A Little Expat Living… Cost of Living in a Mexican Beach Town (2017)

cost of living in MexicoTwo years ago, I lived in Chiang Mai, Thailand for five months after having traveled steadily for two years. It was the first time I stayed put in one spot and became a semi-expat. As the months passed, I was so surprised by how affordable living there was that I shared a cost of living post … mostly for the readers in the A Little Adrift community who had written me over the years wondering how they could afford to also live abroad. Long story short, that post went viral and has had half a million visitors intrigued by the $485 baseline costs to live in Thailand.

Clearly the financials are interesting. So, with that in mind, I thought I’d share a similar post outlining my recent semi-expat stint in a tiny beach town in Mexico earlier this year — this time with a bonus five-minute video, covering everything the post below does if you’re keen on video rather than text! Baseline (and total) costs to live in Mexico came in under $745 every month. I’ve also lived in Oaxaca too, and it’s even more affordable.

This post was last updated in early 2017 with new information. This video shares the costs, style of living, quality of life, and other details about living as an expat in Mexico:

If you’re a reading person instead, below are the details covered in the video.

Total Cost of a Month of Living in San Pancho, Mexico

mexico cost of livingThis entire post outlines the baseline costs — my fixed monthly expenses for one person living in a beach town on the west coast of Mexico. Living in Mexico is ideal for budget-conscious expats, retirees, and travelers. Those living in nearby Costa Rica or Panama tend to have higher monthly averages, so I found my Mexico living situation ideal. Mexico also has a very generous visa policy — six months on arrival for Americans, which helps keep total living costs low.

The chart shows the basics you’ll need to cover when living in most parts of Mexico. Puerto Vallarta and surrounding communities are generally pricier than spots in Oaxaca, and perhaps on par for places like San Miguel de Allende. Not included in this breakdown of costs: medical/health insurance, my plane flight to Mexico, or any expenses I incur outside of living (running this site, insurance, work, etc). But all the baseline costs are covered, and really unlike the Thailand post, this total includes toiletries and any expenses inside Mexico that cropped up — I never withdrew more than USD $750 from the ATM each month. And this budget is on the high-end for one person; if I had looked around for an apartment or shared a house with friends my costs would have lowered to $600 (and my friend Earl says that’s about the cost of living in Playa del Carmen on the east coast beaches as well. I also spent less than that easily when I lived in Oaxaca, which is an inland city and far cheaper than the coastal towns, so your money will go further. I share more Mexico resources at the end).

Monthly Expenses Cost (USD$)
Rent & Internet $375
Electricity & Water $0
Food $300
Transportation $20
Entertainment $50
      Total $745

One of the high points of Mexico, a clear advantage over living in Asia, is the visa situation. As a US citizen I receive a six months visa on arrival automatically, and this can be reset simply by crossing a border and coming back … indefinitely. For those considering moving overseas without the chance for a retirement visa, the visa policy in Mexico is a very big boon. The visa situation in Southeast Asia is a lot trickier, and though I didn’t include the visa runs into my baseline costs in SEA, it was a part of living there for six months that could add up a lot if you were there years on end. Right now the peso is roughly 18 pesos to 1 US dollar as a guide to the food and transport costs I mention (check that exchange rate here).

What Does That Look Like in Terms of Living Life?

The various facets of living abroad are part of what makes one place appeal to some expats while others prefer something vastly different. I’m on the fence between Asia and Latin America, I love them both for different reasons, so rather than compare these aspects of life to each other, below is the food, life, and culture you get for that budget living in a beach town on Mexico’s Pacific coast.

mexico sunset

Sunset is a nightly ritual and a great way to meet the other expats and locals in town as everyone takes to the shores every single night for what have to be some of the prettiest sunsets I’ve ever seen.

A Light, Airy Studio Apartment

I didn’t look very hard for my apartment; in fact, it’s the first one I came across. I loved the family compound I lived within (they had a separate house with three rental apartments within their lot) and it’s one of the things I value living solo … I like having other people nearby who have my well-being in mind in case something happens. So, the apartment was 4,500 pesos per month ( $375) which is on the high-end for a studio in my town but the price included all utilities and really strong internet, which is essential for my online work.

A high point of living in Mexico is the fact that apartments and houses come with full kitchens (though mine was minus an oven), this is really great if you’re a keen cook—anything you rent here will likely come with a stove and pots and pans if it’s a furnished apartment. Other than the kitchen it had everything else you would expect in a studio—full size bed, counter with stools (where I worked from), closet, and a bathroom (a tour is shown in the video above).

Other places in town rent out as vacation rentals or rooms for anywhere from USD $200 per month on the very low-end (likely no wi-fi) to $500+ for 1 and 2 bedrooms. And one town over, in Sayulita (which is bigger and more touristy has a great beach, a lot more food, bars, etc), then apartment prices are actually pretty comparable if you like the idea of Mexico but think my town was a bit too small! :)

Delicious Vegetarian Eats

It’s no secret I’m a vegetarian, so for me, a country gets bonus points for not only the accessibility of vegetarian food, but the understanding of the concept of vegetarianism. Mexico’s good on both fronts, though not always great. During high season my little town had just enough options to keep it interesting, and as the seasons shifted I cooked in my apartment a lot more using fresh veggies from the markets, which was fun and gave me a kick toward my goal of becoming a better cook (Asia spoiled me because the lack of kitchens and cheap street food meant I never had to learn to cook these past years).

