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. Visas and Work Permits September 7, 2016 at 8:19 am #

    This is such a wonderful post. Thank you!

  2. Olivia Cole August 24, 2016 at 10:58 am #

    Hi Shannon, I am a 23 year old college student trying to take some time from college for a year. I have some questions, is there a way we could possibly exchange emails? I stumbled upon your page while trying to research a few ways to get started & your page was very helpful but, I have a few questions unanswered. Thanks

  3. Kate May 29, 2016 at 8:42 pm #

    HI Shannon, First of all, i love you’re blog/website! Thank you so much for sharing all of your stories and information. My family and I are planning to travel to Mexico for a while (we are from Canada) and i have a question i hope you could answer for me. Its one i simply cannot find a concrete answer to.

    In Mexico, how did you wash all your veggies and fruits?? Did you use the “solution” that “disinfects” from the commercial grocery store?
    Why do people use it? I know you should rinse with sterile/bottled water…..but other than that, do you really need to do more? I have a 3 year old and 1 year old, so i am worried about their health and want to make sure i take the right precautions. Please, please let me know your advice on this….Thanks so much!! Look forward to reading more of your posts.

    • Shannon O'Donnell May 30, 2016 at 1:07 pm #

      Hi Kate, I am so glad that you have found the site helpful! Good question on the soaking. Yes, I soak all of my fruits and vegetables in Microdyn, which they sell in every single store in Mexico that also sells fresh fruits and veg. It’s very common across the country and even locals do it. I just left Mexico yesterday, I was living in Oaxaca for 6 months, and my local landlady was adamant that I soak my veggies. She even watched me to ensure I was doing it right (she didn’t believe me that I knew the process! :) ). The water in many places isn’t clean, and the way they treat produce is also very, very different from back home. Veg is transported in open air trucks, it’s stacked in fields with animal poo, fertilizers, etc. And it’s rarely washed before it arrives into the shop, vegetable stand, etc.

      The sterile water just won’t kill the range of bacteria that could be present. It’s things like giardia, dysentery, etc that you are disinfecting against, which is in much higher rates in developing countries. This woman does a good job describing the process. My process is very similar to hers (I don’t use bleach though, just the microdyn): https://kathleeniscookinginmexico.wordpress.com/2010/05/24/how-to-clean-and-disinfect-fruits-and-vegetables-in-mexico/

      The thing is, when they set things on sidewalks, there is no telling what else is there. There are no “curb your dog” rules, so I was always dodging dog poo, trucks pull up onto sidewalks and leak oil. Then there is the question of how clean the local water supply is. Right next to the Microdyn they also sell family-size packs of deworming/de-parasiting medicine.

      For your little ones, I would recommend that you use the disinfectant at least for the first few months and watch your consumption of tap water. Give them time to get used to the local bacteria. I disinfected veggies the entire time and always do in Mexico, but after the first month I usually go lax and brush my teeth with the tap water if I am in a city that has decent water supplies.

      I hope that helps!! Good luck. :)

      • Kate May 30, 2016 at 8:35 pm #

        Great explanation! Thanks so much! And i appreciate the super-quick reply!

  4. Tom Allen March 5, 2016 at 2:49 pm #

    I live in Alamos Sonora and my budget is lower since I bought my home with 1/2 acre for 38,000. I have been to the Puerto Vallarta area and there is definitely more to do beach wise. Alamos is colonial and has lot of events, the music festival being the largest. Cobblestone streets and 300 year old haciendas and lots of trees and flowers. One aspect that is better than southern Mexico is I can drive north for 8 hours and be in the US and another hour more to Tucson where I can use my medicare. I only post this not to promote Alamos but to illustrate the diversity of living styles in Mexico.

    • Shannon O'Donnell March 5, 2016 at 4:36 pm #

      Thank you for sharing Tom! That sounds like a great spot. I am in Oaxaca right now living and it’s intriguing how some of the quality of life is different in the various areas of Mexico. Being so close to the U.S. is really a big benefit, especially on the healthcare front. I haven’t ever looked into that area that you’re in, but I will!

    • grantania October 16, 2016 at 10:29 pm #

      Alamos looks a pretty place from what I’ve seen online. I’ll have to go check it out. As for using your Medicare in the US, do you also continue to pay the Part B then since you do seem to use it? Or do you just bank of the Part A? Do you also have some IMSS or SP in Mexico? I’m planning on retiring in Mexico early the year after next.

