Articles Related to Nicaragua

"When we decided we were moving to Nicaragua, we packed up a container full of furniture, toys, and our car, everything we had, really, and we moved it here with us. In fact, we sent the container about a month before we made the move ourselves. So when we got here, the container was already in the country.

"I went the very first day to ask about it. I could see my container on the docks. They told me, ‘OK, no problem, tomorrow we can bring it to your house.'

"So I went every day that week, and every day they would tell me tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow. I had a 2-year-old baby and no one to watch her for me, so she came along every time. After a week of visiting every day, they told me I was going to need to have the bill of lading translated into Spanish. I just burst into tears.

"When I cried, they released my container and took it to my house.

"Today, 12 years later, it's much easier to find what you need in Nicaragua. So much more furniture, household goods, electronics, etc., are available here in Managua now. If I were to move here today, I would sell everything in the States and just buy it all new when I got here.

"One of the biggest practical challenges when we arrived here was getting around Managua. There were no street signs. I had a map, but it's hard to follow a map without street signs. This has gotten a lot better, though. Now you can use Garmen and even Google Maps, but you need to count the number of blocks to see how far it is to your destination.

"Directions are always unusual. If somebody invites you over to their house, they are going to tell you something like: ‘From such-and-such landmark you are going to go two blocks toward the lake and two blocks east and then it's the blue house with the green gate.'

"Each city is different. In Managua, toward the lake means north, but in Granada, toward the lake means east. It's important to know the lingo in the city you are navigating.

"Something else you need to understand is that, if you are in a hurry in Nicaragua, you are the only one who is. Say you are in the grocery store, picking up a couple of things on the way to a meeting. You're running late, and there is one person in front of you. That person might say to the cashier, ‘Hold on a minute. I forgot a few things...' and then go back into the store to do more shopping. You just have to wait. You have no choice except to adjust to the reality that you are the only person stressed out about time.

"So those are some of the challenges of living here. What are some of the benefits?

"One that may surprise you is the medical care. I have been super happy with the care available here in Managua. We have a brand-new hospital, and, for less urgent care, we've found great doctors. I have the home number of my pediatrician. When one of my kids is sick, I can call their doctor at home and give him the symptoms. When we go in for an appointment, whether for myself or my kids, the doctor sits with us for as long as it takes. There is no hurry, and he really listens to what we're saying.

"And it's super inexpensive. We pay US$45 to see the doctor. The lab work is done immediately. I've gone in, feeling bad, and my doctor has told me to run down to the lab, get the blood work, then bring the results back up to him. He's able to diagnose me and prescribe treatment right away. It's not this long process that you undergo in the States, and it's all so much less expensive.

"My oldest daughter Amanda needed surgery on both feet when she was 11. After investigating the options, we chose to have the surgery performed here in Nicaragua as opposed to in the United States, The doctor we found here teaches at a U.S. medical school, and we felt very comfortable with him. The experience was unbelievably positive and successful. The cost was US$1,500 per foot, including the overnight stay in the hospital and all other costs.

"Dentistry, too, is super inexpensive. It's US$30 to have your teeth cleaned. My daughter Amanda wore braces for 18 months; she just had them removed. The total cost was less than US$1,500, including the retainer she now has. And we're really happy with the result.

"Cosmetics procedures are readily available. You can have Botox and fillers right at the salon where you're having your hair done. Again, it's super inexpensive compared with elsewhere.

"Many of the doctors here speak English. You can request this when making your appointment.

"The cost and quality of medical care in this country is a big benefit. There are smaller benefits, too. One nice benefit for us are the movie theaters. We have VIP movie theaters here where you can watch a first-run movie in English while being served dinner—wine, sushi, etc.—in a fully reclining chair. You pay for the food separately, of course, but the movie ticket is just US$6.

"Another nice benefit of living here for me has been to do with my car. Whenever it breaks down or I hear a rumble, I call my mechanic and he comes right over. He comes to my home and works on the car in my garage. He'll figure out what's wrong and go out to get the parts then come back to make the repairs. When the repair is going to take longer than a day, I can call the rental car company and they will bring a car to me. It's super easy, unlike what I remember from when I was living in the United States. I remember it being complicated and hard and crying when the mechanic told me how much it was going to cost. Here it is very affordable.

