Today’s post is a follow up to a recent article we published titled “Making the Move: 6 Items to Pack in Your Suitcase”.
Here’s a list of 6 more items we recommend packing in your suitcase complete with the reasons why.
Although sunscreen is available everywhere here, it’s expensive. Very expensive, in fact! At $13.27 USD for a 236 ml bottle it makes sense save some space in your suitcase for not just one, but a few tubes of sunscreen.
Do yourself a favor and bring an insulated water bottle with you. I recently purchased this one made by Hydroflask. They are a little pricey, but worth every penny. I love that I no longer have to drink lukewarm water or deal with condensation dripping from a bottle of water I froze in the freezer. Another added bonus of using a refillable water bottle? You’re helping the environment. This is one item in Nicaragua I never want to have to live without!
PORTABLE BLUE TOOTH SPEAKER
Rock out at home, on the beach or poolside with a bluetooth portable speaker. We purchased the Air Raid by Skullcandy and absolutely love it! In addition to being water resistant and shock proof it also sounds great.
Propane gas stoves are common place in Nicaragua. Sometimes when cooking on gas it’s just not possible to get the flame low enough for a proper simmer. Whether you do a little or a lot of cooking an inexpensive heat diffuser is certainly handy item to have here.
REUSABLE SHOPPING BAGS
Plastic bags are used everywhere in Nicaragua and sadly litter the streets, ditches and beaches in many areas. I much prefer packing my groceries in larger canvas or cloth shopping bags. One — because I can put way more in them — and two — because they also easier to carry, especially if I’m walking to and from the market or grocery store. This is a light weight item that doesn’t take up any room in a suitcase and therefore, in my opinion, a good thing to bring with you.
Most oven knobs here have the numbers 1 through 5 marked on them, rather than temperature. This makes using the oven a bit more challenging, especially when it comes to baking. Although I don’t use the oven here nearly as often as I did in Canada, I’m glad I packed an oven thermometer.
“What should I pack in my suitcase?” is a question we often get asked by soon-to-be Nicaraguan expats. With some extra legwork and a willingness to pay premium prices you can almost always get what you need here.
And although it’s not at all like the super Walmart stores found in the US and Canada, there is also a Walmart that recently opened in Managua.
If you’re moving to Nicaragua, our guess is your chosen destination is probably not Managua.
In towns and cities like Granada, Leon, Matagalpa and San Juan del Sur small Ma and Pa shops, that specialize in one type of product or service, are the norm. It can be very difficult to find quality inexpensive household and personal items in these places.
So, if you’d like to avoid paying premium prices — and save yourself the time and extra expense of traveling to Managua when you first get here — we recommend adding the six items listed below to your packing list.
New and used English books are sometimes hard to come by, especially if you’re looking for newer releases. And when you do find them, they aren’t cheap. If you enjoy reading and don’t already have an e-reader you’ll probably want to invest in one. We love our Kindles!
QUALITY KITCHEN KNIFE
Sharpening stones are easy to find outside of Managua, but inexpensive good quality chef knives are not. With more time to enjoy cooking and a bounty of vine ripened fruits and vegetables available a good knife will be a welcomed companion.
With technology outdated by at least two years and items priced 30% to 100% higher than in Canada and the United States you’ll definitely want to bring your laptop, iPad and any other electronic devices you can’t live without. It’s also a good idea to make sure everything is working well. Repairs can usually be done in Managua, but don’t come cheap.
Although the selection is better than what it was when we first moved to Nicaragua the variety of spices available here is somewhat limited. For example oregano, garlic powder, crushed red pepper flakes and cinnamon can be found in almost every grocery store, however cardomom, allspice and sage cannot. If you have some not so common favorite spices you can’t live without you may want to stash them in your suitcase.
BEDSHEETS & PILLOWS
We’re people who appreciate nice linens. You can find them here but, like many other quality items, they are sold at a higher price than what you can buy them for in North America. Keep comfy and save yourself some cash by bringing a couple of sets of sheets with you. For added comfort you may want to bring your favorite pillow and a quilted mattress cover. Worried about space in your suitcase? Space saver bags like these ones work great!
