Here you will find useful information about the country.
US, Canada, Europe and most Latin American citizens may enter Nicaragua for up to 90 days as a visitor, this will be at the discretion of the Nicaraguan immigration Officer upon arrival and must hold a passport valid for 6 months.
Some Latin Americans (Colombia, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominican Republic and Peru) most Asian, African and Eastern European countries need a visa, which may be arranged upon arrival or in the Nicaraguan diplomatic missions in their countries.
Upon arrival you must hold proof of sufficient funds to cover your stay in Nicaragua and documents required for next destination.
All visitors are required to obtain a Tourist card (USD 10) on arrival. Checks and credit cards are not accepted to pay this. Sales tax is 15% on all purchases.
Nicaragua's culture is a mixture of Spanish, African and indigenous culture (Chorotega and Náhuatl). Cultural traditional dances with different music rhythms, colonial cities and cuisine make this a magnificent country.
Historically Nicaragua is a country rich in literature, there are songs and stories reported from pre-Hispanic times. Performances like “Güegüense” which is a mix of theater, dance and music was named in 2005 as Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. It is a scathing expression of protest against colonial rule, a satirical comedy drama.
Ruben Dario, the “Father of Modernism and Prince of Castilian Letters” was also born in this country.
Nicaragua’s folklore cradle is Masaya, known as the “city of flowers”. Craftsmanship has been a proactive activity in the economy of this department. Throughout the year various crafts and cultural events are held in this area to show the creative masterpieces of local artisans. The samples range from pottery, ceramics, wood carving, stone carving, textile, leather and musical instruments like the “marimba”.
Nicaragua’s regions with different music and dances come together to mesh perfectly creating one cultural identity. The “marimba” is the national instrument. It’s a percussion instrument made of wooden keys and played with one, two, or four mallets. A lively and joyful sound!
In the Atlantic coast departments, the music has a strong afro-Caribbean influence and its rhythms are intense and sensual. The best occasion to experience this music is during the “Palo de Mayo” (May Pole) festival in the city called: Bluefield.
In the Pacific there is a mixture of the indigenous and Spanish culture resulting in a diverse colorful and rhythmic music and dances like “La Gigantona”, “El Enano Cabezon” and “El Toro Huaco” typical from the city of Leon, it is a form of expression to the Spanish crown. Flutes and drums are usually accompanied by dancers in Spanish garb demonstrating the duality of cultures.
In Masaya, dances are expressed with soft movements as guitars strum lightly in the background with the marimba, painting the picture of a dance between man and woman.
North/Central – The European heritage brought by the Spanish and German descendants is prominently displayed in this region. Dances known as the ‘polcas’ and ‘mazurcas’.
On January 1st, the Crab Festival is a good excuse for locals and visitors to head to the island of San Andrés in the Colombian Caribbean to taste delicious crab dishes. Dancing and lively music are also part of the event.
It’s a dance performed by a set of dancers divided into two groups. Each consists of eight to twelve people. There’s another person called "Mandador" which is the head member and an individual carrying an artificial bull head. It portrays various aspects of miscegenation and initiates the route of San Sebastian during the holidays.
This is a popular satirical troupe, a myth, a festive dance performed during the celebrations of “San Jerónimo”. The "torovenados" go in groups or alone, with costumes that represent different characters or characterizations.
This is a dance comedy of great cultural value expressing a rejection of Spanish domination in a mockingly, witty and creative way. Over time the dance became an identity symbol of the Nicaraguan people. This dance is executed during the San Sebastian festivities.
During the festivities the main dance is "La Vaquita" in which a cow costumed character dances and interacts with the crowd and accompanies the Saint during the procession. Some others are wear folk costumes including body oils and powders to turn black (called the “Negritos”), or with other substances to turn red and look like devils (called “Diablitos”).
It consists of a series of traditional dances thanking the rain, the harvests and fertility. It has its roots in Jamaica and practiced in Nicaragua since 1850.
It’s considered a national holiday and is celebrated in all provinces and cities. The "shouting" is celebrated with dances and offerings to the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.
These are the national symbols of Nicaragua:
The Nicaraguan flag has three horizontal bands (two blue, up and down) with the national emblem in the center, in the white stripe. The white stripe the national flag represents the territory of the nation and symbolizes the purity of Nicaragua, while the two blue stripes mean that Nicaragua is bathed by two oceans.
