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. Erin April 12, 2014 at 3:39 am #

    Would you mind sharing some information on career choices that allow you to live abroad and work? That is, if you don’t mind sharing. Perhaps it’s come up when you talk with other expats you meet as well? I’m very interested in a career choice that would allow me to live like this! Thank you for your time, and for the awesome blog!

  2. Lynn March 10, 2014 at 12:45 pm #

    Thanks for sharing, very helpful posts! Any small towns in the Yucatan you can recommend?

    • Shannon March 10, 2014 at 1:02 pm #

      Playa del Carmen is popular with expats, though it is a good deal larger than the town I was in! Perhaps you could start there and find a small town nearby but still accessible to the amenities in Playa or Cancun.

  3. John Scherber February 4, 2014 at 5:25 pm #

    But don’t overlook the colonial interior, where the climate is often more manageable all year than the beach. My wife and I chose San Miguel de Allende six
    years ago for its combination of climate, culture and the basic warmth of its
    people. I became interested in the process of becoming an expat and wrote a
    book based on conversations with 32 Americans and Canadians who had also made
    the move. It’s mainly a way of getting inside their heads. It’s called San
    Miguel de Allende: A Place in the Heart. Here’s a link to an excerpt on my

    • Shannon O'Donnell February 4, 2014 at 9:04 pm #

      San Miguel was beautiful! I spent just a week in Guanajuato and SMA, and I wished I had longer. Thanks for sharing your excerpt, and safe travels. :)

  4. Robert Woods January 25, 2014 at 8:41 am #

    Been single for a long time. Just looking for a different life. Can only afford this much for a new start. 50 and looking to be happy again. If you really think this is the answer, I await your reply.

    • Shannon O'Donnell January 25, 2014 at 12:59 pm #

      Only you know if this is a good choice, but there are a some gorgeous towns in Mexico with great expats — many retired — and I loved my time there and am thinking of returning long-term. Best of luck with the transition :)

  5. dylanstefan January 3, 2014 at 8:09 am #

    if you are currently in Chiang Mai I would like to meet you.

    • Shannon O'Donnell January 3, 2014 at 11:58 am #

      So sorry to say I am not there right now, though I do miss it much. Hope you enjoy your time in the city. :)

  6. Renee November 22, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

    I’m super late here, but thanks so much for linking to us Shannon! Wow, this is an incredibly informative post that’s making me want to move to the beach. We miss Asia, but you nailed it on Mexico’s dreamy 6-month renewable tourist visa. FYI since I penned that last budget post we’ve moved to a bungalow in an ecohotel where we’re paying $375 a month including all utilities and internet. TIme for a new budget post. :-) Thanks again…

    • Shannon O'Donnell November 23, 2013 at 3:07 am #

      That’s a great deal on your bungalow, you’re making me want to come live nearby! It would definitely be worth another budget post because I know the perceived expense are a reason so many families decide not to travel. Cheers and hope you have a wonderful weekend! :)

      • Renee — RambleCrunch December 3, 2013 at 1:24 pm #

        Truthfully I wonder how so many families can afford NOT to live abroad. :-)

  7. Jim November 5, 2013 at 12:07 pm #

    Hello, did my comment get posted?

    • Shannon O'Donnell November 5, 2013 at 12:11 pm #

      This seems to be the only comment that came through right now? So sorry if it got lost! :)

  8. alifeofblue October 13, 2013 at 1:43 pm #

    Heya Shannon

    I just got to San Pancho and might look into a long term rental as well. Any idea where I could start to ask?

    Thanks for your awesome post!

    Greetings from here

    • Shannon O'Donnell October 13, 2013 at 2:07 pm #

      Your best bet is to walk around and look for signs on the doors and houses — there are usually a good number of them. Ask at the shops, and ask the expats who hang out at sunset if they know of anyone looking to rent. That’s the best way. If you’re keen to have help, there are also some real estate people there who can set you up with a long-term rental! :)

  9. Pedro Chavez September 12, 2013 at 12:39 pm #

    I’m mexican and I’ve never been to that side of Jalisco/Nayarit, closest being Guadalajara. I would urge to try my homestate’s beach towns since they are one of the mos beautiful ones on the country. Whenever you can go visit Sonora. It has the best oceanic view in the world, as per NatGeo, in San Carlos, but there are other places you can visit, like Bahia de Kino, Puerto Peñasco, or Rocky Point, as Arizonians call it, or Huatabampito and it’s really a lot closer to the US. Just a few hour by car. I’ll definitely go to San Pancho one day albeit just on a quick get away vacation. Cheers, Pedro. :)

