Getting to Nicaragua
- Where to Go
- The Best of Nicaragua
- Nicaragua’s Best Surfing
- Hiking Nicaragua’s Ring of Fire
- Nicaraguan Arts & Crafts
- Nicaragua’s Great Green North
- Sportfishing in Nicaragua
- Down the Río San Juan
- Nicaragua’s Celebrations & Fiestas
- Volunteering in Nicaragua
- Diving & Snorkeling in Nicaragua
- Managua’s Revolutionary Driving Tour
American Airlines (www.aa.com) has daily flights via Miami, Continental Airlines (www.continental.com) via Houston, and Delta Airlines (www.delta.com) via Atlanta. The Salvadoran airline TACA (www.taca.com) also has daily flights from Miami with a brief stopover in San Salvador; this is typically a less expensive flight, but the cheapest possible flight is from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Spirit Airlines (www.spirit.com, you are permitted far less luggage on Spirit).
Nicaragua’s annoying old $30 cash-only exit fee has been eliminated, and the Augusto C. Sandino is a surprisingly decent airport after major reconstruction that lasted four years. From the airport you can arrange rental cars, stop by the INTUR desk for hotel recommendations, and even buy or rent a cell phone. Skycaps will help you with your luggage for about $2; don’t use the services of anyone not sporting a skycap uniform.
The three northern border posts are (from west to east): Guasale, Chinandega; El Espino, Somoto; and Las Manos, Somoto. Travelers who entered the region via Guatemala, Honduras, or El Salvador can enter Nicaragua without getting additional visas thanks to Nicaragua’s participation in the CA-4 Border Control Agreement of 2006. Under the agreement, your initial entry visa is valid for the whole region for up to 90 days and can be extended once with little hassle.
On the southern border, Peñas Blancas is the principal corridor on the Pan-American Highway leading to Costa Rica, and no such agreement exists, so you’ll need a stamp if arriving from Costa Rica. You can also enter Nicaragua in the south from Los Chiles, Costa Rica, a trip that involves a lovely boat ride to San Carlos at the head of the Río San Juan.
We provide detailed border-crossing instructions in the corresponding regional sections of this travel guide. Note that every overland crossing involves two steps: exiting the first country and entering the second. If you forget to get the second stamp in your passport you will regret it.
Driving Across the Border
If you are driving your own vehicle, the process to enter Nicaragua is lengthier, but usually not difficult. You must present the vehicle’s title, as well as your own driver’s license and passport. You will be given a temporary (30-day) permit to drive in Nicaragua, which will cost $10—should you lose the permit, you will be fined $100. Alamo Rent a Car shares cars among Costa Rica and Nicaragua, permitting you to pick up in one country and drop off in another.
By International Bus
A half-dozen long-haul bus companies run between Managua and other Central American capitals, and most are based out of Barrio Martha Quezada in Managua. They each offer competing schedules and prices. Several have affiliate offices in other Nicaraguan cities, like Rivas and León. From Managua to San José, Costa Rica takes about 10 hours and costs $23 each way. To Tegucigalpa, Honduras, is a bit longer and more expensive (up to 12 hours, depending on the line at immigration, and up to $41 each way). Many departures are before dawn, leaving Managua at 3:30–6 a.m., so plan accordingly.
TicaBus (two blocks east of the Antiguo Cine Dorado, tel. 505/2222-6094 or 505/2222-3031, ticabus [at] ticabus [dot] com, www.ticabus.com) is the oldest and best-established Central American international bus company, with three daily departures to San José, as well as service to the rest of Central America with connections all the way to Mexico.
The other companies with stations in Managua (all within a few blocks of each other) are King Quality (tel. 505/2222-3065), Del Sol Bus (tel. 505/2222-7785), Central Line (tel. 505/2254-5431), and Transnica (tel. 505/2277-2104).
© Randall Wood & Joshua Berman from Moon Nicaragua, 4th Edition