This colorful bird is Nicaragua’s national bird and it’s easily recognized by its long tail topped by two blue feathers. The “Guardabarranco” mainly eats insects and dig a hole in the ground to lay their eggs.
They can be seen in the Nicaraguan forests, generally in the southwest.
This colorful flower is the Nicaraguan national flower. They grow on Plumerian Alba or Frangipani trees, a type of very narrow tree blooming in May. Its name comes from Nahuatl origin.
This is Nicaragua’s national tree that can grow up to 30 m high with corrugated or twisted trunk. It has a shiny reddish-brown shredding bark.
In Nicaragua is part of traditions, and from many years ago, its fragrant flowers and branches are used to adorn the altars of “La Purisima” and popular religious celebrations since the colonial times.
Nicaragua presents tropical weather in the lowlands and cooler in the highlands. Temperatures vary from 81-90°F (27-32°C) during the rainy season from May to October, and from 86-95°F (30-35°C) during the dry season from November to April. The climate in the western region of the country between the lakes and the Pacific Ocean is dry and has little precipitation. The eastern part is hot, humid and rainy.
Nicaragua’s official currency is the “Córdoba”, sometimes referred as “Peso”. Most establishments will accept payment in US dollars and major credit cards.
When needing to exchange money, it is always advised to do it at exchange houses at airports, hotels and banks. Never in the street.
Travelers bringing more than $10,000 or its equivalent in other currencies, including Nicaraguan cordobas in cash must declare it when arriving. If it’s not declared authorities may retain the currency and impose fines.
Most of the cities have ATMs on major roads and shopping centers which mostly operate 24 hour. Please do not give your card or reveal your password to strangers.
The Yellow Fever vaccine is mandatory if you are coming from a South American country. Further care must be taken against diarrheal diseases, intestinal parasites and conjunctivitis. In recent years there have been outbreaks of leptospirosis, malaria and cholera. In addition, dengue is endemic throughout the country.
Tap water is safe to drink and use for cooking in Managua. Outside the capital in small towns it is advised to buy bottled water.
Medication and prescription drugs can be obtained without restriction in pharmacies. It’s always recommended to buy a travel insurance that provides international medical and emergency hospital care coverage.
Nicaragua is considered safer than its neighbors: Honduras, El Salvador or Guatemala. The country allows free travel, but obviously you have to take precautions if you are traveling as well. The only areas not advised to visit are the towns of Siuna, Rosita and Bonanza in the so-called Mining Triangle of the North Atlantic Autonomous Region.
Nicaragua’s electrical system is 110 volts. Three hole grounded plugs are very uncommon, so if you have equipment that needs this type of plug, be sure to bring an adapter or buy one at a hardware store.
DHL, Fedex, and other carriers are available in major cities of Nicaragua. Never send cash or anything valuable by regular mail.
The telecommunications market in Nicaragua is growing and there are multinational operators offering their services. You may either use the phone at your hotel room to make local or international phone calls or you may also purchase a very inexpensive cell phone or sim card for your own mobile if you pretend to stay longer.
If you are visiting highlands like Matagalpa, Jinotega, or Estelí you may want to bring warmer clothing like a flannel shirt. On the other hand, if you are visiting warm places, you may want to pick clothes that are light and breathable in the heat. For sun protection, don’t forget a shade hat that covers the back of your neck and a good sunblock.
In the countryside, Nicaraguan men typically don’t wear shorts, unless they are at the beach or at home. Jeans are well, but you will probably find them hot in places like León and Chinandega; khakis are lighter and dry faster.
Good lightweight hiking shoes will ease your trip considerably when walking in mountains or towns; a pair of sneakers are sufficient. You may buy a pair of rubber chinelas (sandals) anywhere in Nicaragua for about $. Bring insect repellent, flashlight, waterproof bag, sunglasses and raincoat as well.
Because of its location, Nicaragua has a dense wildlife spread along the country land. Filled with all kinds of interesting animals, birds, fish, insects and plants, an animal lover will find Nicaragua a true paradise.
Some of the wildlife Nicaragua offers:
These monkeys get their name for their extremely long, spidery limbs and a tail that acts like a fifth limb and is used for suspensory feeding. Their color vary from light to reddish brown or black depending on the subspecies. Their hands and feet are normally black and their face is hairless.
