Nicaragua travel guide
Fabled land of lakes and volcanoes, Nicaragua also lays claim to vibrant colonial cities, deserted beaches and wildlife-rich rainforests. Its vibrancy is all-encompassing, and the hospitality of its people is renowned throughout the Americas. The largest country in Central America, Nicaragua is also one of the safest and cheapest countries that constitute the ‘gringo trail'. That visitor numbers to this sun-drenched sanctuary are only increasing should come as no surprise.
What Nicaragua lacks in standout cultural attractions it compensates for with natural beauty. Its reefs and rainforests are hotbeds of biodiversity and teem with jaguars, monkeys and myriad bird species (though how this idyll will look after the Nicaragua Grand Canal has been built remains to be seen).
The country’s wild landscapes are fertile ground for thrill-seekers. Visitors can go hiking, biking, kayaking and swimming in the country’s iconic crater lakes. Whether you want to ride some of the world’s best waves, speed along zip-lines above the jungle or scuba dive along shelves of iridescent coral, Nicaragua has it all. Sound too much like hard work? Then kick back on the twin peaks of Ometepe Island, overlooking the shimmering Lake Nicaragua, or catch a boat into the Indío Maiz Biological Reserve, the largest area of virgin rainforest north of the Amazon.
Those hankering for the city life should head to León or Granada, two of Central America’s prettiest colonial cities. Both are hubs for travellers and represent gateways to nearby attractions. From León, you can climb the Maribios volcanic chain, go ‘volcano-boarding’ down the slopes of the still-rumbling Cerro Negro or pick coffee beans in the temperate northern highlands. Granada, meanwhile, is the ideal base to explore Masaya’s volcanic park, in particular, Volcano Acatenango, or zip-line over Mombacho’s cloud forest and take a cooling swim in Laguna de Apoyo.
For surfers, head to San Juan del Sur in search of the perfect wave, then spend your evenings dancing the night away in the city - made famous for its nightlife and the renowned ‘Sunday Funday’ festival. Others can abscond to the Corn Islands, an archipelago that offers everything you'd expect from the Caribbean, minus the sky-high prices. So grab a beer and join the party – it’s only just begun.
130,373 sq km (50,337 sq miles).
6,285,000 (UN estimate 2018).
52.2 per sq km. (UN estimate 2018)
President Daniel Ortega since 2007.
President Daniel Ortega since 2007.
Coronavirus travel health
Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Nicaragua on the TravelHealthPro website.
See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
You should contact local authorities for information on testing facilities (only available in Spanish).
Flights to and from Nicaragua are currently limited. Avianca and some other airlines have started limited flight schedules. Details are available directly from the airline or via a travel agent.
Entry and borders
See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Nicaragua.
Be prepared for your plans to change
No travel is risk-free during COVID-19. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.
If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to self-isolate in your accommodation for 14 days. This will be monitored by the authorities. You should expect to pay for this additional accommodation expense yourself. If you need further assistance, you should contact the authorities on 132 and request support. Young people under 18 years of age travelling alone should seek advice from the authorities if they contract the Covid-19 virus.
Plan ahead and make sure you:
- can access money
- understand what your insurance will cover
- can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned
Travel in Nicaragua
There are no specific travel restrictions currently in force in Nicaragua. You should follow all precautionary health measures and keep up to date with information from your tour operator, transport or accommodation provider, and comply with measures introduced by the authorities.
Public spaces and services
Social distancing measures and other safety precautions should be observed at all times.
Healthcare in Nicaragua
For COVID-19 related queries, dial 132.
British-issued prescriptions cannot be used locally. To find a pharmacy (“farmacia”) look for one of the big national chains such as FarmaValue, Farmacia MEDCO, Farmacia Saba, Farmacia Kielsa, or Farmacia El Ahorro, among others; a quick search online should help you to identify the nearest one open.
For contact details for English speaking doctors visit our list of healthcare providers.
Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health.
View Health for further details on healthcare in Nicaragua.
See also the guidance on healthcare if you’re waiting to return to the UK.
For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.
For information from the Nicaraguan health authorities, see their official website.
There has been a rise in thefts, break-ins and muggings in recent years. Street crime is common in Managua, but also occurs in other large towns. Pickpockets and thieves operate on public transport and around bus terminals. Many criminals have weapons, and most injuries and deaths have resulted when victims have resisted. If you are robbed, inform the police and get a signed and stamped copy of their report.
Express kidnappings have occurred involving passengers using unauthorised taxis, where cash is demanded for release a short while later.
