Managua, Nicaragua Report of what it's like to live there - 04/02/09
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. Sofia, Skopje, and Tegucigalpa.
2. How long have you lived here?
3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:
From the U.S. -2.5 hours from Miami and 3 hours from Houston.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Houses prevail with small or larger yards. Some luxury apartments are available. Three main residential areas are common among expats. The city is spread out with dispersed communities, and the commute time from your residence to the Embassy is typically 25-35 minutes during rush hour.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Groceries are inexpensive if you stay away from the imported goods from the U.S. which is typically overpriced two-to-three fold. Cleaning supplies and paper products are relatively expensive.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
This is a post that does not enjoy the variety of many U.S. goods (like it was the case with neighboring Honduras where one could find almost, almost anything at more reasonable prices -- pie plates, toys, supplies etc.). So bring anything you know you cannot live without, comfort foods, sports equipments or craft or art supplies. Baby consumables are expensive, and baby jarred food is limited, although you can prepare your own meals with the fresh groceries and a Cuisinart.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Most of the fast food chains are here. McDonalds, Domino Pizza, Burger King, Quiznos and a few others. A combo meal at Burger King is approximately 5 US dollars. There is a local Nica fast food chain for fried chicken called Tip-Top; the chicken is good. One also can find a nice restaurant chain called RostiPollo which offers excellent rotisserie chicken and a large menu with a wide variety of chicken dishes and salads. Eskimo has an excellent restaurant and snack bar attached to their ice cream factory. There are several decent restaurants offering Mexican/Central American fare -- steaks, fajitas, tacos, tortillas, fried beans and similar food.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Dengue mosquitoes are a problem in Managua.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
It's quite reasonable, but reliable help is hard to find.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes. Private sports clubs are available, but expensive.
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?
We use cash.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
Yes. Cable TV has English channels. English newspapers are not available.
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
You must speak Spanish. Not many people understand English, and your maid or gardener will not speak anything but Spanish. In stores and reastuarants you can only get by with Spanish.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Nothing is designed to make it easy for people with physical disabilities, from hotels and restaurants, to sidewalks and stores. The only ramps and facilitating devices I've seen are at the shopping malls, airport, ANS campus and the Embassy.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
No. No trains. Buses are crowded, not safe and have scarce routes. Taxis are not recommended, except when they are directly connected with a hotel or deal with a known driver.
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?
You definitely need a good SUV with high clearance due to large potholes and 6-7 inch speed bumps. During the rainy season, streets get muddy/flooded and difficult to navigate. Outside Managua, most of the secondary roads are not paved. Gasoline is quite expensive.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes. There are three speed options; we pay for a medium speed internet connection at a monthly cost of 46 U.S. dollars, and it serves our purposes, including Skype.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Two major cell phone operators. Claro has better coverage than Movistar in the rural areas. The prepaid cards are a good option at $20 and avoid any customer service problems. A cell is a must for security reasons.
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?
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
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?
Limited opportunities available at the international schools if you have a teaching certificate.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business attire is required for the embassy personnel who have representational duties.
Health & Safety:
1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?
Good in general. Moderate during the dry season.
2. What immunizations are required each year?
3. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Crime is lower than other Central American countries, but security concerns have increased in recent months due to the political and economic situation. Residential robberies and assaults are more frequent than before. Taxi assaults are so common that many expats avoid using them.
4. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Respiratory problems are exacerbated with the dust and burning of the fields during the dry season. Dengue is at an epidemic level this year.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Dry and rainy season. Extremely hot and humid.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Two major international schools preferred by expats. The ANS -- a large K3-12 grade school (1200+ students) and a smaller Catholic school called the Lincoln School. Our second grader is in her second year at the American Nicaraguan School. Our experience is good overall when it comes to academics (maybe at times the curriculum even is overly ambitious), but other areas such as campus, food availability at campus, after-class activities, charities and other events organized by the school leave a lot to be desired.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
The ANS has a school counselor as well as a professional who is in charge of the reading/literacy program, but when it comes to recognizing GT kids as well as kids with learning disabilities, students and parents cannot expect the standards of the U.S. school system.
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?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
A few. The ANS has an excellent swimming program and facilities. Soccer and other sports are also organized for kids.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Besides the Embassy and international PVOs, it's small.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
People find it difficult and not very easy or pleasant place to be.
3. Morale among expats:
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
It's not a fun city for kids -- there are not many places to take kids besides the mall, the movies and the fast food places. Singles and couples may have better times since there are restaurants and bars.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Not many, but occasionally one encounters racial and other prejudices, including among students at the schools.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
One can reach the beaches within 1 to 2 hours, and explore the wild beauty of a land with volcanoes and lakes galore.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Rocking chairs, hammocks, rum and coffee.
9. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
3. But don't forget your:
Mosquito repellent, serious sun blocker and patience.