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!