Pros and Cons of Living in Mexico.


By: Mike Nelson |

Live Better South of the Border

Book Overview

In my book Live Better South of the Border – Mexico, I write about the pluses and minuses, positives and negatives of living in Mexico. I try to honestly tell you the good and bad points about living in Mexico. Frankly, Mexico is not the cheapest country in the world to live. The book is outdated now in many respects, but philosophical stuff like this is not.

Yes, it costs less to live in Mexico with a better standard of living than many parts of the USA or Canada, but if money is your only motivator, there are other countries that cost less. You can live for less in Arkansas or S. Texas than in Mexico’s gringo areas. (I stand fast on this, though I was verbally thrashed by someone who disagreed.) Mexico is not paradise. Mexico is a perfect place to live for many people, but it is not perfect. While there are many reasons to live in Mexico, there are also many reasons why living in Mexico may not be for you. Negativity isn’t the point. Reality is.

Live Better South of the Border is old, with the last printing in 2005. People who who still buy it tell me it is still relevant. The costs of stuff changes, but the priceless advice about how to choose a place to live in Mexico, or to decide if you should even move to Mexico, is what I help you with. Look, the important things you need to know are ‘Big Picture’ concepts, not the little daily nitty-gritty stuff like how much tortillas cost. Understand the big stuff and the little stuff will sort itself out. The information about how to get a visa is way out-of-date. The left-brain way of looking at things, humor and straight talk will never go out of style.

Safety of living in Mexico is still most people’s first concern. Ask any gringo living in Mexico if he / she feels safe living in Mexico. The answer will be yes – I know, I ask real people and don’t depend on sensational news stories.

There are sensational news stories about Mexicans getting killed in gunfights or beheadings. Most of these are people involved in drugs or something illegal. Yes, an occasional bystander is affected but mostly not. How many news stories have there been about gringos, tourists or foreign residents who were not using or involved with drugs, being involved? No one really knows the answer to that, since we don’t always know all the facts. If you don’t want to believe that’s fine, just don’t consider moving to Mexico because you already have the wrong attitude.

Living in Mexico is a good decision for many people. You’ll see a “statistic” that the U.S. embassy in Mexico City estimates that there are more than 1,000,000 Americans living in Mexico and an estimated 500,000 Canadians live in Mexico, at least part-time. That is hogwash used by people who want to sell you something. Nobody knows exactly how many expats there are, but in the winter it seems like there are a more of them than locals in some areas.

The Mexican economy is tied to the US economy. I think it is fair to say you can live comfortably in well-known gringo destinations in Mexico for about $25,000 to $30,000, single, or $30,000 to $40,000, for a couple, a year in most places.

It is still possible to live on $12,000 to $15,000, single, or $16,000 to $22,000, couple, or less in some non-gringo locations, if you are really frugal. That’s about what I live on in the States. I once met a young lady (67) whose income is only Social Security and she lucked into a small apartment in Ajijic, Jalisco, on Lake Chapala. So never say never.

Housing in gringo areas is comparable to many parts of the United States. Rentals are more reasonable than buying. There is (generally) no discernible relationship between the value of houses for sale and the amount of rent charged.

Don’t Move To Mexico If …

If you are moving to Mexico only because you think living in Mexico is cheaper than living the United States or Canada, you are moving for the wrong reason. My advice: Stay home. If you are moving to Mexico only because of the weather, you’re moving for the wrong reason. If you are the sort of person who has to have things your own way, the way everything “should” work out according to you, you will be very unhappy living in Mexico. Many go-getters live in Mexico and have adjusted very well. They were ready to leave their old ways of doing things behind and have embraced new ones, where there is always an element of surprise to planned events.

If you have only been to the beach resorts or to the interior tourist destinations, you do not have an accurate picture of Mexico. If you have only vacationed there, you do not have an accurate picture of living there.

Do Move To Mexico If …

If the lower cost and the wonderful climate are factors, but your main reason for choosing Mexico is that you love the people, are flexible, and want some adventure in your life, you are moving for the right reasons and will probably be happy there.

