Overland Nicaragua Travel
Pan American Highway > Nicaragua
Currency to display:
- 1 Visiting Nicaragua
- 2 Entering Nicaragua with a Car or Motorbike
- 3 Driving in Nicaragua
- 4 Gas and Diesel price in Nicaragua
- 5 Safety and Security Considerations
- 6 Camping in Nicaragua
- 7 Navigation
- 8 Special Overland Travel interests
- 9 Vehicle Maintenance
- 10 Buy or sell a car or motorbike in Nicaragua
- 11 References
- 12 Helpful External links
Give a brief overview of what it's like to visit. How easy is the border, how safe is the country, are there great things to see and do, etc.
Entering Nicaragua with a Car or Motorbike
Where indicated, certain sections correct as of: September 2023
(To check if you need a travel Visa for Nicaragua, application instructions and fees see: Nicaragua Visa online application at VisaHQ.com)
- As of November 2021, there is a form that needs to be filled out at least 7 days before arrival to the border. This can be found at https://solicitudes.migob.gob.ni/ Answer follow-up emails from email@example.com with scans of your PCR and passport credential page. Show proof at the border that the application has been approved. It is possible to cross the border without filling out this paperwork beforehand, but the officials will likely give you a little trouble for this and ask for bribes. $10 USD per bribe seems to be acceptable and Overlanders have been asked for 1-2 bribes due to this issue.
- Passport of registered owner (original and 1 copy).
- No Covid-19 requirements were in place in October 2023, but its a good idea to carry the Certiciate of vaccination for Covid-19, most vaccines are accepted so long as it is a full course (2 x pfizer, 1 x J&J, etc.)
- Drivers license of registered owner (original and 1 copy).
- Vehicle registration (original only)
- Vehicle title (original only)
There is also an online form that you can use. https://solicitudes.migob.gob.ni/Tramites/RegistroN
Process at border
- Stop at MINSA booth and surrender you PCR or show vaccine card. They will give you a swatch of stamped paper to indicate they have it. Officer at MINSA may also check your required documents and give you customs declaration form before directing you to enter the compound.
- Proceed to immigration.
- The owner of the vehicle gains entry at immigration (migración), including a stamp in their Passport. This costs $15.00 USD, and can only be paid in $US Dollars. Be sure to get a receipt. (Nov. 2021 update: I paid in Córdobas, but with approx. 10% conversion loss. She had to convert to dollars and wasn't expecting it.)
- Fill out and present the declaration form to the aduana/customs inspector (at the x-ray scanners) and he or a designee will walk out and inspect the vehicle and contents.
- The owner must show the new Passport stamp (including a copy), Drivers license, the original Vehicle registration, the signed declaration form, and the immigration entry receipt to the customs (aduana) window.
- The owner is issued a temporary import permit for the vehicle.
- Fumigation is required and costs $3.00 USD 
- Stop at the police checkpoint and have all papers inspected and possibly have vehicle searched once more. They may have you purchase additional vehicle insurance for $12 USD to let you through.
- Detailed instructions from Oct 2014, including GPS POI's, office locations and pictures can be seen here: Honduras to Nicaragua Border Crossing
NOTE Jan 2023:Detailed step-by-step instructions from 2023 here, including with a pet and camper van: 
NOTE Nov. 2021: I wasn't required to have any copies of anything, but it would have gone more smoothly at immigration with a copy of my now-surrendered PCR. I had a scanned copy on my tablet.
NOTE: You may encounter locals offering to help you with paperwork to get across the border. See Border Crossing Helpers for advice.
UPDATE 6th June 2016 - Crossing from El Salvador to Honduras and then onto Nicaragua at El Espino with a motorcycle. Full details including process, costs, photos and GPS coordinates can all be found at http://www.tiger800rtw.com/?p=1383
Cost of entry
Free for the vehicle import, $4.50 USD for fumigation, $12.00 USD for insurance, $12.00 USD for people.
2 USD pp for your exit from Nicaragua to Costa Rica. They only accept USD in cash; No credit/debit cards, No Cordoba (local currency).
Permitted length of stay
90 days. Nicaragua is part of the CA-4 Border control agreement. This agreement grants travel between Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua for a TOTAL of 90-days. The number of days remaining on your CA4 is written in your passport as you travel from country to country. The 90-day limit begins when you enter any country that is part of the CA4 agreement. To avoid penalty and fines, Exit the CA4 countries and enter into Costa Rica or Mexico/Belize before the 90-days limit expires.
Extension of stay
The vehicle permit can be extended twice for 30 days each time, giving a total of 90 days stay. Do this at the the DGA (aduana/customs) office in Managua shown on the map on the following page Border Crossing Honduras To Nicaragua The official at the DGA in Managua may or may not provide this extension. Or they may give one extension and inform you that they will not give another.
