10 Tips for Living in Nicaragua
By Betsy Burlingame
Summary: Did you know that lots of homes in Nicaragua don't have hot water? Did you know that it's very easy to meet other expats in Nicaragua? Expats share their tips for living in Nicaragua.
Finding a Home in Nicaragua
"Spend as much time prior to moving as possible in different months of the year to experience the seasonal changes. Also, try to stay as near as your choice property if not in/on it to experience everything that will be around you. Roosters crowing, dogs barking, pigs grunting, early street cleaners or whatever can make a real difference, good and bad," advised an expat in San Juan del Sur.
Where to Live in Nicaragua
If you are considering living in a more remote part of Nicaragua, consider the pros and cons. An expat in Mechapa, Nicaragua explained, "This is an incredible area for those wishing to escape the trappings of larger, more touristy cities and towns. For all of it's natural beauty, truly secluded beach and quiet atmosphere, there are always challenges. For example, energy is spotty, telephone service isn't available yet without an antennae, fuel and propane must be purchased 1 hour away in Chinandega...But it is a special and definately "off the beaten path" way of living!"
Another expat shared their experiences buying property on Lake Apanas, "If you are looking for land in the north of Nicaragua, you may want to check out Jinotega and Lake Apanas, 40 min. north of Matagalpa. The guide books call this the most scenic road in all of Nicaragua. And the entire road has been newly paved. The real jewel however is lake Apanas. Over the last 6 years I've purchased 5 properties on the lake for a total of 40 acres. The area is still relatively undiscovered but it's just too beautiful to stay that way for long. So far I've been putting in roads, electricity, and water lines, planting coffee, vegetable crops rock walls, and ornamental gardens; almost everything will grow here, including native orchids that cover a huge rock outcrop. This year we finished construction on a one room school building for the local kids and have plans for future development."
"We live in Poneloya which is an village on the Pacific Ocean 20 Kms from Leon. There are a lot of Americans and Europeans that live in Leon and here on the beach. You can find housing here at Poneloya and Las Penitas either on the beach or very near at great prices. Not to buy but for rent. We have some great friends from Sweden and he knows where every piece of property is that is for rent and how much you should pay. He ask nothing from you to help you find this property. Leon is less tourist than Granada and prices are lower. There are several supermarkets in Leon as well. Public transportation is abundant. The bus from Poneloya to Leon is 13 cords. Around .56 cents American. Yes, you will find it hard to find hot water for showers here also," said an expat in Nicaragua.
The Weather in Nicaragua
One expat advised, "always live in your chosen location for 6 months to a year before settling down or buying any property. Nicaragua has everything from hot, humid weather to beachfront to cool mountain living. What do you want?" Another said, "thinking of moving to Leon? Know it is a hot city (between 9h30 and 4h00 the sun is burnin) so air-condition ed room is a must or take refuge in the shades of trees in parks," warned an expat in Leon.
Diversity in Nicaragua
An expat in Granada said, "the vast majority of the locals are Catholic as are most Spanish countries. Economically a very poor country with the top 5% having almost all of the wealth. Culturally the locals are not that diverse yet very aware of what is going on the world stage. They do have their own rich culture. The expats are very diverse with the largest group being from the USA but large numbers from Canada and Europe (especially Holland). Being a Central American country, the people that move here tend to be adventuresome, open minded to other cultures, caring and aware of global events."
Making Friends in Nicaragua
"To meet others, principally expatriates, go to the new Cafe La Rosita on the street that leads to the city cathedral and park, opposite the main office of Claro.com the most cheap cellular telephone corporation. Frequent the Cyber Internet places where foreign tourists congregate. Get as soon as possible a cell phone costing to start anywhere from 25 to 49 dollars. Sit on the park benches and start a chat in spanish with passers-by coming to sit down on the same park bench," suggested an expat living in Leon, Nicaragua.
"The expat commmunity is just starting to formalize groups and organizations though many expats work with the various non-profits to help Nicaragua and its people. Here in Granada we have Amigos de la Policia (to improve the rapport with the local police), Care Granada (works with city and mayor for improvement projects), Calzada Centro de Arte (people learn to paint or paint with other artists), Book Club (the usual monthly group to discuss books) and monthly luncheons to just get together," said another expat in Granada.
