What NOT to Bring to Nicaragua: 6 Prohibited Items 

When you’re planning for Nicaragua, knowing what not to bring is just as important as narrowing down your travel essentials. Getting tied up in customs before you’ve even left the airport is no way to start your trip!

Luckily, if you do a little advance research, entering Nicaragua is a breeze. Let’s talk about the 6 prohibited items that travelers can’t bring across the border, and what to do if you accidentally pack one:

What can you not bring into Nicaragua?

Don’t pack any of these 6 prohibited items for your trip to Nicaragua. Some will seem obvious–others may surprise you. Either way, think twice before adding any of the following goods to your suitcase:

Seeds & Plants

Like many countries, Nicaragua prohibits the import of seeds and plants from international locales. It’s a fair rule–after all, who would want to risk damaging such a thriving ecosystem? 

For visitors, that means leaving even garden-variety fruit and vegetable seeds at home. Soil, plants, and shrubs are also not permitted by customs for fear of inviting invasive species into the country. Instead, get your green thumb fix in Nicaragua by strolling through a nature reserve like Mombacho Volcano or Apoyo Lagoon.

Fresh Food

If you were thinking about tossing apples or oranges into your carry-on, you might want to think again. Fresh food is one of the categories prohibited by Nicaragua customs (or, Aduanas).

For travelers, that means you cannot enter the country with fruits, vegetables, or any other perishable foods or beverages in hand. Instead, pack pantry goods like roasted nuts or granola bars to snack on.

If you’re really craving healthy food, rest assured that you can find all the produce of your dreams–including massive avocados–at the street markets in Nicaragua.

Vapes & E-cigarettes 

One of the reasons Nicaragua is a safe country is that it’s hard on drugs. Absolutely do NOT attempt to bring in illegal substances of any kind!

Though legal, vapes and electronic cigarettes are also banned imports in Nicaragua. You can’t bring them into the country, but you can still get your nicotine fix by purchasing these items at a premium in cities like Managua. Do not pack vapes or e-cigs unless you are willing to lose them at customs.

Can I bring alcohol and tobacco into Nicaragua?

Regular cigarettes, tobacco, and alcoholic beverages are all permitted to enter Nicaragua. But be aware: they are subject to taxes. Know the duty-free limits on these items and declare them at customs as necessary. 

HN Hint: Candy is also subject to limitations under this same customs category. Stay under 3 kg to avoid getting taxed.

Note that alcohol and tobacco imports are restricted to travelers age 21 or older, despite the legal drinking age in Nicaragua being 18 years old.

Binoculars

Sorry, bird-watchers: you’ll have to borrow binoculars for this trip. Nicaragua’s natural splendor and countless exotic animals can only be scoped out from afar if you get a special permit.

Technically, binoculars aren’t outright banned. But due to security concerns, the country requires you to register them upon arrival. Nicaragua customs will inspect them to make sure they don’t have night vision capabilities, as those types of goggles are not allowed and will be confiscated.

Long story short: expect to jump through bureaucratic hoops if you have your heart set on bringing binoculars to Nicaragua.

Weapons & Ammunition

This one should go without saying, but leave the weapons at home when you visit Nicaragua. Whether they’re spearfishing guns, grenades, or gladiator swords, they generally aren’t allowed into the country and are subject to the strictest regulations.

Drones

This one surprises a lot of people who are backpacking through Central America–and they aren’t too pleased when they get their drones confiscated at the Nicaragua border. 

Nicaragua prohibits all drones from entering the country. Photographers, videographers, and travel influencers are out of luck when it comes to capturing this beautiful country from the sky. Drones can get expensive, and aren’t easily replaceable, so do not pack one for Nicaragua.

HN Hint: If you end up at the Nicaraguan land border with your drone in tow and don’t want to risk losing it, you can mail it to another country (or back home) using a courier service like DHL.

Commonly Asked About Items at Nicaragua Customs

Some things aren’t banned, but will still raise flags or rack up unwanted duty fees. If you don’t want to draw attention, keep an eye out for these commonly asked about items at Nicaragua customs.

