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Area, Geography, and Climate Last Updated: 8/12/2005 3:54 PM

The largest of the Central American Republics, Nicaragua borders Costa Rica to the south and Honduras to the north. It covers 57,143 square miles (about the size of Wisconsin) and includes the region's largest fresh water lakes-Lake Nicaragua and Lake Managua, which total 3,500 square miles. The country is divided into three geographic areas: the Pacific Coastal Plains, the Central American Highlands, and the Caribbean Lowlands.

The Pacific Coastal Plains, to the west of the country, are dry and include low mountain ranges near the sea. Most of Nicaragua's population lives in this region. Managua, the capital, is located in this area. The plains surround Lake Managua and Lake Nicaragua and extend north to the Gulf of Fonseca. A series of young volcanoes, many still active, dot the plains' landscape. The tallest volcanoes reach 5,700 feet, and two are visible from Managua.

The mountainous Central American Highlands region runs from northwest to southeast across the middle of the country. The climate in this area, which includes the sparsely populated provinces of Matagalpa and Jinotega, is wet and cool. Most of the coffee in the country comes from these provinces.

The Caribbean Lowlands of Eastern Nicaragua make up about one-third of the national territory. Tropical rain forests and pine flats dominate its landscape. The main city in the Caribbean Coast is Bluefields, which according to legend receives its name from a Dutch pirate. The Corn Islands, off the coast from Bluefields, offer limited hotel facilities in a beautiful Caribbean setting.

There are basically two seasons in Nicaragua, a hot and dry summer that lasts from mid-November to mid-May, and a hot and rainy winter that lasts from mid-May to mid-November. The frequent and heavy tropical showers of the rainy season are short in duration but can become violent electrical storms. In Managua, the average daily high temperature ranges from 79°F to 93°F. Nights are usually temperate. In the east coast high temperatures can reach 84°F, while in the mountains they can dip as low as 61°F.

From the unspoiled beauty of Corn Island to the lovely lake views near the colonial city of Granada or the stark beauty of the semi-active volcano located between Managua and Masaya, Nicaragua offers appealing landscapes. Volcanic Lakes Xiloa and Apoyo, near Managua, are excellent for swimming and day sailing, and provide relief from the heat. Pacific Ocean beaches are just an hour away from Managua. The cooler rainforest mountains of Esteli and Matagalpa are also just a few hours drive away.

Population Last Updated: 8/12/2005 3:54 PM

It is estimated that there are 5.3 million people in Nicaragua. More than 1 million reside in the capital city, Managua, which is also the country's commercial and cultural center. The population of Managua and throughout the Pacific region is predominantly Catholic mestizo.

While sparsely populated, the east coast is home to various distinct ethnic groups: Afro-Caribbean and indigenous Miskito, Sumo, and Rama peoples. These groups differ culturally and linguistically from each other and from their Spanish-speaking countrymen in the western and central regions. The black population of the Caribbean coast speaks English Creole, while the indigenous communities have maintained their native languages.

The central corridor of Nicaragua has grown substantially in the past 10 years, both in terms of population and economic activity. Spanish speaking mestizos and some of the same indigenous groups that predominate in the east populate this region.

Public Institutions Last Updated: 8/12/2005 3:56 PM

Nicaragua is a constitutional democracy, with a directly elected president, vice president, and unicameral legislature. The Constitution distributes power and authority among the four co-equal branches of government: executive, legislative, judicial and the Supreme Electoral Council. The President heads the Executive Branch and appoints a cabinet. A single-chamber, 92-member National Assembly exercises legislative power. In November 2001, voters elected Enrique Bolaños Geyer of the Liberal Constitutionalist Party (PLC) as President in a generally free and fair election. This was Nicaragua's third democratic election since 1990. The elections have helped to bring about a transition to democracy, stability and peace after the civil war of the 1980's. The next presidential vote will be held in November 2006.

The National Assembly consists of 90 elected members, including 20 deputies from nationwide lists and 70 from lists presented in each of the 15 departments and the two autonomous regions. Two additional seats are reserved for the outgoing President and the presidential runner-up. As of 2005, the National Assembly was comprised of the following: 43 Partido Liberal (PLC) seats, 38 Frente Sandinista (FSLN) seats, 8 seats for the Azul y Blanco caucus, and 2 seats held by the Camino Cristiano party.

The judicial system, which comprises both civil and military courts, has been hampered by arcane legal codes and corruption. Judges' political sympathies, corruption, or pressure from political leaders often influence judicial actions and findings.

Freedom of speech is a right, guaranteed by the Nicaraguan Constitution, and vigorously exercised by its people. Diverse viewpoints are freely and openly discussed in the media and in academia. Nicaragua does not use state censorship. Other constitutional freedoms include peaceful assembly and association, freedom of religion, and freedom of movement within the country, as well as foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation. Domestic and international human rights monitors operate freely within the country.

Both the military and police are increasingly professional and apolitical. The President is the supreme chief of the national defense and security forces. The government established the civilian defense ministry in 1997; however, the Minister of Defense has only limited authority over the military under the constitution. The Ministry of Government oversees the National Police, which is charged formally with internal security. In rural areas, however, the police share this responsibility with the army.

Arts, Science, and Education Last Updated: 8/12/2005 3:58 PM

The advance of democracy in Nicaragua has made it possible for the arts and culture to develop free from political agendas. Within budget constraints, the government supports the arts through the National Institute of Culture, which is located in one of the oldest and most beautiful buildings in the city. Resources for cultural activities are limited, despite the best efforts of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and universities to complement the government's support.

Nicaragua has a National School of Dance, a National School of Fine Arts, and a National Conservatory of Music, along with several private schools dedicated to the arts. There are also some privately-owned art galleries, dance studios, theatres, and live-music clubs. The Rubén Darío National Theatre frequently hosts the best representatives of the national performing arts, and occasionally prominent international artists as well.

Nicaraguans are particularly proud of Rubén Darío, the late XIX century poet credited with the introduction of modernism to Spanish poetry. In addition to having the impressive National Theater named after him, there is a museum dedicated to his memory in his native León. Ruben Darío's legacy is present in contemporary Nicaraguan poetry and close to the heart of every Nicaraguan. Indeed, it has been said that, influenced by the memory of Rubén Darío, every Nicaraguan is a poet.

The Embassy supports the work of the Centro Cultural Nicaraguense-Norteamericano (CCNN), a nonprofit bi-national center located about 10 minutes from the Embassy. In addition to offering English-language instruction, the CCNN works with the Embassy in the organization of educational and cultural events.

Commerce and Industry Last Updated: 8/12/2005 3:59 PM

With a gross domestic product of $4.4 billion and a per capita income of less than $800 in 2004, Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. The economy grew at a fairly strong 5.1% rate in 2004, but unemployment and underemployment remain high (6.5% unemployment and 29.6% underemployment in November 2004 according to official figures). Nicaragua is heavily dependent on foreign economic assistance and remittances from Nicaraguans living in the United States and Costa Rica.

In the mid 1990s, the Nicaraguan economy enjoyed strong growth, supported by high international prices for Nicaragua's leading commodity exports, especially coffee. At the end of the decade, the economy was boosted by a surge in economic assistance following the devastation of Hurricane Mitch and an unsustainable level of borrowing and deficit spending during the administration of Arnoldo Alemán. In January 2004, Nicaragua qualified under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative for debt relief of $5.1 billion out of its $6.5 billion foreign debt. The failure of several of Nicaragua's banks due to mismanagement and corruption and the issuance of bonds to finance the settlement of property claims resulting from expropriations by the Sandinista regime of the 1980s are among the key factors that left the country with a high domestic-debt burden of close to $1.5 billion.

Nicaragua is among the most agriculturally-based economies in Latin America. The country's agricultural sector is largely characterized by small-scale land ownership and low-technology production. Including livestock and dairy production, agriculture comprised 15.2% of GDP in 2003, with fisheries and forestry adding another 2.5%. While livestock and dairy production have seen steady real growth over the past decade, other areas of agricultural production, especially coffee, have seen sharp fluctuations. Manufacturing made up 14.3% of GDP in 2003, low by Latin-American standards. Construction made up 7% in 2003, recovering ground after suffering a real decline of 7.7% in 2002. The tourism industry, though relatively undeveloped, is seen by the Nicaraguan government as a sector with strong potential.

Nicaragua experienced a decline in exports in 2001 after coffee prices collapsed, and again in 2002, but 2003 exports were up 7% as coffee prices improved, while 2004 exports increased 25%, for a record $756 million, mainly as a result of better export prices. In 2004, coffee remained the leading export commodity, earning US$124 million, followed by beef (US$110 million). Other leading exports included shrimp, lobsters, gold, peanuts, cattle and sugar. Manufactured products from Nicaragua's free-trade zones, mainly apparel assembly, have rapidly become a key contributor to the Nicaraguan economy, accounting for over 66,000 jobs as of October 2004. Net exports from the free trade zones were approximately US$144 million in 2004. The United States is by far Nicaragua's largest trading partner.


Automobiles Last Updated: 10/6/2005 12:38 AM

Because of unsafe and unreliable public transportation, a car is essential in Managua. The most popular cars are small-sized, four- or six-cylinder, U.S., or Japanese models. Many people, especially those who like to explore off-the-beaten tracks, find four-wheel-drive vehicles very useful on Nicaragua's road system. High-ground clearance for speed bumps and potholes is also an asset. Good gas mileage is also a priority, however, as gasoline is very. Several Japanese and American (GM and Ford) distributorships have vehicles that sell above U.S. prices, but their models do not meet U.S. specifications. For current information on locally purchased cars, contact the GSO. Several car rental agencies, including Budget and Avis, operate in Managua. Prices for rental cars are higher than in the U.S.

The GSO provides home-to-office shuttle transportation to and from the embassy at a cost of $2.70 each way.

The quality of repairs in local garages varies greatly. Labor is cheaper than in the U.S., but parts and tires cost much more than in the U.S. Also, many parts will not be available locally. Parts and tires can be ordered from Miami suppliers via APO or sea freight; however, it is recommended that you bring an extra set of tires and spare parts in your household effects (HHE).

If you wish to ship a car to Nicaragua, it must be fairly new. Nicaraguan Government pollution-control laws prohibit the import of cars that are more than 10 years old.

Cars shipped to the U.S. Dispatch Agent in Miami are surface shipped to Puerto Cortes, Honduras, and then transported overland to Managua. It takes approximately 3 weeks from the time the vehicle arrives at US Dispatch in Miami and the employee can take possession in Managua. Send your car in good mechanical condition, and with good tires and undercoating. It is highly recommended that anything that can be stolen from inside or outside the vehicle, including stereos, be removed. Do not pack anything in your car to be shipped down.

Most employees have air-conditioned cars. The tropical climate, humidity, rain, dust, and rough road conditions all contribute to heavy wear-and-tear on tires and vehicles. The GSO recommends against bringing a convertible-they offer less protection from the elements and are more susceptible to vandalism.

Unleaded gasoline, including super and diesel, is readily available, but expensive. American Employee Association (AEA) members may purchase gasoline at a lower price at the Casa Grande gas station.

Automobile registration and vehicle license plates are requested through the GSO. In order to drive, you must have a valid driver's license; the government of Nicaragua will not issue a driver's license based on your diplomatic status. The minimum driving age is 18 years. Employees entitled to duty-free privileges may register two vehicles. However, a vehicle may not be sold earlier than 6 months prior to the employee's expected date of transfer. The vehicle may be sold duty-free two years after its entry into the country.

All vehicles must have local third-party-liability insurance coverage in order to receive license plates. Many employees pay for additional comprehensive insurance protection from U.S. firms. Driving, especially at night, is often hazardous due to local driving habits, insufficient lighting, and the condition of roads and other vehicles. In addition, pedestrians, vendors, beggars, and animals often wander in the driving lanes, posing a risk to themselves and to others.

Local Transportation Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:01 PM

The Embassy recommends against using local transportation for safety and security reasons. Most taxis are mid-'70 Japanese models, Soviet-made Ladas in poor condition or old model Korean compacts. Cabdrivers often pick up additional passengers; making routes indirect and uncertain. The local bus system connects all parts of the city for a low fare, but buses are uncomfortable and overcrowded and often in poor condition. Pickup trucks ("camionetas") carry passengers as well. For safety reasons, as well as overcrowding and exposure to the elements, camionetas are not recommended means of transportation either. A large percentage of the traffic accidents are caused drivers who fail to observe the normal rules of the road. The frequent and sudden stops of buses and taxis aggravates the already difficult driving conditions.

Regional Transportation Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:02 PM

The Managua International Airport is located 11 kilometers from Managua. Managua is currently served by several airlines, including American, Continental, COPA and TACA. All four carriers fly to the U.S. directly or via regional connections. American carriers offer daily direct flights to Miami and to Houston. TACA and COPA provide connections to Central and South America. Two local airlines, La Costena and Atlantic Airlines, provide domestic service that links Nicaragua's Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Tickets for all airlines are purchased in U.S. currency, and credit cards are accepted.

Nicaragua has a primary highway system connecting principal cities by paved but unevenly-maintained roads. The highway network is mostly confined to the populous Pacific coast of the country. One paved road extends east to the port of El Rama on the east coast. The Pan American Highway (all paved but unevenly maintained) is the country's major travel artery. It enters Nicaragua in the north from Honduras at El Espino and exits to the south at Peñas Blancas on the Costa Rican border. The El Espino-Managua section of the Pan American Highway has undergone a major refurbishment.

Various privately owned bus companies have routes connecting Managua with all of western Nicaragua. Regional bus companies offer services to El Salvador, Costa Rica and Honduras.


Telephones and Telecommunications Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:03 PM

Local and long-distance telephone service is available in Managua. Telephone services are handled by the Empresa Nicaraguense de Telecomunicaciones (Enitel) and Movistar. If you have an AT&T, SPRINT, or MCI card you can make direct calls with these companies, but there are a variety of other long-distance options available. The number of telephone lines is severely limited, new phone lines are hard to obtain, outages are not infrequent and repairs are slow.

Internet Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:04 PM

There are various internet service providers in Managua. Internet is available through dial-up, ADSL, cable modem, and wireless connections. Monthly charges range from $20-$70, plus installation fees.

Mail and Pouch Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:06 PM

Military postal facilities (APO) are available to all direct-hire U.S. Government employees and their dependents, retired personnel of the U.S. Armed Forces and U.S. Government agencies. Postal rates are the same as for the U.S. postal system. Transit time for mail services to the U.S. is 7 to 12 days for letter mail and priority mail, 15 to 20 days for SAM. International mail, at international rates, is available, but it is less reliable and slower than the APO (and subject to Nicaraguan Government examination).

The Embassy's international address is: Name American Embassy KM 4 1/2 CARRETERA SUR Managua, Nicaragua

The international mailing address for the Agency for International Development (AID) is: Name Agencia Internacional de Desarrollo Pista Sub Urbana Apartado Postal C-167 ZP-13 Managua, Nicaragua

APO is open Monday through Friday for outgoing and incoming mail. Mail is received daily from Miami on U.S. flag carriers. The APO offers certified mail, returned receipt and insured mail but does not offer COD, registered mail, special handling, special delivery, and money order services. Address for general delivery is:

Name American Embassy Unit 2700 Box 0 APO AA 34021

Make sure that you obtain your section's box number prior to sending packages. Packages sent via APO are limited to 70 pounds and a combined length and girth of 108 inches for Priority and 130 inches for Space Available Mail. All APO transactions are in U.S. currency. For questions concerning (APO) mail please call or write:

APO Supervisor American Embassy Managua 266-6010 Ext 4632 Cell 882-3153

Diplomatic pouches are for official communications. Travel time to Washington, D.C. is approximately seven days. Surface parcels may weigh no more than 40 pounds and be no more than 24 inches in length and 62 inches length and girth combined. APO service is faster than pouch. Address pouch mail as follows:

Name American Embassy Managua Place 3240 Washington, D.C. 20520-3240

Radio and TV Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:07 PM

Nicaraguan media operate freely. There is no government censorship. Radio is a significant source of information, predominantly in rural areas and in urban centers. Nicaragua has 170 radio stations broadcasting on both AM and FM. Most of the major radio stations have a political orientation: either pro-Sandinista Front or pro-Liberal Party. Smaller stations generally focus on music and/or religious programming.

