You will most likely arrive at Augusto C Sandino Airport in Managua (IATA: MGA). Flights from the USA arrive from Houston, Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Atlanta. Managua is served by American Airlines, United, Avianca, Delta, Spirit, Aeroméxico and Nature Air (from SJO), among others. In addition to domestic flights within Nicaragua, costeña also offers routes between Tegucigalpa and Managua. Since 2014, Veca airlines also serves Managua and connects it with other Central American capitals. Although the company presents itself as “low cost”, fares are still higher than those of its European or American counterparts.
If your destination in Nicaragua is in the Rio San Juan region or southwest Nicaragua, or if you find a flight that is otherwise more convenient for you, it may make sense to fly to Liberia Airport IATA: LIR or San Jose Airport IATA: SJO (technically in Alajuela) in Costa Rica. Note that Costa Rica is not part of CA4 and you will need to clear immigration at the airport and when entering Nicaragua. As San Jose is served by more destinations outside the US, this can also be a good option if you intend to avoid going via the US. If you or a member of your group is a Nicaraguan citizen, don’t forget to get a multiple entry visa to Costa Rica.
A fee of USD 10 is charged for entry, payable in USD or NIO. Try to get the exact currency.
Tourist cards are valid for three months for US citizens and EU and Canadian citizens. There are taxis outside the airport, but they are relatively expensive ($25 for the 20 km ride to the centre of Managua). You can also walk to the street and try to hail a regular taxi. Some taxi drivers try to charge more, especially if they see a foreign face, and may start with $20 USD, but a price around $5-10 USD or 125-250 Cordobas is reasonable from the airport (depending on the number of people and the amount of luggage). Knowledge of Spanish is very useful when dealing with taxis. You can also arrange a shuttle to take you to nearby cities such as Granada, a popular option for tourists who do not want to spend a night in Managua. It is recommended that you ask your hotel or language school to arrange a shuttle if possible.
There are talks about starting international flights to the small airport of Ometepe, which was opened in 2014; however, nothing has come of it to date (July 2014).
There are, as of 2015, no scheduled international flights to other airports in the country, although some may be able to accommodate general aviation.
Note that almost all car rental contracts do not allow you to bring your car across the border. If you want to bring your own car across the border, it is possible, but it requires some planning and a bit of red tape, as the government strictly controls the used car market and does not want you to sell them without paying the appropriate fees and tariffs. See Carnet de Passage to cross the border by car
There are two border crossings to Costa Rica: Peñas Blancas on the west side of Lake Nicaragua, and Los Chiles/San Carlos on the east side of the lake. While the San Carlos crossing was only accessible to boats for a long time, the bridge was finally opened in 2015 and it is now possible to cross the border on the east side of Lake Nicaragua by car. Peñas Blancas was by far the busiest crossing in the past, but the opening of the bridge and the rising tourism profile of the Rio San Juan region may change that. Remember that these two border crossings are major chokepoints for trade between Nicaragua and Costa Rica and many trucks will be waiting to cross. The sea route from San Carlos to Los Chiles remains open for now, but with more limited sailings than when this was the only possible passage.
There are three main border crossings into Honduras. Las Manos is on the shortest route to Tegucigalpa; the others are on the Panamerican Highway north of Leon.
A fee of US$12 is charged for crossing the border (usually payable in dollars, cordobas or the currency of the neighbouring country). This fee is usually charged even if you already have a CA-4 visa, although no new visa is included. The “visa rush” to get a new 90-day extension of your legal stay is therefore only possible by going to Costa Rica, and it is largely at the border officials’ discretion whether or not to grant you the twelfth consecutive 90-day visa.
International buses run between Managua and San Jose, Costa Rica (with short stops in Rivas and Granada), San Salvador, El Salvador (with short stops in Leon) and Honduras. Some buses continue to Panama City or Guatemala City. The buses are relatively modern (many have air conditioning) and stop along the way to refuel and eat. However, if you want to use this mode of transport, plan ahead: buses between major cities can be full several days before departure. Check the following companies: Transnica , Tica Bus and King Quality. Another option is to be picked up in small towns along the route; ask for the local ticket office. There are also cheap (but terribly uncomfortable) “chicken buses” that run several times a week between Managua and Guatemala City ($20) and stop in larger towns like Leon.
Another way to cross the border is to take a bus to/from a bigger city that will drop you off at the border. You can then cross the border and get on another bus. This is a common strategy for travellers, especially at the Costa Rica-Nicaragua border. This method takes longer, but is much cheaper and can be used at any time.
When you cross the border from Choluteca, Honduras to Guasaule, Nicaragua, don’t be intimidated by the men fighting over your luggage. They will want to take you across the border by bike to the bus stop on the other side. Often, when you ask for a price for the ride, they will insist that it is a “tip” or a “propina”. Only when you get to the other side will they try to pressure you into paying 20 USD or more. Negotiate with them before agreeing to a ride and if they still pressure you at the end, give them what you think is fair and leave.
This border crossing is also your last chance to exchange your lempiras for cordobas, and it is best to know the exchange rate so you can negotiate a fair rate.
All buses from the south enter Peñas Blancas in Nicaragua. There are relatively modern, air-conditioned buses from the same companies as for the connection to Honduras. You can also take a local bus to the border, walk across and take a bus or taxi from there. Remember that the border is the last point where you can get rid of your colones, as almost no one in Nicaragua itself accepts them; if they do, it is only at horrendous exchange rates.
With the boat
In addition to the cruises, there are also the following options
From Los Chiles (Costa Rica) to San Carlos, you can take a “lancha” (small boat) that will take you across the border for about US$10. The trip is very scenic as the Rio Frio flows through a pleasant rainforest. Please note that you are allowed to photograph everything except the border crossing halfway, as it is a military facility. Border formalities on both sides are similar to those at the Peñas Blancas land crossing, but in Los Chiles you will have to pay about US$1 to use the border area. There are two supermarkets in Los Chiles, but only one (with a more limited selection) in San Carlos, so if you think you need something, stock up.
It is reported that a new regular ferry now connects La Union (El Salvador) with Corinto, Nicaragua.
There are no passenger rail lines between Nicaragua and its neighbouring countries. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find a train in Nicaragua, as the national railway was closed in 1994 and literally sold for scrap shortly afterwards. (The situation is not much better in other parts of Central America, by the way). ) Discussions about restarting a railway – whether local or national, freight or passenger – are inconclusive and never get beyond newspaper articles or speculation by mid-level or retired politicians.