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A Couple Reasons Why NOT to Import Your Vehicle Into Nicaragua

Volkswagen Van: San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Every so often we get an email from someone asking whether or not they should import their vehicle into Nicaragua.

And our reply is always the same.

“Don’t do it!”

Here are a couple reasons why:

1. Foreign vehicles entering Nicaragua will only be granted a 30 day permit to be in transit.

Upon arrival in Nicaragua you will be granted a 90 day tourist visa. Your vehicle however, will only be permitted to legally remain in country 30 days.

It is possible to apply for a 30 day permit extension in Managua, but you can only apply for this extension once. So the best case scenario is that you’ll have to drive your vehicle out of the country every 60 days, instead of every 30.

Crossing the border into Costa Rica in your vehicle is nothing like crossing the border from Canada to the United States and vice versa. It is a complicated process. It involves import and export permits, vehicle fumigation, purchasing of insurance and more. This task could easily take a full day.

There is an exception to this rule. Foreigners with residency (depending on which type) may be eligible to import a vehicle into the country tax free.

2. Finding replacement parts for your vehicle in country is likely going to be very difficult.

Most vehicles sold in North American are not sold in Nicaragua, which means finding replacement parts for your foreign vehicle here may be next to impossible.

If you are lucky enough to find the parts you need for your car or truck the next challenge will be finding a mechanic who knows how work on said vehicle.

If you plan to stay in Nicaragua for more than a couple of months — and you want to have wheels — we recommend saving yourself some time, money and unnecessary stress by leaving your vehicle in your home country and purchasing one when you get here.

You may have read or heard that foreigners without residency cannot own or register a vehicle in their name in Nicaragua. This is true; however, many expats have purchased vehicles here.

They are able to do so by leaving the registration in the previous owner’s name and having a lawyer draw up a sales letter (carta de venta). This is also common practice for many locals, as it’s a way to avoid paying transfer tax.

With the registration card and a carta de venta it is possible purchase insurance for the vehicle.

Vehicle importation is a complicated process; one that we are far from subject matter experts on.

This article was not meant to provide full and complete details on importation of a foreign vehicle or foreign ownership of a Nicaraguan vehicle, rather merely help you understand that importing a vehicle into the country is not as easy a thing to do as a lot of people think.

In short, before you load up the car with your three kids, two dogs and all your worldly possessions — en route to Nicaragua — you might want to think twice!

Life with a Dog in Nicaragua

Life With a Dog in Nicaragua
Gone are the days when our dog got two short walks per day and had to spend Monday to Friday snoozing away in the house while we were away at work all day.

A dog riding around the countryside on a motorcycle with us? Who would have thought!

If you’ve ever wondered (or worried) about what life would be like for your dog in Nicaragua this post will provide some great insight.


We take our dog Maggie everywhere. The fact that we can is just one of the reasons we love living in Nicaragua.

Here in San Juan del Sur the only place we can’t take Maggie is into the Pali (local grocery store). Oh, and to the bank.

Unless you’re in one of the larger cities like Managua this seems to be the case with pretty much most restaurants and bars. In fact, there are even a lot of pet friendly hotels. 

Since we are lucky enough to live in on the coast we’re usually at the beach with Maggie at least every other day. She is able to run freely off leash fetching her ball and frolicking in the ocean.

When we are out and about on the beach or walking around town we do encounter the odd street dog, but since they are generally scared of people (and Maggie) we are never bothered by them.

Although not common practice in Nicaragua we do carry poo bags and pick up after Maggie should she happen to do her business on the beach, sidewalk or street.


Some dogs tolerate the heat better than others. Minature schnauzers are not one of them. With average daytime highs reaching 28 to 34 degrees Celsius it gets hot here, especially for a little dog.

- Maggie cooling off in a tide pool: Playa Yankee: San Juan del, Nicaragua

– Maggie cooling off in a tide pool: Playa Yankee: San Juan del, Nicaragua

To ensure Maggie stays safe we avoid long walks in the heat of the day. We always carry a water dish so she can drink as often as she needs to.

And when it really starts to heat up in mid-April through to mid-May we actually find it’s better to leave her home during the day when we’re out and about running arounds so she can just chill out and keep cool and comfortable.


Here in Nicaragua the selection of quality dog food is very limited. Our preferred brand for Maggie is Mira.

We buy it the pet store at the central market here in San Juan del Sur. It’s also available at various shops in Granada and Managua. Price for a 3 kg bag is C$290 ($10.86 USD) and lasts us about five weeks.

Kirkland brand, which would be our second choice is available for purchase at PriceSmart in Managua.


Living in a country where many dog owners are not practicing flea or tick prevention can be a bit concerning.

Dogs in Nicaragua

– Available in 4 weight ranges – for small, medium, large and extra large dogs.

To protect Maggie from these pesky little critters and the potentially fatal tick borne disease every three to four weeks we apply a topical application on her called CertifectCost for the one month application of Certifect for Maggie (who is 15 lbs) is C$470 ($17.60 USD).

Certifect and other preventatives such as Frontline and flea and tick collars are also readily available here. 

As an additional precautionary measure we also do daily “tick checks”.


We are grateful for how incredibly inexpensive veterinarian care is here compared to Canada or the United States.

But we are even more grateful to have a skilled, compassionate and caring veterinarian who we can trust located a short ferry ride (or phone call) away on Ometepe Island.

Dr. Faran Dometz: San Juan del Sur Veterinary Clinic

~ We ❤️ Dr. Faran Dometz! (Photo credit: Katie Horn)

A regular consultation with our veterinarian Dr. Faran Dometz at Ometepe Vet Clinic is just C$300 ($11.24 USD).

Annual vaccine fee (distemper, parvo, rabies, etc.) is C$450 and includes a full physical exam.

Dental cleaning and spay and neuter surgeries start at $75 USD (price is based on weight) and are done by gas anesthesia.

Faran visits San Juan del Sur twice per month and is also available for virtual consultations via Skype and Facetime.


Having purchased Maggie here in Nicaragua, we haven’t personally dealt with importing a dog into the country, but after doing some extensive research and speaking to a few people that have here’s what we’ve learned.

Nicaragua does not quarantine healthy pets who meet the following requirements:

  • A licensed veterinarian must complete an International Health Certificate (see below for links to forms for Canada and the US) stating that your pet is in good health and free from parasites such as fleas and ticks.

    American Health Certificate
    Canadian Health Certificate
  • Once complete your health certificate must then be approved and stamped by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (if you’re Canadian) or the United States Department of Agriculture (if you’re American). Fees apply.
  • Your dog must have been vaccinated from rabies no more than 365 days and no less than 30 days prior to travel. For this reason be sure to plan your veterinarian visit and travel accordingly.

When you arrive in Nicaragua you will be asked to present the paperwork for your pup. Upon receipt and review of your paperwork — providing everything is in order — you’ll be required to pay an entry fee of $10 USD (per dog).

And that’s it, that’s all! You and Fido are then free and clear to start your new adventure together in Nicaragua.

DISCLAIMER: To the best of our ability we deem this information to be an accurate reflection of the current regulations for dog importation in Nicaragua.

Do you have a question we still haven’t answered? A major concern we haven’t addressed? Leave us a reply in the comment section below.


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