Thursday, March 29, 2012


One of the major considerations when moving to another country is what to do about healthcare. Granted, most of don't intend to get sick at anytime, but realistically, we know that we could encounter a medical emergency at any time.

There are many good Travel/medical insurance companies available and it is important to evaluate your circumstances and decide if this is a good option for you.  One of the articles we read is found on Gringosabroad. It discusses How to buy International Travel Insurance .

However, in our circumstances, we found out that we could apply for a provision in the Nova Scotia Medical Insurance that will allow us coverage for up to two years while we are volunteering here in Nicaragua.  Here is the excerpt from their website:

Leaving Nova Scotia Temporarily

Once deemed a resident for MSI coverage and ordinarily present (physically present in Nova Scotia for 183 days in every calendar year), you may retain coverage while temporarily absent for up to one year, provided you intend to return permanently to Nova Scotia.
Your MSI Coverage may be continued if you do not meet the physically present requirement, if you are:
  • attending an educational institution on a full time basis and provide documentation from the institution on a yearly basis
  • a mobile worker - your employment requires you to travel frequently outside Nova Scotia (i.e. truck driver, musician etc.) and you do not establish residency elsewhere
  • engage in employment/volunteer work outside Canada which does not exceed 24 months and your permanent and primary home is in Nova Scotia (necessary documentation required).
It is worthwhile checking with the insurance you currently have and see if you are eligible to have it extended while you are out of the country.

We would be interested in what your experience is in regard to healthcare while you are outside of your home country.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bus - Fare Increase

Last week when we took the bus to Las Peñitas we were faced with an increase in bus fare. I had read that an increase of 15% was due to take effect but didn't know how much that would translate to. We were charged 4 cordobas for the local bus and then 12 cordobas for the trip from Sutiava to Las Peñitas. Fair enough we thought - the price of gas continues to go up so it made sense that there was a hike in bus fare.

New developments this week - We were told that on Tuesday the students held a protest about the new price and the buses came to a standstill for at least part of the day. This caused a lot of problems for people trying to get from one end of the city to another. Some people waited an hour before a taxi could stop to pick them up because the taxis were to full to take another person.

As of today the new fare for the local bus and the camionetta is 3.50 cordoba. Let's see what tomorrow brings!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

What to bring with you

One of the most difficult decisions to make when you are making such a big move is - what do I take with me.  Everyone will have a list of "must haves". Some of the items are for practical reasons and others are for sentimental.

We decided to bring a lot of kitchen items with us - pots, pans, kitchen utensils as well as cutlery. Since we had visited Nicaragua before we were aware that it could be a challenge to find good quality items. We also tried to include some sentimental items from trips we had taken as well as family photos. So far the only item that we brought that hasn't proved useful is the router for the internet.

Here is a list of the items we brought (not including clothing) in 4 suitcases plus carry on:

Stainless Steel Pots and pans
Stainless Steel cutlery
Kitchen cooking utensils
kitchen fridge magnets
decks of playing cards
extra reading glasses (dollar store)
Castiron frying pan
 bottle openers
wine bottle cork
Large Refillable Water bottles (2)
Stainless coffee mugs (2) - if these are in your carry on - make sure that you take them out of the case/bag
Reusable grocery bags
Beach bag
Various books
Snorkel equipment (2)
Water shoes (2)
Various knick knacs/paintings/momentoes
Family pictures
Pillows (2)
Dish towel (2)
Cleaning cloth (2)
Facecloth (2)
Beach towel (2)
Shower curtain
Mexican rug
Mexican Serape
Coffee percolator


Friday, March 23, 2012

I have my fridge - where do I get the rest of my furniture?

We found that buying our fridge, stove and bed was the easiest part of furnishing our house. Since we are on a budget we have been checking out the local second hand stores. We have been surprised to find that there are quite a few just around the Central Market area.

South side of the Cental Market - across the street there are a couple of second hand stores that have furniture. The first one that you will come to has a lot of plastic items in the front but when you pass into the back part of the store they have all kinds of household furnishings (Tienda Alaniz?). The quality was quite good but you need to really check out the items you are buying. We were able to buy a dresser and desk - both good quality wood. They will arrange delivery for you.

Further down the street (walking away from the Cathedral) you will find a store with a sign (Semi-Nueva) They have a lot of clothing in the front part of the store and the furnishings are toward the back.  They also had some second hand appliances. I was able to find some curtains here.  They also have another store that you see in the picture. This second store is located on the street that leads up to La Iglesia Calvario. This second store seems to have the better quality furnishings as well as a better variety.

If you are looking for some new wood construction furniture you could try the "Taller de Carpinteria.  They have some furniture available in the store and will take orders to have specific items made. They are located near the Iglesia Recolección - phone #2311-4070.

Monday, March 19, 2012

I need furniture - now what?

When we arrived in León we gave ourselves two nights at Guesthouse El Nancite to get ourselves settled enough to move into our house. This meant we had to buy a fridge, stove and a bed right away.

Not far from the Cathedral there are a few stores that sell new household goods. We started at a store right beside La Union grocery store. They had some nice fridges and stoves but no beds.  We wrote down the models we liked as well as the prices.

The next store we went to was La Curacao which is right on the corner across from the BAC bank. They have a big variety of household items from TV's, fridges, stoves and bedroom furniture. The prices for the items we wanted were in the same ball park as the store by La Union, however they had all three items we were looking. The staff made themselves available to answer questions but weren't overly helpful. There is a website that you can look up makes, models and prices before you head into town.

