Digital Nomad in Popoyo Nicaragua

These days, access to internet is almost as important as food and water and having a roof over your head. A common question we get is “How stable is the internet in Nicaragua?” We are uniquely positioned to answer that question as we have broad experience of Nicargua. We lived in Nicaragua for a year and a half and visited 14 departments and 34 towns and cities. In this article we’ll share with you everything you need to know about the internet in Nicaragua.

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About the internet in Nicaragua

Digital Nomads in Nicaragua
Digital Nomads in Nicaragua

The internet has become an integral part of our day to day lives. For anyone interested in visiting Nicaragua or living in Nicaragua, having access to fast and stable internet is very important. This is particularly true for anyone interested in being a digital nomad in Nicaragua.

What is internet like in Nicaragua?

Fortunately, internet speeds and connectivity in Nicaragua are improving. Specifically, it is possible to get high speed optic fibre internet in many parts of the country. We have however experienced vast differences between the speed and stability of the internet throughout Nicaragua. The main drivers of these differences are location and provider.

Internet and electricity in Nicaragua

Keep in mind that internet goes hand in hand with electricity. If the electricity is down then your internet will be down as well. If you are considering purchasing a property in Nicaragua, we’d recommend considering getting solar panels and a battery. This will reduce your risk of a power outage. It also has the added benefit of cheaper electricity in the long run. Particularly as the cost of electricity in Nicaragua is very high.

How does Nicaragua rank for internet speed?

Speed Test Estelí Nicaragua
Speed Test Estelí Nicaragua

According to global speed test rankings, Nicaragua has one of the slowest internet speeds in the world. As of March 2023, it was ranked 114th for mobile download speeds and 89th for fixed broadband download speeds. However this does not give a full picture of the country as there are wide variations by location and provider.

High speed fibre internet is available in some places. The best speeds we’ve experienced have been around 40 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload. Funnily enough, these have been in beach areas like San Juan del Sur, Ometepe Island and Playa El Transito. More common speeds we’ve experienced in city hotels have been 4-5 Mbps download and 1-2 Mbps upload (as at 2021). This requires a bit more patience!

Satellite & VSAT Internet in Nicaragua

Starlink Nicaragua is not currently available. Furthermore, the expected service date is not known at this time.

There are a few companies that provide satellite & VSAT internet in Nicaragua. These include VSAT Satellite Broadband and BusinessCom VSAT. This provides internet coverage in some of the more remote parts of Nicaragua. We used satellite internet when we were in Reserva Natural Miraflor in the northern highlands of Nicaragua. Two different fincas provided satellite internet access in this area – Finca Neblina del Bosque as well as Finca Lindas Ojos. The internet speeds were slow and also fairly expensive. However these services provide internet access to areas that would otherwise only have mobile internet access.

How stable is the internet in Nicaragua?

Internet outages are reasonably common in Nicaragua. This can occur for a variety of reasons. Generally in bigger cities and in digital nomad hubs the internet will be more stable. We have found the weather plays an important role in internet access. Electricity access is also an important factor. If having reliable access to the internet is important to you, we’d recommend staying in a place that has backup power generator or battery. Furthermore we recommend getting some mobile internet data on your cell phone in case of emergency.

Internet stability in Nicaraguan cities

While we were living in Granada Nicaragua we experienced a significant internet outage on average about once a month. This generally lasted anywhere from an hour to half a day. We found that the internet was less stable when it was windy and when there was a lot of rain. We were in Granada during Hurricane Iota. On that day the internet and electricity would go down for a few hours at a time. It would come back up for a few hours before going down again. In addition to the more significant outages, the electricity might go offline for a second or two reasonably frequently. We’ve found this happens about once a fortnight. It generally didn’t really affect our internet experience. However, it might reset things like your microwave clock or your air conditioning unit.

Internet stability in rural locations and small beach communities in Nicaragua

Digital Nomad Selva Negra Nicaragua
Digital Nomad Selva Negra Nicaragua

In more rural locations or small beach communities, internet and electricity outages are far more common. We’d experience an internet outage of an hour to half a day a couple of times a week in places like Palacagüina, El Transito and a farmstay just outside the city of Jinotepe. Funnily enough we were in a rural community when Nicaragua experienced a country wide outage. On this occassion we were completely unaffected. In this instance more urban areas like Granada, San Juan del Sur and Estelí were affected.

