How Much Does it Cost to Live in Mexico? (2021)

Last updated on October 29, 2021

cost of living in Mexico

I have lived and worked from around the world for more than a decade. Before settling on living in Mexico, I lived in Chiang Mai, Thailand for five months and loved it enough to move back the following year. That 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 live or retire abroad. Long story short, that post went viral and a million visitors have read about the $500 baseline costs to live in Thailand.

Clearly the financials are interesting. And Mexico is often the first place American retirees and digital nomads consider when looking at places overseas with a lower cost of living. It’s close to the U.S., the food is both terrific and familiar, and it’s fairly easy to make the move. So, with that in mind, this post below outlines my my expat stints across Mexico—from a tiny beach town on the Pacific coast to the food capital of Oaxaca.

Why Move to Mexico?

First off, Mexico is a big country. It’s located below most of the United States, so imagine driving from Texas to Seattle and you have an idea of what it might take to get to another area of Mexico. This is important to understand, because many of the most popular expat spots are about that far removed from the extreme cartel violence you might read about. Expats, retirees, and digital nomads often love living in Mexico because of proximity to the U.S.—all of the country’s bigger cities offer direct flights to the States, and they’re affordable too!

Budget, however, is the driving impetus for a lot of expats moving to Mexico. The average annual wage in Oaxaca, for example, is around $10,500—that’s an average and many Mexicans live on less than that sum (particularly indigenous and rural populations). In fact, try this on for size: The Mexican government raised the 2020 minimum wage to about $6.40 per day. I am often emailed a question that’s roughly this: Why are Mexicans fleeing to the U.S. if expats want to live there? It comes down to social inequality for Mexicans and the sheer amount of money available to those who work in the U.S. and send money home. The U.S. minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, meaning if workers can send even a portion of their daily earnings home to family in Mexico it represents a huge sum. Expats have a position of privilege, particularly retirees able to use the culmination of a lifetime of working in a more expensive and better paid economy, and then basically use geo-arbitrage to spend their money and social security checks in a country where the USD goes a lot further. Given that the U.S. has its own social injustices, and given that housing is skyrocketing, many expats look to Mexico as a place where they can afford to live the type of life that feels less attainable in the U.S. right now.

But why Mexico and not other popular places in Central America like Costa Rica or Panama? Both of these countries also offer a low cost of living, but each offers an entirely different culture, food, and also different visa requirements. Americans can easily obtain a retiree visa for Mexico, and digital nomads often take advantage of the automatic six months on-arrival that Americans enjoy when entering Mexico.

Average Cost of Living Across Mexico: $600 – $2,000

My 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 (I spent well under $600 per month). Housing is your biggest expense, and even Western-style places are affordable. A single person is hard-pressed to spend more than $1,000 here on a modest budget.

Monthly ExpensesCost (USD$)
Rent & Internet$375
Electricity & Water$0

This post is updated annually with new information. This video shares the costs, style of living, quality of life, and other details about living as an expat in Mexico, with a tour of my studio in a trendy beach town north of Puerto Vallarta:

Cost of a Month of Living in San Pancho, Mexico

mexico cost of living

This 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 with places like San Miguel de Allende.

Not included in this breakdown of living 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 all included in my totals, 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 shared a flat and lived in Oaxaca, which is an inland city and far cheaper than the coastal towns, so your money goes further. I share a heap of Mexico resources at the end.

One of the high points of Mexico, a clear advantage over living in Asia, is the visa situation. As a U.S. citizen, I receive a six month 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 big boon. The visa situation in Southeast Asia is a lot trickier, and although I didn’t include the visa runs into my baseline costs in SEA, it was absolutely a big part of living there for six months and it could add up a lot if you were there years on end.

Right now, the peso is roughly 19 or 20 pesos to 1 US dollar. Use that figure as a guide to the food and transport costs I mention (check that exchange rate here). In the video and these breakdowns, I very specifically quote pesos and not dollars as my costs because the exchange rate may vary, but you will be paying for your life in pesos!

What Did Daily Life Look Like?

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.

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.

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 at the time) 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 keen to 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), the apartment prices are actually pretty comparable—ideal if you like the idea of Mexico but think my town was a bit too small! :)

Delicious Vegetarian Eats

Spinach and cheese taco in Sayulita, Mexico

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).

