Before You Travel – Nicaragua
Visa Information for Nicaragua
Landing at the airport in Managua, you will have to buy a tourist card for $10USD (as of April 2017). This is not a visa. Additionally, if you are crossing the border by land, there is an additional $2 fee for processing.
Citizens of the US, Western Europe, Canada and many other countries can stay in Nicaragua for 90 days without a visa. Some countries in Latin America, Eastern Europe and Africa need a visa, or can apply upon arrival at the airport. You can check for your specific country at the Nicaragua Foreign Ministry website http://oaip.cancilleria.gob.ni/.
If you are planning a longer stay, be aware of a few things. If you need more than 90 days, it is fairly easy and painless to get an extension from Migration. For $10 each month, you can extend for another 90 days. At the end of this 90 days (or sometime before) you need to cross into Costa Rica for 3 days, and your time renews in Nicaragua for another 90.
Be aware, Nicaragua is fairly lax on time in country and overstays, but they belong to the CA-4 with three other countries, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. They may not be as easy to deal with, and your time in country counts for all four countries. Theoretically, you have a combined maximum of 90 days for any one visit between the members.
If you are planning on visiting one of these countries as well, do some research for the current policies of inter-country travel. Most travelers report that if you travel by air, you normally just get a new 90 day stamp each time you land in a new country.
Money and Budget
ATMs are everywhere, except for extremely rural areas, and you can usually get money in either NIC or USD from the ATM. In cities like Granada, there are often men sitting across from the bigger bank ATMs selling cordobas at a discount to the ATM rate, especially if you are exchanging larger amounts of dollars.
Don’t plan on using a credit card for much more than your hotel booking, nicer restaurants or large chain stores. Always make sure you have either dollars or cordobas available. Most places in the main cities will accept either, and they post their rate at the counter. Make sure you ask ahead of time, as you can occasionally get a favorable price using one or the other.
Here are some average prices as of April 2017:
- Hostel dorm bed – $9-14
- Mid price hotel – $20-40
- Monthly apt studio $400-500
- Comida tipica – $3-5
- Mid Restaurant – $9-12
- Taxi – $2-3
- Bus – $.20-1
Tipping is not common here, other than with tour guides and restaurant service. Please have some money for your tour guides, as this is almost all of their income. Be sure and check your restaurant bill, as many restaurants add 10-12% to the check, but some do not.
Crime in Nicaragua
Nicaragua has low crime, but as a gringo you will at least be a potential target for property crime. This editor has lived in Nicaragua for 3 years, and only had one incident. I had a cellphone stolen because I was on a dark street and not paying attention to my surroundings.
Walk with someone at night, don’t use your cell while walking, and keep your wallet or money in your front pocket, just like any other tourist destination.
Verify the amount of any taxi ride before you get in, especially if you are alone or have been drinking. The taxi drivers have a habit of saying one price when they pick up a tourist and then giving another price when they drop you off. If you are staying for any length of time, ask a local for a trusted driver and get their phone number.