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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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!

Monthly Budget for an Expat living in Nicaragua

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A number of people have emailed me requesting information on the cost of living here in Nicaragua.  At long last, here it is.  Please note that this is based solely on my experience here, with my husband.  Each traveler will have a different set of needs and therefore, a different budget.  I would also note that if you are seriously considering a move here, it is helpful to have a minimum of a few months of living expenses already saved, as well as money set aside for a trip back home, if necessary.  Do not operate under the assumption that you will be gainfully employed here, as Nicaragua currently has an unemployment rate of 3.9% and an underemployment rate of 46.5%.  The exchange rate is approximately 20 Nicaraguan Cordobas to the US Dollar.

Rent:

This number varies greatly depending on where, within Nicaragua, you decide to live.  San Juan and other more touristy areas tend to cost more.  San Juan, 1-2 bedrooms: anywhere from $250-$600/month.  We are currently living in a furnished 1-bedroom for appx. $500/month, but it includes water, electric (plus back-up), security, housekeeping 2x/week, Internet, and cable TV.

Water:

This cost also depends heavily on where you live.  If you have an apartment that draws from the town water supply, you are likely to spend approximately $10.  If you live in a development, outside of town, you might have significantly higher water bills, especially if you have a pool.

Electricity:

A basic monthly electric bill will run you approximately $15 via Union Fenosa.  However, if you have air conditioning and intend to use it, expect to pay a significantly higher monthly bill. 

Propane:

Most homes have propane-powered stoves/ovens.  They typically come with a gas tank that you refill as needed.  A small tank costs approximately $15 to fill and will last you a few months.

Cell Phone:

Cheap, burner phones can be purchase in town starting at approximately $20.  Minutes can be purchased as needed. There are 2 phone companies here – Claro and Movistar.  People claim that Claro has better coverage, but most people I know have Movistar.  It’s helpful to know that calling between the two companies (i.e. Movistar to Claro) is almost as expensive, if not more expensive, than calling back home to the States.  But, calling within your company (i.e. Movistar to Movistar) costs very little.  So, if you already have friends here, find out what they have and consider getting that.

Cable TV:

You have 3 options for television (cable via Estesa, satellite TV via SKY or pirated satellite tv).  Cable runs about $18/month, SKY begins around $32/month and pirated is free once you buy the dish and the box.  

 Internet:

In order to have internet, you need to have a cable connection, via Estesa.  Internet costs anywhere from $30 – $50/month depending on your connection speed.

 Car Fuel:

Cost of fuel is hovering around 15-16 cordobas/liter for diesel.  We can fill our tank (a Trooper) for about USD$50.  Regular gas is slightly cheaper.  Premium gas is slightly more. If you plan to own a car, don’t forget to figure in the cost of minor repairs, as well.  We take our car to the mechanic on a monthly basis down here.  We haven’t had any major problems, but maintenance takes on an entirely new meaning when you are driving on unpaved roads.  

 Groceries:

A loaf of whole wheat bread = 32 Cords (appx. USD$1.70)

A dozen eggs = 35 cords (appx. USD$ 1.80)

1 lb butter = 62 cords (appx. USD$3.25)

Imported items, such as granola bars, JIF peanut butter, will cost more.  There is a Pali grocery store, here in San Juan del Sur.  You can also purchase many of your food needs at a local pulperia.  La Colonia and La Union are larger grocery stores, located in Granada, Managua, and other larger towns.

Entertainment:

As for entertainment, during the day, you can rent a surfboard ($10), an ATV ($20), take a canopy tour ($30), or hike to the lighthouse or Jesus, swim, bike ride, hit the beach, etc. for free.  You can also take Spanish classes, which range in price depending on the number of hours you want to study.

 Bars:

At night, bars are usually free to get into.  Beers are typically less than a buck.  You can also order a media, which consists of a half-liter of rum, a bottle of coke, and a bottle of soda water, a bucket of ice, and some limes for under $10.  A few places in town also have either a DJ or live music at night, including Coquito’s Bar.

Restaurants:

For dinner, you can treat yourself to one of the finer restaurants in town, like El Pozo, and spend C$220 on an awesome steak with sides (about $12).  On the flipside, you can visit one of the fritangas (Chicken Lady) and get half a chicken, gallo pinto, salad, and tostones for C$80 (4 bucks) or the local market for a hearty $2 breakfast.  And then there is everything in between including a great Mediterranean Restaurant (El Colibri) with awesome Sangria and stuffed chicken (for under 7 bucks), and Bambu (Nicaraguan cuisine with an Asian twist) which serves incredible pizza on Monday nights and panini sandwiches every day.

Health Insurance:

My husband and I both have international health insurance through International Medical Group.  It was on the more expensive side, but we purchased it prior to moving here, wanting to ensure that we had some coverage.  We have yet to use it (knock on wood).  Since moving here, we have learned of local companies that provide coverage – Seguros America, being one that I think is less expensive and provides tiered coverage.