The jaguar is the largest of all cats that inhabit Nicaragua. Their coat is short and yellow with black spots all over their body. They can reach up 2.5 meters long including their tail, and can weigh up to more than 200 pounds. They breed in any month of the year. The female gives birth to two cubs every two years. In Nicaragua it is extinct in the Pacific region only to be found in the forests of the Atlantic region.
There are two species of armadillos in Nicaragua. Their scientific name is "Novemcinctus dasypus" but popularly known as “cusuco”, one smaller than the other, but with the same characteristics and habits. They are nocturnal animals that have a shell formed by hard horny plates that also cover their head, legs and tail.
The armadillos live in dry areas or open forest areas of Nicaragua. Harmless cute creatures that walk slowly!
These are endangered species mainly due to the disappearing of almond trees and ecosystems of tropical rain forests by illegal logging.
Measuring 85-90 cm in length and weigh 1.44 kg on average. Their forehead is scarlet red; their crown, nape, neck and upper back are lemon green and their flying feathers are turquoise. El Castillo Biological Corridor near the San Juan River is the last habitat to sustain these beautiful birds.
These turtles are critically in danger of extinction. They inhabit shallow waters near the Nicaraguan Caribbean coast in places where salt and fresh water mix, nearby rich reefs with marine sponges that feed them. Although they can be found in the Pacific as well, they prefer the Caribbean beaches for nesting.
Bull sharks inhabit the Lake Nicaragua, they can reach more than 11 feet in length. They have an ability to enter the fresh water thanks to a special gland that allow them to contain salt water in their body and expel the fresh water, which for other shark species would be fatal. They feed on injured fish, carrion, garbage and other waste materials.
These species inhabit the shallow coastal waters of the Lake Nicaragua and Caribbean Sea. They are typically found very close to shore lying on muddy and sandy bottoms, in bays, estuaries, and lagoons. They might look like sharks but are really a species of ray in danger of extinction.
When the Spanish arrived in western Nicaraguan in the early 16th century, they found 3 main tribes:
The Chorotegas created the Zapatera Statues; an archeological site located on Isla Zapatera, a volcanic island in Lake Nicaragua. These statues date back to 1800-1350 A. D. made of black basalt stone reaching up to 2 meters height. The combination of animal and human figures on these statues represent gods or social leaders like indigenous chiefs, warriors or priests. It’s believed that these sites were once ceremonial centers or sanctuaries where sacrifices were possibly made.
While Cristopher Columbus was the first to stop by the Nicaragua’s coast in 1502, the sustained colonial settlement of Spain and Nicaragua began in 1503 with Gil Gonzalez de Ávila and Francisco Fernandez de Córdoba. These two Spanish conquistadors gave the local indigenous leaders and ultimatum; convert to Christianity, by that time there were 700000 indigenous people and in a matter of 25 years there were 35000, they died due to illnesses and violence.
The brutality of this era was even worse with the pirates in Lake Nicaragua by 1650, the golden age of piracy had begun and pirates from several races and nations infested the West Indies. The Lake is known to have been controlled by pirates as early as 1665 when Henry Morgan led an attack in the Nicaraguan city called “Granada”. Morgan caught the Spanish off-guard by attacking at night. His men set fire to the buildings, sank all the Spanish boats found in the port and escaped with a lot of sterling silver pounds.
As the Spanish gained full control of the region, two major rivaling cities formed: Granada and Leon. Granada was home to the conservative party and Leon to the Liberal party.
In 1821, the provinces of Central America declared independence from Spanish Rule. Nicaragua became an independent Republic in 1838. Almost since its creation its internal politics have been defined by the conflict between of this 2 cities. Managua’s central location in between Leon and Granada made it a logical compromise site to be the capital city.
The 19th century also marked the first US involvement in Nicaragua’s politics with the Tennessee born William Walker, while he was not an official representative of the USA, he was indeed one of the many American filibuster who intervened with the Latin American in 1800. William Walker was first contracted by the city of Leon to take care of their rivals in Granada. With a ragtag group of mercenaries at his command, Walker arrived in San Juan del Sur in September of 1855 and easily took Granada. William Walker did not obey his employers from Leon at all, and instead stayed around, got himself elected president, reinstituted slavery, confiscated huge tracks of land and led an invasion attempt on Costa Rica. These audacious actions supported by then US President Franklin Pierce and inspired something that has been sadly lacking ever since: Central American Unity.
