaccines include: measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, varicella (chickenpox), influenza and others.
Vaccines to Consider
You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health professional about which ones are right for you.
Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread through contaminated food and water or contact with an infected person. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.
Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment, sharing needles, tattooing, acupuncture or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.
Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or by touching objects and surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus. Get the flu shot.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease. It can spread quickly from person to person by direct contact and through droplets in the air.
Anyone who is not protected against measles is at risk of being infected with it when travelling internationally.
Regardless of where you are going, talk to a health care professional before travelling to make sure you are fully protected against measles.
Rabies is a deadly illness spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from an infected animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (e.g., are children, have an occupational risk, or in close contact with animals, including free roaming dogs in communities).
Yellow Fever - Country Entry Requirements
Yellow fever is a disease caused by a flavivirus from the bite of an infected mosquito.
Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.
- There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
- Proof of vaccination is required if you are coming from a country where yellow fever occurs.
- Vaccination is not recommended.
- Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care professional.
- There is currently a shortage of the yellow fever vaccine in Canada. It is important for travellers to contact a designated Yellow Fever Vaccination Centre well in advance of their trip to ensure that the vaccine is available.
About Yellow Fever
Yellow Fever Vaccination Centre
* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Food and Water-borne Diseases
Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.
In some areas in Central America and Mexico, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in Central America and Mexico. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
- Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
- Risk of developing travellers' diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor standards of hygiene and sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
- The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.
Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among children, travellers going to rural areas, travellers visiting friends and relatives or those travelling for a long period of time.
Travellers visiting regions with a risk typhoid, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should speak to a health care professional about vaccination.
Insects and Illness
In some areas in Central America and Mexico, certain insects carry and spread diseases like American trypanosomiasis (Chagas disease), chikungunya, dengue fever, leishmaniasis, malaria, onchocerciasis (river blindness), West Nile virus, and Zika virus.
Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.
There is currently a risk of chikungunya in this country. Chikungunya is a virus spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. Chikungunya can cause a viral disease that typically causes fever and pain in the joints. In some cases, the joint pain can be severe and last for months or years.
Protect yourself from mosquito bites at all times. There is no vaccine available for chikungunya.
- In this country, dengue fever is a risk to travellers year-round. It is a viral disease spread to humans by mosquito bites.
- Dengue fever can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases, it can lead to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.
- The level of risk of dengue fever changes seasonally, and varies from year to year. After a decline in reported dengue cases worldwide in 2017 and 2018, global numbers have been steeply rising again.
- Mosquitoes carrying dengue typically bite during the daytime, particularly around sunrise and sunset.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine or medication that protects against dengue fever.
Zika virus is a risk in this country.
Zika virus is primarily spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. It can also be sexually transmitted. Zika virus can cause serious birth defects.
Pregnant women and women planning a pregnancy should visit a health care professional before travelling to discuss the potential risks of travelling to this country. Pregnant women may choose to avoid or postpone travel to this country.
- Prevent mosquito bites at all times.
- If you are pregnant, always use condoms correctly or avoid sexual contact with anyone who has travelled to this country for the duration of your pregnancy.
- Women: Wait 2 months after travel to this country or after onset of illness due to Zika virus (whichever is longer) before trying for a pregnancy. If your male partner travelled with you, wait 3 months after travel or after onset of illness due to Zika virus (whichever is longer).
- Men: Wait 3 months after travel to this country or after onset of illness due to Zika virus (whichever is longer) before trying for a pregnancy.
For more travel recommendations, see the travel health notice: Zika virus: Advice for travellers
- There is a risk of malaria in certain areas and/or during a certain time of year in this country.
- Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no vaccine against malaria.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in enclosed air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider pre-treating clothing and travel gear with insecticides and sleeping under an insecticide-treated bednet.
- Antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling. See a health care professional or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss your options.
Animals and Illness
Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Some infections found in Central America and Mexico, like rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.
Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.
Medical services and facilities
Good health care is limited, especially outside of Managua. Some types of medical equipment or medications may not be available in the country.
Many institutions expect immediate cash payment, except for a few private hospitals that will accept major credit cards.
You might need medical evacuation in case of serious illness or injury.
Make sure you get travel insurance that includes coverage for medical evacuation and hospital stays.
Travel health and safety
Keep in Mind...
The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.
Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.
Laws and culture
You must abide by local laws.
Learn about what you should do and how we can help if you are arrested or detained abroad.
A transfer of offenders treaty has not been signed with Nicaragua.
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are severe. Convicted offenders can expect lengthy jail sentences and heavy fines.
Nicaraguan law does not prohibit sexual acts between individuals of the same sex. Nicaraguan society remains conservative, however, and homosexuality is not widely accepted, particularly in the rural areas.
LGBTQ2 travellers should carefully consider the risks of travelling to Nicaragua.
General safety information and advice for LGBTQ2 travellers abroad
Dual citizenship is legally recognized in Nicaragua.
If you are a Canadian citizen, but also a citizen of Nicaragua, our ability to offer you consular services may be limited while you're there. You may also be subject to different entry/exit requirements.
General information for travellers with dual citizenship
You can drive in Nicaragua with a Canadian driver’s licence up to 30 days. If you intent to stay longer, you must obtain an international driving permit.
Vehicle insurance is mandatory for foreigners, including residents.
More about the International Driving Permit
The currency In Nicaragua is the córdoba (NIO).
Canadian dollars cannot be exchanged for local currency but U.S. dollars are widely used. Exchange foreign currency at banks or official exchange offices only.
Natural disasters and climate
Nicaragua is subject to various natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, torrential rains, floods and mudslides.
Hurricanes usually occur from mid-May to the end of November. During this period, even small tropical storms can quickly develop into major hurricanes.
These severe storms can put you at risk and hamper the provision of essential services.
If you decide to travel to a coastal area during the hurricane season:
- know that you expose yourself to serious safety risks
- be prepared to change your travel plans on short notice, including cutting short or cancelling your trip
- stay informed of the latest regional weather forecasts
- carry emergency contact information for your airline or tour operator
- follow the advice and instructions of local authorities
- Hurricanes, typhoons, cyclones and monsoons
- Large-scale emergencies abroad
- Active storm tracking and hurricane watches and warnings - United States’ National Hurricane Center
Nicaragua’s rainy season usually occurs from May through November, with October being the month with the most rainfall. Incidents of flooding and mudslides regularly occur in urban areas, including on main roads during and after rainstorms.
Nicaragua is located in a very active seismic zone. Earthquakes occur frequently.
There are several active and potentially active volcanoes throughout Nicaragua. Eruptions are possible. Ash fall and gas emanations are hazardous.
The Cerro Negro, Momotombo, San Cristóbal, Santiago and Telica volcanoes are monitored by the authorities. In the event of an earthquake or volcanic eruption, follow the advice of local authorities, including possible evacuation orders, and monitor local news reports.
Ineter - Nicaraguan Institute of Territorial Studies (in Spanish)
In case of emergency, dial:
- police: 118
- medical assistance: 128
- firefighters: 115
Managua - Embassy of Canada (Program Office)
San José - Embassy of Canada
For emergency consular assistance, call the Embassy of Canada to Nicaragua, in Managua, and follow the instructions. At any time, you may also contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa.
The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety abroad. The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provides credible and timely information in its Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad. In the event of a large-scale emergency, every effort will be made to provide assistance. However, there may be constraints that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide services.
See Large-scale emergencies abroad for more information.
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