With its diverse rainforest, magnificent volcanoes, and tropical beaches, Nicaragua’s natural beauty and vibrant culture make her an exciting travel destination. As the country moves through a period of political unrest, our tourism market is changing. Like other business owners who are pushing through a difficult time economically, I’ve changed my entire set-up and how I rent and sell rooms to accommodate what we anticipate will be a small market of surfers and adventure tourists. That means rates have gone down dramatically – especially for long-term rentals. If you are a digital nomad, a surfer or an adventurer, now is the best time to enjoy the lowest rates we’ve seen in decades for luxury homes and apartment rentals. But what if you are new to Latin America, and have never rented a property here? And how do you secure a rental that is both economical, ecological and helps support the local community?
I searched online, but there are few resources to provide guidance on what to think about before you secure a rental in Nicaragua. I’ve included my tips and things to think about based on 5 years of personal experience renting apartments and rooms at my small boutique hotel in Granada.
Stay in a hotel room or a short-term rental
Your first stop should be a hotel or a short-term rental. This is to help you avoid making rash decisions based on exhaustion after a long flight without a hotel room reservation. I advise visiting a real estate agent’s office to get an idea of what they are offering. Even if you don’t want to secure a rental with a real estate company, the agent can give you information on average prices and the cost of things like food and utilities. From your short-term rental base, you can spend a few days looking around. As the owner of a rental property, I don’t mind in-person visits from curious travellers or from renters who feel I might be offering a good, long-term fit for them and whenever possible I will show off our apartments. Travelling in Latin America is also a lot more complicated if you do not speak Spanish, and you’ll want to contact someone who speaks English to point you in the right direction. It also helps to write down what you want and present it when meeting with a landlord or property manager who does not speak English.
Meet People and Connect with the Community
Hang out at cafes and read notice boards. You can also find local ex-pat meet up groups on facebook. This is a good way to make friends and ask around for rentals if you are new in town. There’s nothing more powerful than word of mouth recommendations. It helps to talk to business owners, restaurant owners and transport companies who all have connections, either may rent rooms in their home, or know someone who does.
Be Clear about Your Needs & Expectations
Can’t sleep without air conditioning? Love to cook? Or are you a person who survives on pizza and sandwiches. Really basic rentals in Nicaragua are really cheap, and if you have basic needs you will pay less. Rooms in Granada rent for about $150 monthly, and apartments from $400-800 US Dollars depending on what you need. It helps with a rental in this part of the world to check the kitchen, most kitchens are equipped very basically in Nicaragua. If that is an important issue, choose something with a fully equipped kitchen.
Are Utilities Included or Not Included?
Before travelling, you can do a bit of research in this area. Energy costs in Nicaragua are among the highest in the region. If you are renting a small house or apartment and they have not included electricity in your rental rate, ask for the average monthly cost with lights, fans, and use of the washing machine (most rental units are not equipped with dryers). This will give you an idea of price without the use of air conditioning – an amenity considered a luxury in Central America. Municipal water use is inexpensive. To make sure the bill is correct before you rent, ask the property manager to check with you for leaks or running toilets. These can triple the bill. Learn about the home’s plumbing connections, the water meter and if it has a backup water tank in the event of a city water outage. Wi-fi is included in most rentals, but if not, you can expect a bill of around $65-70 dollars monthly plus tax.
Choose a Sustainable, & Eco-Friendly Development
At Casa Lucia, we’ve removed almost everything made from plastic from the hotel. Our kitchens and the entire property is totally green and sustainable. Our apartments have LED lights, bathrooms with reusable shampoo bottles, and recyclable filtered water containers. I’m sure you are familiar with the amount of waste and the floating plastic continent the size of Argentina in our oceans. Nicaragua is the home of 2.4 million acres of rainforest, Pacific Coast and fragile ecosystems. Do your part to help protect these beautiful natural resources.
Consider your Location
If you are a solo female traveller or a travelling family, safety will be an important factor in your rental. At an apartment hotel or a staffed property, you receive in-person support in the event of an emergency. If you like to drive or don’t need to be in the city centre an out of town location is cheaper. They also offer spaces to park. The best rentals are in the city centre but ask about the neighbours. If you are renting next to a bar or disco, there will be noise at night. Rent in the centre, but a bit away from it to avoid street and traffic noise. Consider walking distance to the grocery store, ATM, banks and restaurants.
You will Find your Perfect Place
Bring a healthy amount of patience and understanding that Nicaragua does not run on North American time. The best things are those discovered with time and patience. Nicaraguans are friendly and gracious. They will welcome you with open arms. The best time to enjoy the lowest rates is now!
Why the Surfers are Flocking to Nicaragua Now
Safety is Always Important
There is no country in the world that can guarantee safety for its tourists. From Paris to Egypt, safety is an issue for all travellers today wherever they choose to vacation. While we are encouraging guests who feel uncertain about the political unrest in Nicaragua, to postpone travels until 2019, and to listen to their Embassy advice, we in Granada have been going about our day to day life normally. The city is slowly coming to life and the Nicaraguan people, as they work to achieve a more equitable society, could use your support. The many volcanoes, rainforests, tropical beaches and sheer beauty is enough to inspire the most well-seasoned globetrotters to check us out. Hasta Pronto.