For costs, a cheap quesadilla runs 15 pesos (just over $1) at one of the stands, a nicer taco costs 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 also 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 adding the cost of cooking meat, I think you could get by on 1,000 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). A mere 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 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


This 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’ve honestly discussed the question of safety and danger in travel. Our perceptions and reality of the world are often skewed; 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.

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 and Oaxaca. 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 U.S. (I now reside in Barcelona, Spain), 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 & Resources for Moving to Mexico

  • You will need comprehensive worldwide expat insurance and separate property insurance policy once you’re living overseas—I’ve used IMG Global and Clements for many years now with great success and highly recommend both. I have used these them 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.
  • 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.

Other Mexico Cost of Living Posts

  • Couples apartment in San Pancho: A look at another rental property in town.
  • Couples budget in Sayulita: A thorough breakdown of how much an 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.
  • 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: I recommend arriving in San Pancho before trying to find a place to stay, otherwise you will only find vacation rentals listed. Once you are in town, 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 where to stay, there are three tiers of pricing, the Hostal San Pancho or Shaka Surf House if you don’t mind a shared-dorm; these are the two most affordable options in town. Above Hostal San Pancho is an affordable, very nice guesthouse called Refugio de Sol—this is absolutely your best bet for private accommodation that’s still budget to mid-range prices. If that’s booked though, other nice private accommodation in the $60 tp $80 per night range include: Verde Luna, Casa Terraza, and Jardín San Pancho B&B.

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 mid-range 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.

For a midrange hotel in Puerto Vallarta, look at Hotel Mercurio.

And in any of them, there are now also plenty of options on Airbnb.

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 two to five 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 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 walkable 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. A 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 on 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.

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238 thoughts on “How Much Does it Cost to Live in Mexico? (2021)”

  1. How do you generate an income while you are living in different countries? I would love to move to another country but without a work Visa it would be challenging to work. I would appreciate any tips/life experiences anybody can share!

  2. Hi Shannon,

    I find your blog quiet helpful and many thanks.

    I want to relocate to Mexico and will appreciate advice on somewhere i can relocate to with a low budget(Rental(Bachelor), internet and utilities) and where i can find expats who mainly speak English i can make friends and interact with more often and maybe find a partner since i will be working remotely as a writer.


  3. Great article! As a single person, I have always been able to live very comfortably under $500 USD a month in Mexico. Studio apartment by the beach, no car, utilities included. As a mom, we spend probably $1,200 USD a month. I need to break down our budget again, it has been awhile. We are in Veracruz. How did you like Oaxaca?

  4. Great Article! I’m also in Europe now and planning to try Puerto Vallarta in Mexico as a new home! :) Initially I wanted to go to Canary Islands, but for americans it is such a big deal to stay legally in Spain. You mentioned you stay in Barcelona, how did you manage to live there longer than 90 days? thanks for sharing!! And maybe see you in Mexico soon! :)

    • Good question! I have the non-lucrative visa, which gives you a year initially if you can meet the income/savings threshold, and then you can renew and stay for more four years (five total) on this visa. The biggest hurdle to it is that you have to prove you have the funds (or a retirement check) to cover your stay for the entire year. I helped a friend get it and he wrote up the requirements and process here.

  5. We are about to be neighbors.
    I’m moving there in about a month.
    I visited there last December and fell in love.
    I’m a dual citizen US/MX. So buying property there would be easier for me.

    • Amazing! I hope that you love it. You will surely have an easier time getting settled with dual citizenship. I actually live in Spain now, but the Pacific coast of Mexico will always hold a special place in my heart.

    • Hello,
      I’m interested in finding someone to share a long-term two bedroom near the beach fully furnished.
      I’m on sad 58 years white male.
      Looking to fish and explore.
      If you know of anyone in your blog or another blog I would appreciate it.
      Thinking 350.00 to 450.00 each can share a nice place.
      Oaxaca or Hautulco Santa maria if I typed that right.

      Thank you for your time.

  6. San Francisco, aka San Pancho, was my first experience in Mexico. And my first choice for retirement until..
    I am now retired and living in Buena Vista, Baja California Sur almost full time.
    I did not see you mention the fact that SP has a full Hospital. That was one of the main reasons I considered retiring there.
    Most ex-pats, especially retirees, would agree that medical care rates up at the top of the list for Must Haves. SP is great in that regard.