Here in Nicaragua roosters, barking dogs and fire crackers are common sounds we hear all hours of the day and night. To avoid sleep disruption you may want to pick up a multi-pack of ear plugs. You’ll be happy to know, that just like those individuals living near an airport or a railway crossing, you too, will eventually desensitize to these sounds.
Have you recently made the move to Nicaragua? Is there an item not on our list that you wish you would’ve packed in your suitcase?
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YOU ASKED, WE ANSWERED: Can a foreigner who doesn’t have residency open a bank account in Nicaragua?
For no particular reason, other than being able to share our experience with you, we recently opened a bank account here in Nicaragua. Although relatively straightforward the process to do so was a little long and drawn out.
With a smile on my face, a pocketful of patience and the required documentation in hand (see below for the detailed list) I arrived at our local Banco Lafise Bancentro branch here in San Juan del Sur.
The time was approximately 12:45 pm.
At 3:30 pm, a little less than 3 hours after arriving, I walked out the door with my account number in hand and instructions to return in one week’s time to pick up my debit card.
One week later, as promised, my debit card was ready for pickup.
When I returned to Bancentro to pick up my card the representative that helped set up my account greeted me with a, “Buenos dias, Don Gordon” and one hour later I had debit card in hand with online banking and fraud protection setup.
The task of opening a bank account in Nicaragua without having residency was officially complete.
Other than a $2.50 USD service charge for optional fraud protection we do not incur monthly fees to have this account.
Since opening our account I have successfully completed a wire transfer. It took a few days for the funds to show up, but overall the transaction went very smoothly. I was impressed that I received an email from the bank notifying me that a deposit had been made to my account.
WHAT YOU NEED TO OPEN AN ACCOUNT
Foreigners who wish to set up a bank account with Lafise Bancentro are required to present the following:
- Copy of your passport
- Copy of your driver’s license or government issued ID
- Copy of last year’s income tax statement
- Reference letter from your home country bank
- Bank statement from your home country showing your current account balance
- Two reference letters from Nicaraguan citizens
- Rental home agreement or proof of home ownership (in Nicaragua)
- Copy of your beneficiary’s passport
- Minimum $50 USD to deposit
This may seem like a long list, but in order to alleviate money laundering, banks worldwide — including those in Nicaragua — want to know where your money is coming from.
IS A NICARAGUAN BANK ACCOUNT REALLY NEEDED?
For the past four years we’ve managed just fine without a Nicaraguan bank account. During this time we’ve always just used our Canadian debit card to withdraw funds from our account at an ATM.
In fact, since moving here there has only been one instance when we we felt it would have been beneficial to have a local account. That was in 2012 when we purchased our truck.
I still say we don’t really need this account, but at the same time it does add a level of convenience to our day to day life. Just like in Canada I can use my bank account to pay bills online. I can also add minutes to my cell phone. I can even transfer money to friends that also have Bancentro accounts.
Last night I noticed a sign at a local restaurant offering a 20% discount if I used my debit card to pay my bill.
For the first time in four years I used my Visa debit card, instead of cash, to pay for groceries. This felt a little odd, yet somehow familiar to life back in Canada.
With so many great dishes to choose from at El Bocaditos I had a hard time narrowing down my decision of what to order for lunch today.
But in end it was the satay sail fish with coconut and peanut sauce (satay pez vela con coco y salsa de mani) that won out.
This dish was one of “9 for 99 cordobas” that is currently be offered on a special executive lunch menu.
If you’re looking for a light, healthy, satisfying and affordable lunch option in San Juan del Sur these $3.60 USD plates are perfect!
El Bocadito Tapas y Cervezas
50 meters North of the central market
San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
Open Monday to Saturday from noon to 10 pm and offering a full menu of tapas, 1/2 portions and full entrees. Don’t miss $8 paella & sangria every Friday night!
Just because we live in a tropical paradise doesn’t mean we still don’t love weekend getaways and vacations.
We recently enjoyed a three day, two night stay at a luxury vacation villa with our good friends Debbie and Bastin.
Casa Culebra is beautiful 2000 square foot two bedroom, two and a half bath luxury eco-home.
It is one of eleven villas situated in the development of Balcones de Majagual (pronounced ball-cone-ehs-day-ma-ha-wall). This gated community is located just 12 kms north of San Juan del Sur.