  5. marenostrum November 13, 2015 at 2:22 pm #

    I used to go to Rio Caliente, a wonderful, kind of health spa (Primavera,Jalisco), which I loved. It was unpretentious and affordably priced, and some ladies I met there would come down for 3-6 months at a time ( two swimming pools, underground steam room, yoga, great vegetarian food) a perfect getaway from Southern California at the time, where I taught ESL for the L.A. School District. This wonderful place closed before I finally retired in 2012, and I’ve been looking for a similar Mexico destination ever since. Would appreciate any info about something similar.

  6. Harold McNamara October 10, 2015 at 2:06 pm #

    Thank You so much this was by far the most helpful and informative Blog about living in Mexico. I am getting ready to pull the trigger in February

    • Shannon O'Donnell October 10, 2015 at 3:10 pm #

      So glad you found it useful, and congrats on the pending trip! February is a gorgeous time of year in many areas of Mexico, so you can’t go wrong pulling the trigger then.

  7. Red August 11, 2015 at 1:05 pm #

    Although this was very informative, did i hear you say you HATE Mexicans?? At the 3:47 mark I clearly heard that.

    • Shannon O'Donnell August 11, 2015 at 1:10 pm #

      Oh dear, no! I said “because I hate big cities.” Which when I gave a second listen I can clearly see how it sounds like that since I said it as an aside. Sorry for the confusion! Definitely love Mexico, Mexicans, and the culture in general (so much so that I just got back two weeks ago from a big road trip of the Yucatan) :)

  8. rick August 9, 2015 at 10:51 pm #

    Hi Shannon and thanks for your post.I just came back from Thailand and on the way back someone said I should have visited Chiang Mai. I went to Pattaya Thailand. Have you visited Pattaya and if so can you compare Chiang Mai with Pattaya? Thank you

    • Shannon O'Donnell August 10, 2015 at 9:41 am #

      You know, I have never been to Pattaya, so I can’t really offer up a comparison. This forum though has a very active expat community and I know they give a rundown of both of those places! Good luck! http://www.thaivisa.com/forum/

  9. Patita August 7, 2015 at 12:22 am #

    Hi, love your post. Are you still living in Mexico?

    • Shannon O'Donnell August 7, 2015 at 9:56 am #

      Hi Patita, I’m not living there right now, but I still spend a good amount of time there. I returned last week from some time in the Yucatan.

  10. Greg Noesen August 2, 2015 at 5:33 pm #

    HI Shannon….I so enjoyed your informative article on San Pancho that I decided to locate this one-street pueblocito on the map….Hard time there. There is a quite large community of that name, but it is a 2hr+ drive from Sayulita…and very much inland…it doesn’t fit the San Pancho you lived in…Is San Pancho ‘on the map’? If so, to which side and at what km distance is it fom Sayulita? Gracias!

    • Shannon O'Donnell August 2, 2015 at 5:56 pm #

      Good question! It’s also called San Francisco formally (but that is even more confusing for obvious reasons), it’s here: https://goo.gl/I63DYz and this is a good website for the community and all things going on in San Pancho: http://www.sanpancho.com/. It’s very close to Sayulita, about 10 minutes by car and you can do searches for it by typing in “san pancho nayarit.” Hope that helps! :)

      • Greg Noesen August 2, 2015 at 7:05 pm #

        Thanks for the swift and spot on reply! I’ve got an eye on the environs via Google street view….

        • Greg Noesen August 10, 2015 at 10:56 am #

          Hi again…I hope that it is not inappropriate but I would like to reach out to you as an initial information resource… I am presently planning to go to San Francisco/San Pancho via Puerto Vallarta. My stay there is projected to be for 6 months. I have a few ‘logistics’ questions that I’d like to present to you. First, what would be the easiest/cheapest transportation solution from PV airport to San Pancho?
          Secondly, once arrived in SP, I would like to find a place to reside. In your article, you mentioned staying @ a more hotel-like setting while you searched for a more long-term, economical (and personal) place. Any acquired advice or suggestions here would be much(o) appreciated!
          Lastly, my sejour will be centered around a personal need/desire for some level of disconnection or detachment from my present-day urban environment… and my writing. However, I do not intend to enter a hermitage! I speak above average Spanish, so I definitely wish to improve upon that language skill……. I also intend to be open to (and an active participant in) all aspects of life in San Pancho and it’s surroundings. If possible, I would search for a part-time day job, to earn a little something, but moreover, to play a part in the daily economic fabric, be ‘out there’ and interact…Do you think that could be a possibility? My research tells me that the wet season lets up in the Fall, opening the way to the tourism season…Any thoughts or information you could provide me with there would be precious…
          Thanks in advance Shannon!

