The official Nicaraguan currency is the córdoba (it is sometimes referred to as a peso). It is made up of 100 centavos. Money is denominated in notes of 10, 20, 50, 100, and 500 córdobas. Coins are made of 1 and 5 córdobas and 50 centavos. At press time, the exchange rate was 22 córdobas to the American dollar and 36 to the British pound. It's often difficult to find change for 100-córdoba notes and next to impossible to change the princely sum that is a 500-córdoba note (a bank is your best bet for doing so).

Córdobas are virtually useless outside Nicaragua and should be changed before you leave. Prices in this guide are quoted in córdobas with the symbol "C" and American dollars with the symbol "$." Because of high inflation and volatile exchange rates, prices quoted here may vary greatly in accuracy.

Sales tax in Nicaragua is known as IGV (Impuesto General de Valor) and allows for an extra charge of 15% on all goods. Always check menus and price lists to see if it's included in the quoted price.

Currency Exchange -- U.S. dollars are widely accepted in Nicaragua and can be used to pay taxis, hotels, restaurants, and stores. However, do keep some córdobas on hand, since you may run into spots where you'll need them. You can convert your currency in hotels, at casas de cambio (money-exchange houses), at some banks, and at Managua International Airport. It is difficult to change traveler's checks outside the capital.

ATMs -- ATMs are becoming increasingly available, even in far-flung places like the Corn Islands. There are plenty in the main cities, such as Managua, Granada, León, and Rivas (try gas stations and shopping malls). Don't bet on finding any off the beaten path. Typically, ATMs are connected to Cirrus (tel. 800/424-7787) or PLUS (tel. 800/843-7587) networks. Many ATMs also accept Visa and MasterCard.

Credit Cards -- If you choose to use plastic, Visa, American Express, MasterCard, and Diners Club are the commonly accepted cards. Credit cards are accepted at most hotels and restaurants except the very cheapest ones. You cannot use credit cards in taxis or at most attractions (museums, parks, and so on).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.