Looking for important travel information while backpacking in Nicaragua? Here you will find information on working in Nicaragua, entry visas, Nicaragua hostels, and much more.
Table of Contents
- Facts About Nicaragua
- Things to do in Nicaragua
- Entry Visa Requirements for Nicaragua
- Work Permits and Backpacker Jobs in Nicaragua
- Nicaragua Hostels
Facts About Nicaragua
Nicaragua has always had a vibrant, multi-faceted culture. From beaches to active volcanoes, hiking adventures to colonial towns, Nicaragua’s got something for everyone, which explains why it has become such a popular destination for backpackers and tourists alike in recent years.
Climate in Nicaragua
When deciding the best time to visit Nicaragua, weather plays an important role. Located just north of the Equator, the climate in Nicaragua is hot and tropical. The dry season runs roughly from December to April and is the best time to visit, though temperatures can soar to uncomfortable heights in places. During the rainy season, though, it can really pour with rain, and mountainous regions can get much colder than the humid lowlands.
Temperatures do not vary too greatly year-round, with Nicaragua’s temperature tending to fall in the mid-to-late 20o during any given month. The BBC weather website has a comprehensive and often accurate five-day forecast for Nicaragua though you will need to search more widely to find more specific local breakdowns.
Things to do in Nicaragua
Travellers to Nicaragua will encounter a curious mix of American surfers on ‘Spring Break’, earnest bird-watching ecologists, gap-year students, as well as the backpackers, families and even a Nicaraguan or two.
A colonial town on the shores of Lago Nicaragua. The main part of town has romantic cobblestone streets with lush inner courtyards in almost all of the buildings. Take a canoe trip to visit ‘Las Isletas’ the man islands found in Lago Nicaragua which were formed when nearby Volcano Masaya exploded and catapulted huge chunks of earth into the lake.
A sleepy town in the coffee region of Nicaragua. This is a great idea for when the weather is unbearably hot in the lower altitude regions. Escape the heat, visit a coffee farm in La Selva Negra (Black Forest in Spanish, named by the German immigrants who made Nicaragua their home).
Another impressive colonial town. Also famous as a jumping-off point for the volcanic tours and volcano boarding. You can even roast s’mores over live embers on the face of the volcano. Most tours stay until dark to catch a glimpse of the embers below.
San Juan del Sur
Affectionately nicknamed San Juan de Surf, this is a great place to stop and take some surf lessons. There is a relaxed beach town vibe here, with locals and backpackers striking a balance and mixing nicely. While in San Juan del Sur, be sure to take a walk to the viewpoint at the top of the hill to see the beautiful crescent-shaped bay below. The surfing in Nicaragua is justifiably famous, with the most skillful and daring heading to excellent breaks off the rugged Pacific coastline.
Nature and Wildlife in Nicaragua
And if it’s flora and fauna you want, Nicaragua is the place to be. The mountains and jungles have extremely high biodiversity, and you might catch a glimpse of exotic creatures, from wildcats to giant spiders. Tours vary from arduous camping expeditions to gentle guided strolls around the national parks.
The capital’s malls and markets sell everything: fruit and vegetables, knock-off designer clothing, genuine designer clothing, native arts and crafts, local food and music.
Unique Activities in Nicaragua
Another good way to get an idea of things to do while backpacking Nicaragua is to scan the activities offered by Get Your Guide or Viator. They work directly with local operators for the biggest tourist spots in Nicaragua, so you won’t have to scour the internet or roam around town trying to find the best deal.
How to Travel Around Nicaragua
Although it is possible to travel to Nicaragua by sea, this is a lengthy and often expensive option, most of the traffic comes from the pleasure-boat industry and from trading ships rather than independent travellers. Most people arrive in Nicaragua by air or overland.
It is possible to fly to Nicaragua indirectly from the UK, changing in Europe, the USA or Latin America (or all three).
