Preparing to go to Nicaragua – Nicaragua Packing List

I leave for Nicaragua in four days. I’m so looking forward to it. I have been very very sick the last week with the flu and an attack of killer cold sores, but I seem to be recovering fast enough that I should be able to go. Being sick has put me more behind on the thesis than would be ideal, but I’m trying to work diligently and get it done before I leave.

Because I know how helpful it would have been for me to have a good packing list prior to living in Nicaragua in the Summer of 2005, and because I need to pack for this time anyway, I’m posting my packing list here. This is a list for someone who does not plan on camping or going out and doing things in rainforests or such. A little walking – yes. Hiking up a volcano – no.

  • If you can’t pick it up and run 50 meters with it, it is too much.  Err on the side of light.  You can probably buy what you need there if you decide against something and MUST have it.
  • Backpack with a waterproof cover
  • Light poncho or raincoat
  • Umbrella, particularly if it is the rainy season
  • Sunglasses and a sun hat (if sun hats are your thing)
  • Sunscreen
  • All summer clothes except for a pair of tennis shoes, some socks, a sweatshirt, and one pair of heavier jeans. Everything else should be light and summer-y. You will sweat ALL THE TIME. Something to consider in what clothes you pack.
  • If you are staying a short time (1-2 weeks) try to pack enough underwear so you won’t have to wash clothes, which is done by hand (by you or someone you pay). If you are staying longer, still pack lots of underwear since the need for clean underwear often determines when you have to finally do clothes.
  • Towelettes. Most showers are cold in Nicaragua, unless you are in a hotel in which case sometimes showers are heated in creative ways often involving electricity and wires in your shower. I like Ponds towelettes but really any kind can do to get the dust and sweat off of your skin in between showers.
  • Bring a few wash cloths – you will get dusty and if you are wearing sandals, you will have a lot of dirt to wipe off of your feet (if you are into clean feet). Also helpful when you use the wet towelettes to dry off since they get a little soapy sometimes and you want to get that off.
  • I would also suggest bringing especially strong face wash since many skin types are not used to so much sweat, dust, and sun. I broke out while I was there and you can get some things at the grocery store, but if you have a special kind of wash you prefer, bring that. You may not be be able to find just what you are looking for.
  • As needed: Toothbrush, toothpaste, shaving supplies, makeup, hairdryer, shampoo, conditioner, soap, small hand mirror (there were no mirrors in the house of the family I stayed with). Avoid fragranced items, they attract insects. You can buy most of these basic things in Nicaragua in most towns if you forget something.
  • Mosquito repellent with a high % of deet (Edit several years later – Now that I have a small child and I am aware of the risks of deet, I would use Badger Bug Balm and Bug Spray as primary, bringing deet along as backup if bugs get particularly bad.)
  • Antibacterial gel
  • A mosquito net or tent
  • Camera and if you need film, bring as much as you need. You can buy batteries if you are near a good sized town – not out in the middle of no where.
  • Swimming suit/shorts.
  • Towel and wash cloths (unless you are staying in an especially nice hotel).
  • One of those things from a camping store with a compass, thermometer, and watch on it (I found very helpful).
  • Rehydration salts, Immodium AD, antimalarial medicine, antibiotics,Tylenol or Ibuprofen, antiseptic, Band-Aids, hydrocortisone, vitamins, birth control, etc. Leave prescription medication in its container with dosage information.
  • If you wear classes or contacts and need your glasses to see, bring extra pair of glasses. Bring contact cleaning and storage solution.
  • Bring some U.S. dollars to exchange in airport for cordobas. There are ATMs in many bigger towns in Shell gas stations and at some banks, although the fee will probably be about $5. ATMs can be down for days, thus the reason to bring some cash to start with. Try not to care large amounts of cash on you if you can help it. Keep some cash and credit cards separate so if one stash is somehow lost or stolen or lost, you have a backup.
  • Flashlight with extra batteries.
  • Day pack if you need to carry a few things with you but don’t want to take your huge backpack.
  • Spanish books/phrase books to help with language, English reading material if you want to read books or magazines. It isn’t common to find things written in English, although sometimes there are book exchanges at touristy places (San Juan Del Sur, for instance).
  • Earplugs if the roosters crowing at 4am every morning will bother you.
  • Notebook/pens/pencils (you can also buy these in most medium sized towns).
  • I didn’t use a money belt while I was there, and never had any trouble, but it does sound like a good idea now that I think about it.
  • Bring copies of your passport, airline ticket, drivers license, student I.D., hostel card, ISIC card, etc. Give your copies to someone you are traveling with or put them in a separate piece of luggage. Another option is to make “virtual” copies and hold them in your e-mail inbox should you need them.
  • A few ziplock bags in various sizes. This will help with leaks, things getting, and all sort of things you probably can’t think of yet
  • Locks for your Pack – a small, code lock (preferred over key locks which can get too easily lost.) Depending on the sorts of places you will be staying, you may want to bring a metal cord that you can also use to lock your bag to the bed or desk or something.
  • If you are going to be there a long time, you may want to bring an inflatable mattress.  I did not do this and after several months had bruises on my hips from sleeping on “mattresses” that were not quite as soft as I was used to. While I’m sure you can buy an air mattress in Nicaragua, they aren’t on every street corner. But don’t bring this if you are hiking around all over the place.  They are bulky.
  • The Moon Handbooks Guide to Nicaragua.  Far better than the Footprint guide.
  • Checkout http://www.onebag.com/checklist.html which is all about packing light and well.

I’ll add to this if I realize I forgot something…

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49 Responses to Preparing to go to Nicaragua – Nicaragua Packing List

  1. Safe travels, Elizabeth! Please post some photos and stories from the trip when you get back.

  2. Josh Lavetter-Keidan says:

    Thanks, great list — very helpful.

  3. Becca says:

    thanks — im on my return to nicaragua and packing in a hurry. this helps me remember all the essentials!

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