Moving Your Dog to Nicaragua the Right Way

moving dogs from US to Nicaragua

Thinking of moving to San Juan del Sur and bringing Fido or your other fuzzy friends with you? It’s been done by plenty of people, including my husband and I. We moved our two dogs to Nicaragua from the US over two years ago and we are happy we were able to keep our family together.

You can read as much as you want and I suggest that you do, but nothing will prepare you for the actual experience. The anxiety of knowing part of your family is stuffed away in a cargo hold far from help and not knowing their status will be the greatest challenge of moving your pet to Nicaragua.

If you have spent much time in Nicaragua you may think moving animals here would be more headache than it’s worth. But you’d be wrong. Nicaragua is one of the easiest countries to bring Fido into and there is no quarantine requirement.

The rules and prices change but there are certain basics you need to know – including information not mentioned in the official guidelines. First, be aware of tasks you have to do in the States before you set foot on a plane. Start with contacting your airline to find out their guidelines.

At the time we moved our dogs Continental (now United) seemed the best choice. The pilots ensure that your pet is actually on-board before take-off and the airline provides air-conditioned holding areas and vans to transport the animals on the tarmac. But check this through for yourself, as there are other popular airlines that may be a better choice for you.

Be aware that most medical problems occur on long layovers and delays. We determined that driving our animals from New Orleans to Houston was better then taking the chance of them sitting on the tarmac with a flight delay. Depending on where you are coming from, this may be wise.

Take a lot of time considering your travel arrangements. Our flight left early in the morning, as it was July and the airlines will not accept your pet if it is over 85 degrees at take-off or landing… a hard feat for Nicaragua. So, plan accordingly and make sure to make reservations well in advance for your pet, not just you, as there are limited spaces for animals.

Your pet must have a travel crate and again, talk to your airline. International requirements are different than domestic flights. This was no problem for our small dog but my large 85-pound dog required a lot shopping around. He barely fit in the largest crate the airline would accept. Surprisingly, the cheapest option was buying the crate in Houston through the airline.

Once you have your travel plans, it’s time to contact your local veterinarian, who needs to be USDA accredited. All of your paperwork for your animal must be completed no more then ten days prior to departure. This paperwork must be approved at a USDA office – check the website for specific details. If you call ahead you can set an appointment instead of having to wait, so call ahead.

Do not lose your papers. You will need them to check in your animal with the airline and again once you arrive in Managua.

Be prepared for a long day at the airport. I found it very handy to have a local with us. Make sure you have local currency ranging from big bills to single córdoba coins before reaching the cargo department.

Your first fee, and the start of your migraine, is for the government of Nicaragua. This must be paid at a bank in Managua, so make sure you have transportation willing to run you around town. Return to the airport with the receipt and start compiling the remainder of the paperwork. The offices have computers, but do not be surprised when you have to wait for several people to write triplicate copies in long hand. Each person will need copies at two córdoba a piece, and each office will want something different copied.

Once you have a nice headache and all your different copies you then get to wait for customs. This is where our local friend was most helpful. The office tried to tell us that they were finished for the day. After some “friendly” words we were given a ticket number and told to wait. We did and soon after we were piling in the van with crates strapped to the roof.

This may all seem like a lot of hassle, but it is worth having your furry friend next to you, playing in the waves and eating your leftovers.

Questions, Comments?

Thinking about bringing your pet to Nicaragua, send us your questions.   If you’ve done it before, what are your tips?

Share with us on Facebook, connect with us on Twitter or leave a comment below. We’d also love to see pictures of furry friend in San Juan del Sur on our Instagram gallery.

About Rebecca Teeters

This is a guest post by Rebecca Teeters. Rebecca grew up outside of Washington D.C. before eventually moving to New Orleans to attend Tulane University. She moved to Nicaragua over two years ago with her husband and two dogs and now lives in San Juan del Sur. She works as a freelance writer and recently completed her first novel available on


  1. Enjoyed your article about bringing pets to Nicaragua from the US via plane. Are you knowledgeable about bringing your pets by land? I have traveled from Guatemala to Mexico with our two shih-tsus. We had to get a letter from a veterinarian to certify their health and vaccinations , good for 30 days. Belize required an additional fee for just crossing through, Mexico was fine. Wondering if you know the procedures for Nicaragua?

    • Hi Belita, Thanks for the question. I believe the requirements are the same whether you are traveling by air or over-land. But we’ll double check and come back to you on this.

