Nicaragua

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Friday, 05 December 2014.   This advice contains updated information in the Summary and under Entry and exit (travelling with prescription and non-prescription medication). We continue to advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in Nicaragua because of the risk of serious crime.

Nicaragua overall

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Nicaragua because of the risk of serious crime.
  • Violent crime is common and widespread in Nicaragua, including in the capital Managua. Violent crime in Nicaragua often involves firearms and is frequently related to violent street gangs.
  • Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.
  • When travelling with medication, familiarise yourself with entry requirements for each country you plan to visit. See the Entry and exit section for more information.
  • The hurricane season is June to November. Landslides, mudslides and flooding may occur. In the case of a hurricane, monitor local media reports and follow the instructions of local emergency authorities.
  • Nicaragua is situated in a seismic zone. You should make yourself aware of the emergency instructions of your hotel or place of accommodation. See the Natural Disasters section for detailed advice.
  • The Australian Consulate in Nicaragua, headed by an Honorary Consul, does not issue Australian passports but can conduct passport interviews and provide Provisional Travel Documents for emergency travel to the nearest Australian Embassy. The Australian Embassy in Mexico provides full consular assistance to Australians in Nicaragua.
  • See also our general advice for business travellers
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
    • organise comprehensive travel insurance and check what circumstances and activities are not covered by your policy
    • register your travel and contact details, so we can contact you in an emergency
    • subscribe to this travel advice to receive free email updates each time it's reissued.
    • follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
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Entry and exit

Under the Central American Border Control Agreement (CA-4), foreigners may travel for up to 90 days between Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala without completing entry and exit formalities. This period begins at the first point of entry to any of these countries. This waiver is issued once per year and visitors can request an extension to their CA-4 visa prior to its expiry. Visitors who stay more than 90 days without permission could be fined and expelled from any of the four countries. Visitors expelled from one country may be refused entry to the others.

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact the nearest Embassy of Nicaragua for the most up to date information.

Minors travelling with one parent or with a third party must have notarised written permission of the absent parent(s) or legal guardian to depart Nicaragua.

All medication must be transported in its original container and be labelled clearly. Prescription and controlled medication must be accompanied by a prescription from the prescribing physician on letterhead stationary and include the medication’s generic name. Contact the nearest Embassy of Nicaragua for a list of restricted medication.

The nearest Embassy of Nicaragua to Australia is located in Japan

*Embajada de Nicaragua en Japón*
Kowa 38 Bldg, 9th floor Rm 903 12-24 Nishi Azabu,
4-Chome Minato-ku, Tokyo 106 0031
Japan
Email: aelvir@cancilleria.gob.ni
Phone (00813) 3499-0400
Fax (00813) 3499-3800

A valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate is required for travellers arriving in Nicaragua from Yellow Fever endemic countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides a list of countries in which Yellow Fever is endemic.

If you are travelling to Nicaragua through the United States of America, including if you are transiting Honolulu or other American cities, you will need to meet US entry/transit requirements. You should check your visa requirements with the nearest US Embassy or Consulate well in advance of travel. See also our travel advice for the United States of America.

Airlines may not accept passengers bound for destinations within the US without evidence of an onward or return ticket, even if the person may be eligible to enter the US under the visa waiver program.

Make sure your passport has at least six months validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Nicaragua because of the high risk of serious crime. Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Overseas bulletin for more information on terrorism and our General advice to Australian travellers for tips on staying safe overseas.

Civil unrest/Political tension

Violent protests may occur. Protesters may set up road blocks with little warning and public transport and traffic can be disrupted. You should not attempt to cross road blocks.

You should avoid all demonstrations, political rallies and large public gatherings as they may turn violent. You should monitor the media for new information about safety and security risks.

There are boundary disputes in the Caribbean coastal waters between Nicaragua and neighbouring Honduras. Boats and fishing vessels have been detained and impounded.

Crime

We recommend that you do not discuss your travel plans with strangers or in public areas. Avoid non-essential travel at night.