Spinach and cheese taco in Sayulita, Mexico

For costs, a cheap quesadilla runs 15 pesos (just over $1) at one of the stands, a nicer taco is about 40 pesos (about $3.25), and a veggie meal at one of the handful of restaurants in town runs up to $10 or $15 USD. I was lucky to have friends in town so I could split one of the big pizzas for our weekly Friday-night gatherings, and my friends Victoria and Steve often hosted potlucks. I drink a lot of coffee, so although I made my own pot each day, the food budget included many espressos each week. My food budget was pretty generous so if you cook at home, even cooking meat I think you could get by on 1000 pesos each week. I often bought organic veggies (expensive) at the Friday market in Sayulita, so the food budget is generous for a range of eating styles.

Getting From Here to There

My bicycle I used to ride around San Pancho!One of the perks of living in a one-street town is that you don’t need a whole lot of transportation! That being said, I chose to live on the far end of the main street very close the community center where I volunteered (and about a 10 minute walk from the beach). 10 minutes doesn’t seem like much, but in the scorching heat I was happy to have use of a bicycle from the family compound.

And for leaving San Pancho, Puerto Vallarta is about 45 minutes away and costs just a few dollars each way on the bus—this is the closest big city. Sayulita is a perfectly lovely small town (much bigger than mine though) and it was merely 20 minutes up the road. This ride costs $1 each way on the bus or a quick (and easy) hitchhike ride. Sayulita was perfect to have nearby if I needed to vary up my food, explore a bit, or just get out of town for a few hours. There are many other beaches driveable, some ruins, old stuff to look at, etc if you’re keen to explore. I worked a lot so my bike took me most anywhere I wanted to go.

Nightlife in San Pancho

mexican musicians

Dos Bertos y Las Musas play every Friday at Darjeeling during the high season in San Pancho, Mexico.

I am not a partier. Whew, glad we got that out of the way. Now, when I say that I have a low-budget for alcohol and partying you can adjust it up accordingly for yourself. San Pancho is a great town for nightlife if you like a bit of variety but nothing too crazy—no dance clubs but we did have two great bars and a lot of live music throughout the week. In fact, during high season there was live music at one of the bars or restaurants nearly every night.

One of the things I loved best about the town was that the pace of partying was a lot closer to what I prefer—everyone chilling, talking, listening to music, and enjoying company. Add to that some game nights at Victoria and Steve’s for Jungle Speed (had never heard of this game but it was fun and hilarious to play in a group), beach bonfires, and conversation …I felt like Goldilocks, San Pancho was just right.

Quality of Life in Mexico

hammockThis bit surprised me some, I knew that many Americans headed south of our border to live but I never really understood why until I stopped and spent four months on the Pacific coast taking in the truly stunning sunsets, the relaxed atmosphere and the affordable lifestyle. The only thing I expected but never found was the fear and danger.

I talked about danger last week and how our perceptions and reality are often skewed, and I think that is true of Mexico. While there are certainly dangerous places in Mexico, the country is huge, the people and cultures shift and change with the terrain and there are some surprisingly safe cities throughout the country if you know where to look (look to the blogosphere!).

I really loved the access to affordable healthcare (a bonus Thailand had as well), like-minded expats who I now call close friends, and a pace of life that encouraged me to slow down and enjoy the little moments. On the healthcare front, and safety and all that, expat friends even had a baby in Puerto Vallarta … showing even me that the perceptions and reality are different on the ground.

The short of it all is that Mexico proved more expensive at daily living than Thailand, but still at least half the rent I paid living in Los Angeles in my pre-travel days. And the flights to Mexico are far cheaper for North Americans. Although it wasn’t as cheap, I have continued to make Mexico a regular stop on my travels in the years since i lived in San Pancho. The plane flights are affordable, I speak the language, and I enjoy the culture. It’s a privilege to even have this ability, and I appreciate that Mexico has a lot to offer American expats. And likewise, many of these towns appreciate the influx of money and added services that come with expats moving to town.

