Here are my recommendations for traveling to and from Nicaragua during COVID. This guide covers flying in and out of Managua. Many of the same tips will also apply to other entry and exit points.
Standard Disclaimer: Circumstances are changing regularly. Make sure you double check the latest restrictions, requirements, etc. regarding travel to and from Nicaragua.
For context, here is my specific case:
- Traveling between the US and Nicaragua
- Traveling during the summer of 2021
- Going to Nicaragua for a surf trip
Part 1: Entering Nicaragua
As of summer of 2021, the testing requirements are as follows:
Nicaraguan Government Requirements
- Negative PCR Test – The test needs to specifically be PCR. Other tests like the antigen test are not accepted.
- Administered within 72 hours of arrival – Your test must have been administered (when your nose gets swabbed) within 72 hours of your arrival. You can’t do it too far in advance. Depending on your airline’s requirements – see next section – this might mean you have a very small testing window.
- Must be from a valid testing lab – My airline specifically stated that the results must include a “seal from the lab” and the “signature of a physician”. Basically, it needs to look legitimate. A simple printout with text-only will likely get you denied at the border.
Here’s my actual test, which allowed me in to Nicaragua. I’ve highlighted the important parts.
When we arrived in Managua and before we went through customs, everyone’s covid results were checked by what appeared to be a physician. From my understanding, they are checking for the date and time, a negative result, and to make sure it looks official (not counterfeit). I have heard from non-verified sources that people have been turned away at the border for not having official lab tests with them.
To be sure, I booked my test with a lab that specifically caters to travelers. They reassured me that the test will suffice for entry into Nicaragua and that it will have their letterhead + a physicians signature.
Your airline will also check your test before you board the plane, so if you make it on to the plane in the first place you’re probably good.
Airline requirements may be different from Nicaraguan requirements, so it’s important to double check these. My airline required the following:
- 36hr Requirement – I had to submit my test results via email 36hrs or more before my flight. This means at least 1.5 days before your departure time you need to send in your results.
- Printed Results – I also had to have a copy of my results printed. This was checked at the checkin desk and again before boarding.
- Survey – I also had to complete a digital survey submitting my basic information such as passport number, name, etc.
Note: I flew on Avianca. I’m sure other airlines have different procedures. Check with your airline to see what their requirements are.
Takeaways & Tips for Entering Nicaragua
- Double check your math – Between the 72hr requirement for the Nicaraguan government and the 36hr for my airline, I had a tight window of when I could get my test and get the results back so I could send it to the airline in time. Because of this I had to find a lab that guaranteed results in 24hr or less.
- Double check with your lab – Make sure that the results you get back will look official and meet any specific requirements your airline states. Most testing labs dedicated to travel should meet your needs, but I suggest calling to double check before paying for your test.
- Print your results – Many labs offer digital results, some of which are even in an app and have a QR code. Regardless of what your airline states, I recommend taking 2 copies of your test results so you have them on hand. While this might get you by for your checkin at the airport, in Managua they physically signed off on everyone’s test results when I entered.
Part 2: Leaving Nicaragua
As of the summer of 2021, the recommendations from Nicaragua for travelers headed to the United States is to get a COVID test in Managua before departure. This method works, but there is a much easier and more cost effective way of getting the results you need to re-enter the US.
Note: Double check restrictions for your final destination and airline. Restriction and regulations are changing regularly. This resource is helpful for checking regulations and was recommended by my airline.
Requirements: You must have proof of negative COVID-19 test results. You must have the test within 72 hours of your arrival.
A Few Key Differences
- Boarding check only – My results were only checked at check-in and during boarding. I didn’t need them once in the US.
- Timing – You still need to get your test within 72hrs, but I did not have to submit it to my airline ahead of time.
- Test type – Multiple test types were accepted (this turns out to be key in saving time and money).
Getting COVID Test in Nicaragua
You can meet all of these requirements by going to the one and only location in Nicaragua where they provide COVID testing. I have a close friend who used this method and he reported it was relatively easy (but it does require $150 and for most travelers and overnight stay in Managua).
To get a COVID test in Nicaragua you can only go through the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health. The testing is only carried out at one location and at only during certain hours:
- Location: National Center for Diagnosis and Reference (CNDR)
- Time: from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
The fee is $150 dollars. Acceptable payments:
- Receipt from a deposit into the specific “Banpro” account
You must also have proper identification and your itinerary.
You can get the specifics at the US Embassy in Nicaragua website.
Before you commit to this method, see if the alternative described below will work for you.
Using An At-Home Test In Nicaragua
This is the test method I used. While I have not tried the other method, based on the logistics it’s likely I saved myself a lot of time and money by taking the at-home test instead of going to the Nicaragua Ministry of Health testing site.
Since the US accepts the antigen test (as opposed to only the PCR test) you can utilize and at-home test. This test comes in a small box and you administer it yourself with the guidance of a proctor via an online portal. You get your results in about 15 minutes and an official test report about 5 minutes after that (in my experience).
- Buying the test – These tests are only sold inside Nicaragua second-hand. I don’t recommend trying to find one once you get to Nicaragua. Instead, buy one before you go and take it with you.
- Taking the test – You might want to take 2 tests with you just in case you get a false positive. To successfully take the test you need your phone or a computer, wifi, and an original, unopened test kit.
- Showing results – The test I took gave me my results in both a PDF and via their app. I recommend printing your results, but I was able to show them the PDF on my computer since I didn’t have access to a printer.
You can buy a pack of 6 Emed At-Home Tests for $150. If you have extras upon leaving Nicaragua, it’s likely you’ll be able to find someone happy to take them off your hands.
There are unconfirmed rumors that at-home tests are being confiscated at the airport. This isn’t a surprise, as the Nicaraguan government benefits from having the one and only testing site with a $150 fee. I recommend having a backup plan in case your tests do get confiscated, stolen, or are otherwise unusable for some reason.
If you have any additional tips, recommendations, or updates, feel free to leave a comment so future travelers to and from Nicaragua can be as prepared as possible.