Managua, Nicaragua Report of what it's like to live there - 06/10/20
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?
No, we previously lived in the UK and the Netherlands.
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?
From Washington, DC it is about 2.5 hours to Miami, then another 2.5 hrs to Managua. American Airlines flies this route daily.
3. How long have you lived here?
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?
Housing ranges from apartments to single-family houses, and are spread out across a few different areas. The single family homes seem to be spacious, and most have pools and large gardens. Most of the houses are about a 30 min drive to the Embassy, but a few are closer. The apartments are smaller but more modern, and have better access to amenities (less than 5 min drive to shopping, restaurants, grocery stores, etc). Anecdotally, singles and couples tend to choose the apartments while families prefer the houses. There is a private gym, tennis court, and a small pool within the apartment compound for residents, which has been a lifesaver during COVID stay-at-home orders.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
La Colonia is a higher end supermarket chain where most Americans do their shopping. PriceSmart, which is a warehouse store exactly like Costco, is also very popular. It even carries many Kirkland brand products. I was surprised by the lack of quality fresh vegetables (you will eat a lot of broccoli and cauliflower), but what Nicaragua lacks in produce is made up by the plentiful and delicious fruits available year-round.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Almond flour, avocado oil, spices and sauces for Asian and Indian cooking.
4. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
We haven't had anything worse than a few ants get into our apartment, but some of the houses have had issues with ants, spiders, and/or scorpions.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO is pretty quick. We typically get packages within one to two weeks. The local postal system is not an option.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
We don't employ household help, but many do. Labor is very cheap, about US $20/day for housekeeping.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
For people who live in the apartments, there is a small but adequate gym for residents. There is also a nice gym in Galerias Mall that many go to. The embassy has a gym on the compound, but it is not convenient for most people who live 20-40 minutes from the embassy.
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?
Cash is still king here, but credit cards are accepted at all of the main grocery stores and higher-end restaurants. Most places accept dollars or cordobas.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Spanish is essential. Very few people speak more than basic English.
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes. There are no sidewalks and potholes are everywhere.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Affordable, yes. Safe, no. Public transportation is off-limits.
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?
Almost everyone here drives an SUV. You can get by with a sedan in Managua during the dry season, but the rainy season is another story. Dirt roads are everywhere outside the city, and the rainy season turns them into mud. The few asphalt roads are riddled with deep potholes. Toyota and Honda are a safe bet.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Internet took less than a week to get installed. The American Employee Association coordinated installation. The process was very smooth, and we haven't had any issues since.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
There are two main phone companies: Movistar and Claro. Most people buy a local sim card, as data plans are very cheap.
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?
Importing pets is relatively easy. We brought our cat to post with us and there was no quarantine required.
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?
Quite a few spouses work in EFM jobs at the embassy. Others telework for U.S. companies. Working on the local economy is not common, as pay is very, very low and Spanish is essential.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
The dress code ranges from business to business casual.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Nicaragua has high levels of crime, but overall we have felt very safe at post. Take the usual precautions (don't wear flashy jewelry, don't wave your phone around, be aware of surroundings) and you'll be fine. The Pacific coast beach towns where most expats live are safer than Managua.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Private hospitals provide adequate care for all but serious emergencies. Some people have even chosen to deliver their babies at the local private hospital instead of medevac'ing to the U.S.
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?
Air quality is generally good. Pollution is nowhere near as bad in Managua as in most other capital cities in the world.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
There are two distinct seasons: the wet season, which runs from May-October and the dry season, which runs from November-April. The temperature is hot year-round.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
The expat community is relatively small, but morale is high. Many American and European expats left during the crisis in 2018 and have not returned.
2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
This is a great post for couples and families. There aren't as many singles at post, but I haven't heard any complaints.
3. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Nicaragua is still a very conservative, mostly-Catholic society. I am sure there is an LGBT community here, but it is not very visible.
4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
Nicaraguans are known for their warmth and hospitality, and we have found this to hold true in our experience. Locals are incredibly kind and patient with our stumbling Spanish. I have no doubt that we will leave post with several lifelong friends.
5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Releasing endangered baby turtles into the sea at Playa La Flor was an incredible experience. Driving up to the crater rim of Masaya Volcano at night to see the lava swirling 1000 ft below should also be on everyone's list.
6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
There are so many: the Pacific coast beaches, swimming in Laguna de Apoyo, hiking up one of the many volcanoes in the country, wandering the colonial streets on Granada, rum tasting at Flor de Cana, hiking in Somoto Canyon, kayaking around Ometepe Island.
7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Woven hammocks, wooden furniture from Masatepe, pottery from San Juan del Oriente.
8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
As far as capital cities go, Managua is relatively easy to live in. There are only 2 million residents and the city is spread out, so traffic is usually manageable. It is very easy to get out of the city and be on a beach within 2 hours.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
Definitely take the time to truly understand this country's complicated history. Politics run deep here. The crisis in 2018 continues to have lingering effects, and tensions are still high.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, definitely. This post is a hidden gem.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
4. But don't forget your:
Sunscreen, bugspray, beach gear, dehumidifier.
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
The Country Under My Skin, by Gioconda Belli
6. Do you have any other comments?
Brush up on your baseball knowledge. Nicaraguans LOVE baseball and it is always a welcome topic of conversation.