This page is written based on the questions we have had over the years from volunteers:
There are good doctors, dentists, well stocked pharmacies, and a public hospital in Granada. In Managua there is a private hospital which would meet with first world standards, and is qualified for most travel insurance policies. Many volunteers have travel insurance which will cover them in any emergency. Some tourists visit the country for low cost dental work.
- Water in Granada is safe to drink. Most volunteers drink the tap water, but if you prefer not to, bottled water is readily available and very affordable.
- There are no vaccinations required though we recommend a current tetanus vaccination as the schools may be in semi-rural areas.
- There is no Malaria in Granada, there are occasional cases of dengue and chikungunya fever so mosquito protection is advised.
- Almost all medications can be purchased in the pharmacies without prescription but if you need something specific or unusual you would be well advised to bring it with you.
Temperatures in Granada range between warm to hot – daytime between 80 – 100 f (26 – 38c) night time between 74 – 90 f (24 – 32C). Rainfall is mostly in the months of May through November, and on average we have some rainfall 122 days per year. Most rain is in the form of heavy showers or thunderstorms. Though locally we refer to May to November as the rainy season, it is not monsoon like, and doesn’t rain every day.
Safety is an issue that many people ask about, more so as Nicaragua featured so widely in the news about it’s civil wars for many years. The Government is stable, is a democracy, with an elected President and appointed ministers of various departments. Occasional protest marches, e.g. for higher salaries are usually peaceful , though political marches and rallies are best avoided.
The crime rate is lower than that of many European Countries, and the U.S.A. and it is regarded as one of the safest countries in Central America. However there is a problem with opportunistic petty theft. Front doors need to be locked, and bags need to be watched, not just left on the back of a chair. Tourists are sometimes seen as an easy target but with a little common sense it can be mostly avoided. Volunteers are advised not take valuables with them – things such as ATM cards, cameras, Ipods etc. should be left in your room if you are not using them that day.
Female volunteers can expect to hear lots of whistles, hisses, and names such as ‘muñeca’ – doll, or, practicing their English, ‘I love you baby’. This can be very irritating, and it doesn’t seem to make any difference what you look like, or how old you are – the local women also are constantly pestered like this. Occasionally volunteers have been touched, but not seriously molested.
We advise volunteers not to walk alone at all, not to hitchhike or accept lifts and to take taxi’s after 9pm. Even if there are two or three of you we still advise this. A taxi in town will cost 50 cents during the day and $1 per person at night.. We have had several volunteers who have been robbed walking home in the early morning hours, and even during the middle of the day, though luckily not injured. There are areas that should be avoided, especially at night.
Parents of younger volunteers may be concerned about the safety of Granada. We have had several volunteers whose parents have visited them while they were here, and if your parents would like to contact others they can email us for an email address.
This list is designed to help you decide what to bring to Nicaragua with you. It also provides tips on what you might need to take if you are visiting other areas of Nicaragua.
Please be aware that if you do leave Granada to visit other areas of Nicaragua, you must take your passport with you. Nicaraguan immigration officials sometimes make unannounced inspections of hostels, and may ask to see your passport, including proof that your visa is still valid. This means that many hostels do not accept guests who do not have their passports with them. This is especially true in places such as San Juan Del Sur and Esteli, as they are close to the borders with Costa Rica/Honduras.
- Travel insurance. Buy it, keep it in your email and carry print outs of the key details. In the unlikely event you need to visit a hospital, you will either be required to pay or to demonstrate you have insurance. Some volunteers have recommended purchasing insurance through lonelyplanet.com.
- Print outs proving the purchase of any expensive items you may have with you (cameras, laptops, phones etc). In the unlikely event you are robbed whilst here, you will need to be able to demonstrate that you genuinely owned the items that were stolen in order to receive a police report (necessary to claim your insurance). You can also keep scans in your email folder, and print them as necessary.
Things you might want:
- Sun block (available but expensive here)
- Insect repellant. Mosquitoes are plentiful and can carry diseases (although Nicaragua is largely malaria free, other illnesses are present). Good insect repellent is available for $5 – 7 here, but make sure you bring some with you too.
- Shower gel. Although shampoo and soap are readily available here, shower gel is not.
- Deodorant – Granada is hot and humid, and you are unlikely to be able to find your preferred brands here.
- Good shoes or strong sandals – there are lots of unpaved roads and holes in the pavement here.
- A torch/flashlight. Although they generally don’t last long, power cuts are common here, and sometimes include streetlights.
- Plug adapters. Voltage here is 110 volts and the plugs are the same as those in the USA, so if you are coming from an area with different plugs, you will need an adapter, and potentially a transformer.
- A small bag for weekends away.
- A small supply of medicines like paracetamol, diarrhoea tablets etc. Although there are numerous well stocked pharmacies in Granada, you may want to have a few things with you.
- Tampons – can be hard to find and expensive
- All the clothes you will need during your stay. This may sound obvious, but some items (especially those for larger people) can be very difficult to find here. So it is easiest to bring whatever you think you’ll need.
