Managua, Nicaragua Report of what it's like to live there - 03/08/08

Personal Experiences from Managua, Nicaragua

Managua, Nicaragua 03/08/08

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. I have also lived in Manila, Singapore, Nairobi, and Copenhagen.

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2. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

I am a diplomatic spouse affiliated with a European Embassy.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

About 12 hours not counting the stop overs which could be between 2 to 3 cities depending on the airline.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Good, mostly with pools and big gardens and about a 20-minute drive to our embassy.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Everything seems to be available at one time or another. Except for vegetables and meat, prices for imported items are comparable to European ones.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Ingredients (spices) for exotic Asian cuisine. Although there a lot of Korean and Taiwanese shops here, there are no real Indian, Thai and good Chinese products. If you do come across some, they are expensive.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

McDonald's, KFC, Burger King and their local KFC - Tip-top. Restaurants are so-so, nothing to write home about.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Full time all-around maid, nannies are anywhere between US$120 - 250 monthly; drivers: US$200 - 350 monthly; gardener: US$80 monthly (ours works once a week).

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

I haven't heard of credit card fraud per se but it's still common to use them only in reputable shops and restaurants. Aside from the banks, ATMs can be found in shopping malls and some gas station convenience stores.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Through cable TV and most popular American movies, yes, but most are dubbed. You can get women's magazines in English. Newspapers in English exist but are hard to come by. The Nica times is published in collaboration with Costa Rica's Tico Times.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

For shopping, you need basic Spanish but in reality, good Spanish is required to live here as very few to none of the locals speak English. It just makes life easier and expands your social circle.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Many. Except for the Vivian Pellas hospital and some embassies, buildings are not designed to consider physical disabilities.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Right-hand side of the road.

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2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

There have been increasing reports of cab drivers' complicity with crime elements in the city plus the hassle of negotiating the fare before hand and still end up paying 3 or more times than the locals. Buses are okay but very crowded. Regional buses are dependable, comfortable and affordable to travel in to neighboring countries.

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3. 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?

If you want to reach the beautiful beach areas of the country, it's best to have a 4-wheel drive. Dealers of known American and Asian brand cars are represented. Carjacking is not a problem here.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

US$50 for DSL.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Skype.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Yes. Vets are hit or miss as well, so go to Vets recommended by other expats.

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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?

As volunteers, yes. Paid, not so many.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Moderate.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Increasing in Managua but more so in San Juan del Sur which is one of the known tourist destinations in the country.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Dengue is prevalent even in Managua. Quallity of medical care for expats is quite good especially at the Vivian Pellas hospital mainly because we can afford it. But we still rely on good recommendations.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Wet and dry, dusty and windy in between.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

The American Nicaragua School is listed as an International School but I found out that it's not. It is what it is exactly, an American (AP) and Nicaraguan (majority of the children are from the elite class) school. We had a very bad experience with bullying there (verbal and physical) and had to move our son when threats escalated to other public places outside school premises. It has happened to others too but those cases were no threats in public.

Lincoln Academy in Las Colinas has fewer expat children offers the IB curriculum and there are other less known but good local schools like Pierre Marie Curie where some Dutch, French and other Europeans go to. There are also German, French and Swedish schools as alternatives. Our son is now very happy where he is and we're glad to have moved him.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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?

I have no personal experience but know quite a few people who are happy with Manzanita.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Compared to Asia and Africa, small.

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2. Morale among expats:

Poor to okay. Let's just say that most expats I have spoken with who have completed their tour of duty this year are more excited than sad to leave.

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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?

Mostly in each others' houses.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Okay for families, couples and single men. For single women, it can be a challenge.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

There's a couple of gay clubs but generally no. I know some local gays that have moved to the U.S. and Costa Rica to live a more open life.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Racial, yes. Dark skinned are openly discriminated against by the light skinned elite. I have experienced it.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Going to the movies, nearby beaches on the Pacific Coast, and the highlands North of Managua.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Hammocks (how many can you have). The pottery, although unique and pretty, cannot be put together when they break as they crumble and turn to powder. There's a big selection of leather items, which are pricey but quite okay.

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9. Can you save money?

If you don't travel too much in the area including within the country, use only local ingredients and not shop for clothes, etc. Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

No.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Analytical mind - just be ready to accept things as they are.

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience, bathing gear, and mosquito repellent.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

The country is beautiful but expensive given the economic situation of most Nicaraguans. Like one poster here said, it's an easy hard post. It's a great place to visit but living here is another matter. Half the time you feel you are not really welcome. First time posters would probably disagree but having experienced other places, we don't mind moving on.

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