is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office
at the U.S. Embassy in Managua. OSAC encourages travelers to use this
report to gain baseline knowledge of
security conditions in Nicaragua. For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s Nicaragua-specific page
for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some
of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC
current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at
the date of this report’s publication assesses Nicaragua at Level 3,
indicating travelers should reconsider travel to the country due
to crime, civil unrest, limited healthcare availability, and arbitrary
enforcement of laws. Review OSAC’s report, Understanding
the Consular Travel Advisory System.
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
U.S. Department of State has assessed Managua as being a CRITICAL-threat
location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. There
is serious risk from crime in Nicaragua in general. Reported crime
rates are low, but many crimes go unreported.
Anecdotal information suggests that crime is increasing, even though
available statistics show a decrease. Theft from vehicles, pick-pocketing, and
occasional armed robbery occurs in store parking lots, on public
transportation, and in open-air markets. In Managua, street crime is more
prevalent during hours of darkness, late at night or early in the morning.
Street crime is also common in Puerto Cabezas, Bluefields, San Juan del
Sur, Popoyo, El Transito, and the Corn Islands. The trend of
criminals armed with weapons and using violence continues,
including with knives and guns.
Review OSAC’s report, All That
You Should Leave Behind.
U.S. citizens have been victims of murder in Nicaragua, the most frequently
reported crime was theft. U.S. citizens have also reported sexual assaults and
other violent crimes while in Nicaragua. Several U.S. citizens have
been the victims of sexual assault in beach
locations and at hotels; violence against women in general
continues to be a concern.
trafficking and the criminal components associated with it appeared to increase
as Nicaraguan security forces seized multiple large
drug and bulk cash shipments and made multiple
to the Government of Nicaragua’s most recent
official crime statistics, the overall homicide rate
was 11:100,000 inhabitants. The homicide rate in the Southern Caribbean
Coast Autonomous Region was 19 -- almost double the national
average. Other areas with homicide rates significantly above the national
average were the "Mining Triangle," composed of the three
Northern Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region municipalities of Siuna,
Rosita, and Bonanza (15); Jinotega (16); and the Northern Caribbean Coast
Autonomous Region as a whole (13).
overall rate of robbery was 139:100,000 inhabitants, a decrease of
approximately 6% from 2018. The reported overall rate of theft
was 45:100,000 inhabitants, a decrease of approximately 20% from 2018.
The reported overall rate of sexual assault was 25:100,000 inhabitants,
a decrease of approximately 28% from 2018.
municipalities with the highest rates of criminal complaints were Managua,
Matagalpa, Masaya, Estelí, Granada, Carazo, Granada,
Rivas, Chinandega, and the Northern Caribbean Coast Autonomous
Region. Exercise caution in these and other municipalities with high
volumes of crime, such as León, Ciudad Sandino,
and Bluefields, as well as other areas based on various crime
factors, such as the Southern Caribbean Coast Autonomous
Region due to its high homicide rate.
U.S. Embassy prohibits off-duty U.S. government personnel from entering the
Oriental Market due to high levels of crime and illicit activities. The U.S.
Embassy must pre-approve all travel by U.S. government personnel to the
Northern and Southern Caribbean Coast Autonomous Regions due to crime,
transportation safety, and Embassy response concerns. Given the geographic
isolation of the Caribbean coast and autonomous regions, the Embassy’s ability
to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens who choose to travel there is
severely limited. The U.S. Embassy also strongly recommends that U.S.
government personnel do not drive outside of urban areas after dark due to
transportation safety concerns.
in civilian clothes or “para-police” have
been perpetrating violence throughout the country since April
2018. Reports suggests that “voluntary” and official
police have taken part in this violence. Additional reports indicate that
police have arbitrarily detained and searched people in an
effort to identify and arrest those who have participated in protests or
who oppose the government.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
quality in Nicaragua is better than in other Central American
countries, particularly between the urban areas along the
Pacific Coast. However, poor city planning has created multiple choke points
and poor traffic circulation in Managua, and the high influx of
vehicles over the past five years has led to an increase in vehicular
fatalities. Road connectivity between the remote and underdeveloped Atlantic
Coast and the western part of the country remains limited. However, this has
improved with the addition of new roads in the Southern Atlantic Autonomous
Region near Bluefields and Pearl Lagoon.
of Nicaragua continue to present a threat to Nicaraguans and visitors alike.
