Frequently Asked Questions
Is it safe for visitors to travel in Nicaragua?
According to statistics by Interpol and the United Nations, Nicaragua is one of the safest countries in the Americas, and the safest, after Costa Rica, in Central America.
What is the best time to visit Nicaragua?
The dry season, from November through May, is the best time to visit Nicaragua. June through October is known as the “green season,” when tropical rains bring lush foliage and cool clean air.
What are the visa and passport requirements for travelers visiting Nicaragua?
All visitors need a passport valid for at least six months to enter Nicaragua. Upon arrival, U.S. citizens receive a 30-day or 90-day visa automatically.
Make a photocopy of the pages in your passport that have your photo and information. When you get the passport stamped in the airport, it’s a good idea to make a photocopy of that page as well after you get situated in your first hotel, and store the copies somewhere other than with your passport. This will facilitate things greatly if your passport ever gets lost or stolen. Also consider taking a copy of your health and medical evacuation insurance policy.
Are there any required inoculations?
No shots are required for U.S. citizens.
Is there an entry tax?
The entry tax is US $10, payable in US dollars or Córdobas. Checks and credit cards are not accepted.
How easy is it fly to Nicaragua from North America?
Nicaragua is a short, two- to three-hour non-stop flight from Miami, Houston, Ft. Lauderdale and Atlanta. International flights land at Sandino International Airport in Managua, the nation’s capital.
• American Airlines – 3 daily flights from Miami, seasonal service from Dallas/Fort Worth
• Avianca – daily flight from Miami
• Delta – daily flight from Atlanta, weekly summer service from Los Angelesa
• Continental – daily flight from Houston
• Spirit – 3 flights a week from Fort Lauderdale, nonstop flights from Houston
Domestically, La Costeña flies from Managua to Bluefields, Corn Island, Puerto Cabezas and other localities in Nicaragua. Nature Air flies between Managua, Costa Rica and Panama.
What is it like getting around Nicaragua?
Getting around can be easy, enjoyable and safe throughout Nicaragua. Radio-dispatched taxis are available at the airport and major hotels. Major rental car companies are located at the airport and in other locations. Visitors can use their driver’s license for thirty days after entering the country. Taxis are plentiful and relatively inexpensive throughout the country. It is advisable to use officially registered taxis, which have red license plates (the numbers should be legible), or licensed tour guides. Inter-city buses are also plentiful.
Colonial cities such as León and Granada are more pedestrian-friendly than Managua. Visitors can see all the main sights on foot.
Is it OK to travel with children?
Nicaraguans love children and dote on them. We have both traveled with babies and small children in Nicaragua with relative ease. You may find that traveling with children opens doors and forms new connections. That said, your children will have to endure the same lack of creature comforts, change in diet, and long bumpy bus rides you do. Disposable diapers are expensive but readily available in supermarkets, as are powdered milk/formula, pacifiers (pacificadores or chupetas), and bottles (pachas). Ask your doctor and consult the CDC about malaria prophylaxis for your child.
Perhaps the most important thing to pack is strong sun protection for delicate skin and disinfectant hand soap or foam. Travel with a stroller is half useful and half annoying, as Nicaragua’s sandy and cobbled streets frequently require bigger-wheeled strollers that are thus harder to pack and carry around. Make sure your rental car company can provide a car seat for you, or you will be required to bring one (we highly recommend it, considering the danger of Nicaraguan road travel).
Are there any concerns for women travelers?
In Nicaragua, as in all of Latin America, women are both adored and harassed to their wits’ end by “gentlemen” hoping for attention. Catcalls and whistles are rife, often accompanied with an “Adios, amorrrr,” or a sleazy, “Tss-tss!” More often than not, the perpetrators are harmless, immature young men with struggling moustaches. It will either comfort or disgust you to know that Nicaraguan women are forced to endure the same treatment every day and you should note how they react–most ignore the comments and blown kisses entirely, and some are flattered and smile confidently as they walk by. Angrily losing your cool is ill-advised, as it will only feed the fire. Be prepared for this part of the culture, and decide ahead of time how you plan to react.