- More than one bank/credit card. If your main card gets lost or stolen, it will be very difficult to get a replacement sent out (post from Europe or the US normally take at least 4 weeks to arrive), and whilst there is a Western Union office where you can have money sent, having a spare card will make your life easier. Many volunteers choose to use a prepaid cash card for everyday use whilst here, with their regular bank card as backup.
Optional – depending on when you are visiting and what your plans are.
- Swimming things – trips to the beach are popular at weekends, and memberships at hotel swimming pools in Granada are available from around $40 a month.
- A light waterproof jacket/poncho/umbrella. It frequently rains heavily in the afternoon during May through November.
- A light jacket and warmer clothes – if you plan on visiting the mountains during free weekends plant to bring some warner clothes. The climate is significantly cooler and damper in the Northern parts of Nicaragua. Long trousers and a light jacket will make your stay much more comfortable! If you are only planning on visiting Granada and the beaches/cities you may not need this.
- Good walking shoes/boots. If you plan on visiting the mountains, or hiking anywhere, you will need good shoes.
- Your driver’s license. Many volunteers visiting the Isla de Ometepe choose to rent scooters/motorbikes to get around. You will not be able to rent one without demonstrating you have a valid license to drive
- Small souvenirs/little things from your country – these can make nice gifts for people you meet.
Dress requirements when you are working are La Esperanza Granada t-shirts which can be worn with pants, skirts or shorts (not short shorts please). The t-shirts are short sleeved with a v-neckline, color grey with our logo in dark blue. You will be supplied with two free of charge, and if you need extras they cost U.S.$5 each.
Communication with home
- Each volunteer house has a Wifi Internet connection so you can bring a computer. There are also many Internet cafés in town, which cost about $1 per hour.
- Mobile phones cost around $25, and use a standard SIM card. Overseas calls can be made from most Internet cafés, at low rates, or you can use Skype.
- Mail for volunteers can be received at the La Esperanza Granada office. The post office is near our office, and sending packages is surprisingly cheap, but not 100% reliable.
There are no fees charged by La Esperanza Granada to our volunteers, only a $50 contribution towards our administration costs. You will be responsible for you own cost of travel, plus your cost of living while here in Granada. How much will daily life will cost depends on your style of living. Many volunteers choose to purchase all of their food at the local market and supermarket, and cook, others prefer to dine out. There are many restaurants in Granada, which range from very inexpensive, local food, to nice hotel restaurants that cater to tourists. Most volunteers from the North America, Europe or Australia will find Granada an extremely affordable place to live. Some volunteers report spending as little as $100 US dollars per month, after paying their rent (this is the very minimum) and some spend quite a bit more, up to about $500. On average volunteers spend about $200 per month, not including rent. Also check our cost and commitment page.
Getting to Granada
Managua is the capital city, and the closest major airport (MGA) to Granada. This is the best airport to fly into. Some volunteers find it cheaper to fly into San Jose, Costa Rica (SJO). However, if flying to Costa Rica normally you would need to stay overnight in San Jose both arriving and leaving, so don’t forget to factor this into the cost. Then you have to pay the border fees to cross into Nicaragua (approx $20) and a departure tax when you fly back out of Costa Rica of $32.
From Costa Rica, you can travel by air-conditioned coach directly to Granada. Including border crossing time, the ride is about 8 hours. As of July, 2016, the bus ticket is $33 each way.
For arrival in Managua we can send our regular taxi driver to meet you at the airport. He charges $30 for the 45 minutes trip and will bring you directly to your volunteer house.
For people traveling through Central America from the north the border crossing from Honduras to Nicaragua is simple. Guatemala, El Salvador, Belize and Honduras are all part of the same visa zone as Nicaragua, so you are allowed 90 days from when you enter the first of these countries.
We are very flexible regarding time off if you have friends or family coming to visit for example – but we expect you to respect the commitment that you have made in giving your time to volunteer. Motivating the children to attend the centers is an important part of the volunteers role so it is vital that you set a good example both with attendance and punctuality. There is at least one three day weekend each month, often more – a full week off at Easter, , and several times a year with breaks of four days, so lots of opportunity to explore the exciting natural wonders and interesting cultural experiences of Nicaragua.
Insurance as an industry is only just starting in Nicaragua. There is no recognized local health insurance, though local people do receive free medical care which is limited. As an organization we do not carry any type of insurance, or public risk. It is recommended that you provide your own travel insurance.
Citizens of U.S.A, Canada, most European countries, and most other countries will receive an automatic 90 day visa on arrival. You will need to pay US$10 at the immigration counter. This visa can be renewed locally for a further 90 days. After that time you would need to leave the country and re enter to start the progress again. Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Belize have a common visa program, so to renew your visa you would need to travel south to Costa Rica or north to Mexico.
It is possible that the airline may ask you to show a visa if you are planning to stay for more than three months – you should say that you are planning to travel to Costa Rica and return to fly out of Nicaragua – as it is not possible to get a visa for more than 90 days in advance before you come.
With with the exception of a few nationalities you cannot apply for a visa in advance of arrival. There are several countries where you will need to apply in advance and will only receive a visa for 30 days. To find out which countries need to apply for a visa you can look on this Nicaraguan government website. In the event you do need a visa, please note that although it says to allow three weeks on the website, the experience of past volunteers shows it can take ten to twelve weeks.
