Safety in Nicaragua
Replies: 21 - Last Post: Jan 27, 2013 12:14 PM Last Post By: SoloHobo
Apr 5, 2010 1:52 PM
Safety in NicaraguaJust a word of caution for those traveling in Nicaragua: just got back from a trip there and after talking with several travelers and locals, it seems crime is on the rise. Nicaragua is often billed as being one of the safest Central American countries, but it seems that the increase in tourism and rise in poverty aren't meshing well - more robberies (generally theft using machetes or knives) are being reported. They appear to be targeting tourists (obviously) who wander away from the crowds around touristy areas - Granada, Leon, San Juan del Sur, etc. So far, I haven't hear reports of any bodily harm being done, but it still can ruin a vacation if someone steals your camera, money, or other valuable items. And the more successful they are, the more they will continue to mug people. So please, travel in groups and avoid remote areas unless you're with a tour company.
My three friends (two guys, two girls) rented bikes and rode from Granada to Lake Apoyo, which we'd heard so much about. On our way back, two guys with machetes jumped out and grabbed one of the girl's by her shorts, tearing them. They held a machete to her while taking one of the guy's bag, which had his wallet and her swimsuit and a towel and a small camera. They went after the other guy, but for some reason didn't take his whole backpack, probably because he just gave them what money he had with no argument. They also didn't take our bikes, on which we rode back to Granada as fast as possible. We told the guys we rented the bikes from, and they looked surprised, but didn't really say much except that next time we should stick closer to town (you think?) The majority of Nicas we met were wonderful and helpful and kind, but those men certainly made us look on everyone with suspicion. And it doesn't help that carrying a machete is extremely common. Be warned.
Apr 5, 2010 2:25 PM
Apr 5, 2010 6:09 PM
2I think this could happen anywhere in the region, its best to know where not to go, and where a tourist is a easy target, its also good practice to carry what you cant afford to lose. Take just enough money for the day, a copy of passport and thats it.
As far as Nicaragua and crime, yes it has increased, and reports on this TT are pretty random, with the last few about "Express Kidnappings"where a local male or female of any age befriend a tourist on a bus or or ferry, and just happen to be going where they are headed, split a taxi, and then at gun/knife point drive the tourist around at ATM's until the Account is drained, and drop the tourist in a safe area, without taking their Passports of belongings, just the money....
The other reports from the SJDS area on desolate beach areas, teen punks with machetes mugged tourist on the beach for their belongings.
Again, in a country with so much poverty, a tourist is a target, and you need watch how you look and what you have on you of value.
As far as the Machetes go, considering this is a common tool for men to carry in the tropics, they carry machetes like we carry cell phones. is threatening indeed, but rarely used.
I hate to say this, but this is your second post, why after the fact are using this forum, why not before to learn the issues?
Apr 6, 2010 12:44 PM
3Many big cities in the US have very high crime rates too. This isn't something unique to Nicaragua. If you're traveling somewhere, I would hope you bring common sense with you. Without it, you can get robbed or attacked in plain view at the mall in the safest city in the US.
I traveled alone in Nicaragua as a female in my 20s and didn't have any issues. But then again, I'm not crazy enough to see what happens if I decide to walk around Managua in the middle of the night with diamond earings on.
Apr 7, 2010 8:11 PM
4Crime is common in US big cities, but it is usually much harder to pick out the tourists in America. Not the case in a country like Nicaragua.
Apr 8, 2010 11:04 AM
5Sorry that happened to you. I have been down to Nicaragua several times and never felt unsafe, even at night. However, I do use common sense and don't wander into areas where I proabably shouldn't be (I'm not implying that you did). The Nicaraguans that I have encountered on my trips have always been extremely helpful, kind, and proud to share their country with travelers.
Apr 9, 2010 2:36 PM
6I am sorry about your experience, too. I guess I was lucky. I always felt absolutely safe everywhere I traveled. There is police at every corner and many security guards guard specific places at night as well (some do sleep like logs, though). The only time I felt I was going to die was on my way to the airport on a cab. The guy was literally falling asleep. The taxi was going side to side and his eyes were closing every now and then. I was lucky it was @ 4:30 in the morning, but I kept talking to him and touching his shoulder... 50 minutes of my life I will never get back!
