Upon arrival in Nicaragua by air, visitors are required to purchase a tourist card for US$10; make sure to have US currency handy.
It's worth checking fares to neighboring Costa Rica, which is an air-conditioned bus ride away and may be significantly cheaper.
Airports & Airlines
Nicaragua’s main international hub is Managua International Airport, a small, manageable airport that receives flights from Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Atlanta and Houston in the US, and several major cities within Central America and Mexico City.
Nicaragua has no national airline, but is served by several major American carriers, as well as Copa and Avianca.
Departure tax is included in the price of tickets.
Visitors entering Nicaragua by land must purchase a tourist card for US$10 and pay a US$2 immigration fee. Land departures are also subject to the immigration fee.
Nicaragua shares borders with Costa Rica and Honduras. Generally, Nicaraguan border crossings are chaotic (there are no signs anywhere), but the procedure is fairly straightforward provided you have your documents in order. Two of the busiest border crossings – with Honduras and Costa Rica – are open around the clock, while the rest have limited opening hours.
Ocotal to Tegucigalpa, Honduras
See the sunny Segovias and the Honduran capital at this major, business-like border. The Las Manos crossing point is efficient, although sometimes crowded.
Somoto to Choluteca, Honduras
A high-altitude crossing that comes with an amazing granite canyon. Crossing point El Espino is laid-back and easy.
El Guasaule to Choluteca, Honduras
The fastest route from Nicaragua, an easy cruise north from León. The El Guasaule 24-hour crossing is hectic and somewhat disorganized.
Sapoá to Peñas Blancas, Costa Rica
The main, 24-hour border crossing is generally easy unless your arrival coincides with an international bus or two, in which case it could take hours. The local municipality charges an additional US$1 fee at this crossing.
San Pancho to Las Tablillas, Costa Rica
Uncrowded border crossing (open 8am to 4pm daily) that uses a bridge and beautifully paved road.
International buses have reclining seats, air-conditioning, TVs, bathrooms and sometimes even food service, and are definitely safer for travelers with luggage. Crossing borders on international buses is generally hassle-free. At many borders the helper will take your passport, collect your border fees, get your stamp and return your passport to you as you get back on the bus. At the Costa Rican border post at Peñas Blancas you must complete the formalities in person.
There are direct bus services (without changing buses) to Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, and connecting services to Panama and Mexico.
Nica Expreso (https://nicaexpreso.online.com.ni) Runs from Chinandega (via Managua) to San José, Costa Rica.
Tica Bus Travels to Costa Rica, Honduras and El Salvador with connecting services to Guatemala, Panama and Mexico.
Transnica Serves Costa Rica, Honduras and El Salvador.
Transporte del Sol Same-day service to Guatemala and San Salvador.
There are several bus companies running direct services between San José and Managua. The journey usually takes around nine to 10 hours and costs around US$30.
Although there is no common border, there are several direct buses a day to San Salvador passing through Choluteca in Honduras. The journey costs US$40 to US$52 and takes around 11 hours, but may be significantly longer if there are delays at any of the two border crossings.
There are two main bus routes between Honduras and Nicaragua. From Tegucigalpa it's around seven hours and costs US$30, while from San Pedro Sula it's 12 hours and costs US$46.
There is a direct service from Managua to Guatemala City that takes around six hours and costs US$70.
Car & Motorcycle
To bring a vehicle into Nicaragua, you’ll need the originals and several copies of the ownership papers (in your name), your passport and a driver’s license.
You’ll get a free 30-day permit (lose it and you'll be fined) and you will need to purchase obligatory accident insurance for US$12. You may also be required to pay US$3 to US$4 for the fumigation of your vehicle. Your passport will be stamped saying you brought a vehicle into the country; if you try to leave without it, you’ll have to pay import duty. It's possible to extend the vehicle permit twice at the DGA office in Managua before you have to leave the country.
You can drive across two border crossings to Costa Rica. The most popular is at Sapoá–Peñas Blancas near Rivas; the crossing at San Pancho-Las Tablillas in the Río San Juan sees few vehicles.
It's possible to drive across the Nicaragua–Honduras border at El Guasaule, Somoto–El Espino and Ocotal–Las Manos.
The river crossing between San Carlos and Los Chiles, Costa Rica is a breeze, but only if you hire a boat to take you down an egret-lined river. Due to the San Pancho bridge, the ferry to Los Chiles no longer exists. From Los Chiles there are regular bus services onto Ciudad Quesada and San José.
You can also cross into Honduras from Waspám to Puerto Lempira, but it’s a serious jungle adventure.
It's now possible to travel directly between Nicaragua and El Salvador by boat through the Golfo de Fonseca. Ruta del Golfo (www.rutadelgolfo.com) runs at least one boat per week to La Union, El Salvador (US$65, 2½ hours) across the picturesque Golfo de Fonseca, typically departing at 12:30pm, with optional 4WD pickup from León at 8:30am (US$99 total). Prices do not include migración (immigration) fees.