    • That’s a really good point, thank you Randall! It is definitely a selling point for the town, knowing that you can get care without the long drive into Bucerias/PV. Baja is beautiful!

  7. This is great, thanks so much! My husband is Mexican, and I am not but I do speak fluent Spanish. His family is from Oaxaca originally (although he grew up in Mexico City) and we are thinking about building a house in Oaxaca and moving there…someday. Once our kids (now teens) are stable on their own. I’m hoping we can make the move before retirement age, so we have more years to enjoy our time there. The info is much appreciated!

    • I am so glad to hear that the post was helpful! Oaxaca has a nice quality of life, a lot of culture and great food, and a solid expat community too. Good luck with the retirement planning. :)

  8. Aloha and thank you for the excellent read. Have been to Mazatlan to surf a few times , 10 years ago , but now looking for the idyllic small beach town. Hawaii has become so crowded can’t even breathe anymore.
    Safe travels !!!!


    • The region north of PV is a great place to find a small beach town if that’s what you’re after. San Pancho and Sayulita are more well known, but just south of them are even tinier surfing towns where I know friends have enjoyed months near the water.

  9. Shannon, I came upon your site thinking if I needed long term care as I get older, I might want to do it in Mexico and often dreamed about living abroad, though not too far from the U.S. but much cheaper. I see that this article is VERY recent, not like some others who rhapsodize about living in Cen. Am. but do expats live in a different world than the natives there? I ask this, because of this report, I wondered why so many Central Americans are risking life, limb to come here while Americans are thinking of living there? This is an article not from some right wing organization but a refugee type of agency. Please comment.

    • That’s a great question Evangeline. There is a big difference between living in some of these developing regions as an expat and living with a cushy US social security check coming in. People with enough money to live well—who maximized opportunities in the U.S. to earn a living, or work online and make a much stronger currency (USD, pounds, euro) have opportunities that simply don’t exist for locals. Expats moving to the safer places in Central America (note that you don’t see a lot of people advocating for a move to Honduras or El Salvador, where it’s pretty downright dangerous) are taking advantage of something called geoarbitrage—earning in a high value currency and spending in an economy with a lower value currency. There are something ethical quandaries to that whole lifestyle, but note that just about anywhere in the world life’s a bit nicer when you are among the richest. Many Central American expats earn exponentially more each month than a local salary—they live in expat-y apartments in the safe areas of these countries, send their kids to international schools, can afford tons of cheap local fruit and veg, etc—and they have the power of their passport to leave if things get dicey. All things not afforded to those suffering from extreme poverty, gang violence, and lack of opportunities.

    • Just as a note, mexico is not Central America. And yes, sadly expats do live a very different life here than some locals.

  10. Keep me posted,Please! I live on a very limited buget yet have much to offer(martial arts, guitar, writing, story telling). I am disable/retired vet(53), however, functional. I want out of this rat race. Have traveled abroad.

  11. Sharron, I so appreciated your post and the information. I know this post was made a while ago but I was wondering if you might comment on the speed of the internet where you are? I am quite spoiled where I live now with fiber and regular speeds in the 300-500GB range and I know I won’t get speeds like that in Mexico but wanting some reasonable idea of what it is like there. Can you comment?

    • Hi Mel, sorry this took me weeks to get back to you, but Mexico can have fast speeds, but you pay for it. So, if you are willing to pay a chunk more than most locals will pay, then you can easily get fast speeds. In San Pancho, one issue in the wetter and stormier summer months that crops up has been power issues… so if you depend on internet for work, you would want to talk to locals about connectivity—I am not sure if it’s gotten any better in the past few years, but I know that there were sporadic summer power outages back in 2013 to 2014.

