Obtaining Nicaraguan Residency

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I was opening my computer to write a post about obtaining residency in Nicaragua when I stumbled across the following article.  Rather than reinventing the wheel, I figured I would just share what I found:

Getting Residency in Nicaragua” courtesy of Nicaragua Community

and here is a link to an older article on the same topic:

How to Apply for Residency in Nicaragua” courtesy of Nicaragua Dispatch

Note: The information provided in this post is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional legal advice.  An Expat Life in Nicaragua does not endorse nor control or take responsibility for the content or information on any external website listed here.

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Relocation Consultations

I am so excited to announce my latest endeavour as a Relocation Consultant!  After 5 years of helping wayward expats find answers to their most burning questions about life in Nicaragua, I’ve decided to formally offer my services as a Relocation Consultant.  Please visit my new page to learn more about the services offered, topics covered, and fees.  I look forward to working with you and to helping you find home in Nicaragua.

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Health Insurance in Nicaragua

 

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When we moved to Nicaragua, my dad’s first request was that I not get pregnant while living abroad (a physician, I assumed this was his recommendation based on health – I only learned much later, with my first child, mind you, that this was actually a grandfather plea).  In any case, I’ve since had two kids here and all has gone exceedingly well.  But I digress.  His second request, let’s be honest here – his second demand – was that we have some form of health insurance.

“I was talking to a friend whose brother worked over seas for a few years and the phrase was (a bit out of date), “For minor illnesses you take two aspirin, for major illnesses you take Pan Am.”  -Dad (September 2007)

And so we began our research by looking into catastrophic insurance, which would essentially help only if we needed medical evacuation.  Justin, in his usual charming way, reached out to an expat we’d met during our visit to Nicaragua the previous year:

“I’m writing you to ask about health insurance.  We are fine with going to Nica doctors for bumps & bruises, etc, but I’d like to have coverage for anything catastrophic.  Like cancer, monkey attacks, or (gasp) if I knock my wife up.” (November 2007)

Run a search on “medevac insurance” and you will be inundated and overwhelmed by options.  We eventually paid through the nose for a catastrophic insurance policy via IMG (International Medical Group).  And as a fellow expat once shared,

“This is how I look at it (and it might be a little harsh but..), chances are if you get in a catastrophic accident here in Nicaragua, the probability that you get to a hospital in time, they get organized and get that helicopter that you need to fly you out of Nicaragua is probably not going to happen. But, good news is, that the Vivian Pellas hospital in Nicaragua is world class, and has a host of international doctors there.”

Thankfully, we never needed to be airlifted out of Nica, but it did appease my risk-averse dad who had a friend who did, indeed, need to be med-evacuated out of Costa Rica (20 years ago) after a heinous rappelling fall.  I will say that international health insurance policies appear to have come a long way in just the six years since we moved, including basic travel insurance and not just catastrophic options.  So I do recommend looking into all options before discounting them altogether.

After a year, we let our policy lapse, but fortunately, our health did not.  Then, we began the baby talk and decided that even if we didn’t worry so much about our own health, it was time to take the responsible road and insure our children’s health.

We ended up purchasing a policy via Seguros America.  With an office in Managua, they were easy to find, helpful in choosing the appropriate policy for our needs, and very affordable.  Seguros America offers tiered coverage, including a silver or gold plan with varying deductibles.  You can purchase a policy that covers you in only Nicaragua, in all of Central America, or worldwide.  Obviously, those plans with lower deductibles and greater geographic coverage are more costly, but they are still quite reasonable.

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For under $1,000 per year for the entire family, our policy provides us with regional coverage, up to $25,000 per person per year.  The plan provided up to $2,000 in maternity care (prenatal and labor and delivery).  You have up to two weeks after the birth of a child to add him/her to your policy and receive coverage for newborn costs.  Ambulatory visits are unlimited and will be reimbursed up to $20 per visit.  Specialized medicine visits are also unlimited and covered up to $30 per visit.  There are plenty of more detailed items that are covered, based on your chosen deductible and package, including ER visits, surgeries, physical therapy, etc.  It’s best to consult with an insurance agent to review these details prior to purchasing a package.