The risk of violent crime, including armed robbery and assault is significant, particularly in Managua, Granada and San Juan del Sur, as well as in Bonanza, La Rosita and Siuna in the north-east, and on Corn Island. Gang violence has occurred near major hotels, bus terminals, beaches and markets.

'Express kidnappings', where individuals are abducted and forced to withdraw funds from an ATM to secure their release, have occurred. Many criminals carry weapons and offering resistance can lead to even greater risk and violence.

There is an extremely limited police presence outside of major urban areas, in particular the remote beach communities on the Pacific Coast and the Atlantic Coast autonomous regions. Due to the remoteness of these areas and lack of police coverage, the areas are used by drug traffickers and other criminal elements. You should only travel within tourist areas and avoid isolated locations.

The Caribbean coastal area of Nicaragua is a known transit zone for illegal drugs.

Armed gangs carry out kidnappings, robberies and extortion in the northern border region. Travel to the Honduran border should only be undertaken on highways with border crossings (at Guassaule, El Espino and Las Manos).

Robberies and assaults have occurred in unofficial taxis and often include the use of weapons. We recommend you use official taxis, which have a clearly visible red number plate, or radio despatched taxis, which are available at the International Airport and larger hotels. Do not share taxis with strangers at any time. Before starting your journey make a note of the taxi's registration number and telephone number.

Petty crime such as pickpocketing and bag snatching is common. Criminals are known to target public transport, tourist areas, hotels, markets and vehicles stopped in traffic. You should remain alert when visiting markets in the vicinity of the old cathedral in Managua, near the Tica Bus Station terminal and at public transport terminals.

You should avoid walking alone, particularly on isolated beaches, and travelling on buses after dark. Avoid taking public transport where possible and be cautious of anyone offering assistance on public transport, including on long-distance trips, as they may have criminal motives.

Attacks on vehicles have been reported, including buses operated by hotels, along the Managua-Leon, Tipitapa-Masaya and Somotillo-Chinandega highways.

Thieves posing as tour guides, particularly on the Island of Ometepe, have robbed travellers. You should use well-known, reputable tour operators.

Credit card fraud is reportedly on the increase. Be vigilant when using your credit card.

Money and valuables

Australian currency and travellers cheques are not accepted in Nicaragua. There are relatively low daily withdrawal limits from ATMs in Nicaragua. The US dollar (cash and traveller’s cheques) is the only foreign currency freely exchangeable in Nicaragua.

Exercise caution when using ATMs. For security reasons we advise you to use ATMs available at banks and in shopping centres.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

Review the general advice to Australian travellers for further information on being safe and prepared abroad.

Local travel

Traffic conditions are dangerous due to poor quality and narrow roads, lack of signage and local driving practices. Traffic accidents are a common cause of death and injury. Vehicles involved in an accident should not be moved until authorised by a police officer. Travel should only be undertaken during daylight hours and travelling in groups is advisable. You should not hitchhike. Ensure that any vehicle you are travelling in has the windows closed and the doors locked. For further advice, see our Road travel page.

There are unmarked landmines in the northern border region which pose a significant danger if you venture off the main roads. Affected areas are not always clearly marked.

Check the safety conditions at the beaches on the Pacific coastline of Nicaragua as strong currents and undertows are prevalent. Lifeguards and warning signs may not be in place.

Adventure travel, including trekking in volcano or other remote areas should only be undertaken with an experienced local guide. Hikers should ensure they have sufficient provisions when preparing for any climb.

Airline safety

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Nicaragua.

Please also refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

When you are in Nicaragua, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we cannot get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research local laws before travelling.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

Penalties for drug offences are severe, including heavy fines and lengthy prison sentences. See our Drugs: Don’t carry or consume drugs overseas - Ever page.

It is illegal to photograph official buildings in Nicaragua. You should check with local authorities before taking photographs.

Drivers involved in road accidents resulting in death or injury are subject to arrest and/or detention until responsibility has been established by the courts. This process could take a period of weeks to months.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australian overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Information for dual nationals

Our Dual nationals page provides further information for dual nationals.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our Health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

Medical facilities are basic in the capital Managua, and are very limited in smaller towns and rural areas. Doctors and private hospitals may require cash payment prior to providing treatment. Emergency ambulance services and certain types of medical equipment, medications and treatments are not available in Nicaragua. Serious medical emergencies may require evacuation, at considerable cost, to the USA where the cost of medical treatment is very high.