          • Shannon O'Donnell August 11, 2015 at 1:39 am #

            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 made the trek into PV via bus frequently. Your accommodation will also perhaps be able to arrange a taxi pick-up for less than the going rate if you reach out before you land.

            Accommodation: There are three tiers, a hostel if you want the shared-dorm but cheap. Above the hostel is an affordable, very nice guesthouse. Or Roberto’s Bungalows is boutique and great. Links are: http://hostelsanpancho.com, http://refugiodesol.com, and http://robertosbungalows.com — those are all great options in town to get you started and from there 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 above average Spanish, you will have no problem finding something in just a few days, especially if it’s low season (get there before November).

            Work: There are definitely places that hire expats, though it’s under the table so you will definitely need to be there. I know for sure that some friends worked at the mid-range and high end restuarants in SP or Sayulita. A few expats also taught English for a small stipend at Entre Amigos, the community center.

            For work and living, it really will be so much easier on the ground. It’s a very small town, the expat community is super supportive and you will see it’s a cinch to get the lay of the land and get settled in. Places like Darjeeling have great tea and food, and then live music throughout the night. 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.

            Good luck!

  11. sosmarttoo July 13, 2015 at 4:19 pm #

    Hi- I would love to live in Sayulita as a 49 year old ex surfer. I do need to work though, are there any services that help get mail from the states? I need that for my biz. I would love to learn Spanish and get into Yoga! I guess I would drive down in a van with my stuff. SMA sounds great too, maybe when I am older.

    • Shannon O'Donnell July 13, 2015 at 6:48 pm #

      There are services that do sort your mail — they all have pros and cons and can get pricey. Many will allow you to have a US address and they will scan and send you documents, mail it out, etc. Look at Earth Class Mail and its rivals, and also perhaps ask in some of the Mexico expat forums, they should have a good deal of information for you on that transition! Good luck, I really love that area of Mexico, it’s a sweet little spot.

  12. Cincere Marley July 9, 2015 at 8:24 pm #

    i need a travel companion…..

  13. Shannon O'Donnell June 24, 2015 at 10:16 am #

    Glad you are considering some unconventional places for retirement. Mexico is close to the U.S. and thus family, which made it high on my list of expat places. In Thailand, though I truly love the country and the people, the politics were a big reason that I decided not to make it a long-term home.

  14. Dayna June 2, 2015 at 8:32 pm #

    Hi, I love your post. I’m wondering what there is to do for work there. What did you and your friends do and what

    • Dayna June 2, 2015 at 8:34 pm #

      Sorry.. And what are some ideas of jobs and what can you do if you don’t speak the language?

    • Shannon O'Donnell June 2, 2015 at 9:22 pm #

      I know that some of the expats worked at the local restaurants, but really most of all of that requires a decent bit of Spanish because their are a lot of locals in the area shopping and eating. I work online, so I was able to do my work from home and just enjoy the place without looking for work. I would suggest a language immersion course if you plan to work in Mexico.

      • Dayna June 5, 2015 at 12:05 pm #

        Where did you look for places to live? Were there houses posted online or did you just go there and look around?

        • Shannon O'Donnell June 5, 2015 at 12:17 pm #

          It’s a lot easier to find an apartment once you are there. Buy a week at a guesthouse so you have time look around. Or consider getting a real estate agent to show you rentals when you are in town. This post has some links to other forums for research too. If you don’t speak the language then I would consider either going with enough funds to cover you while you learn it at one of the language schools, or if you have the money you can buy a business perhaps. The only expats I knew who didn’t speak the language were retirees who ran tourist-focused things like a coffee shop or guesthouse and they had bilingual staff. Good luck!

