According to INCAE, the Harvard Business school affiliate in Nicaragua, Nicaragua is the safest country in all of Central America. The Inter-American Institute on Human Rights, and a survey of police forces in the Americas, supports this claim and places Managua as the safest capital in the region, and Nicaragua as the safest country in Central America, and among the safest countries in the world. Recent studies also point to Nicaragua’s low reported crime rate – lower than in Germany, France or the U.S.
One reason for the low crime rates is thought to be Nicaragua’s rejection of the kind of mano dura (iron fist) polices used by other countries in Central America. The policy change took place following the 1979 Sandinista Revolution against the Somoza dictatorship. The new leadership didn’t want the policing system to resemble the hated Somoza Guard. Instead it set up “neighborhood watch” organizations that still persist today, and a community-based police force focused on crime prevention. It is thought that this, combined with migration patterns, helps explain why Nicaragua has not developed the notorious gang culture associated with neighbors, in particular El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras,
But while statistically Nicaragua is safe it always makes sense to look after your belongings and take care while you are in the country. No location is 100% free of crime. Petty theft does occur with some of the crime targeted towards tourists. Keep an eye on your personal belongings, make use of the hotel safe and lock your car, leaving nothing of value in it. And don’t walk around flaunting expensive items or loudly counting the cash you have just withdrawn from the ATM. Take particular care at night when it is not advisable to walk on the beach, hang around the nightclubs or loiter in less trafficked parts of town. Violent crime is rare in San Juan del Sur, but each year there are reports of tourist muggings.