NICARAGUA TRAVEL TIPS
A collection of important information that can make your trip more enjoyable.
Nicaragua has a long history dating back over 6,000 years and has ancient structures as evidence of that extraordinary past. Early civilizations have grown, developed and vanished providing Nicaragua with one of the most fascinating histories in the Americas. Gold, silver, earthquakes and revolutions have made their mark on the country. Since the end of the civil war, the country has settles down and has returned to normal welcoming visitors to see a country that is filled with natural wonders and a very friendly people waiting to welcome the inquisitive traveler.
NICARAGUA GENERAL INFORMATION
Area: 120,254 sq km (46,430 sq miles).
Population: 5,482,340 (official estimate 2003).
Population Density: 50.3 per sq km.
Capital: Managua. Population: 1,374,025 (official estimate 2003).
Government: Republic. Gained independence from Spain in 1821. Head of State and Government: President Enrique Bolanos Geyer since 2001.
Electricity: 120 volts AC, 60Hz.
Language: Spanish. Along the Mosquito Coast (Costa de Mosquito), there are English-speaking communities in which African or mixed African and indigenous Indians predominate.
GEOGRAPHY: Nicaragua is bordered in the north by Honduras, in the west by the Pacific south by Costa Rica and in the east by the Caribbean. It is the largest central american country and is divided into three distinct geographic zones - the Pacific lowlands, the north-central mountains and the Mosquito Coast.
NICARAGUA ENTRY REQUIREMENTS
Entry visas will not be required from citizens of any country, except for the citizens of the countries listed below. A Tourist Card (US$ 5.00) must be bought upon arrival. Traveller must have a passport that will be valid at least six months after entering the country. Everyone leaving Nicaragua must pay an airport tax of US$ 20.00.
Afghanistan, Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Colombia, Cuba, Haiti, India, Irak, Iran, Jordania, Lebanon, Libya, Nepal, Pakistan, People's Republic of China, People's Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Vietnam, Yugoslavia. Click here for more Visa information
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NICARAGUA DUTY FREE
The following items can be imported into Nicaragua without incurring customs duty:
200 cigarettes or 500g of tobacco; 3l of alcoholic beverage; one large bottle or three small bottles of perfume or eau de cologne.
Restricted imports: Canned or uncanned meats, leather and dairy products. A licence is required for firearms.
Prohibited exports: Archaeological items, artefacts of historical or monetary value, and gold.
GETTING AROUND NICARAGUA
There are three domestic airlines offering flights, mainly between Managua, Bluefields, Puerto Cabezas and the Corn Islands. Local bus services are regular and frequent, although they can get very crowded. Nicaraguan buses are much loved by pickpockets, so take precautions and keep an eye on your baggage at all times. Boats are the only way to get to some places in Nicaragua, notably on the Caribbean coast and on Lago de Nicaragua. Trips down the Río San Juan to El Castillo and San Juán del Norte are usually expensive.
Telephone: IDD is available. Country code: 505. Outgoing international calls may be made via the international operator or through direct dialling.
Mobile telephone: The privatised telecommunciations and postal service, ENITEL (website: www.enitel.com.ni) and Sercom SA (website: http://pcsdigital.com.ni) both offer GSM 1900 services but coverage is mainly limited to Managua and the surrounding areas.
Internet: Internet cafes in Nicaragua provide public access to Internet and e-mail services. ISPs include IBW Internet Gateway (website: www.ibw.com.ni).
Fax/Telegram: Facilities in Managua.
Post: Most larger towns have an Enitel telecommunications and postal office. Airmail to Europe takes up to two weeks. Poste restante services are available in Managua. Post office hours: Mon-Sat 0900-1730.
Media: Nicaragua has four major newspapers and five TV channels with national coverage. There are also several private and government radio stations.
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NICARAGUA EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES
Nicaragua has free hospital services. It also has private hospitals and clinics. Major hospitals and clinics in Managua are as follows:
Carlos Marx Hospital / Tel. 490701
Bautista Hospital / Tel. 497333 / 497118
Villa Fontana Clinic / Tel. 74614 / 672696
Montoya Medical Center / Tel. 281054
Radiology Institute / Tel. 662740 / 666005
Las Palmas Clinic / Tel. 660881
Renovacion Clinic / Tel. 661325
Tiscapa Clinic / Tel. 71300
Davila Bolaños Hospital / Tel. 22764-66
Berta Calderon Hospital / Tel. 601787 /601303
Manolo Morales Hospital / Tel. 70990-92
La Mascota Hospital / Tel. 897700-06
Velez Paiz Hospital / Tel. 650009
Lenin Fonseca Hospital / Tel. 666547-50
Psychiatric Hospital / Tel. 667877-81
NICARAGUA BUSINESS PROFILE
Economy: Agriculture is the main component of Nicaragua’s economy, with cotton, coffee, sugar, bananas and meat the principal exports. Maize, beans and rice are grown for domestic consumption. The principal manufacturing industries are food, drinks, the production of chemicals and oil refining. There is also a small mining industry working deposits of gold, silver, lead and zinc.
Nicaragua’s economic travails during the last 20 years have left it one of the poorest countries in the Americas. Some key industrial operations were nationalised following the 1979 Sandinista revolution but the bulk of the economy was left in private hands.
Unfortunately, domestic mismanagement, Western economic sanctions and the cost of the civil war against the ‘contras’ meant that the Sandinista period was one of continuous economic decline. However, the economy has fared little better since then. During the 1990s, Nicaragua implemented a Structural Adjustment programme supervised by the IMF. It also required several injections of emergency aid after a series of major natural disasters – floods and droughts – which caused huge damage to the agricultural economy. Low commodity prices and the pressure of a substantial foreign debt exacerbated the country’s economic difficulties. In 2001, Nicaragua was a beneficiary of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative which wrote off part of the debt, but it remains a significant drain on the economy. Nicaragua’s largest trading partners are the USA (over one-third of the total), Germany, Spain, El Salvador and to a lesser extent, Nicaragua’s other Central and South American neighbours. Nicaragua is a member of the Central American Common Market and the Inter-American Development Bank.
Business: Businessmen wear business suits with ties, or long-sleeved shirts and smart trousers; businesswomen wear business dresses. A knowledge of Spanish is an advantage, although some businesspeople speak English. Enquire at the Embassy for interpreter services. The best time to visit is November to March. Office hours: Mon-Fri 0800-1700.
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NICARAGUA SOCIAL PROFILE
Food & Drink: Since the end of the Contra war, the number of restaurants have exploded Nicaragua - particularly in the more populated areas. Although international food is not readily available, the cuisine is and they are constantly trying to improve upon it. Unfortunately this is limited to mostly French, Italian and Chines food. Still, hamburger, pizza and fried chicken are popular as ever and readily available. Bottled drinks are plentiful. Do avoid drinks with ice as they may be contaminated with parasites. Similarly, fruit drinks may have the same problem if mixed with tap water. Rum is plentiful here as well as local beers.
Nightlife: Managua has several nightclubs, some offering live music. There are also cinemas with English, French and Spanish films. Other cities, such as Granada, Léon, Masaya, Matagalpa and Rivas, also offer nightlife entertainment.
Special Events: For a full list of events taking place in 2005, contact the Nicaraguan Institute of Tourism (see Contact Addresses section). The following is a selection of special events celebrated annually in Nicaragua:
Feb Music & Youth Festival, Managua. Mar Folklore, Gastronomy & Handicraft Festival, Granada. May ‘Palo de Mayo’ Festival, Bluefields. Sep Fishing Fair, San Carlos; Polkas, Mazarcas & Jamaquellos, Matagalpa. Oct Music Festival in Jinotega. Nov 3-5 Equestrian Rally, Ometepe; Folkloric Festival, Masaya.
Social Conventions: Dress is informal. Photography: Avoid photographing military sites or personnel.
Currency: Nicaraguan Gold Córdoba (C$) = 100 centavos. Notes are in denominations of C$100, 50, 20 and 10, and 50, 25, 10 and 5 centavos.
Note: Frequent adjustments to the traded value of the Nicaraguan Gold Córdoba, and the various exchange systems that have been used, make it impossible to make meaningful comparative assessments over successive years.
Currency exchange: Foreign currencies can be exchanged at the airport, at banks and at official bureaux de change in major cities.
Credit & debit cards: American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa are accepted on a limited basis. Check with your credit or debit card company for details of merchant acceptability and other services which may be available.
Travellers cheques: Accepted in a number of places.
In Managua as well as in major cities, tourists can buy national products such as clothing, shoes, handicrafts and souvenirs. Foreign goods are also available. Gold and silver goods produced in Nicaragua have great demand and can be purchased in major jewelry stores. Some of the largest and best stores are the Centro Comercial Managua, Metrocentro, Supermercados, Diplotiendas and Supermercados Internacionales.
NICARAGUA TIPPING & TAXES
Tipping: 10 per cent of the bill is customary in hotels and restaurants. No tip is necessary for taxi drivers but porters expect a small tip.
Airport tax - $20.00
Sales tax is 15%
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The "Nicas" are friendly and obliging people, with a matriarchal society.
The country is multi-ethnic with no official religion. Nicaragua's population is very young, 60 percent is under 17 years of age. Mestizos of mixed Indian and Spanish blood make up the majority of the population and they are the originators of Nicargua's colorful folklore, music and much of its religious tradition.
Managua is the nation's capital with a population of approximately one million, 27 percent of the entire country's popultation. On the Atlantic Coast there is also strong African influence which has its roots in the black workers brought in by the British to work the plantations and in Jamaican immigration. Another predominant ethnic group is the Miskito Indian.
NICARAGUA CLIMATE & CLOTHING
Climate: Nicaragua has a predominantly tropical climate, alternating between two seasons: rainy and dry (winter and summer). This is the result of its geographic location between 11 and 15 degrees latitude north and the humidity from both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans which give it a fairly stable season.
In the Central Region the rainy season lasts from May to October. The dry season occurs from November through April. During December the weather is more temperate. The warmest months are March, April and May, Nicargua's "sea season".
The climate in the Atlantic Coast has been classified as having the highest temperature and humidity. The temperature in this region corresponds to that in tropical jungles and ranges above 89° F.
Clothing: We recommend light clothing in Managua, where the minimum temperature is 20°C (68°F) and the maximum is 30°C to 35°C (86°F to 95°F).
NICARAGUA SPORTS & ACTIVITIES
Watersports: Beaches on the Pacific coast offer safe swimming as do those on the Caribbean, including the popular Corn Islands. Often the better beaches have a small entrance charge. Many of the better hotels have pools open to non-residents. In the volcanic crater lagoons, there is also safe swimming. Bathing in Lake Managua should be avoided due to contamination, although steps to clean up the lake are being taken. Bathing is possible in the Laguna de Tiscapa. El Velero beach or Pochomil on the Pacific coast are ideal for surfing as are a number of other beaches along the west coast.
Other: There are a number of good fishing spots along the country’s waterways and seashores. Baseball is the national game.
NICARAGUA TIME ZONE
Nicaragua borders Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south. To the east lies the Caribbean, and to the west the Pacific. Nicaragua Standard Time is GMT -5.
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