  15. Tandalayo May 28, 2015 at 1:10 am #

    Glad I found you. The U.S. is getting very edgy, losing our rights, realizing how corrupt the govt is, the courts, etc. are…..I will be investigating Mexico for a couple of weeks…to get a feel. I’m also an ESL teacher, so perhaps I can make a bit of money in Mexico along with my basic income stream… Thailand seems a good choice, but not sure of the stability of the govts there. Anyway, many thanks for your info and all your great ideas…(I’m 65, in good health, and travel, relocation does not scare me)….

  16. Beatrice May 24, 2015 at 1:12 pm #

    Hmmm …nice budget…nice locations

  17. VeryHungryNomads April 12, 2015 at 12:41 pm #

    Great post Shannon! We just spent 3 months travelling around Mexico, and loved it! We stopped in a few beach side towns like Puerto Vallarta and Playa Del Carmen for a few weeks, because we love being by the water. We did the same in San Cristobal and Oaxaca, because the food is incredible and we are huge foodies.
    Typically we spent around US $35 per person, per day. (travelling in a pair). We didn’t stop in San Pancho, but after reading your post, it sounds like a super cute little place. It’s on the list for our next foodie adventure through Mexico. Thanks again. Rachel :)

    • Shannon O'Donnell April 12, 2015 at 1:17 pm #

      Three months on $35 a day is a fantastic traveling budget — I do love Mexico for that reason, you can eat amazing food every day and have an adventure without breaking the bank. Thanks for sharing your own costs. And SP is a great little town, though Sayulita has more food options and would make a good foodie stop if you find yourself over that way! :)

  18. South Bound March 28, 2015 at 1:18 pm #

    Do you reccommend sites to find an apartment with internet in San Pancho or other cities you recommend?

    • Shannon O'Donnell March 28, 2015 at 1:23 pm #

      You know, it’s a lot easier to find an apartment once you are there. I recommend picking a town and then buying a week at a guest house so you have time look around. Also consider getting a real estate agent to show you rentals when you are in town. This post has some links to other forums for research too. Good luck!

  19. Alex March 24, 2015 at 3:05 pm #

    How did you find that apartment? is there a place to look online or do i have to go there and ask around??

    • Shannon O'Donnell March 24, 2015 at 3:30 pm #

      Though there are places you can look online, you can find waaay better deals if you go there and look around. They also have real estate agents who will show you rentals if you have some specifics you’d really like.

      • Alex March 24, 2015 at 3:46 pm #

        Thanks a bunch! I’m planning on heading there in August!

  20. Jaime Summers February 19, 2015 at 5:52 pm #

    Just returned from Tulum Mexico and found it so utterly charming! I’ve decided to look into moving there for part of the year. I’d like to find a affordable rental in town (not in pricer beach area). Any advice on locating a place online? Thanks!

    • Shannon O'Donnell February 19, 2015 at 11:35 pm #

      That’s a tough question! I have heard wonderful things about Tulum, and I know that tourism is big there, but for the most part, I have found that you get the best deals when you are there in person. It’s hard to negotiate and know just what you are getting online. But you could also ask around in some of the expat forums I linked to in the post, they will have a good idea of the best options in each region — you might even find some fellow Tulum expats on those sites!

    • sosmarttoo July 13, 2015 at 4:23 pm #

      Hi – I am in the same boat, looking for a nice Mexican beach town to move to. I am leaning towards Sayulita. What did you decide?

  21. John Scherber February 1, 2015 at 4:19 pm #

    A great post, Shannon. I’ve lived in México for seven years. After 15 months of crisscrossing Mexico, my new book looks at Americans and Canadians who’ve chosen to avoid the big expat colonies in San Miguel de Allende and Lake Chapala. What they’ve found is both diverse and surprising. If you’re wondering what the expat experience is like, whether on the beach or in the colonial cities of the interior, you need to listen to this conversation. The book is called Into the Heart of Mexico: Expatriates Find Themselves Off the Beaten Path, and there is no other book like it. There’s a sample on my website:

  22. Jan January 24, 2015 at 11:18 pm #

    I really enjoyed how informative your expose was.
    I am a retired late 60’s Canadian senior lady, who is thinking VERY seriously about living a quieter pace of life, making new friends, enjoying the nightly sunsets, helping out people through volunteering, learning Spanish,Yoga and Meditation, spending time having a siesta in my hammock and learning to cook the authentic Mexican foods.
    Taking part in all the festivals, parades, musical performances, etc.
    To be honest it’s hard to know where to start, with all the legal paperwork, the right Visa, health care, how I will receive my pension cheques there.
    When and how to find a place to live (Studio/1bedroom/Casita). I don’t drive so that’s only one thing I don’t have to consider.
    I’m definitely going to search out San Pedro. I love the ocean so hopefully could find a smaller possibly Colonial town similar to San Miguel which is a little larger, but really sounds so beautiful in many ways EXCEPT no ocean for swimming or sand for walking along.
    I would appreciate any suggestions people can throw my way. :-)

    • Shannon O'Donnell January 26, 2015 at 3:37 pm #

      Mexico could be such a great option to have the type of life you describe but for a fraction of the cost of living in a North American beach town elsewhere. There is also a huge retiree community in various areas of Mexico, so it’s really worth digging through the expat forums and asking a lot of questions. There is no telling which town you’ll like best until you go and visit, but a lot of that is easier to do in person (finding the casitas) and getting the vibe.

      One idea is to start with the forums and Facebook groups and get a feel for the beach towns with thriving expat communities already. Here are a few I have seen over the years:

      Happy hunting and good lucking finding a good-fit community! :)

    • Michael Andrade June 10, 2016 at 9:23 pm #

      No need to worry about how to receive your pension checks. You can continue to have them deposited into your Canadian bank account and simply withdraw the money using your ATM card from Mexican banks. I’ve lived in Mexico for years while using my U.S. bank account. (If your bank charges an excessive fee for foreign withdrawals, find a bank that doesn’t. I use Schwab, which refunds all my ATM fees at the end of the month).

  23. shannon January 4, 2015 at 2:33 pm #

    So interested in moving here. Im a 45 yr old female single,and nationally certified emt. How can i find out the salaries for an emt? And i would want a moped with a basket on the front for my chiuahuah

    • Shannon O'Donnell January 5, 2015 at 7:24 pm #

      Hi Shannon, I am sorry to say that I am not sure of the salary, I know that the visas and everything are different if you plan to work there. You would likely have to know Spanish fluently—perhaps you can contact hospitals in the area and ask them for more information. Best of luck, it’s a gorgeous area!

  24. theresa September 6, 2014 at 1:00 am #

    Could a Canadian live & work in Mexico?

    • Shannon O'Donnell September 6, 2014 at 12:03 pm #

      I believe you get the same visa situation — six months and then you have to cross the border and can come right back in, but you would want to check. As far as working, you surely can but that would take a different kind of visa and a speciality or owning a job. I would google and try to find Mexican expat forums, I have seen a few around and they would be able to answer a lot of the more technical questions!

  25. Venturists August 7, 2014 at 8:58 am #

    Just got back from Mexico a while ago and I agree about not being afraid while there. My family certainly had some concerns. Wonderful place to visit and we will certainly be back. Thanks for all of the details in your post – gives me ideas about new places to try out. Happy Travels

  26. Venturists August 7, 2014 at 8:58 am #

    Just got back from Mexico a while ago and I agree about not being afraid while there. My family certainly had some concerns. Wonderful place to visit and we will certainly be back. Thanks for all of the details in your post – gives me ideas about new places to try out. Happy Travels

    • Shannon O'Donnell August 8, 2014 at 12:23 pm #

      I am so glad to hear that you had a positive trip to Mexico. My family also had fears, and though there are some regions with very real problems, it’s a beautiful country to explore. Let me know if you ever make it to PV area and if I can help at all. Safe travels. :)

  27. Birch June 21, 2014 at 2:18 pm #

    Goin’ back soon. I’ve been to Mexico countless times , including Sayulita. Your take is bang on. I had an all-inclusive hotel in Puerto V. but after an afternoon in Sayulita, bussed back, grabbed some stuff and returned for a few days. Great town, awesome vibe…beautiful and full of great people.
    I thought it would cost more to live there? Anyways, my name’s Neil. Maybe I’ll see you there someday (probably heading back late summer sometime). You’re kinda cute (and Vegetarian…yay)
    Cheers (From Victoria BC)

    • Shannon O'Donnell June 22, 2014 at 10:24 pm #

      I dream of the beaches there and am plotting some time to go back there hopefully this coming winter, so perhaps I will see you there! It could cost a bit more if you drink a lot, but it was overall pretty budget and I had friends with cars, so that helped get around and do somethings in the nearby area. Perhaps we will cross paths. :)

  28. latara martinez June 4, 2014 at 2:57 pm #

    me and my fiancée are planning on moving to mexico with our children. so where is the best place to raise a family? we have a big family together so it needs to be an affordable but safe place to raise a family. I have been looking around but aint had any luck so was wondering if u could help me out.

