Renewing Your Tourist Visa In Nicaragua.
What is a tourist visa? Why do I have to renew my tourist visa? What is a border run? We will explain the in’s and out’s of how to renew your Nicaraguan tourist visa in a simple step by step manner.
A tourist visa is a document stating that you are a non-citizen to that country, and you are entering for a temporary period of time. If you come from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or Europe, you will not need to apply for a tourist visa in advance. You will automatically receive one when you pass through customs at the airport, and that tourist visa will be valid for 90 days from day of arrival. It will cost you $10. This visa has to be renewed every 90 days either by doing a border run to Costa Rica or by renewing it in country.
A border run is when you go to a neighboring country (Costa Rica is the closest country to Nicaragua.) prior to your 90 day tourist visa expiring. You will need to stay in that country for 72 hours, or three days, before returning. This is common not only in Central America, but in many other Latin American and European countries.
Costa Rica is the closest country to Nicaragua that is you are able to renew your tourist visa. Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras are part of the CA-4 zone agreement with Nicaragua. This is an economic agreement between these countries that make it easy for people to move freely about them. Therefore, there are no international border controls between them. Most people have no problem going to Costa Rica, and often do border runs with friends to make an adventure out of it. Something to consider is that Costa Rica is more expensive than Nicaragua, and three nights lodging, food, and transportation to and from the country. This can add up, and can cost a single traveler close to $200.
To renew your visa in Nicaragua , you will have to visit one of the immigration offices within the country. There is one in Leon, Chinandega, Matagalpa, and two in Managua. The second Immigration office in Managua is at the MetroCentro mall, within walking distance of the UCA bus/microbus terminal in Managua. The mall opens at 8:30 in the morning, however the office opens up at 10:00. There is usually a long line, so get there early. In order to renew your tourist visa in Nicaragua, you will need to go to one of the immigration offices within one or two days of your visa expiring, so be sure to have an accurate count.
You will need two photocopies of your passport, the first of your picture page, and the second of the last passport stamp that you entered the country on. It is less than $20 for each 30 day period that you want to extend and you can extend up to 90 days. So if you extend for 90 days, it will cost you less than $60 to renew your tourist visa. You will also need to fill out an application that is in Spanish, but no worries, there are examples on the walls that help out with that. If you have exceeded your original 90-day limit, you will be faced with penalty charges as well and those are $2.00 per day that you are over the 90-day limit. I highly discourage overstaying on your visa without renewing it. So by renewing your tourist visa by this method, you can save well over $120 by not going to Costa Rica.
Please note, you cannot renew your tourist visa in country two times in a row. So if you come into the country in January, renew your visa in Nicaragua at the end of March, or 90 days later, the following 90 day period (June) you need to leave the country, and do a border run (likely) to Costa Rica.
Both of these processes are relatively pain-free. The difference between the two in-country options are that if you do not go to the offices in Managua, you will have to drop off your passport at the immigration office, like in Leon or Chinandega, and pick it up within 5-10 days. Some people are not comfortable giving up their passport, and I fully understand. The first time my family and I renewed our visa, we renewed it in Managua, at the MetroCentro mall. We got there at 8:30, received our passport stamp by lunch time, and were back in Leon before dinner. I have also done it in Leon, and we had no problems whatsoever, and didn’t have to spend the day in Managua.
I would also like to mention that if you are planning on staying in Nicaragua longer than one year, I would highly recommend obtaining your Cedula or temporary residency. If you consider how much all the border run’s cost over the course of a year, you may as well get residency, and not have to worry about it.