If you overstay your vehicle permit the fine is $50.00 USD + $1.00 USD per day penalty. Straightforward process to pay. There was no discussion or any opportunities to explain ourselves. The people in the parking lot in the baby blue shirts who review the paperwork caught the overstay and directed us inside to do the paperwork. I'd venture to say it was worth not having to go to Managua (twice?) to extend it before it expired. Also I was assured that it wouldn't cause problems when we returned in a few months.
Storing a vehicle and temporarily leaving the country
Border Customs issues a 30 days permit and that can be extended for another 30 days max, for a total of no more than 60 days. If more days are needed it is necessary to make use of a Customs Agency (agencias de aduanas http://www.paginasamarillas.com.ni/servicios/agencias-de-aduanas) for them to issue an expended permission in exchange for a deposit (which depends on the type/mode/year/value of the motorcycle).
In the period that the permission for the motorcycle the owner can leave the country but must return and leave the country with the vehicle before the temporary import permit for the vehicle expires (If that is not respected fines will be applied and the deposit will be lost). In the period that the owner is out of the country no one else can drive the vehicle on the country or the vehicle could be taken by the authorities.
- this information is what I could retrieve from a phone conversation with the custom office of Nicaragua (number found at http://www.dga.gob.ni/) -
Exiting with a vehicle
Ironically, this is much harder than entering the country with a vehicle, and is known to be one of the more difficult "exits" in Central America. The exact process will vary depending on which border you are at.
- Get sign-off on your paperwork from both a customs officer and a police officer.
- Take your temporary import permit and the signatures gained above to customs, where they will sign more things, and cancel the permit.
- The registered owner is stamped out of Nicaragua at immigration.
- When actually driving out, present the piece of paper with signatures, and you are free to leave.
http://livetravelplay.marionette.ca/2015/08/28/border-crossing-nicaragua-to-costa-rica-at-penas-blancas/ has directions for exiting at the new customs/immigation building opened at the Peñas Blancas border on Aug 17, 2015.
Driving in Nicaragua
Recommended books for Overlanding in Nicaragua
Travel Medical Insurance for Nicaragua
IMG Patriot Health Insuraunce is another good option
Vehicle insurance requirements
Car insurance is mandatory
Cost of insurance
About $12.00 USD per month for a 4x4.
Where to purchase insurance
At the border
Technically an International Driving Permit is required.
In reality, showing a license from anywhere in the world seems to be good enough.
Driving side of the road
Right-Hand-Drive vehicles are NOT allowed in Nicaragua (Law 431, Art. 165). We paid a bribe to the transit police at the border to get our vehicle in.
Mandatory items in vehicle
Small sized fire extinguiser and emergency triangle are required to carry.
General Road quality
Roads in Nicaragua are generally of good quality. Lesser roads are gravel and can be very bumpy and rutted, especially near the coast.Main roads on Isla De Ometepe" are "adoquín" or paving stones, even the entrance to the famous "Zopilote" hostel is good. Smaller roads up to Maderas and Concepción volcanoes are gravel/dirt and better suited for 4x4 vehicles or enduro motorcycles.
Road signs are mostly common and clear.
Bribery in Nicaragua
Police bribery is common in Nicaragua, where they actually are trying to enforce road rules like speeding. Locals have stated that $10 USD or a 500 Cordoba bill is reasonable for bribe payments. Always give copies of your documents. But be prepared to be attacked because of that!
See the bribery tips page for advice.
Police checkpoints can be common in Nicaragua. Most of them are on the Pan American highway. You'll be asked to show your Passport, Vehicle registration, drivers license, Car insurance and the temporary import permit you were issued at the border. Most of the time they will ask for a bribery, so be prepared to fight.
Traveling with pets
According to travelers in 2012, you need:  2023 update from a traveler with 2 dogs and a cat:
Travelers in 2013 wrote this when traveling from Honduras to Nicaragua. They had to pay 14U$ for the dog permit.
- Head to agropecuaria/SENASA/cuarantena - located in back right of building when facing Nicaragua side OR in transit area for big trucks if agropecuaria is closed
- Show health certificate from USDA APHIS (USA dogs), Spanish form from a local vet (SENASA form), and vaccine copies
- Show passport/vehicle info as requested
- A Health Certificate for the animal in Spanish (updated at least every four months)
- A vaccination record (the European Pet Passport works well or photocopies from US vet)
- You will pay $10.00 USD per pet
Gas and Diesel price in Nicaragua
Last updated: May 2012 (Diesel October 2013)
Currency and unit to display:
|Regular||$1.00 USD per Liter|
|Premium (95)||$5.47 USD per Gallon (US)|
|Normal Diesel||$1.10 USD per Liter|
|Diesel (low sulfur)||??|
- Price Information: gasoline-germany.com - International Gas / Petrol / Diesel prices - Nicaragua (not updated since 2007)
Gas and Diesel / Frequency
Gasoline shortages in Nicaragua are not a problem. If you are going to Isla De Ometepe, fill up before getting on the ferry to avoid the high prices on the island.