Country wide internet outages

There were 2 significant country wide internet outages in the year and a half that we were in Nicaragua. These both lasted for about half a day. The first one was due to a nationwide power outage in many parts of Nicaragua. This was due to an issue with the power grid from Mexico-Guatemala. It also affected some other countries in the area.

Internet repairs in Nicaragua

Frustratingly for us, the last hotel that we stayed at in Nicaragua had an issue with its internet antenna. This occurred 2 days before we arrived and they had no internet for the entire 4 days we stayed there! Not ideal when you’re trying to work online and also organise your onward journey. This was in a very remote location called El Castillo on the banks of Rio San Juan near the border with Costa Rica.

We thought initially that the whole village didn’t have access to internet. However after 3 days without internet we realised that the problem was not with the town’s internet antenna. The actual problem was with the internet antenna on top of the hotel roof. Initially, the hotel staff were unable to give a date as to when the issue would be fixed. We assume that because of their remote location they have to wait for a technician to be available to make the long journey to El Castillo. So depending on where you are in Nicaragua, if you do have a problem with your internet it may be quite a wait until you can get a service technician to look at the problem.

When we were in Granada the service technicians were much more prompt in their service. For example, if you reported an issue first thing in the morning, then they would usually come and look at the problem in the early afternoon.

Getting internet on your phone in Nicaragua – local SIM cards

Another way of accessing internet in Nicaragua is to get a local SIM card. We recommend buying a SIM from a cell phone store in a major city and checking that your phone connects properly as soon as you put credit on your SIM. This is the best way to rectify any issues as you will have the store staff right there to help you. Keep in mind you may need to do this in Spanish as English is not widely spoken throughout Nicaragua.

We have used the online customer support with Tigo and we found that to be excellent. We communicated with a customer support representative from Tigo via Whatsapp messages and they were able to run a few tests and find a workable solution for us. Furthermore it was fairly quick and painless to get through to someone that could help us. Again everything was in Spanish, but with the help of Google Translate, we were able to communicate with them effectively.

Mobile internet providers in Nicaragua

Which mobile carrier to use in Nicaragua

Tigo and Claro SIM Cards Nicaragua
Tigo and Claro SIM Cards Nicaragua

The two main cell phone carriers in Nicaragua are Tigo and Claro. You can buy a SIM card for 50 cordobas (prices as at 2021). Prepaid plans start from around 70 cordobas for a couple of days. Unlimited data for social media such as Facebook, Intstagram, Twitter and Whatsapp are often included as part of your plan. Claro also offers unlimited data for YouTube. Both run on the 4G network as at 2021, although we hear that Claro is more 3G than 4G.

We have tried both Claro and Tigo. We think Tigo is a much better choice. Tigo is slightly more expensive. However it offers better coverage, more stable internet and faster speeds compared to its rival Claro. There is also a carrier called Movistar. We haven’t had any personal experience with Movistar. Moreover, we haven’t seen chips as widely available as the other two mobile carriers. Another consideration when choosing a cell phone carrier service in Nicaragua is that you can often get free calls between phones on the same network. However the free messaging app Whatsapp is widely used throughout Nicaragua. With this in mind, we’ve found the free calls to be less important in deciding on which carrier to use.

Tigo Mobile Phone Plans Nicaragua
Tigo Mobile Phone Plans Nicaragua

Claro Mobile Phone Plans Nicaragua
Claro Mobile Phone Plans Nicaragua

Where to get cell phone SIMs and recharge your SIM in Nicaragua

Claro Store Granada Nicaragua
Claro Store Granada Nicaragua

Getting access to a SIM and recharge credit in Nicaragua is very easy and straightforward. At entry points to the country there will be people selling SIM cards. In cities there are dedicated cell phone stores that sell SIMs. In rural communities you can buy SIM cards or recharge credit from pulperias which are little corner stores. You should be able to easily spot where to recharge your cell phone in Nicaragua. There are often big signs outside stores advertising for particular cell phone carriers. The most common ones we have seen are for Tigo and Claro. Once you have a SIM it is also possible to put credit on your phone online.

