This has quickly become one of my favourite posts to write in each new country. Not because it’s so intensely interesting to document the prices of everything (shocked? 😉 ) but because I think it’s probably one of the more useful posts I write for fellow travellers.
And I love helping out a fellow traveller! Goodness knows I rely heavily on other blogs whenever I go somewhere new.
So while this post probably shouldn’t have taken me nearly a year to write, it’s here now! A breakdown and analysis for the cost of living in Nicaragua, with the caveat that this does not include Managua. If you want to focus more on travel costs, I suggest you check out the post I wrote on that alongside this one and compare. Travelling is cheap here, but living is even cheaper.
Keep in mind that costs will obviously differ based on how you spend, and we won’t all prioritize certain things the same way. But I’ll do my best to indicate those differences as we go.
At the bottom you can find “a month in the life of”, or my synopsis on what one person and a pug spend living a “normal”, comfortable life in Nicaragua over a one month period. I find that can be a little more helpful than just all of these numbers of random items 🙂
*Everything will be displayed in Cordobas, the local Nicaragua currency, so that it can be converted to your currency of choice at any time. **With the exception of the rent and internet because those are often shown, discussed, and paid in US dollars.
*Everything has been neatly rounded up or down, but it shakes out in the wash (I figure).
Street food meal: C$ 20-50
Restaurant meal – Nicaraguan restaurant: C$ 50-120
Restaurant meal – Western restaurant: C$ 150-350
Eggs/dozen: C$ 80
White rice/1 lb: C$ 14
Dry beans/1 lb: C$ 18
Carrots: C$ 25/bunch
Green Peppers: C$ 5 each
Apples: C$ 25-45 each
Bananas: C$ 1-2 each
Bottle of water: C$ 12-25
* I don’t eat meat and therefore do not buy it. If you are an avid meat consumer, expect to pay. While it doesn’t constitute “expensive” it is still more expensive than the fruits and vegetables.
HOUSING COSTS (based on two bedroom, two person occupancy house)
Rent: USD$ 150-300
Internet: USD$ 30-50
Cell phone: C$ 200 and up
Gas for cooking: C$ 150
Water: C$ 60
Electricity: C$ 150 (without air conditioning)*
*Rumour has it that air conditioning is very pricy and can more than quadruple this number. You’ve been warned!*
Bus fare local: C$ 7-15
Bus fare intercity (3 hours): C$ 80
Cab fare local: C$ 10-40
Americano in coffee shop: C$ 25
Local beer in a supermarket: C$ 25
Premium beer in a supermarket: C$ 35 and up
Beer at a place with English on the menu: C$ 35
Bottle of wine in a supermarket: C$ 175 and up
Bottle of wine in a restaurant: C$ 400 and up
Obviously this will vary a lot. The quality of most of the new clothing in Nicaragua would be considered low by most North American standards because it is almost always polyester based or very cheap cotton. It costs anywhere from C$ 250 for a polyester tank or leggings to much more.
Thrift shopping is extremely popular and there are any number of thrift shops in every nook and cranny of this country, including pop-up ones on the sides of the roads. For locals, this obviously offers a much more affordable option. For us foreigners, it’s also awesome because the thrifted clothing generally comes from North America and so they will be the style, materials, and brands we know and like. Thrifted clothing can be found from as little as ONE CORDOBA – I kid you not – but more often ranges from C$ 30-300 for something decent.
SAVINGS/SENDING MONEY HOME
Western Union is the best option I’ve seen for sending money home, should you need to. Banks here don’t talk to banks in Canada and the USA and don’t offer sophisticated online banking options, so it’s old school or nothing. Fortunately the fees from Western Union are not high on this end and you’ll pay no more than USD$ 10 to send a couple hundred dollars back.
A MONTH IN THE LIFE OF
I am not a super frugal person, though I will tell you that this past year I have stuck to a budget for the first time in my life, and it’s not uncommon for me to give up eating out in order to save a bit of cash.
That being said, I mostly get to eat and drink pretty comfortably (that means I spend money on Western foods such as pickles and coconut milk, and prefer wine to beer), thrift shop on the regular, and even managed to squirrel away a few bucks to travel a bit. I do not, however, go out drinking a lot or do expensive things like go to the movies or zipline or any of those tourist-priced things.
Here’s a rough idea of how it shakes out, monthly (one person and one pug):
Rent/bills/utilities: USD$ 110-200 (depending on current number of roommates)
Groceries: C$ 4000
Pug costs (food, vet, medicine, care): C$ 1000
Cell phone: C$ 500
Hygiene: C$ 350
Transportation: C$ 300
Restaurants: C$ 700
Alcohol: C$ 700
Clothes: C$ 500
Entertainment/Gifts/Gym/Misc: C$ 1000
If you do the math, you will see that before factoring in things like unexpected illnesses or weekends away, I end up spending about USD$ 500 on regular living expenses (or what I consider “regular”). It means that if I cinch up the belt a bit I can afford some small trips or throw a Halloween party or just generally do the odd “extra” thing.
But is that enough to live well?
If you are coming to Nicaragua debt free and don’t have to send money home, you could live off that same $500, though I’d say $750-$1000 a month would give you a much more comfortable life and a bit of a buffer for a rough time. When I got sick I would’t have been able to afford to eat and pay for my medicine without help from friends and family back home, based on what I make and what I have to send home to pay student loans. You don’t want to be in that position if you can avoid it.
Also just to put it all in perspective, most families in Nicaragua are living on USD$ 250 a month or less. Some much, much less. It’s practically inconceivable to me how they manage but also gives you an idea of what is possible if a person were to keep it simple and stick to rice and beans.
The cost of living in Nicaragua is really what you make of it and how many “comforts from home” you need to be happy.
Let me know if I missed anything or if you have any specific cost/daily life questions. I’m happy to help!