Typically gas stations are not more than 100 - 200km apart.
Gas and Diesel Quality
Accepted to be good quality.
Sulfur content of diesel is pretty high.
Safety and Security Considerations
Driving at night
Driving at night is not considered a huge problem in Nicaragua, though it's not recommended due to safety concerns and road hazards that can not be seen in the dark.
Parking vehicles on the street in smaller towns during the day is typically OK. Find a secure parking lot in big cities and at night. Secure parking will cost around $2.00 USD per night.
Special driving considerations
Police enforce road rules more strictly than other Central American countries, so try to obey the road rules where possible. Speeding and crossing double lines are a sure-fire way to get pulled over, where you will almost certainly have to deal with bribery.
Security advisories and information
- Country Specific Information - U.S. Department of State
- Travel Reports and Warnings - Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
- Travel advice by country - Foreign and Commonwealth office (U.K.)
- Travel Advice for Nicaragua - Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Camping in Nicaragua
Camping is not very popular in Nicaragua, though campgrounds can be found wherever there are backpackers. Organized camping is $2.00 USD to $4.00 USD per person, per night.
Being far away from major roads is preferable for wild camping.
Camping guide books
No specific book exists, though the usual backpacker guide books mention a campground in virtually every town and city, especially near the beach.
Tap water in Nicaragua is not safe to drink. Every corner store sells 1 and 2 liter bottles, and 20 liter bottles can be bought at most large grocery stores.
Reise Know-How are amoung the best paper maps. Purchase paper maps before arriving in Nicaragua
Purchase maps before arriving, good ones are very difficult to find in Nicaragua.
GPS Maps of Nicaragua
- Open Street Map: Appears to have good coverage.
- Cenrut: Free Open Source GPS map of Central America. Coverage is occasionally better than OSM. 
- Garmin: Apparently no map of Nicaragua.
- TomTom: No map of Nicaragua. 
GPS co-ordinates for camping, propane, gas, repairs, etc. in Nicaragua
- iOverlander is a website and iPhone application designed by Overlanders, for Overlanders. It contains GPS co-ordinates and reviews for camping, hotels, propane, water, mechanics, borders and much more.
- Places in Nicaragua - Camping Places & Sights in Nicaragua by Pawsontour
- Nicaragua Campgrounds and Hotels - Life Remotely - List of campgrounds and hostels with photos, GPS co-ordinates, descriptions and amenities from 2012]
- Camping Sites: Nicaragua - Detailed list of campsites and propane filling with description, directions and GPS co-ordinates. Some at hotels (lists facilities and price), some roadside and free.
- Central America Camping Locations - List of campsites, with basic directions and GPS co-ordinates. Mostly free sites.
- Camping Log 1: Central America - List of campsites, shopping, fuel, propane and border crossings with excellent descriptions and GPS co-ordinates.
- White Acorn camping log page - GPS co-ordinates and excellent description of campsites]
Special Overland Travel interests
- Isla De Ometepe - The island is extremely beautiful and you will save a lot of money in taxis if you take your vehicle across on the ferry. In early 2012, the price for a small 4x4 and driver was $25.00 USD one way. Note the roads on the island are extremely dusty and bumpy, and can be extremely slow going. Taking the ferry is an easy process, just show up at the terminal in San Jorge and buy tickets. The crossing takes about an hour. Supermarkets in the nearby town of Rivas are a great place to stock up, as the island is expensive for basics.
4x4s / Trucks
- Toyota Global Dealer Locator
- Land Rover International Dealer Locator
- Mercedes Benz International (select country on bottom right)
- Jeep International site locator
- In Managua check with Bernardo Ortega of Axis Distribuidores Tires and Suspension. He speaks English, understands overlanding and runs the most serious shop we found in Central America. firstname.lastname@example.org
Buy or sell a car or motorbike in Nicaragua
Describe how a foreigner can buy a vehicle. List any difficulties or limitations on where the vehicle can be driven.
Describe how a foreigner can sell a foreign-plated vehicle, or list not possible.'
- Border Crossing Honduras to Nicaragua | Life Remotely
- Central American Borders and dogs,
- Traveling with dogs from Canada to Argentina. Experiences and Infos.
- OpenStreetMap Nicaragua
- Cenrut Mapping Project
- TomTom Map availability