Is Nicaragua Safe? – UPDATED FOR 2019

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Wedged between Costa Rica and Honduras, Nicaragua is a good all-round destination. Think beautiful cathedrals, elegant architecture, a ton of history, and loads of nature to get to grips with.

However, Nicaragua was hit with renewed political trouble in 2018, and it was hit hard. There have been widespread protests against a corrupt government and these are sometimes met with force. Given all the recent reports, it’s no wonder so many ask if Nicaragua is safe.

The question of safety in Nicaragua is an interesting case – while it may appear unsafe in a lot of ways, tourists can still visit Nicaragua. Their trip may be somewhat hampered but that doesn’t mean their life will be in danger or that they won’t have the time of their life!

For those who still want to go, we’ve created this guide for staying safe in Nicaragua. We at The Broke Backpacker want to make sure you’re well-equipped with some sound travel tips and to help you avoid becoming a victim.

From concerns about the safety of solo female travellers in Nicaragua to wondering if it’s safe to take your family to Nicaragua, we’re covering all of this and more in this handy guide. We’ll even get into whether or not it’s safe to LIVE in Nicaragua, if, for some reason, you were planning on moving.

So maybe you wanted to see Nicaragua and then heard about all the trouble. At the moment, maybe you’re just interested in how safe Nicaragua WOULD be in an ideal world. Either way, we’ve got you covered.

is nicaragua safe

The sun also rises (in Nicaragua).

 

How Safe is Nicaragua? (Our take)

Nicaragua has been enticing visitors for a long time. The locals are welcoming, there are epic volcanoes to climb, beaches to laze on, the second largest rainforest in the Americas to explore, history abound; it’s a travellers’ paradise!

Sadly, Nicaragua has been experiencing a lot of turbulence in recent years.

Due to the recent political Unrest of 2018, much of the country is difficult to visit. A lot of accommodation has been shut down and Nicaraguan citizens have been fleeing the country.

Petty crime is steadily on the rise (though it’s not out of control like in some other places in Latin America). Most people can still visit Nicaragua without getting robbed – they just have to be more cautious than usual.

Truth is: Nicaragua has always been an alternative destination for intrepid travelers, regardless of political situations. Neighboring Central American countries, Costa Rica and Honduraswere always the more ‘touristy’ options and Nicaragua has always been the odd man out.

This has little to do with danger though and shouldn’t stop you from visiting Nicaragua!

 

Is Nicaragua Safe to Visit? (The facts.)

Tourism still is the second largest industry in the country. It was once a huge boon for the local economy, as poverty was stymied and jobs were created thanks to tourists. Now, however, it has been severely affected.

With hostels closing their doors and tour operators shutting up shop following the Unrest of 2018, many citizens who found a good living from the tourist industry have gone back to fishing and agriculture to feed their families.

Previously, Nicaragua welcomed lots of visitors – 1.49 million tourists visited in 2014 alone. Not too long ago, The Global Peace Index even ranked Nicaragua as the third most peaceful country in Central America and the Caribbean

Now? Many governments advice against “all but essential travel” to Nicaragua. So whether or not you want to listen to these warnings is up to you.

 

Is it Safe to Visit Nicaragua Right Now?

is nicaragua safe volcanoes and landscapes

Damn that’s some gorgeous scenery. Photo credits: Iexplore

There has been some progress lately in Nicaragua’s safety and political situation, but it’s slow going. The Nicaraguan Unrest of 2018 is not to be taken lightly as it’s been one of the deadliest civil conflicts since the 29-year long Nicaraguan Revolution. 

After nearly 448 deaths as of December, the international community has widely condemned the repression of demonstrations and called for the government to disarm paramilitaries. Even the Pope has called for peace.

Censorship of the media, especially when students are involved and killed, has been widespread. So has the dismissal of teachers.

HOWEVER, much of this doesn’t affect tourists in Nicaragua.

Managua Augusto Sandino Airport is still receiving international flights. Despite government warnings, travelers are still making their way to Nicaragua. A fair few backpackers have even been staying in Granada recently, as well as San Juan del Sur. 

For these bold travelers, the situation appears to have calmed down. While we’re always made optimistic after hearing stories about these visitors’ success, the reality is that political unrest is never too far away. 

So is Nicaragua safe to visit? Yes, so long as you don’t get involved in politics and keep your wits about you. No one is targeting tourists (aside from the pickpockets) here.

