Nicaragua Vacations FAQ

Our Nicaragua Vacations FAQ is a helpful resource to answer the most common concerns our guests have about their trip to Nicaragua.  If you have any other questions though please email us or give us a call at 1-866-347-4012 and we’ll be happy to help you.

Getting ready for your trip

What kind of vaccinations do I need before traveling to Nicaragua?
We highly recommend to get the yellow fever vaccination at least 15 days before the date of arrival to Nicaragua. As well, please keep in mind the following information:

  • All travelers coming to Nicaragua from the following countries must present an international certificate of vaccination: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Perú, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Panamá, Paraguay and Venezuela. From the African Continent, all countries are included except Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Sao Toméand Príncipe and Somalia.
  • All travelers coming to Nicaragua from the mentioned countries are required to bring their vaccine certification card.
  • All travelers coming to Nicaragua, even if they are only in transit through the mentioned countries are required to bring their vaccinecertification card.
  • Any certificate is considered valid once is issued by the competent sanitary authority of the country of origin.
  • Yellow fever vaccine has 10 years validity.

Should I purchase travel insurance? We highly recommend that you purchase travel insurance to protect your vacation investment. Unforeseen last minute events and emergencies can occur that may cause you to cancel or alter your vacation. In many cases the money you’ve paid will  be completely non-refundable. Travel Insurance can help protect your trip cost if you have to cancel your trip due to a covered event.csa-travel-300x250-14.jpg

To get a free quote please click on the image on the right:

Telephone Number – CSA Travel Protection:

(800) 554-9839

You must quote agent/producer ID ‘COSTARIC’

Should I reconfirm my international flight? You are responsible for re-confirming your International flights. You should reconfirm at least 48 hours prior to your flight departure. Compare the information you receive with the information listed on your final itinerary from us and if there are any differences in the information, advise your travel consultant or our Travel Experience Team immediately. (Travel Experience Team 1-800-606-1860 Ext. No.2)

What are the identification and entry requirements for Nicaragua? To enter Nicaragua a valid passport and a pre-paid airline (or bus) ticket exiting the country is mandatory. Additional specific entry requirements depend on your country of citizenship. Currently you may enter Nicaragua without a visa if traveling with a United States of America, Canada or most European passports. Immigration will then stamp your passport with your approved length of stay (usually 90 days). For other countries a visa may be required. It is always best to contact the Nicaragua Embassy nearest you for up to date entry and visa requirements.

Expiration rules on passports change constantly. Each traveler must verify they have at least one blank page for the entry stamp and check their passport expiration date. Nicaragua Vacations recommends you have at least six (6) months of validity from the date you return to your home country. It is also a good idea to have several copies of the picture page of your passport with you when you travel. Again, for the most up-to-date requirements, check with your Nicaragua Consulate.

If you are issued the 90 day visa and you plan on staying longer than that time, you must leave the country for 72 hours and then re-enter for a new 90 day visa or receive special permission (ie a work visa) before you arrive.

Weather

What is the weather like in Nicaragua? Nicaragua can be summed up like this, weather-wise: It’s either raining or it isn’t. Mostly isn’t. Compared with Costa Rica to the south, Nicaragua is a lot drier, and hot and sunny is the norm, especially in the dry season months of December to April, where any rain at all is extremely rare. The rainy (or green) season typically sees hot and sunny mornings with an hour or so of rain in the afternoon. The months of September and October can see more rain than this, but these are the only months where you can expect it to rain all day.

Nicaragua CAN sometimes be affected by the Atlantic Hurricane Season, but the vast majority of the time, this results only in heavy rainfall as the bulk of the hurricane affects the Gulf of Mexico, way to the north.

One thing to be aware of in Nicaragua is that the dry season can be windy in the south west of the country, due to winds coming off the lake and out over the Pacific. This is fantastic news for surfers, and also take the edge of the extreme heat, especially during March and April, and is something to be welcomed.

When is the best time of the year to travel to Nicaragua? There is no bad time to visit Nicaragua, although there are better times than others. If you ask us, we’ll tell you that the months of May, June, July, November and December are the best months. These are “cusp months” or “transition months”, where the weather is changing from dry to wet (in the case of May, June and July) and wet to dry (in the case of November and December).

