Stay Safe in Nicaragua: Seven Safety Tips For Women

Nicaragua

Telling family and friends that you’re heading to Nicaragua, will result in one of two reactions. Most commonly they’ll say, “Nica-what?”, while looking confused. Alternatively, the colour will drain from their faces as they describe the horrors that happen in Central America. You know – the drug wars, the civil wars, crime, corruption and chaos. But, they couldn’t be more wrong.

Located between Honduras and Costa Rica, Nicaragua is known for its dramatic landscape of lakes, volcanoes and untouched beaches. Traveling south, you’ll find the small city of Granada. Hugging the shores of Lake Nicaragua – the largest lake in Central America – this city will leave you charmed with its colonial architecture and cobbled streets.

Nicaragua
Nicaragua street view * photo by Boris

 

First Impressions

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have any reservations before heading to Granada. I had received warnings from family and friends, in fact a colleague went as far as to email me a Vice article that highlighted crime in the city – along with pictures of machetes and dead bodies (I kid you not).

These were the images running through my head as I stepped off the bus and onto a small street just outside of town.

I should mention at this stage that I’m pretty cheap. If there’s a way for me to save money, you can bet that I’m going to take it. So, I skipped a taxi ride to the hotel. I had done some research, and I knew my hotel was just a couple of blocks from the bus stop. An easy walk.

With my bag dragging behind me, I walked through the town, glowing phone in hand as I tried to use the screenshot of the map I had saved. See, I won’t even spend money on international roaming or WIFI.

20minutes later, walking past an old abandoned building at night, I admitted to myself that I was lost.

Rule number one when traveling, never look lost. Also, don’t walk around waving your phone in the air. Here I was, walking in the streets with all my possessions. I was a muggers dream. But, not once, did anyone even attempt to approach me in a threatening way at all. Sure, people stared as I walked by, but I never felt uncomfortable or in danger. It occurred to me then, that maybe my preconceived ideas were wrong.

I stopped in a small store, and using the little Spanish I had learned, I asked for directions. The locals were happy to help, and within a few minutes, I was pointed in the right direction and I found my hotel.

Nicaragua
The Granada Cathedral

 

Safe? Well, duh!

Generally, I always chat to the hotel desk receptionist when I arrive. I find it best to get out all those awkward tourist questions immediately. You know the ones – can I drink the water? What time does breakfast begin? And most importantly, is it safe to walk the streets?

Having just spent the past 30min walking the streets, not only was that final question a bit late, but I already knew the answer. YES! I won’t lie, the receptionist was actually confused that I even asked.

The next day I explored the town a bit more. I loved the cobbled streets, the colourful housing, horse-drawn carriages, and sidewalks filled with tourists. It is small, so getting around is incredibly easy. The main street– Calle La Calzada – is always bustling with activity and local tour companies offer  a variety of excursions within Granada and the nearby towns.

It’s a tourist hotspot, and it’s clear that the locals are not only kind and helpful, they’re also incredibly proud of their city. The streets are pristine, the price of food, drinks and activities are affordable (I would even go as far as to say cheap when compared to its neighbour – Costa Rica) and English is widely spoken.

In short, it was paradise!

I nearly died…

The only time I feared for my life was when I was using their local buses, commonly referred to as Chicken Buses. They’re often incredibly crowded and I’m pretty sure they consider the term “road worthy” more of a general guideline than prerequisite. On the bright side, they’re incredibly cheap! So, you know that’s my recommended mode of transport.

You could always use taxis, just be sure to negotiate the fee upfront. Very few drivers will use a meter. Alternatively, you could opt for private transportation. You hotel or hostel will be happy to arrange this for you, but it comes at a cost.

Stay safe in Nicaragua
Iglesia la Merced

 

Safety first.

Nicaragua is not a wealthy country and while Granada may have more resources than the more rural areas, poverty is rife. Like all tourist hotspots, you’ll often have hawkers approach trying to sell handmade curios. Beggars may ask for spare change or food. But, simply saying no will have them moving on to the next person.

All hotels and hostels make safety a priority. Very often guards will be stationed at the front door 24hrs a day. If a guard is not present, you can be sure that hotel staff will lock the front gates. It’s also standard practice for guest to leave their room keys at reception before enjoying their day in town.

Despite the relative safety of the area, I think it’s important to use common sense. Coming from South Africa, I sometimes feel as though I have more of an awareness of my surroundings and my personal belongings when compared with other tourists. Some might say I’m paranoid. But it’s always best to stay on the safe side.