But even getting chased back to the US by every Central American army didn’t dump Walker’s imperial ambitions. He returned to Nicaragua once more, before trying, he was locked in Honduras where the locals were much less lenient and put him before a firing squad in September 1860.
After Walker’s ordeal, Nicaraguans became skeptical of foreign business and rejected a US initiative to create a canal in Nicaragua. In 1893, a liberal General named Jose Santos Zelaya deposed the conservative president and became dictator. Zelaya brought many liberal reforms to the country after gaining the presidency in 1893, he was educated in France and brought many liberal ideas to Nicaragua that he learned in Europe, such as the separation of the church and state, free secular education, rights for all citizens and the distribution of lands owned by the church. Zelaya soon antagonized the US by seeking a canal deal with Germany and Japan. After Zelaya ordered execution of 2 US mercenaries, the American government forced his resignation. Thus, began a period of 2 decades of US political intervention in Nicaragua.
In 1925, a new cycle of violence began, the conservative party was opposed by group of liberal rebels including Augusto Cesar Sandino who recruited local peasants in the north of the country and eventually became the leader of a long term rebel campaign resisting US involvement. These fighters were called the “Sandinistas” named after their leader. Augusto Sandino came from a poor working class background, he was a supporter of Zelaya and had a desire to end the US dominance in Nicaragua. Working in a gold mine as a laborer, he found his talent from mobilizing workers for action. He wasn’t socialist or communist, simply a nationalist looking for the best way to benefit the common men of his country. “Liberty or Death” was his modo, and ultimately he was a murderer for his cause.
Anastacio Somoza Garcia engineered the assassination of Sandino and a couple years later became President founding a family dynasty that would rule for 4 decades. After creating a new constitution to grant himself more power, Somoza ruled Nicaragua for the next 20 years, sometimes as a president and other times as a puppet president amassing huge personal wealth in the process. After his death, one of his sons became President and then his other son became President.
Because of the Zomosa regime ties to foreign investors Nicaragua had great economic success in 1950’s and 1960’s. Ultimately this divided the country because much of the profits were held in the hands of the wealthy and the government became increasingly more corrupt.
In the early 1980’s, protest turned into armed conflicts between the “Sandinistas” and the Zomosa regime backed by the United States called the “Contrarevolución” (counterrevolution). United States took the side of the Zomosa regime to further their economic interests in Nicaragua as well as suppressed influence of communism around the globe.
The conflict between the “Sandinistas” and the “Contrarevolución” ends with the TELA accord in 1989 and was followed by general elections in which the Sandinistas were defeated by a more moderate Violeta Chamorro who desired democracy and fostered compromise between the two sides. While one of the prior left wing fighters is now president Daniel Ortega, who was part of the Sandinista movement, Nicaragua has not become a communist of socialist country but instead still a democracy although not perfect in many ways.
The Nicaraguan cuisine dates back to pre-Hispanic times, as evidenced by the names of some of the most popular dishes. Then, during the Conquest and the Spanish Colony the union of these two cultures resulted in a unique, creative and varied Creole menu, in which interesting ingredients are used. Corn is the main staple, and it’s used in many of the widely consumed dishes, such as nacatamal, and indio viejo. But it’s not only used in food but in drinks and desserts as well.
Here’s a list of some typical favorites you shouldn’t miss during a trip to Nicaragua:
A dough with ground corn and butter, it’s then filled with marinated chicken or pork in medium pieces, rice, potatoes, tomatoes, onions and sliced bell peppers. This preparation is boiled wrapped in banana leaves (inedible) and tied with thin rope.
This is the specialty in the town of Masatepe, department of Masaya. The tripe is washed well with soda, sour orange and lemon. When the tripe is soft it’s cut into small pieces. This is cooked as a soup with onions, bell peppers, garlic, potatoes, squash and corn. When eaten, it’s accompanied with avocado and cheese.
This dish retains its origin in the city of Granada, where it’s deliciously prepared. On a plate covered by a piece of a banana leaf; cooked yuca(cassava), crunchy pork rinds, spicy cabbage slaw and tomatoes are placed. Yummy!
