Travel Alert Status
Level 3: Reconsider Travel
The government of Nicaragua arbitrarily enforces laws for political purposes. Throughout Nicaragua, government officials and law enforcement continue to target those opposed to the rule of President Ortega. The government and its affiliated groups have been reported to:
Systematically target opposition figures (regardless of nationality), including former allies, political activists, business representatives, clergy, human rights advocates, and members of the press.
Arbitrarily detain pro-democracy advocates.
Prevent certain individuals from departing Nicaragua by air or land for political reasons.
Arbitrarily seize and/or search private property including personal phones and computers for anti-government content.
Arbitrarily detain individuals with unfounded charges of terrorism, money laundering, and organized crime for political motives.
U.S. citizens have reported being subject to this treatment, including harassment and assault by masked individuals. U.S. citizen residents of Nicaragua also report increased scrutiny of alleged political speech and additional scrutiny by immigration officials.
Travelers should exercise increased caution and be alert to the risks of crime, including violent crimes such as sexual assault and armed robbery.
Poor infrastructure in parts of the country limits the Embassy’s ability to assist U.S. citizens in emergencies. U.S. government personnel may be subject to restrictions on their movements at any time.
Safety and Security
As in many developing countries, Nicaragua presents a number of security concerns to which travelers should pay close attention. Political demonstrations and strikes continue to occur sporadically, are usually limited to urban areas, and occasionally become violent. Typically, protests in Managua take place at major intersections or rotundas. Activities observed during past protests include, but are not limited to, the use of tear gas, rubber bullets, fireworks, rock-throwing, tire burning, road blocks, bus/vehicle burning, and physical violence between members of rival political parties. Police have often been slow to respond, and reluctant to interfere in violent confrontations between rival political factions. Because even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can escalate into violence, U.S. citizens are advised to avoid crowds and blockades during such occurrences, to monitor local media reports, and to exercise caution when in the vicinity of any large gathering.
The country’s spectacular landscape presents additional safety concerns. Strong currents off sections of Nicaragua's Pacific coast have resulted in a number of drownings. Powerful waves have also caused broken bones, and sting ray injuries are not uncommon at popular beaches. Warning signs are not posted, and lifeguards and rescue equipment are not readily available. Those visiting Nicaragua's beaches should exercise appropriate caution, as even the most experienced swimmers and surfers have drowned.. In the past 18 months, four U.S. citizens have drowned in the waters of Nicaragua’s Pacific coast.
Hiking in volcanic or other remote areas can be dangerous and travelers should take appropriate precautions. Hikers should have appropriate dress, footwear, and sufficient consumables for any trek undertaken. Individuals who travel to remote areas are encouraged to hire a reputable local guide familiar with the terrain and area. Individuals hiking Volcan Maderas and/or Volcan Concepcion on Ometepe Island are required by law to hire a local guide. Hikers have perished or lost their way on these volcanoes. While they may look like easy climbs, the terrain is treacherous. Volcanic activity recently increased, resulting in a minor eruption of the Volcan San Cristobal near Chinandega in September 2012 and increased seismic activity under other volcanoes. U.S. citizens in an area of volcanic activity should heed the advice of local authorities and, if necessary, evacuate to safe areas.
Domestic travel within Nicaragua by land and air, particularly to the Atlantic coast, can be risky. Domestic airlines are generally up to international standards, but when flying to more remote locales, travelers should be aware that airports are likely to be poorly developed facilities with short airstrips, minimal safety equipment, and little boarding security.