The Host Country
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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,
For more information, visit the Health Unit's web page via
Embassy Managua's intranet website http://webmanagua.managua.state.gov/hu.html.
Employment for Spouses and Dependents Last Updated: 8/12/2005
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
The Alliance Francaise offers French language classes and a
variety of events, including movies, lectures, plays, and social
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 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
Weights and Measures
Nicaragua is partially on the metric system; weight is normally
measured in pounds rather than kilograms, but distance is measured
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
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
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
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
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,
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