According to authorities, 726 people died in traffic accidents in
Nicaragua in 2018. Official data for 2019 is not yet available, but
local news media has estimated 840 traffic related deaths. There are
approximately 108 accidents daily in Nicaragua.
conditions vary; frequent road hazards such as pedestrians, livestock, and
other drivers enhance the risk of traffic accidents. Although some of the
principal highways connecting the major cities are in good condition,
torrential seasonal rains take a heavy toll on all roads. Roads commonly have
potholes and unpainted speed bumps, and are poorly illuminated, narrow, without
shoulders, and often missing manhole covers. Speed limits vary depending on the
type of road. Police enforce traffic rules inconsistently. Look out
for detours and slow traffic. In general, road signs are poor or non-existent.
Drivers will frequently encounter vehicles without lights, animals, bicycles,
and pedestrians, all of which are difficult to see at night, even on main
thoroughfares in Managua. Motorcycles dart in and out of traffic with little or
no warning, taxis stop in the middle of the road to negotiate with potential
passengers, and buses often travel in the oncoming lane to avoid traffic jams.
Sidewalks are not common; pedestrians often walk on main roads, including
on busy thoroughfares, and often do not look both ways before crossing the street.
Many vehicles are in poor condition, have non-functional brake lights and turn
signals, travel very slowly, and break down without warning. Be especially
careful on curves and hills, as many drivers will pass on blind spots, vehicles
stop without warning, and many pass in "no passing"
zones. Road travel after dark and in dark areas is especially hazardous. Many
drivers will run red lights, especially at night.
should carry a cellular phone and first aid kit in case of an emergency.
Nicaraguan law requires vehicles to carry a stopped/disabled vehicle indicator
(a reflective triangle or cone) and a fire extinguisher.
will take drivers into custody for driving under the influence
of alcohol/drugs. Police will also usually take into custody the driver
involved in any accident resulting in serious injury/death, even if the
driver has insurance and appears not to have been at fault. The minimum detention
period is 48 hours. However, detentions frequently last until a judicial
decision (often weeks or months) or until the injured party signs a
waiver (usually the result of a cash settlement). To avoid liability,
consider hiring a professional driver through a reputable hotel.
police conduct most enforcement stops on foot at static locations; these are
sometimes marked by traffic cones at which officer(s) will signal to a driver
to pull over. Police vehicle enforcement stops are less common. After a traffic
violation, the normal process involves police confiscating the driver's license
until they pay a fine. After paying the associated fee at a bank, the
driver must go with proof of payment to Transit Police Headquarters (or a
police station if it occurs outside of Managua) to recover the license and show
proof of payment. In practice, however, foreigners are rarely able to recover
their licenses, even after paying their fees, due to delays in
transferring the license from the place of detention to the Transit Police
office. Most foreigners leave the country before the transfer takes place.
Transit police have been known to demand on-the-spot bribes in lieu of fines.
If this happens, request a receipt and the officer's name and badge number. To
report mistreatment by police, file a complaint with Nicaragua’s National
Police and forward your complaint to the U.S. Consular Section in Managua.
Also, advise your rental car agency if police say their vehicles do not meet
transit regulations. The Nicaraguan National Police give information
about the process to pay or appeal tickets and recover confiscated
OSAC’s reports, Road
Safety Abroad, Driving
Overseas: Best Practices, and Evasive
Driving Techniques; and read the State
Department’s webpage on driving
and road safety abroad.