Shortwave radio reception is fairly good using built-in antennas. Broadcasts in English by VOA, BBC, and others are common and offer a variety of programs. To operate a ham radio, you must request and receive a license from the Radio Club of Nicaragua.

For many Nicaraguans, Television is a more important source of information than print media or radio. Channel 2 and channel 8 are the two leading stations. Channel 2 has a center-right, pro-business orientation. It has more resources and puts together better news programming than other stations. Channel 8, also center-right oriented and pro-business, has popular news programs, newscast are openly sensationalists. There are also the privately owned, business-oriented channel 10 and channel 12, and the also privately-owned channel 19. Channel 21 is religious, while 23 is a private channel with a range of a variety of shows. All of their shows are produced nationally. Almost all channels offer a mix of Latin soap operas, sports, and movies (some films are dubbed, but others are subtitled). Cable TV is also available. Cable companies offer U.S. networks in English (ABC, CBS and NBC broadcasts) as part of their multi-channel package. The price for cable TV ranges between $20 to $30 a month. Cable TV and high-speed internet access packages are available for about $70 per month.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:08 PM

Newspapers are the preferred news source for the middle class and for wealthy Nicaraguans. The two major daily newspapers are La Prensa and El Nuevo Diario, both owned and operated by separate scions of the influential Chamorro family. La Prensa is preferred by center-right, pro-business, middle/upper-class readers. El Nuevo Diario has the highest circulation, is generally pro-Sandinista, critical of the US, and popular among lower/middle-income readers. There is also a more mass-oriented daily called Hoy owned by the La Prensa group. The best known weekly magazine is Confidencial, left-of-center news and commentary.

Several U.S. news and business magazines such as Time, Newsweek, and Fortune, as well as the Miami Herald and the New York Times are available by subscription, but slightly delayed. Many employees subscribe to U.S. magazines and newspapers via APO.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:09 PM

The Embassy Health Unit is staffed by a full-time Foreign Service Health Practitioner (Nurse Practitioner or Physician's Assistant), two part-time locally-hired nurses, and a receptionist. The Regional Medical Officer is stationed in El Salvador and the Regional Psychiatrist is stationed in Mexico. The designated medevac point for Managua is Miami, Florida.

The Health Unit is located in the Chancery and provides primary care services for U.S.G direct-hire personnel, contractors, and eligible family members who qualify for the Department of State medical program. Services include health promotion, care of acute and chronic illnesses, immunizations, a variety of health education activities, and 24-hour on-call coverage. All new arrivals receive a comprehensive health guide and are advised to have a medical orientation as soon as possible after arriving at Post. The Health Unit has a small dispensary of over-the-counter and prescription medications for acute illnesses. Medications for chronic illnesses are not provided by the Health Unit. Personnel are encouraged to bring at least a 3-month supply of over-the-counter medications and prescription medication.

The Health Unit maintains a list of local medical consultants representing several specialties. Although expertise varies, in general these consultants provide adequate care and have proven themselves over time. Local laboratories can perform a variety of standard tests reliably. Samples for more sophisticated testing are often sent to laboratories in the U.S. Simple x-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans, and MRIs can be performed locally. Reliable general dentistry and orthodontics can be done locally. Good ophthalmologists are also available, however local optometric labs have proven unreliable, so personnel needing eyeglasses or contact lenses should bring their own from the U.S.

Hospital Metropolitano opened in 2004 and is our first choice for emergency care. It is privately owned and operated. The hospital building is state of the art and incorporates seismic controls. The hospital is well maintained and clean. The Emergency Department and Intensive Care Units are staffed with physicians 24 hours a day. The roster of physicians includes many subspecialties. Emergency surgeries can be safely performed locally. However all non-emergent and elective procedures are referred to the U.S.

Local pharmacies carry a wide variety of prescription medications. The trade names may differ from those in the U.S. There have been instances overseas that the same trade name is used for an entirely different medication. Therefore, you must verify that the medication is the same generic compound. These medications are available without a prescription but are frequently more expensive than in the U.S.

Community Health Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:10 PM

The municipal water in Managua is supposedly potable, but not in all parts of the city and not consistently so. This applies to the residences of Embassy Personnel but not to the Embassy or Casa Grande due to contamination. The Health Unit routinely tests random samples of water from Mission residences and they are consistently negative for contamination. That said, the water has a chlorine residual which some people find distasteful. There is one local bottled-water company with NSF certification that delivers five-gallon bottles to the residences for a reasonable price. Personnel are encouraged to drink bottled or boiled water when outside Managua.

Public sanitation is poor in Managua. Sewer systems do not always function properly, and do not exist in many poorer neighborhoods. Garbage collection is generally good for Mission residences, however many neighborhoods have inadequate services and garbage collects on the streets or in empty lots. Air quality varies according to the season. Dry, dusty conditions and frequent brush fires in the dry season (Nov-May) can aggravate allergies and respiratory problems. Nicaragua is a seismically active country. Tremors are not uncommon. There are several active volcanoes in the country, two within view of Managua.

Rabies exists in the country; pre-exposure rabies vaccine is only recommended for personnel who will be working in rural areas. Several species of poisonous snakes, scorpions and other poisonous insects exist in the country, and can be found in Managua.

Mosquito-borne diseases are endemic to Nicaragua. Malaria (vivax and falciparum) and dengue exist in all parts of the country. In Managua, the Ministry of Health has an aggressive mosquito control program to prevent these diseases, particularly malaria. Current guidelines recommend taking chloroquine, a malaria suppressant, when traveling to rural areas outside of Managua. Personnel are encouraged to practice primary prevention, including the use of adequate mosquito repellants and protective clothing; the elimination of mosquito breeding areas around residences; and the use of window screening and air-conditioning as appropriate. Chagas disease, another insect-borne disease, is a problem in rural parts of the country.

Nicaragua offers a wide variety of food products. Some is imported from the U.S. and other countries. Local produce is not always clean. There is a growing supply of locally produced organic vegetables, fruits, and meats. Fresh milk and other dairy products produced by the major local dairies (Parmalat and Eskimo) are safe to consume. Also, Pricesmart, a US company, has opened a store in Managua and is a reliable and safe source of food and produce.

Managua has few facilities that are handicapped accessible.

Preventive Measures Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:11 PM

Nicaragua is a tropical country. The persistent heat and humidity in Managua can be fatiguing. Personnel are encouraged to keep well hydrated, and to protect themselves from intense or prolonged exposure to the sun. Personnel coming to post should have current vaccinations against tetanus, diphtheria, polio, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and typhoid. Up-to-date childhood vaccinations are essential before coming to post.

Gastrointestinal diseases are common in Nicaragua. It is not unusual for personnel to be affected at one time or another. These episodes may be significantly reduced by using common sense and taking reasonable precautions. Providing training in proper food preparation and storage, and instruction in good personal hygiene for your household staff is essential. Meats, poultry, eggs and fish should be thoroughly cooked before eating. Avoid consuming dairy products that have not been properly pasteurized. Washing fruits and vegetables with soap and water, and then soaking them with in a mild chlorine solution (household bleach) will significantly reduce or eliminate the number of infectious agents they carry. Protecting food from flies will also reduce the transmission of disease. When in doubt about the source of water, use bottled or boiled water.

Household pests (ants, cockroaches, termites, mice, bats) can be controlled through the post's integrated pest management program. Personnel are encouraged not to use locally-available insecticides unless they are approved for use by the Department of State.

Personnel with respiratory and sinus problems are encouraged to keep their windows closed to reduce the amount of dust, smoke, and pollens in their homes. Air-conditioning and dehumidifiers may also help.

Emergency services (ambulances, rescue) are well below U.S. standard. Personnel are strongly urged to drive defensively, use seatbelts, and to use car seats or booster seats for small children, as recommended.

