A champagne lifestyle on a beer budget in Nicaragua

We hear from many baby boomers who are checking out possible places for retirement … places that offer a safe, pleasant, and affordable standard of living and quality health care. Quite often, talk turns to South America. Jason Holland writes for InternationalLiving.com, and prefers Nicaragua.

I’m kind of a thrifty guy.

I don’t buy the latest smartphone that comes on the market. In fact, I have the most basic model money can buy in Costa Rica—just $30, plus $15 a month for minutes. I don’t splurge on fashion—why bother? I’m in board shorts and a tank top pretty much 24/7 at my home in the Costa Rican beach town of Tamarindo.

But when I travel to Nicaragua, I go a bit hog wild and feel free to indulge in many of the “luxuries” I normally deny myself.

That’s what brought me to Josseline, a thatch-roofed restaurant right on the beach in San Juan del Sur, on the southern Pacific coast, on my most recent trip to the country. I had been waiting almost five months to go back.

Granada, Nicaragua.

Granada, Nicaragua.

I’d been dreaming about sitting down in the heat of the day with a cold beer, watching the water, feasting on three succulent grilled lobster tails basted in garlic-butter sauce. Delicious. Best of all, the whole thing was just $10.

I waited until Granada to treat myself again. After a day spent tromping through narrow streets admiring colonial architecture, I needed a break.

So I headed to Hotel Spa Granada, a boutique hotel in the heart of the colonial quarter. (By the way, the hotel itself is worth a look. It’s in a huge restored colonial, with modern art everywhere.)

I scheduled an hour-long aromatherapy massage for a bit later—$22. Then I headed to the pool. A day pass is complimentary with the massage but is usually $5.

Granada

Granada

Finally, in León I got a haircut. I was looking for a traditional barbershop—boxing on TV, old men of the neighborhood gathered around, and all that. But they were all closed for a religious holiday when I was in town.

But on a side street near Parque Rubén Dario I did spy a gentleman lounging in his rocking chair at an open door, a sign with scissors overhead. He said, “We’re closed—I’m too tired,” with a weary sigh. But when he got a second look at my somewhat scruffy appearance, he relented.

granada_2“Come inside, and I’ll fix you up.”

It turned out to be more salon than barbershop, and there was 80s Europop on the stereo instead of the expected Latin music. But I got a great haircut as the stylist gossiped about his neighbors and extended family. Just $5—with tip.

It’s not just luxuries that are cheaper in Nicaragua. Everyday expenses like groceries, taxi fare, rent, medical care… you get it for less than the United States … and, in many cases, even other Latin American countries.

InternationalLivingCatch up on all the great places to explore at InternationalLiving.com.

1 Comment

  1. What a shame this piece isn’t written by someone not making their living at International Living’s world of hype. Nicaragua was the dirtiest and poorest country we visited in 2011. We rented a car and drove all over this country for 21 days and the level of poverty in the streets and the hunger from the people were just horrible. And the constant horn honking of car horns, by everyone, all day long, wears on you after a while.

    We had a respite only in Matagalpa, a mountain región of Nicaragua, where were stayed at the eco-lodge of Selva Negra (coffee finca). The only part of Nicaragua worth returning too in my opinion.

    The author left out of this piece that the wáter in San Juan del Sur is polluted and not for swimming. You won’t see that on House Hunters either!

    I’m glad I saw the church in Granada and the town of Leon. But when the locals won’t let you out after dark, when they make you lock your car up behind an iron gate, when they won’t let you walk a few blocks to the movie house, something is wrong somewhere, and it’s not being written about by IL.

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