 

Nicaragua Travel Insurance

Get insurance! Even if you are only going on a short trip, you should always travel with insurance. Have fun while visiting Nicaragua, but take it from someone who has racked up thousands of bucks on an insurance claim before, you need it.

As a wise man once said, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you shouldn’t be traveling – so be sure to get your backpacker insurance sorted before you head off on an adventure! We highly recommend World Nomads.

 

To find out why we recommend World Nomads, check out our World Nomads Insurance review.

If you want to shop around a little, then read up on competing companies and what they can offer. There are lots of insurances out there, so don’t feel limited.

 

25 Top Safety Tips for Traveling to Nicaragua

is nicaragra safe beaches

Where there’s a beach, there are tourists.

If you’re not going to participate in protests or go near to cities, it’s more reasonable to visit Nicaragua. In some ways, if you want a truly adventurous location where you won’t find many other travellers, we guess this is the place. Granted, things are always up in the air – shit could hit the fan again or it could all calm down (which we hope it does).

If you DO decide to visit Nicaragua, here are some tips to help you on your way.

  1. Stay away from protests – DO NOT GET INVOLVED. Methods for crowd control include live ammunition, so…
  2. Know when to travel – rainy season runs from May to November, which is when hurricanes hit, too.
  3. Get your Spanish on – knowing some of the local lingo will help you to get around. Good for making friends, too!
  4. Keep an eye on your belongings – pickpockets, especially around bus terminals, are pretty active. Invest in a good money belt for ultimate protection.
  5. Use hotels and hostels with good reviews – 24-hour security helps. It just pays to stay somewhere amazing AND safe.
  6. Don’t walk around looking rich – flashing cash, wearing jewellery, SLRs; this is pretty dumb, and a good way to get robbed.
  7. Learn what to do during an earthquake or volcanic eruption – it’s simple, but it will definitely help.
  8. DON’T go rambling off the roads, especially in the north – landmines still dot this area.
  9. Only change money at reputable places – most likely you’ll be ripped off anywhere else.
  10. Lock car doors and keep windows closed – there have been reports of shady characters lingering around traffic lights in Managua.
  11. Be careful when you swim – the sea at the Pacific Coast has strong currents. Follow local advice and don’t go out too far.
  12. If confronted by a mugger, don’t resist – they’re often armed. This is when trouble occurs. Just hand it over.
  13. Have an escape plan – let’s be honest, if shit hits the fan, you’re going to want to get out of there. Research, plan, inform others of your plans. Remain vigilant!
  14. Get yourself a roaming sim – maps are helpful and so is keeping in touch with family. You can also use your phone to get live updates of ongoing situations in Nicaragua.
  15. Take a torch with you – for dark nights in rural areas. You don’t want to step on something that can bite you!
  16. And don’t travel at night either – this is a good time for criminals to operate.
  17. Stay away from drugs – don’t EVEN. Possessing any drugs can land you the wrong, and we really mean wrong, side of the law.
  18. Don’t use drones – in fact, you can’t even bring them into the country. Say goodbye to the intro to your awesome travel video.
  19. Protect against mosquitoes – cover-up, bring repellent, buy coils, whatever is best for you. These guys carry NASTY diseases.
  20. Here be scams – especially in Managua. It’s best to use the advice your mum told you: don’t talk to strangers.
  21. Watch out for children coming up to your table – it’s most likely a distraction. They’re there to pinch your cash and usually work for a boss.
  22. ALWAYS take a good tour company – it might cost more, but it will be better and less dangerous.
  23. Don’t travel on Sundays (if you can help it) – schedules can be completely out of whack.
  24. Pack yourself a medicine bag – fill it with tablets and pills to keep diarrhea and other illnesses at bay!
  25. On the subject, make sure you get relevant vaccines – a no-brainer.

It may not look it, but Nicaragua is as safe as any other Central American destination. It’s a beautiful country, to be sure, and for many will be worth the risk. If you do end up going, these travel tips will help you get around a little more trouble-free.

The key is to travel smart: if a situation looks like it’s a little bit sketchy, then it probably IS a little bit sketchy. Use your head, keep tuned in to news, and have a get out plan. Things could kick off without warning.

 

Keeping your money safe in Nicaragua

Anywhere that tourists go, there’s going to be people that want tourists’ money. Some people choose to gain your money by illegal means. We’re talking about pickpockets and petty theft, which often go hand in hand with popular, far-flung destinations.

Having your shit stolen can be really, really annoying. More than that, it can definitely bring a trip to a standstill. So the best way to protect from having your money stolen from you: wear a money belt!

The best way to keep your money safe is with an awesome security belt

There are plenty of money belt options out there, that’s for sure, but we would always recommend the Active Roots Security Belt.

It’s VERY subtle; we mean, it looks just like a belt, which is a huge plus. It’s also pretty sturdy and doesn’t cost a whole lot!

So whether you’re in a crowded place and you can’t watch your pockets, or if someone’s trying to work some distraction magic on you: it won’t matter! Your stash o’ cash for the day is going to be in your money belt, where they definitely won’t be looking. You shouldn’t really travel without one, ever. It’s a backpacking staple for us.

If you need a little more room for your passport and other travel valuables, have a look at a full-size money belt that tucks under your clothes instead.

If neither of those options appeals to your refined fashion sense, don’t compromise! Opt for an infinity scarf with a hidden zipper pocket.

 

Is Nicaragua safe to travel alone?

Solo Travel in Nicaragua

Solo travel is possible but takes work. Photo credits: solotravelerworld.com

As intimidating as Nicaragua sounds, it’s still one of the safest countries in Central America. For solo backpackers, Nicaragua is a good choice. The romance of exploring the colonial architecture, working on community farms, living it up by the sea…sounds great to us!

Solo travel anywhere in the world is pretty rewarding, and it’s no less so in this Central American gem. With the hope that Nicaragua can once again return to the peaceful place it once was, here are some tips for safe solo travel in Nicaragua if you ever find yourself in this incredible country.

  • There’s a very decent selection of cool, vibrant hostels in Nicaragua. Stylish, fun, and often boasting pools, these are also GREAT places to meet other travellers. Not only can you beat the solo travelling blues by meeting other like-minded backpackers, but, more often than not, you’ll be supporting local communities. Just make sure it’s well reviewed!
  • Lend a helping hand. Get involved with a community project or a charity and give back to the country that you’re enjoying so much! There are loads of different organisations you can reach out to. From environmentally minded concerns to those aimed at educating local children, you’ll find something for you. AND meet some cool whilst doing it!
  • Learning some of the local language is going to really open up the country to you. And not just normal Spanish, either – there’s a Nicaraguan dialect to get to grips with, and this will go down a treat. Knowing some helps you when you’re lost, when you want to order food, or even if you want to just chat with some locals.
  • Book yourself on a tour. This is a good option if you want to get around Nicaragua’s sights safely and without having to stress out. It’s also a very good chance to meet other travellers. Chances are you’ll hit it off.
  • Getting crazy drunk by yourself at night, either in a city or by the beach, is probably not a good idea. Alcohol is very cheap so you’ll probably want to sample a lot of it!
  • On that note, know your limits. Whilst you THINK you may be fine wandering back by yourself, your judgement won’t be up to scratch. Taking risky shortcuts, hopping in the sea for a skinny dip, or simply getting lost, could end very badly. Especially if you’re alone.

Nicaragua can be surprisingly safe sometimes – even for solo travellers. It’s been safe in the past and (remember) still has a lower crime rate than its neighbours.

The current situation isn’t ideal and it makes things that much harder for solo travellers planning a trip to Nicaragua. Hopefully, things will get better though. When that day comes, even more travellers like you will decide to discover this country for themselves!

 

Is Nicaragua safe for solo female travellers?

Female travel in Nicaragua

You can do it! photo credits: curiosity travels

Political unrest or not, being a woman anywhere in the world can be dangerous.  Travelling as a woman comes with its own set of unique problems, problems that only a woman can know about.

With that said, travelling solo as a female is as rewarding as much as it is challenging, and it’s becoming more and more popular for women to travel by themselves. It’s empowering and you can travel at your own pace.

In the past, Nicaragua has been a popular place for solo female travellers. While the country is a bit precarious these days, you can still visit as a lone woman, given you take a couple of extra precautions. For those who are ready to re-enter the ring and travel to Nicaragua as a solo female traveller,  here are a few pointers to bear in mind:

  • Dressing appropriately is a smart move. Ok, so, you won’t have to worry about what you wear too much in a beach resort or a party hostel in Nicaragua. Elsewhere you should exercise a little bit of moderation. Look at what other women are wearing and know that Nicaragua is still a fairly conservative country.
  • Catcalls will happen because Nicaragua is a macho society. Men may shout or say things to you as you walk by. The best course of action is to just ignore them. Reacting can cause trouble and can be exhausting. Just try to move on with your amazing Nicaragua adventure – don’t let it be a defining memory.
  • There ARE cases of serious sexual harassment. If someone follows you, head somewhere busy, into a shop or somewhere that seems secure.
  • DO NOT travel around at night time by yourself. Ever. For whatever reason.
  • Buddy up! There are plenty of other female travellers making their way around Nicaragua. Not only is this good to actually make some friends, but is a good way to get travel tips from other women. You’ll probably learn about some other cool destinations around the world. Make connections and have fun!
  • You should walk around with someone else – on the islands, beaches, in broad daylight, regardless if they seem safe or not. Deserted areas may feel beautiful, but they can be dangerous too.
  • If someone’s asking you about personal information, it’s best to be vague. Why does this random person NEED to know if you’re single or not, the address of the hostel you’re staying at, or where you’re planning to travel to next? Vague itineraries and vague life stories will keep you safe when people seem to be taking too much interest in you.
  • The nightlife is fun in Nicaragua! You may be having a good time and the drinks may be flowing, but don’t let your drink out of your sight. Drink spiking could happen.
  • On that note, getting stupid drunk could just lead to trouble, and this isn’t just talking about locals, but fellow travellers too. There are big (and fun) party hostels in Nicaragua, but this doesn’t mean they are bastions of virtue. Stay vigilant – even other travellers can have bad intentions.
  • If you want to learn more about local women and their lives, you can always get involved with an NGO. Nicaragua is a patriarchal society, and working with one of these could help you learn more about how the society works. Alternatively, learn a bit of Spanish and strike up a conversation with local ladies!
  • You might want to make a stockpile of sanitary products. These won’t be totally available throughout Nicaragua, especially away from the larger towns. Makes sense to have a load of these at the ready. Giving them out to fellow female travellers in need is a nice way to make friends, too!

 

Don’t lose your money to a pickpocket! There are tons of ways to store valuables and goods while traveling but a travel scarf has to be the least obtrusive and the most classy.

The Active Roots Zipper Scarf is your run-of-the-mill infinity scarf but with a hidden pocket that’s big and sturdy enough for a night’s cash, your phone, a passport and (hell with it) some snacks too!

Whilst is possible to travel safely in Nicaragua as a solo female, it’s important to note that it IS a male-dominated society. Sexual assaults against female travellers have happened, especially at beach destinations where everything seems safe. Just remember to never make assumptions about a location’s supposed security.

It’s best to keep your wits about you, do research before you go ANYWHERE, and to make friends with fellow travellers. As a bonus: know how to defend yourself – this could really help you in a dire situation. 

Other than that, get out there and have fun! Nicaragua is a stunning place that you’ll love exploring. Just make sure you do it safely and sensibly.

 

Is Nicaragua safe to travel for families?

Family travel in Nicaragua

There are still family-friendly places in Nicaragua. Photo credits: ORO Travel

There was a time when Nicaragua was a great place to take your family. The relatively low crime rate and incredible natural credentials made it an AMAZING place for a family holiday.

Obviously, at the moment, the political situation currently means that Nicaragua isn’t as safe as it used to be though. 

Before the unrest this year it was a fantastic (and inexpensive) family-friendly holiday destination. The country once and still does offer great amenities to those with children. Nappies are readily available all over the country, you can even arrange car seats for car journeys, and, often, children travel and stay for free. Even breastfeeding in public is common.

Much of Nicaragua’s family-based tourism is still intact. There are some great hotels to stay at, homestays to enjoy, and a lot of local culture to soak up. Not only that but you can watch sea turtles nesting, play around in the surf, and/or visit indigenous peoples. It may not be easy to visit but Nicaragua could certainly make for a memorable family trip.

If you decide to travel to Nicaragua with your family, there are some things you will need first. You’ll need:

  • vaccines (obviously)
  • protection against mosquitoes
  • to watch out for creepy crawlies like scorpions
  • protection from the sun
  • be careful when you’re at the beach – riptides are dangerous!
  • to make sure your children stay away from stray animals because you never know what diseases they may be carrying.

While chances are that you probably won’t be venturing to Nicaragua anytime soon with your family, there are still options should you decide to. The country has seen better days, but its attitude towards the family is still as strong as ever.

 

Is it safe to drive in Nicaragua?

Driving in Nicaragua

So cute. Photo credits: worldnomads.com

People DO rent cars and have an incredible time exploring Nicaragua for themselves. Driving is a good way to see what the Pacific Coast and Central Nicaragua has to offer, which generally have better quality roads. On the other hand, the road conditions of the Caribbean Coast can be much poorer.

Make no mistake, driving in a developed country can be an experience. You’ll have to deal with all the usual stuff and then some. Dodgy rental cars, potholes, drink drivers, lack of signs, animals in the road, no lights on highways; all of these make driving in Nicaragua not very safe.

Not only that, but corrupt police might pull you over for a bribe. Use your judgement of the situation on this one.

Then there are the elements. During heavy rain, roads can turn into rivers, at which point you’ll need a 4×4. Alternatively, they can get closed and/or washed away completely. And in the dry season? Expect dust and lots of it.

Improvised roadblocks are all over the place and can pop up sporadically. These barricades were a feature of the Nicaraguan Revolution but now they’re making a comeback. They’re thrown up by locals and areas around these can be dangerous as police try to clear them (there’s often violence).

The barricaders themselves aren’t TOO interested in gringos, so don’t worry. There might be some dodgy people, but generally, barricaders are there for some political cause.

Even before 2018, we’d have said that driving isn’t safe in Nicaragua. Now? It still isn’t. Proceed according to your own abilities – or get yourself a local driver.

 

Is Uber safe in Nicaragua?

The Nicaraguan government has refused permission for Uber to operate in the country. They don’t want to cause trouble for local taxi drivers, who are already on a low wage.

Nicaragua is an Uber-free zone, people. End of story.

 

Are taxis safe in Nicaragua?

Taxis in Nicaragua

An official taxi. Photo credits: Hey Chelito!

Taxis in Nicaragua are not always safe. These can be very sketchy and downright dangerous.

Using a taxi is likely unavoidable though and, chances are, you’ll have to take one at some point in Nicaragua. While they may not be ideal to use, they are, unfortunately, your only option at times.

Most taxis in Nicaragua are shared taxis – this is common practice. If you don’t fancy sharing, make sure you agree on a SOLO JOURNEY and agree on the price before you get in. Don’t know Spanish? Write the number down and show it to the driver, but not on your phone!

Official taxis in Nicaragua have a red border around a white license plate. You should be able to see the driver’s company name, and the license plate itself should be clear, too.

Lock the doors when you get in and hide your luggage. Make sure you have small change with you so you don’t hand over stupidly large bills just to get no change back.

If the car looks like an actual death trap, just don’t get in at all.

Unfortunately, express kidnappings have been increasing recently. These are particularly common when leaving from the airport but can happen in cities as well. Usually, these start with a stranger asking if you need a taxi and end with you being forced to an ATM instead. Don’t listen to drivers that seem overly eager or forceful.

Managua is particularly known for taxi scams and for its sheer amount of taxis.

We recommend booking a taxi through your hostel. Get staff to book a cab for you and become friendly with the driver. If they seem like a good sort, use them regularly.

Taxis aren’t what we’d call safe in Nicaragua, but like we said…sometimes you have to use ’em. It’s still the safest way to get around at night time for that matter. Stay aware, remember our advice, and you should be just fine.

 

Is public transportation in Nicaragua safe?

Public Transpo in Nicaragua

Ah, the chicken buses…Photo credits: eu.m.wikipedia.org

Most towns are served and connected by chicken buses – those colourful, old American school buses that cram everybody and their livestock on board. You know the ones.

If you’re not in a hurry to get anywhere and fancy a local (if uncomfortable) experience, we say use them!

Just don’t take your eyes off your bag, and be sure to watch your pockets. Keep hydrated too, ’cause it can get very, very HOT on these. (Did you remember a water bottle?)

The conductors are USUALLY friendly and will come round and collect your fare, and call out when your stop’s up next.

Then there are microbuses. These are smaller, faster and more expensive than chicken buses. They leave only when they’re completely full and behave much the same as chicken buses, but in miniature.

Bus terminals can be chaotic and overwhelming. Watch out for shady characters lingering around. The UK government recommends NOT travelling on public buses after dark. That includes hanging around at bus stations.

If you’re after more comfort and more SAFETY, then there are privately owned minibuses. These are pretty luxurious compared to everything else – air-conditioned, pre-arranged through your hostel, and is more often a gringo-only experience. They’re less authentic, but, then again, these can be a good way to meet other travelers.

There are also public pengas – boats. These connect big destinations that are more easily reached via water than by road. But these aren’t safe. Tourists HAVE drowned so make sure you wear a lifejacket.

Public transport in Nicaragua isn’t ALWAYS the safest. To ensure you get the safest and most appropriate ride, be sure to book through your accommodation.

Keep everything on you in transit. When moving from place to place, you shouldn’t store travel documents in a bag, even if it’s under your seat or overhead.

A full-sized money belt that stays tucked under your clothes keeps your documents and cash organized during your travels and assures nothing critical gets left behind or stolen.

 

Is the food in Nicaragua safe? 

food in Nicaragua

We’ll take seconds, every time. Photo credits: Today Nicaragua

Spanish, Indigenous, and Creole flavours mix in a tantalisingly tasty cuisine offering in Nicaragua. There’s heavy use of corn (of course) on the Pacific Coast, whilst on the Caribbean Coast, there’s seafood and coconuts galore.

There are loads to try – from the hearty vigorón and gallo pinto (rice and beans, basically) to a whole range of desserts that feature a whole lot of almonds, cream, and honey. Of course, going on a culinary pilgrimage to Nicaragua means bearing a few things in mind…

  • Street food is where it’s at. But rushing in and eating literally everything is a BAD move. You’ll probably get sick. Unless you’ve just come from another Latin American country and your stomach is used to all the ingredients, it’s best to ease yourself in. 
  • If you’re prone to a bad stomach anyway or have a medical condition that means your digestive system is a bit sensitive, then you may just want to take it easy in general. Bring re-hydration sachets and diarrhoea medication.
  • And when it comes to street food, look around. It may all look pretty good, but a rule for pretty much anywhere in the world is to go where other people are going. Busy = clean and tasty. Patience is a virtue, so wait in line and enjoy, rather than getting something quickly at an empty stall that MAY not be tasty and MAY make you ill.
  • If meat, or any food for that matter, isn’t freshly cooked – and especially if it looks like it’s been sitting uncovered all day – don’t even bother.
  • Chicken rice (arroz con pollo) is a dice-roll, though when done well IS really tasty! Chicken is a minefield, rice can be dodgy, put ’em both together and there’s a disaster waiting to happen. Best if you can literally see them being prepared in front of you. Anything that is simply warmed up may just make you ill.
  • You may really want a smoothie because, no joke, they look amazing. But be careful of anything raw. Fruit, washed or unwashed, can be crawling with germs. Being uncooked, a smoothie falls into this category. Sad, we know…
  • Same goes for salads and vegetables. Peel, wash with sterilised water, cook, but DON’T eat raw. A good way to get a bad tum.
  • … And ice cubes? Don’t.
  • Seafood is very popular here and it’s prepared in wonderful ways! It is probably best tried in a restaurant or the in-house eatery at your hostel/hotel/guesthouse. Eating seafood on the street is usually a bad idea and you’ll be asking for trouble if you do so.
  • WASH… YOUR… HANDS! And if you can’t? Sanitise. This is an easy way to protect against nasty bugs, especially when you’ve got to use your hands to eat.
  • Traveling with an allergy? Research ahead of time how to explain your allergy. Keep in mind that store owners and restaurant staff might not know all the foods that contain allergens, so it’s helpful to know the names of some of these too. If you’re gluten-free, pick up a handy Gluten-Free Translation Card with descriptions of Celiac disease, cross-contamination risk, and local Nicaraguans ingredients in Latin American Spanish. 

So there you have a few tips when it comes to exploring Nicaragua’s food scene. Keep clean, don’t be too greedy, and definitely use your common sense. In general, you should be fine eating your way around Nicaragua – especially if you’ve just come from somewhere else in Latin America. Even if you haven’t, you’re in for a treat. The food in Nicaragua is more often safe – and delicious!

 

Can you drink the water in Nicaragua?

The water in Nicaragua is allegedly potable.

Many Nicaraguans drink the tap water, but you may get Traveller’s Diarrhoea if you try. As we mentioned, avoid ice, too.

If you don’t feel comfortable, then don’t risk drinking the tap. Let’s just say the water in Nicaragua isn’t safe to drink on its own.

Stick to bottled water, or bring a refillable bottle and water purification tablets. Boiling water is always the surest way to eliminate harmful organisms. A steripen would also be a great investment as these are quite effective in the field.

Want to save the world and stay hydrated? Single-use plastic bottles are a huge threat to the oceans and planet – Be a part of the solution and invest in a filter water bottle.

The GRAYL GEOPRESS water bottle is the ONLY all-in-one filter water bottle setup you’ll need. We use it on our own adventures to purify often nasty looking water and it does a beautiful job – we have yet to get sick! This is what the whole Broke Backpacker team uses- in mountains, cities, jungles – we love it – it’s a total game changer

 

Is Nicaragua safe to live?

nicaragua safety guide ruins

This church has seen better days, to be sure.

Many expats end up living in Nicaragua. It’s safer than its neighbors, has a generally laid-back lifestyle, low cost of living, good food, and some amazing natural landscapes. If anything, it’s becoming an increasingly popular destination for expats.

You’ll still be targeted like any other travelling gringo – that means petty theft and scams are still things to look out for. Trying your best to blend in, not being flashy, not shouting around in English with your expat buddies; these things will help you live more easily in Nicaragua.

Learning Spanish is a must. Even if it’s just a little bit, learning the local language will help you get around.

The political unrest of 2018 has had a marginal impact on the expat community. While protests are common, they AREN’T everywhere – some rural places, especially beach destinations and islands, have been largely unaffected. People here continue to go about their lives as normal. Even during tense periods, Nicaragua is still safe to live in for expats, just so long as they don’t get involved.

The urban infrastructure is inhibited greatly by this unrest. There’s often a shortage of fuel, frequent power outages, somewhat limited food supplies, and a heavily censored media. When there’s a big confrontation the internet gets shut off, the roads are blocked, and the paramilitary presence increases greatly. At this point, protests and even looting are usually on deck.

Living in Nicaragua, you’ll have to be ok with this instability and with the domestic violence. You should realize too that you’ll be contributing to a corrupt and repressive government.

Understandably many expats, along with around 60,000 actual Nicaraguan citizens, decide to flee the country.

If you want to know more about the current situation, you really should do your research. At the end of the day, we wouldn’t suggest moving to Nicaragua but that’s just our opinion.

 

How is healthcare in Nicaragua?

Each department of Nicaragua packs its own regional public hospital – the quality of each differs according to where you are.

At the top of the public healthcare ladder is Managua, which is generally well equipped. This is followed by other major cities and a lack of services in rural areas. Generally, public hospitals in Nicaragua are NOT well equipped and not well-versed in English either.

Managua is also the place to go for private hospitals, which are up to Western European standards. The staff at these usually speak English.

If you’re in need of minor treatment, like stitches or a splint, then a local clinic should be able to help you out, no problem. You’ll find medications at local pharmacies and these are actually quite well stocked in most big towns.

If it’s something more serious, then medical evacuation may be your only option. Make sure you have medical insurance! 

The healthcare in Nicaragua has not gone unaffected by the unrest. In August 2018, it was reported that 8 Nicaraguan doctors were fired for treating wounded protesters. Kind of says it all…

 

Helpful Nicaragua Travel Phrases

Learning a bit of Spanish is a great way to get the most out of your trip. When I became fluent in Spanish, it really changed the way I was able to travel in Nicaragua and beyond. It is such a useful language to know! You can speak it in over 20 countries!

Here are a few helpful Nicaragua travel phrases with English translations for your backpacking Nicaragua adventure:

Hello – Hola 

How are you?Cómo estás?

Very goodMuy buena

BeautifulHermoso

Cheers Salud

ShitMierda! (a very light weight insult)

Shit eaterCome Mierda (for better effect!)

What?Qué?

Where?Dónde? 

Do you have a lighter?Tienes un encendedor? 

Two beers pleaseDos cervezas por favor 

Down that beer! – Hasta que la cerveza!

Can you give me a rideMe puedes dar una vuelta?

What is your name?Cómo te llamas? 

How much does this cost?  – Cuánto cuesta? 

Can you give me a discount?Me puede dar un descuento?

 

Final thoughts on the safety of Nicaragua

staying safe in nicaragua

Whether travel to Nicaragua is possible or not, is up to you.

Although plagued by petty theft and civil unrest, Nicaragua is still one of the safer Latin American countries you could choose to visit. It’s an interesting one as well since it’s sandwiched between two of the most visited countries of Central America yet remains generally undiscovered by backpackers. Even so, the tourism industry is the second biggest in the country and it could be even bigger under different circumstances.

With the advent of some serious political trouble in Nicaragua, tourists have been opting to not travel here. At its worst, between May and November of 2018, hostels had closed their doors and tour companies stopped operating. Backpackers ARE starting to trickle back in, but the fact remains that the situation isn’t stable. Even tens of thousands of Nicaraguan citizens still flee their own country.

Ultimately, you’re unlikely to be a target of political violence. Tourism is important to the local economy and some (maybe not all) of your dollars go to supporting the community. So if you do ignore the travel warnings and pluck up the courage to go, make sure you travel safely and responsibly.

If you were to take one thing away from this guide, it’s that anything can happen. In such cases, travel insurance can help you out immensely. Seriously consider buying some.

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Disclaimer: Safety conditions change all over the world on a daily basis. We do our best to advise but this info may already be out of date. Do your own research. Enjoy your travels! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links which means we earn a small commission if you purchase your insurance through this page. This costs you nothing extra and helps us keep the site going. 


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14 Comments

  • Avatar M Alvarado says:

    Is Nicaragua safe? Broad question. It is possible to travel without incident but crime is not a new thing.

    Saying that Nicaragua is ‘back to normal’ is irresponsible and false. Nicaragua will not recover from 2018 anytime soon.

    What people need to understand is that the socioeconomic climate has shifted and regressed decades and it DOES affect tourism deeply.

    It’s expensive and people are desperate. Yes, you can visit but don’t expect anything near 2018 and before. Local estimates point to a seven to ten year recession. Good luck

    • Avatar Jim Holland says:

      what does ” deeply ” mean?
      lack of transportation, dangerous gangs on the highways and cities?
      lack of accommodations? food supply, medicines? vagueness doesn’t help me decide what or when to
      visit. is the ” deeply affected ” areas widespread or localized in Managua/Leon ? I want to visit for 6 months
      in the San Juan del Sur area. is that ok? sometimes recession means lower prices. thanks

  • Avatar Stephanie says:

    You are supporting and helping the people of this beautiful country by going! They should not suffer due to their government! Amazing and beautiful place! Little Corn Island is an absolute paradise fyi!

  • Avatar Jim Holland says:

    I’m going soon, glad I saw the comments at the end as I was thinking of cancelling.

    • Avatar M Alvarado says:

      Hi Jim, I’m replying here cause the comments collapse weird on mobile.

      You ask how deep the crisis is, I will say it’s safe for you to continue with your plans with some caveats:

      Nicaragua used to be affordable. Even cheap. That’s the main problem. After 2018 inflation went above every Central American nation. This affects everything, from the price of a donut to an airplane ticket. Look it up.

      Also, because of the unrest, society has become very insular, distrusting of each other and foreigners and especially the government.

      Third, the services and hospitality industry has collapsed and this creates speculation at every level of the economy. Normally this would result in savings but, like the Airlines, they need to charge more money to fewer visitors as before to make ends meet.

      Can you travel without incident through the country? Well, besides obvious hot spots as Managua, Masaya and Ometepe which have gained a bad status, yes, you can travel safely.

      Going to SJDS will probably turn into a pleasant experience for you especially if you’ve never been there before and have no reference point. So enjoy your trip!

  • Avatar Dolores del Rio says:

    Even if it is the safest among many dangerous countries why would you want to support a government/country that has treated its own people so unfairly. Support other countries with just as much to offer tourists.

    • Art Art says:

      Hi Dolores. Our hope is always that we’re supporting the communities in countries like Nicaragua that benefit from tourists. We don’t support oppressive governments, but we also don’t recommend boycotting these destinations because communities take a much bigger hit than their governments.

  • Avatar Nan McCurdy says:

    Great page but way out of date with lots of incorrect information. Nicaragua is back to normal and is by far the safest nation between Mexico and Columbia. The failed attempted coup ended in July 2018 and there have been no major killings or protests since. I am a United Methodist Missionary who lived in Nicaragua for 31 years – my kids and nieces and nephews and sisters in law are still there and I go at least three times a year. The people are incredibly nice and helpful, the beaches are gorgeous as are so many other areas. Managua has improved by leaps and bounds with good restaurants and hotels in every price category, markets, malls and lots to do downtown which was destroyed in the 1972 earthquake.

    • Avatar Ralph Cope says:

      Hey Nan,

      We are starting to hear from various sources that Nicaragua is indeed safe again. It’s good to hear this too as we love visiting the country.

      Thanks for sharing this with us.

    • Avatar felix a power says:

      thank you for this info. we are planning to spend a month in Granada, and truly look forward to a wonderful experience

  • Avatar John Riccobono says:

    Very captivating and unexpected, as I’ve been to Nicaragua some 30 years ago I’m now in

  • Avatar m gram says:

    Really, What beautiful cathedrals? They are eyesores…

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