Enjoying a Champagne Lifestyle on a Beer Budget in Nicaragua

I’m kind of a thrifty guy.

I don’t buy the latest smartphone that comes on the market. In fact, I have the most basic model money can buy in  Costa Rica—just $30, plus $15 a month for minutes. I don’t splurge on fashion—why bother? I’m in board shorts and a tank top pretty much 24/7 at my home in the Costa Rican beach town of Tamarindo.

But when I travel to Nicaragua, I go a bit hog wild and feel free to indulge in many of the “luxuries” I normally deny myself.

That’s what brought me to Josseline, a thatch-roofed restaurant right on the beach in San Juan del Sur, on the southern Pacific coast, on my most recent trip to the country. I had been waiting almost five months to go back.

I’d been dreaming about sitting down in the heat of the day with a cold beer, watching the water, feasting on three succulent grilled lobster tails basted in garlic-butter sauce. Delicious. Best of all, the whole thing was just $10.

I waited until Granada to treat myself again. After a day spent tromping through narrow streets admiring colonial architecture, I needed a break.

So I headed to Hotel Spa Granada, a boutique hotel in the heart of the colonial quarter. (By the way, the hotel itself is worth a look. It’s in a huge restored colonial, with modern art everywhere.)

I scheduled an hour-long aromatherapy massage for a bit later—$22. Then I headed to the pool. A day pass is complimentary with the massage but is usually $5.

Finally, in León I got a haircut. I was looking for a traditional barbershop—boxing on TV, old men of the neighborhood gathered around, and all that. But they were all closed for a religious holiday when I was in town.

But on a side street near Parque Rubén Dario I did spy a gentleman lounging in his rocking chair at an open door, a sign with scissors overhead. He said, “We’re closed—I’m too tired,” with a weary sigh. But when he got a second look at my somewhat scruffy appearance, he relented.

“Come inside, and I’ll fix you up.”

It turned out to be more salon than barbershop, and there was 80s Europop on the stereo instead of the expected Latin music. But I got a great haircut as the stylist gossiped about his neighbors and extended family. Just $5—with tip.

It’s not just luxuries that are cheaper in Nicaragua. Everyday expenses like groceries, taxi fare, rent, medical care… you get it for less than the United States… and, in many cases, even other Latin American countries.

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