It’s the sum total of it all that I love — by living outside the US I am able to scale back the hours I have to work each week to survive, and instead focus that attention on doing things I love: volunteering in the nearby community center, taking photographs, and having the time to enjoy the friendships I make. No place is perfect, but for $750 a month, nightly sunsets, lots of friends, and tasty tacos… I’ll return to Mexico soon. :)

Relevant Links and Resources for Moving to Mexico

  • Consider a good travel insurance policy like World Nomads to cover you while you’re either in transit visiting your future homes, or their insurance policies (coupled with Clements for personal belongings) work really well as long-term expat insurance too. I have used them both in tandem since 2008.
  • Read The People’s Guide to Mexico: Even if you’re a veteran Mexico traveler, this is hands-down the best guidebook you should use to understand the various regions, the cultural quirks, and all the reasons Mexico is a fantastic place to travel and live. It comes highly recommended by me, and by heaps of Amazon reviewers too.
  • Living in Guatemala: This eguide shares the cost of living and what it’s like in one of my favorite spots in Central America, Guatemala. Although different than Mexico’s expat scene, there are some very compelling reasons (great culture and affordability, to name two) to consider moving to Guate.
  • A Better Life for Half the Price: A Mexican expat breaks down all the major expat spots in the world with costs, quality of living, and resources. I learned heaps and found a couple countries I hadn’t previously considered. It’s worth buying if you’re still searching out which country is best for the life you want to live.
  • Getting Out: Your Guide to Leaving America: There are a lot of these general guides. The book above, Better Life is about where is a good culture fit, whereas this is the better of the lot of “move overseas” books that covers the practicalities and very hands-on information you need as someone considering living anywhere outside the U.S. If you’re new all the researching, this can kick-start your process. And if you are laser focused on the retirement topic, versus moving overseas at a different state in life, this retirement guide has great advice.
  • The Tax Book for U.S. Expats: This is well-priced and unique to expats and retirees filing abroad. It gives a granular look at forms, terms, and sorting out exactly how to file — good for those with complicated tax situations. More recently released, U.S. Taxes for Worldly Americans goes broader and is aimed at younger expats and digital nomads still working and handling how to earn income overseas, pay taxes, and live a nomadic life. It doesn’t explain the terms or niche situations/forms as well as the other book, but instead acts as a guide for younger travelers. Depending on your situation, pick up a copy of one of these guides before you leave so that you will have a tax system in place that maximizes the opportunities to easily file.
  • You’ll also want property insurance once you’re living overseas — I’ve used Clements for many years now.
  • Check out a Facebook group called “On the Road in Mexico” is a good place to ask questions of other expats.
  • And dig through the two solid Mexico expat forums here and here.

Other Mexico Cost of Living Posts

  • Couples apartment in San Pancho: A look at another rental property in town.
  • Couples full budget in San Pancho: My friends break down their joint expenses renting a small house in town.
  • Couples budget in Sayulita: A thorough breakdown of how much a apartment and life will cost in Sayulita, which is the larger town 20 minutes from San Pancho.
  • Two solo budgets in Playa del Carmen: Nomadic Notes and Wandering Earl break down costs on an east coast beach.
  • Couples budget for Play del Carmen: Simon and Erin live a bit more mid-range budget.
  • Family budget in Lake Chapala: While the site is no longer active, this archived version shares a family of three’s budget in the interior.
  • Thailand cost of living post: I reference this throughout and thought I’d provide a handy link if you’re keen to compare living costs.
  • Oaxaca City, Mexico. I haven’t written up this as a full detailed budget post, but I lived in Oaxaca for six months in 2016. The pace of life is different inland, and the city is at altitude (about the same as Denver). There is also a large expat community of snowbirds. There is a rich cultural and food history. I wrote a detailed guide to visiting Oaxaca. Budget-wise, my rent was half of rent in San Pacho and for more space. If you’re looking at long-term rentals (not the three-month apartment rentals that are quickly filled in winters by snowbirds), you can find a two-bedroom on the edge of Oaxaca Centro for less than USD $300. Food is affordable and the city has some of the most famous restaurants in the country.

San Pancho Travel and Visit Specifics

Airport to SP: Cheapest is the bus, by far. Taxis are going to run you a fair bit more. The bus makes a number of stops, but it’s not so bad. I had a friend who luckily was able to pick me up my first day, but after that I frequently made the trek into Puerta Vallarta via bus. Where ever you book for accommodation will also be able to arrange a taxi pick-up (sometimes for less than the going rate if you hail one) if you reach out beforehand. If you are already in the area, the bus is straightforward and takes 45 minutes to an hour from downtown PV.

Finding Accommodation: There are three tiers, the Hostel San Pancho if you don’t mind a shared-dorm; this is the most affordable option in town. Above the hostel is an affordable, very nice guesthouse called Refugio de Sol. Or Roberto’s Bungalows is boutique and just great — Earl and his wife run this place and they are simply fantastic and well linked into the expat community.

If you’re in Sayulita, my friends rented a nice place from Villas Vista Suites for three months— I would start there for online hunting. If you’re using Sayulita as your base, consider the Aurinko Bungalows or Casa Pia as a midrange option and then daytrip over to San Pancho. These all come recommended, and if you plan to move to the area they are a good base. From each you can rent a bicycle for the day or walk around town and you will see many signs for rent. You can also talk with local expats and ask around. With average Spanish, you will have no problem finding something in just a few days, especially if it’s low season (get there before November). If you don’t speak Spanish, or you came in high season, pop into the real estate agencies. They handle rentals too and are fantastic resources on any city mentioned. For a midrange hotel in Puerto Vallarta, look at Hotel Mercurio.

