Cost of Living Report 2017: San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

cost of living report

~ San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

The lower cost of living is one of many reasons foreigners choose to relocate to Nicaragua. But like anywhere in the world your quality standard of living and lifestyle will have a great impact on your overall budget.

Below is a summary by category that shows exactly how much Gordon and I spent in April of this year (2017).

For a more detailed report – that shows every single purchase and expense for the month – click here.

Cost of Living Nicaragua

~ Exchange rate is based on 29.6 córdobas per 1 USD

A BIT ABOUT OUR STANDARD OF LIVING

Detailed information on each expense category is listed below. This information will give you great insight on cost of living and budgeting for a life in Nicaragua.

RENT – $550 USD

Base rent for our 800 square foot 1 bedroom, 1.5 bathroom home with shared pool is $550 USD. All utilities (electricity, internet, satellite TV and water) are extra. The house is equipped with hot water, air conditioning in the bedroom and a washing machine.

Currently in San Juan del Sur the going rate for a 2 or 3 bedroom, two bath home with a similar quality standard to ours is between $1000 – $1500 USD per month.

As with most long term affordable rentals this home was sparsely furnished when we moved in. To make the home more comfortable we’ve purchased black out curtains for the living room and bedroom, a sofa, a coffee table, a dining table and six dining chairs.

We got our sofa on (an extraordinary) sale for $400 USD at a department store in Managua called Siman. Our dining chairs were also purchased on sale for $55 USD each at a store called Full Home, which is also located in Managua. Both our coffee table and dining table were custom made by a friend who has a small mill in Masaya.

TIP: Even if you’re not purchasing big ticket items like furniture for your rental home it’s important to leave room in your budget for initial set up costs.

UTILITIES – $273.73 USD *

* This month we changed internet providers and had to pay an installation charge so our utility costs were $100 USD higher than they normally are.

INTERNET  – $76.02 USD
We’ve been paying $76.02 USD per month for internet through a company called GGNet, but as mentioned above we changed internet providers this month. We now have service with a company called Wifinic. Moving forward our monthly charge for unlimited bandwith at speed of 2 Mbps will be $52 USD.

For detailed information on internet providers and packages available in San Juan del Sur click here

SATELLITE TV- $17.73 USD
Our service provider for satellite TV is ClaroWe have a dozen or so English channels including American networks like NBC, ABC and Fox. We also get BBC News, Sony Channel and FX, as well as an assortment of Spanish programming.

WATER – $10.98 USD
Water comes to our home via the city. Our monthly water bill averages between $8 to $11 USD.

ELECTRICITY – $16.46 USD
On average we spend between $15 – $20 USD per month on electricity, except for April and May when we use air conditioning for a few hours at night. During these months our bills range from $35 – $60 USD.


An Interesting Fact About Electricity Consumption in Nicaragua

If you use under 150 KWH of electricity in a month 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 pretty much doubles. In addition, the more electricity you consume the higher the rate per kilowatt hour you will be charged.


TIP: If you and your family need air conditioning to be comfortable at night electricity bills will be significantly higher than ours. If you’re planning to rent a home with a private pool you’ll need to factor in added electricity expenses to run the pool pump. Your water bill may also be slightly higher and often the home owner will require you to pay for pool chemicals.

CELL PHONE – $16.95 USD
We use
unlocked cell phones that we purchased from Amazon.

We are set up on a pay as you go plan with Movistar. A local SIM card costs $2 USD. For just under $17 USD each we get a plan that includes 2.5 gigs of data and enough calling time to last the entire month. This plan does not include International calling minutes or text messaging. It does include unlimited Snapchat, Whatsapp and Facebook usage.

Since Gordon topped up his minutes at the end of March and went without data for latter part of the month we only spent half of what we’d normally spend on cell minutes this month.

cost of living Nicaragua

~ Movistar Superbono Packages

TIP: Here cell phone credit is referred to as “saldo”. If you buy “saldo” on bonus days you can triple, quadruple or even quintuple your calling credits.

VEHICLE & TRANSPORTATION – $28.81 USD

Vehicles – whether new or used – are expensive here compared to what you’d pay for them in Canada or the US. You can see examples of pricing on Encuentra24.