Just around the corner from La Curacao is Gallo Mas Gallo. They also have a wide selection of household items and we found the prices to be similar to La Curacao. However, the staff here were really ready to make a sale and kept piling on "gifts" for each of the items we bought. We had no problem deciding which fridge and stove that we wanted but we had more difficulty with deciding which mattress. We finally decided on a nice comfy pillow top mattress and we have been very happy with it.

The next stage was actually paying for our purchases. It has been a long time since I have seen - ok, I have never seen what was about to take place. There is a long counter at the back of the room with about six employees spread out along it. Each employee has a different responsibility in regard to the purchase. One lady wrote (by hand) our invoice, another person took the cash, another person seemed to "verify" the purchase and the amount paid. Finally, we made arrangements to have the items delivered.  We threw them a bit of a curve ball because we didn't want it delivered right then and there. We didn't get possession of the house until the next day and couldn't have delivery until then.  Please note - they will require identification which in our case we used our Passport.

We found Gallo Mas Gallo to be very helpful and have since returned and purchased a few other items.  We have even used our credit card here and had no problems.

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Taste from Home

Sometimes you crave foods that you would commonly eat from your home country. Although spaghetti isn't Canadian, most Canadians like to eat it. We would normally eat spaghetti at least once a week. It is quick and easy and ohhh so tasty.  So, I was thrilled to see that people must obviously like to eat it here because all of the ingredients are readily available. Take a look at what I bought from the local Pali.

I loved the packaging - very efficient. The pasta is in a package just right for two. As for the sauce, all you have to do is add a few of your favorite spaghetti sauce spices and in no time at all dinner is ready.

We picked up some fresh bread from a local Pulperia and with a nice cup of wine - you're all set!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Getting around town

Transportation around León is fairly abundant. It is an easy city to walk around - at least the city center.  However, there are those times that you need to go a little further or it is too hot to walk. Taxi's are abundant but even at 20 cordobas the cost will quickly add up.

There are many buses available and the helpers will call out what the route is.  Along with the regular buses there is another form of transportation that follows the same route as the bus and are also the same price as the regular bus. I have been told they are called "camionetta's". You will see them everywhere!

These vehicles have benches on either side of them, and then to cram more people in, there are bars attached to the roof so that people can stand up along the center. We have used these alternate "buses" on a number of occasions and have found them to be very efficient albeit extremely popular and therefore crowded.

At 3 cordobas the buses are a real bargain.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Finding our house in León, Nicaragua

Looking for a house to rent when you live in another country can be difficult. How do you know what the neighbourhood is like? Is it a fair price? Will it fit my lifestyle? What would the cost of utilities be? Do I want furnished or unfurnished? There are many aspects to consider.

We started looking at housing long before we were due to arrive in Nicaragua. In fact, we looked at housing from all over the country - not just in León and Granada (the two cities we were considering). We felt that this would give us a better idea of what types of homes were available.

There were a few websites that we found very helpful:

CasaNica I really liked this website because there are listings from all over Nicaragua. The have listings for rentals, homes to purchase as well as farms and commercial properties.

Craigslist-Managua I found when I was looking through the listings here that they were mainly for Granada and Managua. However, I found it useful to get an idea of prices. There are usually quite a few vacation homes listed for the times you want to get away to the beach. Also, I was able to find names of Real Estate Companies that had websites that I could check out for additional properties.

Encuentra24 This is an excellent site with all types of listings throughout the country. You can specify what you are looking for as well as the location (# of bedrooms etc).

I know many people have waited until they arrive in Nicaragua to start looking for a home. That is a good idea too because when you walk around a neighbourhood you can see many for rent or for sale signs and you get a sense of what the area is like. You may need someone to help with the negotiations if you can't speak Spanish and they don't speak English.

As for us, we found a nice little one bedroom home with dining room, living room, small bathroom and with a large bedroom/study area.  We also have a large secure front yard that we can enjoy. We are very happy with  our home search and were pleased to settle for a good price with a one year lease.

For a tour of our house please go to: Los Polden's Casa

Friday, March 9, 2012

Leon, Nicaragua - We've Arrived

We have finally made the journey from full-time, 5 day a week employees to retired persons living in Leon, Nicaragua.

We flew out of Halifax, Nova Scotia on February 28th arriving at 6:30 pm Nicaragua time. We had decided that since it was a long day of travel and we had a ton of luggage that we would spend the night across the street from the airport - Best Western Las Mercedes. We had arranged in advance for the shuttle to pick us up and there was a member of the hotel staff waiting for us even before we had cleared Immigration. In less than 1/2 and hour we were settled into our room.

The following day we transferred to Leon and stayed for two nights at the Guesthouse El Nancite. We stayed here while we settled the details on the house we had found on the internet. We were ready to move into the house by March 2nd.
Our house in Leon, Nicaragua
Our house is a one bedroom with a small Nica style kitchen, dining area, living room and bathroom. The front grass area (the picture was taken before the grass was planted) is for our use although the neighbours have access to their home through our courtyard.  There is also a small patio that has been built above the entrance which has a nice view of the neighbourhood and you can get a nice breeze when you are up there.

We have signed a one year lease for $200.00 per month plus utilities. Our landlord has arranged for us to have the internet and cable installed  which will cost us $31.00 per month. There were several packages to choose from - we chose the 1g speed for the internet. The price increased with the increase in speed of the internet. The prices and speeds that we received are as follows:
          256KBPS   INTERNET/CABLE  $26
          512 KBPS   INTERNET/CABLE  $28
          1024 KBPS   INTERNET/CABLE  $31
          2048 KBPS   INTERNET/CABLE  $38
          5120 KBPS   INTERNET/CABLE  $60
Many people have asked how we were able to locate such a nice place while still living in Canada. In the next blog post I will tell you all about it.