Public Transportation Conditions
transportation often lacks proper safety equipment (e.g. lights,
seatbelts, seats, handholds). Avoid buses. Bus accidents on roadways in
Nicaragua often result in injury and death. Criminals will steal
backpacks, purses, and other personal items from overhead and below-seat
storage onboard buses.
use licensed taxis endorsed or recommended by airport authorities, major
hotels, restaurants, or other trusted sources. Before taking a taxi, make sure
that it has a red stripe across the top and bottom of the license plate and
that the number is legible. Choose taxis carefully and note the driver's name
and license number. Check that the taxi is properly labeled with the company
name and logo. Instruct the driver not to pick up other passengers, agree on
the fare before departing, and have small bills available for payment, as taxi
drivers often do not make change. There have been reports of taxi driver complicity
in the committing of robberies and assaults. Review
OSAC’s report, Security
In Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.
is in a seismically active zone, and is the location of the
country’s only international airport (MGA). Two other airports located on the
– Bluefields (BEF) and Bilwi / Puerto
Cabezas (PUZ) – are subject to demonstrations and closure during civil
unrest. There are also small airports in Tola/Rivas (ECI), Big Corn
Island (RNI), and Ometepe Island (OMT) that
handle mostly private charter flights.
have been reports of pickpocketing and other simple theft while in airport
waiting areas. U.S. citizens have reported several instances
where thieves appear to have targeted them for robbery and
theft while transiting the Managua airport.
in remote locales often have short airstrips, minimal safety equipment, and
little boarding security.
Other Travel Conditions
in the region by panga and other types of boat or
ferry should consult with local naval or police
authorities about the safety of setting out in current local weather
conditions, and exercise a reasonable amount of caution in the face of possibly
overloaded or otherwise unsafe vessels.
U.S. Department of State has assessed POST as being a LOW-threat
location for terrorism directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
government has often expressed antagonism to U.S. interests and uses
anti-U.S. rhetoric in domestic and international fora and events. This
rhetoric increased after April 2018, when widespread civil unrest focused on
political, economic, and social issues came to a head.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
U.S. Department of State has assessed POST as being a CRITICAL-threat
location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S.
is serious risk from civil unrest in Managua. A large number of
demonstrations involve demands for early or transparent elections,
opposition to the proposed building of an inter-oceanic canal, women’s rights,
and excessive force by security forces. Most demonstrations
begin peacefully, but the presence of counter-demonstrators and/or riot-police
can lead to an escalation in tension and violence. Typically, protests in
Managua take place at major intersections, traffic circles
(rotundas) and near shopping malls. Outside of the capital, they often
take the form of road/highway blockages.
began in April 2018 over proposed changes in the social security system
regarding benefits and other requirements. Based on the Nicaraguan
government’s heavy-handed response, anti-government protests
grew dramatically and lasted for months. Student groups, anti-canal
groups, and a large cross-section of the Nicaraguan people participated. Protests
in the form of marches, demonstrations in main interactions, strikes, road
barricades, looting, and social media campaigns erupted. Government-aligned
para-police and pro-Ortega groups countered protests, often with violence and
intimidation. Deaths directly related to the violence surrounding these
protests, as well as extra-judicial deaths and
disappearances, occurred. Human rights organizations put
these numbers between 300-500+ persons. Between April and August 2018, there
were daily to weekly static protests and marches throughout the
country. Protest group sizes ranged from a handful to hundreds
of thousands on the streets. Universities were frequent locations of
protests due to widespread student support. The police used live ammunition
against peaceful protesters and demonstrators. While there have been
no large-scale street protests or demonstrations since September
2018, the government has continued to round up and arrest those who supported
the earlier protests. Heavy police presence continues, especially in
major traffic circles in Managua and near universities. The President of
Nicaragua said in a speech that the country would deal with protestors and
anti-government participants with exile, jail, or death. Open-source
reporting continues to highlight the government response.