"Why are we still here 12 years later? Really, because we love it. Mike and I have considered the idea of moving back to the States a couple of times, but, each time, we've made lists of the pros and cons, West Virginia versus Managua. And every time our life in Managua wins..."

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. Carol's presentation on expat life in Nicaragua was recorded, of course, along with every other speaker's presentation from last week's Live and Invest in Nicaragua event. We're editing these recordings now to create our new Live and Invest in Nicaragua Home Conference Kit.

You can order your copy pre-release now and save more than 50%.

Continue reading: Making A Plan For Retiring To Panama



"The population of Nicaragua is 6 million people, relatively large for the region. However, thanks to the country's size, population density is low.

"The official language is Spanish, but you'll find a fair amount of English for a couple of reasons. One is tourism. In the colonial city of Granada, for example, which is a primary tourist draw, hotel and restaurant staff speak English. 

"The other reason a lot of Nicaraguans speak English is because they left when the Sandinistas took over. Many went to the United States, had kids, raised families, and learned English. Now they're back working hard to develop their country. 

"Tourists come for the history (Granada and Leon vie for title of ‘oldest city in the Americas,' and Granada has been continually inhabited and maintained for more than 500 years) and for the surfing. The breaks along this country's Pacific coast are some of the best anywhere on this planet. The beaches are world-class, too, and the climate is not as wet and humid as in Panama, for example. It's drier here; you even see cactus growing along the coast. 

"However, you're not here this week as a tourist. You're here to consider your options for living, retiring, and investing in this country. From that perspective, perhaps the biggest thing Nicaragua has going for it is its cost of living. This is one of the most affordable lifestyle options in the Americas, as affordable as Ecuador, for example. A couple could retire to Granada, which offers a very comfortable standard of living, for as little as US$1,100 per month, including about US$500 per month for rent.

"You don't even need that much monthly income to convince the Nicaraguan government that you could support yourself in retirement. To quality for this country's pensionado visa, you only have to show US$600 per month in pension or Social Security income. That's the lowest income requirement amount for any retirement residency program in the world.

"Another 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. 

"Would you be happy living in Nicaragua? You have to answer that question for yourself, of course. On the plus side are the low cost of living, the year-round sunshine, and the great beaches. You could live a healthy lifestyle here, eating locally grown organic foods and spending most of your time outdoors.

"It's not only easy to get to Nicaragua but also easy to get around the country once you're here. Everywhere you'd want to spend time is a couple of hours away from everywhere else you'd want to spend time. The zone of interest extends from Managua north to Leon, south to San Juan del Sur, and east to Granada. Nicaragua is much easier to navigate than Ecuador, for example, or Panama. Because of its elongated shape, places can be deceptively distant in Panama. It's a six-hour drive from Panama City to David, for example.

"It's easy to get around Nicaragua thanks to its geography. On the other hand, the infrastructure is lacking...though improving.

"This is the second-poorest country in the Americas. There's not a lot of extra money in the budget. The country is underdeveloped in every way, and there is a lot of poverty. As one expat friend who lives here puts it, ‘If you can't stand poverty in your face, then you probably don't want to be in Nicaragua.'

"Kathleen and I were here together in September. We stayed at the Hotel Gran Francia in Granada. One night we went for dinner at one of the restaurants along the pedestrians-only area leading down to the lake. We sat at an outside table, on the sidewalk, and, during the two hours of our meal, we were approached by no less than a dozen little kids. Some were selling things—trinkets, chewing gum, etc.—some were begging. These Granada street kids really get to Kathleen. These kids stay with her. She can't stop thinking about them. So we've had to make a decision. Either we were going to stop going to Granada, or we were going to try to do something to help all the homeless kids there. We've chosen to try to do something to help the kids.