Much Has Changed About Living In Mexico

While much has changed about living in Mexico in the years since I first wrote Live Better South of the Border, and much has improved, Mexico is still Mexico. That means that Mexico is unique. Mexico has a culture that changes slowly, no matter how technocratic the government is. Overall, it is easier to live in Mexico today than it was ten years ago, and much easier than it was twenty years ago.

By easier, I mean that the day-to-day interactions with places you need to interact with is getting utilities is simpler. You can pay many of your bills online instead of having to stand in line to do so. You can get a phone or a cell phone without too much trouble. There are Wal-Marts and Sam’s Clubs and Office Depots and Home Depots and Starbucks and so on in most towns of any size. It seems like more people speak English, which would be expected since it is taught in school and more people are going to school than 20 years ago.

Banking in Mexico

Mexican banking is still a conundrum. The names of the banks change, but the bureaucracy does not. If you believe the advertisements and Internet pages of bank, you would swear that Mexican banks operate quite like American banks and less like a labyrinth; you no longer need to be a devotee of Kafka to cash a check. Don’t be deceived. Banks seem to be moving into a reverse time-loop and are getting more like they used to be (inexplicably labyrinthine) than they were before the economy went South (so to speak). And this varied from bank to bank and even from branch to branch. There are many international banks with branches in the USA, Canada and Mexico: Scotiabank, BBVA, Citibank, (now [well, at least today – banks change ownership like babies change diapers] part of Citigroup). Still, walk into a few branches before you believe what you read.

Internet and Phone

Internet service has also improved. You can now get DSL or cable Internet service in your home. You can now get a new phone line without waiting for Hades to freeze over. You can, thanks to a variety of calling plans, call back to the States, Canada, and Europe without taking out a second mortgage on your house. (See my page on VOIP phone service). You can now operate an Internet business in Mexico, but being a day-trader might be risky. You can even get decent deals on cell phones in-country.

Goods you are used to are available from Sam’s, Wal-Mart, Costco, Home Mart (owned by Home Depot), and other international chains. Costs of imported goods have gone down – but they can still surprise you. For instance, I purchased stockings for a girlfriend (“not for me,” he said hastily) that were a name brand sold in the United States for less in Acapulco than at home. Getting back through customs with twenty pairs of lace stockings took some explaining, but I figure a bargain is worth stocking up on. Electronics still cost more (about 20%) and (except in the largest cities) are generally not the latest technology.

Overall, it’s just easier to live in Mexico today than it was even five years ago.



What You Need to Know about Retiring in Mexico.


If you have been thinking about retiring in Mexico this article will you give you some basic facts and advice to get you started on your adventure south of the border. Most people start off considering a Mexican retirement because of its low cost of living – it is possible to live in Mexico in considerable style on a social security income. But others come here because of its warm winter climate, its great beauty, or because it is an adventure far opposed from living in a stateside-gated American retirement community.

Whatever your reasons for considering a Mexican retirement, here are some factors to think about:

Where to Live:

Lake Chapala and Aijic The most popular place for American and Canadian retirees is in the Lake Chapala region, either in Chapala (Lakeside) or nearby Aijic. Lake Chapala is Mexico’s largest fresh water lake and incredibly beautiful Americans and Mexicans tend to live side by side in Chapala (it is a popular weekend spot for folks from nearby Guadalajara), whereas Ajijic tends to be more homogenously populated by those from north of the border. Planned, gated communities dominate there. 

This stately city in north central Mexico used to be one of the hotter spots for Americans to retire. In recent years it has ceded its popularity to the Lake Chapala region some 45 minutes to the south. Still, many prefer Guadalajara because of its culture, shopping which includes big-box American stores like Wal-Mart and Costco, graceful architecture, and old-style Mexican ambience. Guadalajara is Mexico’s second largest city with 5 million people. The State Department estimates some 50,000 Americans live in the Guadalajara area. 

Baja. Cabo San Lucas, Tados Santos, and San Jose, del Cabo are the southernmost points on the long Baja Peninsula, which starts with the border city of Tijuana and nearby Ensenada. By contrast with these northern towns, Cabo is a playground for the rich and famous. Americans have settled all along this beautiful and extremely dry coast. 

San Miguel de Allende. San Miguel de Allende is a former colonial silver town that many consider to be the crown jewel of central Mexico. It has the cobblestone streets and charm that reminds one of old Mexico. It also has terrific shopping (art and folk-art), many excellent restaurants, and attracts many wealthy people.

 Puerto Vallarta. This city on the Pacific Coast has been growing and growing for the last 40 years. Many resent its high rises and sprawl while others appreciate the good life that comes with beautiful beaches, hills, and a relaxed, inexpensive lifestyle. Located on the coast to the north of Puerto Vallarta are the somewhat lower key towns of Mazatlan and Guaymas.

Pueblo. This World Heritage Site is located at about 7,000 ft. about sea level in the mountains of central Mexico, 2 hours south of Mexico City. The city has a distinguished tradition as an ancient Spanish city. There is a rich culture and architectural history. The city features many colorful squares, a vibrant arts scene, as well as being the gastronomical capital of Mexico. It is another of the most popular retirement destinations for North Americans

Mazatlan.  Mazatlan is a major port and tourism is popular for its sandy beaches. Its location is to the north of Puerta Vallarta. During the 40’s and 50’s many hotels were built here to accommodate the tourist trade. John Wayne used to come here for the sport fishing.

Acapulco Located far down the Pacific coast is the resort town of Acapulco. There are many parts of this city, new and old. There are exclusive communities in the hills and along the coast. Acapulco is about 190 miles southwest of Mexico City.

Cost of Living

It costs dramatically less to live in Mexico than in does in the U.S. or Canada. Popular stories on the web and in magazines tell of renting 3 bedroom houses for $600 month and being able to hire a maid or gardener for $10 a day. Homes in beautiful neighborhoods can typically be purchased for half the U.S. cost. Actual costs like these are possible but the relative luxury and feasibility will range from place to place – check out realtors in various communities to get a better idea. Energy costs tend to be low because of warm winters. Taxes are not a major factor.


U.S. Medicare is not accepted in Mexico, but Americans can purchase health care insurance from the national insurance program at about $300 a year. Many writers indicate they are pleased with the quality of Mexican healthcare. If you cannot speak fluent Spanish it is a good idea to bring a friend as interpreter however. Guadalajara has several excellent hospitals including Hospital San Javier, Hospital del Carmen, and Americas Hospital.


Americans can purchase real estate in Mexico and pass it on to their heirs. Obviously it is a foreign country so one is well advised to hire a competent advisor to help negotiate any local difficulties. A Notario is required to help complete any real estate transaction.


Mexico has a value added tax. Property taxes are low relative to the U.S. U.S. residents who own a home in the U.S. and derive most of their income outside of Mexico will generally not have to pay Mexican income tax. But they might have to pay more taxes in connection with the sale of any Mexican real estate.


Mexico has a certain reputation as a dangerous place and in some cases it is well deserved, depending on where you live. Mexican law enforcement standards are probably different than most U.S. citizens expect. Many Americans choose to live in gated communities for this reason.

How the language we use to communicate about disease matters.


By:Liz Seegert|

Does language make a difference when we address serious health issues such as Alzheimer’s and other diseases? Absolutely, according to researchers at Penn State College of Medicine.

Avoid the “war” metaphors, advises Daniel R. George, an assistant professor of medical humanities at the college. While such terminology is common in the medical community and the media, such language can backfire by creating fear and stigma, turning patients into victims and even diverting resources from preventive care.

“There’s a widely-accepted myth that people who have Alzheimer’s are sort of non-people, akin to zombies,” George concluded in an article in The American Journal of Bioethics.

Verbs such as “attack” and “battle” may be counterproductive if applied to a disease that we cannot defeat. It invites ways of thinking that may not be scientifically or socially productive. “War metaphors can delude our sense of what’s possible therapeutically, and give false hope to people and caregivers who are suffering,” George said.

Language too often belittles and diminishes patients, said Merrill Perlman, a freelance editor and trainer. Describing someone as “suffering” from Alzheimer’s or being a “victim” of dementia, or being “confined” to a wheelchair are some examples.

“This labels these people as helpless, to be pitied,” said Perlman, who writes the Language Corner column for Columbia Journalism Review.

