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Know Before you Go
General Information and Insider Tips
Residents of the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand do not need a visa for travel to Nicaragua of up to 90 days. Upon arrival, you will need to pay $10 USD for a tourist card. For other countries, check visa requirements here.
Your passport must be valid for at least six months after returning from Nicaragua.
If you are travelling from or through the United States, and are not a US national or resident, you will need to obtain an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization), ideally at least 72 hours prior to departure. ESTA has replaced the paper form that used to be filled in prior to landing in the US. The authorization costs $ 14 USD and needs to be paid by credit card. Canadian nationals are exempt and do not need an ESTA.
It is your own responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of valid and correct travel documentation.
There are no particular requirements for Nicaragua, but make sure all routine vaccinations are up to date (MMR, polio, tetanus, etc.). Hepatitis A and Typhoid are recommended, and Zika is currently a risk in Nicaragua. Check the latest information about Zika warnings. We recommend all vaccines be completed at least six weeks prior to travel.
Tap water in Nicaragua is safe to drink in larger cities, but not in many rural areas. Use a Steripen with our refillable Dopper bottle when in uncertain areas.
The safety of our clients is of the utmost importance to us, and our local experts are always well-informed about the current situation in Nicaragua. For up-to-date information about safety, security and travel warnings, please refer to the US State Department, UK Foreign Travel Advice, or your local government resource.
Insider Tip: If riding local “chicken buses,” pay particular attention to your belongings and keep valuables on your person.
Sockets use the US-style two-pronged (Type A) or three-pronged (Type B) plugs. Power can be inconsistent in some areas, particularly along the Caribbean, so bring a flashlight/torch.
At Better Places Travel, you book your own international flights. Your travel expert will gladly advise you on the best option. Read here for more information and tips.
When to go
Nicaragua has a tropical climate with a wet season (June-November) and a dry season (December-May). In August, September and October, it’s not uncommon for rain to fall every day. On the Pacific side, downpours are usually short, typically falling in the afternoon. Temperatures remain pretty consistent throughout the year, although Nicaragua is not as hot and humid as countries farther south. Summer, in fact, can be quite dry. High season is December-April.
Insider Tip: Surfers are attracted to Nicaragua during the wet season when waves swell.
The national language is Spanish.
Hello = Hola
Goodbye = Adios (formal) Chao/Ciao (informal)
Please = Por favor
Thank you = Gracias
Excuse Me = Perdón
Insider Tip: Dale pues is often used by Nicaraguans to mean “ok” or “yes”. Pues on its own may mean “um” or “well” or some other pause when speaking.
The western half of Nicaragua is heavily influenced by Spain like most of Latin America, but the eastern half has more of a British/Caribbean flavor. The vast majority of the population is Christian, and Nicaraguans tend to be on the conservative side. When meeting someone for the first time, formal Spanish (usted) is preferred over the informal (tú). As with many Latin cultures, punctuality is not revered, so it is not unusual for people to arrive 30 minutes or an hour late to social engagements.
Insider Tip: Nicaraguans can be blunt about questions related to age, marital status, income, etc. They don’t consider it rude; their intention is friendly curiosity.
The local currency is Nicaraguan Córdoba (NIO)
While the córdoba is the official currency, US dollars are accepted most places. ATMs, available in larger cities, dispense both currencies. Note that US dollars must be in good condition—no damage, markings or tears. Credit cards are accepted at nicer hotels and restaurants, but should not be relied upon in smaller towns or areas prone to power outages. Make sure you always have córdobas on-hand, especially in smaller denominations. Bills of C$100 and higher can be difficult to change.
Insider Tip: The córdoba is sometimes called “peso” by locals or “cord”by expats.
- Restaurants- 10% is standard with an additional 5% for exceptional service. Sometimes 10% will be added to your bill as a voluntary tip (propina voluntaria) but you are not required to pay it (unlike a service charge in other countries, which is part of the bill).
- Cabs- No tipping, but you can round up the change if you want.
- Hotels- Tip bellmen $.50 USD per bag, and housekeeping $1 USD per day
Insider Tip: Don’t confuse the voluntary tip with sales tax, which is 15% and denoted as IVA.
A clean and tidy appearance is important to Nicaraguans, so avoid ripped, wrinkled or soiled clothes. Overall, dress is somewhat conservative, so shorts are best restricted to beach towns. Lightweight fabrics are best for this tropical climate and a rain jacket or umbrella is a must during the rainy season. Many cities have cobbled streets, so pack sturdy, comfortable shoes. With Nicaragua’s many volcanoes, a lightweight scarf can come in handy for wrapping around your nose and mouth to keep out dust and debris.
- Comfortable walking shoes or hiking boots for cities, volcano hikes and countryside
- Sandals or flip flops for beach areas
- Lightweight sweater or jacket for visits to coffee plantations
- Light rain jacket or umbrella for the rainy season
- Mosquito repellant
- Sunglasses and hat
- Swimsuit and cover-up
- Microfiber towel or sarong for beach-going
- Daypack for hikes or side trips
- Simple medical kit with over-the-counter drugs and first aid (including anti-diarrheal and stomach meds)
- Hand sanitizer or wet wipes
- All prescriptions
- Flashlight/torch for possible power outages
Insider Tip: There are a number of day trips from Granada, so a day pack can come in handy to carry your essentials.
Be sure to check out our Sustainability Checklist for more tips on how to respect the environment and local culture while travelling.