Nicaraguan Cordobas

One of the practicalities of travelling to Nicaragua is how to get access to your money. This blog post will outline everything you need to know about money in Nicaragua.

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What currency is used in Nicaragua?

A common question for people visiting Nicaragua is “What currency is used in Nicaragua?” The official currency of Nicaragua is the córdoba, however United States dollars are also widely accepted. Furthermore most ATMs will dispense both córdobas and US dollars. Most accommodation, tours and some of the more expat targeted restaurants charge in United States dollars. Keep in mind that many places will only give change in córdobas. We recommend carrying both cordobas as well as United States dollars when travelling in Nicaragua.

About córdobas – the currency of Nicaragua

The official currency in Nicaragua is the Nicaraguan córdoba oro. Córdobas are named after a Spanish captain who founded the cities of Granada and León called Francisco Hernández de Córdoba.

Córdobas consist of colourful notes made from polymer substrate plastic as well as silver coloured coins for the smaller denominations. The currency for Nicaragua is referred to by the symbol C$ or NIO. Cordobas are often referred to as pesos.

Nicaraguan Cordobas
Nicaraguan Cordobas

The denominations of córdobas are:


  • 10 córdobas (green)
  • 20 córdobas (orange)
  • 50 córdobas (purple)
  • 100 córdobas (blue)
  • 200 córdobas (brown)
  • 500 córdobas (red)


  • 1 córdoba
  • 5 córdobas

There are also 50 cent, 25 cent, 10 cent and 5 cent coins around, but they are rarely used and we’ve only ever seen them discarded on the street. There are apparently also 10 córdoba coins, but we have never seen these.

Can you use US dollars in Nicaragua?

United States Dollars
United States Dollars

Yes. US dollars are widely accepted in hotels, restaurants and for tours in tourist areas in Nicaragua. However for local restaurants, markets and public transport prices are quoted in the local currency córdoba, so we recommend that you either exchange some money for the local currency or withdraw córdobas at an ATM once you arrive.

Do I need to have the local currency before I arrive in Nicaragua?

No, it’s easy to exchange money or withdraw local currency from ATMs.

What are the exchange rates in Nicaragua?

If you are considering paying in US dollars, we recommend asking what exchange rate the vendor is using as sometimes it is better to pay in the local currency to get the best exchange rate. As at June 2024, the exchange rates are:

  • $1 USD to 36.74 córdobas
  • $1 CAD to 26.78 córdobas
  • €1 Euro to 39.44 córdobas
  • $1 AUD to 24.5 córdobas

Where can you exchange your money in Nicaragua?

Banks in Nicaragua can exchange currency for you. At the border and in major cities there are also people that can exchange currency on the street. These people are known as coyotes and are often holding big wads of cash and they yell out that they exchange money. We always recommend looking up the current exchange rate online and asking for the exchange rate before you exchange your money and checking that you have received what you have agreed on.

Also keep in mind that some places may not accept notes that are not in pristine condition. This is more of an issue with US dollars than córdobas. Córdobas are made from a durable polymer plastic material.

How widely available are ATMs in Nicaragua?

ATM Lafise at San Juan del Sur Nicaragua
ATM Lafise at San Juan del Sur Nicaragua

Most major cities and towns will have at least one ATM. ATMs can often be found inside of supermarkets, gas stations and convenience stores as well as near banks and as stand alone facilities. We recommend using ATMs that are not directly facing the street to reduce your risk of card skimming fraud activities.

Regional areas, small towns and beach towns other than San Juan del Sur generally don’t have ATMs, so be sure to bring sufficient amounts of cash in both US dollars and córdobas if you are visiting these places. Ometepe Island only has ATMs in the towns of Moyogalpa (3 ATMs as at 2021) and Altagracia (one ATM, inside the gas station a short walk from the main part of town as at 2021).

ATMs La Colonia Supermarket Nicaragua
ATMs La Colonia Supermarket Nicaragua

How much are ATM fees in Nicaragua?

The local banks generally charge around $4 US or 136 córdobas per transaction (as at 2021). One way to get around these fees is to use a card that refunds ATM fees in order to avoid paying ATM fees. Wise is an international travel card that provides a reliable option for accessing cash at ATMs in Nicaragua, offering favourable exchange rates and low fees.

BAC ATM Moyogalpa Ometepe Island Nicaragua
BAC ATM Moyogalpa Ometepe Island Nicaragua

Can I pay by card in Nicaragua?

Nicaragua is predominantly a cash based country. Expat focused hotels and restaurants generally have credit card facilities, but we have seen some places charge up to 15% extra for paying by credit card (particularly on Ometepe Island). You will need to have cash on you for entry fees to attractions, transport, locals shops, markets and local eateries.

Tipping in Nicaragua

Nicaragua does not have a strong tipping culture, however the influence of visitors from the United States has led to the expectation of tipping in some areas.

As a tipping guide, expect to pay:

  • 10% for restaurant meals. Check whether the tip or propina has already been included in your bill, as some restaurants already include the tip in your bill
  • 10% for guides
  • $1 US a day for maid services

Money safety in Nicaragua

Petty crime is a potential risk in Nicaragua, so we recommend ensuring your money is secure and out of sight. Use ATMs that are located inside shops or banks in order to reduce your risk of card skimming fraud. If you hand over your credit card to make a transaction, always ensure your card is in sight.

How to send money to Nicaragua

There are a number of money transfer providers that facilitate sending money to Nicaragua. These include:

  • Remitly
  • Small World
  • MoneyGram
  • Western Union
  • World Remit
  • Ria Money Transfer
  • Xend > pay

Wise is another popular money transfer provider. However it does not currently allow you to send money to Nicaragua.

The most common way to send money to Nicaragua is through Western Union. Western Union is a company that lets you transfer money to Nicaragua for a fee. Western Union branches are common throughout Nicaragua and can be found in many cities and towns. It is not uncommon for Nicaraguan expats living in places like the United States to send money back to family in Nicaragua, and Western Union is the most popular method for money transfer to Nicaragua. Keep in mind that there are costs involved in using these services.

Cryptocurrency in Nicaragua

We have noticed a community of people that are interested in Cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin around San Juan del Sur. Bitcoin is currently not widely accepted in Nicaragua, however we have seen a couple of places advertising that they accept Bitcoin. El Salvador made Bitcoin legal tender on 7 September 2021 and there are also plans to do the same in Nicaragua. One of the main reasons for adopting cyptocurrency is for Central American expats living abroad to be able to send remittances back to Central America without losing money through exorbitant fees of up to 10%, which is currently the case with money remittances through institutions like Western Union.

Final thoughts on money in Nicaragua

Nicaragua is a cash based economy and ATMs are mainly located in cities. Be sure to plan ahead to make sure you have access to money when you need it.


Anything that you find on this website is for information purposes only and does not constitute financial advice. A qualified financial planner will be able to help you assess your personal circumstances and decide a product that is right for you.

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  1. Thanks a lot guys. This is gonna be a very useful info for me as an aussie moving to Nica in few months time.

    1. No worries Robert, glad you found it useful! Let us know if there is anything else that you would think would be useful to know.

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