response to the Government of Nicaragua’s violations of human
and civic rights, the U.S. Treasury Department has levied sanctions
against many members of the Ortega administration and private entities that
corruptly support the Ortega regime. All U.S. persons may not engage in
transactions with OFAC- (Office of Foreign Assets Control) designated
persons or entities, including gas stations controlled by DNP
(Distribuidora Nicaraguense de Petroleo).
groups continue to call for early elections and dialogue. While it
appears that the government has gained the upper hand in preventing new
demonstrations/protests, it is likely that unpredictable political
unrest will continue through 2020.
shortages are a common occurrence during the November to April dry season,
while flooding becomes problematic when heavy rains occur during the May to
October wet season, partly due to poor sewage infrastructure.
to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), there were three
earthquakes of 5.0-magnitude or above in 2018 in Nicaragua that
resulted in minimal to no damage. In 2019, USGS data showed one earthquake
above 5.0 that resulted in minimal to no damage. Shallow earthquakes
with epicenters in Nicaragua that have been greater than magnitude 5.5 have
caused structural damage or complete collapse to older buildings and poorly
sometimes trigger tsunamis; authorities have the capability to issue
warnings of potential threats to coastal communities. In
January 2018, a 7.6-magnitude earthquake struck in the Caribbean Sea 202
kilometers north of Barra Patuca, Honduras, triggering a tsunami warning
throughout the Caribbean, including the coast of Nicaragua.
has many active and inactive volcanoes. Many are on the Pacific side of the
country near Managua and other popular tourist destinations. Volcano boarding
has become a popular activity, but adventure seekers should be aware that tour
operators are unregulated and may not have robust emergency plans in place. The
San Cristobal, Momotombo, Masaya, Telica, Cerro Negro, and Concepción
volcanos are the most active in the
country; authorities monitor each of them.
been fatalities from scuba diving off the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. Diving
accidents stem from a number of factors, to include diver error.
Travelers looking to dive should consult with a reputable diving establishment
to familiarize themselves with Nicaraguan
waters. Strong Pacific currents have caused a number of
drownings. Powerful waves have also caused broken bones. Stingray injuries
are not uncommon. Visitors to Nicaragua’s beaches,
lakes, and lagoons should exercise appropriate caution; there are no
warning signs, and lifeguards and rescue equipment are not readily available. Nicaragua’s
only hyperbaric chamber is in Puerto Cabezas,
a five-hour speedboat ride from Corn Island.
potential environmental threats include flooding, storm surge,
fires, hurricanes, and landslides.
is the largest country in Central America, yet remains one of the least
developed. Infrastructure has strengthened in recent years, but weaknesses
persist. Nicaragua ranked 109th out of 141 countries in terms of infrastructure
in the 2019 World Economic Forum Global
Competitiveness Report, scoring poorly in port and airport infrastructure,
moderately in electricity supply, and above average in road quality and mobile
event of a natural disaster, transportation, water, communications, and power
systems may fail due to damaged infrastructure or heavy ash fall.
Road closures and flight cancellations may occur. Maintain an
emergency supply of food and water to last at least 72 hours, and
establish an emergency plan.
the past decade, the Nicaraguan government has made significant progress in the
energy sector, increasing electricity coverage from 54% to 94% of the
country, increasing power generation from renewable technologies from 25% to
54%, and doubling investment in power transmission. Despite these gains,
electricity prices are comparatively high for Central
America, and the country experiences approximately 20% power
distribution loss. Crippling weaknesses in the electrical grid
remain, as evidenced by nationwide power outages in
2017, when limitations in Nicaragua’s transmission capacity revealed the
lack of redundancy or back-up power for key infrastructure such as
traffic lighting and public utilities. Power outages are a common
occurrence and often take longer to resolve in rural parts of the
access is widely available, due to the $1.5 billion of foreign direct
investment injected into the telecommunications sector over the past 12
years, fueling the expansion of 4G mobile coverage and
broadband networks. Subscription costs are relatively high when compared
to other Central American countries, limiting internet penetration
to roughly 20% of the population. Telecommunication providers have
very limited back-up power capacity. The country’s topography
limits signal transmission, particularly in rural areas and the
Caribbean Coast. Satellite phones are illegal and may be
confiscated. In order to ensure reliability of cellular communications on the
Caribbean coast, it may be necessary to have telephones or SIM cards for
multiple cellular carriers.
OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity
Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud, Taking
Practices for Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, Traveling
with Mobile Devices: Trends & Best Practices, and Satellite Phones:
Critical or Contraband?
Personal Identity Concerns
to Nicaragua’s penal code, discrimination based on sexual orientation is a
crime. This is reinforced in the Nicaraguan labor laws but there is anecdotal
evidence to show that these laws are not often enforced. Nicaragua does not
have any laws recognizing same sex marriages. While violence against
LGBTI+ travelers is not common, widespread societal discrimination exists.
Review the State Department’s webpage on security for LGBTI+
There is limited or no accessibility assistance
for public transportation, and there are few sidewalks and pedestrian road
crossings. Nicaraguan law prohibits discrimination against persons with
physical and mental disabilities, but in practice, such discrimination is
widespread in employment, education, access to health care, and the provision of
state services. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for travelers
buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only
are bootlegs potentially dangerous and illegal in the United States,
you may also be breaking local law. Be wary when making purchases from street
vendors or in markets.
of Nicaragua has denied entry to travelers who use a passport of a different
nationality than they did on prior trips to Nicaragua.
U.S. citizens have reported that authorities did not allow them to
enter Nicaragua with camera drones and other electronic equipment, and/or
that the equipment was subject to inspection and held until the citizen
departed the country. Several U.S. citizens have reported electronic equipment
confiscated upon entry and never returned. To confirm
whether you may enter Nicaragua with specific items, check with
the airline, the Nicaraguan Embassy in Washington, D.C., or Nicaraguan
Immigration authorities before travel.
Read the State Department’s webpage on customs
and import restrictions for information on what
you cannot take into or out of other countries.
police emergency line in Nicaragua is 118, *118 from cellular phones, or
505-2249-1925; the Tourist Emergency Hotline, available only to cell
phones on the Claro system, is 101. The Nicaraguan
National Police (NNP) is the sole law enforcement agency and is
responsible for public safety and security, all types of criminal
investigations, and traffic control. The NNP tourism police unit
deploys to tourist areas and maintains the 24-hour hotline for
often lack resources to respond effectively to crimes in progress. Victims
often must go to a police station to file a report, as police will
often not come to the scene of a crime. The Embassy has received reports of
police refusing to file reports. Copies of receipts or other proof or ownership
of high-value items often assist in completion of police reports.
coverage is extremely sparse outside major urban areas, particularly in the
Caribbean coast and autonomous regions.
periods of political unrest, police forces focus attention on protests and
demonstrations. Response actions to counter street
crime can suffer.
questioning by the authorities, a defendant who does not understand Spanish is
entitled to assistance from an official government interpreter. The defendant
is entitled to an oral translation of any statement they are required to sign. Defendants
are not required to incriminate themselves. A defendant should answer questions
pertaining to identity, age, address, occupation, citizenship, and other
non-incriminating personal data. The Constitution does not condone physical
violence against prisoners (except in cases of self-defense). Despite the
rights granted under the law, in practice, the legal, judicial, immigration,
and penal systems often operate in an arbitrary manner, subject to corruption and
political influence. It is difficult to predict how the local legal system will
work in any particular case, which can result in prolonged detentions without
charges or due process.
violate your rights, immediately inform the consular officer or
representative, who will bring your case to the attention of the government if
you so desire. Download the State Department’s Crime Victims Assistance brochure.
fire emergency line in Nicaragua is 115,
or *115 from cellular phones,
phone numbers vary by department. Dispatchers will coordinate an emergency
response. Dial 128 for
Cruz Roja (Red Cross) ambulance service (Spanish only).
Ambulances take individuals to the nearest hospital that will accept a patient.