At Casa Culebra you experience nature and tranquility without having to sacrifice comfort.
This vacation home has it all — king size beds and quality linens, hot water and wifi, a fully equipped kitchen, ocean views, jungle views, a gas grill, an outdoor shower and an infinity pool!
A thirty minute scenic drive from home — over a bumpy road known as La Chocolata — brought us to the gates of Balcones de Majagual.
Perhaps it was the anticipation and excitement of a mini-vacation, but the drive seemed to take no time at all.
We engaged the four wheel drive on our truck and made our ascent up the hill to Casa Culebra.
After quickly unloading our truck and unpacking our bags we were hot and sweaty. We grabbed some drinks and snacks and walked a few steps down to our 15 meter infinity pool.
The cool clear water was a little chilly, but incredibly refreshing. This was a nice change from the bathtub like water in our pool at home.
Howler monkeys lazed overhead in the trees a few feet away from us, while birds tweeted happily around us.
Much of our chatter centered around how fortunate we were to be “right here, right now” “living the life” in Nicaragua!
As the sun went down and day turned to night conversation ceased. We were hypnotized by a magnificent sunset.
On the menu for night one was fresh mahi mahi that we had purchased in town at the local market. The well appointed, fully equipped kitchen made meal prep a breeze.
A good part of our day on Saturday was spent at two of our favorite beaches, which just so happen to be a five minute drive from the house.
We parked our truck at Playa Majagual and from there walked leisurely across the white sand beach and rocks towards the popular surf beach of Playa Maderas.
In less than ten minutes we arrived at Playa Maderas. We found a quiet shady spot on the south end of the beach where we “set up camp”.
Here we kicked back, relaxed and sipped on a couple litres of Toña (local beer) that we had packed in our cooler bag.
Later on — while surfers ripped on head high waves — we chowed down on fish tacos.
Although we love the beach our walk back to Playa Majagual where our truck was parked was at a much less leisurely pace. We were on a mission as we envisioned a pool and sunset experience similar to the one we had the night before.
Sunset on night two did not disappoint.
After our fun filled day of sun, surf, more pool time, another delicious meal and a game of Dominoes we were spent. Our eyelids started to droop early in the evening as our comfy king size beds called to us.
As I crawled into bed crickets buzzed outside my window. The wind rustled softly in the trees and I was asleep almost immediately after my head hit the pillow.
Sunday came faster than we had anticipated.
Just a bit more time in this calm quiet peaceful environment (and maybe one more poolside cocktail) is all we wanted.
But sadly…as we know…all good things must come to an end.
We throughly enjoyed our time as guests at Casa Culebra and are look forward to returning again one day soon!
Your experience at Casa Culebra can be much of the same as ours — but with one added bonus — you’ll have your very own concierge — which just so happens to be me and Gordon.
We’ll meet you upon arrival in San Juan del Sur. After a quick tour of town and picking up a few supplies we’ll escort you to your home away from home and help you get settled.
We’ll tell you about our favorite sunset happy hour spots and make sure you know where to go for inexpensive and delicious seafood dinners. We can also help with recommendations and reservations for activities and excursions.
Balcones de Majagual
Nightly rates starting at $145 USD.
A 4 x 4 vehicle is required to access Casa Culebra.
A few months ago a friend of ours introduced us to Chilango® hot sauce. We love this stuff, but unfortunately it’s not available for purchase here in San Juan del Sur.
Earlier this week we managed to complete another successful border run. While cruising the aisles of the Duty Free shop in search of inexpensive wine we were delightfully surprised to see Chilango on the shelf. Without hesitation we grabbed one of the only two remaining variety packs that was left in the store.
WHY WE LOVE CHILANGO
Each sauce has a perfect amount of tang with just the right amount of heat. At $12 USD for 4 – 150 ml bottles it’s reasonably priced.
What’s even better?
It’s made right here in Nicaragua!
The Pepperoncino Piccante was the perfect accompaniment to the scrambled egg wraps we enjoyed for breakfast this morning.
If you dig hot sauces and happen to find yourself at a La Colonia or a La Unión grocery store (or the Duty Free shop in Peñas Blancas) you might want to pick up a bottle or two … or three!