Managua, Nicaragua Report of what it's like to live there - 03/04/12
Personal Experiences from Managua, Nicaragua
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
First expat experience.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Washington DC. A few hours flight, with one stop in either Houston, Atlanta or Miami.
3. How long have you lived here?
May 2008-June 2010.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
The expat community is spread out throughout the city. Families with kids tend to get spacious houses, with large backyards and pools. Everyone lives in decent-sized houses as there are no apartments or condos for expats. Most American expats lives in neighborhoods about 15-20 minutes from the embassy.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
There are two chain supermarkets with a decent, though not extensive, variety of groceries, mostly local with a smattering of US products. A PriceMart membership is a must for expats. It's similar to Costco and is the only place we ever found cottage cheese, real orange juice, cranberries, and certain types of cereal. The prices are roughly the equivalent of non-membership stores in the US. In general, buying local products will save you a lot of money.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Clothing and shoes in sizes ahead for children (good quality kids gear is expensive locally). Uniform shorts/skirts. The local ones are cheaply made and uncomfortable.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There are a couple of nice, clean McDonald's with play areas. Prices are about the same as in the US. Tip Top is a local chain specializing in chicken. It's kid friendly and also has a play area. Very reasonable prices.
5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?
Specialty products are virtually non-existent. As a vegetarian, I ate local non-meat foods, fruits, veg...and managed to find "carne de soya" at La Colonia supermarket. My gluten-free husband used a bread maker to make his own bread, using specialty flours we brought from home.
6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Tiny ants will be permanent residents in your home. There's no stopping them. We kept ALL open food in the fridge or freezer. Mosquitoes are abundant and do carry dengue. Lightweight long sleeved shirts and long pants are handy to have, especially if you're outside at dusk.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
US$150-$200/month for a maid or nanny. About the same or less for a gardener or driver.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Club Terraza is a country club with very nice gym facilities and a swimming pool (membership required for gym). The US embassy has a workout area as well. There are a couple of local gyms to join.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Credit cards are widely accepted, but there are still MANY places where it's cash only (smaller businesses, restaurants).
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
There is at least one Catholic service in English and probably Protestant as well, since there is a community of missionaries.
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
No English newspaper. Cablenet package included several English channels (network stations plus CNN, BBC and more). Not expensive.
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
The more Spanish you know, the better your experience will be. Few people speak English.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
It would be pretty difficult. Sidewalks aren't very well maintained. Most places would be difficult to access.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Local buses are NOT safe. Certain reputable taxis are safe and reasonably priced.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
Certain places are inaccessible without an SUV due to the dirt roads, especially in the rainy season.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, not expensive.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
You just buy one and purchase minutes as you go.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
Veterinaro Asociado was very good. Never used a kennel. Gardeners or maids will usually care for pets while owners are away.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
Not so many opportunities. Teaching jobs are sometimes available.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business, casual. Never sloppy.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Robbery is fairly common. It's important to stay within the areas that are known to be safer, especially at night. Being vigilant at all times and taking basic safety precautions are essential. A lot of it is just common sense (always drive with doors locked, keep cash and valuables hidden, etc.) We never let our guard down, and nothing ever happened to us.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
There's one good hospital that is just about up to first world standards. Many expat women choose to have their babies here. We saw a few specialists here and were generally satisfied with the care.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Moderate in the city and good outside the city. People burn trash, so the air is sometimes smoky.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Hot and dry (around Dec-May) or hot and wet (mid-May until Dec.) The temperature rarely drops below 80 degrees, except in the mountains. Air conditioning is scarce around town. This is not a great post for those who are especially sensitive to heat.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Most Americans send their children to ANS (American Nicaraguan School) or Lincoln Academy (Catholic-preK thru 12). Our son had a wonderful experience at ANS. The school met US standards on every level.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
Services are limited. The American school does not have a special education program, but does offer academic support for students who require it.
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
There are several preschool choices in Managua. A few are bilingual (English/Spanish). Our son attended preschool at ANS beginning at age three.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Many expat kids were on soccer teams separate from their school. ANS offers several sports programs, especially for older kids.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Small to medium.
2. Morale among expats:
All over the board. This post is what you make of it.
3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
People tend to entertain outdoors, at home. There are some good restaurants and bars.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
I'd say it's best for couples. Families can have a good time here, but there's a distinct lack of kid-friendly activities in Managua.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
I've heard that it's limited.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
There might be, but nobody that we knew was ever harassed in any way.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Enjoying the beautiful beaches, exploring the volcanoes, hiking, and shopping for handcrafted items from local artisans.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
The nearest beaches are an hour away. Within 30 minutes you can reach the Volcan Masaya, the town of Masaya (wonderful artisan market), the historic city of Granada, hike at el Chocoyero (parakeet forest/waterfall) and much more. Managua has some good restaurants, a VIP theater (order sushi and drinks!) and a nice and safe (but small) mall to stroll around.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Local travel, weekend trips, pottery, crafts.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Nicaragua is a hidden gem, full of natural beauty-once you're outside of Managua. The weekend trip options are nearly endless. Another advantage is that domestic help is VERY affordable.
11. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Winter gear (though a sweatshirt and jeans are very necessary in the higher altitudes).
3. But don't forget your:
Sunscreen, sunhat, swimsuit, sense of humor, patience....
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
6. Do you have any other comments?
This can be a tough post for stay-at-home moms or spouses without full-time employment. Managua has little to offer and it can be difficult to fill your days. However, there is a lot of opportunity for volunteer work and potential for adventure. Attitude is everything.