We drive a 2001 4 x 4 Hyundai Galloper that we purchased 5 1/2 years ago for $7000 USD. Since doing a full overhaul in May of last year we haven’t had any major maintenance issues with the truck. We did however have the air conditioning repaired in January. The bill was $400 USD.

cost of living report

~ Gordon’s Motorcycle – A 2016 180 UM (United Motors) Renegade Sport

A few months ago Gordon sold his 2002 – 225 Yahama XT and purchased a brand new 2016 – 180 UM (United Motors) Renegade Sport. Sale price was $1600 USD. This included the registration paperwork, insurance and lawyer’s fees.

TIP: If you’re on a tight budget a motorcycle is a great option for personal transportation. Maintenance is inexpensive and gas mileage is great. Motorcycles also hold their value really well here.

GASOLINE – $37.63 USD

Although we drive our truck daily we never go very far. It takes only 5 minutes to drive to town from our home. And it only takes 15 minutes to get to our favorite beach.

Gordon’s motorcycle is very fuel efficient; the truck gets good mileage also. The truck runs on diesel which currently costs $0.79 USD per litre. The motorcycle operates on gas which costs $0.97 USD per litre.

Our monthly fuel consumption is consistently low.

HOUSEHOLD EXPENSE – $10.35 USD

On a month to month basis we spend very little on household purchases.

As inexpensive as it is to hire a housekeeper we do our own cleaning.  The going rate for a cleaner to come to your home on a casual basis and clean for 4 to 6 hours is $10 USD.

TIP: If you’re planning hire a full time domestic worker (nanny, housekeeper, gardener, etc.) you should know that the current minimum wage for workers in this category is $171 USD. In addition to this base salary employers are required to pay a percentage to the government for the employee’s social security and health insurance plans. They are also required to pay aguinaldo (an extra month’s pay) and 4 weeks of vacation pay.

For more detailed information on hiring employees in Nicaragua follow this link to our friend Jenna Reid’s blog The 1 Less Traveled By.

GROCERIES & SNACKS – $356.30 USD

cost of living Nicaragua

~ Doña Lola: Central Market, San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

We enjoy cooking and eat the majority of our meals at home. 80% of what we buy is local with the remaining 20% consisting of more expensive imported items. Some examples include peanut butter, imported cheese, tuna, nuts and specialty cooking oils.

Since we tend to shop every two or three days – buying things as we need them – we have almost zero food waste here. This is a change from when we lived in Canada and bought groceries once per week only to have them go bad because we were usually too tired to cook after a hard day’s work.

Locally grown fruits and vegetables are inexpensive with prices varying according to the season. For example a pineapple costs a $1 USD, 6 bananas costs 34 cents, a large avocado costs between $1 – $2 USD. Potatoes are 68 cents per pound and a small head of broccoli costs around a dollar.

Imported products and pre-packaged foods cost the same, or in some cases more, than what they do in Canada or the US. For example: a 2 lb block of cheddar cheese costs $10 USD, a 3 lb box of Cheerios costs $8.78 USD and a 1 lb jar of peanut butter costs $4.39 USD.

TIP: If you are buying a lot of canned goods, pre-packaged foods and imported produce like apples, grapes and strawberries your grocery bill will add up quickly.

RESTAURANT – $172.63 USD

We ate out 14 times this month.

Depending on where you go a simple typical Nica plate of food with chicken, fish or beef served with rice, salad and fries averages in price from $3 – $8 USD.

At our favorite restaurants in town – The Black Monkey, G&G Gourmet & Jicaro Garden “Mediterranean Restaurant” – two entrees and a couple beer each averages between $20 – $30 USD.

TIP:  Restaurants located directly on the beach generally tend to charge a little more for food and drink. Save yourself some money by eating and drinking at these places during Happy Hour when beer, rum and appies are only $1 – $2 USD.

ALCOHOL – $89.73 USD

The cheap price of alcohol makes it very easy to drink here.

$89.73 USD reflects the amount we spent on alcohol when we were out for drinks only and for alcohol that purchased to drink at home or friend’s houses.

A 12-pack of beer purchased at the supermarket or local pulperia (convenience store) costs $10 USD. A 750 ml bottle of 7 Year Flor de Caña rum also costs $10 USD. Wine is little more expensive averaging in price from $6  – $12 USD per bottle. You go you can expect to pay $1 – $2 USD for a beer in a bar or restaurant.