  2. Hi Rebecca! Thanks so much for this post! I rescued a dog from Costa Rica while I was living there and am now back in the states. I am thinking of moving with my dog to Nicaragua and am worried about any exposure he might get to illness, other dangers, etc. Can you offer any input? Do you know anything about quarantine requirements for returning to the US from Nica?

    Thanks so much!!

    • Hi Rachel, Thanks for leaving a comment. I’ll make sure Rebecca gets it. We have an article on veterinary care in San Juan del Sur coming up which we’ll also send out to our subscribers. Apart from information on care we’ll be covering illnesses and dangers that dog owners should look out for in Nicaragua.

  3. Lauren Henckel says:

    Got a place, moving down this year ASAP! Does anyone know if the Health Certificate has to be certified by a Nicaraguan embassy before travel? I have seen both yes and no. As there are only 10 days to get HC, send it to USDA, get it returned, and fly it would be a lot easier if you also dont need to send it to an Embassy. Thanks.

  4. As a veterinarian who is moving to Nicaragua, and has taken pets both to Belize and the USVI, I wanted to reply to Rachel’s concerns about diseases. Prominent diseases might be different from what you are used to in the US. But as long as you continue normal preventative care, such as vaccines and parasite control (especially ticks) there are no greater dangers to your pet’s health in Nicaragua than anywhere else. Talk to vets and local pet owners once you arrive, both can fill you in on more details.

  5. My wife and I really enjoyed your article Rebecca. We may be moving to Costa Rica for a 1-2 years while we wait for our home in Nicaragua to be finished. Are you aware of any additional issues pertaining to bringing dogs into Nicaragua from Costa Rica?
    Given the historical tension between the Nicaraguans and the Costa Ricans, we’re concerned that a Costa Rican veterinarian’s documentation may not be looked at as favorably as a US veterinarian signing off on them. We’d appreciate any thoughts you may have on this subject.

  6. Steve Larsen says:

    Greetings and Thanks for such a great article! It is sort of strange, that I a native Nicaraguan that left at age 12 and returned after 44 years (6 times- I love the place and living in San Juan, my childhood beach, had always been my dream, cut short due to upheavals in the country; would ask of a “gringo” lol! 🙂

    Cutting to the chase. I have 2 – 19 years Tibetan Terrier/Bichon Frise and 1 Tibetan Terrier/Golden retriever , also 19 years old. Through thick and thin, we’ve been and they are my family. They eat before I do, when there are no funds.

    Due to a serious drop in income (med bills – mom’s Alzheimer’s) I am seriously considering relocating to Nicaragua in January 2016. I have recently retired ($997.00 per month.). If the IRS understands my plight, I will have $100,000 from house sale, that could add at least $1,000.00 in income.

    So, question: how well can I live in San Juan with that amount. Can I get a secluded, yet safe, beachfront housing in the nearby areas. Although, we are all healthy, how is med/vet care in San Juan? Affordable? Professional? etc.

    You though must welcomed. Thank you.

    Additionally, besides flying with them, would….(pause)….driving to Nicaragua, from Los Angeles, be safe?.

    Sinceramente, Steve

  7. Thanks for your insight! We are moving to Nicaragua in a year and would like to bring our 8 year old border collie and 13 year old house cat. Is there any way to do the paperwork ahead of time so you can just hand over the receipts at the airport?

    Thanks so much for your help!

    • Editor SanJuanDelSur.Org says:

      If you’re coming from the US your pet will need an International Health Certificate within 2 weeks of departure. So you’ll need to do that ahead of time and get it issued by a licensed vet. The USDA website has details. Nice to see you on the blog.

  8. I am working through the cargo options for shipping my dog. Do you know the hours of operation for the cargo/customs office at the airport?

  9. Kim Giles says:

    I need info on getting my dog back into the US after our 7 months in Nicaragua… I can book her going there on American Airlines, but they told me they do not ship them back to the US… does anyone know which airline does this? I’d be flying to and from Tampa, FL. Any help would be appreciated!

    • Hi Kim, We haven’t researched or looked in detail into the process of taking a pet back to the US but it’s a good idea for a post that we’ll plan to do in the future. Thanks for the note.

  10. We brought our Staffordshire Terrier (everyone assumes she’s a pit bull, but not) in January, 2016.

    I thought it would be a nightmare but NOT. If you do things right, it’s easy.

    Nicaragua does not quarantine. We flew United because they were willing to fly her breed, but also were the most careful and caring about animals.