  10. Katie O'Grady August 29, 2013 at 11:34 am #

    Hi Shannon! Wanted to stop in and say hello from San Pancho!
    Love your blog and have started one of my own, Los O’Gradys in Mexico.
    Have also had the joy of getting to know Erin from New York from the wonders of online communications! It was a pleasure meeting you when you were here in our neck of the woods and hope this finds you well! Looking forward to making my way through your awesome posts!
    Katie O’Grady :-)

    • Shannon O'Donnell August 29, 2013 at 2:15 pm #

      Congrats on the new blog Katie! I am heading over now to check it out — I love the name :) Also really glad you and Erin were able to connect — hopefully later this fall too once she moves down there. I am plotting and planning when I might be able to head back to SP, but for now I will catch up on it vicariously through you! :)

  11. Carlos August 14, 2013 at 11:36 am #

    What a brilliant post! I’m a Mexican living in London. Last year I went to Puerto Vallarta and Sayulita for holidays and I loved them! Next time I’ll make sure to visit San Pancho :) Excellent attitude and great experiences. I also like that you have no silly prejudices, I know Mexicans with more prejudices about Mexico which is ridiculous. Thank you!

  12. Anglo Italian July 8, 2013 at 5:23 am #

    Thanks for sharing with us, at least if we ever make it to Mexico we have an idea on how much it might cost us. :)

    • ShannonOD July 8, 2013 at 7:47 am #

      Glad you enjoyed it! If you’re traveling it’s a different dynamic, but still a surprisingly great quality of life and costs! Safe travels :)

  13. John Cain July 2, 2013 at 10:54 pm #

    I love how the rent isn’t too much more than the cost of food, that’s always nice. Anyways, great informative post!

    • ShannonOD July 2, 2013 at 11:57 pm #

      Thanks John! That’s always a good benchmark for me too, thanks for stopping in and safe travels! :)

  14. Tim Horgan July 1, 2013 at 1:09 am #

    It’s amazing how much opportunity exists in the developing world. People pay top dollar to live ion the middle of a city when they could be comfortably in paradise for a bargain

    • ShannonOD July 1, 2013 at 11:37 am #

      So true Tim, and while I love cities like NYC for a visit, the quality of life if you’re willing to look further afield can be stellar! :)

  15. Lionel June 26, 2013 at 3:42 pm #

    You Americans are awesome : I’m an Euro guy (older) and I’m actually *flabbergasted* witnessing the ease you have with the Internet, you have a knack for working up all the technological intricacies for creating lively , interesting , inspirational blogs : so kudos to you miss Shannon, and don’t forget to pay a visit to the *hidden pearl*of Bahia de Banderas: Yelapaaaaa!!!!!!

    • ShannonOD July 1, 2013 at 11:38 am #

      Thank you so much Lionel, I really appreciate your kind words and I’ll see if I can make it that way soon. Cheers and happy travels :)

  16. Paul June 25, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

    This is an immensely helpful post. Thanks for sharing Shannon!

    Quick question: What’s the availability of spanish and/or surfing lessons like? Are there locals in SP willing to teach either, or would I have more luck going to a slightly bigger city?

    • ShannonOD June 25, 2013 at 6:08 pm #

      Sayulita (which is 20 mins by bus and a bigger town, but by no means a big city) has tons of surfing and rentals and much gentler waves to learn on than SP. With the language lessons, there are some group classes at the community center in SP during high season, but the bigger schools are all near Sayulita as well. And from what I hear from friends, the costs of the two are very similar, Sayulita is more touristy, but has way more restaurants and coffee shops that SP (SP has one, sometimes two coffee shops; Sayulita has a handful). So, it’s a good option if you like the sound of the region but what a bit more nightlife and activities. :)

  17. Antonio June 23, 2013 at 8:24 am #

    Hi Shannon! So nice to meet you here. I came across your blog by way
    of trying to decide between San Pancho and Sayulita. However (for
    starters) price is a concern for me right. So needless to say, I was
    hoping that you may know of a place somewhere there in San Pancho (with
    decent internet) somewhere in the price-range of the $375 that you
    mentioned (or no more than $550) yes? :D

    • ShannonOD June 23, 2013 at 4:07 pm #

      Hi Antonio! There are some big differences between the two towns, SP is very small and has fewer retaurants, coffee shops, etc, where as Sayulita is a lot more touristy. But, SP has a great community, and often expats from each town hang out in the other, etc. For the place I stayed, shoot me an email and I can give some more details. And if you plan to arrive in off-season you could easily find something great by showing up! :)

      • Antonio June 25, 2013 at 3:45 pm #

        Hi Shannon and thanks for your prompt response. That would be great. Also, I was trying to find your email here and
        didn’t readily find it. However, I would love more details about where
        you stayed. Perhaps you could email me at reyolmeca@gmail.com I look
        forward to hearing back from you. And thank you for being willing to

