We now live in a world where outside the United States, American retirees, Singles and families with Children are finding that they can live better than they could at home for a whole lot less. In fact, many have reported, they can enjoy a genuinely comfortable, low-stress retirement on their Social Security alone or a modest income from employment online in many cases. Nicaragua truly has something for everyone. If you’re looking for a better lifestyle free from the high cost of living and you like warm temperatures and Latin culture, Nicaragua should be high on your list
Living comfortably nowadays is relatively hard to do in the United States, where the average Social Security benefit is $1,374 for a retired worker or $2,090 for a couple. And this is of course if you wait for full benefits at retirement age of 65. If you’re looking at retiring on your Social Security check alone in the U.S. or have just a modest amount to supplement it, you’re likely finding yourself living on an incredibly tight budget. Sometimes even having to sacrifice paying for proper healthcare. Oh But even with the current state of healthcare, nothing is covered 100% so you will always have to find the funds to pay for co-payments and other deductibles. Average apartment rentals in most US cities is $800 or more for a 1 bedroom Apartment. So you could easily find yourself with about $100 a month left for food or othafter paying Healthcare and basic living expenses. You could take that same modest budget here to Nicaragua and you will find here your dollars stretch, and you’ll find you can be free from money stress.
“Boomers living on modest budgets overseas may not be living like royalty, but they’re dining out when they feel like it, they’re benefiting from good-quality healthcare they can afford, they’re no longer living hand-to-mouth. In most cities in Nicaragua, rent for a small apartment runs $300 to $500 and a family-size home runs $700. A month of groceries for a couple runs under $300, including vegetables that cost a fraction of what you’d pay in the U.S. Eating out is cheap too. Lavish dinners with all the trimmings will set you back $20 for 2 people. And with less stress and better weather, they report a much higher quality of life than they’d have in the United States on the same budget.” no longer feel anxious and worried when I review my finances,” “It is very comforting to know that I can now occupy my mind with what fun activities I will do daily, rather than how I would try to survive day-by-day if I had stayed back in the U.S a solo retiree with an expensive California condo mortgage to pay for, along with excessive property taxes and increasing monthly homeowners’ association fees.”
Month by month, many Americans are finding it is becoming harder and harder to live only on a fixed Social Security benefits or retirement pension. With most employers offering just a few dollars over minimum wage for working the working class, Most families are asking the question – How can we survive? Something has to change.
Just think of the days you could be relaxing on a rooftop terrace, enjoying views of the stunning surrounding countryside including lush green coffee plantations, sparkling crystal beaches, cosmopolitan cities, and quaint colonial towns.
And retirees are discovering they can stretch their retirement dollars, thanks to a lower cost of living and favorable exchange rate. Obviously, cost of living will depend on what type of lifestyle an expat wants
And maybe we should discuss some of the not so cool things about living here. As far as clothing and consumer goods, prices are more comparable to the United States than they would be in Asia, where taxes and import tariffs drive prices up in many countries. Cell phones, TVs, and American brand clothing isn’t that much more expensive than it is in the US, if there’s any difference at all.
That said, Nicaragua is a great lifestyle destination for Americans, Canadians, or even Europeans who want cheaper prices and a more western living standard than some of the equally cheap places in South America. Nicaragua is not a perfect place, but it is a great place to set up shop. Of course you have to do your due diligence to determine whether you want a “city” lifestyle, something in the country, or a place by the water.
Often expats forget they are in a different place, with a different culture, language, customs and ways of doing things. You need to consciously embrace the differences of where you are each and every day to avoid those frustrations. Living in Nicaragua requires a lot of patience and the more you have the better acclimated you will be.
2. Be Open And Don’t Look Back to compare
Be comfortable to be alone, be open to surprises and don’t look back at your home country for the first couple of months. Avoid socializing with too many expats and make as many local friends as possible!
3. Visit, Experience, THEN Decide To Live here Or Not
Some good Advice … take a short trip to Nicaragua and spend 3 to 4 weeks in an apartment to see if the local way of life fits you. Too many folks move because of one aspect–such as low cost of living–only to find they don’t enjoy other aspects of life they hadn’t considered from afar.