For more information, visit the Health Unit's web page via Embassy Managua's intranet website

Employment for Spouses and Dependents Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:11 PM

The Community Liaison Office (CLO) and the Human Resources Office assist dependents seeking employment. Mission positions are limited, and occasionally clerical, secretarial, and other professional level jobs become available. Security Escort and roving OMS positions are hired on a "When Actually Employed" (WAE) basis. Applicants for these positions must be U.S. citizens able to obtain an appropriate security clearance in a reasonable period of time. Spouses interested in working inside the mission should be sure to hand carry employment records, or mail a copy prior to arrival to the HRO.

Work Permits: The United States and Nicaragua have a bilateral work agreement, which enables spouses to work on the local economy. Any employment of family members under this agreement must be approved in advance by the Chief of Mission. The family member must also obtain a work permit from the Nicaraguan government.

Employment Situation: Local employment outside the Mission is very limited due to high local unemployment levels, Spanish language requirements and pay scales that are significantly below those in the U.S. Opportunities for teachers with current credentials may be available at the international schools and some teach English at the local universities. Family members interested in teaching are encouraged to contact the schools directly at the addresses listed under Dependent Education.

The US mission in Nicaragua is part of the regional Strategic Networking Assistance Program (SNAP), which currently operates out of El Salvador and covers the Embassies in San Salvador, Guatemala City, Managua and Tegucigalpa. SNAP is a pilot initiative of the State Department designed to support family members in their search for employment in the host country economy and assist interested spouses in finding opportunities within the local economy or developing home-based businesses.

In addition, the FLO also is piloting a new spousal employment initiative, the Global Employment Strategy (GES), aimed at creating a network of career-enhancing employment opportunities with U.S. corporations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for professional spouses of Foreign Service employees on assignment to U.S. missions around the world. GES works at the headquarters level with multinational organizations and NGOs to develop relationships and identify employment leads for embassy spouses. For more information regarding these programs, please contact the CLO.

American Embassy - Managua

Post City Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:13 PM

The capital, Managua, with a rapidly growing population of more than 1 million people, is the largest city and the commercial, academic, and political center of Nicaragua. It is located on the southern shore of Lake Managua in western Nicaragua at 110 feet above sea level.

Earthquakes destroyed Managua twice, once in 1931 and again in 1972. The earthquake on December 23, 1972 reduced the downtown area to rubble, forcing businesses and residents to relocate to the outskirts of the city. Today, Managua's commercial and business areas are scattered throughout the city and offices and shops are often located in residential buildings. Quite the opposite of a concrete jungle, Managua's scenery is pleasantly natural and green in the rainy season. Since the early 1990s, Managua has improved considerably. Leading the city's re-development is the wave of affluent Nicaraguans returning from overseas with a new vision for Managua. Roads have been repaved, several luxury hotels completed, and new businesses have opened. There are several commercial areas around the city, including 4 shopping malls, movie theatres, and restaurants.

Managua has some good restaurants, ranging from upscale establishments to informal eateries. Managua also features popular franchises such as TGI Friday's, McDonalds, Burger King, Tip Top Chicken, Pizza Hut and Domino's. There are currently a few Sushi bars and Chinese restaurants.

Compared to other Central American capitals, Managua is relatively safe. However, some areas of Managua should be avoided, particularly at night. Among these are poor neighborhoods where recently-arrived city dwellers have settled, often in sub-standard housing. As security conditions can change rapidly, all personnel should consult with RSO and attend a local security briefing before exploring the city.

The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:14 PM

The Chancery operates out of temporary offices built in 1973, after the earthquake destroyed the previous one in 1972. In February 2005, construction started on a New Embassy Compound (NEC) at the old Casa Grande site. This compound, situated on 13 acres, will include a perimeter security system, a 6,698 square-meter chancery building, GSO support annex with a warehouse and workshops, quarters of our marine security guards, a utility building and four compound access controls. The new facilities should be finished by December 2006.

The Embassy's Management Office provides administrative support to the Defense Attaché's Office (DAO), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Office of Buildings Overseas (OBO), Regional Legal Advisor (RLA), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA/FAS) and to a lesser extent to the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID), the Peace Corps, the Animal Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS), Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and the Military Group.

Office hours are from 7:30 am to 4:15 pm daily, Monday to Friday. Duty officers rotate each week.

State and AID payrolls are prepared in Charleston, SC. Payroll checks will be sent directly to your bank via direct deposit.

The Chancery, which houses the Embassy staff, RLA, USDA/FAS and the DAO, is located on the South Highway (Inter-American Highway) near the edge of the old city. Marine Guards are on duty 24 hours daily. Switchboard telephone numbers are as follows:

Main lines to the Embassy: 266-6010-013 266-6015-018 266-6038 Mailroom FAX (505) 266-6034

The USAID office building is located about four miles from the Chancery in Villa Fontana, about four blocks off the Masaya Highway.

USAID telephone numbers: 267-0502, -503, and -504; 267-4028, -029, and -030.

USAID fax number: 505-278-3828

Casa Grande is currently used as office space for the DEA, Milgroup and MCC, houses the CLO Resource Center, and is used for receptions and Embassy functions. The Casa Grande Compound has a swimming pool and pool house, tennis court, volleyball court, and baseball diamond that are used by the Mission community.

The Marine House ("Casa Chica") is located on the same grounds as Casa Grande. In addition to residential space, there is a bar and a pool table that the Marines share with the American Community during family events and happy hours.

The Ambassador's and the DCM's residences are located in the Santo Domingo residential area.


Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:15 PM

Incoming families move directly into their assigned homes upon arrival in Managua, except in unusual circumstances. A number of good hotels are available in the city to cover the need for temporary accommodations, should this need arise. Since the Mission Inter Agency Housing Board assigns housing in advance, we request that you inform the General Services Officer of your arrival date as soon as it is known and, if possible, at least 60 days in advance. Please provide specific information to the GSO about the number of family members who will accompany you to post and whether family members on your orders will reside with you more than 50% of the time.

Permanent Housing Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:15 PM

Housing for all U.S. personnel is acquired commercially through short-term, government-managed leases. Our residences are contemporary in style and designed for life in the tropics. Residential neighborhoods of choice are within a 30-minute drive of the embassy. Older housing along the South Highway is also available and more convenient to the embassy (15 minutes away), but otherwise less desirable. Many houses have swimming pools and all have yards.

Upon arrival and during the check-in process you should set up an appointment with the Residential Maintenance coordinator for a "walk through" orientation of your residence. We recommend, in addition, that you read the Maintenance Handy Book. The Handy Book contains helpful household tips and instructions for submitting work orders and handling emergencies, and is available in electronic form from the GSO.

Though the maintenance of short-term leaseholds is, by 6-FAM regulation, the responsibility of landlords, the General Services Office is responsible for handling all repair/maintenance requests on behalf of residents. These requests are received by GSO through a computerized work order application. Government-owned property installed in residences (i.e. appliances, generators, air conditioners, ceiling fans) is maintained by embassy personnel.

As part of your initial orientation, the Regional Security Officer will brief you and your family on security procedures. The RSO section conducts a residential security survey on all staff houses to make them as safe as possible. Intrusion alarm systems, grills on windows and doors, and smoke alarms are installed in all homes at no charge to the resident. Additional batteries for smoke alarms are provided when the batteries need replacement.

Furnishings Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:16 PM

Managua is a limited shipment post. The post has standardized furnishings that are provided to all employees. Although styles may vary, furnishings (including lamps) are provided for three or four bedrooms, living room, dining room, and patio area. Master bedrooms are furnished with queen-sized beds, and single beds are used in other rooms. Servants' quarters are not furnished. Welcome Kits with sheets, towels, iron, ironing board, cooking utensils, tableware, and hangers are available for interim use until employees receive their household effects.

Appliances issued at post include a gas range, refrigerator, freezer, washer, electric clothes dryer, one air-conditioner per occupied bedroom plus one, and a fire extinguisher. Drapes are also provided in leased housing; however lawn and gardening tools are not. Since every leased residence in Managua has a yard, employees transferring to post are advised to make provision for lawn maintenance equipment in their shipments. Equipment from the U.S. can be purchased locally, but the prices are a bit higher here than stateside. Swimming pool maintenance equipment is also the responsibility of the employee.