To obtain coverage, you must first meet with a rep from the SA office and then submit to a physical exam. We still pay out of pocket for all medical expenses and then submit receipts, along with a basic reimbursement form signed by our doctors, to the headquarters in Managua.  We typically receive reimbursement checks within two weeks.  All of our healthcare has taken place at Hospital Metropolitano, Vivian Pellas and have had no problems seeking reimbursement.

Another option, which I understand functions similarly to Seguros America, is the insurance plan offered by Vivan Pellas.  They have an office on the first floor of the hospital.

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To date, we have been exceedingly happy with our coverage.  Though it does not cover us when we travel outside of Central America, we have found great travel insurance plans via Seven Corners.  They provide you with a quick and easy online quote after completing a basic questionnaire. Look into travel insurance provided by your credit cards, as well.

For further reading on health insurance in Nicaragua, visit The US Department of State website:

You can’t assume your insurance will go with you when you travel. It’s very important to find out BEFORE you leave whether or not your medical insurance will cover you overseas. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:

  • Does my policy apply when I’m out of the United States?
  • Will it cover emergencies like a trip to a foreign hospital or a medical evacuation?

In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctor and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy doesn’t go with you when you travel, it’s a very good idea to take out an additional policy for your trip. For more information, please see ourmedical insurance overseas page.

Be wary of private companies that claim to provide Medicare coverage outside of the United States. Generally, Medicare does not extend to beneficiaries overseas; we recommend you purchase additional medical insurance to ensure complete coverage. Please see the pamphlet Medicare Coverage Outside the United States for more information.”

The Trooper

I had some minor [major] car troubles yesterday, while Justin was out of town, and it reminded me of this early experience I had in Nicaragua…

Shortly after Justin and I moved to San Juan, he took off for a weeklong bachelor party in Colombia.  I knew the trip was planned before we even set foot on Nicaraguan soil, but I don’t think I truly believed that Justin would actually leave me sola in Nicaragua just 5 weeks into our adventure, until he did.  Nevertheless, I wasn’t going to be the girl who stood between Justin and his best buddy’s bachelor party, even if it was 1,000 miles away.

We had just purchased our new (old) car – a 1997 Isuzu Trooper, so I drove Justin to the airport in Managua and then planned to drive back to San Juan on my own.  Even now, after 4 years of life here, I can’t believe that I actually agreed to drive back from Managua, on my own, with absolutely no knowledge of Managua, the route to San Juan, or the transit “laws.”  I did it anyway.  Thankfully, our new friend, Baldo, was in Managua the same day and offered to ride back with me.  So after leaving Justin at the airport, I went to meet Baldo at Metrocentro, a mall just 15 minutes away and also a place I’d never been, but was certain that I could find easily.  A mere 4 hours later, I pulled into the parking lot and we were on our way.

I handed the keys over to Baldo, exhausted from my half-day trek around the winding streets of Managua, and we set off for San Juan.  As we neared Rivas, and dusk, our new (old) car began to show signs of distress.  First the interior dashboard lights began to dim and shortly thereafter, the radio stopped working.  Baldo assured me that we were fine, so we continued on our way.  We rounded the corner at La Virgen and embarked on the final passage home.  These days, that last stretch of road takes about 15 minutes to cover, end to end, but 4 years ago, that tiny stretch of highway required a 45-minute commitment thanks to giant potholes and endless desvios (detours).  So, it should come as no surprise to anyone that shortly after we made that turn, the sun set, the car stalled, and our headlights went out.

I encouraged Baldo to pull over – perhaps we could call a tow truck, I suggested.  Baldo just laughed and pointed out that not only were we in the black hole for cell phone signal, but it would be a long wait for Triple A.   Instead, he hopped out, push-started the car, jumped back in and we continued down the highway.  This time, Baldo only accelerated when climbing a hill.  The rest of the journey, we relied on dear old Newton and his Law of Motion, chugging up hills, using the gas, and coasting down hills using sheer momentum.   He did his best to get behind other vehicles (which were few and far between) to light our way home.

To reassure me [and to calm my intermittent hysterics and quiet my naïve mechanical suggestions], for the remainder of the ride, Baldo regaled me with stories of his teenage years.  He’d been in this very situation before, except that when the headlights went out, his buddy walked alongside the car, illuminating their way home with a Bic cigarette lighter.