 

Medical Cost:

We have both had regular appointments with physicians at Vivian Pellas Hospital in Managua and were very pleased.  The hospital was like any hospital I’ve visited in the States and the equipment was state of the art, including a lab and pharmacy.  My entire appt., including consultation, lab work, etc. was about $50.  I would steer clear of the Centro de Salud here in San Juan, unless absolutely necessary.  However, there are local pharmacies here in town that employ doctors.  If you have a run of the mill cold or rash, you can pay C$30 (less than 2 dollars) for a consult with the physician.  

 Dental:

I don’t know anything about dental insurance, but I do know that there are plenty of reliable dentists in Managua and that you can get a cleaning for about $25.  When Justin and I first visited Nicaragua over 2 years ago, I ended up having an emergency root canal while in Leon.  It was the exact procedure my husband ended up having 2 weeks later back in Boston, but mine cost $150, while his cost $1,000 after insurance!  So, needless to say, we have been very pleased by both the quality and cost of medical care here so far.

I hope those of you reading this find it helpful.  Feel free to email me with any questions!

I am a big fat liar…

I am a big fat liar.  Really, I am.  Yesterday, I re-read the “About the Ex-Pats” page of the blog and I laughed out loud and thought, “what a crock of shit.”  The honest-to-God-truth is that I didn’t love anything about this country during our first visit here, which ironically was two years ago to the day.  The landscape was brown and dry.  Mosquitoes feasted on my ankles.  Chirping geckos kept me awake thru the night.  The heat was so unbearable that we stayed indoors between 10 am and 3 pm.  When we were eventually lured outdoors, it took us a minimum of 2 hours (but usually closer to 4 hours) to get anywhere thanks to pot-hole laden roads and ox-cart traffic jams.  And of course…everyone spoke Spanish.  There was no way I would be able to learn a foreign language AND make new friends.

While I am no Phileas Fogg, I am no stranger to travel either.  From a young age, my parents ingrained in me a spirit for travel and an appreciation of culture.  When my sister dropped her backpack halfway down Copper Canyon in the middle of The Sierra Madres, my mother turned to us with a smile and cheerily called, “Now isn’t this an adventure!”  She continued to use this phrase throughout our travels including the train ride when a ninety-five year-old goat farmer offered to purchase my sister in exchange for cheese and when said sister fell out of our river raft in class 4 rapids.  Hmm – perhaps we should have considered additional travel insurance for my sister?  In any case, my family now lovingly uses this “momism” to refer to some of our more challenging of travel experiences as exactly that – experiences.

 

at the dentist in León, Nicaragua

at the dentist in León, Nicaragua

 

So why did I detest this trip so much?  A little sweat never bothered me before. Well, for one thing, I had a toothache of colossal proportions the day we touched down in Managua which resulted in a root canal on day three of our “get-away.”  The pain was so unbearable that I found it hard to see beauty in anything other than a Vicodin prescription.  In addition, halfway into our trip, I learned that a dear friend and mentor had passed away after a long battle with cancer.  I wanted to be anywhere but in Nicaragua.

 

But less obvious at the time was that this wasn’t a vacation, this was an evaluation.  And every negative encounter was another opportunity to add a check under the “stay in Boston” column.  Because the truth was that as intrigued as I was by the prospect of living abroad for the first time in my life, I was also scared shitless.  

Incredibly, Justin and I just celebrated our one-year Nicaraguan anniversary a little over a month ago.  So how did this come to pass?  Well, the visit here handed us a huge dose of reality, which was exactly what we needed in order to determine if we could realistically live here.  We learned that we could get quality health care (cheaper and better!), we could get home for emergencies if necessary, and we could make friends that would prove to be not only great resources, but a second family.

I guess the most notable thing here is how quickly I forgot the negative. Or how I began to see it as beautiful.  As the pain of the toothache melted away, the dry season transformed into a lush, verdant landscape, each day offering a sunset more stunning than the last.  Though the drive to Managua still feels long, I now spend it gazing out the window upon the grazing cows and the billowing volcanoes.  I have come to appreciate the dichotomy of Mac trucks and ox carts sharing the same highway and I can’t fall asleep without the chirp of the geckos, my beloved friends, who keep the mosquitoes at bay.

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 And now with the economy tanking, I could not be more grateful to my husband for encouraging this adventure.  Though we have not fully escaped the economic fall-out, we are certainly enjoying a more relaxed and comfortable lifestyle here in San Juan.  Am I wearing rose-colored glasses?  No.  But I certainly like that I get to wear sunglasses everyday.

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A Stranger in my Hometown…A Visit to the States After Living Abroad

I’ve been living abroad for just about 5 months now and the time quickly approached for my first visit back to the States.  I eagerly anticipated my reunion with family and friends, but also felt oddly anxious about this pending vacation.  Have I accomplished enough abroad in 5 months to warrant a visit home?  Is my Spanish strong enough to carry on a conversation with my Gringo friends who studied Spanish in high school and want to test my newly acquired language skills?  Am I tan?  Have I lost any weight?  Have I lost too much weight?  What will happen to my anxiety-prone, super attached dog while I’m gone?  How do I reconcile my new Nicaragüense lifestyle with my North American upbringing?  What kind of culture shock should I expect to experience and am I bad person if I don’t experience any and my first stop off the plane is a Dunkin’ Donuts?