"Spending time in this country, you'd eventually come face-to-face with this conflict, too. Either you don't see the poverty, or, if you do, you decide how to deal with it.

"For us, taking Nicaragua off our radar wasn't an option. We've loved this country since the first time we visited and appreciate it more each time we return..."

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. I wasn't able to join Lief and the group in Nicaragua last week. I've been in Baltimore for the funeral of an old friend. I was sorry to miss out on all the fun, but my team on the ground has been providing real-time reports of the goings-on in Managua...starting with notes from Lief's opening remarks to the group, which I share today.

If you weren't able to be in Nicaragua last week either, don't worry. As always, we recorded every presentation, discussion, and Q&A session. These recordings are being edited to create our first-ever Live and Invest in Nicaragua Conference Kit. This everything-you-need-to-know-about-Nicaragua resource will be available within the next two weeks.

Meantime, you can order your copy pre-release for more than 50% off here.


"Well, if you'd like a tour of the city, I'd be happy to oblige. Are you having lunch? I'd love to keep you company. I could tell you about Granada. This is a beautiful town with a long and colorful history. I've been living here for five years. I know the place well. Are you thinking of moving here?"

"No," I replied.

"It's a great place to live. And real estate is a great bargain. This is the time to buy. Do you like old buildings? The old colonial haciendas of this city are a treasure. I know of two available right now for very good prices. These are the best buys in the city. Both are owned by friends. I could take you to see them after lunch if you'd like?"

"I'm meeting a friend. I don't think I have time for a real estate tour today," I explained.

"Well, then, maybe tomorrow. As I said, I've been in this city for five years. I know it better than anyone else you're going to find. In fact, I'm the local representative for Live and Invest Overseas. I've been working with the publisher for that organization, Kathleen Peddicord, for years. Maybe you've heard of her? Kathleen has been writing about investing and retiring in Nicaragua for a long while."

I'd never seen this man before, and, clearly, he'd not met me until this chance bar encounter. I didn't make an issue of these facts but let the fellow finish his pitch. Finally, my friend arrived, and I was able to break away. I never ran into this particular gringo Granada property expert again, but the story of my brief exchange with him has stayed with me, because it's a good example of the absurd lengths these guys will go to hook a buyer.

As I said, in these kinds of markets, the challenge isn't finding a real estate agent to show you around. They pick you out by the color of your skin, your dress, and your gait and posture as you walk down the street. The challenge isn't finding one to take you shopping; it's finding one you feel comfortable doing business with. The best strategy is to speak with as many as possible and to take nothing any of them tells you at face value.

Likewise for property developers in these kinds of emerging Wild West markets. A good rule of thumb when touring with a developing market developer is to buy what you see. He'll drive you out to his beach. There, at the shore, he'll have erected a small clubhouse. Come in, have lunch, enjoy a drink, he'll say. The fish is fresh. My guys caught it just offshore from our beach this morning. And the rum is local.

After you've eaten your fill, the developer will take you out in his 4X4 or maybe on horseback to explore the beach and the surrounding countryside. As the sun is beginning to slip behind the horizon, and the ocean's surface is glittering and dazzling, the sky behind it turning fire red and orange, the developer will begin pointing. Over there, he'll say, is where the new clubhouse will be constructed. What you see today is only temporary. Down there will be the dock and, over there, the marina. On the hills all around us will be the houses. Just look ahead. Look at that sunset. This could be the view from your front porch. You could have a front-row seat for this show every evening.

Come on, he'll continue. Let's head back to the clubhouse. It's time for some Sundown Rum Punch.

You're smitten. Who wouldn't be? Nothing wrong with appreciating what's being put on the table in front of you. The coasts of Nicaragua, Panama, Belize, and the Dominican Republic, for example, are special and extraordinarily beautiful. Seeing them for the first time can make you weak in the knees. The feeling can be something like falling in love. Don't resist it. Give in and savor the experience. But don't so lose your balance that you marry the first beach that charms its way into your heart. Ask yourself, is this the beach you want to grow old with?

