Let’s Get Real About the Postal Service in Nicaragua

“Strange as it may seem, I still hope for the best, even though the best, like an interesting piece of mail, so rarely arrives, and even when it does it can be lost so easily.” ― Lemony Snicket

Sometimes, I long for the days of the efficient, public-funded U.S. Postal Service. I miss putting mail in my mailbox and lifting the plastic red flag to notify our postal carrier to pick up my mail for delivery, six days a week and Free of Charge.  I can’t imagine that happening in Nicaragua. First, there are no mailboxes or mail slots in people’s homes. Second, if there were mail boxes, the contents would be stolen by passersby quicker than you could recite your zip code.

I miss the magic of reliable mail service, standard rates, real street addresses, and the ease of slapping a stamp on an envelope, depositing it into a mailbox and mail whizzing to its destination with the ability to track it online every step of its speedy journey.

It’s a shame that the U.S. Postal Service is struggling these days due to how much people rely on the web for email, ordering, transferring money, and paying bills online. But, the problem in Nicaragua is that not only do we lack the online infrastructure of paying bills, ordering online from Amazon, eBay, etc., we also lack a reliable postal service.

It’s a double whammy living in Nicaragua… So, Let’s Get Real About the Postal Service in Nicaragua.

I. I Got Mail

When we purchased our WEA International Health Insurance, they asked for our mailing address in Nicaragua so they could send our policy. So, I visited our local postmaster, Carla, in Moyogalpa to get a mailing address and post office box.

Carla was washing clothes by hand in her cement pila when we arrived. The post office is in her home in a small windowless and dirty cubicle past the dirt floor porch entrance. “Carla, I need a post office box and an address so I can receive mail,” I said. After ten minutes rummaging through a dented file cabinet containing dusty file folders, she found the carbon form for the application for our mail delivery.

We paid 110 cordobas for a P.O. box, of which we didn’t receive a key. Only Carla can have the key to the P.O. box. Plus, we paid 40 cordobas for two months for the box rental, which we cannot access without Carla and only when she is home.

“But, Carla, what is our mailing address?” I asked. She ripped off a small piece of paper from an old notebook, searched for a pen, and ten minutes later we had a mailing address.

Correos de Nicaragua
Moyogalpa, Isla de Ometepe
Departmento de Rivas
Moyogalpa, Apartado # 35

“Do we have a zip code?” I asked. Apparently, Carla had never heard of a postal code, so we found our postal code online and added it to our address. 48700…a lovely number! We exchanged phone numbers and Carla said she would call me when mail arrived.

Next, we wanted to experiment with receiving mail. I posted a Facebook message to all my friends with our new address and asked them to send us a postcard to see if and when it would arrive.

A month later, Carla called me. “You have mail waiting at the post office,” she said.
I. Have. Mail  What sweet words! I got a letter from a friend in Canada and 12 free art cards from a friend in the states to put in different locations for people to take for free.

But, where was our new health insurance policy? Tracking its journey from Zürich, Switzerland to Nicaragua, I discovered that it was stuck in the Managua Post Office because it cannot be delivered to a P.O. box. Sigh. The rest of the world is not ready for the Nicaragua Postal Service which lacks door to door mail delivery, real street addresses, and is only available through a P.O. box.

II. How does the Nicaragua Postal Service Work?

Correos de Nicaragua is a postal service that is decentralized from the Nicaraguan government, but offers a public service to the people.

These handy charts in Spanish describe the organization of the Nicaragua Postal Service.
Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 4.05.58 PMThey show how to address an envelope, although I wonder how often mail is sent throughout Nicaragua and if people even know how to address an envelope.
Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 4.04.15 PMThe nine regions for mail delivery in Nicaragua.
Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 4.09.03 PMOverall, I find the Nicaragua Postal Service to be an elusive entity. Some people have excellent results when receiving mail from abroad, others have horror stories to tell of customs charging exorbitant fees for electronics, jewelry, medicine, and other valuables. By regular mail, chances are high that items will be taken from the packages, fees will be assessed, sometimes more than the item itself, or packages will be lost. I would never have a valuable item shipped to Nicaragua using the Correos de Nicaragua.

III. Alternative Mail Sources

A. Mules
For years, we have hauled items back to Nicaragua for ourselves and our friends. See my post: On Being a Mule

B. An address of a friend or family member

Since we still own a home in the U.S. we use our home address to buy items online and have them sent to our house in the states. Then, when we return, we take all the items out of the original packages, and pack them into our suitcases like they are not new. This saves any problems of our new items being inspected when we return to Nicaragua and having to pay a fee for the new items at customs.

Also, having a U.S. address is invaluable for a credit card, a voter registration card, a driver’s license, and U.S. bank account. Our lives are so much easier with a U.S. address.

C. Private Mail Services

Depending on your needs and finances, here is a list of private mail services to explore. Keep in mind that some of these services only offer a P.O box, in which case packages cannot be sent to a P.O. box.

1. Scan Mailboxes

2. Mailbox Forwarding

3. Virtual Post Mail

4. TransExpress Nicaragua

5. Aerocastillas

                “To write is human, to receive mail: Divine!” ― Susan Lendroth

Happy mail trails to you in your search for the best mail service in Nicaragua.
Send me a postcard! 🙂

22 thoughts on “Let’s Get Real About the Postal Service in Nicaragua

  1. Wow, I want to send my friend a cell phone, but I am very nervous that it will not make it there. His community is in farmland in the country, far from any major roads. It seems really remote. I was going to try to send some earbuds first, and see if they reach him, and how long it takes. I’m starting to think that it would be better to wait until I return for another visit, but that is several months away. I am in Canada, and I bitch about our postal service… mostly about the comparatively high costs, but it is reliable and quick!

  2. Hi!
    I want to send a letter to a friend who is living in Nicaragua. I have no idea how to go about it though and am wondering how likely it is he would even receive my letter. I have an address that I believe is correct. My problem is that I have been doing some research to figure out how to do it but haven’t been having much luck. I thought it might be easier if I started asking some questions. How do you address the envelope? Is it just the same as if you are sending a letter within the states except you use the Nicaraguan address you are sending to?
    Thank you

    • Hi Mandy,
      Thanks for asking. Yes. You address the letter just the same as if you are sending a letter in the states. I think your friend will receive the letter without any problems, except it may take a few weeks. I even receive mail on Ometepe Island. Good luck.

    • This is the kind of address format for receiving mail in Nicaragua from overseas:

      Joshua Selva
      Gas. PUMA Linda Vista 110 vs Arriba
      Managua, Mgua.

      Line 1: Name and Last name
      Line 2: Street Address (if too long, it’s ok to break it in 2 up to a third line)
      Line 3: City and Department (same as State in USA or Province in Canada)
      Line 4: The Country

  3. I’ve been doing research on possibly living in Nicaragua. I have read several post on receiving mail there, but no one has said anything about sending mail from Nicaragua to the US. Is it possible mail things like pottery to friends back in the states?

      • Correos de Nicaragua postal service does that (http://www.correos.gob.ni/), to ship your mail out of Nicaragua; e.g if your addressee is in the USA, they take it from you in Nicaragua and hand it over the USPS for delivery in the USA, it takes between 3 to 5 weeks delivery time. I have been using them for 2 years now to mail packages and big bubble wrapped envelopes worldwide. Of all my mail, very low 3% I have had claims for delays o missing items from customers on eBay. However, recently they have suspended the international mailing out of Nicaragua service for more than a week now, apparently this due to tariff negotiation with their international carrier provider, which is why I was looking here in this blog for an alternative postal mailing service to Correos de Nicaragua, similar to Direct Link (http://www.directlink.com/) is in the USA; a company that can receive my mail and others from Nicaragua, already stamped via USPS website and or eBay or Paypal and can take it to the USPS in the USA for delivery worldwide.

  4. Is there a way to get mail on either Little Corn or Big Corn? Didn’t see them on your map, so I am guessing the same options may not be available outside of continental Nicaragua. If there is a way, love the advise.

  5. Great info and something that can be a mind-boggling idea to those of us who come from countries where postal service is taken for granted. We’ve gotten used to NO mail after a few years of traveling although my sister says she gets tons of junk mail for us since we use her address as our legal address back in the US. Now that we’re setting up a base in Portugal we’ll have to adjust to the luxury of having regular post service once more – something we’ll never take for granted again. Anita

    • Yes, Janet, it is me! Now, you can put a face to my blog. 🙂 Haha. I never thought about junk mail here. We still get tons of junk mail at our house in the states, even though I opted out of it and all of our bills are paperless. I don’t think there is any escaping it, unless you live in Nicaragua.

  6. Correos here will deliver to street addresses if they can figure them out. I use the one on my recent residency police report for my official street address. Given that my dog sometimes eats things slipped under the door, I prefer getting things in the box.

  7. Address, we’re suppose to have an address? LOL Haven’t received mail here in Ecuador, yet. Though I’ve asked people to try and send a post card to see what happens. Supposedly you just put your name, and in our case , norte cerca de la calle Quito ( north near Quito street) , San Clemente, Manabí, Ecuador. It arrives in Bahia and someone comes to San Clemente and goes door to door trying to find you. 🙂 Most of the time they will leave it with another expat and they’ll try and find the person. Though there is a “mail box” on a wall by a restaurant here. Don’t know if the mail actually gets picked up though. Thank goodness for mules. Life IS good in Ecuador ! Feliz ano Nuevo amiga !

    • Here is what I am going to do…I am going to send you a postcard…well maybe a letter if I can find an envelope. I have never seen envelopes for sale here. I have a box of envelopes I brought back from the states, but in the rainy season the humidity sealed every envelope shut. Oh, well…I can make an envelope. Anyway, I will go to our post office this week and send you a letter. It will be interesting to see if it arrives. Let me know. This will be so much fun! 🙂

  8. Wow! What an ordeal! That was very interesting and reminds me never to get disgusted at our mail service here in the US. The people there are very lazy, but at least we stil have a small satellite PO where we live and we get mail at the house daily in a big mailbox across the street.

    This big box is split up into eight individual boxes for eight residences and there’s a slot for outgoing mail. Of course we all have individul keys for our mail boxes. It would be difficult to steal mail from that box, as it’s secured to the ground in concrete and is heavy duty metal. We live in a pretty safe neighborhood though, so I don’t think anyone would even think of tampering.

    I don’t know how you put up with the mail service there. It’s sounds very primitive, but then if that’s all there is. I can’t imagine not having a mail key and having to collect mail only when the lady who operates the post office is home. It’s hard to believe it would be in someone’s house too.

    I bet you are correct in thinking that few people know how to address mail. I’m also astounded that there are that many thieves afoot. I think I’ll stay happily planted in the US.

    Happy New Year.

    • Well, Sunni everything that is left outside the house is up for grabs in Nicaragua. So, a mail box would be an open invitation to take whatever is in it. It has been an interesting adventure getting mail on Ometepe Island. But, it keeps me on my toes. Life is never dull here. 🙂

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