Managua Airport Tips: What to expect when arriving at MGA Augusto Sandino International Airport

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Exterior of the Augusto C. Sandino International Airport in Managua, Nicaragua (MGA)

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The main lobby of the Augusto C. Sandino International Airport in Managua, Nicaragua (MGA)

Will you be arriving at MGA, the Managua International Airport soon?

Would you like some Managua airport tips and a step-by-step look at what to expect? Here you go, enjoy!
The drill will be:
  1. Get off the plane, follow the people and signs down hallway and then down the escalator to Immigration.
    (Note: If you use the VIP service, you will stay on the same level and someone from the service will have a placard with your name on it!)
  2. Get in one of the lines (the ones on the right side of the room seem to be shorter generally speaking, but YMMV).
  3. Have your forms, passports, and $10 USD in cash ready. The immigration officer will normally just swipe your passport, stamp it, then take the money from you and give you a receipt.
    Note: Speaking of forms, if you are coming to stay at the Farmstay, write down “km. 10 1/2 Carretera a Masaya, Managua” in the space on the form titled “Direccion Prevista”
    Note: Keep the little piece of paper they give you, this is your visa and should be kept with your passport. It is automatically given for a 90 day period and can be renewed one time.
  4. Follow the other people towards the baggage claim area…there is a tourist information desk on your left if you want to grab some brochures and you can stop and use the bathroom on the right if necessary (optional 🙂 )
    Note: There is a money exchange there too, but I do not recommend exchanging money at the airport. They give you a really lousy exchange rate, about a fifth less then what you can get from a bank or a street exchange.
  5. Get a free baggage cart or two if needed (they are on the left side of the baggage claim area, near the windows where you will see lots of people waiting for the new arrivals)
    Note: There will be airport workers there to help you if you want it, they will just want a tip of a dollar or so…could be well worth it if you have multiple pieces of luggage.
  6. Get your bags off of one of the two carousels.
  7. Get in the line for the bags to be checked and give that person your remaining customs form. (Also, have your baggage claim tickets ready, they check to make sure you are taking the correct bags.)
  8. After that you move towards your final check, where you will put your bags on a conveyor belt. It will go through an x-ray machine (half the time no one is even looking at the screen). There are a lot more customs officials and stations here now, so this part can go very quickly.
  9. Put your bags back on the cart and turn left.
  10. After retrieving your bags, head towards the exits. There are three sliding glass doors, two on your right which takes you curbside, and the other by going forward, staying in the terminal building, heading towards the Rental Car desks.
  11. If you have arranged transport for your first night’s lodging already, look for them but don’t panic if you don’t see your pickup person immediately. They’ll find you!
    Note: If you are staying at the Farmstay, do not go out to the curb, after turning left, go straight through the automatic glass doors into the terminal. I usually stand away from the waiting people that tend to crowd the area just on the other side of the sliding glass doors. Just keep your head high and with complete confidence, keep walking past all of them, ignoring their offers for taxis and transport, and look for me in front of a little coffee bar on the right with my sign saying “FARMSTAY”.
    Note: If you have a scheduled pickup with another lodging option, look for their sign. If you are looking to rent a car, keep going forward and you will see the sign pointing to the rental cars. If you need a taxi, look for the men in the yellow or blue shirts, they are the official airport taxis. Actually, they’ll find you!
  12. If you are staying with us, look for me holding the sign “FARMSTAY
    Note: If you have nothing previously arranged, you have some decisions to make. You can stay across the highway at the Best Western, which, while rather expensive, has an undeniably handy location, or any number of other hotels. See my guide to your lodging options: Where should I stay on my first night (or last night) in Nicaragua?
    There are now two tourism-services kiosks on your left as you enter the main terminal. They will have their representatives at the sliding glass doors. They can help you in case you come in to Managua without any sort of plan whatsoever and you want them to set you up with transport and lodging for the night. 
    Note: You can also set you up for transport to Granada, which many people do. It will cost you about $40. But before you decide on that, there’s a case to be made for staying that first night in Managua because you can catch the public bus to Granada the next day and save money. Plus there are several other reasons, especially to stay at FEPV.

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    Your host Mike will be waiting for you at the airport with his FARMSTAY sign.

streetchildNote: Once you are in the terminal or outside on the sidewalk (or even inside the terminal), there may be street urchins looking to give you a sort of origami flower made from straw, help you with your bags, or just asking for “dame un dollar” (give me a dollar) usually followed by “chele” (roughly translated as “whitey”). Lately, the authorities have done a better job keeping them off the airport grounds but they still are around at times.
Welcome to Nicaragua!  If you are going to Granada and to a lesser extent Leon and San Juan del Sur, expect to see lots more of these children. The best way to deal with them in my experience is to give them a firm “No gracias” followed by a stern (louder) “No!” and keep an eye on your things, do not maintain eye contact. If you do want to give them money, best you give them a Nicaraguan coin, no more than five cordobas.  But just understand, you do not have enough coins/money on you to give money to everyone who asks! There are several orphanages, street children’s help centers, and other worthy charities in the major cities where you can help these young people at risk.

21 thoughts on “Managua Airport Tips: What to expect when arriving at MGA Augusto Sandino International Airport

  1. Even better arrival experience:

    1. Contact the SALA VIP prior to departure.

    2. Look for your name on a sign as you exit the JETWAY.

    3. Follow him/her to the SALA VIP. Give them approximately $30, your passport, your bag tags, your customs forms, and $10 for the tourist card.

    4. Find a comfy seat, order a cocktail (two are included), have a snack (included).

    5. After no more than ~20 minutes (my fastest was 10), someone will come to give your passport and tourist card.

    6. Depending on the load on your flight, wait maximum of 40 minutes (total) for your already-cleared-by-customs-baggage to be ready.

    7. Follow your escort downstairs and outside.

    No lines, no fuss, no muss!

    • For those readers interested in the SALA VIP experience, you can sign up for it (i.e. step #1 above) via this website.

      Also, keep in mind that the SALA VIP is available when you depart MGA as well as arrivals. Thanks again to GringoLoco.

    • con mucho gusto!

      Thanks for posting the link — the site was down yesterday when I posted. It really is a great way to go. Anyone who has arrived in the “noon block” of flights (morning USA departures) and had to experience 400+ people in the immigration lines and then 400+ people in the aduana lines who gladly pay the fee!!

  2. Pingback: Where should I stay on my first night in Nicaragua? | Ecotourism Managua Bed and Breakfast Farmstay El Porton Verde

  3. Greetings Lourdes:

    Thanks for your inquiry about Bed and Breakfast Farmstay El Portón Verde, Managua! Well you’ve got a lot going on in your comment haha. Thank you for considering Managua, I agree that it does get a short shrift, but I totally understand why, as the city itself is not as interesting as the colonial towns of Granada and Leon for example. But for some it works out just right to come and stay with us where you are in the country with sweeping vistas, fresh air, and wide-open spaces.

    Your plans sound good to me, although for me seven days on Corn Island might be a couple of days too many. Rock fever and all 🙂

    Regarding teeth cleaning: Yes we have a great dentist that has a fancy camera from Europe that he uses in-lieu of x-rays, so we can arrange that no problem.

    What I would say about helping you with some itinerary ideas is that I will email you our welcome letter that describes some of the tour options we have. In fact (note to self) I will put up a Tours page on this website.

    Near here we offer the half-day Managua tour, which I think is pretty interesting, full- and half-day mixes of Pottery Village, Laguna Apoyo, Artisan’s Market, and Volcano Masaya.

    You should also read the “36 Hours in Nicaragua” article in NY Times Travel.

    The article and the Welcome Letter are a good start to lining up different activities. We are very nicely located to do lots of them relatively close by. Besides those mentioned, there are also private forest reserves with waterfalls and lots of wildlife, night volcano tours, interesting little villages like one that has been making gorgeous pottery since pre-Colombian times, etc.

    As far as hot springs, in Tipitapa on the east of the MGA airport outside of Managua is an aguas termales place. It isn’t very natural but the water is plenty hot! Some photos and information in Spanish are here. They also have a Facebook page. That’s the only one I am familiar with that is anywhere near here.

    Thanks again and look for my email.

  4. Another comment for folks visiting us at Farmstay El Portón Verde. In the customs form it will ask you for “Dirección Prevista” which means intended address (i.e. where you’ll be staying while in Nicaragua). You can put down “km. 10.5, Carretera a Masaya, Managua” as you intended address.

    • Hi Claire: I am glad to hear that my post helped you out! Have a great time in Nicaragua! Cheers, Mike @ Farmstay El Porton Verde

  5. Pingback: Looking for a pleasant alternative to the chain hotels? | Bed and Breakfast Farmstay El Portón Verde, Managua

  6. Stayed at El Porton Verde a couple of years ago and it was awesome! Mike is a wonderful host and tour guide! You will NOT regret your stay! Beautiful location so close to Managua, without being stuck in the city! Returning to Nicaragua this Spring, but unfortunately our schedule does not have us staying in Managua, but would not hesitate to rebook with there. Perhaps next year!

  7. One thing I have had a problem with is having one of the “helpers” (white shirts, black tie) assist me with my bags. I often have 2 to 3 large suitcases and they are a help, but when I get to the curb they demand $5 and have gotten very aggressive about it. Next time I will settle the tip beforehand.

    • That’s a good point Claudia. In addition to your comment, they only take the bags to the curb, so if you have your vehicle waiting for you in the parking lot, they are of zero help. That’s when we go get the truck and put the bags and suitcases on the truck from the curb.

Hey reader, watcha think?