Working: There are some places that hire expats, though it’s under the table. To get these gigs you will definitely need to be in town and getting to know the people, places, and other expats. I know for sure that some friends worked at the mid-range and high end restaurants in SP or Sayulita. A few expats also taught English for a small stipend at Entre Amigos, the community center.

Other: For work and living, it really will be so much easier on the ground. It’s a very small town and the expat community is super supportive. It’s a cinch to get the lay of the land once you arrive. Places like Darjeeling have fantastic tea and food, and then live music throughout the week. SP is more low-key than Sayulita, but there is usually something to do 2-5 nights a week depending on the season, and then you can always go to Sayulita if you need more of a vibe sometimes.

Deciding Where to Live

In response to numerous emails asking about the differences between the handful of towns north of Puerto Vallarta, here’s a Cliff’s Notes summary of the differences in case you’re sussing out which is better for you. All three would have similar costs of living.  And then I include a couple other towns and thoughts in case you’re looking at other Mexican towns:

Bucerias: Sprawling, no defined downtown area, neighborhoods stacked behind a big road and a beach. Very close to the PV, several big resorts. Less heavy with expats than any other surrounding town. No defined personality.
Sayulita: Very small, beach is very crowded with surfers because the water is good for swimming, entirely walk-able within the town. Lots of restaurants, shops, a language school, etc. Touristy but a very clear personality with organic markets, yoga shops, surfers, etc. More of a nightlife than San Pancho (a later nightlife I should say).
San Pancho: Tiny, one main road, a handful of options for restaurants. One, sometimes two, coffee shops. Beach is gorgeous but not very safe for kids swimming (though some do) because of strong waves/undertow. Tight-knit group of expats, can’t leave home without seeing someone you know. Local kids have free reign of the whole town. Lots of musicians and something going on each night of the week in high season at one of the pubs/bars.
Guanajuato/San Miguel: In the interior, these two towns just exude pretty colonial charm. San Miguel del Allende is smaller and more popular with expats, while Guanajuato is a decent sized city with a great vibe, an affordable cost of living, and a decent-but-not-overwhelming expat community.
Oaxaca: I lived here for six months and found it is one of the most affordable expat cities in Mexico. The community is different than what you find in San Miguel or PV, it seems there are more opportunities to integrate into Mexican life. This is the food heart of Mexico, there are many indigenous cultures in and around the city, and the only real drawback is the political nature of the city — there are a lot of strikes and protests from the teachers unions and other groups.
Yucatan: Hugely popular with expats (and spring breakers), a bit pricier than the west coast, gorgeous beaches and diving. Very touristy region in general but convenient and safe.

Happy travels!

Cost of Living Comparison

Still researching the right spot to live? Our Cost of Living Guides share extensive resources or all the major expat spots around the world. These guides include thorough breakdowns of the culture, quality of life, vibe, and — importantly — budget breakdowns so you can better plan which spot in the world best meets your needs.

Cost of Living in Bali, Indonesia

cost of living costa rica

mexico cost of living

thailand cost of living

Cost of Living Guide for Amsterdam & Berlin

Cost of Living in Eastern Europe

panama cost of living

cost of living Vietnam

If there is ever anything that I can do to help, please do reach out on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and let’s talk about how we can make your travel dream a reality.

180 Responses to A Little Expat Living… Cost of Living in a Mexican Beach Town (2017)

  1. Heather January 4, 2018 at 6:14 pm #

    This post is *really* thorough! Thank you for that. When it comes to Mexico, I’m definitely on board with Costa Rica being more expensive…but you *can* drink the water which is nice. The food is definitely more expensive than Asia! I’m all about the small towns, and I also don’t party much so maybe San Pancho is next for me…? :)

    • Shannon January 6, 2018 at 1:46 pm #

      Very true about the water — sometimes it’s really nice to know you can go to your tap and fill up without worry! San Pancho has a truly great vibe if you like small towns. :)

  2. Bill Brooks December 27, 2017 at 3:21 pm #

    Hi Shannon,
    Im from Houston.. I was wandering if you think there may be opptys for americans to live there & get into a little business or sell real estate & if so where do you suggest would be the ideal spot?


    Bill Brooks

    • Shannon December 28, 2017 at 6:16 pm #

      Hard to say Bill, this is certainly not my area of expertise. I know that local real estate agents have a few more roles in the community, in that they also negotiate rentals and such. Certainly there are many real estate agencies, even in tiny towns, and certainly in some of the more affluent expat communities. Consider floating this question in some of the Facebook groups linked in the post as they might have other ideas. Cheers, ~S

  3. DIANE December 24, 2017 at 11:54 am #

    Hi Shannon,
    My dream is to travel the world in 3 years, I was planning to travel with my husband but unfortunately our relationship ended recently. I guess now I am a new solo traveler.!!

    For my first solo trip (it iwill be only 2 weeks since i am still full time working) , i need a mixture of quiet and safe place to rejuvenate in jungle or a tropical environement for maybe a week and then another week near a quiet beach to relax and visiting the area. It could be 2 different places in the same country. I am thinking of Mexico or Central/ South America or Carribean. (I am Canadian) . It will be my first time solo, so I am scared to start but I need to break the ice. I could deal with local travel agency as well. If I could meet expats on my way it would be great !