Physical harassment, assault, and rape are less common in Nicaragua than elsewhere in Central America, but they have all happened, especially when alcohol is involved. Take the same precautions you would anywhere else to avoid dangerous situations. For more, download a copy of “Her Own Way: Advice for the Woman Traveller” at the Canadian Consular Affairs website (www.voyage.gc.ca); also find good advice and tips at www.journeywoman.com.
What can be expected for travelers with disabilities?
Travelers with disabilities should contact AccessibleNicaragua (accessiblenicaraguagmail.com, www.accessiblenicaragua.com) before coming. Founder Craig Grimes, a disabled traveler himself, is somewhat of the authority on the matter. Wheelchair-bound travelers to Nicaragua have reported the two most important things to consider bringing are toilet seat extenders and suction cups, and point out Nicaraguans will quite helpfully offer to help you up and down curbs as necessary.
Nicaragua’s descapacitados (disabled) get around with much difficulty because of ruined sidewalks, dirt roads, aggressive crowds, and open manholes. While Nicaraguans agree people with disabilities have equal rights, no attempt is made to accommodate them, and the foreign traveler with limited mobility will certainly struggle, but will no doubt find ways to get by. The Los Pipitos organization, based in Managua with 24 chapters around the country, is devoted to providing support, materials, and physical therapy to Nicaraguan children with disabilities and their families. Los Pipitos is always looking for volunteers and support. The Managua office is located half a block east of the Bolonia Agfa (tel. 505/2266-8033).
Is the tap water drinkable?
It is recommended that North American visitors drink purified bottled water.
What should visitors take?
Everything you bring to Nicaragua should be sturdy and ideally water-resistant, especially if you intend to visit the Atlantic coast or Río San Juan, where you’ll inevitably find yourself in a boat. Also be prepared for rain during any part of the wet season. Choose a small, strong bag not so large you’ll be uncomfortable carrying it for long distances or riding with it on your lap in the bus–and secure its zippers with small padlocks. If you’re planning to stay in a midrange or upscale hotel for the duration of your trip, your bag is of less concern, but be sure to take a small daypack or shoulder bag for your daily walkabouts.
What clothing should visitors pack?
Pick clothes that are light and breathable in the heat, and if your plans include Matagalpa, Jinotega, or Estelí, you may appreciate something a bit warmer, like a flannel shirt. For sun protection, don’t forget a shade hat that covers the back of your neck.
No matter what your style, it is very important to look clean. Having a neat personal appearance is important to all Latin Americans, and you’ll find being well groomed will open a lot more doors. In the countryside, Nicaraguan men typically don’t wear shorts, unless they are at the beach or at home. Jeans travel well, but you will probably find them hot in places like León and Chinandega; khakis are lighter and dry faster.
Roads are rough, even in cities, so good walking shoes will ease your trip considerably; lightweight hiking boots or just sturdy sneakers are sufficient. You’ll be hard-pressed to find shoes larger than a men’s 10.5 (European 42) for sale in Nicaragua. Take a pair of shower sandals with you, or better yet, buy a pair of rubber chinelas anywhere in Nicaragua for about $1.
What is Nicaraguan cuisine?
Rice, beans and corn are staples of Nicaraguan cuisine. Nicaraguan grass-fed beef results in juicy steaks, often cooked over wood-burning grills. Since the country borders on the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, and is home to one of the largest lakes in the Americas, fresh seafood is readily available. Menu prices in Nicaragua are considerably lower than in North America. At the finest restaurants, steaks and seafood are available for under $15. American food is available at many restaurants. Nicaragua is known for their gallo pinto (fried rice and red beans mixture), nacatamals (pork or chicken tamales) and caballo bayo (a buffet of traditional delicacies to be eaten on homemade tortillas, for special occasions).
Can visitors use US dollars in Nicaragua?