If possible use radio-dispatched taxis. If you get a taxi on the street, use an authorised taxi, which has red plates, and the driver’s identification number, name and photograph clearly visible on the dashboard. Take note of the colour and number of the vehicle before you get in.
It is a common local practice to share taxis with strangers. If you prefer to avoid this, agree a fare with the driver for a solo journey. Always agree the fare before you set off. Many assaults and robberies have occurred when using unlicensed taxis and when a stranger offers to call a taxi for you. Do not take a taxi if it has been called for you by someone you do not know well.
There have been reports of cars being stopped and passengers assaulted at traffic lights in Managua. Keep the windows of your car closed and the doors locked.
Do not travel on buses after dark.
Take care when walking around, particularly in markets, bus stations, the area around the old cathedral in Managua and poorer areas of towns. Do not walk alone after dark.
There have been reports of violent attacks against foreigners in hotels. Use hotels that are staffed at the front desk 24 hours a day and have adequate security measures.
Avoid wearing jewellery. Do not carry large amounts of cash, credit cards or other valuables.
When demonstrations occur, they have led to disruptions to traffic and public transportation and we advise that you check local information carefully before undertaking any travel.
The North Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAN) is very remote. You should plan any travel to this area carefully.
Do not hike on volcanoes or in other remote areas without an experienced guide.
Although extensive de-mining operations have been carried out in rural areas of northern Nicaragua, some landmines may remain. Take care if you venture off the main roads.
Avoid road travel after dark due to the potential presence of armed groups.
In addition to the difficulties mentioned above, road conditions are generally poor. There is no street lighting on the main highways between major cities and only minimal street lighting in towns. The standard of driving is low and the condition of vehicles, particularly taxis and buses is poor. Ignoring traffic lights is common practice. Drink driving is a severe problem.
Drivers of vehicles involved in serious injury or fatal road traffic accidents are often arrested and detained.
Right-hand drive vehicles may not be driven or imported into Nicaragua.
During the wet season (April to October), it is usually better to fly to and from the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua on early morning flights because of the risk of severe storms later in the day.
Safety regulations and standards vary greatly. Although local law requires operators of public water-transport to have insurance, some operators still do not carry recognised insurance. You should check the operator’s insurance cover before beginning your journey. In January 2016, a passenger boat travelling between islands off the Atlantic coast sank with the loss of 13 lives.
Swimming and water sports
Take care if you are swimming or taking part in water activities. Strong currents off sections of Nicaragua’s Pacific coast have resulted in drownings. Warning signs are not posted and lifeguards and rescue equipment are not readily available.
Many areas of the country have experienced a period of political unrest since April 2018, resulting in hundreds of deaths and detentions according to UN reports. Protests led to violent clashes and use of tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition. The situation is now quieter but remains unpredictable.
You should stay well away from all demonstrations and gatherings, even if apparently peaceful, as these could result in outbreaks of violence. It is also against Nicaraguan immigration law for foreigners to involve themselves in local politics, and you may put yourself at risk of arrest if taking part in protests, breaches of the peace, or other activity that could be perceived as acting against the government. You should exercise caution during your trip, monitor local media for reports of potential disruptions and avoid travelling at night.
Earlier in the crisis, heavily armed pro-government groups patrolled frequently. Whilst they appear to be less active at present, you should remain vigilant. The display of Nicaragua’s national blue and white flag, and these colours, as a means of protest by opposition groups has led to arrests and imprisonment in the past. Although the flag is widely flown by the authorities, its display in a context of political opposition could incur severe penalties.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Nicaragua, attacks can’t be ruled out.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Do not become involved with drugs of any kind. Possession of even very small quantities can lead to imprisonment.
There is an absolute ban on electronic smoking devices, prohibiting the import, export, sale, storage and use of e-cigarettes and similar devices, with or without nicotine. Customs officials can confiscate these products from travellers at the border.
There are stringent restrictions on the use of drones and other unmanned aerial vehicles, including small recreational items such as those frequently used by hobbyists. You should not attempt to import or use a drone, including for aerial photography, unless you have prior written permission from the Nicaraguan authorities.
This page has information on travelling to Nicaragua.
This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in Nicaragua set and enforce entry rules. If you’re unsure how Nicaragua’s entry requirements apply to you, contact its UK embassy, high commission or consulate.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
Entry rules in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)
Entry to Nicaragua
There is currently a requirement to have a “negative COVID-19 RT-PCR Test” certificate or a Full Vaccination Certificate to enter Nicaragua. If entering by air you should check with your airline that they are satisfied that you meet these requirements. You should not use the NHS testing service to get a test in order to facilitate your travel to another country. You should arrange to take a private test.