I would definitely not recommend that anyone walk along Lake Nicaragua at night. In fact, stick to busy streets and stay in groups. Pick-pockets are common no matter where you travel, so make sure you always have an eye on your purse/wallet and cell phone. Make sure you use reputable tour companies and avoid traveling to remote areas.

Seven Safety Tips:

  1. Don’t forget to use common sense.
  2. Avoid remote areas when traveling alone.
  3. Always use a reputable travel company to ensure safe excursions.
  4. When in doubt, ask! Your hotel will gladly assist with arranging transport, booking tours and providing safety tips.
  5. Only carry what you can afford to lose – keep important documents and valuable stored safely in your hotel room.
  6. Stay away from beaches or desolate areas at night.
  7. Learn key Spanish phrases.

My favourite

I knew the moment I stepped foot in Granada that it would become my new favourite city. I would absolutely recommend that you visit – whether you’re in a group or traveling solo. If you’re looking for a few suggestions to make your trip worthwhile, be sure to check out these attractions.

Top 5 Attractions:

  1. Islets of Granada
  2. Our Lady of the Assumption Cathedral
  3. ChocoMuseo Granada
  4. Mombach Volcano
  5. Apoyo Lagoon Natural Reserve

You can also visit my blog www.worriedwanderer.com for more travel tips.

About Jade Gower:

Jade Gower is the creator and writer for www.worriedwanderer.com – an international travel blog.  Her and her husband have spent the past eighteen months traveling through Central America. She’s currently back in her home country, South Africa, where she works as an account manager for a global marketing agency, while dreaming up her next adventure.  When she’s not writing, she reading ridiculously cheesy romance novels and drinking an unhealthy amount of tea.

Jade

More about wowtravelersworld

Born out of a passion for adventure and the power of story telling, WOWTRAVELERSWORLD is a network for conscious travelhers to connect, learn and gain strength through sharing experiences and knowledge to enrich the lives of women around the world!

38 thoughts on “Stay Safe in Nicaragua: Seven Safety Tips For Women

  1. Jean

    Your photos are gorgeous. We’re heading to Sth America next year and I didn’t think of adding Nicaragua to the list. Now I’m really tempted to! Thanks for the great safety tips

    Reply

    1. Jade Gower

      Hi Jean,

      If you can squeeze in a trip to Granada you wont be disappointed! It really is my favourite:-)
      No matter where you decide to go, I wish you safe travels and tons of fun!

      Cheers,
      Jade

      Reply

  2. Addie Gray

    Granada looks absolutely beautiful! I’ve never really known much about Nicaragua aside from hearing about the violence, so it’s refreshing to hear that the stereotypes aren’t all true. Possible new dream trip? I think so!

    Reply

    1. Jade Gower

      Hi Addie,

      Glad you liked the post! You’re absolutely right, stereotypes can be incredibly misleading. Granada is an absolute gem!

      Cheers,
      Jade
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  3. Addie Gray

    Granada looks absolutely beautiful! I’ve only ever really heard of the dangers of Nicaragua before, so it’s definitely refreshing to hear that the stereotypes aren’t all true. I’d definitely still want to exercise normal safety precautions, but I’d definitely love to visit someday!
    Addie Gray recently posted…Bewitched by BarcelonaMy Profile

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  4. Lydia@LifeUntraveled

    I traveled all over Nicaragua and I can confirm that it’s a safe country – it’s actually one of my faves! It’s definitely underrated but it’s a beautiful country with really interesting towns and activities. Granada itself is really safe because of all the tourists – it’s such a pleasant town to walk around in.
    Lydia@LifeUntraveled recently posted…Visiting the Pak Ou Caves in LaosMy Profile

    Reply

    1. Jade Gower

      Hi Lydia,

      100% agree! A lot of travelers are often put off because certain towns or cities are considered “tourist hot-spots”. But a key benefit, especially when referring to Granada, is the safety! I walked everywhere within the main city area and loved it!

      Cheers,
      Jade
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  5. Abby

    I’ve got to admit – this post has me yearning for a visit to Nicaragua. The architecture (especially the old churches) are beautifully impressive. With regards to the safety tips, I guess these are just practical reminders on what we need to do to ensure our own safety. This applies not just to Nicaragua, but when visiting foreign places in general.
    Abby recently posted…One Perfect Day on Saona Island, Dominican RepublicMy Profile

    Reply

    1. Jade Gower

      Hi Abby,

      I freaking LOVE the architecture – the cobbled streets, beautiful churches and colourful houses! It’s simply magical… But you’re right about the safety tips – they apply no matter where you travel.

