Expats moving to Nicaragua will be greeted by soaring mountains, beautiful beaches, lush tropical forests and towering volcanoes. The country has an interesting and complex history which means there's plenty of fascinating sights to be explored. Ultimately, though, expats generally move to Nicaragua to take advantage of its laid-back lifestyle, gentle cost of living and beautiful scenery.

Living in Nicaragua as an expat

While it may be difficult for some expats to adapt to life in a country so different from Western countries, learning to speak Spanish will make interacting with the locals and immersion in the culture a breeze. 

The country is primarily supported by agriculture, with other sectors such as construction, mining, fisheries and commerce only developing recently. Expats generally relocate to Nicaragua to retire, set up a business, work in finances, export or production, or teach English.

Though the expat community in Nicaragua is small, most can be found close to Leon, Granada or the country’s capital, Managua. Accommodation in the country is generally affordable, which is why so many expats choose to retire here. Detached houses are most common, with some furnished options available closer to big cities.

The main modes of transportation in Nicaragua are buses and several forms of taxis, while interurban buses allow for travel between major destinations. The country has two coasts and many smaller waterways, making water transportation essential. The country only has four small airstrips and one international airport. Expats will find the use of private cars very useful, but roads are treacherous and often unpaved. 

Nicaragua is home to some of Central America’s most modern medical facilities and many of the country’s doctors have been trained in the US and speak fluent English. Private hospitals are still the preferred choice among most expats, but these are only found in selected cities. The country offers universal healthcare, generally allowing for free routine visits. The cost of medicine and medical procedures is also much lower here, often saving expats a great deal of money. Many expats still prefer to use private, international healthcare, though.

Cost of living in Nicaragua

The cost of living in Nicaragua is low compared to North America and Western Europe. Mercer's 2023 Cost of Living Survey ranked Managua as the 201st most expensive city out of the 227 expat destinations assessed. Similarly ranked cities included Hyderabad, India (202nd) and Skopje, North Macedonia (200th).

Accommodation and food are particularly affordable. The fact that domestic help is inexpensive and readily available in Nicaragua also leaves expats with lots of time on their hands to enjoy all the leisure activities the country has to offer.

Expat families and children

The public education system in Nicaragua is underfunded, so expats tend to send their children to private or international schools. Waiting lists at international schools are often long, though, so it's best to make applications ahead of time.

From surfing, hiking and mountain biking to relaxing on a Caribbean beach or volunteering at a local charity, there is something here to suit anyone's interests. Families can take a weekend trip to any of the numerous astounding sights in the country. From volcano surfing at Cherro Negro to birdwatching in Bosawas Biosphere reserve, no expat can be bored in a country as diverse as Nicaragua. 

Climate in Nicaragua

Nicaragua's little variation in climate and average temperatures throughout the year make this tropical paradise perfect for expats looking to avoid seasonal extremes and hoping for ample time to spend outdoors. It’s not all sunshine, though. During the rainy season, expats can expect medium-to-torrential rains, often lasting up to a few days, and the country has seen its fair share of hurricanes.

It won't take long for expats to feel right at home in Nicaragua. The Nicaraguan people have a reputation for being friendly, warm and welcoming to foreigners, and expats will find myriad activities and sights to keep them busy. Despite some rough edges, Nicaragua is a wonderful expat location with great quality of life.

Fast facts

Population: 6.5 million

Capital city: Managua

Neighbouring countries: Nicaragua shares land borders with Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south, The Carribean lies to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west.

Geography: Nicaragua is home to a variety of climates and terrains. The country's physical geography can be divided into three zones – the Pacific lowlands, the wetter, cooler central highlands and the Carribean lowlands. 

Major religions: Roman Catholicism 

Political system: Unitary dominant-party presidential constitutional republic

Main languages: Spanish is the official language of Nicaragua but English is widely spoken.

Money: The Nicaraguan Córdoba (NIO) is divided into 100 centavos. Most major stores and restaurants will accept credit cards. ATMs are readily available in most towns and cities. 

Tipping: 10 percent of the bill is the customary tip in restaurants, but is not obligatory. 

Time: GMT-6 

Electricity: 120V, 60 Hz. Plugs here have two flat blades.

Internet domain: .ni​​​​​

International dialling code: +505​​​​​​​

Emergency numbers: 118 (police), 115 (fire department), 128 (Red Cross)

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