    1. You need to have the Nicaraguan animal import form, which your vet should know how to download and fill out. Give yourself plenty of time to find a vet who knows about pets and international travel.
    2. Rabies innoculation and certificate filled out by vet within the time frame specified on the form. I think within the last year, but not certain.
    3. Additional Health certificate must be filled out by a USDA certified vet within 10 days of arrival in Nica
    4. Take this filled out certificate to a USDA office (find online) for authentication
    5. Be absolutely sure that your crate or carrier meets the airline’s specifications – found online, United is very complete in describing what is needed
    6. Make several copies, at least 4, of everything
    7. Have cash to pay import fee of $10 US – They now take this in US cash at the airport, they’ll direct you where to go
    8. They will give you papers to present when you leave the country with your pet. Keep them!

    Real life story: Pearl is 85 pound Staffy. A “vicious breed” – which is hilarious. So we needed to build a wooden and metal crate for her according to United Airlines specs. Put wheels on it, the workers appreciate it!
    Rented van and drove 6 days from Seattle to Houston to make it easy on the dog. Houston to Managua is 3 hrs.

    But before going to Houston we went to Austin, because the USDA office is there. Took Pearl to Austin Urban Veterinary Center, near the USDA office downtown. Outstanding vet! They knew what was needed, treated her for parasites as Nicaragua required, filled out the form which we took to USDA office, and they authenticated it in about an hour. All done the day before flight.

    Then we drove to Houston and went to United cargo to have them check out our crate. Sure enough, they wanted more reinforcement on the door, so we had a chance to do that instead of having it rejected the next day.

    We checked her in to cargo the next morning; they put a bucket of water inside and identifying documents on the crate. NOTE: She was in the crate 6.5 hours because they wanted her 3 hours before flight, 3 hrs of flight and another half hour before we got out of the airport.

    She flew on the same plane with us. We deplaned in Managua, went through customs very quickly without any inspections, and as soon as we walked out of customs saw her crate waiting for us right there. We got the dog before the luggage. She was fine. They showed us to an office down a short hall, we filled out some papers and paid US $10 and we were outtta there in about a half hour.

    We’re in a little village not far from Managua where we’ve found a great English speaking vet nearby – you have to keep up the parasite medication, as we learned by experience. Lots of ticks, fleas and worms everywhere.

    • Hi carla, so you did not have to go to a bank outside of the airport to pay a fee like another person had to?

      • Carla Kiiskila says:

        Hi Ashley, no, no trip to the bank

        An attendant at the airport led us to an office right on site, like 30 feet away from luggage. They took our money, which I think was $10 or so, and gave us a document to use when she leaves the country and that was it. Everyone was very helpful and all smiles.

  11. Love the blog so much! I was wondering if you can give any tips for bringing a dog from Costa Rica across to Nicaragua?
    I am traveling from Vancouver to Nicaragua in September. Due to really bad flight connections and restrictions on pet fly times to Managua it looks like I will need to first go through Costa Rica (which is much more accessible from Vancouver). From there I’ll need to find a means of transport to bring my dog and myself across the border to SJDS. Definitely not ideal, not even sure if it’s possible. Any tips you could give would be most appreciated!

    Thanks so much 🙂

    • Editor SanJuanDelSur.Org says:

      Hi Jylain, Thank you for the kind words about the site. This sounds like something we need to investigate and write a post on. I’m afraid we don’t have any specifics on this at this time.

    • Hi Jylian,

      You can only bring animals from Costa Rica to Nicaragua through a flight.

      I wanted to bring my puppy to Costa Rica (I live in Nicaragua) for a small trip but the land boarder does not have the service.


  12. I will be taking my dogs from the border in costa rica badk and forth to Nicaragua/// can you tell me how this works?

  13. Els van Woudenberg says:

    You do NOT need a USDA vet to sign the declaration, it is advisable, but not necessay.
    We just brought our 70 lbs Rhodesian Ridgeback from Denver to MGA, with a 3 plus hour layover in Houston. They gave us grieve in Denver, because the large crate we have for her, was supposedly not big enough and were told to buy a larger crate. But…… the airlines can’t accomodate a crate that size.
    After talking to the supervisor, it was decided the crate was ok. Upon arrival in MGA, the crate was sitting there, before the suitcases came in. It was easy, after customs, to get the paperwork stamped, paid the $10 and got a very happy dog!
    All’s well that ends wel….

    • Editor SanJuanDelSur.Org says:

      Great to read about your experience bringing in your 70lb Ridgeback!
      Thanks for sharing.

  14. Hello

    We are planning to move to Nicaragua this summer and want to bring our 75lbs lab mix. I understand we need US vet papers and an appropriate crate. Do you know if we can pre-pay the fees in Nicaragua?

    Whats the best way to go about this?