Traveling to a foreign country can be exciting, but it can also be a bit overwhelming, especially if it's one you’ve never been to. While some countries, like Costa Rica, have an established reputation, some others are less known. Therefore, it is important to get the right information about the places you want to discover. If you're planning to visit Nicaragua, here are the most important things you need to know before you go.
1. Entry Requirements
All you need (at least for US, Canada and European citizens) is a passport that's valid for at least six months beyond your planned departure date. You don't need a visa to enter Nicaragua, but you'll have to pay a $10 tourist card fee when you arrive at the airport. Make sure you have some cash, as they don’t accept credit cards.
The official language in Nicaragua is Spanish, so it's a good idea to learn some basic phrases before you go. English is not widely spoken, especially outside of tourist areas. But people are very friendly and they will generally try their best to communicate with you.
The currency in Nicaragua is the córdoba (NIO), and US dollars are widely accepted. The exchange rate (as in early 2023) is about 36 córdobas for one dollar. It's a good idea to bring cash in small denominations, as some businesses may not have change for larger bills. If you pay in dollars, people will most likely give you change in córdoba. Their exchange rate will (almost) always be better than in the banks, so do not bother changing dollars in those institutions or at the airport. And of course most businesses accept foreign credit cards, so you don’t have to carry too much cash with you.
Despite its international reputation, Nicaragua is generally a very safe country for tourists. Like any country, there are some areas that are safer than others, and it's best to stick to well-lit, busy areas, especially at night. Don't wear expensive jewelry or carry large amounts of cash. It's also a good idea to leave your passport and valuables in a safe place, like your hotel.
Make sure you're up to date on all routine vaccinations, and consider getting vaccinated for Hepatitis A and Typhoid. Mosquito-borne illnesses like Dengue and Zika are present in Nicaragua, so it's important to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites. The risk is higher in the rainy season, but even then if you take basic precautions, there is nothing to worry about. It is safe to drink tap water in the main cities, like Managua and Granada, but if you don’t want to take any risk, bring your bottle with you, most hotels offer filling stations. It is best to always ask when arriving in a new place about the water situation.
Nicaragua has a tropical climate, with a rainy season from May to November and a dry season from December to April. The dry season is the most touristic one, as it corresponds to the winter season in the northern hemisphere. You will hardly see rain during those months, and most of the country gets quite dry. In the rainy season, Nicaragua’s flora undertakes a radical change, as nature turns green again. The temperature is fairly consistent year-round, with highs in the mid-80s and lows in the mid-70s.
Nicaragua has a rich cultural heritage, with influences from Spanish, Indigenous, and African cultures. The country has a great mix of skin colors, especially in the west side, where most cities and tourist activities are. The Atlantic (caribbean) coast is mainly populated by african descendants, and the atmosphere is quite different from the rest of Nicaragua. It's interesting to learn about the country's history and customs before you go, it helps understand their habits and way of living.
Public transportation in Nicaragua is an experience. Pretty slow, sometimes unreliable, and very cheap, if you have a backpacker spirit, it is a must-do. Jump in an old yellow school bus and admire the landscape while food sellers, preachers and common people come and go… Make sure you tell the driver (or the person charging the passengers) where you’re heading, as there are few official bus stops, and they can drop people literally anywhere. If you want to travel in a more comfortable way, it is recommended to hire a taxi or rent a car. If your plan is to move from place to place daily, a rental car is a good option. But if you’re staying a few days in each location you’re visiting, it will be cheaper to use a taxi. At Casa Marimba we are working with trusted drivers, do not hesitate to contact us if you need help to organize your transportation. In general taxis are widely available in urban areas, but be sure to negotiate the fare before you get in.
Nicaragua is a beautiful country with many attractions for tourists. Some of the most popular include the colonial city of Granada, the Masaya Volcano National Park, and the beaches on the Pacific Coast. The Laguna de Apoyo is located less than 30 min away from Granada, and 35 min from the Masaya Volcano. You can easily visit them during your stay at Casa Marimba. For a more authentic experience, you can also explore the Masaya local market, and try some of the traditional Nicaraguan cuisine.
There is a lot more to say about Nicaragua, so if you need more information, contact us and we’ll be happy to help you with anything you need. And if you’re convinced this is the next country you want to visit, check out our rooms and start planning your trip!