I recently got back from Nicaragua, and the number one question I get asked is about safety. I wanted to tell you a bit about my experiences while there was a tense situation, so here is what I experienced with the unrest in Nicaragua.
This post contains an affiliate link for RoamRight, and I attended this Nicaragua trip as media. All opinions are mine, and this story is based on my experience.
unrest in Nicaragua before our trip
In the days leading up to our trip, there definitely was cause for concern. I kept a close watch on the news and even checked the US travel website (see here) to check for safety precautions. Nicaragua was (and currently is) at a state of 3, which means that you should reconsider travel. Specifically, there was a worry about crime and civil unrest. So, being parents of 3 children and overall wanting to be safe, I will be honest to say that we 100% did reconsider.
The good thing about our trip is that it was a tour of sorts. Not a get on the bus and ride around for days kind of tour, but a tour in the sense that everything was organized for us. Ashley from Traverse Journeys organized airport transfers, lodging and activities. Meals were all set for us along with free time for us to enjoy.
So, I emailed back and forth with Ashley in the weeks leading up to the trip. She also was in close contact with the people who own the villa where we were staying (they are Americans who also live on the property). Ashley was very in tune with what was going on, and my only concern was getting in and out of Managua, Nicaragua. Our final destination of San Juan del Sur was about two and a half hours away.
Literally, two days before our departure my husband and I both talked to Ashley, and everything was a go. The airport transfer drivers were adept at driving and knew alternate routes if need be, and everything was safe and sound in San Juan del Sur.
When we arrived in Managua everything felt safe. Our driver was friendly (although we had a language barrier), and we set off for our ride to our destination. And – of course – along the way, we were stopped. Let me first say that I’ve been in Nepal during Maoist demonstrations and roadblocks, so that level of tenseness is exactly what I was expecting. Our van stopped because there was a line. No one was moving in either direction.
I looked out the window – somewhat afraid to snap any photos – and saw what looked to me to be teenage boys at the roadblock. Some were wearing t-shirts on their heads wrapped like masks and others were carrying some sort of weapon that looked like a stuffed pipe. Still, I didn’t feel afraid at all. Our driver was calm, and of ALL THINGS…he pulled out his sodoku book. I chuckled to myself because if you are at a roadblock and your driver opens his puzzle book, you know you are going to be there for a while! I did dare take the photo below because I couldn’t resist.
We were only there for around 30 minutes before the lines were let through, but at some point, the boys at our section were brought lunch. I thought to myself – someone’s mother is making these boys lunch! I think because of their age and their seeming normalcy, it all put my mind at ease.
Fast forward to our arrival and our stay in San Juan del Sur. Not once did I fear for safety at all. Everything was well organized, and I never even gave the unrest in Nicaragua another thought until we left to go home.
getting home with unrest in Nicaragua
The morning we were set to go home, we left an hour earlier than planned. Unrest in Nicaragua was still very real, and just in case there was a roadblock or turmoil, we wanted to be prepared. We all got in the van and rode for twenty minutes or so away. Our driver kept talking on the phone to other drivers, but we weren’t aware of what was going on.
We came to a certain point – as you will see in the video below – where all of the tractor trailers were being stopped. If those causing unrest can stop commerce, it really will affect a country! From what we had heard, the trucks had been stopped for two days, and we passed a really long line of them. Some of the drivers had even set up hammocks under their trucks for sleeping and napping.
Then our driver received a call. We were in no danger, but all of the roads to Managua were blocked. There was no alternate route. Our driver was communicating with other drivers and also talking in Spanish with Ashley, who was wonderful about keeping us informed. So, our choice was either to try to get to Managua – which was almost impossible – OR to drive to Costa Rica and try to leave out of the airport there. Costa Rica was our only choice.
We turned around and headed to that airport. No tickets. No schedule. Just a van full of people all set to go back to the US who couldn’t get to their original airport. Going to the Costa Rica airport involved going through customs (I’m never opposed to an extra passport stamp, lol!), which I have to say was a breeze.
sidebar: get travel insurance
I was a bit nervous when we arrived at the airport. How much was the trip change going to cost us?? I was SO glad we had purchased travel insurance that would cover any changes (I suggest RoamRight). The insurance is required by Traverse Journeys, which I begrudgingly got (ha!), but I do not regret it at all!
The amazing thing is that we were able to book flights out of the Costa Rica airport without any additional fees. AND we were also able to catch our next connecting flight. I truly was in awe and thankful that switching airports was so easy.
So, to answer everyone’s question. Yes, I felt safe in Nicaragua, but it wasn’t without adventure! I give many kudos to our fabulous drivers for their awareness and precautions, and I am also thankful that Ashley from Traverse Journeys was there to ease our minds about the unrest in Nicaragua and guide us through.
I can’t wait to share more about my trip with you soon! Also, if you are curious to see a few photos (about what I wore, ha) just click here. Also, RoamRight provides travel insurance if you have an upcoming trip!