Enjoy the developer's hospitality, his fresh fish, even his rum cocktails. Let him make his pitch. Then take your leave. Go find out what the guy at the next beach has to offer. And the beach after that.

Then go home, sober up, and consider your options from a distance.

I enjoy a local rum cocktail at sunset as much as the next girl, but I've learned to wait until the effects wear off before I begin talking business.

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. Margarita pricing...rights of possession property and other history of ownership to shop in a market where there's no Multiple Listing short, everything you need to know to invest safely and profitably in real estate in a foreign market, detailed by the savviest global property investors you'll find anywhere in the world...several dozen of them.

That's just one part of the plan for our second-annual Global Property Summit taking place in March 2015. Lief Simon and I have invited colleagues and friends from across the globe to participate in this conference. This will be the biggest global property event of 2015.

You can find out more here.



Cleaner, for one thing. Granada, San Juan del Sur, and even Managua are noticeably less littered than I'd remembered. We met several people who talked about different "pueblo limpio" projects that seem to be having the intended effect.

Nicaragua right now is cleaner...and busier. Granada, my pick for the most romantic city in Latin America, is more active today, I'd say, than at any time during its near five centuries of history. The setting for this colonial town is like out of a fairy tale—the lake, the volcano, the mountains... At night the backdrop is an ink-streaked sky that, just before the sun sets, illuminates the yellow and white cathedrals in ways that would have inspired Matisse to set up his easel.

That background is there, as it's always been, but it's harder to pick it out today for the crowds. The streets of Granada and the central square are packed from early morning until late evening with travelers and backpackers, expats and locals, retirees and investors. It's a crazy mix of folks that creates the atmosphere of a carnival. One street extending from the square to the lake has been pedestrianized and is lined with restaurants and bars, all with outdoor seating. Musicians and singers wander from outdoor table to outdoor table serenading for tips. Young men set up boom boxes on the sidewalk, hit play, then break into Michael Jackson routines and acrobatic displays. Old women sell scarves they've woven, men hawk bootlegged CDs. This isn't a place to come these days for a quiet dinner.

But you have other options for that. Granada boasts good new fine-dining establishments and five-star hotels, more choices for where to eat and where to sleep than ever.

Everything is a bargain. Panama City, where we call home, is no longer a cheap place to hang out, but everywhere in Nicaragua sure is. We stayed in one of Granada's best hotels, the Gran Francia, for US$60 a night including breakfast and Wi-Fi. We drank Nicaragua's Flor de Cana rum (great stuff) and Cokes for less than a buck a go. We bought handmade hardwood serving bowls and platters as souvenirs for US$4 and US$5.

The traveler's dollar (they take dollars almost everywhere) goes a long way in Nicaragua still, and so does the retiree's. This is one of your best choices in the Americas for a place to retire for a comfortable and rich life on a modest budget.

In our travels last weekend, we met several who have done just that, including one couple of retirees living in a charming home they've built for themselves overlooking crater Lake Apoyo. Brian invited Lief and me inside to have a look. He opened the front door to his living room to reveal a panoramic view of the glass-still indigo lake just beyond. Quite a setting.

Retired now just outside Granada, Brian and his wife Nancy have become very involved in their new community, starting a business that employs dozens of locals and opening a health clinic.

"Nancy and I spend about half the year in Oregon and half the year here in Nicaragua," Brian explained. "We couldn't be happier. We're getting ready to return to Oregon soon, but we don't want to go. We've become very attached to our new lives here, very invested personally, emotionally."

You can read more about what Brian and Nancy are doing with themselves now that they're part-time Nicaraguan residents here.

I understand the attraction for Brian and Nancy and all the others who are seeking out this part of the world at this stage of life and putting down real roots in this place. Nicaragua does that to you. Draws you in. Gets under your skin. Stirs your imagination...

Kathleen Peddicord

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My main impression from this weekend's visit is that Nicaragua still makes sense for many reasons. I like this country for a lot of different agendas.