TIP: By taking advantage of Happy Hour drink specials – which are offered almost daily at nearly every restaurant on the beach and at various bars around town – you can save a lot of money on alcohol. Buying bottled beer by the case at the distributor saves 30%.

PET – $27.80 USD

Our only pet expense this month was for food. The 7.5 kg bag of food we purchased lasts our 15 lb miniature schnauzer approximately 2 1/2 months.

For complete details on life with a dog in Nicaragua including information on veterinarian costs, as well as details on what’s required to bring a pet into the country, click here

HEALTH & BEAUTY – $78.86 USD

This month I had my hair cut at a foreign owned salon. The cost was $40 USD (plus a $5 USD tip) and included a shampoo, but no blow dry or styling. Services at locally owned salons are much cheaper. For example a ladies cut at Sol y Luna Spa costs just $8 USD.

A monthly membership at Fight Club Gym costs $30 USD. Yoga classes when purchased as a 10-pack at Zen Yoga round out at $6 USD each. A one hour massage at Elixir Center costs $30 USD.

CLOTHING – $0

Finding inexpensive quality clothing and footwear here – keyword being quality –  is quite difficult. The majority of my clothing shopping is done in Canada once per year when I go back to visit family.

Although our wardrobes are more basic now, living in a tropical environment is definitely hard on clothes. That being said the costs of replacing tank tops, t-shirts, shorts and flip flops is drastically less than having to purchase both work and casual ware; not to mention trying to keep up with the trends and clothing needed for each changing season.

Gordon is less picky when it comes to clothing. He can usually find most everything he needs here in San Juan or at various retail shops at the malls in Managua.

GIFTS – $0

Since moving to Nicaragua we no longer buy birthday and Christmas gifts for family.  On occasion we do purchase an inexpensive birthday gift for a friend here. From time to time we also make small charitable donations to local non profit organizations. This month we didn’t do either.

ENTERTAINMENT – $10.61 USD

Our entertainment budget is consistently low. Other than our Spotify music membership and the purchase of a Kindle book now and again we don’t spend a lot on entertainment.

Here is San Juan there is live music almost every night of the week – with no cover charge. A ticket to see a movie at our 30 seat cinema costs $4 USD. For $15 USD you can enjoy an all inclusive night of Wine, Painting & Pasta at the Art Warehouse.

ROAD TRIP – $337.64 USD

This month we took a mini 4 day, 3 night vacation to the city of Matagalpa with friends. Total spend for accommodations, meals, snacks and activities was $337.64 USD.

cost of living Nicaragua

~ Maria’s B&B: Matagalpa, Nicaragua – An air conditioned room with hot water and cable TV with breakfast and tax included costs just $52 USD per night. 

Highlights of our trip included a hike and lunch at Selva Negra Ecolodge & Coffee Estate, a tour of El Guayabo Coffee Farm and a visit to a local weaving shop. By doing self guided tours we saved a ton of money.

Our friends drove and were kind enough to pay for all the gas which cost around $55 USD. It was their treat to us in exchange for us being their “tour guides”.

If you do the math we only spent $42 USD per day per person on this trip. It really is great to live in a place where taking a mini vacation doesn’t have to break the bank.

DAY TO DAY SPENDING VS. TOTAL COST OF LIVING

Figuring out what your cost of living will be in Nicaragua it not as simple as multiplying your estimated daily spending by 365. It’s important to consider for the following additional expenses:

TRIPS TO YOUR HOME COUNTRY & OTHER VACATIONS
This year I paid $660 USD for a return ticket from Managua to Calgary. Over the course of a three week trip I usually spend between $1100 – $1500 USD.

Although I have a free place to stay and access to a vehicle while in Canada I still pay for groceries and gas. I don’t go crazy with eating out and entertainment, but expenses tally up very quickly.

As mentioned earlier I do buy a lot of clothing to replenish our wardrobes. I also come back with a few household items.

If you we were to multiply this amount by 2 (or 3, 4 or 5 if you’re a family) it’s clear to see trips “home” are not cheap. If you plan to do any traveling after moving to Nicaragua – whether it be to your home country or elsewhere – don’t forget to add this expense into your budget.

HEALTH CARE
At this time we choose to live without medical insurance. Public health care is free, but not at the quality standard we are accustomed to in North America.

