Foreign travel advice

Nicaragua

Summary

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Visitors to Nicaragua should exercise a high degree of caution. Many areas of the country have experienced a period of unrest and street violence since April 2018. The situation is now quieter but underlying tensions could erupt into further violence and disorder without warning. Earlier in the crisis, heavily armed pro-government groups patrolled frequently. Whilst they appear to be less active, you should remain vigilant. In the early months of the crisis, there was use of tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition resulting in serious injuries and, according to UN and other reports, over 325 deaths.

You should stay well away from all demonstrations and gatherings, even if apparently peaceful. There are severe restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly. Marches, demonstrations and other expressions of opposition are no longer permitted. Hundreds of people have been detained as a result of the protests and such events have escalated into violence in the past. It is 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.

Opposition groups frequently use the blue and white national flag, and these colours, as a symbol. Displaying these may be taken as an indication of support for opposition groups. This could lead to arrest and imprisonment under new terrorism laws which can incur severe penalties, even for apparently minor infractions.

The incidence of crime has risen significantly since the protests began.

Commercial flights are operating normally from Managua Augusto Sandino Airport. However, several airlines have reduced the number and frequency of flights due to lower demand because of the current situation.

There is no British Embassy in Nicaragua. Our consular support is therefore limited. If you need emergency consular assistance, you should contact the British Embassy in San Jose, Costa Rica.

If you need to contact the emergency services, call 118 (police), 128 (ambulance) or 115 (911 from a mobile) (fire).

The rainy season normally runs from May to November. Hurricanes can affect Nicaragua during this period.

There has been an increase in seismic activity in recent years. for advice about what to do before, during and after an earthquake. You should seek reliable local advice before and during any tourist activity around volcanoes.

Dengue fever is endemic to Latin America and the Caribbean and there has been a recent significant increase in the number of reported cases. Cases of Chikungunya virus have been confirmed in Nicaragua.

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.

Around 17,500 British tourists visited Nicaragua in 2017. Until 2018, when the recent protests began, most visits were trouble free.

Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Nicaragua, attacks can’t be ruled out.

Safety and security

Crime

The incidence of crime has risen significantly since the April 2018 protests began, particularly where an effective police presence is lacking.

More broadly, in recent years there has been a rise in thefts, break-ins and muggings. 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’s 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. Don’t take a taxi if it’s 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.

Don’t 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. Don’t 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. Don’t carry large amounts of cash, credit cards or other valuables.

Local travel

Major routes within and between cities had become impassable at times in 2018 due to disorder and/or roadblocks as a result of the protests. Roadblocks have now been cleared. 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.

Don’t 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.

Road travel

In addition to the difficulties mentioned above, road conditions are generally poor. There’s no street lighting on the main highways between major cities and only minimal street lighting in towns. Driving standards are 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.

Air travel

The number and frequency of international scheduled flights from Managua Augusto Sandino Airport has reduced due to a fall in demand as a result of the current situation.

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.

Sea travel

Safety regulations and standards vary greatly. Although local law requires operators of public water-transport to have insurance, some operators still don’t 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.  

Political situation

Many areas of the country have experienced a period of unrest and street violence since April 2018. The situation is now quieter but underlying tensions could erupt into further violence and disorder without warning. Earlier in the crisis, heavily armed pro-government groups patrolled frequently. Whilst they appear to be less active, you should remain vigilant. In the early months of the crisis, there was use of tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition resulting in serious injuries and, according to UN and other reports, over 325 deaths.

You should stay well away from all demonstrations and gatherings, even if apparently peaceful. There are severe restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly. Marches, demonstrations and other expressions of opposition are no longer permitted. Hundreds of people have been detained as a result of the protests and such events have escalated into violence in the past. It is 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.

Opposition groups frequently use the blue and white national flag, and these colours, as a symbol. Displaying these may be taken as an indication of support for opposition groups. This could lead to arrest and imprisonment under new terrorism laws which can incur severe penalties, even for apparently minor infractions.

The incidence of crime has risen significantly since the protests began.

Terrorism

Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Nicaragua, attacks can’t be ruled out.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out more about the global threat from terrorism.

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.

Local laws and customs

Don’t become involved with drugs of any kind. Possession of even very small quantities can lead to imprisonment.

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.

Entry requirements

The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.

The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Visas

British nationals can visit Nicaragua for up to 3 months without a visa. You may be refused entry if you don’t 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.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry 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. Advice should be sought 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 (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 of any of the CA-4 countries. 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’re expelled from any of the four countries you are also excluded from the entire CA-4 region.

Health

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’re abroad.

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re 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’ll 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.

Cases of Chikungunya virus have been confirmed in Nicaragua. You should take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

Public hospitals in Nicaragua are not well equipped and charge for some services. There are some newer and 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.

Natural disasters

Nicaragua is prone to seismic and volcanic activity, hurricanes, severe storms and flooding.

Earthquakes

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.

Hurricanes

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 National Hurricane Centre

See our tropical cyclones page for advice about what to do if you are caught up in a storm.

Flooding

The wet season is from April to October. During this season (especially in rural areas) landslides, flooding and bridge collapses can cause cancellation of local flights and other travel disruption.

Volcanoes

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.

Money

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.

Travel advice help and support

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 and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (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.

Travel safety

The FCO 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 FCO 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 FCO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice Team a request.

Further help

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.We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.