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NICARAGUA - Exercise a high degree of caution
Exercise a high degree of caution in Nicaragua due to armed violence that is commonly used during criminal activities.
Travel Health Notice - Zika virus
The Public Health Agency of Canada has issued advice for travellers on the Zika virus, recommending that Canadians practice special health precautions while travelling in affected countries. Pregnant women and those considering becoming pregnant should avoid travel to Nicaragua. See Health for more information.
Safety and security
Safety and security
Armed conflict broke out on the river town of Waspan, located in the Northern Caribbean Autonomous Region of Nicaragua on the border with Honduras, in September 2015. There are confirmed reports of deaths as a result of this conflict. Exercise extreme caution if travelling to this town and surrounding areas.
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.
Confrontations between rival gangs of youth have led to an increase in violent incidents in certain neighbourhoods of Granada. Exercise caution and avoid walking through non-tourist areas of the city, especially after dark.
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.
Women travelling alone may be subject to certain forms of harassment and verbal abuse. Consult our publication entitled Her Own Way: A Woman’s Safe-Travel Guide for travel safety information specifically for Canadian women. Be particularly careful in the evening and on non-tourist areas of towns and cities. Local authorities may not regard harassment as unlawful unless physical contact or explicit threats are made.
Demonstrations occur and can lead to significant disruptions to traffic and public transportation in large cities, particularly the capital city of Managua. 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. Periodic violence may occur on the streets as a result of protests. Remain aware of your surroundings at all times and do not attempt to cross roadblocks. Monitor local media reports for up-to-date information. Follow the advice of local authorities and avoid large crowds and demonstrations, as they can turn violent with little to no warning.
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.
We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.
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.
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 the 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 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.
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.
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.
See Laws and Culture for more information.
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
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 provider 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 and is common in most parts of the world.
Be sure your measles vaccination is up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
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 (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).
Yellow Fever - Country 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*
- This country is now asking for proof of vaccination if you are arriving from a country where yellow fever occurs. More information can be found on Nicaragua Ministry of Health's website (in Spanish only).
- Vaccination is not recommended.
* 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!
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that typically causes fever, nausea, vomiting, muscle pain, skin rash and eye infection.
Most travellers are at low risk. Risk increases when travelling to tropical regions, participating in freshwater activities (e.g., swimming, rafting), or having close contact with animals, especially rats. There is no vaccine available for leptospirosis, but travellers at high risk may wish to consider pre-exposure antibiotics.
- 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 for children, travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives or travelling for a long period of time. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should speak to a health care provider 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 an outbreak of chikungunya in this country. Chikungunya is a viral disease spread through the bite of an infected mosquito that typically causes fever and pain in the joints. Protect yourself from mosquito bites, particularly around sunrise and sunset. There is no vaccine available for chikungunya.
- Dengue fever occurs in this country. Dengue fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases it leads to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.
- The risk of dengue is higher during the daytime, particularly at sunrise and sunset.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine or medication that protects against dengue fever.
Zika virus infection
Zika virus infection is a risk in this country. Recent or ongoing cases of Zika virus have been reported in this country.
All travellers should protect themselves from mosquito bites day and night.
Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects such as abnormally small heads (microcephaly). Zika virus can also be sexually transmitted.
Travellers who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy:
- Should avoid travel to this country
- If travel cannot be avoided follow strict mosquito bite prevention measures.
- Talk to your health care professional about the risk of Zika infection in pregnancy.
- Use condoms or avoid having sex for the duration of the pregnancy, if you are pregnant and your partner has travelled to this country.
- Female travellers: wait at least 2 months after returning from this country before trying to conceive (get pregnant) to ensure that any possible Zika virus infection has cleared your body.
- Male travellers: wait 6 months after returning from this country before trying to conceive. Use condoms or avoid having sex during that time.
See 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 provider 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.
Medical services and facilities
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.
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
Laws & 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.
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).
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.
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 and climate
Natural disasters & climate
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
Seismic and volcanic activity
Nicaragua is located in a very active seismic zone.
On November 24, 2016, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck off the Pacific coast of El Salvador. Follow the instructions of local authorities and monitor local media.
A magnitude 6.2 earthquake damaged houses and caused numerous injuries on April 10, 2014, followed by a magnitude 6.6 earthquake on April 11, 2014, and several strong aftershocks.
Volcanic activity also occurs. The Telica, Momotombo, San Cristóbal, Cerro Negro and Santiago volcanoes, among others, are monitored by Nicaraguan Institute of Territorial Studies (Ineter). Eruptions are possible. Ash fall and gas emanations are hazardous. In the event of an earthquake or volcanic eruption, follow the advice of local authorities, including possible evacuation orders, and monitor local news reports.
Sudden, localized flash flooding regularly occurs in urban areas, including on main thoroughfares during and after summer rainstorms. Avoid travel whenever possible during these events. Local rescue and assistance services may be inadequate and require time to provide assistance should you require it.
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 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. We take the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provide credible and timely information in our Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad.
The content on this page is provided for information only. While we make every effort to give you correct information, it is provided on an "as is" basis without warranty of any kind, express or implied. The Government of Canada does not assume responsibility and will not be liable for any damages in connection to the information provided.
If you need consular assistance while abroad, we will make every effort to help you. However, there may be constraints that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide services.
Learn more about consular services.
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