How to go to Nicaragua ?

 

You will find here most of the practical information you need to prepare your trip :

   

Getting there & away ?

Air : Very few people enter Nicaragua via Augusto Cesar Sandino International Airport, 12km east of Managua : why spend more time in the dangerous capital ? 

Land : Most backpackers arrive by land, either from Honduras (3 borders) or Costa Rica (1 border). The crossing is pretty straightforward but not always pleasant (see Guasaule for details). There is a US$7 entrance fee (ordinary service $2 + tourist card $5), payable in US$ only. The exit fee is US$2. 

 

Visa ?

Travelers from most developed countries will get 90 days on arrival. 

 

When to visit ?

From the touristy point of view, Nicaragua is still a fairly quiet country that can be visited at any time without the need of hotel reservation. Better to plan your trip with neighboring Costa Rica in mind...

From the weather point of view, the dry season (summer or "verano") from mid-Dec to April would in theory be the best period. In practice, any time is fine as the rainstorms of the winter or "invierno" (from May to November) usually take place in the afternoon only. The Atlantic Coast is however wet, hot and humid year round with tropical storms likely in September and October. 

    Weather in Nicaragua



How long ?

Except if going  to the Atlantic Coast (where the remoteness and lack of transport requires time), you could have a good look of Nicaragua in less than two weeks. In theory, one week would be enough but it would be a pity to rush it : most people enjoy it so much that they decide to take it easy and extend their stay. Nicaragua is an excellent place to recharge one's batteries !

 

Money ?

The currency of Nicaragua is the Cordoba, worth C13.3 per US$ when I was there. 

Although improving, changing money remains a frustrating and costing experience in most places. The best thing is still to carry a fair amount of US$ cash (fortunately, you do not need much). 

Changing travelers cheques is now possible in most places but the rate will be lower (C13 instead of C13.30 for example) and a commission of around 3% added. The only exception to this commission was found in Granada, also the best place to use plastic to get money (cash advance).

A lot of hotels or guesthouses nowadays accept credit cards to settle the bill but you should beware of the cost of such an operation back home. There are no ATM machines yet. 

  Currency Converter


Backpacker's Tips :  Phil Mines, UK  (Janv 08)
Most towns I visited that had banks now have ATM's that issue Cordoba and US Dollars. You can change Dollars and Euros in Granada (street changers are generally honest but just be aware of how much you expect to get) Do not bring travel cheques.

 

How much ?

Nicaragua is one of the cheapest country to visit in the area, on par with Guatemala and Honduras. The quality-price ratio is sometimes even better. On average, you could live correctly, without any luxury, with less than US$10 per day. Unfortunately, you must add US$9 for the entry and exit tax. 

Guesthouses are reasonably priced at around US$4-5 for one or US$6-8 for two. Sometimes, you may even get a shower for this price. A basic dinner in the street or local restaurant should cost less than US$2. Sometimes, you may even get a culinary feast at this price. Transportation by chicken bus is very cheap at around US$0.5 per hour. 

Beers are among the cheapest in the area at $0.75 for 660ml.  Water is very expensive as no little plastic bags are available like in Guatemala or Honduras : the gallon should cost between US$0.6 and US$1 depending of where you buy it. The 1.5L bottle will cost the same ! Fortunately, the water was reported safe to drink in most places : indeed, I did not get any problem.  

Like in the other neighboring countries, imported goods are more expensive (or much more expensive) than at home and shopping in the supermarkets is a very frustrating experience as most goods are imported : you won't save much there !  A few items like film development or telephone to home are ridiculously expensive. 

See Passplanet's Cost Table for more details.

 

Health ?

As a whole, Honduras is a rather healthy country to visit and common sense is the only requirement. 

As the tap water is usually safe to drink, there is less need to be cautious with vegetables and local ice creams. 

It is recommended to follow a Malaria prophylaxis treatment (usually Nivaquine) for the whole country. The risk is maximum on the Atlantic Coast. Avoiding the bites is always the best idea. 

Being up to date with your inoculations (polio, tetanus, typhoid, diphtheria) is of course essential and adding hepatitis A and B is recommended.

    Latest Health Recommendations

 

Danger & Annoyances ?

The ridiculous price of water : the 500ml cost nearly the same as a coke : C5 ! The 1.5L cost C7 and the gallon C10 (maybe C7.5 in supermarkets). Even more on Ometepe. Unlike Guatemala or Honduras, there are little supply of "agua bolsa", those handy & cheap 500ml plastic bags. But there is a reason for that : the tap water is usually drinkable. 

The difficulty to change TC and the bad rate (with or without commission) when changing is possible (one exception : Granada !). If you do not wish to rely on plastic (major cards accepted in big cities) you will need to get a supply of US$ banknotes before entering the country. Fortunately, Nicaragua is cheap, so you do not need to carry a fortune... Unfortunately, once out of cash, you have to leave...

The beggars, in particular when those are kids ! They can be pushy and irritating (most will be smiling, helpful & friendly) but they are above all pitiful. They concentrate heavily at the Guasaule border and the capital. In other places, some kids are still asking for money but certainly do not need it as badly. If you give, give only to the first category and in exchange of a service.

The dangerous capital and lack of good sights there. It is simply an annoyance that you need to go there to change bus... Some horror stories also starting to be heard around San Juan del Sur.

The remoteness and higher costs of the Atlantic Coast : reaching it takes time and traveling there money as most transportation is usually by boat only.

The lack of cultural sights. If it was not for the few museums and beautiful colonial architectures, it would be empty !


Notwithstanding the above, let's remind you that 100% of the backpackers we asked said they liked Nicaragua, that 88% would happily come back and that 100% would recommend it around ! See Why Go for more details...

 


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