4. Embrace Minimalism
When you decide to move less will definitely be more. Sell everything except for the essentials and mementos; paying for a large monthly storage unit is money better spent on getting things you will need to lie here and that money will often go a whole lot further here. You would be surprised to find many of the items you thought you couldn’t live without you will manage just fine without them. It is also great to know that many of the items you have back home, you can find here.
5. Find an Expat Community
Find a place where other expats live. Especially if you will be coming alone. If you speak Spanish, you’ll be able to mingle freely with the natives. Although it is super important to integrate in your local community you will no doubt enjoy the company of like-minded foreigners.
6. Learn The Language To Love The Destination
You will need to spend at least 1 month here before you will begin to know what you like and don’t like, and whether it’s a place that you would consider living. This will go a long way in helping you to help you appreciate the culture and have better relationships. This will improve your security and ability to learn the best places to shop, eat and visit.
It is highly recommended you register with a language school to learn Spanish and some of the culture as an affordable way to discover your destination.
7. Get Real
Don’t base your plans on what you think is going to happen. Get realistic about life abroad, not as a tourist but as an expat. Joining expat forums on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/ExpatsinLeon/and other platforms is a great way to engage with expats who already live here.
8. Forget About The Lobster And Enjoy The Coffee
Keep an open mind, because many things will be different from what you are used to and it’s easy to focus on what you are missing, rather than what you are gaining. You may not be able to find your favorite Chocolate truffles, but Nicaragua has quite an array of imported items and you will be surprised to find just how many comfort foods from back home you will be able to find.
9. Don’t be Isolated
Moving to a foreign country is very exciting. New people, cultures, experiences and adventures are around each corner. While this can all be great for the first month or so, after awhile it’s natural to begin missing your life back home. Soon you find yourself wishing you could talk to the cashier while at the store, or being able to ask for directions without stumbling through your high school Spanish. Many people end up feeling isolated and alone, even in the largest, most exciting cities. This is commonly referred to as “culture shock” – and can quickly turn your adventure into a nightmare, making you count down the days before you return home. The best way to avoid falling into this trap is to embrace your new city – did you play sports at home? Find a league you may be able to join in your new city. Many cities with expats have monthly meetings and events you can attend.
10. Learn to Adapt!
Americans and many other foreigners already have the reputation for being ignorant (we don’t speak any foreign languages) and arrogant (won’t bother to learn any).
The best advice is learn to adapt to social differences asap. Find other Expats who have lived here a while and ask them what you need to know. There are little nuances that you would never think are different. We think “everyone in the world does it like us” – this way of thinking will severely set you back on your path to integrating into the Nicaraguan way of life.
Moving to another country means a of a lot of planning and preparation and also, for many people. The expat may have some money saved or have a monthly income such as retirement funds or social security, but they still need to prepare thoroughly to avoid serious financial problems since they will need to manage their money between two countries with differing economies and currencies.
One of the main motivations for expats to move to another country to live a better life with a lot less and to be able to save substantially more than they would do otherwise which should, in theory, give them a great opportunity for saving money.
However, that is not always the case and financial experts say that many expats moving to different countries get drawn into the expat lifestyle of spending everything they earn, driving expensive cars, having a large house and eating out in fine restaurants every night. Certainly not the best way to go about saving. So, here’s an Expat guide to saving money.
1. Make a budget
Sometimes the best advice is the simplest. Everyone should make a budget to plan how you are going to spend your income regardless of whether you are an expat or still working in your home country.By not spending money on unnecessary items, it’s easier to regain control on spending; and that creates a surplus which means saving is more likely. Another piece of advice when setting the budget is to allocate an amount of money to save every month so that the practice of actually saving money becomes a habit and you’ve created what is effectively a rainy-day fund which may then pay for travel in case you need to travel unexpectedly.
Finally, on this tip of making a budget, it’s important that the expat keeps records of their expenses so they can track spending patterns. This way, when they need to create accurate budgets, which will vary through the year because of seasonal demands on their wallet such as Christmas, for instance, then they will be able to budget accordingly.
In order to be successful , write down every monthly expense and ensure these have been paid first before spending money on anything else. This will force the reality of a financial situation because you’ll appreciate where your money is being spent.
2. Compare prices
Again, a tip that is crucial for expats and non-expats alike is for them to compare prices for just about everything they need to buy.
This is a particularly good tip for expats who are new to their country because their lives are still disorganized and complicated and they are still really finding their feet. .
This process is made much easier by using online price comparison websites which cover most needs including toiletries, cars and utility provision in most countries.
One good way for comparing prices is to speak with other expats, so networking could be crucial. The other expats may have saved lots of money on something an expat is about to spend a small fortune on. Don’t be shy about asking since they will usually be proud about how much they saved and how they managed to do it.
Networking with other expats also leads to other money saving ideas which can be easily applied and will help boost the prospect for saving money while working overseas.
In addition, Nicaragua now has several expat online (Facebook) forums where long-term residents exchange ideas freely to help save money and boost the enjoyment levels for the expats staying there.
3. Change your lifestyle
We’ve already mentioned that many expats are drawn into an expensive lifestyle because they believe that is what’s expected of them but they don’t just work overseas to further their career as saving money is important so they shouldn’t turn their back on this opportunity.
This means that by living a simple lifestyle the expat should be able to save money on everyday living costs. Indeed, just because an expat is living overseas does not mean they should not be living within their means.
Even if they have moved to a country that has a higher cost of living than their own, they should make lifestyle changes if they want to save money and enjoy their posting.
One of these ideas may be to live closer to work so the expat has a short commute time with little cost. It also means they don’t need a car, which can be very expensive in some countries, and they can walk to work or use public transport. They will also be saving time.
Also, expats who move to Nicaragua will appreciate that the Nicaraguans cycle everywhere so you will save money and get fit as well.
Some expats may be given a travel allowance by their employer and they may not insist on it being spent just for that purpose which means, effectively, the money can be saved.
4. Find Cheaper Housing
The previous tip of changing an expat’s lifestyle also means they should consider the subject of housing. This is likely to be the largest expenditure for all expats.
Finding affordable housing is going to be challenging if the expat has not been helped by their employer, but the struggle to find a cheap home also extends to the local people as well. And because the expat is new to the country they may use a Real Estate agent who might not be cheap and will offer relatively expensive properties.
However, if the expat could compromise on the type of property they want to live in and save a substantial amount on the rent, their living costs are much lower and they will save more.
5. Buy second-hand
This tip will not be at the forefront of most expats’ plans when they are thinking of moving overseas but there are two considerations why it should be; do they really need to take their belongings with them to a new country and do they really need to buy brand-new items for their new home?
Let’s be honest, having to buy new furniture, or some electrical items is not going to be cheap so it makes sense to buy second-hand goods which are probably fairly new anyway. It may also help to make contact with other expats, particularly those who are leaving the country, and offer to buy their belongings (May and June are, apparently, popular months for expats to move on and many will be looking to sell their goods before starting life in a new country).
This is also a good opportunity to visit things like flea markets which offer a wide range of quality items at a very cheap price. Nicaragua abounds with Thrift stores called “American Stores” which are equivalent to Goodwill in the US.
It may sound trite but expats can save lots of money by choosing carefully where they shop for their groceries and clothes. In Nicaragua there are supermarkets mostly geared towards expats but they are much more expensive than those used by the locals.
This idea of saving money on shopping also extends to saving money on clothes; lots of cheaper retailers offering decent quality clothes at a much lower price than many better known chain stores. Expats should always consider shopping for cheaper items so they can save money.
Also, when out shopping, expats should regularly use markets where the produce is fresh and offers a great insight into how local people actually live.
Also, those expats who may not meet the criteria for an offshore bank account need to sign up with a forex platform so they can exchange currency at better rates or at least for a smaller fee. Many forex broker platforms also enable clients to choose when the best time for exchanging currency is, which helps bring down fees so changing money is much cheaper.
We all know that saving money as an expat is not always an easy task but financial experts will tell their clients that saving is an important habit to fall into even if the amount being saved is not very large. It’s also important to start saving early and to begin investing in pensions and other long-term investments to pay for an expat’s retirement.