Electric current is 110v, 60-cycle, one- or three-phase, AC, as in the U.S. Voltage regulators and surge protectors are recommended to prevent damage to appliances from electrical surges.

Food Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:17 PM

Compared to the US, shopping for food in Nicaragua will require some flexibility, especially in regards to availability and variety of goods in stock. However, it is quite possible to maintain a balanced, varied diet. A variety of goods are now readily available in local supermarkets

For a small fee, you can become a member of Pricesmart which is one of the best-stocked supermarkets in the city. It includes many of the things you would find in a Cosco store in the US. Most items are sold in bulk.

Open markets, such as the Huembes Market off the Masaya Highway, offer a wide selection of fresh fruits and vegetables. Seasonal fruits and vegetables common to the tropics are usually good quality and cost less than in the U.S. Mangoes, bananas, papaya, cantaloupe, watermelon, pineapple, nispero, citrus, and jocote are typical fruit selections, while vegetables are limited to potatoes, yucca, beets, lettuce, cabbage, onions, garlic, parsley, tomatoes, celery, peppers, cucumbers, carrots, squash, broccoli, avocado, green beans, mushrooms, cauliflower, and eggplant, and occasionally asparagus. Imported apples, grapes, pears, and strawberries are sometimes available in supermarkets, but they are expensive. Open markets also sell dried beans, rice, spices and staples such as flour, sugar, and oil. Shoppers in the open markets provide their own bags. Young boys will insist on guarding your car or helping carry your groceries for a small tip.

Good selections of meat and fish can be found at supermarkets, butcher shops, and delicatessens. Handling of processed pork products such as luncheon meat, ham, and smoked chops does not always conform to US standards. Local chickens are small. Various distributors sell frozen lobster, shrimp, and other seafood.

Milk products are readily available. One reliable source for local cheese, the La Perfecta Company, produces about six varieties of fresh and aged cheeses, but not every type is available at one time. The factory where the best selection can be found is on the North Highway. The Eskimo Factory produces quality ice cream in several flavors. Pricesmart and La Colonia also carry all of the above items.

There are bakeries where whole-wheat bread, French bread, rolls, etc., can be found. An Italian-style pasta shop will prepare carry-out meals if you provide the casserole dish. Local beer and soft drinks are good and inexpensive, particularly if you buy refill bottles.

Often, Nicaraguan production and handling methods fall short of U.S. sanitary standards; therefore, wash all raw vegetables and fruits properly. Washing in detergent, soaking in a bleach solution, and then rinsing thoroughly is recommended. However, this will not kill amoebic dysentery spores or other types of contamination. The surest ways to avoid food contamination and food-borne illness are to peel or cook fruits and vegetables, avoid raw seafood, and cook meat well.

The Embassy commissary sells a few consumer goods that are difficult to find on the local market, gift products, tobacco, and alcohol. There is an annual membership fee of $25 for singles and $50 for families. All sales are made at time of purchase by U.S. dollar check, U.S. currency, or on account. Only members may use the commissary.

Those with babies will find the supply of formula, food and diapers satisfactory; those with specific preferences should plan on packing quantities sufficient for their tour in their HHE. Formula is readily available, including lactose free and other formulations. Gerber baby food is also widely available in a range of flavors and steps. Given the abundant supply of tropical fruits, it is very easy to make your own baby food so a food processor is a great addition to HHE. Diapers are mostly made in Central America and are not of particularly good quality. Adequate diapers can be found but they can be expensive. In addition, baby wipes of good quality are difficult to find.

Clothing Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:18 PM

Informal attire is acceptable in many offices, but many men also wear suits and ties and dress shirts with ties to work and social events. An event requiring a suit will usually indicate as much on the invitation. At the office, women wear short dresses, skirts, or slacks. At dinners and receptions attended by Nicaraguans or the diplomatic community, women dress somewhat more formally than the men; however, at the same function you may see sequins and cotton dresses. Informal attire is acceptable on most occasions and in the office. Within the Mission community, entertaining is usually very casual, with simple dresses, jeans, or shorts acceptable on many occasions. The annual Marine Corps Ball is the main formal event of the year. Long or short evening dresses for women, and tuxedoes or dark suits for men are required for this event.

Warm-weather clothes are necessary, especially washable cottons. Avoid "dry clean only" apparel, as local dry cleaners are not always reliable. Most personnel bring a few cold-weather items for trips back to the U.S. during the winter. In addition, long sleeves are often useful at outdoor receptions during the first three months of the dry season. Lightweight sweaters and jackets are also useful for trips to the highland areas and cooler countries in the region. Local shoes, sandals, and cowboy boots are available. Some shoes are imported from the U.S. or Europe, but selection is limited, and prices are high. Bring a supply with you, and order replacements via APO.

There are four malls (Metro Centro, Inter Plaza, Galerias Santo Domingo and Centro Comercial Managua) that include department stores as well as small clothing shops for men, women, and children. Local shops sell clothing and shoes at reasonable prices, but the quality is often not up to U.S. standards. U.S. brands can be found here, but they are very expensive. Payless Shoes has some stores in Managua, but prices are higher than in the U.S.

Men Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:18 PM

Men's clothing can be tailor made at a reasonable cost. Tailors can copy styles, but quality material is scarce. If you are interested, bring all fabric and notions.

Women Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:19 PM

Dressmakers' services are available at low prices, but they are not always reliable. Some dressmakers can skillfully copy designs from fashion magazines or from an existing model. They rarely use patterns. You must furnish fabric and notions, which, when available, are not expensive. Beautiful hand and machine embroidery can also be found in Nicaragua.

Children Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:19 PM

Children's clothes can be made at a reasonable cost from cotton bought locally or in the U.S. A limited readymade supply of children's clothing is available locally, but quality is mixed.

Supplies and Services

Supplies Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:20 PM

Household items bought locally can cost two or three times more than in the U.S. Several stores sell electric appliances, radios, cameras, TV's, video machines, perfumes, clothing, liquor, and toys, all at high prices. Bring all contact lenses supplies from the U.S.

Good-quality wicker and wooden-porch furniture can be ordered to specification. There are several well-known and talented Nicaraguan artists whose works have been purchased by Embassy employees. Lovely machine-embroidered linens are made in Masaya and Granada. Finely woven, decorative hammocks are a Nicaraguan trademark; and woodcrafters, basket-weavers, and potters make fine gift items. These items are usually reasonably priced by U.S. standards.

Basic Services Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:21 PM

Washable clothing is highly recommended. Local dry cleaning service is uneven and generally not up to U.S. standards. Garment bags are useful during the dry season, when dust permeates the air.

Managua has several beauty salons and barbershops. Most have relatively modern equipment and well-trained personnel. The CLO office can provide references.

Dealers in electronic goods and electric appliances, including General Electric, Westinghouse, Philco, and Sony, provide repair services, but replacement parts are scarce. Parts catalogs, which usually come with appliances when purchased, are valuable for ordering parts from the U.S. Bring parts that you feel you may have to replace.

Picture framing is available at a reasonable cost. There are numerous hardware stores, but stock is limited and prices for quality, imported goods are high.

Domestic Help Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:22 PM

Domestic help includes drivers, gardeners, baby-sitters and maids. Live-in help is entitled to room, board, and three uniforms, in addition to a salary. Live-out help receives only salary and sometimes uniforms. The first month of employment is a trial period for both employer and employee. Either party can then terminate employment for any reason without incurring additional legal obligations. A work contract with employees is not required, but recommended. As a precaution against burglars, it is advisable to have at least one employee or family member home at all times.

After each six-month period, domestic employees get 15 days of paid vacation, but most employees prefer double pay (for the 15 days) in lieu of time off. In December, local law requires the payment of a Christmas bonus equal to a month's salary. The CLO and HR can provide further details on your legal obligations.