If you’re flying to Nicaragua, we recommend using a few different flight comparison search engines. Kiwi is a new favourite among travellers. On average, we have found the cheapest flights to Nicaragua with them compared to the other websites out there.
Of course, it is always worth checking Skyscanner to guarantee you’re getting the best deal. Both websites offer great flexible search options, allowing you to see prices for a full month if you’re flexible on travel dates.
Bus travel in Nicaragua
Overland from Costa Rica or Honduras, the bus is your best bet. Buses to and from the border are reliable and surprisingly frequent from across Costa Rica and Honduras, it should be fairly easy to find a connection by checking at the bus station in any town.
Nicaragua is a small country compared to some of its Latin American neighbours, so it is easy to travel around the country on public transport. And like most of its Latin American neighbours, the bus is usually the most comprehensive and most frequent public transport system. Buses are reliable and mostly safe, though the comfort factor can be quite erratic, with air-conditioned coaches showing American DVDs and overheated, overcrowded minivans running the same routes.
Taxis in Nicaragua
Taxis are cheap in Nicaragua and can often be a convenient, economical alternative to car hire, particularly given the less-than-desirable state of provincial roads. However, if you want a bit more freedom, you can rent a car to explore the country.
Backpacking Tours in Nicaragua
Though part of the fun of backpacking Nicaragua is exploring on your own, there are situations, especially when venturing off the tourist trail, when it does make sense to go with a guide or a small group. For these times, a popular option among backpackers is G Adventures. They hand-select local guides to ensure authenticity and quality.
This is especially a good option for those travelling Nicaragua alone who would like to meet up with like-minded travellers. Their most popular trips in Nicaragua are their 17-day Backroads of Central America: Craters & Community Guesthouses tour and their 17-day 18-30somthings trip, Volcano Trail: Waves and Local Ways tour.
Health and Safety in Nicaragua
UK residents can apply for a comprehensive, up-to-date report on health issues for travellers in Nicaragua. The personal report, which includes recommended vaccinations, foreign office travel health advice, advice on seasonal diseases and up-to-date health news, is available from the Medical Advisory Services for Travel Abroad (MASTA). The MASTA website also has details of locations of travel clinics to visit before you leave.
Broadly speaking, Nicaragua is a fairly safe country to travel to health-wise, so long as you don’t take any foolish risks. Make sure you are vaccinated before you travel and carry a certificate of vaccinations with you.
The Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization advise the following vaccinations for Nicaragua: Hepatitis A &B, Typhoid, Yellow Fever vaccinations for all travellers, as well as a number of others including Rabies for travellers who will be visiting at-risk areas or living long-term in Nicaragua or Latin America. Check with your doctor for up-to-date advice.
As with travel to all other countries abroad, it is vital that you get travel insurance before you leave. Tap water in Nicaragua may be unfit for consumption so bottled water is recommended. Be careful of food from street vendors – choose a busy outlet if any at all.
Entry Visa Requirements for Nicaragua
Travellers are officially required to give proof of onward travel on entry into Nicaragua, that is, whether you are arriving into the airport or over land, you will need to be able to prove you have a ticket to leave the country. On entry into the country, you will be given a 30-day stamp on your passport, which stay can be extended at immigration offices in one of Nicaragua’s large cities.
British, Australian, Canadian, US, and EU citizens to not require a visa to travel to Nicaragua. However, the Nicaragua government will require travelers to purchase a $10 tourist card upon entry. This allows for a stay of up to 90 days.
Anyone staying longer than 90 days in any of the CA-4 countries (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua) will need to obtain a visa. All travelers will need a visa that is valid for at least more 6 months after the point of entry. Citizens of some other countries will need to apply for a visa before entry into Nicaragua.
The particularities of these entry requirements and the countries they apply to have been known to change, so it’s best to contact the Nicaraguan Embassy well before you travel in order to ensure that you have your papers in order. The British Nicaraguan Embassy can be contacted from anywhere via their website. Contact details for the Nicaraguan diplomatic missions around the world can also be found here.
