Nicaragua is a land of contrasts at an interesting time in its development. The civil war is history, and Nicaraguans today want nothing more than peace and prosperity. It offers the world’s cheapest retirement residency program and the cheapest living in the Americas.
Geographically, Nicaragua is blessed, with two long coastlines and two big lakes, plus volcanoes, highlands, rain forest, and rivers. In this regard, it’s got everything Costa Rica’s got, all less discovered, less developed, and available for the adventurer, eco-traveler, and budget-minded retiree at bargain rates compared with costs both in the United States and in Costa Rica or anywhere else in Central America.
Architecturally, too, Nicaragua is notable. Its two sister colonial cities, Granada and Leon, vie for the title of Oldest City in the Americas. Whichever story you believe (that the Spanish conquistadores settled first on the shores of Lake Nicaragua at Granada or, perhaps, a few months earlier in Old Leon), Nicaragua is the big winner, with impressive colonial-era churches, public buildings, and parks to her credit. Colonial Granada is, in our opinion, the most romantic city in the Americas.
Nicaragua appeals to the romantic. It is a land of pirates and martyrs, heroes, warriors, and poets, fighting each in his way for what he believes. Nicaragua is a colorful land, from its red clay-tiled roofs to its powder blue church steeples… from the yellow, green, red, and blue facades of its centuries-old haciendas to the pink and purple bougainvillea that cascades down its inland hillsides. The local people know how to relax. On the happy meter they rate much higher than North Americans do.
The cost of enjoying all this diverse and beautiful country has to offer is, again, about as bargain-basement as it gets. Nicaragua is one of the most affordable places in the world to enjoy a comfortable, full, and rich retirement.
Because it has been so long misunderstood, ignored, and, frankly, feared, Nicaragua remains a frontier, a land for pioneers in search of opportunity and a new way of life. It is also, however (and herein lies the real opportunity), one of the most affordable places in the world for the would-be retiree. Nicaragua has opened its heart to those bold enough to overlook its past, ignore its headline-grabbing president, and embrace all that this country has to offer. Some 5,000 expats have already voted with their feet, half of them from the United States. A recently published report from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) names Nicaragua the safest country in Central America and Interpol has previously ranked Nicaragua as the country with the lowest crime rate in Latin America.
Cost of Living in Nicaragua
Live and Invest Overseas offers monthly cost of living budgets for our favorite destination in Nicaragua:
Infrastructure In Nicaragua
Nicaragua is the second-poorest country in the Americas. There’s not a lot of extra money in the budget and the country is still underdeveloped. Although things are improving steadily, Nicaragua remains a Third World country with limited infrastructure.
Only about one third of roads in Nicaragua are paved and maintained. Nicaragua spends the least amount of money on highways than any other Latin American country. The country has no major rail systems.
Nicaragua has the advantage of being just a few hours from most U.S. exit points. Accessibility is one of Nicaragua’s big advantages. If you’re looking to relocate overseas but don’t want to be too far from the grandkids, Nicaragua is a good option. The major airlines offer daily flights.
Internet services are fairly reliable and there are numerous Wi-Fi access points around the cities. The state-run telephone company Enitel is reasonably efficient.
Electricity for the all-important air conditioning and cable television, are also mostly reliable.
In 2014 Chinese investor, Wang Jing, announced that he had attracted US$40 billion in capital for a Nicaragua Canal project. Construction started in Rivas, Nicaragua on January 5, 2015 and is expected to be completed by 2019. Project feasibility has been seriously questioned throughout the progress.
Climate In Nicaragua
Nicaragua has a tropical climate with a rainy and dry season and little temperature fluctuation from season to season.
The temperature in all areas of Nicaragua typically hovers around 80°F throughout the year. Average annual humidity is around 70%. Mountainous regions and any area above sea level may experience cooler temperatures and lower humidity. Nicaragua receives different amounts of rainfall in different regions—in the
Caribbean lowlands, rainfall reaches as high as 255 inches, but the Pacific lowlands could receive as little as 40 inches.
Nicaragua is prone to flooding during the rainy season, especially in the east of the country. The coast can receive tropical storms and hurricanes, especially from November through March. The last disastrous storm to hit Nicaragua was Hurricane Joan in 1988, which caused over US$1 billion in damage on the Caribbean coast.
As in any country, weather depends on your region, but generally Nicaragua enjoys a warm, tropical climate
Nicaraguan Rainy Season: July to December
Residency In Nicaragua
U.S. citizens may enter Nicaragua without a visa and remain in the country as a tourist for a maximum of 90 days per trip, but must purchase a tourist card upon arrival (US$10). If you wish to stay longer than 90 days, you need to seek permission to remain in the country. You may be asked to present proof of onward travel and/or proof of sufficient funds (US$200 in cash, or a credit card) upon arrival. If you have no onward travel ticket, you’ll may be asked to buy a plane ticket to exit the country before 90 days.
