For $4.10 USD we can get for 1 watermelon, 1 pineapple, 6 green mangos, 1 very large carrot, 1 cantaloupe, 1 avocado and 1/2 dozen bananas!
After enjoying a cold Tona at sunset at one of our favorite beach bars we went to pay the bill. They couldn’t provide change for 100 cordobas so they said we could pay next time. Funny thing is C$100 is equal to $4.12 USD.
In April our Nica neighbor who has been in the same house for all 39 years of her life – and is now finally able to build a kitchen and indoor bathroom in her home – gifted us with a six pack of Guatemalan beer during Semana Santa! So, so sweet and kind of her!
We have time to cook!
We can take our dog everywhere, including our favorite bars and restaurants.
Lola, our favorite vendor at the fruits and vegetable market gifted us with a big juicy mango one day – just because! We weren’t even making a purchase.
The kind policeman that pulled Elisha over for not wearing her seatbelt (only to find out that her license had expired) allowed her to pay the C$600 ($24.79 USD) fine onsite for only C$200 ($8.26 USD).
We moved to Nicaragua nearly two years ago. Along the way have discovered a plethora of ways to save a buck.
We now live in a nicer home and own and maintain a vehicle. Overall of our quality of life is better.
The interesting thing? Our budget hasn’t really changed.
Here’s how we do it!
BUY BEVERAGES FROM THE LOCAL DISTRIBUTOR
No matter where you buy it in Nicaragua beer and rum is cheap, but purchasing it at our local distributor allows us to save more than 50%.
To put things into perspective…
A can of Tona purchased at the corner store costs $1 USD, while a bottle purchased at the distributor rings it at just 0.53₵. If you want even more bang for your buck you can purchase beer by the liter – at the distributor – for just $1.14 USD per unit.
Another plus purchasing from the distributor? They’ll deliver the goods right to your door … for FREE!
EAT OUT LESS
When we arrived in Nicaragua the food was new and impressive, but within a couple of months it became very unexciting.
With access to fresh ingredients and more time to cook we prefer to eat most of our meals in. Eating more meals in allows us to save a decent amount of money, which in turn means we can afford to splurge on a special dinner out now and again.
BUY CELL PHONE MINUTES ON PROMOTIONAL DAYS
For the first few months after moving we shared a cell phone. During that time we were spending an average of $20 USD per month and we were constantly running out of minutes.
With a bit of research and some trial and error we now average $12 per month for two phones and we rarely run out of minutes.
We purchase minutes on promotional days where the carrier sometimes gives us up to six times our minutes. And instead of paying for individual text messages, we purchase packages.
PURCHASE FRUIT & VEGETABLES FROM THE FRUIT TRUCK
In Canada we bought most of our fruits and vegetables from the grocery store. Occasionally we would go to a Farmer’s Market for better quality produce. Ironically the prices were even higher.
Here in Nicaragua fresh produce is available at our local Pali (grocery store), but the freshness and quality of our local vendors is far superior, not to mention much cheaper. We actually prefer to support our local entrepreneurs – and 9 times out of 10 – that is exactly what we do.
Depending on what we buy and where we buy it, it’s possible to save as much as 50% on produce.
Here’s an example:
At the grocery store one medium avocado is 40 cordobas or $1.66 USD. At the local market the same sized avocado can be purchased for 25 or 30 cordobas. If we purchase from the fruit truck that visits our neighborhood daily we can get an avocado for 20 cordobas. And if we’re lucky enough to be around when a vendor comes to our door an avocado may cost as little as 15 cordobas.
LIVE THE LOCAL LIFESTYLE
I sometimes crave familiar brands from home, but have learned to limit myself to one or two treats (pretzels, peanut butter, chocolate chips and extra sharp cheddar cheese) now and then.
By learning to live without some of our favorite and familiar brands we’re able to stay on budget.
BEWARE: If you insist on buying imported products from your home country you will significantly increase your living expenses.
These are just a few of the ways we’ve learned to save while enhancing our lifestyle. We’d love to hear from other savvy expats who’ve found additional ways to save. Leave a reply in comments section below.
A UFC fight night out in Nicaragua is slightly different than a UFC fight night out in North America. FREE admission and $7 bottle service (or Tona buckets) tonight at Howler Bar & Restaurant in San Juan del Sur!
A large pool and an Irish pub within stumbling distance of home? A beautiful beach just five minutes away?
Sounds about right to me.
Off we went to take a look.
Elisha and I wanted to get a realistic idea of the time it would take to get to Congo Hills from our rental house in San Juan del Sur, so when we pulled out of our barrio I set the timer on my watch. Even though we got stuck behind a bus – that stopped every 100 meters – we still managed to arrive at Congo Hills in just 10 minutes.
Our tour started with a walk around the property. We immediately noticed how nice and breezy (and quiet) it was up on the hill.
The club house, hot tub and two pools overlooking Playa Remanso promptly captured our attention. From our vantage point we could see the rolling hills and valleys that lead down to the ocean.
Seamus let us in on a little known secret.
The owner of O’Shea’s (the most popular Irish pub in Granada) is opening a second pub and restaurant in this location. Renovations for the restaurant are already underway and to ensure smooth sailing into the pub some road work along the entrance of the development is also being done.
We made our way over to the spec homes that are situated about 100 meters from the club house. Colourful fruit trees and beautiful bright flowering plants surround the casitas.
Two of the homes have already been purchased by yet another Irishman. He currently uses them as vacation rentals to generate income.
We checked out a two bedroom, two bathroom home. The design was very North American with an open kitchen, dining and living room; a great layout for entertaining.
The 1200 square feet of living space is a little more than what we are used to, but a little extra space is always welcome.
