Cost of Living Report 2016: San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
The low cost of living is one of the things that attracted us to a life in Nicaragua.
Below is a summary by category that shows what our day to day spending was for the month of June 2016.
For a more detailed in-depth view to our expenditures you can view our daily spending report.
A BIT ABOUT OUR STANDARD OF LIVING
Below we’ve provided a ton of detail regarding our standard of living for each expense category. This information will give you great insight on cost of living and budgeting for a life in Nicaragua.
Base rent for our current 1 bedroom, 1.5 bathroom home with shared pool is $550 USD. All utilities (electricity, internet, satellite TV and water) are extra.
Our internet provider is GGnet. Our monthly package costs $72 USD. We have unlimited bandwith at speed of 2 Mbps.
For detailed information on internet providers and packages available in San Juan del Sur click here.
Our service provider for satellite TV is Claro. Our monthly package costs $23 USD. We have a dozen or so English channels including American networks like NBC, ABC, Fox. We also get BBC News, Sony Channel and FX, as well as an assortment of Spanish programming.
Water comes to our home via the city. Our monthly water bill averages between $5 to $10 USD.
Our monthly electricity bills average between $15 – $20 USD per month, except for April and May when we use air conditioning for a few hours at night. During these two months of the year our bills go up to $50 – $60 USD. We also noticed an increase in our electricity bill in December when we had Christmas lights plugged in.
An interesting point regarding electricity usage — if you use under 150 KWH of electricity you qualify for a rebate of 50% off your total bill. If you go over 150 kilowatts, even if it’s by just one kilowatt, you lose the entire rebate and your bill doubles.
Luckily we have fairly new appliances (refrigerator, washing machine and air conditioner) in our rental home, but if you find yourself living in house that has older appliances you can expect your energy costs to be a bit higher.
Also if you end up living in a place that doesn’t have a lot of airflow you may have to resort to using air conditioning at night to get a good night’s sleep, which in turn will have a significant impact on your electricity bill.
We have a shared pool which means we aren’t paying for the electricity to run the pump, the water to fill it or the chemicals. If you’re renting a house with a private pool you’ll need add extra in your budget for these expenses.
We use unlocked phones that we purchased from Amazon. We are set up on a pay as you go plan. For just under $18 USD we get 2.5 gigs of data and enough calling time to last the entire month.
VEHICLE & TRANSPORTATION
New and used vehicles in Nicaragua are much more expensive to buy than they are in North America.
We own a 2001 4 x 4 Hyundai Galloper. We purchased it 4 1/2 years ago for $7000 USD. Rarely a month goes by when we don’t have to do some sort of repair or maintenance on it. Here in Nicaragua labour is inexpensive, but prices for parts are similar to what we would pay in Canada.
We also own a motorcycle. It’s a 2002 225 Yahama XT. Purchase price was $1500 USD. The motorcycle will go forever on a tank of gas.
Other than driving around town for groceries or a trip to the beach once in awhile the truck is parked, which keeps our monthly fuel costs low. The truck runs on diesel which currently costs $0.73 USD per litre. The cost of gasoline is a bit more at $0.87 USD per litre.
Presently we do our own housecleaning, but in the past we have hired a cleaner to come into our home once a week. Cost for 4 to 6 hours of house cleaning was $10 USD. The maid took care of the basics like sweeping and mopping the floor, cleaning the bathrooms and dusting, but also did the extras like wiping down the inside of the refrigerator, dusted ceiling fans and washed the windows.
On a month to month basis we spend very little money on household purchases. Here in Nicaragua we live with a lot less than we did in Canada. Our cupboards are no longer stocked full with a different glass for every type of beverage and fancy serving dishes. We only have two sets of bedsheets and a half a dozen or so bath towels. It’s been interesting to see how little we really need to live comfortably.
GROCERIES & SNACKS
When it comes to groceries we buy a ton of local fresh fruit and vegetables, which are very inexpensive, but we also purchase imported items such as peanut butter, cheddar cheese, olive oil, etc. on a regular basis.
We’re not eating beans and rice everyday, but we’re also not feasting on lobster and tenderloin all the time either.
Breakfast is almost always eaten at home. For me, it’s usually a coffee, a fresh fruit smoothie and some toast or a bagel. For Gordon it’s pretty much the same but with the addition of eggs and an extra cup of coffee.
We tend to eat only one big meal a day here, either lunch or dinner.
A typical lunch or dinner always includes some sort of protein, usually chicken, sometimes ground beef. Chicken salad or stir fry, pasta salad, hamburgers, homemade squash soup and Shepard’s Pie are part of our regular rotation.
We enjoy cooking and eating at home, but we also enjoy meals out.
When we do go out for a nice meal average cost for two entrees and a couple alcoholic drinks each is $25 to $35 USD.