      Oh oh, and go to Nicaragua! You wont be disappointed;-)

      Cheers,
      Jade

      Reply

  6. Iza Abao, Two Monkeys Travel Group Writer

    I have not been to Nicaragua. I am sure that there are nice people who will be happy to help me in case I am lost or need help. Your photos of Granada looks fascinating. I love the architectural designs of infrastructures and has a friendly atmosphere. It reminds me of Puerto Rico.
    Iza Abao, Two Monkeys Travel Group Writer recently posted…What to See in Barcelona: A Stellar 3 Night ItineraryMy Profile

    Reply

    1. Jade Gower

      Hi Iza,

      The people of Granada are super friendly! And, like you, I love the architecture… I’ve never been to Puerto Rico but if it’s anything like Granada, I definitely want to visit.

      Cheers,
      Jade
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  7. Promise Chika Maxwell

    Seeing is believing and experiencing is a great way to learn. I’m glad you can be able to survive and share us the brilliant post of your experience despite what you’ve been told. I’ve not been there before but sure will visit in future and follow your guide to get the best out of it.

    Reply

    1. Jade Gower

      Hi Promise Chika Maxwell,

      Thanks so much for your kind words. I loved my time in Granada and I hope you get the opportunity to visit this beautiful city soon!

      Cheers,
      Jade
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  8. Lynne Sarao

    Nicaragua looks amazing – your photos are stunning! These are great tips and I think could be useful in any new city – especially if travelling alone. I’d love to visit someday!
    Lynne Sarao recently posted…3 Must-do Hikes in Bryce National ParkMy Profile

    Reply

    1. Jade Gower

      Hi Lynne,

      If you’re considering solo travel then Granada is a great place to visit! It’s great even if you take your whole family:-) But you’re right, these tips are something to keep in mind no matter where you go. Good luck on all your travels.

      Cheers,
      Jade
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  9. neha

    Wow..reading your post even I feel I have been quiet wrong with my impression of Nicaragua. I would love to visit here some day 🙂
    neha recently posted…12 interesting things in City Palace UdaipurMy Profile

    Reply

    1. Jade Gower

      Hi Neha,

      It’s so great to hear that I may have changed your mind about Nicaragua! I wont lie, I was pretty hesitant to visit the country myself, but I’m so glad I did. If you’re ever heading there, I highly recommend Granada and if you have some time, Ometepe Island and San Juan Del Sur are fantastic too.

      Cheers,
      Jade
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  10. Vicky @ A Backpack Full of Adventures

    Haha, that sounds familiar! I’ve wanted to go to South America for quite a while, but everyone tends to freak out as soon as I mention it. So glad Nicaragua is safe, though! (I’m the same as you, and always save money wherever I can, so I’m pretty sure I would’ve been in the same position)
    Vicky @ A Backpack Full of Adventures recently posted…How to Visit Neuschwanstein Castle from MunichMy Profile

    Reply

    1. Jade Gower

      Hi Vicky,

      If you’re into saving money, then Granada is definitely the place to visit! Its sooooo cheap;-) Always a good thing in my book. Hopefully you’ll get the opportunity to visit South America soon. Enjoy your travels.

      Cheers,
      Jade
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  11. Kemkem

    All very good points and l practice a few of those whenever l’m in a strange place. I especially like the point of going into a store to ask for directions. My husband used to hate it, but l find it makes more sense and people are always willing to help. I trust that better than asking a random stranger who might not want to look unhelpful and send you off with wrong directions 🙂 .

    Reply

    1. Jade Gower

      Hi Kemkem,

      What is it with men and asking for directions? 😉

      But I agree, it’s definitely safer to ask someone in a store nearby for directions! Usually, if you’re polite and friendly, there’s always someone willing to help.

      No matter how bad my Spanish was, someone was always patient and helpful!

      Cheers,
      Jade
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  12. Karolina

    I love your photos and your courage but I’d never walk around at night in the place that is known for the crimes. I think you were lucky but in the future you may not be… so please take care of yourself. It’s better to spend more money on the taxi than get lost in the place you don’t know.

    Reply

    1. Jade Gower

      Hi Karolina,

      I absolutely agree! It’s always better to be safe than sorry, and with some hindsight I definitely should have taken the taxi. Not only was it safer, I would have been at my hotel within 2min… Instead I was lost for 30min and covered in sweat by the time I arrived – not cool!