Another expat in San Juan del Sur explained, "There are currently no clubs available although this is a small town and it won't take you long to meet all the expats and locals too. There are several restaurants that are frequented by the expats and word spreads REAL fast."
Working in Nicaragua
"Other than starting a business and volunteering for a non-profit, there are few career opportunities for expats in Nicaragua. Your competition makes $1 an hour unless you have special knowledge or have niche skills. There are a lot of opportunities for starting businesses especially in the tourist sector. On the social side, there are many opportunities to teach skills to the people here from agriculture to running a business. Don't expect a high salary or a highly profitable business but then again, money is not everything and you can live here very inexpensively," explained an expat in Nicaragua.
Adjusting to Life in Nicaragua
"Patience, that is the key word for Nicaragua. Be prepared for late appointments or on the other side of the coin, the appointee will show up way ahead of the scheduled time. As soon as you learn to go with the flow, relax, no stress, you will adjust much easier. Remember, we will always be a guest in the host country, and smile," advised an expat living in San Juan del Sur.
There seems to be much discussion about whether an expat can expect to have hot showers in Nicaragua. One expat explained, "Well........ first, the tap water is much warmer here though we like a hot shower also. Seems cleaner. Most of the locals have no hot water. In Granada depending on the standard of the home I would say about half of the expat homes have hot water. It would be hot water provided by solar panels (not many), std hot water heaters (gas, electric or instant) or what we call widow makers. The latter is what we and many others use. It is an electric shower head that heats the water only when there is water flow so very efficient. On hot days I do turn off even the widow maker to have a more refreshing shower. The tap water is much warmer here probably because they do not bury the pipes very deep. On houses renting for more than $500 there is usually hot water." Another added, "at our farm it was a big deal at first to just get water coming out of the shower head. It took us three years to finally put in properly grounded "widowmakers" which are perfectly safe as long as they are properly installed and ours were. We feel really fancy with hot water and it is true that most people's homes will not have any form of hot water. Only very few new residential projects would even plumb for both hot and cold running. My wife and I saw a project near us and we were surprised that they plumbed for both, but then we realized the developer is a foreigner. I believe he's Australian. I would say most more expensive hotels would have hot water, but a good percentage won't. Rentals that I have stayed at normally did not have hot water and if so they are usually the widowmaker types. As it is normally warm to hot in Nicaragua, the showers are good in that they cool down the body core. But if you are up in elevation a bit like we are there cool days and nights when a warm or even hot shower is needed."
Schools for Expats in Nicaragua
Expat parents have submitted their reviews of a few schools in Managua, Nicaragua. The reports are mixed, but offers some insight. Another article on our site, Nicaraguan Schools for Expats by NicaraguanGringo.com offers more options.
Healthcare in Nicaragua
An expat offered advice about healthcare in Nicaragua, "Many of us just pay as we go since the costs are so low even at the state of the art Pellas Hospital in Managua. I just had a colonoscopy which took all morning and it cost $280 and I walked away with the test results for my doctor and an hour long video of the journey through my lower regions. Some people here get Med Evac insurance but that assumes you have insurance back in your country of origin. You're too young for Medicare but perhaps you are from Canada that does have national healthcare. The Pellas Hospital does have two health plans which are very inexpensive but they are actually discount plans and not coverage plans. The procedures really are inexpensive compared to the states. Metropolitano Hospital in Managua, Nicaragua for their website info www.metropolitano.com.ni There is national health care here and it covers everyone. While that type of care is adequate you probably would not be happy with the public hospital rooms and care. There are also private hospitals here other than Pellas that have excellent care but I'm not aware of any paid plan that would cover all costs. If you are fortunate enough to have a health care policy in the states, many of the major carriers are accepted by the Pellas Hospital but more info on their website though in Spanish."
Crime in Nicaragua
"Las penitas and Poneloya are pretty much crime free but you can't let your guard down. This goes for all of Nicaragua. In a country with this much poverty, people steal. Regardless if you like them or not, wear fannie packs, Leave your passport locked up at the house and carry a copy with the picture and page with visa stamped on it incase you are asked for it by the police. Nicaragua is pretty safe and you do not hear of too many violent crimes against USA citizens. We have been here for 30 months and love it," reported an expat in Poneloya.
About the Author
Betsy Burlingame is the Founder of Expat Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.
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First Published: Sep 05, 2012