  18. Celia June 22, 2013 at 6:49 am #

    Oh my Gooood… LOVED this!! I can’t believe how I can afford to live in Denmark! Damn. How do people afford NOT to travel!? :D

    • ShannonOD June 22, 2013 at 6:25 pm #

      I cannot even imagine how it compares to Denmark, which is high on my list of places to visit but only when I have some more cash to spend since I know it’s insanely priced compared to the places I usually travel! :)

      • Celia June 23, 2013 at 7:12 am #

        Ohh, you don’t want to know. ;) We’re really doing an insane job keeping our monthly budget under $2,000 a month for two people. I don’t think I know anyone else who does that! :S And we used to have an apartment, which is WAY cheaper than hotels here. Lol.
        We’re writing an ebook about visiting Denmark and keeping costs low! If your interested, I will update you when it’s done! :D
        Hope you get a chance to visit our country one day. It IS beautiful (in the summer) and worth a visit. :)

        • ShannonOD June 23, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

          Yikes, that is steep! But, one day I am going to make it to Denmark so I would love you to keep me posted on your guide :)

  19. Alana - Paper Planes June 20, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

    I’ve been hearing more and more about San Pancho recently and I’m pretty sure I would love it… I also did a post recently about the cost of living in Thailand/Chiang Mai and it’s by far been one of the most popular – once you realize there are places out there that present this type of lifestyle to you it’s hard to ignore them!

    • ShannonOD June 21, 2013 at 2:19 pm #

      Glad that you are enjoying CM as well! SP is a LOT different than CM but if you did the small town feel of the inside the moat area than it sort of has that feel, plus there are bigger amenities nearby SP in the other cities. Hope to see you that way next time I am there! :)

  20. Savi and Vid June 20, 2013 at 9:59 am #

    Thanks a ton for this Shannon- very useful indeed :-)

  21. Erohisms June 20, 2013 at 7:22 am #

    Thanks for sharing Shannon! We’re trying to prove to our friends back home in the states that we can travel for $1000/month per person. It’s surprisingly affordable once you are in a region and as you point out–even more affordable when you stay in one place.

    • ShannonOD June 20, 2013 at 9:49 am #

      I hope this helps you show them that others are doing it too — and $1000 is a great price to shoot for, especially with two people if you budget well. I have always found that was a good monthly price tag for traveling in Asia, and I was surprised that it worked for Mexico as well! :)

  22. Carmel & Shawn June 19, 2013 at 11:49 am #

    This is so great. I feel like Mexico is calling my name…not right now, but eventually.

    • ShannonOD June 19, 2013 at 9:47 pm #

      It really is a great place to spend some time, hope you make it there soon! :)

  23. Jo June 19, 2013 at 12:44 am #

    I got into a hot debate with an American guy in a hostel in Hawaii about how dangerous Mexico is (obviously he’d never been and was basing his view on popular news presentation of the country). I spent 5 months in Playa Del Carmen last year and lived what I considered to be the life of luxury for a fraction of the cost I’d spend in London. And there was sunshine in abundance (something we rarely get in England!). It is definitely a corner of the world I will return to for an extended stay – it’s helpful to see your costs. I spent a bit more, but I’m partial to the occasional cold beer :)

    • ShannonOD June 19, 2013 at 8:31 am #

      That sounds so frustrating Jo, especially if he had never visited but was trying to assert his opinion. I traveled the Yucatan a bit a few years ago and it felt really safe and there are so many people living there without incident (only minor traffic bribery and such from the police), so I am glad to hear you had a positive experience on that side — I am considering that coast when I head back, like you, I do love some sunshine! :)

      • Jo June 20, 2013 at 12:11 am #

        I often find that the way – the people with the least experience have the biggest opinions, especially on the topic of Mexico and safety. I seriously didn’t encounter a single problem. I love the water in the Yucatan – it’s the colour dreams are made of and so calm (love the Pacific Coast of Mexico but we kept falling out when the water regularly tried to steal my bikini with its ferocity). If you get out to Yucatan and want some food tip (beyond the super touristy streets), get in contact!

        • Lionel June 26, 2013 at 3:49 pm #

          did you swim in the cenotes? it’s awesome!(near Tulum)

          • Jo June 26, 2013 at 10:56 pm #

            Ah, the cenotes – sooo beautiful. Sat in 35 degree heat in Vietnam, I wish I could take a dip in one right now :)

  24. Bridges and Balloons June 19, 2013 at 12:10 am #

    Aw, every time I read something about San Pancho, it makes me so desperate to go back! Miss you and SP. Very useful post.I think Steve and I spent a bit more, which I blame on Cielo Rojo and its incredibly tempting breakfasts.