The weather is great during these months, with the heavier rain or extreme heat of the height of the two seasons. With that said, if you’re a beach bunny or snowbird wanting guaranteed hot sunshine, then the months of January, February, March and April will be best for you. If you’re looking for culture, then the second week of February or the month of August is fantastic, as there are festivals all over the country, not least the Granada International Poetry Festival in February.

Be aware that advance booking is recommended to travel during these times, as well as during the High Season in general, especially Christmas and Easter. The high season is generally more expensive, and the low season cheaper and less visited by tourists.

Arrival and Departure

What are the Identification and Entry Requirements for Nicaragua? A valid passport is mandatory to enter Nicaragua. Depending on your country of origin you may enter Nicaragua without a visa for a maximum amount of up to 90 days. The United States of America, Canada and most European countries have this privilege. Expiration rules on passports change constantly. It is mandatory that each traveler checks their passport expiration date. Nicaragua Vacations recommends you have at least six (6) months of validity from the date you return to your home country, but for the most up-to-date requirements, check with your local Nicaraguan Consulate.

Contact info for Nicaraguan representation in the USA: http://embassy-finder.com/nicaragua_in_usa

Who should I call if my flight is delayed or cancelled? If you have any significant delays in your flight arrival please call 1-800-606-1860 Ext. No. 2 and speak to our Travel Experience Team.

How will you find us at the airport? 

Our representative from Nicaragua Vacations will meet you at the Managua (MGA) airport upon arrival. Here is how to find them: 
1. As soon as you exit the plane, you will walk across the tarmac a short distance to the Immigration Hall, where you will be checked into the country. (Please have passports handy and immigration forms completed).
2. You will then walk to the luggage claim area to collect your bags.
3. You will then proceed through customs. (Please be aware that your luggage may be hand checked, you may not bring plants, seeds, vegetables or fruits into Nicaragua).
4. After customs you will see a glass door on your left hand side. Pass through this door and your driver will be waiting for you with a sign with your name on it.

How early should I arrive to the airport for my International Flight? When departing Nicaragua, check in time for your international flight from the Managua Airport is 2 hours prior to your flight departure time.  Customers who fail to comply with the check-in time limits run the risk of missing their scheduled flights.  Any penalties charged by the airline for late check in or missed flights are the responsibility of the travelers.

Reminder: You can check in online beginning 24 hours and up to 90 minutes before your international flight; depending on your airline.  Online check in allows you to print your boarding passes, pay for checked bags, check for upgrades and choose your seats.

Money and Budgeting

Where can I exchange money? Nicaragua’s official currency is the Cordoba, however, US dollars are still accepted throughout the country, especially in the main tourist areas. Money can be exchanged in banks but the process is not easy. You’ll usually have to wait in long lines and most tellers speak little English. Your passport is required to exchange money at all banks. You can also change currency in most of your hotels, although be aware that the exchange rate may not be at the official exchange rate of the day.

ATMs are the easiest way to get local currency. At most ATMs you will have the choice of asking for Cordobas or dollars. Keep in mind most banks charge a transaction fee between $2.00 – $7.00 dollars.

There are currency exchange booths in the Managua Airport, but exchange rates are generally not favorable and fees are generally applied.

US Dollars are accepted in Nicaragua in denominations from $1 – $20. (avoid 50’s and 100’s – they will not be accepted anywhere).  Use these bills for your local purchases and you’ll receive your change in cordobas. You’ll then have some local currency to spend. Please note that in Nicaragua, ANY US dollar bills that are NOT in near mint or perfect condition (no nicks, marks, tears etc) will not be accepted in Nicaragua, even in a bank.

Can I use my credit cards? Credit cards are accepted in Nicaragua, but there are some exceptions. If you plan on using your credit card frequently it is very important that prior to leaving on your trip you tell your bank that you will be in Nicaragua. For your protection most banks automatically block transactions in foreign countries, so be sure that you advise your bank that you will be making charges while in Nicaragua.

