Last month’s post in the Let’s Get Real series was Let’s Get Real About Packing and Moving to Nicaragua.
Yet, what do you really need to bring? We were lucky because we lived in Nicaragua for a year before our permanent move. We had a good idea of what we needed and what we didn’t need. However, in our six years of living full-time in Nicaragua, so many things have changed that when we return to the states our lists are shorter and shorter.
The lists of items below are especially helpful if you are moving to an island or a rural area.
Some of the expats in Nicaragua will say that many of the items on my list are available in Managua. However, we have to take into consideration that we live on Ometepe Island and it is a long, full, and expensive day of travel to get to Managua.
Let’s Get Real About What to Bring to Nicaragua
We love to travel. Our lists usually have one travel item, but sometimes more depending on where we go.
1. Travel guides for countries we plan to visit. We order them from Amazon and pick them up in the states.
2. Light weight backpacks or suitcases that have wheels and can be used as backpacks.
3. Head lamps and extra batteries for our headlamps
4. A portable external battery pack that can charge smartphones, iPads, and Kindles.
5. Small bungee cords to wrap around suitcases, etc.
Don’t bring too many clothes. The second-hand stores have lots of t-shirts, sundresses, and shorts.
1. Socks – the socks in Nicaragua are poor quality and never fit correctly
2. Bras and cotton underwear again, poor quality
3. A lightweight Gortex jacket for the rainy season
4. Good sandals and light weight tennis shoes
5. bathing suits
1. Fitted sheet sets
2. Fluffy bath towels and beach towels the towels here are thin and nonabsorbent
3. Dish towels and pot holders
4. A good quality thick mattress cover – vacuüm pack it
Electronics are expensive to buy here. Not only that, it is difficult to find the newest brands of electronic equipment. For example, we bought a flat screen TV on Ometepe Island at twice the cost as the same model in the states. Plus, it was two years old and advertised as the newest model.
1. A good tablet, laptop, or iPad with extra charger cords
3. Good quality power surgers
4. A Universal Power Supply for brownouts and blackouts for electronic equipment
5. An unlocked smart phone with extra charger
6. A small portable printer and lots of extra ink supplies
7. 10-20 ft. USB cables to connect modems to laptops ( only if you use a modem stick for the internet)
The first suitcase I packed when we moved to Nicaragua contained my art supplies. They are available in Managua, but it is a long trip for us, so I buy in the states and bring them back with me.
1. Watercolor paper, good brushes, and all the supplies you need if you like to paint or draw.
2. A Dremel and all the attachments – We found Dremel kits in Sinsa, but they lacked all of the attachment kits.
3. Woodworking tools
4. Drills and good drill bits
The selection of spices is getting better all the time, but it is still difficult to find a few of my favorite spices.
1. Dill and pickling spices
3. Pretzels sometimes I can find my favorite pretzels, but it is rare.
5. Earl Grey tea
6. Jelly beans
7. Molasses and Corn syrup
8. Oh, and I wish I could find Cool Whip, but I have to make my own whipped topping
1. An umbrella that folds into your backpack or purse
2. Small solar garden lights and extra rechargeable batteries
3. LED string lights
4. Rechargeable flash lights or solar lights for power outages
5. Round locks that cannot be cut
6. Sunblock and Deet- it is very expensive here
7. Quality water bottles
8. Garden and flower seeds check to see if the climate and amount of sunlight will germinate the seeds.
9. A microfiber lightweight mop head.
10. Child safety plugs for electric wall sockets. You are probably wondering about these because we don’t have any young children, but they are great for keeping ants, geckos, and other small insects from making their nests inside the wall sockets. You would be amazed at how many times we have to take the wall socket covering off and clean out the inhabitants inside!
Games and Entertainment
1. Card games Uno, Phase Ten, Monopoly Deal, regular playing cards, Skip-Bo
2. Board games Checkers, Chess, Jenga, Boggle, Yahtzee, Risk, Trivia
1. A good quality sharp knife and sharpening tool ( My Dremel sharpens all my knives and machetes, too)
2. Copper bottom pots and pans
3. Heavy duty can openers
4. Measuring cups
5. Cookie sheets and muffin tins
A Few Helpful Hints
1. If you find something you need in the stores in Nicaragua…buy it immediately. I can guarantee it probably won’t be there when you return. Once, I found a used kayak in the second-hand store in Rivas. We couldn’t take it with us, so we returned the next week to buy it. Of course, it was gone.
2. Prioritize your needs when packing. There are many things I brought and wish I hadn’t. I wish I would have sold all my leather purses, belts, and shoes, instead of hauling them to Nicaragua. Leather gets moldy the rainy season. My beautiful handmade leather purse I bought in Brazil turned into a smelly, green and blue moldy mess. If you aren’t sure whether to bring something or not, then leave it behind. Chances are, you can find something similar in Nicaragua, have it made, or substitute.
3. Less is better. If you want to bring antique furniture, fancy clothing, handmade quilts, expensive gold, diamond, and silver jewelry, first editions of old books, or anything of sentimental value…remember it is Nicaragua where the climate is harsh and the people are poor.
In the rainy season, the bugs ate Grandma’s handmade quilt and devoured my Betty Crocker cookbook. Termite trails run up my walls and they ate through my water colored paintings hanging on my wall. All vinyl material cracked and flaked off my couch.
In the dry season, the glue holding an antique nightstand together dried up and the legs fell off. The wind blew so much dust into my house, my bedspreads disintegrated from daily washing and hanging out in the hot sun to dry.
I think you get the picture…less is better.
In our time living in Nicaragua, I know we initially brought way too much stuff.
We’ve discovered that…
…it is much cheaper and easier to have our furniture handmade by local craftsmen.
…that substitutions, especially in recipes, lead to tasty surprises.
…we enjoy shopping in small pulperias and local markets. It is like a day of treasure hunting, and we usually find what we need hidden among the disorganized wares.
…we support our local community by buying locally.
…more and more items we originally thought were rare in Nicaragua are popping up on store shelves throughout the country.
…we are more creative and love to think outside of the box when making things for our house.
Feel free to add to my list and Happy Shopping!
If you live abroad, what items do you bring to your host country?