Nicaragua polices visa overstays. A daily fine is imposed on any visitor overstaying the length of his original tourist card and you won’t be able to leave the country until you pay it and you may be subject to detention.
You have a country that offers investor tax incentives and a competitive retiree residency program launched in 2010. You can qualify for pensionado residency status (and all accompanying benefits) in this country with an income of as little as US$600—this is the lowest qualifying income for a pensionado visa in the world.
Nicaragua’s pensionado program is among the world’s best, with multiple benefits, and it only requires you to be older than 45 and have passive monthly income of more than US$650. Pensionado visa holders can bring in or purchase locally a new auto duty-free every four years, import personal and household goods up to US$20,000 duty-free, build a home, and pay no sales taxes on all materials (saves 15%).
A noteworthy thing from a residency point of view is that it’s easy to establish here even if you’re not retired and even if you don’t have a pension. In addition to its pensionado program, Nicaragua also offers what’s called a rentista visa. To qualify for this, you only need to prove income (from any source… could be investment dividends or interest payments, for example) of US$750 per month. The minimum age to qualify for rentista residency is 45.
Residency in Nicaragua can lead to naturalization in this country. For citizens of other Central American countries (or any other country with which Nicaragua has signed a dual-citizenship agreement) a second passport and dual citizenship can be obtained, but U.S. citizens are not applicable.
Health Care In Nicaragua
Medical care in Nicaragua is both inexpensive and excellent. The Hospital Metropolitano Vivian Pellas in Managua, opened in May 2004, is considered the best private hospital in all Central America. It provides first-class full-service care 24 hours a day. Along with a modern emergency room and pharmacy, there is also a superb laboratory that provides the same tests as European or American units but at a fraction the price. Hospitalization costs about US$100 a day, all in.
To receive any major health care treatment, dental, or cosmetic surgery, Managua is the best destination in Nicaragua. Click here for a complete listing of U.S. Embassy recommended doctors and dentists.
The cost and quality of medical care in this country is a big benefit. It is not only super inexpensive, but there is extremely personal and attentive care given. Lab work is done immediately, if needed, and then the doctor is able to diagnose and prescribe treatment right away. It’s not the long process that you may undergo in the United States, and it’s so much less expensive. Many of the doctors speak English, and you can specifically request this when making your appointment. Prescription drugs can be as little as 20% of the U.S. price.
While access to high quality health care may depend on your location, becoming harder to find in more rural or remote regions, any town we direct you to in Nicaragua will offer a clinic that can adequately handle any day-to-day medical concerns.
Real Estate In Nicaragua
The story of little Nicaragua has been anything but dull these past 40+ years. Real estate prices in Nicaragua rose steadily until the presidency of Sandinista Danny (Ortega) began. After his election, the U.S. real estate market began to tumble and investors began to pull back, taking a wait-and-see attitude over the possibility of wealth redistribution and land reform that framed Ortega’s leadership during the latter part of the 20th century.
Political unrest, civil war, economic disaster… then a renaissance. The Sandinistas were pushed aside, and the free market was given a chance.
During these sunny days, the tourists came, followed by the speculators, the property investors, and the retirees. Speculation turned to frenzy, and beachfront property prices were pushed up and up and up and up, with seemingly no end in sight.
Then, in 2007, Ortega got himself re-elected and no one knew what to expect from little Nicaragua. Now, the bad press initially surrounding the re-election of El Presidente Ortega is turning. While still a bit of a wild card, Ortega is playing nice with the United States. He is working to clean up title on 3,800 properties held by Nicaraguans. And, importantly, he continues to support foreign investors’ land rights.
Then came 2008. Nicaragua, like many markets worldwide, fell hard in its aftermath. Now, this country is re-emerging to retake her place among the world’s most appealing bargain lifestyle and retirement choices.
Tourists are returning. The nation welcomed one million tourists in a calendar year for the first time in its history in 2010 and continues to see more visitors all the time. Tourism was up a third from 2009 to 2013 with over 1.2 million visitors to the country.
Not only tourists, but property buyers, retirees, and foreign investors are beginning to find their way back to this country, as well. Times were tough for Nicaragua 2008 through 2011, but times are changing. Our colleagues on the ground report that 2013 was a turnaround year, 2014 was more active yet, and there’s been no slowing since then.
It’s not only tourists who are feeling comfortable enough to give Nicaragua another chance, but investors, too. The property market is returning. Today’s government has a clear understanding of the importance of personal property rights.
Foreigners can’t own within 50 meters of the coast or within 5 meters of lakes or lagoons in Nicaragua.