Perlman, an editor for 25 years at The New York Times, advises journalists to use more neutral language. It is preferable to say, “she has Alzheimer’s” or “he is being treated for dementia,” or “she uses a wheelchair.” No one knows whether someone is suffering or considers himself a victim or confined.

“Comparing anyone with a medical condition or disease with someone who is “normal” is also insulting; that condition is “normal” to the person who has it,” she said in an email interview.

One antidote to seeing people with dementia as zombies, according to medical editor and writer Joy Jacobson, is following this advice from the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project: “We do not set boundaries in our beliefs in what possible for people with memory impairment to create. By saying to people with dementia, we value you and your creativity; we are saying we value all members of our community.”

Writing about Alzheimer’s isn’t the only place where journalistic descriptions often fall short. The language of substance abuse also is fraught with clichès and blame, wrote Sarah Wakeman, M.D., medical director at Massachusetts General Hospital.

War metaphors have been used to dehumanize in medicine and other areas of our cultural life. The “war on drugs” was disastrous for this country, and has morphed into a human rights catastrophe in the Philippines as well. Glenn Greenwald has been documenting the ravages against civilians in the ongoing “war on terror.” Nixon’s 1971 “war on cancer” was based on an overly simplistic understanding of the causes of cancer, causing incalculable suffering, said Jacobson, poet-in-residence at the Center for Health, Media & Policy in New York City.

It is easy to fall back on tired language. Calling a person with diabetes a “diabetic” is another way of dehumanizing a person with the disease, contributing to the misconception that the condition is somehow the person’s fault, according to this article in Drug Watch. Mental illness is another area where metaphors and careless words can cause harm and stigma, the Huffington Post’s Erin Schumaker wrote. She advises journalists check out this American Psychiatric Association guide to get a better handle on appropriate words and phrases.

George and his team propose moving toward different metaphors, such as encouraging the use of words such as “slow” or “postpone” rather than “prevent” or “cure.” Emphasize “building resilience” to aging processes in the brain rather than aiming at “absolute victory” over a disease.

While “fighting” and “defeating” Alzheimer’s through drug development is important, the authors argue it may be wiser to acknowledge that Alzheimer’s is not a disease disconnected from the aging process, as opposed to polio or malaria. They note that Alzheimer’s has been classified as a disease for 40 years. It may be more beneficial to take a lifespan-oriented approach to discussing the condition, including education about known biological, psychosocial and environmental risk factors, investment in societal programs and infrastructure that support brain health, and ensuring proper care for those affected and their caregivers.

“There are ways to construct meaning around memory loss that show greater compassion and solidarity toward people with cognitive frailty, rather than seeing them as passive victims in our biological war against the disease,” they said. “You can still have a life with profound purpose, social contribution and meaningful relationships.”

Medical humanities is a discipline that seeks to re-humanize medicine through a fusion of art, science, ethics, religion, literature, Jacobson said.

So what does it mean to restore humanity to medicine? “One important aspect is bringing greater attention to the language we use,” she said. “This issue isn’t just the province of poets and professors. How we speak about and to one another is crucial, in health care and elsewhere.”

Certainly, health care needs more community not more war. Are you falling into the stigmatized language trap?

AHCJ’s Statement of Principles offers some guidance on language:

  • Show respect. Illness, disability and other health challenges facing individuals must not be exploited merely for dramatic effect.
  • Remember that some sick people don’t like to be called “victims.” Be careful with the use of the term “patients.” This can contribute to the medicalization of normal states of health. Calling people in an experimental trial “patients” or referring to an experimental intervention as a “therapy” may contribute to the notion of therapeutic misconception, the implication that subjects in a research trial will certainly derive direct therapeutic benefit from what is actually an experiment with uncertain benefits and harms.
  • Avoid vague, sensational language (cure, miracle, breakthrough, promising, dramatic, etc.)

Staying Busy All Day: Why Not Expand Your Mind And Have Fun Too!


By:Baby Boomer Retirement Issues|

 How will you stay busy all day? The point seemed to resonate with many folks. Some have great plans and never expect a dull moment, others are clearly worried that the close of their working days will mean the end of mental stimulation. Today’s article focuses on how lifelong learning programs help hundreds of thousands of retirees keep their minds sharp while learning all kinds of interesting and useful stuff.