    • Shannon O'Donnell June 5, 2014 at 4:09 am #

      Hi Latara, did you check out the links at the end of the post? I don’t know every region of Mexico very well, I loved the Sayulita area and know many families living there, but at the end of this post I shared some links to other families and travelers who have written about moving their families there. And, once you’ve narrowed it down to a couple options you could query this Facebook group with more questions, they seem pretty helpful: https://www.facebook.com/groups/167187996679894/

  29. Kfed Stouffer May 8, 2014 at 12:40 pm #

    I love your article on Mexico. I have been to the Puerto Vallarta area three times now and will be back in Jan 2015, this time for a month. I love the area, culture, people, etc………… I could go on and on lol.
    What I find funny is when you tell people who have never been to Mexico they look at you as if you were exaggerating the experience. And then they go and realize that you weren’t. Of course each persons experience varies depending on their own expectations going in but for the most of people, I think it’s about the same.
    I love the example I heard about the violence down in Mexico.
    Having it so far away from PV.
    The saying goes, you wouldn’t stay away from Chicago if you heard there was a murder in New York. Or something along those lines.
    I personally love it there and will be retiring there, in the not so distant future.
    Keep up the good work

    • Shannon O'Donnell May 8, 2014 at 3:23 pm #

      Thank Kfed! Like you, I met a lot of resistance when I told people I planned to live in Mexico for a period of time. Unless you visit, you just don’t understand that there are areas that are safe and full of culture and delicious food. Safe travels and thanks for reading. :)

      • Kfed Stouffer May 8, 2014 at 3:31 pm #

        No problem. I have been looking for a cost breakdown in the area and have only been able to find for the cancun and Playa Del Carmen area, which I haven’t been to, yet lol. Any plans on being down in PV area in the near future?

        • Shannon O'Donnell May 9, 2014 at 1:50 am #

          No plans right now, though I would love to return in the late fall if I can make it happen. :)

      • Maritesa April 1, 2015 at 2:11 pm #

        Hi Shannon,
        Been reading of the above lately. My daughter and grand daughter just visited Colima, Pascuales for 6 weeks, and they love it so much!. I would like to move there since I am retired. What do you think of a $2,000 monthly that I have? Will this be enough? I need places to volunteer . I am a registered nurse and would like to put this to use as well. What do you think?

        • Shannon O'Donnell April 1, 2015 at 3:41 pm #

          Hi Martesa, it’s hard to say if your money will be enough, it really depends on cost of living. In general though, yes, $2000 is a good monthly amount most places in Mexico that are not the bigger tourism spots (Cancun or Puerto Vallarta). That’s a very good stipend. Plan on spending a bit more than that the first month to get set up, and then you could surely make that work with a small place most anywhere. Good luck!

  30. Sofie Couwenbergh April 30, 2014 at 5:54 am #

    Great post. Mexico has moved up on my list of places to go and especially now that I’m thinking of moving abroad for a while. I also speak Spanish (not fluently, but not basic either), so mexico would be a more logical choice for me than Thailand in that way.

    In general I wanted to say that I really like how informative and structured these kind of posts on your blog are. They’re super bookmarkable:)

    • Shannon O'Donnell May 1, 2014 at 1:39 am #

      Mexico is a great place to live and learn Spanish, and knowing a bit of the language makes such a difference in feeling like a part of the culture. It’s also a lot cheaper to get to than Thailand!

      • Sofie Couwenbergh May 1, 2014 at 2:20 am #

        Well that depends where you’re coming from. Ticket prices from Belgium to both are about the same. Of course it does depend a bit on when you want to fly.

    • james young January 24, 2017 at 6:43 pm #

      I’ve lived in both Thailand, and Puerto Vallarta, and I would live in PV long before Thailand.

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