Why Nicaragua is a Retirement Haven

This often overlooked region is one of the world’s most appealing places.

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Retiring overseas may be a more mainstream idea today than it was a quarter-century ago when I began covering this beat. But the idea of retiring in Nicaragua is still controversial.

In all these years of traveling, living, and doing business around the world, only a handful of countries have gotten under my skin. Nicaragua is one of them. From my first visit about two decades ago, this troubled country has captured my imagination.

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Geographically, Nicaragua is blessed with two long coastlines, two big lakes, volcanoes, highlands, rain forest, and rivers. In this regard, it’s got everything Costa Rica has, but is less discovered and developed. This makes it the perfect spot for adventurers, eco-travelers, retirees, and those interested in bargain rates.

Nicaragua is notable architecturally too. Its two sister colonial cities, Granada and Leon, vie for the title of oldest city in the Americas. Both cities have impressive colonial-era churches, public buildings, and parks.

Nicaragua is a colorful land, from its red clay-tiled roofs to its powder blue church steeples. There are also the yellow, green, red, and blue facades of its centuries-old haciendas and the pink and purple bougainvillea that cascades down its inland hillsides.

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What struck me most on my first visit 20 years ago and has continued to draw me back to this country since is the spirit of the Nicaraguan people. Nicaragua appeals to the romantic. It is a land of pirates, martyrs, heroes, warriors, and poets, fighting each in his way for what he believes.

Nicaragua continues to struggle politically. The civil war ended long ago, but ghosts from that era still haunt the country. President Daniel Ortega, re-elected four-and-a-half years ago, says he’s running again in the next presidential election taking place this November. He’s worked to adjust the country’s constitution, which previously disallowed a president to serve consecutive terms. Many foreign investors and would-be retirees are nervous about the unpopular leader being reelected.

Politics aside, Nicaragua has a great deal to offer, from its abundant natural treasures to its battle-weary yet welcoming population. The country also has an exceedingly affordable cost-of-living and real estate and a recently instituted program of special benefits and discounts for foreign resident retirees.

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Tourism figures for this country have risen in the past few years, and Nicaragua saw more than a million tourists cross its borders for the first time ever in 2010. About 5,000 expats, half those from the United States, have chosen to settle here indefinitely. There’s room for more, and the welcome mat is out.

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter. Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.