We know of at least 4 great ways to get involved in lifelong learning programs, and there are undoubtedly more too. If you are retired, check out the possibilities in your community. If you are still trying to find your best place to retire, research what type of lifelong learning exists in the locations you are considering, before you pull the trigger.

1. Osher Lifetime Learning Institutes
The biggest and most obvious program for lifelong learning comes from the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI). A relative newcomer to the field (2001), it has had phenomenal success. It now operates on the campuses of 119 institutions of higher education from Maine to Hawaii and Alaska, with a National Resource Center at Northwestern University.

While there is no set curriculum, these are some of the common OLLI features: Non-credit educational programs specifically designed for seasoned adults aged 50 and older; support from the leadership of the university or college; a diverse repertoire of intellectually stimulating courses; and volunteer leadership. Generally admission is first come, first served, although some programs are more selective. Tuition is low or free after you pay a modest fee to join the OLLI. Many are taught by its members or volunteers. Some include field trips. And for those of you still smarting from your last formal learning experience, there are generally no tests or attendance taking (whew!).

From Southern Barbecue to Shakespeare and Brain Disease
The most fascinating aspect of OSHER programs is the creativity and the range of courses offered. We looked at a few course catalogs and were amazed by the offerings – from the whimsical to the practical – so many sound so appealing. Here are just a few examples:
– Introduction to Baking
– The History of Southern Barbecue
– Mad about These Movies
– Introduction to Letterpress Printing and Papermaking
– The Cold War
– Spanish
– What Makes You Sick
– Celebrating Shakespeare
etc., etc,. etc

2. College and Community College Programs
Similar to the OSHER program many colleges, universities, and community colleges offer programs to retirees. Some colleges allow a certain number of senior students to audit classes at no or a greatly reduced fee, which is another great perk of living in a university town.

University Based Retirement Communities are another way to get access to lifelong learning. Many universities such as Penn State, Michigan, the University of Alabama, Florida, and others have affiliated retirement communities on or near their campuses. Residents in these facilities, many of them Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs), have access to college classes and facilities. Particularly for alumni who already have a relationship with their alma mater, they can be very interesting places to live.

Although community colleges are increasingly focusing on helping local people get the training they need to enter the employment market (which might work for you too!), they also offer a range of classes aimed at general interests. Here is a link to the curriculum from the Austin (TX) Community College. As you can see, some of the classes are in areas that many baby boomers would be interested in: arts and crafts, horticulture, home and gardening, sewing, writing and fine arts, photography, etc.

3. Roadscholar Programs
You might remember this organization from its former name, Elderhostel. Rebranded as Roadscholar, this dynamic organization has an unbelievable list of programs where you learn and travel at the same time. The range goes from programs offered just down the block to destinations all over the world. With every conceivable type of offering, they are definitely worth checking out.

A Road Scholar Program notice

A few of the most popular programs currently featured on their website include: Hiking Death Valley, Sicily, the Best of the Rockies by Rail, and St. Augustine (FL): 450 Years of History Comes Alive. Roadscholar offers learning adventures from birding to food and wine, history, national parks, history, etc. Some people love the Roadscholar experience so much they go on multiple programs a year.

We even learned at the Roadscholar website that there is scholarship program. If you want to go on a trip and can’t afford it, you might be eligible for financial aid, thanks to generous donations.

4. Local Adult Education and Libraries, etc.
Many localities have strong adult education programs that offer a full array of classes. You might have taken one – your editor’s family got their safe boating certificates from such a class. We also took a fun landscape architecture class. Usually taught by local experts, they can be interesting and provide a social outlet too. As local libraries continue to evolve in the digital age, offering interesting programs and speakers has become more important to their mission. While not often a formal “class”, these cultural events do provide lifetime learning and stimulation. See local newspapers and websites to find out what is available in your area.


Moving to Mexico – Best place in the world to retire.


By: Steve Cotton | Mexpatriate

Situation comedies have more begats than Genesis and Matthew combined. We call them spin-offs.

You know the drill. A situation comedy attains stratospheric ratings, and the producers decide it is time to let one of the ensemble prove his individual chops.

