Nicaragua Risk Report
Security travel advice for Nicaragua
Threat level: Medium–High
Violent crime in Nicaragua is on the rise but there is no real terrorist threat in the country. The country faces many difficulties with the drugs both at a street level and in the international drugs trade for trafficking drugs north to Honduras destine further on to the United States of America.
According to the World Bank, Nicaragua is “maintaining growth levels above the average for Latin America”, but despite this unemployment is high in some regions which adds to the social issues that the country as a whole is facing.
English is spoken in most major hotels but is not widely exercised in the country. It is advised to learn a few Spanish phrases prior to travel.
Recent Security Risk Events
While there have been no recent security events to note; kidnappings and express kidnappings are starting to become more popular with gangs as a means of extortion. Express kidnappings are incidents where a passenger uses an unauthorised taxi, the taxi takes the passengers to a gang area and then cash is demanded/required for release. This often takes place over only a few hours.
Unauthorised/unlicensed taxis are a growing issue in Nicaragua and are the source of a lot of crime against tourists. They also pose other dangers such as the vehicles being unsafe and not roadworthy.
Corrupt police have been known to pull over hire cars and demand monies. If this happens, you should comply with their demands and take as many details as possible so you can pass them on to your embassy or consulate. It is not recommended that you report them on to the local police as it is unlikely that they will offer you any help.
As with many major countries in Latin America, violent robberies and muggings do take place frequently. Pickpockets are very active in tourist areas and on public transport across the country and care should be taken.
If you are planning on going out for dinner or to take a trip in the evening, it is advised to only use official taxis or organise a car via your hotel.
Russia has announced that it plans to build a signals intelligence site or "spy base" in the country. This has increased tensions between the Nicaraguan, US and Russian governments and for many brings back memories of the Bay of Pigs incident in the early 1960s. Despite the building of the Russian signals intelligence site, Nicaragua enjoys and benefits from agricultural exports to the United States of America.
The country enjoys strong diplomatic and trade relations with neighbouring countries such as Mexico and Venezuela and receives support from further afield from its diplomatic and trade partners in Europe, holding particularly strong ties with Finland.
Public transport is very basic in Nicaragua, more so outside of the main city of Managua. It is not advised to use any public transport at night. Care should be taken at bus stations and on buses as gangs have been known to target tourists, either through pickpocketing or armed robbery.
Road conditions in the country are not good and street lighting is scarce on highways or major roads. In some areas heavy rain and seismic activity causes landslides which can affect travel on the road. It is not uncommon in some areas for manhole covers or drain covers to be missing. Drivers need to pay attention to the road surface as well as remain wary of other road users.
Western car hire companies do operate in Nicaragua and visitors from the UK or US may drive using their own driving licence or with an international driving licence. If you are self-driving, any journey should be carefully planned, logistics such as fuel stops need to be well thought out.
There is a very poor standard of driving outside the area of the capital city. Drink driving is common and do not expect other road users to adhere to traffic lights or any road markings. Drive defensively.
Drivers of vehicles involved in serious injury or fatal road traffic accidents are often arrested and detained. If this is the case, then contact your embassy or consulate and they will provide advice and assist where possible.
Currency: Nicaraguan Córdoba
Time now in Managua:
Visitors to Nicaragua from the UK or USA may enter Nicaragua for a period of three months without the requirements of a visa however you must present evidence of a return ticket and proof you have enough funds to support yourself whilst in Nicaragua. All passports must be valid for six months at the time of travel.
All tourists are required to fill in a "tourist card" on arrival, this can be purchased for USD$10 at the airport. There is a USD$42 departure tax but this is normally included in the price of your ticket - check with your flight operator or travel agent when purchasing your ticket. If it is not included, it is possible to pay at the airline counter when leaving Nicaragua.
It is advised that visitors to Nicaragua are up-to-date with primary boosters such as MMR. You should ensure that you have been further vaccinated against diseases such as Tetanus which is usually administered when you are a young baby. You may also want to consider a Hepatitis A vaccination. Check with your local health professional prior to travel if you are unsure.
Other health risks
Mosquito-borne diseases are prevalent across Nicaragua including the Zika Virus. Precautions do need to be taken and travel to the country is not advised if you are pregnant. Up-to-date information about the Zika Virus from the World Health Organisation can be found here: Zika virus facts
It is strongly advised to have extensive medical insurance for all travel to Nicaragua. The standards of care are not good as Western standards and prescription medication can be hard to come by outside the main cities. You should therefore ensure that you have enough medication to cover the whole of your trip. Cash payment is often required and most medical clinics will only treat you upon payment.
Do not drink tap water without first boiling it and where possible only drink bottled water, purchased from a good source. Personal hygiene is very important, where possible use alcohol wipes or hand sanitizer to reduce risk of infections.
Extreme weather and natural disasters
Nicaragua is the second most vulnerable country in the world to hurricanes and tropical storms. It is also liable to earthquakes and volcanic activity as the country has 19 active volcanoes. During the wet season (April to October) rural roads and bridges are prone to severe damage or being washed away. Landslides are very common too.
Visitors are advised to know what to do during an earthquake. Advice can be sought locally but good advice can be found on the US Federal Emergency Management website.
U.S. Embassy Managua
Telephone: +505 2252 7100
Telephone: +505 2252 7888 (Consular Section)
The British government do not operate an embassy in Managua. All Consular services are managed from the embassy in San José, Costa Rica.
British Embassy San José
Edificio Centro Colón,
Telephone: +506 2258 2025
Other useful info
Police emergency: 118
Tourist Police: 101 (English and Spanish spoken)
Red Cross: 128
Fire emergency: 115 or 911 from cell phones