Mastercard and Visa are the most widely accepted. American Express is accepted at most hotels and some restaurants but not by local or small vendors. Discover Card is not accepted in Nicaragua.
How much cash should I carry? This is a personal choice based on your spending habits, but we recommend that you have at least $100 cash with you upon arrival (only carry $1, $5, $10, $20 bills). How much cash you should carry throughout the trip depends on your plans, if you like to shop, and if you prefer to use a credit card for purchases or not. In almost all destinations you will have access to an ATM Machine. We recommend that you always place your cash, valuables and passports in your hotel’s safe deposit box every time you leave your room.

Health & Safety

Can I safely eat or drink the food and beverages I am served? Water is fine to use in the tourist areas of Nicaragua. By that we mean that cleaning your teeth is fine, washing fruit is fine and using ice is fine. However, it’s recommended that you use bottled water for drinking. Bottled water is available at hotels, grocery stores and restaurants. Keep in mind we all have different degrees of delicacy in our systems. If you are a person who often gets stomach distress when you travel, then it’s best to always choose bottled water.

Food is normally safe in all the better hotels that cater to international travelers.

In smaller “street restaurants” there is less certainty about the food quality. Avoid eating uncooked portions such as salads in such places. If you buy fresh fruits at a roadside stand or from a street vender, wash the fruits carefully before eating them.

Medical Emergencies: what care services are available in Nicaragua? Outside of Managua, hospital services are sporadic, and poorly equipped. Luckily, the vast majority of places where tourists visit are within a close distance of Managua, and the world class hospitals in that city. That’s not to say that when outside of the capital you are out of luck. Minor injuries and ailments can easily be treated in most doctor’s offices or pharmacies.

If I need medicine, can I easily get it? If you need to purchase medicines in Nicaragua, pharmacies are always available. Even remote towns will have a pharmacy open during work hours.

Keep in mind that it is mandatory to have a prescription for some drugs.  Prescriptions from doctors in the U.S. and other countries may be accepted but will most likely need to be translated to Spanish. It is best to arrive prepared with a complete supply of your own prescription medicines in their original prescription container.

In case of temporary emergencies, pharmacists are capable of administering injections. They can also provide recommendations for specific medical conditions and check your blood pressure.

Is it easy to get sunburn, or get dehydrated in Nicaragua? Nicaragua lies close to the equator, and as such, it’s VERY easy to get sunburnt or dehydrated. Never underestimate the tropical sun, even when it’s cloudy, and always protect yourself with good quality, high factor sunscreen and drink plenty of liquids to avoid ruining your vacation.

Are there many mosquitoes in Nicaragua? Should I bring bug spray?  Mosquitoes are common year-round in Nicaragua, and are most common at dusk and dawn. It’s a good idea to wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants during these times. A good insect repellent sprayed onto your clothing or skin will be effective to keep mosquitoes from bothering you (if you use both sunscreen and insect repellent, apply the sunscreen first and then the repellent). A Deet based product is not necessary but is generally the strongest option you can buy.

Malaria does exist in Nicaragua (as in every other country in Central America), although it is very rare and any outbreak makes the news. It’s up to you whether you want to bring malaria medication, but be aware that plenty of locals and expats get by without it, and thousands of tourists visit each year without using this medication. More common mosquito derived ailments are Dengue fever and the Chikungunya and Zika virus, which are easily combatted by taking the precautions mentioned above as protection against mosquito-borne diseases. If you develop one or more of the following symptoms seek medical evaluation for treatment: fever, rash, joint and/or muscle pain, severe eye pain (behind eyes), mild bleeding (nose or gum bleed or easy bruising).

Is Nicaragua safe?There’s no denying it. Nicaragua has had a bad rap over the years concerning safety. A turbulent history of revolution and civil war in recent decades has shattered Nicaragua’s reputation and still lingers in the minds of foreigners. People hear Nicaragua and think of war, but the fact is that now, in the 21st century, nothing could be further from the truth.

Nicaragua is actually statistically, along with Costa Rica, the safest country in Central America, and along with Uruguay, the safest in Latin America. Of course, there is crime, but nowhere nearly as much in neighboring countries, and travelers overwhelmingly come back with glowingly positive experiences of the country and of the people that they meet.