    Do you have any idea where I can go or refer me to interesting blog or websites ? I am lost on the Web (too many web sites) . I am a 55 years old woman, I speak french and english. Few words in Spanish.
    Thank you so much for your help.
    Your blog is FANTASTIC !

    • Shannon December 30, 2017 at 1:50 pm #

      Hi Diane! So glad that you’ve found my site helpful as you plan your upcoming travels. Your first solo trip is a biggie, and I understand your hesitation to dive in when there are so many sites and so much information. Mexico or Costa Rica could both make for exactly the type of experience that you are looking for. As a first-time solo traveler, there are some parts of Mexico that you might want to steer clear of as navigating well takes a bit of travel savvy that only comes with time on the road. For that reason, I recommend that you look to the Yucatan — it has some incredible beaches, and jungles in the center with Mayan ruins… truly an abundance of opportunity and I love the region so much that I took my nephews there on a three-week road-trip (I wrote up a guide to what we did here http://alittleadrift.com/countries/yucatan-mexico/ and a photo journey of it here: http://alittleadrift.com/yucatan-mexico-kids/). It was really a wonderful experience and I know I would have equally enjoyed that route solo.

      My other thought is that Costa Rica would surely make for an excellent first-time experience. There is lush rainforest throughout, but also amazing quiet beach towns too. I don’t have a CR guide, but I think you could plan a great trip using the information on these two sites: https://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-guides/costa-rica-travel-tips/ and https://www.twoweeksincostarica.com/costa-rica-your-2-week-itinerary/

  4. A.S December 22, 2017 at 12:04 pm #

    Shannon, do you have any knowledge surrounding keeping horses in Mexico (either in the areas you experienced or otherwise?) My fiancée is a Mexican national and we are prepared to move to Mexico if things don’t work out immigration-wise in the US. I have been a horseperson all my life and if we end up moving, having horses nearby, access to riding facilities or have the ability to keep them is extremely important. I would fit right in working in a tourist-type facility, which would be ideal. My fiancée is from a remote town in Chiapas and doesn’t have much knowledge to offer. Any insights or connections?

    • Shannon December 23, 2017 at 4:29 pm #

      Interesting question, and not one where I will have a lot of firm ideas here as it’s a bit outside of my wheelhouse. I know that if you are bringing your own horses to Mexico then you will face a barrage of paperwork and vaccines before they can enter — it would likely cost a bit of money and be a headache, but would be fully doable. If you are hoping to buy and keep a horse, I can’t imagine you having much of an issue with that, especially in the smaller cities where there are many farms and such just outside the city. Many farmers and people on the outskirts of the city own horses, and you could surely find a way to stable a horse with a local family if your house/apartment wasn’t ideal.

      Then there will also be quirky situations and opportunities that are harder to find but certainly exist. When I lived in San Pancho, which is just north of Puerto Vallarta, there was a Polo Club in the town with active polo matches and such. That’s the sort of place where you could perhaps find work. Or if you look into towns that run horseback riding tours and experiences for tourists, then you would also be finding the cities in Mexico that have horses, stables, and touristy areas where you would perhaps find both work and a chance to be near horses.

      Some expats also start their own tour companies — find a house with a small stable, run horse treks and such for tourists in an area with pretty locations but not a lot of English-language tourism yet. Horses are still integral to the way that many Mexicans run their farms, so there is absolutely a horse culture that you can tap into once you are there.

      I suggest that you also join some of the Mexico expat forums and ask around. Even if you don’t find expats owning horses, many will have insight about if there are stables in their town/city.

      Hope that helps generate some ideas! Best of luck,


  5. Dennis Hassler November 20, 2017 at 11:18 am #

    Guanajuato is a wonderful place, but I prefer beach resort towns or university towns where there’s cultural and infrastructure. Guanajuato is a very nice place I’d recommend. The small towns are economical, but most are very primitive in infrastructure and with limited activities, but you are appreciated more in those places. Certainly, smaller towns are cheaper, because they don’t have a lot to spend your money on and restaurants are more questionable. I like active places like Puerto Vallarta where there’s modern conveniences and more choices. For expats, most would be more comfortable in a more modern infrastructure. I’d estimate small town living at $1,000/mo. or less and living in P.V. may be $2-3,000 per month depending on how busy your lifestyle may be; however, you can live cheap everywhere in Mexico given a moderate distance from the tourist centers. There may be some crime anywhere you go, but I find it much more limited than news reports announce – one tiny crime in Mexico involving a tourist is broadcast everywhere when crimes back home get little notice – so many are misinformed. Keep in mind: Tourists or expats are treasured in Mexico and get excellent protection especially in the resorts – they don’t want bad publicity and they want tourists to enjoy their visits – some places a major part of the economy is tourism and they protect that business with some locations actually having special police to assist tourists – they are amazingly accommodating if you have any incident and will assist you if any vendor cheats you, too, so you should feel very comfortable in Mexico, but avoid any cities or towns with higher crime rates. In Mexico, there’s much diversity from one town to the next, so select a town where you feel comfortable.

