Amongst the many interesting Nicaragua facts, the cost of living is an important one, especially if your retirement budget isn’t as high as you had hoped for.
How Much Do You Need?
We are going to use our benchmark of $1,300 per month as a baseline. Can you retire in Nicaragua on less than $1,300 per month? According to Christopher Howard’s “Living and Investing in the New Nicaragua”, a couple should budget at least $750 per month.
This includes rent for a small house and rather simple living. 3,000$ a month will buy you a luxury lifestyle, with rental of a spacious furnished house, full time maid, and eating out every night.
But who needs to eat out every night? If you choose the golden middle way between living frugally and like royalty, a monthly budget of $1,300 will do just fine in most parts of Nicaragua.
If you must or want to live in the capital city of Managua, and you don’t own your place, US$1,300 won’t be enough to cover rent and living expenses.
For example, I live in Carretera Sur, one of the nicest areas in Managua. I am renting a 3-bedroom house in a small, secure community. It has beautiful gardens and a pool. My monthly rent is $950.
For me, the location and peace of mind are worth the cost.
Some items, like household appliances, computers, and cars are about 30% more expensive than in the United States or Europe. The price of gasoline is fairly high: US$3.80 per gallon or $1 per liter (at the time of writing). However, it is still a steal for most Europeans.
Moon’s “Living Abroad in Nicaragua” features an excellent chapter about cost of living in Nicaragua. This book is a must-read for everyone who seriously thinks about moving to Nicaragua.
Most expats would agree that electricity is more expensive than back home. Of course, the total cost reflects lifestyle choices. For example, my own electricity bill is sometimes as low as US$15, and never higher than US$50.
The house I am renting has high ceilings and the placement of the windows allows for a cool breeze during the nights. There’s no air conditioning, and we use our fans only during the hottest months.
See: Nicaragua Climate
One huge advantage for some people is the affordability of household help. A full-time maid, cook, or gardener commands a salary of between US$140 to $200 per month (with US$140 being the equivalent to the current minimum wage for domestic help).
Nicaraguan Food, Drink and Restaurants
The Nicaraguan currency is the gold Córdoba, but the U.S. dollar is widely accepted. You can check the actual exchange rate at the “Banco Central de Nicaragua” web site. As of this writing (March 2018), 1 US$ buys you 31.16 Córdobas.
Cost of Food in Nicaragua
There are three big supermarket chains in Nicaragua where you can get most of those “good old back-home” goods. They are La Union, La Colonia, and Palí. La Colonia is the only Nicaraguan-owned chain and my personal favorite.
I find the quality of meat and fish offerings in the fresh food counter at La Colonia to be better than the one at La Union. Palí is the cheapest of the three supermarkets, but it also has a smaller selection of goods (a bit like Aldi or similar discount stores).
I often wonder how the locals can afford to buy stuff in the supermarkets. Most imported goods are more expensive than in Europe or United States. A prime example is the cost of Nutella. A 400g (13 oz) jar costs about US$3.50 in Europe or the U.S., and over US$6 in Nicaragua!
Locally grown fruit and vegetables, however, are a steal in comparison, especially if you buy them at one of the “mercados” instead of a supermarket. Meat, fish and seafood are also less expensive.
I can’t forget to mention that locally brewed beer is cheap, and so is the famous Flor de Caña rum. Wine, on the other hand, is expensive.
Cost of Restaurants in Nicaragua
There is an abundance of good and cheap eating establishments in Nicaragua. (In the bigger towns, menus include local and foreign cuisine.) I’ve eaten a full meal with a drink for as little as US$5 and as much as US$40. On average, the price is somewhere in between.
Overall, the cost of living in Nicaragua is cheaper than in United States, Europe or Canada, especially when you compare the lower costs for “big expenses” (housing, real estate, health care and labor cost). Without a doubt, you can easily retire on a small budget.
Related: Surfing The Boom