Religious Activities Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:22 PM

The predominant religion in Nicaragua is Catholicism, although there has been a significant growth in Evangelical churches in recent years. Catholic Churches in Managua celebrate Mass on Saturdays, Sundays, and Holy Days at various times, from 5 am or 6 am through noon and in the evenings. Nondenominational English services are held on Sundays at 8 am at the Nicaragua Christian Academy. Baptist, the Jesus Christ Church of Latter-day Saints, Seventh-day Adventist, Jehovah's Witnesses, and other missionary congregations conduct services in Spanish at various times during the week. There is also a mosque. Managua has no synagogues.


Dependent Education

At Post Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:24 PM The American Nicaraguan School (ANS), a private, coeducational day school established in 1944, offers an educational program from preschool through grade 12. The School's 2004-2005 student enrollment numbered 1033. Of this total, 39% are US citizens, 38% host-country nationals, and 23% are of other nationalities. Many students, regardless of nationality, are from long-time Nicaraguan families and/or residents. There are a total of 103 faculty members.

ANS is located on a 26-acre campus which contains 81 classroom units, science laboratories, physical education facilities, playground, sports fields, an Olympic-size pool, and a full instructional media center consisting of libraries, meeting rooms, and computer labs housed in the technology center. There is also a resource center, a gymnasium, audio-visual rooms, and a food court. ANS is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), and recognized by the Nicaraguan Ministry of Education and Office of Overseas Schools, U.S. State Department. The School is also a member of the Association of American Schools in Central America (AASCA), the Association of American Schools in South America (AASSA) and The Association for the Advancement of International Education (AAIE). Although quality and course offerings may vary, the School's curriculum is comparable to that offered in college-preparatory schools of like size in the United States, and also includes the Nicaraguan Baccalaureate Diploma program. English is the principal language of instruction at all levels. Spanish is a required subject of study throughout the system, and English-Spanish bilingualism is a major curricular objective. Many graduates successfully enter prestigious U.S. colleges and universities. College Placement services include a Career Center that contains a range of resources to assist students with career decision making and post-secondary planning. Advanced Placement classes are an important part of the school's high-school curriculum. Some after-school sports and community service activities are offered. The school year follows the U.S. system: first semester, early August to mid-December; second semester, early January to early June. Uniforms at ANS consist of dark blue pants or skirts with white or gray shirts or blouses. School texts are provided. Tuition rates are within the educational allowance.

Lincoln International Academy is a private, Catholic, coed school with courses taught in English, under the American Catholic system of education, with pre-school, elementary, middle and high-school levels. Classes are mostly in English with the exception of the Nicaraguan Ministry of Education required classes. It was founded in 1991and is located close to the main Masaya Highway. It currently enrolls 710 students and has a qualified faculty and staff of over 92 professionals. The school calendar runs from August to June. Students are required to wear the school uniform. Bus transportation is available. The Academy offers various extra curricular student activities, community service clubs, sports teams and student government among others. Since 1995, Lincoln has been an institutional member of The National Catholic Education Association (NCEA), and in 2003 it began the accreditation process with The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), currently holding candidacy status. Lincoln is also member of the Association of American Schools of Central America (AASCA). Lincoln is located on a 13-acre campus, it has 8 pre-school classrooms, 30 elementary, middle and high-school classrooms, 14 administrative offices, a chapel, a library building, a technology center, a science laboratory, a bookstore, soccer, basketball, baseball and athletic fields, an assembly hall and a cafeteria building.

The Nicaragua Christian Academy (NCA) is an evangelical, non-denominational, non-profit preschool, elementary, and secondary educational institution. The school has a 2004-05 enrollment of 230 students in grades Pre-K through 12 and 40 teachers and administrators. Founded in 1991, Nicaragua Christian Academy is accredited by the Association of Christian Schools International. Nicaragua Christian Academy is located at Km 11 Carretera Vieja a León in Managua. The campus consists of five classroom buildings, the chapel, eating facilities, main office, and athletic fields, courts and facilities. Students are admitted on the basis of previous school record, mastery of the English language, and student/parental spiritual commitment. Class sizes are limited to 15 students, providing for individual attention for each student. Fifty-eight percent of the students are Nicaraguan, 26 percent are North American, and the reminder come from a variety of other countries. The Academy's curriculum is designed to provide an English language education on a North American liberal arts framework that prepares students to enter institutions of higher learning in the United States and Nicaragua. Core courses include Bible, English, Spanish, math, science, history, and a wide variety of electives for a well-rounded education. NCA's classes begin in early September and continue until mid-June.

All of the schools above offer quality education. Check with the Overseas Briefing Center and the CLO in Managua for further information about schooling at post.

Away From Post Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:24 PM Foreign Service employees posted to Managua can request away-from-post allowances for any dependents in school grades 9 to 12.

Special Needs Education Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:25 PM

Managua does not have adequate teaching facilities for children with physical or emotional handicaps or learning disabilities.

Higher Education Opportunities Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:26 PM

The national university scene continues to develop and slowly improve. In addition to Nicaragua's traditional, state-funded universities, there are private universities with varying degrees of educational standards. The best known universities in the country are the Jesuit-founded Universidad Centroamericana (UCA, enrollment 8,000), the state-run Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua in Managua (UNAN-Managua, 20,000), the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua in León (UNAN-León, enrollment 11,000) and the privately-run Universidad Americana (UAM, 2,000 students) and Universidad Thomas More (UTM, enrollment 1,200) . The Central American Business Administration Institute (INCAE, enrollment 300 students) offers a solid, U.S.-style graduate business program. INCAE maintains academic linkages with the Business School of Harvard University.

Other prominent universities include the Universidad Católica (UNICA, enrollment 1,800 students) and the English-instruction, US-accredited Ave María College (enrollment 300 students). The oldest university in the country is the UNAN-León, which was founded as a seminary in the colonial period and declared a national university in 1812. Most universities in Nicaragua have webpages with detailed information about their programs.

The Ave Maria College is a US-accredited university in Managua that offers classes in English. The Harvard-affiliated Central American Institute of Business Administration (INCAE) offers quality MBA programs. Other universities in Managua include the Universidad Americana de Managua (UAM) and the Jesuit-run Universidad Centroamericana (UCA). See Arts and Education section for a description of higher education in Nicaragua. .

Recreation and Social Life

Sports Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:27 PM

Several regularly scheduled sports events take place at the Casa Grande, such as Frisbee football, volleyball, soccer, basketball, and softball. Everyone is invited to join. Many people are involved in the local chapter of the Hash House Harriers, a humorous and very informal running and trekking club.

Sports club membership is available at the Holiday Inn Select, Crowne Plaza and Camino Real Hotels. Carretera Masaya has a fully-equipped Sporting Country Club with swimming pool, tennis courts with lights and squash courts.

The Nejapa Golf and Country Club is located south of Managua. It has an 18-hole golf course, 4 tennis courts, a large swimming pool, restaurants and snack areas. There is a monthly diplomatic membership in addition to green fees, carts and other expenses.

The Camino Real Hotel and the family-oriented Casa de España social club each have two tennis courts with lights. For a monthly fee, Casa de España accepts temporary members and offers swimming, tennis, bar, and restaurant facilities. Club Las Terrazas offers a temporary membership to higher-ranking officers. It offers tennis courts, swimming pool, restaurants, gym and others. Casa Grande has one court with night lighting.

Swimming can be enjoyed at various Pacific Ocean beaches, Lake Xiloa, and Laguna de Apoyo. Montelimar, a private all-inclusive beach resort on the Pacific coast, has first-class overnight accommodations.

Nicaragua has many areas for boating, but boats are expensive. Lake Managua, however, is not used for water sports because it is both shallow and polluted. In fishing areas like San Juan del Sur, boats may be hired for fishing excursions. Safe boating measures (such as providing life preservers) are not always practiced, but rates are reasonable. Lake Nicaragua has tarpon and sawfish, and is the only freshwater lake in the world where sharks have been found. Guapote, a fish similar to bass, is found in many lakes and streams.

Baseball is the national sport; soccer is number two. Basketball is played in schools and colleges. Professional and amateur boxing is popular and a source of national pride.

Some Embassy employees have become involved in horseback riding. Riding stables featuring Eastern and Western-style riding lessons are available. Saddles are available locally, but bring any special riding equipment or clothing.

Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:27 PM

Nicaragua still has many undiscovered tourist spots, and its mountains, volcanoes, and lakes offer many new experiences to visitors. Hunting, fishing, hiking, bird watching, and boating are available, if you are the rugged outdoor type. However, you have to make your own arrangements and provide all your own equipment. Managua has little tourist activity, but local travel agencies offer trips throughout Nicaragua. Cities outside the capital have retained their colonial flavor with low one-story houses, built around an inner patio, lining the sidewalks. The church always faces the main square park and together they usually form the geographic and social center of the town. Cities of interest are:

Diriamba. Located in the Department of Carazo, Diriamba was named for the Indian chief who ruled the area and fought against Spanish conqueror Gil Gonzales Davila in 1522. Diriamba lies in the heart of a coffee-growing region on the Pan-American Highway about 26 miles southwest of Managua. It is a town of about 33,000 people. At an altitude of 2,000 feet, it has a pleasant, cool climate.

Leon. Leon is Nicaragua's former capital and second largest city, with a population of 147,000. It is 42 miles from Managua and can be reached by highway. An extension of the University of Nicaragua (UNAN) and several of its facilities are located here. Leon's large 18th-century cathedral contains the tomb of Ruben Dario, Nicaragua's world-renowned poet.

Granada. Granada is Central America's oldest city and still retains much of its colonial architecture. Granada was founded in 1523 by Hernandez de Cordoba, Nicaragua's colonizer, and was once the commercial center of the country. Today its population is about 75,000. The epitaphs on the marble tombs of Granada's cemetery provide a fascinating history of the city's turbulent past. Granada is located on the northwestern shore of the country's large freshwater Lake Nicaragua, which is 28 miles from Managua. Here tourists are attracted to a group of beautiful lake islands, called "Las Isletas". Ometepe and Zapatera, volcanic islands in the lakes, are also known for their pre-Columbian artifacts.

Masaya. Known as the "City of Flowers," Masaya is located 6 miles from Managua and has a population of 95,000. The town is well known to natives and tourists as Nicaragua's handicrafts center. Embroidered dresses and shirts, shoes, handbags, fiber floor mats, hand fans, hammocks, black-coral jewelry, and wicker furniture can all be found here. Small gifts crafted of wood, and filigree-gold and silver works are also available.

Matagalpa. The town of Matagalpa is 81 miles north of Managua, on the Pan-American Highway, and has a population of about 63,000. The city, at 2,100 feet above sea level, has a cooler climate. The town is set in hilly country and surrounded by beautiful coffee plantations. The Selva Negra (Schwarzwald) Mountain Hotel has a restaurant, organic coffee plantation, and forest trails for hiking and horseback riding. Embassy employees have also enjoyed quiet weekends at rustic cabins on the Dariense Cordillera, near Matagalpa.

Montelimar. Located about an hour's drive southwest of Managua, Montelimar was once the private hideaway of the Somoza family. Converted to a tourist complex by the Sandinista government and now is owned by a Spanish firm.

Pochomil Beach. Pochomil is 38 miles southwest of Managua. It has a wide, gently-sloping beach. The Nicaraguan Government opened a tourist center with picnic facilities here in 1982. The beach is usually quiet on Saturdays and crowded on Sundays and during the Easter season. The undertow and cross-currents can be hazardous.

Poneloya. This beach is 12 miles beyond Leon. A hotel is available where you can change clothes and buy food and drinks; however, the accommodations do not appeal to most for an overnight stay. The undertow and cross-currents here are also hazardous.

Casares and La Boquita. These are two undeveloped black-sand beaches on the Pacific, out of Diriamba.

San Juan del Sur. Located about 95 miles southwest of Managua on the Pacific, San Juan del Sur is a hot tourist spot for surfing and beach sports. There are a variety of ocean-front hotels, restaurants, and bars. It has excellent deep-sea fishing, and fishing boats can be hired by making arrangements in advance. Horseback riding is also available. (See comments on boat rental under Recreation and Social Life.)

Lake Xiloa. Lake Xiloa is a crater lake 10 miles from Managua that offers swimming, boating, and water skiing. A large tourist complex was recently built nearby. Snacks and drinks are available in the area.

Masaya Volcano National Park. The semi-active Masaya Volcano is 13 miles from Managua on the Masaya Highway. The park has paved roads, observation areas, picnic locations, a museum, and excellent views of the smoking volcano with molten lava in the crater.

The Caribbean Coast. The Caribbean Coast can be an interesting spot for those who want to explore indigenous areas of Nicaragua. The seaport of Bluefields can be reached by Atlantic or La Costeña Airlines, or through a combination of boat and a long trek on unpaved roads (in the dry season only). English is the predominant language in this deeply tropical region. Its West Indies atmosphere differentiates it from the rest of the country.

Corn Island. There are actually two Corn Islands, both typical tropical isles with waving palms and broad beaches. The larger one is about three miles long and located 40 miles off the coast of Bluefields. Overnight facilities are limited.

Central America. Travel to neighboring countries by car is possible. Many people take advantage of the opportunity to escape Managua's heat to shop and become acquainted with other Central American cultures. San Jose, Costa Rica (about a 7-hour drive), at an altitude of over 3,000 feet, is a modern city with a cool climate. Tegucigalpa, Honduras (about a 5-hour drive), is also over 3,000 feet. The drive to San Salvador takes some 10 hours and to Guatemala City, almost 14 hours. Major roads within Nicaragua are generally in fair condition, and the Pan-American Highway is usually passable year-round.

All Central American capitals, and Mexico City, can be reached quickly by air on the many regional and U.S. airlines that serve Managua. COPA and TACA Airlines service flights within Central America. For current information, contact the airlines.

Entertainment Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:28 PM

Managua's entertainment scene has grown substantially in the last few years. There are three modern, multi-screen movie theaters and one more under construction. First-run movies arrive within a few months of their U.S. release date. The four cable companies receive 40-65 channels. You can also order videos and DVDs by mail through the APO.

Numerous foreign cultural groups perform in Managua each year, usually in the Ruben Dario Theater, which is one of the finest in the region. Local folk-dance groups perform there as well. There are usually a couple of major popular music festivals, with artists from other Latin American countries.

There are local disco-type nightclubs frequented by Mission personnel, as well as clubs that feature Nicaraguan and Latin American musical groups. Some restaurants, including Los Ranchos, the Lobster's Inn, and TGI Friday's are available for large parties. The Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Best Western and Camino Real Hotels have party, banquet, and conference rooms, and Mission personnel may reserve the Casa Grande for large receptions. However, entertaining is usually done at home. In addition, the CLO, the Marine Guard Detachment and the AEA, sponsor some activities for adults and children year-round.

Social Activities

Among Americans Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:29 PM The Community Liaison Office and/or the AEA sponsor several events for the Mission community during the year, which usually include an Easter egg hunt, Halloween Trick or Treat, Thanksgiving Dinner, a traditional Family Christmas Night, and occasional events such as monthly brunches or theme parties. The American-Nicaraguan Society also sponsors several events during the year. There is also the Bunco Group that meets monthly at the homes of different members. The CLO works within the Mission, encouraging the community members to be actively involved in various functions. The Marine Security Guard Detachment actively contributes to the community spirit. They host volleyball and softball games, the annual Marine Ball, happy hours, and some theme-parties every year.

International Contacts Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:29 PM The International Women's Club is open to Nicaraguan and foreign women. Their meetings are conducted in English. Additionally, the Damas Diplomaticas welcomes women affiliated with the diplomatic community. The Damas sponsor cooking classes, an annual International Bazaar where goods from the various countries are sold to the public, and a variety of charitable activities. There is a monthly fee.

The Alliance Francaise offers French language classes and a variety of events, including movies, lectures, plays, and social dances year-round.

Official Functions Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:31 PM

Officers with diplomatic and consular titles should bring calling cards. Invitations and calling cards can be obtained locally or in your office. Participation in Nicaraguan functions is expected from officers in sections with representational responsibilities.

There are few black-tie events. American personnel might be invited to attend one or two such gatherings each year. Men wear summer-white, black or white dinner jackets; and women wear cocktail-length or long dresses. For receptions not specifically designated black tie, a dark suit is appropriate. For most social events in homes, men wear sport shirts, while women may wear slacks.