Malaria is a risk in rural areas throughout Nicaragua, including the outskirts of Managua. Dengue fever is endemic in Nicaragua. There have been reported cases of cholera and leptospirosis. Other insect-borne diseases (including Chagas' disease and leishmaniasis) are also a risk to travellers, particularly during the wet season (April to November). We recommend you take prophylaxis against malaria where necessary and take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent at all times, wearing long, loose-fitting, light coloured clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof.

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including tuberculosis, typhoid, hepatitis, and rabies) are prevalent. More serious outbreaks of some of these diseases occur from time to time. We advise you to drink bottled water or boil all drinking water, and avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

Where to get help

Depending on the nature of your enquiry, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurance provider in the first instance.

If the matter relates to criminal issues, contact the local police at the nearest police station, or contact the tourist police by dialing 101. You should always obtain a police report when reporting a crime.

The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and cannot do to assist Australians overseas.

The Australian Consulate in Managua, headed by an Honorary Consul, provides limited consular assistance to Australians in Nicaragua. The Consulate does not issue Australian passports, but can conduct passport interviews, and provide Provisional Travel Documents for emergency travel to the nearest Australian Embassy. Contact details are:

Australian Consulate, Managua

De La 2da Entrada Las Colinas, 3 cuadras al este (derecha en triangulo), 1 c. al este, 1 c. al Norte, 1 c. este calle, La curva de los Gallos
Las Colinas, Managua
Nicaragua
Telephone: +505 2298 5300
Email: aushonconsul.nicaragua@gmail.com

You can contact the Australian Government at the Australian Embassy in Mexico for consular assistance. See contact details below:

Australian Embassy, Mexico City

Ruben Dario 55 (Polanco)
Col. Bosques de Chapultepec, C.P.
11580 Mexico D.F. MEXICO
Telephone (52 55) 1101 2200
Facsimile (52 55) 1101 2201
E-mail: consularpassports.mexico@dfat.gov.au
Website: www.mexico.embassy.gov.au

See the Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the Embassy you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

If you are travelling to Nicaragua, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency-whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Hurricanes: The hurricane season is June to November when landslides, mudslides, flooding and disruptions to essential services may occur. In the case of a hurricane, monitor local media reports and follow the instructions of local emergency officials.

If you are travelling during hurricane season, you should contact your tour operator to check whether tourist services at your planned destination have been affected.

The direction and strength of hurricanes can change with little warning. You can check the latest hurricane information at the National Hurricane Center website.

In the event of an approaching hurricane, follow the instructions of local authorities. Flights in and out of affected areas could be delayed or suspended. Available flights may fill quickly. You should contact your airline for the latest flight information. The hurricane could also affect access to sea ports in the region. In some areas, adequate shelter from a severe hurricane may not be available to all who may choose to stay. You should familiarise yourself with your hotel or cruise ship evacuation plans. You should carry your travel documents at all times (i.e. passport, photo identification etc.) or secure them in a safe, waterproof location. We also suggest that you contact friends and family in Australia with updates about your welfare and whereabouts. For further information, see our Severe weather page.

Landslides and flash flooding may occur throughout the year. Information on hurricanes or other severe weather conditions can be obtained from the National Hurricane and Tropical Prediction Center, the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency or the Humanitarian Early Warning Service.

Volcanos Santiago Volcano, approximately 25km south of Managua, is active. San Cristobal and Cerro Negro volcanoes are also active. We strongly advise you against hiking near volcanoes, visiting the parks or other remote areas near the parks without the services of an experienced guide.

Earthquakes Nicaragua is located in an active earthquake zone.

Tsunamis All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, there is a more frequent occurrence of large, destructive tsunamis because of the many large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and ocean trenches. See the Tsunami Awareness brochure.

If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.

Additional Resources

For additional general and economic information to assist travelling in this country, see the following links:



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.