Thus, December Bride begat Pete and GladysThe Many Loves of Dobie Gillis begat Gilligan’s IslandCheers begat Frasier.

Mexpatriate may have its own spinoff. Or, at least, a cousin program.

And cousin is the correct adjective. You have already met the author. My cousin, Dan (white like me). Dan, his wife Patty, and I took a month-long swing through southern Mexico two years ago.

They were looking for a place to alight in retirement. And they have found it — in a small Gulf-side village north of Merida in Yucatan.

Dan played with the idea of writing a blog, but decided instead to keep us informed of his new life through a series of well-written and well-considered email. If I get his permission, I may share one or two with you in the near future. Even if it fails the full definition of a spin-off, any good situation comedy is always improved with a couple of episodes featuring a guest star turn.

Dan did provide me, though, with some fodder for this essay. He directed me to International Living’s “The World’s Best Places to Retire 2017.” According to the survey, I made a wise choice in 2009. Mexico is this year’s winner.

International Living’s recommendations should be taken with a Siberian salt mine’s worth of caution. The company is best known for selling a newsletter about the sybaritic joys of living abroad — as well as being unabashed shills for flogging overpriced real estate to gullible Americans and Canadians. You can see how the two goals easily mesh.

And then there is the usual caution that any survey of “best places” is nothing more than subjective opinion crammed into an objective party dress. What I consider to be best is hardly what others consider to be best. The debate that goes on between coastal dwellers and denizens of the highlands in Mexico is proof of that.

But the methodology has the appearance of being comprehensive. A 100 point rating is awarded in ten categories: “buying and renting,” “benefits and discounts,” “visas and residence,” “cost of living,” “fitting in,” “entertainment and amenities,” “health care,” “healthy lifestyle,” “infrastructure,” and “climate.”

Even though Mexico did not come first in any of the ten categories, it managed to rate high enough overall to take away this year’s best retirement spot.

And that just about sums up my experience in Mexico. The place has a lot of imperfections. But it is the imperfections that attracted me. I wanted some place that would present me with enough difficulties to make life challenging — and worth living. And Mexico fits the bill perfectly.

Is Mexico the best place to retire? Not for everyone. But it certainly is for me. And for my cousin Dan.

And, as Calypso used to say: STAY TUNED. You may get to hear Dan’s voice in the near future — from his new home in award-winning Mexico.

Considerations for Retirement in Mexico


By: Mexperience|

Retirees in Mexico live active, healthy, lifestyles underpinned by Mexico’s agreeable climates, first-class amenities, and affordable living costs.

People who have come to retire in Mexico comment on how they enjoy and savor their active and enjoyable lifestyle and activities as retirees in Mexico and the country regularly tops popular lists of ‘best places in the world to retire to’…

In this guide, we explore some of the key considerations that you will need to reflect upon when you are planning a retirement in Mexico.

This guide is best used in conjunction with complementary Mexperience guides about Living in Mexico, Working in Mexico and the Mexico Real Estate guide for your accommodation needs.

People Who Choose Mexico for Retirement

Americans and Canadians out-number Europeans who retire in Mexico by a significant amount. This is in good part to do with geography, as Americans and Canadians are more likely to be familiar with Mexico.

People who retire to Mexico come from all walks of life. Many have had jobs in companies ranging from large corporations to small enterprises; or have run their own business, sold it and moved to retire in Mexico.

The reasons people move to Mexico to retire are as many and varied as the people who make them. It’s a personal choice, and usually one made through having known Mexico before—either in passing, with later research trips, or having spent annual holidays in Mexico over several years.  Some will have spent part of the working lives here.

Knowing Mexico – or getting to know it – is significant: if you’re going to spend important years of your life in a country other than your own, it’s imperative that you get to know Mexico and experience it first hand.

Considering Mexico as a Place for Retirement

As a country, Mexico has an enormous amount to offer retirees. You have a choice of climates, ranging from spring-like weather all year-round to warm humid sea front locations, and the dry heat of desert.  With a range of climate types and diverse topographies, Mexico provides choice and, as we explain in this article, it’s important to match climates you feel comfortable with and the places that offer them as you short-list places to live in Mexico.