Special Information Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:38 PM

Post Orientation Program

The post's orientation program is designed to introduce new arrivals to all Mission components and personnel, so that check-in and other procedures and activities can be accomplished in a personal, relaxed manner.

Language Training

Language training is available, as the budget permits. Adult dependents may participate in this training on a space-available basis. Professional Spanish instruction outside the Embassy is also available.

Weights and Measures

Nicaragua is partially on the metric system; weight is normally measured in pounds rather than kilograms, but distance is measured in kilometers.

Notes For Travelers

Getting to the Post Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:39 PM

Consult your agency's transportation office and U.S. Dispatch Agents regarding packing and shipping arrangements and Nicaraguan consular invoices. Although Nicaragua has a port in Corinto, at present American shipping lines do not stop there. Surface shipments should be consigned to Puerto Cortez, Honduras. Shipments are trucked overland to Managua. Vans should not exceed two tons in weight. Sea shipments from the U.S. may require as much as 3 months to reach Managua. Airfreight shipments can take as long as 6 weeks. You should send items that you will need soon after arrival via APO, or hand-carry them.

Airmail or air-pouch the packing list to GSO when you ship your HHE. When you arrive, report all shipping information to the GSO. Secured packing is necessary to ensure against pilferage. Waterproof paper lining is essential. No adequate long-term storage is available to protect against humidity and insects, but temporary storage can be arranged.

When you arrive in Nicaragua, you will be met at the airport if you advise the Mission in advance. If you arrive in Managua by air, you will disembark at Managua International Airport (a 20-minute drive from the Chancery). If by chance you are not met, please call the American Embassy. Use of taxis is not recommended.

Customs, Duties, and Passage

Customs and Duties Last Updated: 10/6/2005 12:39 AM

The Nicaraguan Government grants duty-free entry privileges to all American members of the Mission. Be prepared to wait at least a month for your car, airfreight, and sea freight. Washington routinely approves reasonable requests for supplemental shipments within a year of the date of issuance of TM-4 travel orders; however Nicaraguan law requires that household effects be received in Managua within 6 (six) months of the employee's arrival date. In addition, transferring employees are generally limited to three shipments total, including airfreight but excluding POV. Important: POVs which are older than ten years cannot be imported into Nicaragua. Please contact the GSO if you have questions about Nicaraguan laws applicable to diplomatic shipments.

Passage Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:40 PM

No visa is required to enter Nicaragua. Personnel may obtain visas for other Central American countries after they arrive in Nicaragua.

Pets Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:40 PM

Please advise the GSO if you are traveling with a pet. Pets must have a certificate of rabies vaccine, health certificate, and certificate of origin (pet shop receipt, veterinarian's proof of origin, etc.) The health certificate must be certified by the Nicaraguan Embassy or Consulate before departing for Managua. Employees should send the following information in advance of arrival: a) pet's species, b) breed, c) name, d) color, e) weight (in pounds), f) sex, and g) height (in inches). Please inform GSO of pet's arrival information, including airline and flight number. GSO's customs expediter will assist with importation once the pet arrives in Managua.

Firearms and Ammunition Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:41 PM

The possession, bearing, or use of firearms by U.S. direct-hire and contract personnel in Nicaragua has serious personal, political, diplomatic and legal implications for the Mission. Due to the serious consequences that may result from the use or misuse of a firearm, all assigned personnel regardless of employing agency will follow the policies promulgated herein.

Prior to arrival at Post, personnel may request permission from the Ambassador (through the Regional Security Office) to import a reasonable number of firearms. Request may be approved for up to two handguns and two rifle/shotguns. Military or assault-rifle type weapons are not allowed. Any subsequent local purchase, importation or sale must also be approved. Employees must certify that they are completely familiar with the safe handling and use of imported or otherwise acquired firearms. Agency/Section Chiefs must certify that their employees who are authorized to bear a firearm are qualified with the issued firearm as required by the issuing agency.

Mission policy requires all personnel to register all approved firearms (official and personal) with the Regional Security Office immediately upon arrival at Post. Those persons registering firearms must complete a Government of Nicaragua (GON) registration form, which can be obtained from the RSO. The form and two pictures will be used to process your registration with the GON. Those persons requesting permission to bear a firearm must also submit an "Authorization to Bear Firearms" for the approval of the RSO and the Ambassador. This form must be endorsed by the Section/Agency Head, who must certify the specific reason for this authorization and attest to the person's competence in handling firearms prior to submission to the RSO Office. It is the responsibility of the employee's agency or section to assist in filing the proper forms.

See the Mission Firearms Policy or check with the RSO for complete instructions.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:41 PM

All currency transactions are regulated by the Government of Nicaragua and Embassy employees are required to follow these rules. The official unit of money is the cordoba. The Cordoba depreciates according to a crawling peg system. Local currency can be obtained at licensed money exchangers (Casas de Cambio), local banks, or through the Bancentro window and ATM machine at the Embassy or the Bancentro window at AID headquarters (Bancentro is the U.S. Disbursing Office-approved local-bank cashier). All other currency transactions are illegal and should be avoided. Department of State policy prohibits personnel from engaging in illegal currency transactions. Employees may cash personal checks in dollars or cordobas at the Bancentro cashier at the Embassy.

Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:42 PM

U.S. Government employees in Nicaragua are exempt from paying local taxes or excises, including income tax. The GSO obtains free-entry permits from the appropriate ministries.

No limitation is placed on the amount of dollars or traveler's checks you can bring into the country. Miscellaneous reimbursable expenses will be paid to you by electronic funds transfer (EFT) to your bank. It is mandatory to establish a dollar checking account in the U.S., where these funds can be automatically deposited to your account to avoid payment delay or loss. Traveler's checks are accepted by local banks, but the rate is likely to be below that available at a Casa de Cambio.

Policy regarding sale of personal property is established by post management. Administrative approval must be obtained in advance to sell cars, home furnishings, appliances, or other items brought into Nicaragua or purchased here duty free.

Nicaraguan law permits the sale, exempt from duty taxes, of a diplomat's car after 24 months in-country. Please note that Nicaragua law states that the seller is liable if the non-diplomatic buyer fails to pay Nicaraguan sales tax. Nicaraguan Customs determines the value of the vehicle. A second duty-free/tax-free car can be imported or purchased locally. If a car has been less than 24 months in the country, a duty for a sale to a non-diplomat will be assessed.

Recommended Reading Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:44 PM

These titles are provided as general background about Nicaragua. The Department of State does not endorse the contents of these or any other unofficial publications.

There are many books published in the 1980's and 1990's that describe the Sandinista Revolution and the emergence of democracy in Nicaragua. As the political climate has continued to evolve in the past decade, many of these books are somewhat outdated but still provide insights into Nicaragua's recent past. Among recommended titles are the following:

Leonard, Richard, Footprint Nicaragua Handbook: The Travel Guide, February, 2002.

Berman, Joshua, Moon Handbooks' Nicaragua, December, 2002.

Plunkett, Hazel, Nicaragua: A Guide to the People, Politics and Culture (In Focus Guides), February, 2002.

Garvin, Glenn, Everybody Had His Own Gringo: The CIA and the Contras, April, 1992.

Belli, Gioconda, The Country Under My Skin: A Memoir of Love and War, October, 2003.

MacAulay, Neill, The Sandino Affair, October, 1985.

Christian, Shirley, Revolution in the Family.

Belli, Humberto, Breaking Faith.

Local Holidays Last Updated: 8/12/2005 4:46 PM

New Year’s Day Jan. l Holy Thursday varies Good Friday varies Labor Day May 1 Sandinista Revolution Anniversary July 19 Festival of Santo Domingo August 1 Festival of Santo Domingo August 10 Battle of San Jacinto Sept. 14 Independence Day Sept. 15 Immaculate Conception Dec. 8 Christmas Day Dec. 25

Adapted from material published by the U.S. Department of State. While some of the information is specific to U.S. missions abroad, the post report provides a good overview of general living conditions in the host country for diplomats from all nations.
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