“Hi, just calling to let you know that I am moving to Nicaragua and will be there for a few months, at least. Could you put a note on my file so you don’t put a hold on my account?” It was shortly before the big move and I was getting all of my ducks in a row, trying not to leave anything to chance. Our apartment had been packed up, our belongings sold or in storage, and we only had a day to go before getting on a plane.
“Nica… where? Is that in Africa?”
This was a common reaction when I started telling people that my partner and I were packing up and moving on again, after five years in Canada. Right next to a popular tourist destination, Costa Rica, few people had even a general idea of where Nicaragua was, often confusing it for Nigeria. And many of the people that did know about it, remembered it from its turbulent years, decades of unrest and civil war. They had missed the news that it has been stable for over twenty years. Once I explained that Nicaragua is a country in Central America and that it has been safe for many years, the next question was always: “Why Nicaragua?”
My initial reaction whenever someone questions why I do something is: “why not?” Once I am done smirking at being difficult and they are done rolling their eyes, it's only fair to answer them. Let’s start with the most obvious reasons.
Playa Maderas, Nicaragua
- The cheap cost of living
It is considerably cheaper to live in Nicaragua than in my native Canada. However, the cost of living can vary greatly depending on where you live. Areas where there are less expats (ie. white immigrants) are cheaper, for example. San Juan del Sur, where I live, is the most expensive place to live in Nicaragua due to its high percentage of foreigners (somewhere in the range of 10%). Even so, we probably only spend half to two thirds of what we would spend in Canada.
Some examples: happy hour beer = $1, cheap meal = $3, bed in hostel $7-15
Casa Sauro - Home Sweet Home
Our casita (little house) that we rent for approximately half of what we paid on our last apartment in Canada.
2. The ridiculously beautiful weather
The coastal region of Nicaragua, where I live, has a savanna climate, which means that it's really dry most of the year, with a couple of months of intense rain. Moving here at the end of rainy season, I enjoyed six full months with hardly a drop of rain. Coming from an area of Canada where the changing of the seasons just signifies the type and temperature of the precipitation, the ability to go outside at anytime and never have to worry about getting wet, seemed almost magical to me. Pair that with an average temperature of thirty degrees, and you end up with the land of endless summer.
3. The Natural Beauty
Nicaragua has a lot to offer in terms of natural attractions. Rainforests and volcanoes, beaches and highlands, Nicaragua has something for everyone. Don't like the heat? Visit the coffee and tobacco plantations in the highlands. Want an active vacation, surfing and hiking? Nicaragua has some of the best surfing in the world. I don't know this from personal experience as my pale ass stays inside most of the time, but people flock here every year to take advantage of the consistent surf.
Many of the things are bring people to Costa Rica every year are available in Nicaragua for a fraction of the price.
Masaya Volcano, Masaya
Lava flowing in a volcano was one of the most amazing things I have seen in Nicaragua. 2016
4. The Culture
Religious parades are a common occurrence, with participants from all walks of life. Marching bands play, the tempo dependent on the event. The music around Christmas is joyful, celebrating the birth of Jesus. For Good Friday, it's a funeral dirge. Nicaraguan culture is still tightly connected to its Catholic roots. Learning about how familiar holidays are celebrated in another context is fascinating, adding dimension to things I felt like I already understood.
And if culture isn't your thing and all you want is explosions, you are also in luck. Fireworks are used to celebrate every occasion, especially around Christmas and the New Year.
5. The People
The expat community in Nicaragua is close-knit community, depending on each other for advice, assistance and companionship. This is true in all the expat hotspots, but is especially true of San Juan del Sur. It can be daunting to live (or even visit) a foreign country. Its nice to know that help is always just a call (or facebook message) away.
Nicaraguans are warm and friendly, though might be a little shy at first, especially if there is a language barrier (learning some Spanish is key). They are welcoming to foreigners and are proud of what their country has to offer. Unlike other places I have lived, I am rarely openly stared at and have faced little hostility. Violent crime is rare, especially against foreigners, making Nicaragua the safest country in the region.
No place is without its flaw, and Nicaragua is no exception, but I have come to love this place in the time I have lived here. I'm certainly not the only one, with more people visiting this beautiful country every year.
The only question left is: