I absolutely loved Nicaragua! The lifestyle is super laidback, with fresh fish and some of the world’s best coffee. The people are incredibly kind. The landscape is stunning. The waves are great, and the water is always warm. What more could you want? Oh yeah, it’s also perhaps the cheapest landing spot in Central America. This week, we’re going to look at how easy it is to make Nicaragua your home.
How long can I stay in Nica?
I entered Nicaragua without a visa and was able to stay for up to 90 days. For those who wish to make Nicaragua their permanent home, the visa requirements are incredibly easy and very well-suited to digital nomads. It is considered a pensioner visa, but you don’t necessarily need to have the income from a pension. That’s one of the big advantages of this visa.
The income threshold to qualify for this visa is incredibly low- $600 USD per month. Unlike Colombia, which prefers that all pension income be sourced from a government pension (such as Social Security), Nicaragua does not. This is a huge advantage, as you have to wait until at least age 62 to begin drawing your social security. This visa does have a minimum age requirement of 45, but this can be overlooked if you have a stable income history. If you don’t have a government or private pension, you can apply for a different type of visa that requires you to show economic self-sufficiency. The requirement jumps to $750- still a very small monthly income, but this may be the perfect avenue for digital nomads. While salary is not an acceptable source of income, investments and business income may help you qualify. If you have rental income or dividend income, that’s fantastic. Business income may help you qualify- such as by setting up your own company. It’s always a good idea to consult with a local attorney and see what is best for your situation. However, this represents another advantage of incorporation.
Another great option is the investor visa. Many countries have requirements for an investment visas that are simply out of reach for most digital nomads. Here in Portugal, the golden visa scheme requires purchasing a property for 500,000 euros, transferring a million euros to Portugal, or investing several hundred thousand euros into a Portuguese business. By contrast, Nicaragua requires the purchase of real estate valued anywhere from $50,000 to 100,000 USD. Check out Central American Citizenship Specialists for more info on the requirements. The Escape Artist recently published a great article that outlined how you can qualify for an investment visa with a $35,000 investment into Nicaragua’s Reforestation Program.
As will all immigration and visa issues, it is advisable to contact a professional with detailed knowledge of the process in that country.
Nicaragua offers fantastic tax benefits to those looking to move to the country and invest there. You can receive up to 10 years tax exemption within Nicaragua. This may be extendable. The benefits of living tax-free can really boost your savings rate and fast track your retirement. For those relocating to Nicaragua, they are able to send many goods to Nicaragua (including household goods and automobiles) duty-free. Building materials may be purchased free of VAT up to $50,000 USD.
Cost of Living
There is a reason the income requirements to retire to Nicaragua are so low. It is an incredibly cheap country to live in. Renting a place is incredibly affordable. Numbeo estimates that an apartment in the center of Managua would go for $225 per month, while one in Granada would set you back $400 per month. Costs further south in San Juan del Sur, where there is phenomenal beaches and surf, can be even lower. Eating out is incredibly affordable and the local Nicaraguan food is amazing! Nicaragua is one of the premier coffee producing countries in the world, and the local beer is fantastic! There is nothing better than a cold Tonia after a surf.
Granada has a huge expat community. San Juan del Sur and Popoyo are always packed with foreign surfers. One thing that impressed me about Managua was that it didn’t seem to be a city that was inundated with expats. This, to me, made for an authentic experience. If you are looking to be in the center of an expat community, those areas are surely available in Nicaragua. You also have the option to get to explore places that will give you a true Nicaraguan experience. Bear in mind that Costa Rica (and its huge expat population) borders Nicaragua to the south.
It is hard to ignore the civil unrest that has plagued Managua for the last few years. I have several friends who live and work south of Managua and say that everything is tranquilo. However, it remains something that foreigners wishing to move there need to keep an eye on, as violence may erupt at any time.
The healthcare system in Nicaragua definitely has room to improve. Many reports characterize it as being overburden and understaffed. Those with the financial means will have access to far better care at the larger hospitals in Managua. I would not consider travel to Nicaragua without comprehensive travel insurance. International Living cites something akin to private insurance at a larger hospital in Managua.
The internet infrastructure in Nicaragua also leaves room for improvement, though 4G service is becoming increasingly available throughout the country. Those living in larger cities, such as Managua and Granada, will enjoy a much faster and more stable connection. A colleague who lives and works in Managua reports no issues at all. Other digital nomads have suggested always having a mobile hotspot as a backup- even in larger cities like Granada. Local hotspots services, like Movistar are available for around $30 a month. The larger international mobile hotspot providers offer packages that range from $200 to $300 USD per month for unlimited 4G, but local access should be sufficient and can be topped up.
Again, I loved Nicaragua. The tension in recent years is something that everyone should consider and make their own decisions on. I personally would not let it dissuade me from visiting Nicaragua or relocating there. It is an incredibly easy country to obtain a second passport. The investor visa essentially allows one to purchase a second passport, while the other retirement visa options allow you to get a second passport after only five years.