  25. Sky Fisher June 18, 2013 at 8:58 pm #

    I was literally just getting ready to email you about the cost of Mexico and beach town recommendations when I stopped by your blog and found this post. Talk about perfect timing! :)

    This is very helpful as I was considering San Pancho as one of the towns I was considering to go spend time in for my little writing retreat.

    • ShannonOD June 18, 2013 at 11:42 pm #

      Looking forward to your email Sky, I love this idea of your writing retreat in Mexico :)

  26. Marlayna Glynn Brown June 18, 2013 at 5:04 pm #

    Thanks! Very helpful article, especially since I’m headed toward Mexico after I leave Cabarete, Dominican Republic. Thanks for the details. :)

    • ShannonOD June 18, 2013 at 11:42 pm #

      Glad you found it helpful Marlayna, have you been living in DR or traveling?

      • Marlayna Glynn Brown June 19, 2013 at 8:19 am #

        I’ve been a year on the road this June. As a writer, I’m happily embracing the nomadic life and work style. DR is the place I’m semi-settling into for a time and have just rented my first apt. for a few months likely. Next I head to Mexico and start threading my way down thru Central and South America. Love your tips and posts – they’re very helpful for my future.

        • ShannonOD June 19, 2013 at 8:29 am #

          Wow, that sounds great. You are actually the first traveler I know stopping in DR so you have me really intrigued! Would love to know how it compares to Mexico when you move on :)

          • Marlayna Glynn Brown June 19, 2013 at 8:41 am #

            There is a whole community of us here – which hasn’t been so great for me to practice Spanish. :) Kite Beach attracts kite surfers from around the world so great place to meet new people. Prices are not unlike your article above. Feel free to find me on FB – I have a personal and author page.

  27. Mark June 18, 2013 at 3:16 pm #

    Really good video – very informative and well presented. It’s nice to be able to put a voice to a long-read blogger. Also good to see a jar of marmite in your kitchen! More please…

    • ShannonOD June 18, 2013 at 11:43 pm #

      Thanks Mark! I’m pondering doing more of the video-log style occasionally so I appreciate your feedback! As for the Marmite — yes please! I like it heaps better than Vegemite :)

  28. Erin June 18, 2013 at 12:55 pm #

    It’s funny that we are both posting our San Pancho cost of living post this week! Ours comes out tomorrow and we spent $550 a month per person. It helped that our lovely casita is only $400 and as a couple accommodation works out cheaper.

    • ShannonOD June 18, 2013 at 11:41 pm #

      It definitely helps that you have to people on the rent, and your little casita looks so cute, I look forward to reading your cost of living in SP. :)

  29. Liz smith June 18, 2013 at 11:01 am #

    Loved this read! My husband and I are preparing to ditch the conventional life here in the States soon. After an RTW trip, we would like to plant it somewhere for a while and just enjoy a less hectic life. Mexico is high on our list – so this is super helpful. Thanks!

    – Liz (PeanutsOrPretzels.com)

    • ShannonOD June 18, 2013 at 11:06 am #

      Glad you liked it — I think after your RTW it could be a great stop, though you may also find a town you love in your travels too :) When do you head out?

  30. Amy June 18, 2013 at 10:53 am #

    I love budget posts! Thank you so much for sharing Shannon!

    • ShannonOD June 18, 2013 at 10:57 am #

      You’re welcome Amy! It’s a great spot, and Mexico has so much history with the ruins and old churches (though not the beach coast, more inland). I have thought about taking Ana to the Yucatan area next summer for some of the history and Spanish practice :)

      • Dennis Hassler February 18, 2017 at 7:34 pm #

        I traveled through Mexico three of the last four summers; sometimes with teens and this last time with my Brazilian wife and a young dog. These prices are avail. for living in Mexico most places and even in Puerto Vallarta where we frequent; however, you have to be on the edge of the town or in Mexican neighborhoods for some of the lower prices, but it’s more knowing how to fit in and find things. It’s best during summers to find good deals off season and maybe make your long term deals during the off season when it’s easier to find places at good prices and more places can be avail., too. I felt it’s worth a bit more to be near centro since services and security are better for tourists and convenience is certainly worth an extra hundred per mo., etc. Overall, Mexico is a wonderful place and you often find you have a better, more natural diet and lots more exercise enjoying walking and experiencing delightful cultural flavor in your daily activities. I highly recommend that you have a “home” neighborhood and branch out to visit other communities – it was convenient for us because we always have our own car.

    • Zahara October 27, 2013 at 10:54 pm #

      Awesome post. I’ve lived in SE Asia for a number of years. Funny enough, I currently reside in Chiang Mai. Asia holds great appeal for me but I sometimes consider alternatives. Thank you for sharing.

      • Shannon O'Donnell October 27, 2013 at 11:48 pm #

        Thanks for commenting! What other places do you like? I have been considering Saigon lately but have only really based in CM before :)

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