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Visiting Nicaragua

By Val Ellis last modified Mar 22, 2011 10:57 AM

Published: 2011-03-22 10:57:20
Countries: Nicaragua

Puerto Cabezas in Nicaragua is definitely a port of entry. We checked in there last week with (almost) no problem. The navy and port captain are fine, but immigration is very strict about the CA-4 agreement. Our total time in Guatemala and Honduras was 6 months. We had legitimate visas the entire time. In Nicaragua they said we would have to either leave immediately for Costa Rica (by boat or bus) or pay a fine for all the days we were illegal (counting days we were legally in Honduras, but illegal for not having left a CA-4 country after 90 days) plus however many we wanted to stay in Nicaragua for. The fee is 20 cordova per day, a little less than a dollar. They gave us a hard time about our illegality in about the nicest way you could imagine. We thought it was a bribe thing at first, but after dealing with a lot of different people, plus the cashier it appears they believed they were totally in the right according to their law. We would have fought the fine more but were sleep deprived, food deprived and desperate to stay in the country due to our lack of motor. So, I would recommend not going there if you spent more than 90 days already in Guatemala and/or Honduras without leaving to a non-CA4 country. Or at least go knowing that they are going to lecture you and the end result will be a 20 cordova fee per day.

Also we just entered Bluefields, Nicaragua. They require intercountry zarpes between the ports of Puerto Cabeza, Corn Islands, El Bluff and Bluefields. That is to say the latter two are considered two different ports, so if you want to go to Bluefields do not go to El Bluff or you'll have to get a $25 zarpe for Bluefields, which is about 3 miles away. We stopped there to inquire, having seen in a cruising guide that the Port Captain and Immigration would be there, and the Navy guy insisted that we get a new zarpe for Bluefields because we had stepped on the soil in El Bluff. We were able to argue our way out of it and once in Bluefields the Port Captain was perfectly aimiable and there was no problem.

Also a note about cruising the Mosquito coast. We are in a very small sailboat with no motor so we are not huge targets, but we had no problems. We avoided cabo gracias a dios and sailed through the islands: Vivorillos, Cocorumbas, Media Luna, Edinburgh Reef, Mosquito Cayes all without problems. We saw almost no boats. A few motor boats in Edinburgh reef fishing and in Mosquito Cayes there are local sailboats. They were all very curious and came around wanting water. They were friendly and did not appear dangerous at all. From Puerto Cabezas down the coast we only ever saw dug out canoes. Sometimes they wanted to sell fish or get water, but never were they threatening in anyway. The towns in the river mouths are often accessible by sailboats, the rivers being deep and the people were always incredibly friendly and protective. They all think it's the next town full of criminals, but we have yet to meet with the criminals. Hopefully it will continue that way!

Just a contrasting note because we heard so many vague warnings about this area before coming here.

Our thanks to Ginny Ladd for sending us this report.