NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Over the last several years, Nicaragua has become increasingly popular as a vacation spot, as well as a place for expatriates from North America and other countries to move. Should you consider it as well?
The Web site Best Places In The World To Retire has more than 500 answers to the questions most often asked about moving to and living in Nicaragua, provided by more than 100 expats already there. Here's what they told us.
Cost of Living
In Nicaragua, the cost to hire someone for housekeeping, gardening or even fixing your car will be, by North American standards, extremely cheap. For example, the cost for a gardener is about $15 a day. Anything produced within Nicaragua will also be very cheap. Several bags with a total of 20 to 30 pounds of fresh, organic produce cost less than $10.
Quality health care in Nicaragua can be significantly less than half of what you would pay in the U.S. One expat said he paid $300 for a colonoscopy, without insurance.
American products that have to be imported will cost about the same as in the U.S. or a bit more. Housing will be somewhere in the middle.
Comparing apples to apples, you can dramatically lower your cost of living by moving to Nicaragua.
The best comment about safety there came from John-Marc Gallagher, who moved from the U.S. to Granada, Nicaragua 13 years ago. Gallagher said, "The best measure would be how we feel. We feel safe, we feel free to walk around and enjoy the outdoor bars and restaurants, and we feel safe in our homes and businesses."
Gallagher said his second measure of safety was how people acted: "Older, single women would not be retiring here, building homes, starting businesses and hanging out at the outdoor establishments if it wasn't safe."
Places to Live and Lifestyle
Nicaragua offers quite a few different expat lifestyle options:
Colonial. Granada is a true colonial city, with 400-year-old buildings, horse-drawn carriages, colonial architecture and a layout that includes a historic center with a cathedral. The more expensive homes tend to be closer to the center, and if you buy an existing home and want to remodel it, you will have to adhere to strict architectural codes that maintain the colonial character of the area. Granada has a lively, fun entertainment area, and plenty of expats live there.
Carlos Gutierrez is a developer who is planning to provide even more affordable housing for expats and others in an area about two miles from the historic center of Granada. Gutierrez just broke ground on the first phase of 72 homes and tells us that a 1,400-square foot model will sell for about $85,000.