Safety Precautions and Service Hours during Holy Week (Semana Santa): April 02 - April 08, 2012

This message advises U.S. citizens of special conditions during the Holy Week (Semana Santa) holiday this week. Semana Santa is a religious holiday during which thousands of people leave Managua to visit beaches and other tourist sites across Nicaragua. During Semana Santa, the Nicaraguan National Police traditionally operate checkpoints on all major roads and intersections. Traffic can be heavy on principal highways, especially on the Saturday and Sunday before Semana Santa (March 31- April 1) and the following Wednesday through Sunday (April 04 - April 08).

U.S. citizens are urged to obey all traffic laws and stay within posted speed limits. Driving under the influence of alcohol is illegal and a prosecutable offense. Defensive driving is also highly recommended. Travel only during daylight hours. Roads outside Managua are always dangerous at night because of pedestrian traffic hazards and the presence of negligent or drunk drivers.

Strong currents off sections of Nicaragua's Pacific coast have resulted in a number of drownings. Powerful waves have also caused broken bones, and sting ray injuries are not uncommon at popular beaches. Warning signs are not posted, and lifeguards and rescue equipment are not readily available. U.S. citizens visiting Nicaragua's beaches should exercise appropriate caution.

Remember to use common sense in protecting your property and person. This is the high season for petty thefts and other types of crimes. Though violent criminal activity has recently decreased in the tourist destination of San Juan del Sur, sexual assaults, armed robberies and theft continue to be a problem. In 2011, a U.S. citizen was the victim of sexual assault at a popular beach hotel in San Juan del Sur. Dozens of U.S. citizens were victims of armed robberies by assailants wielding machetes, knives and/or guns on and along the beaches in and around San Juan del Sur in the past few years. U.S. citizens should exercise caution when visiting the beaches of Maderas, Marsella, Yankee, Coco and Remanso as armed robberies have been reported in these locations. Assailants commonly place rocks, tree branches, or other large objects along roads to these beach locations waiting for cars to stop before the object. When the driver gets out of the vehicle to move the obstruction, assailants come out of hiding to rob victims of their belongings and sometimes of their vehicle. Group travel is recommended between these beach destinations.Keep your eyes open and be aware of your surroundings at all times.

U.S. Citizens have been victims of sexual assaults on beaches in Nicaragua. The Embassy recommends travelling in groups when going to the beach or to isolated areas. Single travelers should exercise special caution while traveling on the Atlantic Coast and other remote areas of the country.

U.S.citizens should exercise particular caution when approached by strangers offering assistance with finding a taxi cab. Dozens of U.S. citizens have reported being victimized by fellow travelers who offered to assist them in locating and/or sharing a taxi in and around San Juan del Sur, San Jorge, Granada, Managua, Masaya, and other popular tourist destinations. Upon entering the taxi, the U.S. citizens were held at knife-point or with a gun, threatened with bodily injury and/or rape, robbed of their valuables and driven around to ATM machines to withdraw funds from their accounts. Taxi drivers have also picked up additional passengers along the route who then threaten and rob the U.S. citizen, generally in conjunction with the taxi driver. After the assault, the U.S. citizen victims were left abandoned and destitute in remote areas. In 2011, two U.S. citizen victims were beaten and raped after providing incorrect bank card PIN numbers to assailants.

The U.S. Embassy will be closed to the public for routine services on the afternoon of April 04, 2012 and also be closed April 05-06. In case of an emergency on April 04, please visit the Consular Section between 7:30 A.M and 11:00 A.M., or contact the after-hours duty officer by phone, via the main Embassy switchboard, anytime after 12:00 noon and during the rest of the week.

The U.S. Embassy in Managua is located at Km 5 ½ C. Sur Managua, Nicaragua. The U.S. Embassy in Managua can be reached 24/7 at 011-505-2252-7100. For emergencies (deaths, arrests, etc.) after hours, U.S. citizens can call this phone number and ask for the Embassy Duty Officer. The ACS unit is also available by email at <>

General information regarding consular services is available by calling 011-505-2252-7104. Routine services such as passports and notarial services require an appointment; you can schedule an appointment on-line <> . In case of an emergency please call 2252-7100.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the U.S. Embassy's website <> and the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs' website <> , where the current Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and Country Specific Information can be found. The U.S. Embassy also encourages U.S. citizens to review to "A Safe Trip Abroad <> ", which includes valuable security information for those both living and traveling abroad. In addition to information on the Internet, travelers may obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada, or outside the U.S. and Canada on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.