Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hostal Dulce Sueno, Managua

We recently took our first visa run to Costa Rica via TicaBus. Our departure was scheduled for 6 am and because it would be very expensive to use private transportation from León to Managua that early in the morning, we decided to find an inexpensive hostel for the night prior to our trip. After searching the internet we found a place only a 1/2 block away from the TicaBus Terminal - Hostal Dulce Sueno.  We made our reservations via email and received prompt confirmation.

We arrived at the hostel about 3 pm on a Sunday afternoon and they were just finishing preparing our room. The room itself was small but had a double bed, small desk, TV and a private bathroom. There was a floor fan to help cope with the heat. The room had a window (with no screen) that looked out onto the courtyard.

Upstairs there were some more rooms and we also found a nice rooftop terrace with some chairs and hammocks for relaxing. We purchased some food from a small comedor next to TicaBus and sat at the kitchen bar to eat it. (note: there are not any restaurants open nearby on a Sunday evening)

We found Hostal Dulce Sueno to be very basic, but pleasant. Definitely a bargain at $16.00 a night.

Hostal Dulce Sueno - entranceway
Hostal Dulce Sueno-looking towards kitchen

Hostal Dulce Sueno - private bedroom

Monday, May 28, 2012

Proof of Onward Travel - Using our Tickets

Before arriving in Nicaragua we had purchased TicaBus tickets through A Safe Passage to prove our "onward travel" if we were questioned about our one-way airline tickets. We had to supply a "trip date" for the tickets and so we chose a date close to our three month anniversary in Nicaragua when we would be required to renew our visitors visa.

The day finally arrived for our trip to Costa Rica. We arrived at the Managua bus station 45 minutes before departure and showed the ticket clerk our "emailed" tickets. The clerk called up our reservations and printed off new tickets and we were ready to go.

TicaBus interior

We were very satisfied with the service we received from A Safe Passage and were thrilled at how easy everything turned out to be. If you have a friend in Nicaragua and want to save yourself the service fee that A Safe Passage charges; you could easily have them purchase the tickets for you. All your friend would need is a copy of your passport and the date you want to travel and they can make the reservation for you. You can check the TicaBus website for their routes/schedules and fees.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Shopping for Second Hand Clothes

Second Hand Store
Once you have been living in León, Nicaragua for a little while you will find the need to replace some of your clothing - maybe you have lost weight from all the walking or you're eating healthy. Whatever the reason, if you are living on a small budget you may not have the money to shop for "new" clothes - so what options do you have? Where can you find good quality clothing for just a little bit of money? Second hand stores!

Yes, just like at home, you have the option of buying good quality clothes for very little money. In fact, the clothes sold here in the second hand stores likely originated in the US or Canada.

We found a concentration of Second Hand stores on the street where Bigfoot Hostel is located. These stores vary in "quality". Some stores basically just set the clothing out in boxes for you to rummage through, other stores will be a little more organized and have some better quality items on hangers for easier perusal. You can find one or two really good stores that are well organized with everything neat and tidy in fashionable displays, but beware - you get what you pay for. If you are like me and aren't comfortable in "rummaging" through bins to find the hidden gems then you will pay for the convenience of having everything nicely displayed on racks. The difference is like shopping at either Value Village or Frenchy's back home in Nova Scotia.

Clothing Bin

Clothing Racks and displays

Organized Second Hand Store

Without a doubt - you can find some great treasures to fill out your wardrobe and you will spend a lot less money than buying brand new.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Barbershop Time

Barbershop- Leon, Nicaragua
Finding a local barber shouldn't be too difficult in León - every neighbourhood has at least one if not two. Most of the Barbershops that we have seen are just a room in the front of someone's home so the business hours may be very "flexible". Depending on the skill of the individual Barber it may take you a while to find one you like - but hey, that's no different than at home!

Men's haircuts are very inexpensive - only $40 cordobas which works out to about $1.75 CDN add a $10 cordoba tip and you are still only paying about $2.20 CDN.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Moving House

We have come to know our neighbours, Frank, Karin and their daughter Maria Fernanda, very well - we all share a common courtyard. Recently, they informed us that they were moving to a new house only a few blocks away.

Their "old" house was located on the second story and consisted of a balcony, small kitchen, bathroom and one bedroom that they all shared. Their "kitchen sink" wasn't in their kitchen. It was located downstairs in a little room off the courtyard. This sink was multipurpose - used for both their dishes as well as their laundry.

Their "new" house is located in a little lane with about 4 other homes. There is an "L" shaped living room, dining room, kitchen with a double pila sink, bathroom, two bedrooms and a small patio out back. It is very spacious in comparison to what they had and for only a little more money per month. Thinking like a Canadian, I figured that the second bedroom would become Maria Fernanda's and they would have some privacy.  However, they have decided to rent out that room to a couple of students so that they will have a little more income.

It makes me realize why people often say to us - "You have all this room just for the two of you?"