Depending on who you see a consult with a private doctor here in San Juan del Sur costs anywhere from $10 – $13.50 USD. An appointment with an English speaking doctor at the Vivian Pellas Metropolitan Hospital in Managua costs $35 USD. You can see a specialist there for $60 USD.

Almost all drugs that are only available by prescription in Canada or the US can be purchased here over the counter. I priced out a some drugs at our local pharmacy recently – a month’s supply of Yazmin birth control pills costs $21 USD. A Ventolin asthma inhaler costs $7.06 USD. A 500 mg tablet of Amoxicillin costs just 10 cents.

DENTAL CARE
Recently Gordon had a cleaning and check up at Clínica Dental Rivense in the town of Rivas, which is 30 minutes by car from San Juan del Sur. Cost was $20 USD. He was happy with the quality care he received. 

CAR & MOTORCYCLE INSURANCE
Motorcycle insurance for the year is $35 USD. 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. For new vehicles full coverage insurance is in the range of $350 – $400 USD for the year.

VEHICLE MAINTENANCE
If you own a used vehicle you will need to factor vehicle maintenance and repairs into your budget. Labour here in inexpensive, but parts are not.

TOURIST VISA RENEWAL
If you are living in Nicaragua full time and you do not have residency you will be required to renew your tourist visa every 90 days. The cheapest and easiest way to do this is by crossing the border to Costa Rica. Cost per person for tourist visa renewal via Costa Rica border crossing (not including transportation to and from) is $24 USD.

For detailed information on tourist visa renewal and border crossing click here.

BOTTOM LINE

Are we spending less money than we did when we lived in Canada? Absolutely! Could we live on less in Nicaragua? Of course.

In conclusion, if you want to live with many or all the comforts of home in Nicaragua it’s likely going to cost more than you think. Budget wisely!

Posted on June 26, 2017, in Cost of Living and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. Costs are fairly accurate but I experience them quite a bit higher for some things. For example, my doctor at Vivian Pellas now charges $60 for a visit. My monthly TV is $60 but I’ve a lot of channels, my monthly food bill is $400 (only me no children), my gas bill for the car is over $200 but I make lots of small trips, my housekeeper $120,

    • Hi Martin,

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. And thank you for sharing some information regarding your monthly expenses.

      I have confirmed with our contact at the Vivian Pellas Hospital that most doctors charge $35 USD for a visit, with $60 USD being the charge for an appointment with a specialist.

      Cheers,
      Elisha

  2. Wow, you guys have me glued to the screen when I read your blogs, I have followed you for a few years and thank you for the fantastic information you provide. Such detail and so helpful. I have considered very seriously moving to San Juan Del Sur mainly because of the incredible information you provide. Thank you and please keep going!

  3. Michael Hickey

    Hi ElisHa,

    Such a great blog. I love that you can budget a monthly vacation while in such a beautiful location. Please tell Gordon that we’re planning to come for a visit in the near future.

    Michael

  4. Excellent post guys. I am afraid to do my monthly expanses because I have big swings. Your cost seem spot on at about $2,000 +/- per month.

  5. Great info and appreciate the breakdown. Very helpful.

  6. Hello. Did you haul that furniture back from Managua yourselves or is/was there a delivery option?

  7. Perfect. Clearly I’m not there yet but I was living in Mexico a couple years ago and my rental was awesome but the furniture was hideous. I mean, really bad. If I had been there longer, I would have just spent $1000 and upgraded everything. I think I’ll be in Nica next year. I assume I will have the same issue there. Great info, thanks.

    • Hi Andy,

      You can find stylish comfortable furniture here but it’s not necessarily cheap. I was quoted $3000 USD on a modern North American style sofa once. It was from Michel Pierson.

      If you shop around, have time and are patient once in awhile you can find a good deal like we did!

      Cheers,
      Elisha

  8. Looking at your budget for the month would most likely eliminate me from retiring in Nicaragua. I thought Central and South America would be much more affordable. I’m hoping to retire somewhere on 1500-1800 per month. The budget in cnd dollars for your post is approximately 2500. That’s quite a bit of money. I lived in Mexico for 4 winters and although I didn’t keep track of my budget I was living on $800 per month. That of course is traveling and not paying monthly rent and expenses. But Nica seems expensive to me. I spent 2 months in Cuba every year and this will be my 21st year. I can live there on $1500 cnd per month or less. I’m surprised at the costs there. Sorry critique your post, just looking for a place next year or the year after. I really enjoy your posts.

    Thanks,
    Mark Kennedy
    Picton, Ontario

    • Hi Mark,

      You are not alone in thinking that it is cheaper to living in Nicaragua than it actually is. But keep in mind this budget is for two people not one. We also own a car and a motorcycle.

      You can definitely live comfortably in Nicaragua for less. In the end it all comes down to what YOU need to be comfortable.

      We know a lot of foreigners that are living here on $1500 CAD or less. On average we spend around $1700 USD per month which is approximately $2150 USD.

      I’d say don’t give up on Nicaragua as an affordable place to live without coming to check it for yourself first! 🙂

      Cheers,
      Elisha

  9. Ideas for a young family? Children 4 and 2? What should we consider for schooling – hopefully in English, considering the private schools seem very expensive? I am currently running an IT business in South Africa – would it be possible to do my own thing there? I heard there’s quite a shortage of IT stuff there. We’re really looking into Nicaragua as a possibility.

  10. Wow, this has by far been the most current and informational site I have found on Nica. My wife and I are in our 50’s. Tired of the rat race and love Costa Rica and have considered retiring there but their costs continue to escalate. Nicaragua is looking much more attractive and affordable now. Between our retirement savings and until SSI kicks in (when we are older) we will have at least $3000 per month to live on. We are definitely heat and beach people but understand that housing is more costly the closer you are. We don’t need to be on the beach, but a short walk is what we are looking for. We absolutely want to simplify our lives as we can easily adapt to the Nica cuisine as we eat healthy and fresh now. We initially would walk and taxi around until we think we need a vehicle. Do people there use souped up golf carts or 4×4’s to get around locally? Are you still doing the visa runs every 90 days? Any concerns about that as I know CR was trying to crack down on the perpetual tourist thing. Thanks again for your wonderful site.

    Dave

    • Hi Dave,

      I’m glad you have found the information on our site helpful!

      There aren’t really long term affordable rentals on the beach in San Juan del Sur. There are some very close to the beach though. Currently for a two bedroom, two bathroom condo/apartment with shared pool you can expect to pay at least $900 – $1000 USD per month.

      No people do not use golf carts as a means of transportation in San Juan del Sur. The town is very walkable if you live in town or on the edge. You can easily get buy without personal transportation. Many foreigners use motorcycles as an affordable means to get around. We own both a motorcycle and a 4 X 4 SUV.

      Yes, we are still doing border runs every 90 days and will continue to do so until our residency application is processed and approved. We submitted it about 3 weeks ago. More questions are being asked of those that cross the border every 90 days to renew their tourist visas, but to date I have not heard of anyone being turned away.

      If you’re seriously considering a move to Nicaragua I would strongly recommend coming for an extended vacation – in a rental similar to what you’d be able to afford if you were living here – before making a permanent move. There are many great things about living in Nicaragua; it’s a beautiful country. Gordon and I are very content here … but it’s definitely not for everyone.

      Cheers,
      Elisha

  11. We just moved to Nica and have been glued to your blog since we decided to move here .I do have a question about healthcare, you say it’s free. Is that only for residents? Or tourist as well? We will be here at least a year, likely longer, and are trying to decide if insurance is worth it. We are in SJDS and I know there is a clinic here but I don’t know the cost (if there is any) for emergency treatment.

    • Hi Arianna:

      Public health care like the Center de Salud in San Juan del Sur is free for everyone. It may not live up to your expectations though.

      For minor health emergencies or just questions we go to the pharmacy right by Lafise Bank. Dr Francisco Velez is the owner and can help with any minor issues. A consultation is $10 USD. His daughter Marta speaks English and is always there to help translate if needed. We have Marta on WhatsApp and she is always quick to respond with any questions we have about medications.

      Most blood, urine or stool testing can be done quickly and cheaply at the laboratory right here in San Juan.

      For specialists we have gone to Rivas and Granada. A typical visit in a private clinic is around $15 USD. For something major including surgery or testing like an MRI we would go to one of the private hospitals in Managua. Vivian Pellas is the favorite of most expats. They have an intake specialist for foreigners that speaks English and responds quickly with any questions you might have.

      Gordon

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