Regular entry requirements
British nationals can visit Nicaragua for up to 3 months without a visa. You may be refused entry if you do not have an onward ticket out of Nicaragua.
There have been changes to the policy on entry at the Nicaraguan border, affecting some visitors to Nicaragua. For further information, you should check with your travel company or the Nicaraguan immigration authorities, either via their website (in Spanish) or by contacting your nearest Nicaraguan embassy.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry in Nicaragua.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Nicaragua. If you are using an ETD to enter Nicaragua, it should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Nicaragua.
Travelling with Children
Minors who hold single or dual Nicaraguan Nationality may require specific documentation to leave the country with one parent or a third party. Seek advice from the Nicaraguan migration authorities.
Arrival and departure tax
There is a US$10 arrival tax, which should be paid in cash. There is also a US$35 departure tax, which is normally included in the price of your air ticket. If in doubt, check with your airline.
Yellow fever certificate requirements
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
Central America Border Control Agreement
Nicaragua is party to the Central America Border Control Agreement (CA-4). Under the terms of this agreement, British tourists can travel within any of the CA-4 countries (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua) for a period of up to 90 days which starts at the first point of entry of any of the CA-4 countries. They will be subject to immigration checks at the border (which does not interrupt or restart the 90 day count). Fines are applied for travellers who exceed this 90 day limit, although a request for an extension can be made for up to 30 days by paying a fee before the 90 days limit expires. If you are expelled from any of the four countries you are also excluded from the entire CA-4 region.
If you have a health condition, or you are pregnant, you may need specialist healthcare abroad. Check whether your destination country can provide the healthcare you may need and ensure you have appropriate travel insurance for unexpected medical evacuation or local treatment.
See the Coronavirus travel health and Healthcare sections in the Coronavirus page for COVID-19 health information.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.
General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you are abroad.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you are travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you will need to contact the Embassy, High Commission or Consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).
UK health authorities have classified Nicaragua as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For more information and advice, visit the website of the National Travel Health Network and Centre.
Dengue is endemic to Latin America and the Caribbean. There has been a recent significant increase in the number of reported cases and in July 2019 the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health declared an epidemiological alert for the mosquito-borne virus. Cases of Chikungunya virus have also been confirmed in Nicaragua. A rise in cases of Malaria has been reported on the North Caribbean coast and, in May 2021, around the north-western city of Chinandega. You should take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes and follow the health advice issued by the National Travel Health Network and Centre.
Public hospitals in Nicaragua are not well equipped and charge for some services. There are some better equipped hospitals in Managua. Each department of the country has its own public hospital. You may need a good understanding of Spanish to use the health facilities. In an emergency, patients will be taken to the nearest hospital, which is usually a public hospital unless the patient indicates they are able to pay for treatment. Payment for healthcare is usually accepted in cash and may be required before treatment.
A few private hospitals will accept major credit cards for payment. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 128 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
The hurricane season normally runs from June to November. You should monitor the local and international weather updates from the World Meteorological Organisation and the US National Hurricane Centre. Follow the advice of local authorities, including any evacuation orders. Keep up to date with FCDO travel advice and social media. Plan any local travel carefully.
You can sign up for our email alert service to be notified of any updates to our travel advice
Nicaragua is prone to seismic and volcanic activity, hurricanes, severe storms and flooding.
Seismic activity is common throughout Central America and can happen at any time. Make sure you know what to do if a tremor or earthquake occurs. Read the hotel earthquake instructions. The US Federal Emergency Management Agency has advice about what to do before, during and after an earthquake or tsunami.
See our tropical cyclones page for advice about what to do if you are caught up in a storm.
The wet season is from May to November. During this season (especially in rural areas) landslides, flooding and bridge collapses can cause cancellation of local flights and other travel disruption.
A spine of volcanoes, several of which are active stretches the length of the country, in particular San Cristobal, Masaya, Cerro Negro, Telica and Concepcion on Ometepe Island. Follow media reports and keep in touch with the local authorities if you intend to visit the area.
The US Dollar, either in cash or travellers’ cheques, is the only foreign currency freely exchangeable in Nicaragua. Banks don’t exchange sterling. Avoid using informal street money changers as there have been reports of assaults on people exchanging money in the streets.
Banks will often have affiliated money changers outside the branch, which avoids long queues. These recognised money changers work bank hours and display identification. You can withdraw cash in US dollars or local Cordobas from ATMs.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 5000 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCDO travel advice
If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice Team a request.
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry, or contact us on Twitter or Facebook. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.