      • Hi Shannon, thanks so much for writing back. I had kinda given up when you didn’t write back after a couple of weeks but dropped back by on a whim and found your comment. I would be willing to pay for good internet and as far as power is concerned I am adept at setting up solar/battery/generator to make sure I always have enough to meet simple energy needs to so although it might take a bit of work and money to get it right, maybe it would work out. Thank you for your feedback it has been very helpful. Best regards. Mel

      • Dear Shannon: I remember reading about your travels. You’ve lived so cheaply in China and in a small town North of Guayabitos – as I drove through those towns near Guayabitos I remembered you lived in one of them. Some of these places can be economical, but they are very primitive places to live. I can be a little primitive, but it’s nice to have conveniences around as well. I enjoy being in a resort setting having lots of nice people around and I know a lot of people in P.V.. Maybe in 6 mos. I’ll get my house sold and be moving to P.V. near the Zona Romantica or maybe the South Shore. I have traveled extensively throughout Mexico and find it a wonderful country – the more one learns the more fun one has, for certain!!! For me, the people are the most amazing experience.

    • well, I am a retired man, 65 this year. I now live in Puerto Vallarta.

      It costs me 4000.00 honest Canadian Dollars a month to live as I do. I dont drink or go out to eat so this is rather basic. I do not travel. I just hang out, watch tv, walk on the boardwalk and now and again have a coffee at an italian restaurant. That is it. Honestly and this costs me 4000 CDN per month. I rent a basic apartment.

      I am perpetually amazed on how people can live on 7 or 800 dollars per month. I give them credit for their amazing skills.

      • What’s your rent? What part do you live in? Did you factor in health insurance? I’m just curious what that $4000CSD goes towards without prying into your personal life.

      • Dear Shannon: I remember reading about your travels. You’ve lived so cheaply in China and in a small town North of Guayabitos – as I drove through those towns near Guayabitos I remembered you lived in one of them. Some of these places can be economical, but they are very primitive places to live. I can be a little primitive, but it’s nice to have conveniences around as well. I enjoy being in a resort setting having lots of nice people around and I know a lot of people in P.V.. Maybe in 6 mos. I’ll get my house sold and be moving to P.V. near the Zona Romantica or maybe the South Shore. I have traveled extensively throughout Mexico and find it a wonderful country – the more one learns the more fun one has, for certain!!! For me, the people are the most amazing experience.

      • “4000.00 Canadian Dollars” Would give you a decent life in Canada.
        Why bother to go anywhere else unless your mental health meds cost you half of that in Canada.

    • Shannon, thanks for the very detailed information. Do you know expats with children? Any idea how the schooling would work? Thanks!

    • Hi Jude, thanks for writing. Unfortunately I don’t have any experience in that area. I suggest doing some searches on Facebook for expat groups based in the Yucatan as they will be your best resource!

      • I was there for vacation the past couple weeks…check out Yucatan Beach Friends on Facebook.. They can give you tons of information on staying there.

  12. Can anyone tell me of the best online expat forum for Cancun? Im wading through the list and so many of them appear inactive, or irrelevant. Thank you. :)

  13. How are beaches in Sayulita for swiimming? Rough surf is too dangerous for me. I liked the calm bay/surf in La Manzanilla but would like to explore other towns.Sayulita sounds promising. Ideal would be apartment with swimming pool. Are there any apartments with pools in Sayulita or San Pancho that are also close to the beach?

    • Sayulita has great beaches for what you’re after. It’s very shallow and light on the waves in parts since it’s an inlet. There’s a river that feeds into the inlet water, and that area has a lot of pebbles, or there are sandy parts with tons of children wading and paddle boarders floating around. San Pancho does not have that gradual shallow part and has strong waves and undercurrents—you would want to be a strong swimmer in SP if you planned to be in the water regularly. There are also plenty of places with pools.

    • It’s nice to be inside a bay for safe swimming. Huatulco has several beautiful bays and is a very pleasant resort that’s never overcrowded. Some of the beaches have very quiet, smooth water (Playa Entrega) in more protective portions of the bay. In Puerto Vallarta the bay is huge, but waves are not as powerful as places open to the open ocean. I especially like Yelapa, because it is a very beautify bay within a larger protective bay (Banderas Bay). This is an amazing beach for swimming but you have to take a boat to get there.

  14. Hi Shannon:

    I loved reading about your experiences in San Pancho.

    I will be taking an early retirement package in the next few months and plan on moving to a beach destination in Mexico for retirement. The area you describe sounds so perfect.

