Looking for a Nicaragua travel guide? Here’s everything you need to know to experience the best of the country.
With no less than 25 volcanos, Nicaragua has rightfully earned its nickname as country of volcanos. For many travelers, it’s also known as “Costa Rica 20 years ago” as it has many of the same natural wonders (mountains, lakes, lush rain forests and endless miles of sandy beaches), but less of a crowd.
The country vibrates with culture and history from the indigenous, Spanish and Afro Caribbean influences, and it’s still fairly unexplored and a cheap destination.
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Nicaragua travel guide
In this Nicaragua travel guide, I’m sharing the most essential tips and information for a visit to Nicaragua. You’ll find the best activities and adventures, budget tips, visa requirements and more.
How to get around
Getting around Nicaragua is easily done by bus. Apart from local chicken busses and minibuses, you can take the International busses (Ticabus, Transnica and King Quality) between main cities and across borders.
Best things to do in Nicaragua
Here’s a list of the best things to do in Nicaragua from volcano boarding to indigenous markets, surfing and diving.
- León. A colonial town in the Northern part of Nicaragua. It’s home to the largest cathedral in Central America along with stories and murals of the Sandinista Revolution, found around the city.
- Volcano boarding. From León you can test your adventure courage by boarding down an active volcano on a wooden board. This is one of the most thrilling and fun experiences I’ve ever had, so I can highly recommend it! Make sure to book with BigFoot hostel.
- Hike volcanos. Out of Nicaragua’s 25 volcanos, many of them are hikeable for day and night trips. Always go with a guide, though.
- Granada. Considered the historical rival to León, Granada features lots of colonial buildings, churches and architecture.
- Masaya market. The National Artisans Market is selling handicrafts and is Nicaragua’s most famous market.
- Isla Ometepe. A volcanic island in Lake Nicaragua with lots of wildlife and hiking possibilities.
- Corn Islands. Two islands in the Caribbean Sea with jungle, dive sites and perfect crystal clear waters. You can get there by plane or boat.
- Surf in San Juan del Sur. Known to have some of the best surf spots.
Best time to go
The best time to visit Nicaragua is from November through to May, although I must stress that it gets extremely hot in April and May! The rainy season is from June to October during which it is more difficult to travel on the unpaved road throughout the country.
Travelers from most countries will get a 30 day visa at the border, but few countries need a visa in advance. Make sure to check with your local embassy for advice.
Safety in Nicaragua
In general, Nicaragua is safe to visit. Some of the larger issues are pickpocketing, scams and cocaine trafficking on the East coast, but tourists are rarely targeted or involved in major crimes. Use common sense as you would anywhere else and you will be fine.
Nicaragua has been a popular destination for travelers until 2018 when outbreaks of violent protest against the government took place. Since then, the country has tried to maintain its stability and economic growth. This is, of course, something to be wary of when considering a trip to Nicaragua. However, the situation is more stable now (2020) and protests are rare and always prearranged with police forces around. Also, tourists were never targets since the protests aimed to express disappointment with the government. If you decide to visit Nicaragua, my advice is to watch the news and avoid Managua, which is where the majority of the protests took place.
For female travelers
León in particular is dominated by machista: men with an exaggerated sense of masculinity, which shows by domination of women and sometimes aggressiveness. This isn’t something you should be worried about per se, but be prepared to be stared at, catcalled and get unsolicited attention.
Here are some other safety tips, which apply to all of Latin America:
- Don’t walk alone after dark
- Don’t flash your belongings (expensive watch, camera and jewellery)
- Read my general travel safety tips, because many of them will apply here as well
How to travel Nicaragua on a budget
Living expenses in Nicaragua are insanely cheap. You can easily live for $25-$40 per day which includes hostel with hot shower and three daily meals.
Here are my best budget tips:
- Bargain. In supermarkets and stores that have price tags on their items you cannot bargain the price down. But in most open markets it’s a mistake not to. Vendors automatically increase the price as soon as they see you are foreign, so never pay full price.
- Walk. Most towns in Nicaragua are small enough for you to walk around. Unless it’s after dark, save the money for a tuk tuk and take a nice walk instead.
- Avoid International food. Nicaraguan food is based on rice and beans, but buying it will save you a lot of money.
- Buy ‘meal of the day’. Throughout Central America, this concept is a cheap and great opportunity to stay within budget.
- Practice your Spanish. If you speak the language, taxi drivers and local vendors are more likely to expect you to bargain – and thus give you a fair price.
Got questions about my Nicaragua travel guide? Ask me in the comments!
More posts from Nicaragua you might like
- Volcano boarding in Nicaragua: All you need to know
- 12 amazing things to do in Granada Nicaragua
- How to visit the volcanic islets of Granada (Nicaragua)
- 12 epic things to do in Leon Nicaragua
- Hotel review | The luxurious Hotel Granada Nicaragua
- Hotel review | The Oasis hostel, Nicaragua