Now home, many of those fears have been assuaged.  At my age, I have friends who accept me regardless of whether or not I can quote Rueben Dario and they automatically tell me that I sound great and know enough not to comment on my physical appearance – positive or negative.  And my family lovingly tells me I’ve put on a few pounds J

It is also an incredible experience to view your own hometown as a foreigner.  I’ve lived in Boston for the last 10 years, but this year, I spent my very first 4th of July at the Hatch Shell, on the Esplanade, among 150,000 other Patriots.   I took photos as if I were a tourist, snapping pictures of the Citgo sign, the Hancock Building, and the Charles River.  It was a pleasant surprise to turn things inside out.

However, there are some challenges that accompany a first trip home.  My 19-month old niece had no memory of her favorite aunt Sarah, having last met me when she was just a little over a year-old. Upon our reintroduction, she ran sobbing past my wide-stretched arms and into those of my sister’s, when she thought my hug was an attempt at kidnapping her stuffed dog.  Three days later, we have found a middle ground and she now Gracefully nods off in my arms for her mid-afternoon nap.

It is also a challenge to reintegrate into the world of consumerism. Though maybe not a conscious decision, part of the move to a third world country was the blissful escape from the consumption and “Keeping up with the Jones'” mentality we had become such a part of in North America.  However, upon our return to the States, I found it all too easy to slip right back into regular trips to the mall and the “need to have” mindset.  It required frequent self-checks to reevaluate what I truly needed versus what I just wanted. 

It is also exciting and invigorating to see all of the people you’ve missed over the last 5 months, but it is also exhausting.  There is an emotional obligation, not only to your family and friends, but also to yourself, to see everyone that you’ve missed while abroad.  It’s fun to regale people with tales of getting the 4×4 stuck in the mud…twice in two days (and getting pulled out by oxen) and make them jealous with the idea of spending afternoons at the beach, cerveza in hand.  However, by the 10th repetition of the story, it begins to sound oddly rehearsed.

 

 And more importantly, there is the realization that back home, life went on without me.  While we spew our tales of tropical paradise they are eagerly waiting for an opportunity to share their own stories of growth, which I have tactfully tried to avoid hearing, for fear that listening to them will only make me terribly homesick and ready to jump ship, turn in my airline ticket and stay put, in Boston. By our second week home, I broke into tears in front of my husband from sheer exhaustion and expressed the need for a vacation.

 

Then, there is the definition of home, altogether. I throw the word around loosely, but the truth is that, even half a year into my Nicaraguan sabbatical, I don’t quite know where home is anymore. To further complicate matters, after the obligatory “life is clearly treating you well there,” everyone follows by asking when we intend to move back home – to Boston.  I’ve learned to take this as a compliment, suggesting that people miss us and want us home; however, it does re-open the proverbial can of worms.  How long are we staying abroad?  Is this a lifetime decision? 

 

The reality is that life abroad is pretty incredible and that first trip back is revitalizing and essential.  Nevertheless, it does come with its challenges, some great and some small.

Some recommendations:

-Plan some alone time (or time with your spouse, significant other, etc.), particularly if this trip is intended to also be a vacation.  The first time home can be exhausting, filled with friendly reunions and family visits and you’ll need some time away.

-Remember that your friends and family had lives going on, too, while you were away.  It’s important to ask about them and not hyper-focus on your life-style change.  Most people will inquire after your big adventure, but be sure to reciprocate.

-It’s cliché, but do your best to live in the moment.  I spent the better part of a week waking up in the morning and counting how many days I had left before returning to San Juan – not because I couldn’t wait to get back – but because I was already sad about leaving – and I had just arrived!  Enjoy the time you have back in the States.

-Do be prepared for some culture shock. 

-Before departing Nicaragua, take stock of what you currently have and make a list of the things you want to purchase while in the States.  It’s exciting to return home to Suburbia/Mallandia/etc., but it’s also overwhelming having relied on 3-5 stores max for the greater part of a season.  It’s best to return home with a plan of what you need to purchase, and get the shopping out of the way, so that you can spend the remainder of your vacation with family, friends, and relaxing,

-Bring limited items and an extra suitcase to the States so that you have room in your suitcase to return with things.  These days, airlines are nickel and diming us for everything, so it’s preferable to pay for extra luggage in only one direction.

 

– Have fun!

4 Months Here and Loving It!

So, my husband, dog, and I have been living here for over 4 months now and we are loving it! The rainy season has just begun and everything has turned green and lush. With the exception of a few days of straight downpours, we’ve had incredible weather. Usually, it rains for a few hours – either early in the morning or late in the evening, but the days are often full of sun.

One of my favorite places to visit is Playa Majagual. The beach is beautiful and the sunsets, over the rock outcroppings, can’t be beat.