At one point, the wind picked up, swirling dust into the car, so [naturally] I closed my [electric] window for protection to which Baldo sighed loudly and reminded me that we were trying to conserve the car’s energy, not deplete it.  You can imagine how thrilled he was when, a few minutes later, I began to lower the window to relieve my forehead from the beads of sweat forming across my brow.

Eventually, we rolled [quite literally] into town, stopping at the Texaco to charge up the Trooper’s battery for the final push up the giant hill in Pacific Marlin, where we were staying with friends.  Barely in the door, I burst into tears, cursed Justin and our dear Trooper, and fell into a dead sleep.

The following morning, I rose early in an attempt to get a jump on the day and a jumpstart for the car.  I walked out the door only to find a flat tire and decided it was the Trooper waving her white flag in surrender.  I laughed to myself, turned around, walked back inside the house and gave her a nice 7-day rest.  Because a Trooper she is.

Shameless self-promotion alert!

MOON LIVING ABROAD IN NICARAGUA, 2ND ED., BY J...

Image by Joshua Berman via Flickr

At the risk of self-promoting a little…I posted a blog over at Mom’s the Word about our 4 year Nicaversary.  The highs and lows, pros and cons, etc.  I thought it might be relevant to some of you readers here, as well.  Rather than re-posting, please visit me over there and check it out.  Thanks!

The Comedy of Errors, Which is Our Life in Nicaragua*

San Juan del Sur is a colorful town and I’m not talking about the buildings, though that is also true.  No, I am referring to the people: the colorful and often crazy-ass people.

On Sunday, after a lovely anniversary weekend with my darling husband, I rolled our car into a cement wall and broke the rear windshield.  It was certainly unintentional, but entirely my fault just the same.  Justin, meanwhile, was waiting for me at Bambu Beach Club with a specially prepared dinner, courtesy of our wonderful chef friend, German Eric.  Yes, we call him German Eric, not because there are other Eric’s in town, which there are, but simply because he’s German and thus deserving of the distinction…I guess.  There are plenty of other people in this town with similarly obvious and/or wonderful nicknames, including Irish John, Irish Peter, oh and Irish Paul.  There’s Yoga Larry, Bitchin’ Bill, the Chicken Lady, T-shirt Kathy, Hot Carl, the list could go on…

But that’s not who I’m talking about either…I am actually addressing the mentally distraught crazy people in this town.  Judge me for my lack of political correctness and empathy, but it’s true.  As my dear friend Sarah put it, “San Juan imports crazy people, remember.”

Today, not 24 hours after we got our car back from the mechanic with a glistening new rear windshield, someone threw a rock through it and broke it again.  Someone out for vengeance?  Nope.  Someone trying to break in and steal our radio…oh wait…that was stolen last year, so no.

I found out after Justin messaged me “guess who just smashed our rear windshield?”  Naturally, I assumed he was joking since we had just repaired the thing yesterday.  “Please tell me you are kidding,” I wrote back.”  “I am NOT kidding,” he says “Naked Guy.”

So, in typical Facebook-Dependant Style, I posted incredulously…”sooo…just repaired a broken rear windshield yesterday. Had the car for less than 24 hours and today, crazy guy in the street threw a rock at it and broke it.  Seriously? Really need to catch a break here…”  Those who live outside San Juan or Nicaragua replied quickly with “oh no’s” and “that sucks.”  One friend even suggested that I throw a rock back.  But those who live within the walls of this colorful little town inquired, “is the crazy stone-thrower back??” and “was it the semi-naked blond or the tall dark one??”  In a small town of just 18,000 people, we actually have such an array of certifiable residents that it wasn’t clear to anyone which crazy guy I was talking about.  “Always something interesting,” said George.

As Blue added, it “does make you wonder….I think those of us that live here have a line item in our budget ‘Nicadness’ which includes damages by crazy naked people, voodoo doctor requests etc.”

With little faith in a response or action, Justin made his way to the police station to report said crime.  In a surprising twist, they told Justin that they were aware of the problem, they’d received more complaints this week, and they were looking for the window smasher.  They even said they’d take him to a hospital in MGA to get some help.  Then the policeman added, “you should have just beat the shit out of him and thrown him in the estero (estuary).  At the very least, as Cesar put it, “These guys need to find a new hobby.”

[* kudos to Julie for the fitting title]

A brief follow up to our bad car karma – while the mechanic was working to repair the second broken windshield, he managed to smash our rearview mirror…