As part of their winter strategy, both American Airlines and low-cost Spirit have relaunched flights to Nicaragua, a small, historically overlooked nation in Central America not many Americans are familiar with. Seeing that it is not nearly as popular as Mexico or Costa Rica, or a well-developed tourist destination, why then is Nicaragua a market worth exploring by these carriers and why should you consider visiting in the first place?
To put it simply, its popularity is growing by the minute.
This year, Central America has overtaken Europe for the first time in hostel bookings, signalling the Old Continent’s days as the world’s top backpacking hub are perhaps numbered, especially now that the cost of long distance travel is increasing, and the Eurozone is facing one of its most debilitating crises yet.
On the other hand, the southernmost reaches of the Northern Hemisphere are hotter than ever:
Nicaragua A Lot More Accessible To Floridians This Winter
Two years after pausing operations because of Covid, American Airlines has finally reinstated its Miami (MIA) – Managua (MGA) flights, becoming officially the first U.S. carrier to add direct flights to Nicaragua now that both countries’ borders are open. These won’t be just sporadic flights, either – as American confirmed, frequency is daily.
Starting November 30, flight AA 2243 will depart from Miami daily at 10:25, landing in Managua, Nicaragua’s capital, at 12:18. Returning home, American Airlines customers will be able to board flight AA 928, also daily, taking off at 13:20 and touching down in Miami again at 16:55. Other specifications include:
- Aircraft deployed on route is a Boeing 737-800
- Seating capacity is 160 (16 Business, 24 Main Cabin Extra, 132 Economy)
- Airfares start at only $265 one-way (Economy)
American Airlines now offers some of the best connectivity into and out of Central America, offering a total of 282,584 seats distributed across 1,665 flights by December, as reported by Cirium. Notably, Nicaragua was the missing puzzle piece on an already-comprehensive flight map, which included all of the regional favorites El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Costa Rica.
Fort Lauderdale Regains Direct Managua Connection
Following in American Airlines’ steps, Spirit is getting prepped for winter, having just announced its low cost flights leaving from its Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International (FLL) base, headed to Managua, are resuming this winter. Coincidentally, on the same date as their full-service competitor: November 30.
As for frequency, much like the revitalized Miami-Managua air bridge, it will be a daily flight. This particular route had been suspended since March 2020, once Covid was declared a pandemic and tough border measures were enacted in response. Now that travel rules have been eased, Spirit feels confident in promoting Nicaragua as a destination again.
More details can be found below:
- Route operated on an Airbus A321
- Seating capacity of 228*
- Prices as low as $108 one-way on Spirit’s Saver$ Club*
*Distribution of seats has not been specified
Outbound flights (NK 435) are scheduled to depart at 23:45, arriving 1:23 the next calendar day. Returning home (NK 434), Fort Lauderdale residents should arrange to be at the airport for a 2:30 flight, set to land back in Florida at 6:00. Based on its planned frequency, Spirit should be able to offer 1,596 seats per week once the service launches.
Similarly to American Airlines, the low cost brand – soon expected to merge with JetBlue after Frontier lost its bid – is boosting service to Central America significantly. Prior to Nicaragua, it had established links to Belize, Guatemala, Panama and El Salvador, being ‘proud’ to bring back affordable fares to the promising region.
Why Visit Nicaragua?
With a rising number of Americans seeing no value in 9 to 5 jobs and seeking to explore the world instead, even if by themselves, not only solo travel, but also long-term travel is becoming the norm. Interestingly, the lesser-known part of the Americas has emerged as a safe haven for them in the wake of the pandemic and the cost of living crisis.
Central America is, by far and away, a leader in travel trends this year, with hostel bookings up 40% compared to 2019 and an array of nations launching Digital Nomad Visas to attract young travelers who are also remote workers – like Nicaragua’s close partner Costa Rica. As part of the group, Nicaragua is at the forefront of this revolution.
While it has yet to formally open up its market to nomads, or even fully lift the pandemic-era barriers to short-term tourism, it has relatively lax entry rules and all that adventurers are looking for now that the world has reopened:
- Incredible scenery, featuring some of the lagest lakes in Central America
- Lively nightlife, particularly in cities like Managua and Leon)
- A rich cultural scene, evidenced by the city of Granada’s colonial-era architecture
- Highly affordable, being one of the places where your hard-earned dollars go the farthest
According to a Survey conducted by Hostelworld in March 2022, 74 per cent of those surveyed claimed their ‘priority’ when traveling is ‘looking for nature’ and other ‘natural world experiences’. Conveniently, Nicaragua is home to the Americas’ second largest rainforest – the Bosawas – and a plethora of lakes, volcanoes, and other reserves.
Besides its stunning nature, when it comes to travel costs, it is simply one of the most affordable destinations out there. In fact, its capital city of Managua has been named by Mercer the second-cheapest in all of Latin America. On average, a single person basing themselves in the country for a month can expect to live on only $536 without rent.
Of course, those visiting on a one-week vacation are expected to spend far less. In sum, if you’re looking to save a few hundred bucks, yet still have an international experience this year that ticks all the boxes on your post-Covid travel bucket list – nature, culture, budget-friendly – you should definitely consider exploring Nicaragua.
Lucky for you, two of America’s most popular airlines are returning to sunny, tropical Nicaragua just in time for winter.
Nicaragua Entry Rules
When visiting, Americans must meet one of two simple criteria:
- Fully vaccinated Americans can enter requirement-free, upon presentation of a vaccination certificate displaying at least two doses of an approved vaccine
- Unvaccinated Americans are welcome to visit once presenting a negative RT-PCR test issued within 72 hours of entry into Nicaragua*
*You should start counting backwards from the planned time of arrival in the country, as opposed to the time of departure
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com