Work Permits and Backpacker Jobs in Nicaragua
The Nicaraguan government has traditionally tried to minimise native poverty by tough immigration laws which make it hard for foreigners to find work in Nicaragua. However, foreign students and travellers can find casual, short-term or part-time work as farm labourers and bar workers. However, it is vital that young foreign workers respect the needs of local labourers as well as legal restrictions when job-searching.
Teaching English in Nicaragua
The other option for the non-skilled or casual (English-speaking) worker in Nicaragua is to teach English, either through a language school in the city or offering independent tutorials.
Volunteering in Nicaragua
Although serious restrictions exist on paid work, a great number of foreign gap-year students and travellers commit to unpaid volunteering in Nicaragua, which can be rewarding in that it is educational, fun, and a great way to really get into local cultures. They vary wildly, from wildlife conservation projects with the Wildlife Conservation Society, to government-run internships to English teaching or sports coaching in remote villages. Check charity and government websites for information on current projects.
The Official Language in Nicaragua
Spanish is the official language of Nicaragua and working knowledge of Spanish will be more than enough to get around Nicaragua.
Nicaraguan Spanish differs in a number of minor but not insignificant ways from European Spanish. It is worth investing in a Latin American Spanish guidebook in order to learn about the different forms, particularly as it is possible (though unlikely) that you may encounter some confusion or even hostility if speaking with textbook inflexions. However, some basic Spanish phrases should get you far:
Nicaragua Hostels and Budget Accommodation
Although there are limited property-rentals and package tours available, most backpackers in Nicaragua will find themselves staying in a hostel or guesthouse as the cheapest and often most sociable accommodation. We have had good experiences finding hostels on HostelWorld. They have the largest inventory of hostels worldwide, and with over 10 million reviews and ratings from other travellers, you know exactly what to expect.
Another good way to find accommodation in Nicaragua is by checking hotels.com and booking.com. With both sites, you’ll not only find hotels, but also homestays, hostels, and other unique accommodation. We have discovered some great finds and have appreciated the ability to book ahead. You can use their advanced filtering to narrow your results by budget, location score, overall review score, and amenities. Many of the places on booking.com also offer free cancellation, which takes the pressure off the planning phase of your trip.
In provincial Nicaragua, it is not unlikely you’ll find yourself in a place where there’s no official ‘tourist accommodation’ option, and even in the city, there’s often a very fine line between a family-run guesthouse and staying in a family’s spare room.
This tends to be a positive thing as with a little asking-around you can often find cheap accommodation with a friendly host, although the practice is dying out as tourism grows and the spread of official hostels, and of course, international hotel chains, continues.
It is rarely necessary to pre-book a hostel or hotel in Nicaragua, though many have websites and it can be reassuring to do so for your first nights in a town. When visiting for feast days and carnival this is also advisable.
Useful links for Backpacking in Nicaragua
- Visit Nicaragua – tourism website with lots of information for backpacking Nicaragua
- Kiwi and Skyscanner – Flight comparison search engines to find the cheapest flights to Nicaragua and within the country
- GetYourGuide and Viator – a collection of things to do in Nicaragua. Also offers Skip the Line tickets for crowded attractions
- Tiqets – Website selling entrance tickets and skip the line tickets for major tourist spots in Nicaragua
- G Adventures – guided small group backpacking tours in Nicaragua, great for solo travellers in Nicaragua or for those interested in a more adventurous trip which would require a guide
- HostelWorld – #1 hostel search website to find a hostel while backpacking Nicaragua. Thousands of hostels and millions of reviews from fellow travellers
- Booking.com – commonly used accommodation booking site in Nicaragua. Hostels, hotels, and other unique accommodation with advanced filtering and millions of reviews
- Travel Insurance – read our comprehensive overview of Travel Insurance and some recommended providers for your backpacking trip to Nicaragua
There you have it, the ultimate Nicaragua backpacking guide. We hope you have found all the information you need for backpacking around Nicaragua.
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