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