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Parque Central Square in Leon, Nicaragua

Moving to Nicaragua

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Oct 04, 2022

Summary: Moving to Nicaragua: Expats, retirees and digital nomads talk about everything you need to know before moving to Nicaragua.

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What do I need to know before moving to Nicaragua?

When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Nicaragua, they said:

"I encourage anyone serious about relocating to reach out to the ExPat web site group before you move here. They are full of sound advice on what is necessary to bring and what you can buy here. My kitchen and bedroom would be in sad shape if they hadn't advised me, as I'm advising you above. Also, spend a week or more visiting before you fully commit to the move. You will find that what you thought you knew was just the surface of what your new town is about. I spent 4 days here before making the decision to move and I fell in love with the vibes of life I got from the people around me. Leon is a lively town with very active people and I wouldn't have known that. Work with a realtor on finding your first place to live, they know what is safe and what isn't. Once you're there, you can discover your next place to live on your own. Bring someone with you going to the airport because Managua changes their luggage allowances with no advance notice. I had to leave one of my suitcases with my daughter.. If you are bringing pets, that is another whole ordeal, so make preparations months in advance. Good luck," remarked another expat who made the move to Leon.

"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," explained one expat living in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.

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William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

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How do I find a place to live in Nicaragua?

We asked expats how they chose their neighborhood and found a place to live. They answered:

"I worked with a realty company that I had found while at a conference. I went on the web to narrow down some choices and then spent a day looking at my short list. It quickly became apparent that I would not feel safe in all neighborhoods as a single female and so I chose the best and safest neighborhood in the city. This was a good decision as I can walk my dog at night with no fear," remarked another expat who made the move to Leon.

"I would stay in different parts of the town each time I came to get a feel for the different sights, sounds etc," explained one expat living in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.

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What is a typical expat home or apartment like in Nicaragua?

"I currently live in an apartment within a community. It's a one bedroom with hot water, washer-dryer and air conditioning, which is very unusual for Leon. This is another reason why I chose this neighborhood, the houses have more amenities. Next year I plan to move to a small home in the community because I miss having a yard and patio. ExPats here live in a variety of areas in the city, there is no one spot heavily populated by ExPats, in fact, Leon itself is not heavily populated by ExPats, which is why I chose it," explained one expat living in Leon, Nicaragua.

"A large old Colonial house, right on the main street in town, just across the street from the ocean. This house is one of only 2 in this town. Most of the expats live either on the hillside or just out of town," said another expat in San Juan del Sur.

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What is the average cost of housing in Nicaragua?

If you are thinking about moving to Nicaragua, cost of living in probably a key consideration. Expats commented about the cost of housing:

"My housing costs are 1/4 of what I would pay in my old state of PA and 1/2 of what I would pay in the lower cost area of the southern US. You can rent a decent house in Leon for $300 a month. If you want air, a dryer and hot water, you will pay more. Also, when the listing says unfurnished, it means there is absolutely nothing in it but 4 walls and a toilet and sinks," explained one expat living in Leon, Nicaragua.

"In comparison, the housing is less expensive than in the US New construction is around $40.00 a sq. ft. Upscale, 3 bedrooms with a view and pool are renting for $500-700.00 per month. Smaller local houses rent for $200-300.00," said another expat in San Juan del Sur.

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Should I buy or rent a home in Nicaragua?

If you have not spent a lot of time in Nicaragua, you should rent before even thinking about buying. We asked expats there about the buy vs. rent decision:

"We bought a home but I recommend you rent first for at least six months. Not everyone likes it here. You do not have to be a resident to buy a home or own a business in Nicaragua. It is fairly easy to buy a home but be careful! Everyone will try to sell you property and many of them are not stellar examples of character. Work with a known real estate agency. It is easy to forget to do the normal due diligence when you are looking from your potential property watching the sun set over the ocean," said another expat in Granada.

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What should I pack when moving to Nicaragua?

We asked people living in Nicaragua to list three things they wish they had brought and three they wish they had left behind. They responded:

"More pots and pans - quality cookware is not easily available. More sheets and towels - cotton sheets are impossible to find. More hair products - it is impossible to find the products that my hair type needs. I could have left all of my high heeled shoes, my jackets and most of my jewelry. My life here is simple and I don't need all the "trappings" I am used to, and it is too hot for jackets at any time of day," explained one expat living in Leon, Nicaragua.

"Wish I had brought: More Frontline Plus for the dog, water hose caddy/reel, and back-up battery charger for the computer Wish I had left: Oreck vacuum cleaner (all tile floors), gas grill, automatic dog feeder," said another expat in San Juan del Sur.

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What cultural faux pas should I try to avoid making in Nicaragua?

We asked people in Nicaragua if they could share any humorous cultural blunders they commited. For new expats, keep in mind that these incidents are an inevitable part of expat life. Learning to laugh about them is the key!:

"Mostly language stuff. I would say muy bien for "things" when I should have been saying muy bueno. I started mixing the Italian language with Spanish by accident. Words that I've heard my mother use slipped out of my mouth and didn't make sense to the person I was attempting (very badly attempting) to communicate with. My friend kept catching me on making up words in my desperate attempts to communicate. It made everybody laugh," added another expat who made the move to Managua.

"Being pensionados we have less money and income than almost any time in our lives yet we are rich compared to our neighbors. No matter how much we try we will never quite understand this disparency and how the locals see us. Our neighbors believe we are wealthy beyond their dreams and no matter how much we share it, they think we are hiding even more wealth. Let me give you an example by a story that actually happened to me. We use Cordobas here which presently exchange at 23 cordobas to one US dollar or about a nickel. Often I will give 10 or 20 cordobas to the street cleaners, garbage men or other deserving souls. Anyway, one day I was walking my dog when I was approached by a young man in need. After exchanging courtesies he stated he needed 50 cordobas to buy a pair of shorts. I was rather surprised that he was asking for so much since requests are using for 10 or 20 cordobas or the change in your pocket. I told him so but he insisted he needed that much. Since he was polite and courteous I reached in my pocket but all I had was a 20 cordoba note. I gave it to him and said that was all I had. I walked away feeling I had helped the young man. The following day I was again walking my dog and the same young man approached me. After the usual courtesies he told me "Do you have the 30 cordobas you owe me?". I was in such shock that I gave him the 30 cordobas and walked away, stunned. In the states I would have been indignant but that is the way it is here. And it is a humorous reflection of society here," explained one expat living in Granada, Nicaragua.

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Why do people move to Nicaragua?

When we asked people why foreigners move to Nicaragua, they responded:

"Many foreigners either visit or move to Granada, Nicaragua because of the year-round warm climate, low cost of living and the novelty of a distinctive foreign country that is accepting of travelers and easily within reach of the US and Canada," remarked another expat in Granada.

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William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

What are medical services in Nicaragua like?

When we asked expats and global nomads about the quality of medical care in Nicaragua, they replied:

"My wife and I are near age 70 - expat health insurance has become too costly. We have Medicare coverage in the USA, so plan to return there in case of required hospitalization (non-emergency). We joined a "health plan" that offers discounts at one of the best hospitals in the country," offered another expat living in Tola.

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About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

Parque Central Square in Leon, Nicaragua

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