The Nicaraguan currency is the Córdoba (C), but most establishments accept payment in US dollars. The exchange rate is approximately Cs 23.05 per US dollar (February 2012). Most Major credit cards are accepted in hotels, restaurants, and stores in both urban and tourist areas. A currency exchange can be transacted at most banks and hotels. The Córdoba is sometimes also referred to as the Peso. It is suggested that visitors to Nicaragua bring small denominations of US currency, so that they can make purchases and avoid getting change in Córdobas.
Banks’ hours of operation:
Monday to Friday from 8:30 pm to 4:30 pm; Saturday from 8:30 am to 2:30 pm
What is the customary tipping in Nicaragua?
For airport/hotel baggage handlers, US $1.00 per bag is acceptable. For restaurants and other services, 10-15% of value of service is customary but not obligatory.
What is the electricity/voltage in Nicaragua?
110 volts/60 cycles, as in North America.
Bring a small first-aid kit, plastic bags and Ziplocs for protections from both rain and boat travel, and a cheap set of ear plugs for the occasional early-morning rooster or chichera band.
A lightweight, breathable raincoat and/or small umbrella are a good idea. A small flashlight or headlamp is indispensable for walking at night on uneven streets and for those late-night potty runs in your hospedaje, and an alarm clock will facilitate catching early-morning buses. If you wear glasses, bring along a little repair kit. Bring a pocket Spanish dictionary and phrasebook. Photos of home and your family are a great way to connect with your Nica hosts and friends. A simple compass is helpful for finding your way around, as directions in this book typically refer to compass directions (finding the hotel three blocks north of the park is a lot easier if you know which direction north is).
Does Nicaragua offer study abroad programs?
There are a few possibilities for spending a summer, semester, or extended internship in Nicaragua. Programs range from biological fieldwork at remote research stations to language training and social justice programs. You’ll find additional listings at www.studyabroad.com.
School for International Training has been running a semester program in Managua for years, entitled “Revolution, Transformation, and Civil Society” (U.S. tel. 888/272-7881, www.sit.edu).
World Leadership School (www.worldleadershipschool.org), based in Denver, Colorado, has extensive experience with international travel, leadership training, and managing student groups overseas and sometimes offers trips for teens in Nicaragua. On La Isla de Ometepe, near the village of San Ramón Estación Biológica de Ometepe (www.lasuerte.org) is a biological field station frequented by student groups and researchers from all over the world. At the Mariposa Eco-Hotel and Spanish School (www.spanishschoolnica.com), the owner Paulette Goudge, PhD, offers a three-month course in the “Politics of Development.”
Are there Spanish language schools?
Nicaragua has a growing network of independent Spanish schools, and an increasing number of visitors to the country choose to combine their travels with a few days, weeks, or even months of language study. With new “schools” (from teenagers in a living room to full-fledged language institutes) popping up all the time, it is increasingly difficult to keep track of them all; we’ve listed below the schools that stand out for their reputation and experience. Most schools follow the same basic structure, mixing language instruction with cultural immersion: 2-4 hours of class in the morning, community service activities or field trips in the afternoon, and optional homestays with Nicaraguan families.
To a certain extent, choosing a school is as much a question of your geographical preference as anything else, since there are quality schools across the country. If possible, it’s a good idea to come down and personally look into a few options before making a long-term commitment. Get a feel for the teachers (ask about their experience and credentials), the professionalism of the business, and the lesson plan. Do not trust everything you see on the websites.
Also, please note that keeping up with prices is difficult in the competitive world of Spanish schools, so always confirm prices. In general, expect to pay around $150-300 per week, depending on the quality of services offered. This usually includes room, board, instruction, and sometimes tours. Schools in the northern regions are generally cheaper. You can create your own language tour by studying at several schools, using your class schedule and family homestays as a way to travel throughout Nicaragua.
Once in the classroom, remember that gaining a language takes time–you must learn one word at a time until they start flowing together in sentences and you stop translating everything in your head. Be patient, do your homework, and be ready to laugh at yourself (along with everyone else) as you make mistakes. ¡Suerte!