Apr 9, 2010 10:54 PM
7Yes I too just got back from Nicaragua and heard 3 stories of people getting robbed. One story was of stupidity of a guy getting in a car for a ride in Managua... of course he got robbed of his belongings and they got $600 cash out of his credit card. Another person rented a car and drove south from San Juan del Sur to another beach and when they were driving slowly along the bumpy dirt road, people jumped out of the ditch holding guns but the driver just floored it and got away. Another person got mugged walking up to the Jesus statue overlooking SJDS.
I felt safe for the most part but my group of friends was a target of a pickpocket up north in Esteli. The guy was very blatant about it and we caught him in the act. Multiple people in Esteli made it very clear they didn't like the gringos in town.
I did go against my better judgment and stayed in a cab after he let his "brother" hop in the back in the town of Rivas. I was traveling from Ometepe Island to San Juan del Sur and we stopped for gas in Rivas. Next thing I know the driver's "brother" got in the back. I told the driver NO 5 times but for some reason my gut was telling me it was the truth and that he was giving his brother a ride home afterwards. Everything worked out fine and they were both very nice people. But my brain told me to jump out with my bags and I would recommend that option to anyone as taxi muggings happen all the time.
Apr 11, 2010 4:37 PM
Apr 18, 2010 3:33 AM
9For what its worth and maybe i'm paranoid but my safety procedure is the following:
Wear local clothes on the dowdy side(I prefer safety to fashion).As a man this includes a sombrero check shirt worn loosley outside a pair of jeans. any valuables are out of sight. A flat bum bag can then be worn inside the shirt with camera, cash, copy passport, compass, whistle, small pocket knife. By the way I am ofter mistaken for a local.
Walk on the shaded side of a street. You will be less noticed.
Sit and watch cash ATMs/Cajeras for 5 minutes before you use them. Just to see if anyone else is doing the same. After use vary your route if you are on foot walking into and out of shops for example and doubling back.
Taxis are a weak point. I prefer a mature taxi driver rather than a young guy.Other safety tips are all over the threads on Thorn tree.
Dont worry after that. You have done what you can. Just enjoy and relax.
Apr 18, 2010 6:11 AM
10Actually most local men in Nicaragua are dressed better than the average tourist from America, dowdy is not a fashion option for them, their basis for fashion revolves around the cowboy, ricky martin and cuban baseball players, so take it up a notch, and get a haircut before you go or when you arrive, as a Nica is always well trimmed, groomed and has a pressed shirt, leather belt, leather shoes wears pant, not shorts, meaning 75% of the tourist, stand out like sore thumbs.
Apr 18, 2010 7:24 PM
Apr 19, 2010 11:16 AM
12After reading a few of these posts about safety, I'm starting to have second thoughts about my trip to Nica. I'm a female looking to travel to SJDS to study spanish for a couple of weeks alone. I was thinking that I would arrange for the school to pick me up directly from the airport in Managua and take me back so I wouldn't have to worry about shady taxis. Does anyone have thoughts as to how safe it would be for a female traveling alone in SJDS? I plan to do a homestay and would stay away from desolate areas, but I still worry about safety... This is my first solo trip, so any feedback would be greatly appreciated!
Apr 19, 2010 12:03 PM
13Don't stress yourself out unnecessarily. I am a female in my 20s and traveled in Nicaragua alone without issues. I took chicken buses everywhere.
There are lots of travelers everywhere and if you have any common sense at all, you'll be fine. Just avoid Managua if you can, or if you have to be there at any point, don't walk around alone at night. SJDJ is a huge tourist place. It's full of young backpackers. You'll be just fine.
If the school doesn't pick you up, you can also pre-book a shuttle via Paxeos.
Apr 19, 2010 12:11 PM
Los AngelesBook now
(3 star Hotel)
From US$214.47 per night
Panama CityBook now
(4 star Hotel)
From US$175.67 per night
San SalvadorBook now
(4 star Hotel)
From US$113.52 per night