    As a night owl, one thing that is important to me is a bar within walking distance of my rental to just sit and chill out, maybe chat with locals or fellow expats (I am taking Spanish lessons) especially late in the evening. Is this possible in the area you stayed at or should I be looking more towards Sayulita? I’m not looking for fancy, just a good relaxing atmosphere.

    • Hmm, I don’t think SP is the best place for a night owl. Although there are some bars that get hopping during the high season, it’s not a late hours place and it will be fairly dead in shoulder and off season. Sayulita might be a much better fit—it will have its own happenings, and it’s still a chill town but it’s 20 minutes closer to Puerto Vallarta where you could surely go if you craved a bit more activity occasionally!

    • Hi,

      I live in Puerto Vallarta. My income is fixed and I am at the upper level of poverty. These are my expenses that I banged up to plan my New Year’s budget. My income is 70000 pesos per month and I generally scrape by the last several days of the month. My costs are moderate and honest. My budget is a get by budget.

      1. Rent…18000
      Note… I live directly on the beach in the Mexican part of town. I have a small two bedroom apartment and have to walk up the steps to the third floor. I share a washer. Living next to the beach one must get used to the thunder of waves, people going by, music from bars and so on. But I figure, if I am going to leave snow, this is part of the price to pay.

      2. Food.
      20000 per month for my wife and I. We shop at Walmart or Leys. When we need milk etc. we go to Oxxo which is like a 711. I can’t find a Mexican Market which is near enough to walk to. Our water is delivered a couple of times a week for 200 pesos. We eat out when we go shopping about once per week. We do not drink.

      1300 per month.
      We have two air conditioners which are essential. We also have ceiling fans. We have internet, telephone etc. about 400 pesos per month.

      4. Travel.
      I am Canadian but live in Switzerland and I travel about once per year. This is about 5000 per month. Note that when you move to Mexico, you will still have costs in the place you left, I.e. taxes etc. do not forget to add these. I figure my costs are about 5000 per month.

      5. Medical.

      I have medical insurance and drug coverage for 80per cent. I pay about 5000 per month.

      6. Transport.
      One could take busses, but I prefer a taxi. This is about 1200 per month.

      7. Cleaning Lady.
      I have a cleaning lady to help three times per week or 4000 per month.

      • I think you pay too much for rent, because you are very close to the beach. You may be able to spend half that much if you live back in the neighborhood a short distance. I do not know your life style, but I love walking in P.V. and I’m there summers and stay several blocks back from the beach. I would recommend you target ground floor or 2nd story condos. I pay 600/mo. usually during summers – they’d cost twice that during tourist season. My advise is to find something decent for 400-500 US$ per month. Maybe ask for some assistance if you Spanish is a bit weak. If you have an ocean view, it is nice, but you can do better moving several blocks back from the beach and maybe something just outside of the tourist area. I wasn’t there this past summer due to the virus, but I’ve been there every summer for years. I prefer having my own car with me. Actually, I’d expect to pay about 2500/mo. living full time in PV, so you are at 3,500/mo. and that isn’t so bad, but I think you can live better than you describe for 2500/mo. Switzerland is extremely expensive though…… I remember being in Lagano and choosing dinner – $30 for a buffet and $5 for McDonalds – I took the later despite hating McDonalds.

        • So you are “scraping by” on the equivalent of almost $2,500 USD per month? Hmmm, maybe Mexico isn’t going to be for me, after all….

  15. Hi Shannon,

    Thanks gor the info! We are an American lesbian couple living in Thailand. We love it here but the lack of gay marriage recognition is a major pain for Visa arrangements. What are the gay rights like in Mexico? We have considered the Yucatán as a possible next stop.


    • Hi Mimi! I am far from an authority on this topic, but the Yucatan in general is among the more progressive areas of Mexico and I cannot envision you facing major challenges. There are legal protections in Mexico for gay rights, and the Yucatan has a fair share of expats (a huge amount to be honest), so your day-to-day would be one of acceptance from what I hear. I know that some gay travelers have spent time there, like Dani from Globetrotter Girls, and it might be good to seek out their thoughts on it. There are some very conservative areas of Mexico though, so I would not extend whatever you find out to apply across the board. Best of luck!