Nicaragua is a poor country, and as such the most likely crime that a tourist will be a victim of is petty theft, so be diligent in watching over your personal items. Use your hotel safe at all times. Do not leave cameras, purses, Ipads, Ipods, and cellphones unattended on restaurant tables, pool lounges, or beach towels. Leave expensive watches and jewelry at home. We always recommend you bring a photocopy of the picture page of your passport as well.

Political rallies should be avoided too, where people can get worked up. This is extremely unlikely to be an issue in any of the tourist areas, but is worth a mention.

Feel free to look online, on various forums and so on. Information is power, and your Travel Consultant will be more than happy to send you some data and speak to you about this.

Nicaragua is about 15-20 years behind Costa Rica in terms of tourism, and offers an authentic Latin American experience for those who come before the Marriott, the Four Seasons and the crowds get here! It’s past rep as a wartorn country is a roadblock for future development, as North Americans still remember the war on their TV screens from 30 years ago. But all that’s over and many expats are coming here to live in this beautiful country, and they are very welcome!

Tipping

Visitors should offer a tip to the service provider if they feel satisfied with the service that they have received. If you feel that the driver, tour guide or person assisting you has done a great job, then please, go ahead and tip him/her. Please, do tip the service employees that enhance your experience based upon how much you think that they deserve.

Some guidelines are Hotel Bellboy US$1 per bag, Hotel Maids US$2 per day, Waiters 5-10% of the check, tour guides US$5 per person, Drivers US$5 per each hour of service, Fishing 10% of the charter fee.

Clothing

Nicaragua is a very casual country, and as a tourist here, you’ll be in shorts and t-shirts for the majority of the time, especially at the beach. When touring churches in colonial Leon or Granada, it might be worth wearing long pants (men) and covering your shoulders (women), but other than that, dress for comfort rather than for style. If you are going out for a special dinner, you may want to wear a polo or button-down shirt for men and a nice top or sundress for ladies. Nothing too fancy.

Hotel Services

Are there Wi-Fi, hairdryers, ironing board and safes in room?Each hotel is different; please ask your travel consultant or the Travel Concierge on details of the hotels you will be visiting.

Will we need electrical adapters for our electronics? The electricity in Nicaragua is 110/220 volts AC, 60Hz10/ 120 watts, the same as in the United States. Generally most outlets will be designed for 2-prong, flat blade plugs. If your electronics require a different plug shape or wattage, please make sure to get a voltage converter.

*Regarding electronics and Wi-Fi. Please note that Nicaragua is a developing country. Power outages are common, and the internet can be sporadic. If the power is out, or the internet down, it’s not the fault of your hotel. It’s just the situation at the time. Don’t stress about this. Relax. Go for a dip, have a cold drink or a nap. It’s all good!

Concierge Services

How do I contact the in-country support team? As part of your vacation you will have access to our 24/7 Travel Experience Team. Please remember that your travel consultant will NOT be your first contact. If you need anything at all it is always best to go to our In-Country Travel Experience Team, who are equipped to help you faster than anyone else.

To reach our Travel Experience Team during your stay for anything at all from dinner reservations to a lost passport PLEASE CALL 8408 0131 or 8606 2276. These are local numbers that you can call from your hotel to reach us.
Can you assist me in booking restaurant reservations? Need a good place to go for dinner? Few travel experiences are more rewarding than breaking bread with the locals, on their turf; sharing their comfort food. Nicaragua provides a wide variety of succulent tropical fruits, fresh vegetables, fresh seafood, and quality beef.  Many restaurants provide vegetarian options too. San Juan del Sur and Granada offer tons of great restaurants and it often seems like a new place is popping up on a weekly basis. Reservations are generally not needed in Nicaragua – you just need to show up. For a list of “must try” restaurants, just ask your Travel Consultant!

Tours

Please note that some tours have weight, age & size restrictions. Be sure to check descriptions on your itinerary and advise us immediately if you have a concern. If you plan on doing any hiking or adventure activities you should plan on bringing comfortable, durable closed-toed shoes. Footwear is likely to get wet and muddy, so be prepared with a secondary pair of shoes to wear after your activities. Flip Flops are not appropriate for any outdoor adventure activity.