For tourists, Nicaragua is an absolute bargain. The super low cost of everything attracts backpackers, of course, but it also attracts others looking for a high-quality vacation at a bargain price. The legitimately four-star hotel where we stayed in over the weekend, La Gran Francia, cost us US$60 a night, including breakfast and Wi-Fi.

For surfers, Nicaragua is a mecca. This country's Pacific coast serves up some of the best breaks anywhere in the world. Those who make their way to try them out aren't just 20-somethings with shaggy hair and empty pockets. Today's surfer is as often a grown-up guy with a grown-up job and real net worth. He's been surfing since he was in his 20s and sees no reason to stop now just because he's a few decades older. These older surf dudes, with available capital, were an important part of the property boom Nicaragua enjoyed pre-2008 and are back in the country buying again. We saw several beachside or ocean-view houses and condos that have been recently bought as surf pads.

For retirees, the attractions are both the long Pacific coast and the very low cost both of living and of beachfront property. Layer on the warm weather, the incredibly friendly Nicaraguans, and the country's recent pensionado residency visa program (the world's cheapest), and you've got the full retiree package.

I see Nicaragua as a top choice for a retiree on a small budget. You could live well in Granada, for example, on US$1,200 a month. The minimum wage in Nicaragua is less than US$250 per month. A retiree with income of US$1,200 is wealthy compared to most locals.

I also, though, see Nicaragua as a top choice for a retiree with a bigger budget who wants to use it to buy a "luxury" retirement. Increasingly, this is possible in this country. There are not only four- and five-star hotels and restaurants now, but international-standard development communities, too, especially along the Pacific coast. You could retire to one of these communities...furnish your new home with custom-made furniture...have a maid, a driver, and a out at high-end restaurants four or five nights a week...take regular weekend trips to explore the country...on a budget of maybe US$2,500 per month or less.

Of course, you have to keep this idea in perspective. Nicaragua remains a Third World country with limited infrastructure. Even that has improved in the last eight years, though. It used to be that we said take a look at Nicaragua because it was a much better value than Costa Rica. Costa Rica has always been more expensive, but it used to have better infrastructure and more destinations developed with the foreign retiree and expat in mind.

Today, Nicaragua remains much cheaper than Costa Rica, but its infrastructure has improved. Maybe it's now on par with that in Costa Rica...hard to say. However, considering that real estate prices in Nicaragua are essentially what they were eight years ago for most types of property, the infrastructure improvements make the country an even greater value. Certainly, if I were looking to make a coastal investment in this part of the world today, I'd go with Nicaragua over Costa Rica.

For the investor, Nicaragua is again an interesting choice that I think could become more so over the coming several months. The television show "Survivor" has just finished filming two seasons in San Juan del Sur. We watched crews in that city packing up their kit. I was told that the first of these San Juan del Sur episodes, which will be billed as such (that is, these will be "Survivor San Juan Del Sur" seasons), airs this week.

The direct positive impact of dozens of production crew in the country this past summer during filming was considerable. But imagine the greater positive impact of Americans going online to Google "San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua" after they've been introduced to it in prime time?

I saw several good investment options in and around San Juan del Sur this weekend, from ocean-view lots to beachside houses, both modest and luxury standard, and from business opportunities to agricultural offerings I liked. I looked at timber and fruit projects (that I'll be reporting on for my Martketwatch members), but most everything grows in this country, from coffee and mangos to coconuts and sugar cane.

I'll be back in Nicaragua in November for our Live and Invest in Nicaragua Conference. I'm looking forward to having another chance to investigate current opportunities in the country. Definitely, it's time to be paying attention again.

If you haven't heard yet about our November event, you can read about the program we're planning here.

Lief Simon

P.S. I've invested in Nicaragua several times in the past. I sold the last of the beachfront lots that I owned in this country a few years ago for a good return, but I still own several lots in a lakeside development near Granada. Visiting the project over the weekend, I was reminded why I invested in the first place. The landscape of Nicaragua is stunning. I had been thinking of selling all of my lake lots but now, seeing them again, I'm planning to hold on to all but one of them longer term.

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Kathleen Peddicord

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter.

Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.

Read more here.


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