Moving was a simple affair - certainly not the "weeks and weeks" of preparation that have always gone into one of our moves. Everything fit into a large pickup truck and the move was completed in about one hour - well, our part of it anyhow.  I'm sure they spent a few hours putting things away.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Lavamatic Express, León, Nicaragua

Lavamatic Express, Leon

What can you do if you need your laundry done and it is raining? How can you get your laundry done in a hurry if you are only in town for a couple of days? The simple solution is - Lavamatic Express. They are centrally located, just 1/2 block east from the Municipal Theater. You can choose to clean your laundry yourself or take advantage of their reasonable drop off service.

Don't have laundry supplies? Don't worry - they have a full selection of laundry detergent in stock.

Prices - Self Service:
Small Washer 20 lbs - C$50.00
Large Washer 50 lbs - C$110.00
Dryer 30 lbs (10 minutes=1 token) - C$25.00
Additional Drying (10 minutes=1 token) - C$25.00

Prices - Drop Off Service:
Small Washer 20 lbs - C$190.00 (includes wash w/detergent & softener, 3 tokes dry, with 2 anti-static sheets, folded & bagged)
Large Washer 50 lbs - C$255.00 (includes wash w/detergent & softener, 3 tokes dry, with 2 anti-static sheets, folded & bagged)
Comforters - C$240.00 (using large washer w/detergent, 3 tokens to dry with 2 anti-static sheets, folded & bagged)

Inside Lavamatic, Leon

Check out their video: Lavamatic Express

Their phone number is: 315-2396
Hours of operation: Monday-Saturday 7-9, Sunday 8-5

Monday, May 7, 2012

Shopping in Managua

Gelato - Metrocentro Mall, Managua
Recently we joined another couple for a shopping trip to Managua. We left León by 1:15 pm in their truck and quickly made our way into Managua. Our first stop was the Metrocentro Mall which we found to be very modern. We were pleased to find a huge La Colonia grocery store with a great selection of items we can't get in León.  The mall is quite large with a nice mix of stores. Be prepared - prices are not cheap - for the most part, you will be paying North American prices. We made our way over to the food court where we found some awesome gelato - yum! The food court had a number of choices that most people would recognize such as McDonalds, Subway and Burger King. There was also Chinese, Italian and more local Nicaraguan food available. Pat was thrilled to see that a number of the food court restaurants served beer!

Chicken - Pricesmart

Our next stop was at Pricesmart which is just like Costco in Canada. There are some terrific buys if you have the time and transportation to shop here - membership required. We were able to pick up the completer set to our towels (friends had bought them for us last month) so we were thrilled with that. We loved looking around the store to see what was available and found some interesting discoveries. I'm not sure that I'm ready to buy a package of chicken "parts" that include the feet....
This is the place to come for some fresh Parmesan cheese, pepper jack, and Philadelphia cream cheese. Their bakery products looked awesome, however you are just as well to buy your vegetables locally.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Pedicures - A Necessity in León, Nicaragua

Before I moved to Nicaragua pedicures we're a luxury I seldom indulged in. They were one of the little luxuries that I would have to prepare for a trip to Mexico or Nicaragua when I knew that my feet would be on display. However, now that we live here I must say that my attitude towards them has changed - they are no longer a luxury but rather a necessity!

I have noticed that most women here in Nicaragua take good care of their feet. Sadly to say, my feet were taking a real beating and after two months I knew I had to do something. It's surprising how hard walking around town is on your feet, especially when you are usually wearing sandals!

You can only imagine how happy I was when I recently was introduced to Indira Cano. She is a young woman who has recently started a business where she will come to the privacy of your home to perform pedicures, manicures, acrylic nails and for that special night out she will also apply your makeup!

I was really pleased with my experience with her services. She was very thorough and was pleasant to chat with - she speaks very good English!

If you would like to contact her to set up an appointment and inquire about rates, here is her information: email:

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

April 2012 Expenses

Following is a list of our living expenses in León, Nicaragua for the month of April 2012. The costs are listed in CDN dollars with accurate exchange rates (ie. rent into US dollars).

Rent:   $207.27
Groceries:   $164.44
Eating Out:   $74.81
Phones (buying time):   $9.76
Transportation (taxi, bus, contributing to gas):   $9.89
Alcohol:   $2.08
Cable/Internet:   0 (didn't receive the invoice at time of publishing)
Electricity:   $0.96
Propane for stove:   $13.75
Water:   $2.42
Bank Fees:   $6.00
Misc:   $72.82

MISC Items included: shower curtain, donations, new lock, keys, swimming fees, bucket for washing machine soap, binder, marker, material for washing machine cover, stickers, scanning of documents

Total expenses for the month of April 2012: $564.19

Our internet/cable bill is not included in this month which would have brought us right to the $600/month mark. It will be included in May 2012 expenses.

In regard to our electricity - we do not run an air conditioner, only ceiling fans. We were surprised how low the invoice was and suspect that due to the Easter holiday they only "estimated" the cost. Our next invoice may be significantly higher. There is a discount applied when you use less than 150 kwh during the invoice cycle.