Roads and transportation services

Where is Nicaragua’s airport? There is one international airport in Nicaragua – the Agusto C. Sandino International Airport (MGA), which is located in Managua. It’s a small airport and passing through customs and immigration is relatively stress-free. After collecting your luggage, you continue through a checkpoint where officials pass baggage through an X-ray machine. After this, you’ll be able to leave the terminal and travel to your final destination.
What are the driving times between destinations? Travel times can vary between destinations. Our speed limit, in general, is 70 km/hour. Thus, if the distance between destinations is 200 km, you should plan on it taking between two and a half to three hours.

Our main highways that connect major cities are mostly 2 lanes. There is often truck traffic on the roads which can affect the time it takes to get from one place to another. It can often be difficult to pass and at times we have to be patient until we get to an area that allows us to get around the slow moving 18-wheeler.

Getting there is part of the fun though, so be sure to enjoy the gorgeous scenery and chat with your driver about the local towns you’ll be traveling through.

Here is a list of some of the more popular routes with driving times:

  • Managua (MGA Airport) to Granada – 45 minutes
  • Managua (MGA Airport) to Leon – 1.5 hours
  • Managua (MGA Airport) to San Juan del Sur – 2.5 hours
  • Granada to San Juan del Sur – 2 hours
  • Granada to Ometepe Island (including ferry) – 2.5 hours
  • Granada to Leon – 2 hours

What are the roads like in Nicaragua? The roads in Nicaragua if you stay on the main highways, are very good. Roads between most destinations are straight, two-lane, paved roads. As Nicaragua is a very poor country, car ownership is less than you might be used to, so outside of the cities you will often find yourself alone on that smooth blacktop. Still, trucks can be a concern, as well as horses, cattle etc wondering onto the highway. Avoid driving at night for these reasons, and also as most roads are not lit and do not have reflective lines. Off the main highways, roads get worse, so chances are at some point you will find yourself along a dirt road during your trip to Nicaragua. Many bridges narrow to a single lane and drivers must be ready to yield and give right of way to the oncoming traffic.  For your first visit to Nicaragua we always recommend taking private transports to get a feel for the driving conditions. This way, the next time that you visit you will already understand the driving conditions and can decide whether or not to rent a car. Rental cars also tend to receive “special attention” from police looking to solicit bribes, and for that reason too, we don’t recommend this, at least for your first trip.

What are the baggage restrictions on domestic flights? If you are flying on Nicaragua’s domestic airline, La Costeña you should know that there is a weight limit for each person of 35 lbs (15.88 kg) If you exceed this limit, the airlines will not allow the extra weight until the plane is full and the exact weight of ALL luggage and passengers is determined. If the flight has reached its maximum weight capacity to remain within safe parameters for flight, your additional luggage will have to wait for the next available flight. This could be one or two days so it’s important that you stay within the guidelines set forth by each airline. If the flight still has space for additional luggage and additional weight, you may pay a fee at the time of check-in to allow your extra luggage to travel with you. For additional information visit La Costeña’s baggage page.

Is it safe to use taxis? How do you know they are official? Taxis in Nicaragua are generally unofficial. There’s no “color coded” cabs here, like yellow in the United States or red in neighboring Costa Rica. In San Juan del Sur or Granada, taxis are easy to find and very cheap. There are no meters, so you settle on the fare BEFORE you get in the cab. Do NOT talk about the fare AFTER you have sat down inside the cab, under any circumstances. In Managua, taxis are a lot more risky and best avoided.

Phone services

How do I dial from the US or Canada to Nicaragua? To dial Nicaragua from the US, you must use the international prefix of 011 as well as the country code of 505. For example, if the number you are trying to reach is 8606-2276 (yes, they are eight digit phone numbers in Nicaragua), you must dial 011-505-8606-2276. If you are trying to contact our offices you can dial toll free 1-866-347-4012.

How do I dial from Nicaragua to the US or Canada? If you are dialing from a Nicaraguan cell phone or landline to the US or Canada the prefix is 001+ city code. For example, to dial the number (201)-000-0000 you must dial 001-201-000-0000.

How do I dial from the UK to Nicaragua? To dial Nicaragua from the UK, you must use the international prefix of 00 as well as the country code of 505. For example, if the number you are trying to reach is 8606-2276, you must dial 00-505-8606-2276.