    • Shannon November 20, 2017 at 2:54 pm #

      Thank you for sharing your experiences and offering up so much detail for others who are looking to move to Mexico but aren’t sure which spots are the best fit for their situation. Like you, I deeply love the coastal areas and beach towns, although there are some incredibly charming small towns too Thanks again for weighing in!

  6. Samantha Taylor November 4, 2017 at 8:06 am #

    Thank you Shannon, I am really loving your blog posts! Excellent detail and good for planning some long adventures around the world! xxx

    • Tom Sy November 19, 2017 at 1:57 pm #

      Your blog is very helpful. Thank you. My daughter (33, ESL teacher) and I (67, retired USA prof) are thinking about residing in Mexico. We have recently lived in Ethiopia and Ecuador. Some questions: 1. Living in Ecuador was difficult for me from a language standpoint. Very few Ecuadorians speak English- not even the vast majority of university professors- and it’s tough with only basic Spanish skills. Is Mexico different? I am working on my Spanish, but as a senior citizen, it’s slow. (My daughter is nearly fluent.) 2. We have heard good things about Pachuca, north of Mexico City, with a low cost of living and a vibrant culture. Any thoughts? Thanks. Tom

      • Shannon November 20, 2017 at 10:50 am #

        Hi Tom! Good questions. The language barrier really depends on where you move. I lived in a beachy expat town one season, and there were so many expats that it was easy to have a social life all in English if you want. But when I moved to Oaxaca, vendors and life all take place in Spanish, so it’s best to learn it. I don’t know a lot about Pachuca since I haven’t been, but I think it’s a small town with a very local feel (meaning speaking decent Spanish is ideal). You could start out living in an expat hub like San Miguel de Allende, where there is a massive community of retirees and expats, you could even take language lessons (they have a lot of options), and then use that to get familiarized and attuned to Mexico, then look at some of the smaller towns.

  7. BL October 24, 2017 at 6:10 pm #

    I am looking at Alamos, Mexico because its a small town, and Huffington Post says its a nice place to ex-pat. What do you thing, Shannon?

    • Shannon October 25, 2017 at 9:27 am #

      Hmm, that is an interesting question. I don’t know anyone there, but it seems like in the last couple of years there has been a bit of coverage about it (and some people saying it has a tight-knit expat community, which is a strong plus). I don’t know anyone that I can put you in touch with, but this post does link to some expat groups on Facebook, and there are Mexico expat forums too — perhaps you can ask around in there and see if members of the Alamos expat community are there, ask questions, etc before you go there for an exploratory trip. From the few things I just read about it, it hits on all the things I love in an expat spot — small and walkable downtown, opportunities to engage with and volunteer in the local community, and good local food!

  8. Mauricio October 22, 2017 at 4:09 am #

    Hi Shannon. I, unlike you, I am a retired, I’m 57 and I still live in Italy. My knowledge of Spanish and English is limited. I have many illnesses and I do not have the driving license. I can not even use the bicycle. I would like to go to Mexico for an exploratory trip, only in villages or small towns on the coast. I have to breathe the sea air and do a lot of swim. I hate hostels, I do not have the character to be with other people. I would prefer to stay in a small apartment, a French bed, a bathroom and a living room with kitchenette, is just enough. As I love lush nature and palm trees on the beach and not mass tourism, would you advise me, a village or a place where I can get close to you? ideal would be to have near the beach, supermarkets and some bars and restaurants. (translation with Bing Translator)

    • Shannon October 23, 2017 at 12:36 pm #

      Hi Mauricio. I think the town that I stayed in would be ideal for you. San Pancho is small, with one store but many restaurants and a few coffee shops. There are a very good number of retirees there and nearby, so you would have a good community available. (It is called San Francisco on the map, but locals call it San Pancho: https://goo.gl/maps/HmSs22aFWeQ2 ) And near San Pancho is a town called Sayulita, which is a little big bigger and has a few more amenities (it’s only 20 minutes from San Pancho and you could use a taxi to easily get between the two towns). There is also a bus that runs toward Puerto Vallarta where there are big grocery stores and everything you could possibly need (that is about an 40 minutes to one hour away). If you go to San Pancho, you should rent a room at Robertos Bungalows (http://robertosbungalows.com) — he is an expat and the rooms are clean and very comfortable in the western style, and just two blocks from the beach. He knows everyone in town and could help you understand the town, the people, and how to rent a place longer-term.

      If you are looking for the other coast, the Gulf and the Caribbean, then the Yucatan Peninsula is a good choice. There are many, many expats living in the area. Tulum is one option. It is touristy but many food and drink options, expats, etc. Puerto Morelos is another option. Both Tulum and Puerto Morelos are medium-sized beach towns, not too small and you can find good food and drink options — go further down the coast to Mahahual for a much smaller town that is more similar to San Pancho — nice local feel, a few good restaurants, and a slow pace of life near the beach. For a tiny island life, Isla Holbox is one option, Isla Mujeres is nearby and bigger/more touristy if you want more development. If you are interested in smaller towns, you could rent a car and do a road trip of the Yucatan to find one that feels right for what you want.

