Headed to this tropical Central American country for a semester? We have your go-to packing list, right here.
Packing up for your semester abroad can be a little bit daunting — how in the world do you fit everything you could need into a couple of suitcases? If you're looking for a little guidance on the things you should bring with you to Nicaragua specifically, we've got you covered.
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To help keep things organized, we've broken this post down into a few categories and given some context for a few items to help you navigate how much (or how little) to bring of some items.
Oh and just so you know, we have linked a few recommendations from past volunteers to make shopping even easier. We're an Amazon Affiliate so we do receive a small commission if you shop Amazon products from our page. We're only sharing links to products ILP volunteers in Nica have recommended — thanks for the support!
- A Few Things Before We Get Started
- When It Comes To Clothes + Shoes
- For Toiletries
- A Few Snack Suggestions
- Handy Extras You'll Be Glad You Packed
A Few Things Before We Get Started
Find A Complete Packing List
Every ILP volunteer has access to their Go To Guide, which is a good overview of lots and lots of information. In your guide, among details like what happens once you land in Nicaragua or some info about the culture, we have a packing list of suggestions. This blog post is to help you guide what to bring, get more details on what to bring, etc., but if you're looking for a more complete list of items, check out your Go To Guide.
Not sure where to find your Go To Guide? Talk to your ILP Representative.
Feel Free To Make Exceptions
Packing is a very personal thing — if you're someone who uses something at home all of the time, and it's not included in this blog post, you'll probably miss it when you're in Nicaragua! The same goes with things on this list that you'll probably never, ever, use. If that's the case, probably don't bring it to Nicaragua.
We hope this blog post can help you make decisions on things you bring that you weren't sure about or needed more clarification on, but just know it's open for additions (or subtractions).
When It Comes To Clothes + Shoes
The weather in Nicaragua is hot and humid, pretty much all year round. Air conditioning will be a luxury you probably won't see often, so packing up clothes that are cool and lightweight is going to be essential. One volunteer had this to say about what she wished she packed more of: "More swimsuits, workout clothes, more tanktop type clothes because it’s too hot to wear shirts."
Here are a few items volunteers were glad they packed (and why).
Swimming Suits (A Few)
You'll be living so close to Apoyo Lagoon, it's something you could do every weekend if you want! Volunteers also like swimming at local hostels and hotels (you just need to pay a couple of dollars for a day pass).
There are also other places nearby, like Island Ometepe, the tumbling San Ramon waterfall, or a vacation to the Corn Islands. Since you'll be swimming during the week, on the weekends, and on vacation, volunteers were glad they brought several swimming suits.
Clothes To Wear At Home + On Vacation
Remember that hot and humid weather? Quite a few volunteers suggest packing up workout clothes to hang out in at the house — think runner shorts, tank tops, etc., to help keep cool and to sleep in.
Nicaragua is a pretty conservative country and culture, so these workout clothes are great for at home, but volunteers tend to wear loose t-shirts, dresses, skirts, flowy pants to stay cool but covered up.
Oh and one more tip — you'll be doing your laundry without a washer, so clothes will be hung to dry. Some suggest not bringing too many outfits you care about (since sometimes clothes can stretch out), but still like bringing a few cute things to wear on vacations when you'll be taking lots of fun pictures.
Clothes To Wear While Teaching
Remember — Volunteers will need to dress modestly while teaching. Your school is strict about hemlines (shorts for the guys, and dresses/skirts for the ladies) reaching your knee (or longer), pants without holes, and shoulders that need to be covered. Here are a few places volunteers have gotten cute and modest clothes for teaching.
For Nicaragua, most volunteers were those adventure-type sandals pretty much all of the time (brands like Tevas and Chacos are popular, though there are others). They're great for exploring, hiking, beach/pool days, and more — but also recommend a part of closed-toe shoes (tennis shoes) for adventures like volcano boarding or working out.
Most volunteers were good with a pair of tennis shoes and adventure sandals (and maybe a pair of nicer sandals if you'd like to dress up for dinner or church), but that's it.
Nicaragua volunteers have said you can find your general items (things like soap, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, etc) in some of the larger supermarkets. Just know that American brands and products are going to be more expensive, but there's some selection.
However, if you're particular about a certain brand of deodorant, shampoo, or other hygiene products, volunteers suggest bringing your own (in addition to a few extra items):
- Dry Shampoo — you can't find it here.
- Sunscreen — it's more expensive in Nicaragua.
- Aloe — you'll want lots in case of sunburns.
- Bug spray — check your Go To Guide for the right kind to get.
- Lotion — it's a split issue. Some volunteers said they didn't need any lotion because of the humidity and only brought a little, while others said they wished they brought more than a small bottle because they felt their skin was still dry despite the humidity.
- Essential oils — some volunteers said they weren't an "oil person" before their semester, but members of their group brought lavender or peppermint oil for mosquito itching which made a huge difference.
A Note About Medications
While you can mostly find similar items in-country, volunteers suggest bringing the following from home. Some thought items from home worked better, and also comment that's it's nice to just grab what you need out of your suitcase instead of hunting for things at the pharmacy. Here are some suggestions to add to your own list:
- Pain relievers (like Ibuprofen, Tylenol),
- Cold medicine
- Anti-itch cream for bug bites, along with something like Benadryl
- Anti-nausea, anti-motion sickness for bumpy bus/boat rides
- Things for tummy issues (stomach aches, constipation, diarrhea, etc)
Some brought lice shampoo from home, but others thought the lice pills and lice kits you could buy in-country worked better, just as an FYI.
A Few Snack Suggestions
At the end of your ILP semester, we sent out a little survey asking if there was a personal supply you wished you brought, but didn't ... one answer we hear a lot? "Favorite treats"! It's a big boost when you're feeling homesick or want something familiar to bring to school or on vacation when you get a little hungry.
In Nicaragua, here are some things in particular volunteers wished they brought from home:
- Twizzlers & Other Gummy Candies
- Electrolytes — some thought adding this to their water help them stay more hydrated. Same with those just-add-water mixes in's to help break up the taste of water when you're drinking so much.
- Granola Bars/Protein Bars — you can find them in-country, they are just more expensive.
- Chocolate — you can find Snickers, Reese's, Twix, and a few others but some volunteers said the local chocolate made them miss the chocolate from home.
- Cheesy snacks — Goldfish crackers, Cheez-Its, etc.
- Just add water baking mixes — you can find these in-country, but some were glad they packed them from home instead of buying them there (they're more expensive than at home).
Handy Extras You'll Be Glad You Packed
- Personal mini fans — some volunteers like this one or others swear by this packable/adjustable fan that blows air at various heights.
- Water bottle — something that keeps water cold all day long ( the ILP bottle is a fav).
- Pictures from home
- Extension cords
- Waterproof phone case — like this one, for all sorts of water activities.
- Nail polish/remover — you can find some in-country but some preferred their colors from home (and the brands they like).
- Bug tent — Nica volunteers like the pop-up tent version (like this one). You can find bug nets in-country for a few dollars, but the tents are a strong preference for some.
- Two backpacks — one for traveling/vacations, one to bring to school.
- Fanny pack — or a small purse, which was handy for bringing just your phone, wallet, and a snack when you're out exploring.
See something we missed?
Let us know! We are all about giving tips and advice to future volunteers heading to Nicaragua — just leave your suggestion in the comments below.
Thinking you need to be an ILP Nicaragua volunteer? We think so! Come check out what a semester here is like by taking a closer look at how you're helping, what teaching is like, where you can vacation, and more.