As we made our way up the staircase and onto the roof top deck we could picture ourselves enjoying beautiful sunsets and a cold Tona (local beer) or two.
Currently priced at just $99 000 USD the houses are move in ready just waiting for someone to make them a home. Conservatively speaking this price is 20% – 30% lower than similar real estate listings that we’ve seen in the area.
Congo Hills sits on a 90 acre parcel of land, so the options are endless. Anything from a one-third acre to ten acre lots are available. The land can be used for single family homes, condominiums, a B&B or even a small hotel.
An area close to the club house – just across the road from the existing homes – stood out to us.
Seamus described these parcels as “non-view” lots, which we found highly entertaining considering we could see the ocean from where we were standing.
He went on to explain that the lots on the ridge, closer to the ocean, have more sweeping and dramatic views so those are the ones he classifies as ocean view. At least he isn’t into over promising or exaggerating the truth.
We’ve given it some thought and decided that our preference would be to buy a lot and build an energy efficient, environmentally friendly and inexpensive earth-bag home.
What’s great about Congo Hills is that as long as your home has white outside walls and a red clay tile roof it fits the current home design restrictions of the development.
Next steps for us?
Do some more research on earth-bag construction while we wait for our investments to mature and become available.
…get financing through Seamus (something that is almost unheard of in Nicaragua) and start construction now.
At as little as $20 000 USD for a “non-view” one third acre serviced lot we are seriously considering pulling the trigger while Congo Hills is still in its infancy.
As mentioned previously Congo Hills does not have a website, nor is it listed with a realtor. This is one of those special word of mouth cases we talked about in our last article.
We will be looking for a few neighbours so we wanted to share Seamus’ contact information with you. Please note: Uncool, unfriendly and not fun people need not apply.
(505) 8895-5728 Nicaragua
Alternately you may use the form below to contact Seamus.
The place we now call home – San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua – just so happens to be one of the most popular places for Nicaraguan youth to party during Semana Santa.
Rooms (with only cushions on the floor for sleeping) rent for up to $75 USD a night. Vendors line the streets. There is no shortage of cheap beer, rum, knock off sunglasses or inflatable toys.
One of the local restaurants has set up a temporary Tip Top chicken franchise. Morning, noon and night we see Nicaraguan men passed out on the sidewalks and streets.
Girls in booty shorts and bikini tops represent Heineken, Victoria Frost, Flor de Cana, Tona, Claro and Movistar.
As we sit in the Heineken tent and sip 30 cord ($1.21 USD) green frosties a group of special forces police – clad in black -march together in a troop of six. Rifles are strapped to their backs and they carry hand guns in holsters on their hips.
Convoys of Nicaraguan families have set up camp on the beach. The bay has become a place to bathe and use the toilet. Avenida del Mar reeks of urine. Beach parties rage on until the wee hours of the morning. The techno beats can be heard all way to our house, which is more than three blocks away.
This is San Juan del Sur during Semana Santa!
With the end of the dry season rapidly approaching the temperature is climbing. From experience we know that each day will feel hotter and more humid than the last, until the merciful rains come in May to cool us off. For the next month we’ll be staying close to the ocean or a pool.
One of our favorite ways to cool off and have a great time is to go sailing.
We recently got together with sixteen of our friends (new and old) and spent the day on a catamaran with Captain Zach from Nica Sail n Surf. We cruised out to a private beach north of town and enjoyed a day of swimming, snacking, drinking and relaxing. We had our own private party on the water.
$60 USD included our day of sailing, open bar complete with beer, rum, juice and soda, as well as Zach’s very own homemade ceviche, guacamole and salsa.
It was our friend Stephanie’s birthday and she said that the day couldn’t have been better. Even though her daughter Layla was the only kid on board she had a great time.
This was our first time sailing with our buddy Zach, but it certainly won’t be the last!
To learn more about Nica Sail n Surf or to book your very own catamaran adventure click here.
I think you’d be hard pressed to find a better burger in San Juan del Sur than what you’ll get at Nacho Libre. These guys are doing it up right!
With nine different burgers on the menu to choose from there is something for everyone.
Priced at $9 Smelly, But Nice comes with blue cheese, caramelized onions, spicy mustard greens, balsamic reduction and grey poupon and is the most expensive burger on the menu.
If you’re prefer something more simple you might want to try the Missionary burger. It’s topped with lettuce, tomatoes, onions and Kosher dill pickles and rings in at just $5.
For the non-meat eaters Nacho Libre serves a $6 burger they call Yoga Ass. This gourmet vegetarian burger comes with a cous cous veggie patty, mozzarella, caramelized onions, avocado and salsa verde.
I chose #4 – In n’ Out Animal. American cheese, caramelized onions, Kosher dill pickles and Thousand Island remoulade. Need I say more?
Gord’s pick? #5 – The Big Wang. Charred jalapeños, bacon, extra sharp cheddar cheese, avocado and salsa verde make up this burger.
All burgers are served on Corn Island Coconut bread that is made fresh daily. If you’re concerned about carbs you can have your burger served on a bed of locally sourced organic greens. All burgers come with your choice of hand-cut, house seasoned fries or organic mixed greens.
As we devoured our tasty burgers, delicious crispy seasoned fries and Frosty Tonas we felt like we were in a trendy burger joint in a large city somewhere.
Nacho Libre reminded me of the type of place that is featured on the show Diners, Drive-In and Dives.
From the mouthwatering juicy burger, to the presentation, to the frosty Tona, to the friendly service with a smile I loved everything about this place.
If you’re in San Juan del Sur (and love burgers) lunch at Nacho Libre is a must!
Already a regular at Nacho Libre? We’d love to hear what burger is your favorite. Leave a reply in the comment section below.