“I hear there are people who actually enjoy moving. Sounds like a disease to me – they must be unstable” ~ Jan Neruda,
Update July 2020
We hightailed it out of Nicaragua in July 2018, leaving behind our home of 14 years. We had two reasons for leaving: the civil rebellion that killed over 350 people, and a health emergency of which we were unable to get treatment in Nicaragua because the Pan Am Highway was blocked and the government had snipers stationed in Managua and they were killing their citizens.
So here is another thing to think about if you move to Nicaragua and have to leave suddenly. Many expats were unable to leave in 2018 because their life savings were tied up in the house they bought and their belongings they had shipped to Nicaragua.
My advise is to take only what you need in suitcases. Before we left Nicaragua, we gave most of our belongings away to our neighbors. We sold our motorcycle and our dune buggy and rented our house to friends who escaped Managua because of the violence.
Now, the pandemic is spreading throughout Nicaragua and people are desperate because they have no jobs. The crime rate is high and home invasions are common. So, another reason to buy what you need in Nicaragua and sell or store your bling bling items in your home countries.
When Ron and I finally decided to move to Nicaragua, our first question was, “How do we get all of our stuff there?” I had a brilliant-to-me idea. I contacted the cruise ships to see if it was possible to book a one-way trip from Miami to San Juan Del Sur. Then, we could unload all of our stuff from the cruise ship, hire a truck or van to take us to San Jorge, and board the ferry to our new-to-us shack we purchased on Ometepe Island. It was the cheapest option I could find, as well as sounding like a lot of fun. For a few days, we would have a floating storage locker in our stateroom on a giant cruise ship.
“Sure, that is possible,” said the first booking agent. She proceeded to tell me how it could be done and I thought…this is so easy. I am brilliant.
I contacted a second agent to ask about luggage limits. She said there were no restrictions. Again, I told myself, this is genius!
But, the third agent must have had a bad day when I asked her if there were restrictions about what I could pack. “Can I bring a trunk with my pots and pans and is there room in the stateroom for our kayak?” I asked.
“Why would you need to bring pots and pans? You can’t be cookin’ any beans in your stateroom,” she snarled. So, I had to tell her that we were moving to Nicaragua and we wanted to bring several trunks with our possessions.
“This isn’t the Grapes of Wrath and it sure isn’t a moving company, so find another way to move!” and she hung up on me. Back to the drawing board!
The way I see it, there are three options for packing and moving your stuff to Nicaragua. So, for my monthly Let’s Get Real series…
Let’s Get Real About Packing and Moving to Nicaragua
I. Shipping Containers
We knew that shipping our belongings to Nicaragua wasn’t for us. First, most of the furniture in our house in the states is antique primitive furniture, definitely not made for Nicaragua. We sold most of our furniture, our Harley Davidson (boo hoo), and other things of which we were not sentimentally attached. The rest of our belongings are stored in one bedroom of our house in the states, and our good friends who live in our house take excellent care of our belongings.
Second, it is expensive to ship one’s household stuff to Nicaragua. Plus, I always ask, “Why would anyone want to ship all of their possessions to Nicaragua when almost everything can be bought here?”
However, there are many people who do ship their possessions to Nicaragua. Here are a few comments I grabbed off an expat forum.
II. Luggage on Airplanes
When we moved to Nicaragua, we brought three trunks, three suitcases, two duffel bags and our backpacks. It was a crazy beginning with a detour to Panama City because lightning struck the Managua airport. Read about our experience: My Life in Luggage
Packing is one of the most frequently asked questions on the expat forums.
1. Is there an embargo?
Depending on the time of the year, many airlines have an embargo, which basically means that you cannot bring extra luggage, even if you pay extra.
2. What is the weight and size for luggage?
We had to make sure that the plastic trunks we bought at Lowes were airline regulation.
Army and Navy stores sell strong duffel bags at cheap prices. Clothes, sheets, towels and unbreakable items can be rolled and packed in duffel bags, which aren’t very heavy because they are canvas. It is amazing what we have packed in duffel bags… always with room to spare.
If you can borrow a vacuum sealer bag and vacuum cleaner for packing, you will be stunned by how much a queen-sized fluffy mattress cover and down pillows can be reduced in size.
Buy extra suitcases at Goodwill or secondhand stores. They are very cheap and plentiful.
3. Compare first class tickets to economy class. Usually, you can take extra luggage free in first class.
4. Know the restricted items and regulations for what can go in your carry-on and what can go in your check-in bags.
Extra computer batteries must go in your carry-on. However, if you bring laptops, the batteries do not have to be removed. We always have problems with bringing barbecue torches. Some airlines say they are acceptable in carry-on luggage, other airlines say they are not permitted in any luggage. The last time we flew United Airlines, I put the new unwrapped barbecue torches in my carry-on backpack because the airline page said they were not restricted items. At the check-in, I asked if they were accepted and they said no, so they received a gift of 4 new barbecue torches.
Now, I don’t have to worry about bringing them to light my propane stove because they are available in Nicaragua! Yea!
In fact, we can buy most items we need in Nicaragua, but there are a few exceptions. That will be my next post in my Let’s Get Real About series.
Helpful links for packing:
III. Body Packing
For those of you who like to pack and travel light, a travel vest is just the thing. I made my travel vest to transport children’s books for my children’s library on Ometepe Island. I can pack 40-50 pounds of books in my vest and waddle through the airports. I also wore several layers of clothes and didn’t need a suitcase. Body packing is the cheapest way to go!
My Travel Vest explains my first trip with my vest. On my second trip, I accidentally dropped my vest on the armrest of the plane when I was trying to lift it above my head and into the overhead compartment. The armrest broke in half. Here is my post on that experience: What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been.
And I hear that there are people who actually enjoy moving…not me…not ever.
I’ve learned to travel light now that we have lugged most of our stuff to Nicaragua. And luckily for us, our lists of things to bring back to Nicaragua get shorter and shorter every time we return to the states.
This story may inspire you to think simple. This woman traveled the world with only a toothbrush and an extra pair of underwear. The Craziest OKCupid Date Ever