There is so much to treasure and bring home from Nicaragua.
Hammocks, Paintings, Jewelry, Ceramics, Woodworking, Clothing. If you come home from Nicaragua with shot glasses and a T-shirt made in China, that would be disappointing.
But after our third trip to Nicaragua in August, I came home with a different set of souvenirs and gifts. And I went to the Masaya Municipal Market to get them. Masaya has two large shopping markets, one for locals and one for tourists. The one for tourists is rated #3 on Trip Advisor for things to do in Masaya. The one for locals isn’t even listed. Here’s one blogger’s experience of them on the same day. For her, it was worth paying more for items in exchange for a more beautiful, relaxing shopping experience. For me, I knew I wanted more practical items and I knew I was going to buy a lot. So to the “Mercado Municipal de Masaya” I went. All prices quoted are from there. I’m sorting Christmas presents now, so for your enjoyment, here are 5 not so obvious gifts, all under $5, all made in Nicaragua, that will all fit in a carry-on.
1# The Orange Squeezer
It’s for squeezing lemons and limes – never mind the name. As a near daily squeezer of lemons or limes, this tool is usually in my drying rack instead of inside a drawer.
I went through many inferior squeezing tools before this one. The twisting kind, plug in contraptions, even a similar design from a Target store. But guess what. The made in China for an American store orange squeezer, bent after the second use.
These are made by hand in Nicaragua for Nicaraguans where citrus trees grow like weeds. They are strong and built for daily use.
Skip the smaller lime squeezers. The larger orange squeezers work for petite Nicaraguan limes, and once you leave the country the lemons and limes become the size of oranges anyway.
I’m afraid I don’t know the Spanish name for these. I went to the market and said: “Quiero comprar la cosa que exprime narajanas. Se vende aqui?” I was helpfully led to a person who had them. Don’t expect to find this window shopping. Ask. Once you found them though, look around. Nicaraguans make all kinds of kitchen tools by hand. Spoons, pots, strainers. Great gifts.
Are they dishwasher safe? Probably not. I’ve never seen a mechanical dishwasher in Nicaragua. In the picture you can see one is darker than the others. That’s our personal one. The dishwasher made it darker. We stopped putting it in there. Also, you can see how some handles are thicker than others. I didn’t notice this until I got home. If you have a choice, go for the thicker handle.
Okay. Next item. Nicaraguans rock the pedicures.
#2 Foot File
Walking on dusty roads in flip flops in the heat makes for feet that want pampering.
These are under $1. Get some hot soapy water to put your feet into and use these to work those callouses down.
This next one you will have to explain and maybe even demonstrate for people to believe you. I know I had to be shown.
#3 Dish Soap
Give your family and friends the cultural experience of washing dishes Nica style. In cold water if you’d like, but temperature doesn’t matter. Rub your lucky Nica dish soap with your preferred scrubby or cloth, and watch how miraculously soapy and clean everything gets.
You can buy it in a plastic container. Or use your own container and buy it in a bag. Perhaps a practical use for one of the beautiful ceramic bowls sold in the market.
#4 Soap Dish
This isn’t actually a soap dish. It’s a spoon sold for 5 Cordoba or 20 cents. Made from the shell of a local tree. Something about it said “soap dish” to me. I was not disappointed. Works better than a soap dish with a flat bottom.
#5 Flor de Caña
Maybe this isn’t so off the beaten track, but I had to mention it. 4 year, 1 liter bottles are under $5, and it’s the best rum in the world. The white rum is my favorite and only sold domestically, so that’s what I bring home. Every. Single. Time.
- The rule is 2 liters per person tax free to bring back to the US. But are kids people? Here are the rules, and it doesn’t clarify. I risked it and brought extra home, figuring I’d pay the tax if the kids didn’t count as people. I made it through with 4 liters without incident.
- Pack it well so it doesn’t break inside your checked luggage. Luckily clothes are great padding.
- And/or pay a little more and buy it at the airport for carry on. If you have a layover flight however, beware! When I went through customs in Atlanta before connecting to Minneapolis, I waited an extra hour on top of the usual lines for them to check my liquor filled carry-on. Liquor bought duty free requires a special sealed plastic bag with the receipt in it – luckily the Managua Airport Shop knew the drill and I was good to go. We had 3 hours to get through all the lines, and we just made it.
Negative 8 degrees Fahrenheit in MN today. Think I’ll break into my stash.
Any other authentic Nicaraguan items not on souvenir stands that are worth seeking out?