How do I dial from Nicaragua to the UK? If you are dialing from a Nicaraguan cell phone or landline to the UK, the prefix is 0044 + phone number, remembering to omit the initial 0 in the area code. For example, to dial the number 01483-123456 you must dial 0044-1483-123456.

How does the phone system, cell phone service work in Nicaragua? You can make International calls from most hotels. Most calls will have a fee, so do check with the hotel for costs prior to making your call.  You may access Skype on your laptop, smartphone, or Ipad anywhere that there is Wifi.  If you are carrying your personal cell phone, it’s best that you check with your service provider in your home country to find out about connectivity and costs. Some phone companies have very expensive fees for utilizing their service inside Nicaragua. We also provide cell phones for use in Nicaragua for our clients. These are prepaid and you can top up minutes very cheaply and easily in any area. This saves massively on roaming fees. Ask your Travel Consultant about this service.

Embassies in Nicaragua

In the event of an emergency, consular officials can provide support, guidance and other assistance to help you. Here are links to some of the main embassies in Nicaragua:

  • United States Embassy: http://nicaragua.usembassy.gov/
  • Canadian Embassy: http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/costa_rica/offices-bureaux/nicaragua.aspx?lang=eng
  • British Embassy: https://www.gov.uk/government/world/organisations/british-embassy-in-costa-rica

Packing list

The following list of things to pack for Nicaragua will keep you prepared and traveling light for any type of Nicaragua itinerary. It also includes a few precautionary guidelines to ensure your personal safety and satisfaction.

Follow these tips on what to bring to Nicaragua and you’ll surely be prepared for a trip of a lifetime!

Official Papers

  • Valid passport + copy of the photo page
  • Airline tickets
  • Drivers license + copy
  • Insurance card and contact information
  • Money belt and passport pendant for important documents
  • Nicaragua Vacations “Airport Meeting Instructions”

Luggage

  • Day pack or fanny pack
  • Soft sided luggage to avoid going over domestic flight weight limits
  • Waterproof bag for wet/dirty clothing
  • Zip lock baggies to keep cameras and iPods dry in your back pack

Health

  • Eye drops
  • Insect repellent
  • Pain relievers (acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and/or just a simple aspirin)
  • Waterproof sunscreen
  • Contact lenses and cleaning solution
  • Personal medicine prescriptions in the original prescription bottles
  • Any over the counter medicines that you prefer. Most US brands are not available in Nicaragua.
  • Your personal toiletries

Clothing

  • Hiking or walking shoes
  • Beach sandals or flip-flops (dressy sandals optional)
  • T-shirts
  • Long sleeved T-shirts (recommended for sunburn protection, hiking and fishing)
  • Swimsuits and a casual beach cover-up (for ladies)
  • Hiking shorts (quick dry) and cotton shorts
  • Lightweight pants and shorts
  • Sleepwear
  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • Sun hats or baseball caps

City Clothing

Although Nicaragua is very casual, we recommend that if you are going to spend time in Managua, Leon or Granada (especially if you’re exploring colonial churches), that you bring along a pair of longer pants, good walking shoes, and a bit more formal clothing than you would wear in the laid back beach towns. This helps you to stand out less as a tourist.

Outwear

  • Light weight jacket or raincoat (poncho style); something warmer for higher elevations or on the open ocean.
  • Umbrella
  • Sunglasses
  • Camera (batteries and charger)

Other items

  • Swiss army knife
  • Key chain flashlight
  • Nalgene or other water bottle
  • Wet wipes/antibacterial hand gel
  • Kleenex
  • Pens
  • Lighter/matches
  • Cork screw

Important tips

  • Leave photocopies of your passport, drivers’ license, credit cards, airline tickets and any reservation that you have prepaid with your home emergency contact person
  • If you are visiting from US or Canada, there is no need to bring electric converters as they are the same in Nicaragua
  • There is no point in carrying all of your keys
  • Make sure you have plenty of storage on your memory card(s)
  • Leave expensive and irreplaceable jewelry at home
  • If you plan on using your credit card frequently, it is very important that prior leaving your trip, to inform your bank that you will be in Nicaragua.