Often times — especially when we’ve prepared a nice lunch at home — dinner ends up being a few $1 appies at one of our favorite Happy Hour spots on the beach or a light snack at home.
If you looked through our detailed spending you probably noticed we drink alcohol quite regularly. When it’s hot and we’re on the beach or at the pool in the company of good friends with the sun shining (or in most cases setting) we really enjoy a cold Toña or two. The fact of the matter is drinking is easy to do here. And when beer and rum are half the price of water, soda and natural fruit juice some sort of alcoholic drink is usually what we tend to choose.
Since we purchased a large bag of food for our dog Maggie in May and stocked up on flea and tick preventative that same month when we were in Colombia and didn’t have any trips to the vet this month we didn’t have any pet related expenses.
For complete details on life with a dog in Nicaragua including information on food costs and veterinarian care and costs and details on what’s required to bring a pet into the country click here.
HEALTH & BEAUTY
Health and beauty spending is much less here in Nicaragua than it was in Canada. Eliminating expensive trips to a salon every eight weeks for a cut and color saves a ton of money. Not to the mention all the money I save by not buying so much make up and hair products.
Here in San Juan del Sur you can expect to pay $8 for hair cut if it’s a local salon or $30 USD in a foreign owned salon. Yoga classes cost $6 – $8 USD and monthly gym memberships are around the $20 USD. A one hour massage can be had at our local chiropractor’s office for $35 USD.
Although there are a couple new affordable clothing shops (Zara, Pull & Bear, Berska) that recently opened in the Galeriás mall in Managua, it’s still difficult to find inexpensive quality clothing and footwear here. 95% of my clothing shopping is done when I go back to Canada once per year to visit family. When I do shop here it’s usually at a used clothing shop in the nearby city of Rivas and even then prices aren’t cheap. For example: A t-shirt would still cost between $6 – 8 USD and a little cotton dress would still be $12 – $15 USD.
Since moving to Nicaragua we have stopped buying birthday and Christmas gifts for family, but on occasion we do purchase an inexpensive birthday gift ($10 – $20 USD) for a friend here. From time to time we also make small charitable donations to a local non profit organization.
This month we treated ourselves to a sailing trip. The $100 USD we paid for the two of us to go on the boat was a big splurge, but worth every penny! Especially because we almost never treat ourselves to weekend getaways or activities like this.
DAY TO DAY SPENDING VS. TOTAL COST OF LIVING
When it comes to figuring out how much money it will actually cost you to live in Nicaragua it’s not as simple taking this budget and multiplying it by 12.
Although $1600 USD typically covers our day to day expenses for the month we also have the following additional expenses:
My Annual Trip Back to Canada
Airfare to Canada is not cheap. This year I paid $800 USD for a return ticket from Managua to Calgary. Over the course of a two to three week stay in Calgary I usually spend between $1500 – $2000 CAD. Although I have a free place to stay and access to a vehicle while there I still pay for groceries and contribute towards gas. I don’t go crazy with eating out and entertainment while in Canada, but expenses tally up very quickly. Clothing purchases to replenish our wardrobes are a significant part of this expense. I always come back with a few household items as well.
Luckily Gordon and I are both relatively healthy. At this time we choose to live without medical insurance. We have a local doctor in town who charges $10 USD for an appointment. An appointment with an English speaking doctor at the Vivian Pellas Metropolitan Hospital in Managua costs between $35 and $40 USD.
This past April an acquaintance of ours had a full physical complete with blood work, chest x-rays, an EKG and stress test, plus a colonoscopy and the cost was $800 USD. A new set of breasts will run you $3200 USD. $10 000 USD covers a hip or knee replacement.
Almost all drugs that are only available by prescription in Canada or the US can be purchased here over the counter. Costs are typically much less than what we would pay for them in Canada without insurance.
In April I visited the local dentist here in San Juan. Total cost for an exam, x-ray and cleaning costs $40 USD. Much cheaper than what I would pay in Canada, but also not the quality standard I was used to. Needless to say I have been researching my options elsewhere to have an onlay replaced.
Car & Motorcycle Insurance
Basic insurance for our truck for one year is $55 USD. Full coverage insurance is not an option for us as our vehicle is over 10 years old. Basic motorcycle insurance for the year is $35 USD. Friends of ours who just bought a brand new Hyundai Elite i20 paid $300 USD for full coverage insurance for one year.
As previously mentioned rarely a month goes buy when we don’t end up making a trip to the mechanic with our truck. Maintenance and repairs for our vehicle since we bought it 4 1/2 years ago has averaged around $800 USD per year.
Like anywhere in the world what you’re willing to live without and what you need to be comfortable and content will have a great impact on your overall cost of living in Nicaragua.