      Good luck!

  9. Dan October 18, 2017 at 5:16 pm #

    Just curious about air conditioning…do you use it? We would absolutely have to have it! I’ve heard it is pro rated mad at some point jumps way high.

    • Shannon October 18, 2017 at 5:37 pm #

      No, I’ve never really used AC while living there — I have never rent a place with heat and air (I am a native Floridian so have fared OK… and winter high season in some places is downright cold — I wished for a heater when it was low 40s in Oaxaca for ages). Locals though are obsessed with turning out lights and lowering the electric bill. My landlords have always asked me to be very conscious of it, so I believe that the price can be very dear. I would ask around in the expat groups for people to share their specific costs. (When renting a hotel with AC, it’s usually a tad less than double the nightly rate without it).

  10. carlos October 5, 2017 at 4:16 pm #

    Whe is there a “$0” in the budget for electricity / water.? I didn’t see any mention in the article about that. Do you not have power? Or is it included in your rent? Thanks.

    • Shannon October 5, 2017 at 6:41 pm #

      Ah, good question! Both of those were included in my rent. And, in fact, they have always been included in my rent even in other areas of Mexico. I tend to rent furnished apartments, and I think it’s less often included in houses and non-furnished places.

  11. Paul S Essex September 29, 2017 at 4:43 pm #

    Hi Shannon and thank you so much for your wonderful blog! Please suggest with the knowledge you have learned between the pros and cons in Thailand versus Mexico?

    I will do the same, in Thailand or Mexico?
    I suppose the best fit and comfort level with cost of living intertwined are huge considerations and I would appreciate your insight between the two countries?

    Thank you for your insight and always the best to you, Shannon!
    Respectfully, Paul

    • Shannon September 30, 2017 at 10:19 am #

      That’s a good question, should you choose to live inThailand or Mexico? Having spent more than a year in both countries, the both have different pros.

      – Mexico often gets a slight vote in favor because of the closer language and cultural similarities. And if you keep ties to the U.S., you will spend far less on flights and visits home every year, which can add up a lot when it’s more than a grand round trip every time to you go from the U.S. to Asia.
      – Thailand is safer than Mexico, in general.
      – They are both very popular expat spots. There are large communities of expats all throughout Mexico, and in a handful of key towns in Thailand. Some places are quieter spots with fewer expats and tourists, others offer vibrant and active communities of expats at every age range (not sure what type of community you are after.
      – For all the similarities in what type of communities you can find, after 1.5 years in Thailand, I understood that the culture gap would be nearly impossible to bridge in Thailand. Even if you immerse and learn the local language, you may never become a part of the community fully. There is a divide there. I had Thai friends, and some of them good friends, but there’s a insular nature to the community that is under the surface that I found insurmountable in many ways. And the motivations for some of the expats for being in Thailand aren’t hugely compatible with my own lifestyle. This distance was surely there and very present in every expat spot in Thailand.
      – For Thailand, you would need to prove a certain retirement income (you can look this up), and then it’s mostly a cinch to get the residency/retirement visa. If you aren’t at retirement age, actual residency is a tad more complicated.
      – Mexico is more complicated and has a far wider range of expat spots, communities, and lifestyles. There are very safe spots, the Yucatan being one of them. Merida is as safe as Thailand, and has a small expat scene, enough to enjoy but you can also immerse. Towns like Ajijic are nearly entirely Western retirees. Cities like Oaxaca offer more immersion and intercultural experiences. Compared to Thailand, Spanish is easier to learn, and in general, as I noted, I favor Mexico from a cultural point of view as a place to live — as a Westerner the culture aligns more easily and I found it more comfortable on that level.

      Those are my thoughts! Good luck. :)

  12. Andrey March 19, 2017 at 1:42 pm #

    Very informative! Not sure if this applies to your case, but did you pay any one-time costs to establish residency in Mexico? Did you use a law firm?

    • Shannon June 11, 2017 at 6:27 pm #

      I did not establish residency, I never need to stay for longer than the six months, so I always enter on a tourist visa and then leave for months or years. I know that others who buy property do use lawyers to keep it all straight and have the ability to easily live there year round!

  13. Ryan February 22, 2017 at 6:29 pm #

    Hi Shannon

    In April I’m planning on traveling from Mexico all the way down to Chile. My current work situation allows me to work remotely and I want to really take advantage of that. Plus the fact that Central and South America are pretty much on the same time zone as the US (give or take an hour or so) makes it possible for me to do this. Otherwise I would have already gone back to live and work in SE Asia had it not been for the time difference. In terms of Mexico I was planning on flying into Mexico City, then venturing up to Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende. After that, then making my way down to Oaxaca (Zipolite), and San Cristobal de las Casas. Initially I did have plans to basically start in Sayulita and then make my way to Mexico City. But lately I have considered skipping Sayulita and just start in Mexico City. My reasoning behind this is I look at Sayulita kind of being out of the way. Because I would have to fly into PV, then take a bus up to Sayulita….then when I want to leave for Mexico City I will have a 10 – 12 hour bus ride.I just figured I would run into just as nice beaches down in Oaxaca. Do you think this is a bad idea and that Sayulita is not to be missed?