A beef cooked into a broth with onion, garlic, sweet pepper and tomato; the meat is shredded and fried along with vegetables and sour orange juice; the broth is preserved to be cooked with dough and spices to make a new mixture. Once the fried beef and new mixture are ready, they are cooked together as a delicious sauce.
The delicious “Fresco de piña y arroz” is a refreshing drink made by boiled pineapple and rice together with a little clove. Then it’s cooled and liquefied by adding more water and then strained to keep the liquid, which is served cold. A little vanilla, raspberry and sugar may be added to taste.
This is a typical drink of the Nicaraguan Caribbean, little known in the Pacific and in the center. Made by cooked green bananas, mixed and kneaded in water, milk and coconut water, plus a little sugar to taste.
Nicaragua is rich in wildlife and diversity and has some 78 nature reserves, parks and wildlife sanctuaries that cover 22,422 km², about 17.3% of the nation’s territory filled with amazing fauna and flora.
Here are some Nicaraguan protected areas and parks that you may visit:
It’s considered one of the most preserved natural sites in Nicaragua. It is located in the southeastern corner of the country, bordering the San Juan River. It has the largest lowland rain forest in Central America and a number of endangered species like jaguars and giant anteaters. It features over 400 species of bird, four species of wild cats and over 200 species of reptiles.
Located on the southern side of Lake Nicaragua and comprehends western shores of the San Juan River. It is one of the best spots for bird watchers. It features monkeys, sloths, caimans, iguanas and agouties. Most of the traveling by the reserve is done by boat.
More than 800 species of plant life can be found here including bromeliads and orchids. The sides of the volcano are also home to a number of animals like howler monkeys. The park has clear trails; can see Granada, Lake Nicaragua and Las Isletas Archipelago on a clear day.
Small but big in wildlife with tropical dry forest and a diverse flora. Home of the chocoyo bird, there are more than 800 chocoyos nesting here. Other common animals are: toucans, deers, agouties, hummingbirds and howler monkeys.
This Refuge is located in the southern pacific seaboard just south of San Juan del Sur. It’s an important nesting area for the Olive Ridley, Hawksbill, Leatherback and Green Sea Turtles. They come here to nest each year between August and December. It features a tropical dry forest, a beautiful beach and mangrove swamps.
It’s located just off the coast in front of the town Las Peñitas. It can be explored by motorboat or kayak. The island lies very close to the coast, and is practically nothing more than a thin, long trip of sand. The nature, however, is spectacular. It features mangroves, a nesting site for sea turtles, an estuary for water fowl, iguanas, crocodiles and caimans.
Located in Managua, it is the best forest reserve in the Pacific basin for bird watching. Here you can see hummingbirds, mot-mots, trogons and manikins.
This reserve forest is part of an organic coffee operation. Everything here is carefully recycled. The forest is a great place to go hiking and you are likely to see howler monkey as well as plenty of birds along the way.
A privately owned forest reserve with an organic coffee farm. It is situated 1 300 meters above sea-level, home to over 150 species of birds and features prehistoric ferns, giant oak trees, bromeliads, orchids and strangler figs.
Location: Central America, between the Caribbean Sea (East), the Pacific Ocean (West), Honduras (North) and Costa Rica (South).
Area: 130,668 squared km.
Population: 6 038 652 (as of 2014).
Ethnic divisions: Mestizo 69%, White 17%, Black 9 %, Indigenous 5%.
Religions: Roman Catholic is the official 58%. Protestantism 37%, and others 5%.
Language: Spanish (official), English and indigenous languages are used along the Caribbean coast and in parts of the Atlantic coastal plain. Many Nicaraguans also speak some English.
Administrative division: Conformed by 15 departments and 2 autonomous regions. Each of these divisions is composed of one or more municipalities, totaling 153 of these entities throughout the country.
Legal system: Based on the 1986 Supreme Political Constitution Law of Nicaragua. A democratic, participative and representative Republic. Its State organs are: Legislative, Executive and Judicial and Electoral branches.
Education: Includes basic education, junior high school, secondary school, vocational/technical and university education.
Economic main industries: Agriculture, food processing, chemicals, machinery and metal products, knit and woven apparel, petroleum refining and distribution, beverages, footwear and wood carving.
There are nine indigenous communities in Nicaragua who live in two main regions: the Pacific Coast and Centre North of the country, home home to the:
And on the Caribbean Coast, home to the:
This is a distribution map of the indigenous groups located throughout the territory: