“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.
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.
They 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.
The nine regions for mail delivery in Nicaragua.
Overall, 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
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
“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! 🙂