  14. Dennis Hassler February 18, 2017 at 7:51 pm #

    Another comment: I have read Shannon’s articles before and thought about her driving down the coastal Hwy. to Rincon de Guayabitos – laughed at her living in Asia without a stove – living economically and enjoying the important things in life and off the treadmill many are addicted to – it’s definitely an education to enjoy those experiences – though I’d love to visit with her and share stories – amazing experiences. And, for us experienced travelers with a love of cultures, even the bad stories seem to have happy endings…..

  15. chris bennett February 6, 2017 at 3:58 pm #

    Hey there. I just got done reading your article on living in Mexico. Great article. Im really intrigued by maybe moving there now. I live in the Southeast and i love warm weather but if you have ever been to the south i winter there isn’t much sun and it can get pretty cold. Anyway i was writing to ask your opinion. I am in a wheelchair and i was going to ask your opinion on how handicap accessible Mexico is. I was wondering specifically about the cities and towns you lived in. In the winter it can be hard to get around in a wheelchair if it snows. I dont have to live exactly on the beach but living close to one would be ideal. Being that I’m disabled it has been hard for me to find a job but even on my disability insurance check it sounds like i might be able to live comfortably in Mexico. Maybe if i needed to get a job i could get one from one of the American companies moving down there. I know your not an expert on disability issues but id figured id ask you anyway about the accessibilty of Mexico and the places you lived while there. thanks for the info and your opinion. take care.

  16. Alex Strong January 26, 2017 at 8:47 pm #

    which is the best beach town in mexico to live with fast internet ?

    • Shannon O'Donnell January 26, 2017 at 10:51 pm #

      Hi Alex, it’s really a tough call, they all have internet. PV or Bucerias would have it year-round, and in San Pancho there are times the town is without power for a few days because of summer storms. My advice is to join those expat Facebook groups that I linked to and ask your question there. Then, go visit the towns and get a feel for them as you might just like the vibe in some better than others.

  17. james young January 24, 2017 at 6:42 pm #

    I own a condo in Vallarta, and have for years, my plan is to move there before I’m too old. I love Mexico, for those haters in the US, they have no idea that unlike the people in the US, they are not profit driven in everything they do. In fact I was welcomed to a rooftop party down on the Melacon, and I was treated like they have known me forever. The past 15 years I have been going back and forth to Puerto Vallarta, they have a love of life that US citizens don’t.

    • Shannon O'Donnell January 24, 2017 at 9:28 pm #

      Thanks a great point James, there is a completely different vibe once you get to Mexico. They have a sense of community that isn’t nearly as pervasive in the U.S. — I can completely understand why you plan to make PV your base.

  18. RAJ January 22, 2017 at 7:11 am #

    Does any one tell me about staying in new mexico state in view of following points?
    1. How much money would be required per month for family (per three members)?
    2. Safety
    3. climate
    4. Expenses (i.e. house rent, food, transportation and entertainment) as compared to other states in USA.

    • Shannon O'Donnell January 22, 2017 at 9:07 am #

      Hi Raj, living costs in New Mexico in the USA will vary a lot depending on where you decide to live (city or rural). Generally, New Mexico is far more affordable than living in states like California or New York. For an idea of costs, I recommend that you look up rents for apartments or houses using a site like Zillow (http://www.zillow.com/). That will give you an idea of the lowest and highest possible rents, and you can then scale up from there depending on where you fall on the spectrum. Good luck with your research!

  19. Shannon O'Donnell January 13, 2017 at 10:55 am #

    That’s a great video. And Lo De Marcos is a bit further even than my town, and it’s the distance from Puerto Vallarta that also helps keep the costs low. During high season it can be hard to find really affordable rentals anywhere, but if you time it right (at the beginning of the expat season, which is Sept/Oct) then you can surely find affordable places that you can negotiate for a good price since you’d be renting long-term. Best of luck!

  20. ExecutorOffice November 20, 2016 at 8:02 pm #

    State of Veracruz with the Aztecs / Nawatl is nice – mountains with awesome views of Pico Orizaba. Sonoran desert has its charms – views of distant mountains, saguaro, crunchy sand , Sea of Cortez, cheap living in small towns such as Ejido del Desierto….if you don’t mind the occasional shootouts between the Coyotes and Cartel.

  21. grantania October 16, 2016 at 10:31 pm #

    This is great stuff. I’m not really looking into beach towns, but I am looking into a move to Mexico and have checked out Guanajuato, SMA, Dolores Hidalgo, and Zacatecas. Thanks for this.

    • Shannon O'Donnell October 16, 2016 at 11:06 pm #

      So glad you found it useful! I’ve only traveled through Guanajuato and SMA, but I know several expats who split their winters between SMA and Oaxaca (Oaxaca is where I wintered last year for six months).

Leave a Reply