      Cheers,
      Jade
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  13. saurabh

    Hi,
    I have never been to this part of the world. But would definitely love to visit, inspite of all the horror stories and rumors. I have visited many places which have similar stories, but after visiting there and talking with locals, most of the rumors turns out to be false or exaggerated.
    saurabh recently posted…10 Reasons Why India Is the Centre of Spiritual TourismMy Profile

    Reply

    1. Jade Gower

      Hi Saurabh,

      Exactly! I think it’s always best to be cautious but very often the stereotypes are not very accurate.

      I loved my time in Granada and I’m glad I didn’t listen to all the naysayers.

      Cheers,
      Jade
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  14. C of Love C and D

    Like you, our (admittedly uninformed) view of Nicaragua and the whole of Central America generally was that it was a region to be avoided. Having read your post and talked to so many people we met travelling South America, we were so wrong! Granada looks beautiful and definitely somewhere we would love to visit.

    Reply

    1. Jade Gower

      Hi C of Love C and D,

      You will be absolutely blown away! The place is just fantastic – and cheap!

      Hopefully you’ll get the opportunity to visit in the near future. Travel safely and have tons of fun!

      Cheers,
      Jade
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  15. Hendrik

    Your photos proof that Granada is obviously a very pretty place and definitely worth a visit.
    To be honest, the safety factor is usually the key factor that makes the decision about a region – Yes or No. We dont really want to spend the rare time of traveling to worry about so many things, even though the places are amazingly beautiful. I guess, as you also wrote, with common sense you should be pretty safe, but might be that you are never sure and can also have some bad luck… but anyway, glad to see that you had a great time and found a new favorite place 🙂

    Reply

    1. Jade Gower

      Hi Hendrik,

      I totally understand your reservations. No one wants to go on a trip and look over their shoulders the whole time. Granada was a pleasant surprise and I’m so glad I got the opportunity to visit. It helps that the ice-cream was so cheap too (a key factor for me when considering a travel destination).

      Cheers,
      Jade
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  16. neha

    Wow..your post is both inspirational and helpful. No place is absolutely safe in today’s world, more so for women. I was really encouraged to read your account of how you have come out of adverse situations smartly and how you use your wits and judgement to tackle tricky situation.
    neha recently posted…10 must do in Rajasthan that we missedMy Profile

    Reply

    1. Jade Gower

      Hi Neha,

      Thanks for your awesome comment! Common sense goes a long way when you’re traveling in a foreign country and these safety tips are really just a reminder of that.

      I hope you enjoy all your future travels.

      Cheers,
      Jade
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  17. Doro

    Nicaragua looks beautiful, stunning photos! Would love to visit – even though I’m not a “bucket-list” kind of person, the idea of going in surfing in Nicaragua really stuck to my mind since I first thought of it.
    I think the safety tips you mention are applicable to most places…my family often gets worried when I go traveling to countries that aren’t “that safe”, but I think just using common sense, is the most important thing to remember. The scary stories you hear in the news are often about situations which I would have never gotten myself into (like I would never walk around alne at night if I knew that the area isn’t very safe)…

    Reply

    1. Jade Gower

      Hi Doro,

      You’re absolutely right! Common sense will probably help you avoid 90% of the “bad” situations you hear about. I’m so glad I visited Granada – it blew my mind!

      But if you’re looking to surf in Nicaragua then you definitely want to visit Playa Maderas – it’s very close to San Juan Del Sur. I got lost there (I swear I’m cursed), and I loved it! The beach is beautiful.

      Cheers,
      Jade
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  18. Harsh Gupta

    As a traveler, one of the most important things is to be careful while exploring a new country. Whilst we should trust people, but we must also follow our instincts. Thanks for sharing these amazing tips to stay safe in Nicaragua. Love all the pictures!

    Reply

    1. Jade Gower

      Hi Harsh,

      I absolutely agree! Your instincts are very important. You hear so many stories of people who ignored that “little voice in the back of their mind” and regretted it!

      Good luck on all your future travels!

      Cheers,
      Jade
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  19. Karla at GlobalETA

    Thanks for this post! I am headed to Nicaragua next month for the first time and I will definitely utilize the tips and information. I am happy to include the post on my library’s page for Nicaragua. One question: What phrases or words would you suggest I learn before I go? Thanks!

    Reply

    1. wowtravelersworld

      Sorry for the late reply but the writter pf this post is currently traveling with limited access to email.
      How would you like to include us? you can email me at dinah@wowtravelers.com.
      For the sentences, I would suggest you get a basic spanish guide and learn how to get directions, ask for the the bus station, the food and call a cab. One of the keys to staying safe is not to look lost or scared 😉

      Reply

  20. Al

    How would you recommend getting to Granada from Managua airport(MGA) and where did you stay in Granada?

    Reply

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