This is usually a public hospital unless the patient or someone acting on
his/her behalf indicates they can pay for a private hospital.
care is very limited outside Managua. Basic medical services are available in
many small towns/villages. However, treatment for serious medical issues is
often unavailable or available only in Managua. Emergency ambulance services
(which may not meet U.S. standards) and certain types of medical equipment,
medications, and treatments are not widely available. Physicians and hospital
personnel frequently do not speak English, and medical reports are in Spanish.
Patients must have good Spanish language skills to navigate local medical
resources comfortably. For medical assistance, refer to the Embassy’s Medical Assistance page.
For Air Ambulances, refer to the Embassy’s Insurance Providers page.
is home to many venomous snakes. Anti-venom is available only at the
Ministry of Health. Snakebite victims should remain calm, immobilize the
bitten area and go to the nearest hospital and have them request the Anti-venom
immediately. Black and Brown widow spiders, tarantulas, and scorpions are
commonly seen. Bites from these can cause pain and
illness, but are rarely fatal.
with your medical insurance company prior to travel to confirm the policy
applies overseas. Consider the purchase of separate insurance for medical
evacuation (medevac). The U.S. Department of State
strongly recommends purchasing international health insurance before traveling
internationally. Review the State Department’s webpage on insurance
for medical services is done on a cash basis, although some private hospitals
will accept major credit cards. Travelers should prepare to pay at the
time of service or before admission. Private hospitals may require full payment
or a significant deposit before giving any treatment, even in life or death
Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
coming from countries designated by the World Health Organization (WHO) as
places with the potential for active transmission of yellow fever must present
an International Certificate of Vaccination for yellow fever, showing a vaccine
given at least 10 days prior to entry into the affected country, at
the Nicaraguan port of entry. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) shows
the current list of countries.
CDC recommends visiting your
doctor, ideally four to six weeks before your trip, to get vaccines
or medicines you may need. Travelers taking prescription medications
should bring an adequate supply to cover the duration of their trip. The amount
of medication should not exceed what would reasonably be considered for
personal consumption. Carry medications in their original containers, pack them
in carry-on bags, know generic or generic equivalent names in case they need
replacement, and have a prescription on hand. Many newer combination
medications may not be available in local pharmacies. There may be restrictions
on bringing into Nicaragua prescription or non-prescription
medications without proper documentation. For questions about specific
medications, contact the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health's Pharmacy Department before
travel. Review OSAC’s report, Traveling with Medication.
in Nicaragua may transmit Dengue fever, Chikunguyna, and malaria. Other
tropical diseases such as Leptospirosis, Leishmaniasis, typhoid fever, Chagas
disease, Tuberculosis, and intestinal parasites (e.g. giardia, amoeba) are also
present. Malaria is present in large portions of the country; travelers to
those areas should use prophylaxis. https://www.iamat.org/country/nicaragua/risk/malaria here
has not been a circulating case of Zika for several years, the CDC has the most
up-to-date recommendations. For mosquito-borne diseases, the best prevention is
insect repellant containing DEET, protective clothing, and bed nets to prevent
water is generally not safe to drink; use bottled water. Review
OSAC’s report, I’m Drinking What in My Water?
all routine vaccinations are up to date. Vaccinations against hepatitis A and B
and typhoid are strongly recommended. Many vaccinations are only available in
public hospitals. The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health
guidance for Nicaragua.
Review OSAC’s reports, The
Healthy Way, Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad, Health 101: How to Prepare
for Travel, and Fire
OSAC Country Council Information
Country Council in Managua is active, meeting on a bi-annual basis. Interested
private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Latin America Team with any
U.S. Embassy Contact Information
The U.S. Embassy is located at
Kilometer 5 1/2 (5.5) Carretera Sur, Frente al Parque
Las Piedrecitas, Managua.
Hours: 0715–1630 Monday through
Thursday; 0715–1400 Friday, except U.S. and Nicaraguan holidays
Main Switchboard: +505-2252-7100 or
Marine Security Guard Post One:
you travel, consider the following resources: