NICARAGUA

Nicaragua Flag
Country Description: Nicaragua has a developing economy, and lacks an extensive tourist infrastructure.

Passport and/or Visa Requirements: U.S. citizens must have a passport, an onward/return ticket, and evidence of sufficient funds ($500 minimum) to support themselves during their stay. Passports must be valid for six months beyond the duration of the visit. A visa is not required for U.S. citizens; however, a tourist card valid for 30 days must be obtained upon arrival. Tourist cards as well as airport departure tax fees must be paid in U.S. dollars. A visitor remaining more than 30 days must obtain an extension from Nicaraguan immigration. Failure to do so prevents departure until a fine is paid. For further information, travelers may contact the Embassy of Nicaragua at 1627 New Hampshire Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20009, tel. (202) 939-6570 or (202) 939- 6531, or the consulate in Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, or San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Crime and Security Information: The civil war in Nicaragua ended in 1990. There are frequent accounts of robberies, kidnappings and extortion committed by armed criminal groups, particularly in remote areas in the northern/central departments of Nueva Segovia, Madriz, Jinotega, Matagalpa, Esteli and Boaco. For the most part, these actions are directed at local residents. However, travel in these areas is strongly discouraged. Travelers should be aware of risks involved and travel only on major highways during daylight hours. Violent crime in Managua and other cities is increasing, and street crimes are common. Armed and unarmed robberies occur on crowded buses and in open markets, particularly the large "Mercado Oriental." Though not at levels found in neighboring Central American countries, carjackings and gang activity continue to increase in Managua. Gang violence, including robberies, assaults and stabbings, is particularly prevalent in poorer neighborhoods. Purse and jewelry snatchings from motorists occur at stoplights. Motorists are advised to travel with their windows closed and car doors locked. Political demonstrations and strikes occur sporadically in urban areas, often with little advance warning. Occasionally, these have turned violent. U.S. citizens may wish to avoid any large gathering or crowd.

Boundary disputes involving the governments of Nicaragua, Honduras and Costa Rica persist, particularly in the Caribbean coastal waters adjoining these countries, and on the San Juan River. Passengers and crews of foreign fishing boats have been detained and/or fined and vessels impounded. There also is a boundary dispute with Colombia over San Andres Island and surrounding waters.

The loss or theft of a U.S. passport abroad should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or consulate. Useful information on guarding valuables and protecting personal security while traveling abroad is provided in the Department of State pamphlet "A Safe Trip Abroad." This publication, as well as others, such as "Tips for Travelers to Central and South America," are available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington D.C. 20402.

Road Safety: Road travel after dark is hazardous in all areas of the country. Nicaraguan roads are in poor repair, potholed, poorly lit, frequently narrow, and lack shoulders. Oxcarts, horses and unlit and/or abandoned vehicles are frequently encountered even on main thoroughfares in Managua.

Traditionally, vehicles involved in accidents in Nicaragua are not moved (even to clear traffic) until authorized by a police officer. Drivers who violate this norm may be held legally liable for the accident. Nicaraguan law requires that a driver be taken into custody in any injury accident, even if the driver is insured and appears not to have been at fault. The detention lasts until a judicial decision is reached (often weeks or months) or a waiver is signed by the injured party (usually as the result of a cash settlement), relieving the driver of further liability.

Travel to Honduras on other than principal highways with border crossings at Guasaule, El Espino and Las Manos is potentially dangerous due to criminal elements operating in parts of northern Nicaragua. Because of land mines in certain rural areas in the north, venturing off main roads can be hazardous as well.

Medical Facilities: Medical care is limited, particularly outside Managua. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. Supplemental medical insurance with specific overseas coverage, including provision for medical evacuation, has proven useful in many emergencies.

For further information, travelers may contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's international travelers' hotline at 1-888-232- 3228, their autofax service at 1-888-232-3299, or their Internet home page at http://www.cdc.gov.

Other Information: Though many restaurants and hotels now accept credit cards, acceptance is not as widespread as in the U.S. travelers' checks are accepted at a few major hotels and may be exchanged for local currency at authorized exchange facilities ("casas de cambio").

Drug Penalties: U.S. citizens are subject to the laws of the country in which they are traveling. Penalties in Nicaragua for possession, use and trafficking in illegal drugs are strict, and convicted offenders can expect lengthy jail sentences and expensive fines.

Aviation Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Nicaragua's civil aviation authority as Category 3 -- not in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Nicaragua's air carrier operations. Flights to the U.S. by Nicaragua's air carriers are not permitted unless they arrange to have the flights conducted by a carrier from a country meeting international safety standards. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa.htm. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) does not permit its personnel to use air carriers from Category 3 countries for official business. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the Pentagon at (703) 697-7288. Though hundreds of passengers travel daily on domestic flights within Nicaragua without incident, these flights make use of small, uncontrolled airstrips outside of Managua, with minimal safety equipment and little boarding security. In the last three years, there have been two incidents of hijacking of commuter flights departing from these airports.

Registration/Embassy Location: U.S. citizens may register with the consular section of the U.S. Embassy in Managua, and obtain updated information on travel and security within Nicaragua. The Embassy is located at Kilometer 4 1/2 Carretera Sur in Managua; telephone (505-2) 66-6010.

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