Pulperia in Miraflor Nicaragua
Pulperia in Miraflor Nicaragua

Best locations for digital nomads in Nicaragua

Selina Maderas Co-Working Space Nicaragua
Selina Maderas Co-Working Space Nicaragua

San Juan del Sur is the premier destination for digital nomads in Nicaragua. It is a great lifestyle choice being close to the beach. It has many great cafes and restaurants as well as a large expat community. Best of all the internet speeds there are fast! There are hotels such as The Space and Selinas Maderas, which have accommodation packages for digital nomads and remote working/co-working spaces.

An alternative to San Juan del Sur for digital nomads would be the capital city Managua. Being the capital city, you have access to fast and stable internet. You also have all of the conveniences of a modern city. Managua has the best variety of shops and restaurants in the country. Additionally, many people that live in Nicaragua will visit Managua maybe once a month to buy items they can’t find in other parts of the country. Managua does get a bad rap in terms of safety. It is also a very spread out city with no centralised business district. However it does have some nice leafy neighbourhoods as well as gated communities. In particular, the neighbourhoods of Los Robles and Las Colinas are popular with expats.

Finding free Wifi in Nicaragua

We have seen some signs for Free Public Wifi in Nicaragua. However this is definitely the exception rather than the rule. We haven’t tested out any of these places for ourselves to see if they actually work. However, we have seen a sign for Free Wifi in the Central Park of the city of Somoto. We’ve also seen Free Wifi advertised in a small park near the beach at Playa Santo Domingo on Ometepe Island.

Free Wifi Somoto Nicaragua, Parque Central de Somoto
Free Wifi Somoto Nicaragua

Your best bet for getting access to free wifi in Nicaragua is to go to a restaurant or cafe. Not every restaurant has free wifi, but it is reasonably common.

Most hotels in Nicaragua that we stayed at had free wifi included. The only exceptions we found were at some eco lodges. In this case they either have made the conscious decision provide customers with a space for digital detox or were at more remote locations where getting full internet connectivity is more difficult and expensive. For example, at Finca Lindos Ojos in Miraflor internet was an extra 20 cordobas per day for guests and the internet was only available in the dining room area. Being a remote location in a natural reserve, there are only two places where you can get wifi in the Miraflor area – Finca Lindos Ojos and Finca Neblina del Bosque. The connection here is via satellite, which is why internet is limited and expensive.

On Ometepe Island, we found that some accommodations only have access in the common area. This is particularly true if you are on a remote part of the island in eco lodge accommodation. This was the case for Finca del Sol Eco Lodge.

Tips for finding fast internet in Nicaragua

Man at Desk with Computer Estelí Nicaragua
Checking Internet Speed at Estelí Nicaragua

Some hotels and Airbnbs specifically advertise that they have high speed fibre internet. If you are keen to have a good idea about internet speed at your accommodation, we recommend asking the accommodation to run a speed test and send you a screen shot.

Here are some locations for fast internet that we have found during our time in Nicaragua:

  • Ometepe Island, Moyogalpa – Hospedaje Soma (Hotel)
  • San Juan del SurThe Space (Hotel, Restaurant and Co Working Space)
  • San Juan del Sur, Playa Maderas – Casita Olita (Airbnb)
  • Popoyo, Playa Guasacate – Red Pepper Popoyo (Hostel) – note, we found the speeds are slower in the rooms but are fast in the private balcony areas
  • Estelí – Casa Vínculos (Hotel)
  • Jinotega – Cafe Aroma (Cafe)
  • Miraflor – Finca Neblina del Bosque (Hotel and Restaurant) – the internet is fast, but it’s the only wifi hot spot in town so when it gets busy the internet slows right down. This is particularly true on weekends
  • Rio San Juan, El Castillo – Hotel y Restaurante Posada del Rio (Hotel and Restaurant)

Final thoughts on internet in Nicaragua

Internet speeds and connectivity can be a pain point in Nicaragua. However, it is definitely possible to be a digital nomad or work remotely here. If reliable connectivity is important to you, we’d recommend sticking to major cities and expat hubs. We’d also recommend getting some data on your phone as a backup.

If you have any corrections or can add to our list of high speed internet locations in Nicaragua, please let us know.

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