Saving early also gives time for the money to grow and help smooth out market volatility; there’s no doubt that by saving a small amount over a long period time will grow into an effective and significant nest egg for an expat’s retirement plans.
If you will be visiting León, this September to mid-December we would like to invite you to come and visit our Turtle Sanctuary on Juan Venado island to save the Giant Sea Turtles. From a traveler’s perspective, it’s a great place to watch nature take form and evolve. From an ecological perspective, it’s a beacon of hope for a broad variety of flora and fauna, including (but not limited to) the sea turtles that nest here.
Juan Venado Island Nature Reserve is situated approximately 21km west of the city of León. The island is uninhabited by humans, but visitors can enter via the nearby coastal village of Las Penitas. The nature reserve is protected as a part of the Nicaraguan National Parks system.
Juan Venado Island is an island, measuring around 22 km long, but with an average width of just 0.5 km. On the eastern side, an estuary carves through a large swath of mangrove forest, while the Pacific side of the island is highlighted by a long strip of pristine beach. However, the nature reserve also extends farther into the mainland and includes a protected marine reserve as well.
The island is home to a number of wildlife species. The swampy mangrove ecosystem provides sanctuary for a broad variety of birds, including pelicans, egrets, herons and terns. In the waters, there are cayman and even crocodiles! But it’s the sea turtles that have made Juan Venado Island one of the top tourist attractions in Las Penitas.
With your help, we can make a big difference in bringing the Sea Turtle population back to sustainable levels. If you have children this is an amazing learning opportunity for them. Imagine the positive impact it can have on them to not only help save the turtles now, but that they can come back to the same beach with their own children some day to see the turtles they saved years earlier now laying eggs of their own!
From the months of September to mid-December, female turtles migrate to our shorelines to lay and bury golf-ball sized eggs in the sand, where they incubate for about 45-60 days. When incubation is finished, they crawl out of the sand and scurry to the sea as fast as they can. If they do manage to hatch in the wild, predators and poachers end up getting most of them. It is thought as few as 2% of the hatchlings will make it to adulthood.
When we protect the eggs in the sanctuary, and assist the hatchlings on their release, it is expected that over 90% will survive! The sea turtles can then go on living their juvenile lives and return again one day to the same shoreline where they were released to lay their own eggs.
During the incubation period, it is the temperature of the sand that actually determines if the turtle will be male or female.
29°C is the magic number. If it’s warmer? It’s a girl! If it’s colder? It’s a boy!
We’d love to have you and your loved ones help save these Giant Sea Turtles! This is an amazing learning opportunity and creates a huge impact on the future population of this endangered species. We are offering some fantastic discounts for anyone who shares our passion for making a difference. We look forward to going on the adventure with you!
I’m thinking about moving to Nicaragua,” are posts you see every day in Facebook Groups, and other expat forums about life as an expat in that country.
More and more, people in the U.S. and Canada are thinking about making the move down to the Central American tropical paradise to live a better lifestyle.
“I want to move down to Nicaragua to live, buy a house, and open a business,” is the usual goal, but their life-plan isn’t well thought out after that. There are a lot of people rushing into their big move, spurred on by visions of a stress-free, easy life on the beach. Their experience can either truly be “living the dream,” or a complete nightmare based on what happens next.
Nicaragua is it! – without considering other options.
Nicaragua is a beautiful country, but what do you truly know about it? If you think all-day, everyday life there is sitting on a postcard-like beach, you might be shocked to hear that people actually have problems and challenges there, just like they do back home in your current life.
And are you sure about Nicaragua? Have you considered Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Colombia or other similar expat havens?
Of course, Nicaragua is a welcoming, healthy, and positive destination for many expats, but just make sure you think it through, do your homework, and prepare adequately for real life – not a rosy fantasy.
Thinking that you need to become a resident immediately.
Unless you are a social security retiree, a permanent residency in Nicaragua can be a tedious and timely proposition. So don’t be too concerned about residency the day you set foot on land — the country will grant you a 90 day tourist visa, so all you have to do is leave the country for a few days — when the time is up (called the Border run), and come right back in on a new visa. Although the government is cracking down on perpetual tourists you should Take your time and make sure it’s where you want to be before establishing residency. The first 90 days allotted as a tourist should give you a good idea whether you can adapt to the lifestyle. And also it gives you time to analyze the business climate to see if your business idea is viable.
Move down to Nicaragua Permanently before you have a good understanding for it.
I recommend visiting for a prolonged period of time, first, to get to know the country, the different towns, the people, and the culture, before you commit to it. Start out with a month or two and go from there. If you really want to see what it’s like, go during their rainy season/low tourist season. Don’t treat your visit like a vacation, but instead, meet as many locals and expats who live there as possible, exploring different parts of the country.
No matter how beautiful Nicaragua may be, it’s always good to get back Stateside for a little bit every year to “recharge the batteries” by seeing family, friends, enjoying cooler weather, etc. The best schedule could be splitting the year between Central America and the U.S. (or wherever your home country is).
Looking to buy Real Estate too Quickly.
Err on the side of caution with buying real estate in Nicaragua (or any country) too soon. Not only will you need to know or understand the local markets, but there can be issues with holding title, getting loans, etc. You also may fall victim to ridiculously overpriced homes. Wait at LEAST a year before you even think about buying real estate. You can always find a nice, inexpensive place to rent, giving yourself time to research and get to know about the housing market.
Rushing into opening a business or opening the wrong business!
Too many people who move to Nicaragua try to open a business immediately, investing their life savings in it. Unfortunately, many of them lose all of their money, becoming so stressed in the process that they wind up having a miserable experience.
There are a lot of considerations when opening a business in Nicaragua. A Nicaraguan (Nica) might need to be on the paperwork for an official business corporation, which could further complicate things. For a business dependent on Tourism, You also need to see what it’s like in low season, too, before making accurate projections on profitability.
So if you’re going to start a business in Nicaragua, make sure it’s a low-risk investment that won’t wipe out your savings. Consult with local experts first, just until you understand employment and business practices a little better. Many expats work as teachers, real estate agents, or in tourism in Nicaragua without an official residency or a work permit. It is illegal in this country however to work without a permit.
But lots of U.S and foreign companies do business here and need English-speaking employees, and of course there are also plenty of options for working online no matter where you are. The best ways to avoid these common mistakes is to the take your time and be conservative: check out a lot of places before committing to one, don’t rush into residency, buying a house, or starting a business, without proper due diligence. Keep working to replenish your funds, and perhaps go back to the U.S. to stay connected at least every few months a year.
This plan will yield you the least amount of risk and stress, and keep things flexible and fun. The rest will work itself out based on what makes sense and feels right!
It’s time to forget everything you think you know about Nicaragua, and prepare to discover a new world that is emerging as an exciting and enticing destination. The country still possesses raw natural beauty and passion for life, but that timeless and mysterious appeal is now combined with a vibrancy that makes it Central America’s emerging jewel.
This is the New Nicaragua, an unspoiled paradise that is being discovered by thousands of visitors each year and embraced by adventurous investors who recognize the opportunities that abound. Over the last two decades, Nicaragua has transformed itself into one of the safest and fastest-growing countries in Latin America, with a strong democratic government. As a result, it now possesses one of the most dynamic economies in Central America, experiencing substantial increases in private investment and exports. Direct foreign investment has seen double-digit increases annually, and the number of tourists visiting the country over the last ten years has grown consistently.
For those inclined to mix business and pleasure, Nicaragua displays the same opportunities and possibilities that marked the beginnings of economic upswings in Costa Rica, Belize and Panama. The country is reveling in its ever growing stability and becoming a leader in Central America with its progressive government, rapidly improving infrastructure and strong incentives for investors.
Nicaragua has always had opportunities to experience the elements that have always attracted the curious and daring: pristine natural settings, tropical weather, a strong fascinating history and culture, tons of recreational and tourism opportunities, colonial cities and picturesque towns and, perhaps most important, a warm and welcoming population renowned for its hospitality and receptiveness to visitors.
For the adventurous, the country is full of endless possibilities, including canopy tours through forests, diving and snorkeling along living reefs, surfing and kayaking, exploring volcanoes and crater lakes, hiking mountain trails, or just relaxing on one of many beautiful and relaxing beaches.
The capital city of Managua possesses a strong urban energy with many of the features expected from a metropolitan area, including expansive shopping and entertainment, a state-of-the-art medical center and international airport. Most major air-lines offer daily service to Nicaragua, including non-stop flights from major U.S. cities. Other cities, such as the colonial city of Leon, offer outstanding opportunities to experience the history and culture of the country.
All signs indicate that the “New Nicaragua” is poised to become one of the world’s success stories as it emerges from the past and embraces its future.
I had my doubts when we first stepped off the bus in Granada in January. Judging by their wrinkled foreheads, our kids did too.
My husband, Tim, and I saddled our sons’ (Liam, 6, and Reid, 9) already sweaty bodies with their overstuffed backpacks and directed them to leap over a fetid gutter.
Had I really booked us seven nights in this city?
But when our family of four entered the cool lobby of Hotel la Polvora, one of Granada’s many remodeled colonial homes, with a friendly host offering fresh orange juice and a teal pool beckoning us from the garden courtyard, I remembered what I had been thinking.
Eight months into a family gap year in Central America, after painful restaurant waits on evenings when our kids were exhausted, after dragging them from one hostel to the next, and after trying to shame them into expressing interest in what was a pretty dull museum, Tim and I have settled upon a few hard-earned rules for traveling with young children.
These rules work, whether your destination is Nicaragua or Nevada.
Rule 1: Invest in a good base
Choose lodging carefully, and plan to stay awhile.
Our year abroad has taught us that our kids appreciate routine. Lodging with kitchen access allows for easy meals in, and a living room or common area in which the kids can play has proved critical. A pool, of course, never hurts. Our hotel in Granada fit the bill.
Rule 2: Stop for parrots
Don’t get your heart set on specific activities. Little finds such as spinning roadside parrots often leave everyone happier than expensive tours.
We dedicated our first day to exploring Granada on foot. With the maroon domes of the city’s cathedral lining the horizon ahead of us, we coaxed the kids down streets checkered with brightly painted houses — unabashed orange, mint green, royal blue with yellow accents, and a split-level red and purple.
The kids ran ahead of us singing “ding” — a video-game reference — as they did spin jumps and kicks off the city’s famously ornate wooden doors.
We didn’t have to yell at them to wait at the street corner. The horse carts and “chicken” buses stopped them in their tracks.
Granada felt much less commercial than Antigua — gritty and very much lived in, with laundry hanging to dry, kids playing in the streets and homeowners, rather than professional street sweepers, cleaning the sidewalks.
The city has seen hardship, most recently amid Nicaragua’s economic collapse in the 1980s. But perhaps its greatest setback came in the 1850s with the brief presidency of U.S.-born William Walker, who dreamed of ruling a slave-holding, English-speaking Central American empire.
By the time we had meandered our way to Parque Central, everyone was hungry. The square was abuzz with vendors hawking ice cream, women in frilly aprons smacking tortillas into shape, and locals filling cafe tables to enjoy the city’s delicacy: vigorón, a banana leaf filled with cooked yuca, a vinegary cabbage and fruit salad, and fried pig skin.
Tim and I chose quesillos, a cheese-filled tortilla topped with pickled onions; the kids happily gobbled hot dogs.
After lunch, we wandered down cobblestoned La Calzada to Lake Nicaragua. I had my eye on a boat tour, but the kids were fading so we stopped at a roadside cart to sip from coconuts.
The owner’s parrot chased Reid around a wooden cart, squawking territorially. Much to the kids’ delight, when Reid spun, the bird did too.
“Today’s destination seems to be parrots, not a boat tour,” I said to Tim. He smiled knowingly.
We settled into the vendor’s chairs to quiz fellow sippers about Nicaragua’s Sandinista president, Daniel Ortega, who had recently changed the constitution so he could run for a third consecutive term with his wife Rosario Murillo as vice president.
Rule 3: Don’t forget downtime
Bring games and honor the need for creative, playful downtime.
The next morning we woke early to the neighborhood’s exuberant church bells. My proposal for a volcano hike was met with vociferous disapproval by the kids.
Their idea of a good day seemed to include swimming in the hotel pool, jumping between our two queen beds and — let’s be honest — extracting iPad time from us.
Instead of venturing out, we lay low, reading aloud “A Wrinkle in Time,” drawing “Star Wars” characters, swimming in the salt-water pool and playing travel-sized games — Guillotine, Hive Pocket, Kanoodle and Sleeping Queens — that have proved to be our silver bullet for downtime during family travel.
For meals, we ate in, cooked in the shared kitchen and practiced our Spanish with the staff.
We adhered to this pattern for the rest of the week: a day of adventure followed by a day of rest.
Rule 4: Day trips work well
Limit travel to day trips rather than frequent hotel changes.
We ventured out to the market town of Masaya, wandering through alleyways lined with blocks of gamy cheese, garishly frosted cakes covered with pastel pandas and round-bellied boy and girl piñatas.
When the kids’ energy waned, we told them they could each buy one thing. Liam scored 18 packs of knockoff Pokémon cards for less than $2, and Reid perused the handicraft section of the market for half an hour until he found just the right chess set — a wooden board painted in black, white and neon colors with Andean-themed pieces. The knights were llamas, naturally.
We retreated to a bakery to play games until dusk, at which point we hitched a ride in the back of a priest’s truck to Masaya Volcano, where we peered at bats hunting for insects above the red glow of flowing lava.
Other days, we swam in the Apoyo Lagoon, attempting flips off a raft and kicking around the geothermally warmed waters in inner tubes.
We indulged ourselves with a chocolate-making Beans to Bar class at the Choco Museo.
We took a horse-drawn carriage tour of the city with a driver who knew kid audiences: taking us by the gunpowder fort; explaining that “Granada” is the name of one of their favorite fruits, the pomegranate; and pointing out that Granada’s oldest house — the setting for a film about William Walker — now reeks of urine.
We steered clear of tourist shuttles and instead chose chicken buses to leave the city. The young male conductors leaped up and down the aisle, and hearty women hawked tamarind juice in plastic bags with straws, fried plantains and junk food we usually wouldn’t allow the kids.
We played 20 questions but limited our search to the many stickers that plastered the interior of the bus.
The obvious first question became, “Does the sticker have anything to do with Jesus?” If the answer was no, you had ruled out more than half.
Rule 5: Become treasure hunters
Travel is a quest for novelty, and children’s ability to find play in the mundane makes them worthy travel companions.
We pulled out the big gun, our rule No. 5 for travel with young children, on our final day in Granada.
It’s more of a tool than a rule, and one we use sparingly, but in Guatemala it had bought us three hours in the stunning Casa Santo Domingo museum with nary a complaint from the kids.
We split into teams of two — a parent and kid in each — and used our children’s assumption that a museum is where you devise tricky questions to stump or entertain your brother.
A half an hour later, Liam and I were scanning colorful native paintings dating up to the Sandinista-revolutionary era, pre-Columbian statuary, Catholic iconography and a scale model of the city to answer the questions Tim and Reid had devised for us: How many baseball diamonds are in Granada? (Answer:Four.) What makes Granada’s Stations of the Cross unique? (Answer: They’re aquatic.)
They had stumped us with, “What does butaquiarse mean in Spanish?” A docent finally answered the question for us: It means to rock in a rocking chair, especially on the sidewalk, as everyone older than 50 seems to do in Granada after dusk.
On our walk home, the kids moaned at the mention that this was our last day in the city.
“What will you remember about Granada 10 years from now?” I asked, fearing they might mention the obscene number of hours we allowed them to play with iPads on our down days.
“That William Walker was a bad guy, but the house they used for the movie about him got peed on,” Liam said, laughing.
“Finding my chess set in the market and hitchhiking up the volcano,” Reid said.
I will remember the rocking chairs on the sidewalks at night, and the slow pace of life Granada and our children afforded us.