    • Thank you Herm! So glad you’ve found it helpful and I wish you all the luck making the transition next winter—Mexico is a beautiful (warm) place to spend part of the year. :)

  16. Hi Shannon! Thanks so much for all the great info! What are your thoughts on Baja California, Cabo, Ensenada and Rosarito? Is cost of living comparable to PV? Thanks in advance!


    • Hi Evy, that’s a tough one as I haven’t lived in any of those places, nor do I have friends who have. But there are several really great Facebook groups for Mexican expats, and a lot have explored the west coast extensively. I would research in those groups for things people have said about each town, and pose a question to the expats if there isn’t much—they will undoubtedly have some great thoughts for you!

  17. Hi Shannon, Your site is great and very interesting. I lived in Chapala, Jalisco for 2 years and my wife and I are looking at moving back this winter. Chapala has changed so much that we are looking around at other possibilities. We definitely want to check out San Pancho but my question is about the weather. The great thing about Chapala was it never got really hot or cold. How do you handle the heat? Is it really humid in San Pancho? Thanks so much.

    • Hmm, it does rain a lot in the summer and it’s very muggy. There are certainly some people who live there year-round, but I also know a good number of expats tend to head back to the states to visit in June and July. I haven’t been in SP in a while, but in 2013/2014 the summer rains would occaisionally even take out the power in San Pancho, but not nearby Sayulita. I am a native Floridian, so I am probably a bad person to advise on how tolerable it is there during the hot/wet season since I have a pretty high threshold. But suffice to say it’s not going to be like Chapala. It can be very cool in Dec/Jan, but it does get humid and warm by July!

  18. Hola Shannon,

    Thanks for this post! I have learned some things that are very helpful. I hope I can visit many of the places you have listed here. I do want to ask, have you been to Acapulco? What are your thoughts about Acapulco compared to Oaxaca? I have visited there a few times, and I love it, despite some of the negative parts of the city, and state of Guerrero. I personally love it there, have met some wonderful people, and have not ran into any trouble.

    I’m definitely going to follow you here. But, I always mention this to travelers when I run across good content, check out I don’t mean to spam by any means, but I think if you check out the travel blogs there, you will see why I mention it.

    I found your blog because I was looking for more info on how to manage the tourist visa. The longest I have stayed is 10 days, so thanks for your tips!

    Best of luck!


    • Visa should be no issue at all if you have a U.S. passport, and I haven’t traveled to Acapulco. I have to say, the issues in surrounding Guerrero have made it a no-go for me. I know that many say it’s safe to fly in and out, but the surrounding instability make is so I wouldn’t feel securing knowing I had a base that I could return to year in and year out.

  19. Great column. I lived in Huatulco on the coast of Oaxaca from 2004 to 2007. I found my monthly expenses were about $650 US: $230 US to rent a furnished apartment, maybe another $70 for monthly utilities and internet. I ate out at least one meal a day, went to the local movie theater and rented DVDs every weekend, and generally had a relaxing, quiet lifestyle.
    I’ve been working north of the border since 2007, but my goal is to retire are age 55 and go live in Mexico on my pension. I’m sure prices have increased since then, but I think it should be quite doable.

    • Thanks for sharing your experiences. I do think prices have gone up a bit since then, mostly the global cost of food. The rents are still very affordable and I found something in that range in Oaxaca just last year. So, when you’re ready to return, there is surely going to be an affordable quiet life still there and waiting. :)

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

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

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


    Bill Brooks

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

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

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

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

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

      My other thought is that Costa Rica would surely make for an excellent first-time experience. There is lush rainforest throughout, but also amazing quiet beach towns too. I don’t have a CR guide, but I think you could plan a great trip using the information on these two sites, Nomadic Matt and Two Weeks in Costa Rica.

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

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

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

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

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

      Hope that helps generate some ideas! Best of luck,


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Good luck!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Those are my thoughts! Good luck. :)

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

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

  32. Hi Shannon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  40. 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

  41. 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.

    • 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):

      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. :)

        • No, it’s not that level of bad in most places. I know some expats who even brush their teeth with the water eventually, although most tend to long-term drink only the filtered and clean their veggies with the iodine drops. Unless you have existing issues you are concerned about, I have never once had problems with skin or hair due to the water.

  42. 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.

    • 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!

    • 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.

  43. 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.


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