Important note: If your flight is passing through the U.S.A. you will need to have a current ESTA which you can apply for on-line and is valid for two years.
The official language of Nicaragua is Spanish. There are some variations with Castillian Spanish as spoken in Spain, but these are not difficult to adapt to. All of the work in the centers is conducted in Spanish, and you are requested to speak only in Spanish while in the centers– this includes conversations with other volunteers. There is very little English spoken in Nicaragua, with the exception in top end hotels, travel agencies etc. It is easy to access Spanish classes and tutoring in Granada. A lot of the schools will do a one or two week intensive Spanish course, which is a good idea for volunteers who feel that there Spanish is not at a high enough level to spend a week or two this way before commencing your work with the children.
How the organization is run
La Esperanza Granada is a volunteer organization with some 20 to 50 volunteers at any given time, who come from all over the world. We work both with the approval of the local Ministry of Education, and with the approval of the communities we are helping. In any areas where we need paid employees, such as our office administrator, our volunteer coordinator, building contractors etc., we employ local Nicaraguan staff. No directors are paid.
The organization follows its original mission statement with regular review by our Board of Directors. This volunteer group is led by our Operations Director. Our current Operations Director, Pauline Jackson, is also a member of the Board of Directors. Volunteers attend a meeting once a week for exchange of information and socializing. The Board of Directors meets on a regular basis. The members of our Board of Directors are: President; Flor Sequieria (Founding President), Vice President; Mark Turner, Treasurer; Pauline Jackson (Operations Director), Sectretary: Xiomara Diaz, Director Hanne Rodriguez, Director; Rachel Goldman Sklar (Founding Volunteer).
Notes of the directors meetings are available to volunteers (or anyone else who is interested). Volunteers are free to consult with the Operations Director at any time.
La Esperanza Granada is a Nicaraguan nonprofit organization started in Granada, Nicaragua. It is a true grassroots organization with volunteers working in the communities every day.
Each learning center and/or activity has a team of volunteers- volunteers are not sent out alone into the communities. We often have groups of short-term volunteers who come to work for a few days or a week and and paint a school, build a latrine or cooking shelter, etc. These groups contribute and pay for all the building materials that they use as well as the supervision/help of the local builders.
In each center you will find a number of our local interns who help coordinate with the community/children. These local volunteers, our ‘ayudantes’ are young people from the same poor communities in which we work, who have completed high school and been sponsored to attend University. As part of their University Sponsorship they receive a small living allowance which helps enable them to give time to their studies, as well as giving back to their communities while working in the centers with our overseas volunteers. They will assist you wherever possible, and will appreciate your assistance in helping them learn valuable skills that you may have in exchange.
There is a volunteer meeting each week, on Tuesday evenings at 5pm which all volunteers are expected to attend.
These are documents we email to each arriving volunteer – feel free to read in advance. To save trees and costs we will only give you a hard copy of the volunteer map when you are here.
Can I bring donations with me from home?
We rely heavily on donations, both of supplies and money. Cash donations are always appreciated, you can put money in your account at home and withdraw it with your ATM card here to deposit into La Esperanza Granada’s account. Many supplies needed for the centers can be purchased in Granada for less than the cost of buying them at home and bringing them with you (read our current what to bring list).
We don’t obligate volunteers to do fund raising, but if you wish to we will of course appreciate it, and can help with any information that you require. Donations are always needed. We have a couple of power point presentations available as well as lots of video clips and photos.
Most of our sponsorships for high school students and University students have come through from former volunteers and their families, as have a lot of our building funds, dental costs, school repairs, supplies etc.
We do ask that you don’t bring supplies or cash to distribute directly to children or members of the community. This can cause ill will, and jealousy, can make it hard for other volunteers who may not have any money to spare, and basically goes against our motto of “Give a hand up – not a hand out”.
Still have more questions?
Here is a list of recent volunteers who have said they are willing to give their email addresses for contact by others who are interested in volunteering. To prevent spammers using this list we have replaced the @ with ‘(at)’.
- ciara.pikeburke(at)gmail.com – Ciara Pike-Burke from the UK
- farmata.Kane(at)yahoo.fr – Farmata Kane from France
- Anialangnz(at)gmail.com – Ania Lang from New Zealand
- Noraschneider(at)live.at – Nora Schneider from Austria
- Jideker(at)slu.edu – JP Ideker from the USA
- febe.vanbelleghem(at)hotmail.com – Febe Vanbelleghem from Belgium
- tdecampigneulles(at)Hotmail.com – Theodore de Campigneulles from France
- gaelle_pfister(at)Hotmail.com – Gaelle Pfister from France/Spain
- jtpugh1(at)sheffield.ac.uk – Joshua Pugh from the UK
- xdecuadro(at)gmail.com – Ximena Decuadro from Uruguay (sólo en español/spanish only)
- Aleksandra.stosio(at)gmail.com – Aleksandra Stosio from Poland
- Youngerman(at)mail.usf.edu – Lauren Youngerman from the USA