All the information below is provided by Pink Pangea community members based on their experiences abroad. Add your voice!
Feminine Hygienic Products
Sarah says: Most women here use pads or Kodex which are available in most pharmacies and stores. Tampons are somewhat scarcer and often the only kind you can find are with applicators. If you want OBs, you can find them at most chain-grocery stores or better yet, bring them with you from home. DivaCups are virtually non-existent except in a few specialty stores in Managua
Sarah says: Most women here use birth control in the form of an injection or the pill. IUDs are also somewhat common and you can theoretically get one inserted/removed at any gynecologist (around $20) although I would recommend making sure you find a good one. You can get birth control pills and the morning after pill very easily at any pharmacy although selection is limited. Condoms you can theoretically get for free at any government-run hospital or health center. It’s better to buy them at large chain-grocery stores and check the expiration date – condoms are not widely used and it is not expected for men to have them on hand.
Recommended Gyncologists and Doctors
Sarah says: Gynocologist in Esteli: Doctora Janeth Castellon:
Address: Frente a terminal de autobuses norte (Infront of the north bus terminal – pink building).
My experience with her was okay. She was a lot rougher than my gynecologist at home and overall I felt less certain about her thoroughness and patient care. Overall she was professional enough and everything was hygienic and clean. She speaks very little English so it’s best to bring a translator if you don’t speak Spanish. Also privacy is not guaranteed. However she is the best of the best for the north.
Sarah says: Breastfeeding is accepted, more so than in other western countries.
Sarah says: Most men live with their parents until they get married. Privacy is a big problem. Most pairs will either hang out on street corners or go to 24-hour motels called “hospedajes.” The main difference is that if dating is casual, they will say you are “amigos con derechos” or “estamos saliendo.” This implies that you are free to see other people. Monogamous relationships will be referred to as “novia/novio” and come with expectations such as: right to know where you are, who you are with, what you are doing etc.
Relationships progress here very fast, so women should be careful to make their intentions clear. If you do end up dating a man here, it can quickly progress into something serious. Also, various forms of controlling behavior and jealousy are not only accepted, they are the norm. Women should be aware that it is very rare to find a man who is accepting of their girlfriend going out with other men without him.
Sarah says: Here are a few types:
Campesino- Farm boy. This type of man is usually very sincere, quiet, well-mannered and very intense. He will not look you in the eyes when you talk to him and it will take a while for him to kiss you but when he does, he will develop a strong and intense sense of ownership.
Chelero- Player. This is the westernized type of man you are likely to meet where there are a lot of tourists. This man views foreign girls as a form of conquest and is primarily after sex and looking good in font of his friends. He may speak good English and will know how to push all your buttons.
Curious student- This type of man most likely wants to just talk to you and probably will want to practice his English. Nicaraguans also fall in love very easily so it is quite likely that he will tell you how amazing and beautiful you are or even make a proposal to be his girlfriend.
Sarah says: Homosexuality in males is tolerated to some extent but homosexuals are often the brunt of the joke. The most accepted form of homosexuality is effeminate males. Males who do not show typical “gay” behaviour are feared and more likely to be harassed physically. Homosexuality in females is generally ignored or considered abnormal. In larger cities such as Leon, Managua and Matagalpa there are active gay communities.
Sarah says: Legally women have the same rights as men in society and there are well-known laws to protect them (Law 779 being the most recent and well-known). Culturally there is a very obvious divide between men’s position and women’s positions, especially in terms of physical labor. Women are expected still to be in charge of the children and kitchen and men are expected to do hard labor. It is still very common for men to carry heavy things for you or not allow you to do any heavy lifting. Intellectually, women are seen as equal to men.
Sarah says: The most obvious difference is the amount of independence I am used to. Young students and working women are starting to go out more and in larger cities you will see many groups of young women in a bar drinking or out enjoying themselves. However traditionally, drinking and smoking in public is not common for women and in general going out “for fun” is not common for women. Public drunkenness is frowned upon, as are any use of other drugs. Smoking is more or less accepted, especially for foreign women. Women when they “hang out” will do so with their kids on the porch of their houses.
Also the concept of traveling for traveling’s sake or leaving your family behind to explore the world is very foreign to many women (and men) here.
Sarah says: There are certain bars where the only women you will find are waitresses or sex workers. These are generally “no-name” bars that should be easy to identify. Acceptable bars to frequent as a women will have a clear name, usually a guard in front and be catered towards a more sophisticated crowd. Although not prohibited per say, going to a no-name bar as a woman, especially alone is basically an invitation to be harassed by drunk men.
Perception of Foreign Women
Sarah says: People in Nicaragua are generally very open and curious towards strangers. Depending on how comfortable they feel with you they will likely ask you many questions. People are very well-mannered here so it is rude not to answer. However if the intention of the male asking you is very obvious (such as catcalling you on the street) it is acceptable and advisable not to engage in conversation. Foreign people, especially white Americans, are perceived as having a lot of money, which makes them prime targets for theft and beggars.
Sarah says: Public buses and boats are generally very safe for women. Men will often offer you their seat if the bus is full and feel good about it so don’t hesitate. Pregnant and old women, and women with children have absolute priority so you will get the praise of your neighbors if you give up a seat for them.
Collective and private taxis, especially in Managua and larger cities, can be problematic. In Managua it is advisable to try to find a private taxi, get the number, and only use that taxi. If you do take a collective taxi, it is advisable to pay a little extra and ask the driver not to pick up anyone else. You can say “quiero ir sola” (I want to go alone), but you will be expected to pay more.
Shady Areas for Women
Sarah says: In most cities it is not advisable to walk alone after 9pm, especially for women and in areas that are not busy. Most hotels and hostels will have numbers of reliable taxis – use them. Exceptionally dangerous areas include the beach promenade at San Juan del Sur after dark, the lake shore in Granada after dark, Managua at any time of the day, most of Esteli after about 7 p.m. especially the areas to the east of the Pan-American Highway, Bluefields after dark, and the harbor alleyways during the day.
Sarah says: In Nicaragua, tight-fitting clothes are considered more sexy than revealing clothes, especially ones that emphasize the butt (like most of Central America, Nicaraguans generally like butts more than boobs). Shorts are not acceptable for work or for formal meetings, but jeans are accepted as formal wear. Foreign people are considered to be sloppy dressers.
Nicaraguans take great pride in their appearance. If you want to fit in, the best outfit for travelling is jeans and a nice T-shirt. If you are invited to dinner or another event, it is expected that you will arrive somewhat dressed up.