Laptops

Many people have separate laptops for work and personal use. If you’re one of them, consider keeping one of the two at home when you travel to Nicaragua. 

All travelers are permitted three major electronic devices at Nicaraguan customs: one personal laptop, one tablet, and one cell phone. While you certainly can bring more than one of each into Nicaragua, know that the second will be subject to additional taxes.

Professional camera gear

Photographers were given a scare in early 2023 when professional camera gear was restricted by Nicaragua. The ban was quickly lifted, but it has left tourists uncertain about whether or not they should pack their high quality cameras and lenses.

Rest assured that travelers are now permitted to bring cameras and their accessories into Nicaragua. At most, you may be asked for your intended purpose for the equipment. Just have an answer prepared for peace of mind as you go through customs.

Bulk merchandise

One thing to watch at Nicaraguan customs isn’t about the “what” so much as the “how much.” If Aduanas has reason to believe that you are bringing inventory with the intent to sell it in Nicaragua, then your items will be taxed at the point of entry.

What qualifies as bulk merchandise? 

We’re all guilty of overpacking. But what customs is looking out for here is inventory intended for resale.

Let’s take shoes, for example. If you want to bring a brand new pair of sneakers to Nicaragua for your volcano hikes, great! Even two pairs shouldn’t give you any issues. 

Now, here’s where you’ll start to run into problems: if you have eight or nine or ten boxes of ‘new with tags’ shoes, then you’re significantly more likely to draw attention at customs.

Just pack as much as you normally would of whatever you need for Nicaragua. A reasonable amount of any single item isn’t going to be an issue. Unbox brand-new items to be extra safe.

What happens if you get stopped by customs in Nicaragua?

What happens if one of these banned items slips through the cracks? If you accidentally pack a prohibited item for Nicaragua, don’t panic. Here’s what to expect when getting flagged by customs at the Managua airport:

If you get stopped by customs, you will be asked to step aside and take your bag to a row of tables right next to the bag scanners. Chances are, you won’t be alone–join the line of people whose luggage also revealed questionable contents. 

(For example, my suitcase was once pulled for a bag of roasted pistachios. The item ended up clearing inspection, but it just goes to show that it doesn’t take much to attract a second look.)

Customs agents will then unzip your suitcase on the table in front of you and dig around for any flagged items. If they don’t find anything objectionable, they’ll hand it back and send you on your way. 

HN Hint: If the item in question isn’t right on top, this process will completely upend your neatly organized packing job. Arrange your suitcase in such a way that it’s easy to access smaller belongings if necessary!

If Nicaraguan customs does uncover a restricted good, one of two things will likely happen:

  • They will confiscate the item. Aduanas will hold it for you until the end of your trip, subject to storage fees of $2 per day. You can collect it back at the airport on your way out of the country.
  • They will toss the item. The customs agent may throw away the prohibited item on the spot if it’s something perishable, like fresh food.

It’s not the end of the world if you get flagged by customs in Nicaragua. But to avoid bureaucratic scrutiny and get your trip underway as soon as possible, play it safe and refrain from packing any banned imports.

Conclusion

Avoiding these 6 prohibited items should lead to smooth sailing as you kick off your travels in Nicaragua. Double-check that they’re off your packing list to make sure you’re good to go before you take off.

Always do your own research if you want to bring something that may be restricted. Remember: when in doubt, leave it at home. But use this list as a starting point for getting past customs. 

Pin this post to remind yourself what NOT to bring to Nicaragua, and follow along on Instagram as we keep sharing travel tips!

Meet your Tour Guides

Hola! We’re Gail & Luis, a team of two with a deep love for Nicaragua. Luis, a professional tour guide, is the knowledgeable source behind the blog. Gail, an American writer, is the voice. 

We started this blog as a way to stay connected from afar and support Nicaragua in our own small way.

Today, our mission is to open hearts and minds to the wonders of Nicaragua and make it easier than ever to start planning your trip.

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