The infrastructure is good in developed areas, and the areas you are likely to choose from are as safe as any modern town or city in your home country (in fact, Mexico has extremely tight firearms and lethal knife laws—making it statistically safer than many cities in the USA, for example). Outside of Mexico City and away from the drug rings, violent crime is rare in Mexico.

Mexico’s pace of life is ideal for retirement—you can relax, and still lead an active retirement. While stress levels depend on each individual, Mexico’s laid-back atmosphere, it’s agreeable climate, friendly people and welcoming culture provide an ideal environment for low-stress living.

The food is wonderful. Fresh fruit and vegetables, meats and fish are available at the local markets, and you’ll get great value for your money. There is an enormous variety of tropical fruit, which is sweeter and juicier than the kind that is shipped to colder climates. Fresh, locally produced food is also less expensive in Mexico, although prices and quality vary throughout the year, depending on the season. The variety of vegetables is also immense, including local kinds such as nopales (cactus) and chayotes. Mexico is also the home of the avocado and is the world’s biggest producer of the fruit.

Good healthcare is widely available. Mexico has good doctors, dentists, hospitals and other medical specialists. There are a range of insurance services available for you to buy to safeguard you and your dependents from the cost of private medical bills, including medical evacuation services.

Your retirement income can go further in Mexico. Exactly how far will depend on your lifestyle expectations. A section below on this page deals with actual living costs, but the essential point to remember is that the basic foods and drink are considerably less expensive in Mexico than they are in Europe and most places in the USA and Canada. Eating out can be less expensive too, and extremely good value for money.

Utility bills can be lower that you pay if you live in the US, Canada or western Europe, property taxes and maintenance costs are low, and you may be able to structure your finances so that your retirement income is very tax efficient for you.

If your retirement income is generated in a ‘hard currency’ such as the US or Canadian dollar, the British pound or the Euro, you will find your earnings stretch further on the basics needed for everyday living.

Essential Skills for Expats

Our five-part blog series on Essential Skills for Expats in Mexico enables you to learn about key abilities you’ll need to help make your move here a success and avoid the pitfalls that some fall in to when they arrive in Mexico less mindful of the adjustments needed when intending to live in a foreign country.

Permanent or Part-Time Residence in Mexico

Whether you retire permanently in Mexico or live here say, only during the winter months, is up to you and your lifestyle choices. This choice is usually guided by people’s social and family ties back home. It takes, on average, between 18-26 hours of traveling to get to Mexico (door-to-door) from western Europe; between 4-8 hours from Mexico to the mid/southern continental States of the USA, and up to 12 hours to travel from Mexico to Canada.

You may be able to own two houses and rent out whichever one you are not living in, thus providing an income and helping you to maintain both. Or you may rent in Mexico, using the proceeds of a house rented back home to pay for your rented stay in while you’re in Mexico.

For some, retirement means breaking away completely and starting a new phase in their life. There are many foreigners who have made Mexico their permanent home and are living very happily there.

In any event, modern communications have made staying in touch with friends and family easier than ever–at virtually no cost beyond the regular monthly fee for a telephone line.

Retirement Lifestyles and Living Standards in Mexico

For those who know Mexico, retirement here can be part of a dream come true. Retirees in Mexico enjoy a great climate, great food, a rich culture, and warm, friendly, people.

Some retirees move into local Mexican communities and integrate there; this can make the whole living experience in Mexico much more worthwhile and fulfilling.

For those with hobbies, the hobby or interest can almost always be pursued in Mexico. Communications via the Internet can keep you up-to-date with the latest news and information and sports scores if you want to keep abreast of what’s happening back home. If you enjoy participating in sports, Mexico offers the climate, the groups and amenities for you to participate actively.

Many people continue their passion for, or turn to, pastimes like art, photography and writing—using Mexico as their landscape and inspiration. Some find that their work can be sold inside or outside Mexico, supplementing their income.

Other people get involved in social work: helping deprived communities to build new infrastructure, getting involved in charity work, sharing their extensive knowledge and experience of life with others and making a significant and positive contribution to the communities where they live in a wide variety of ways.

There’s no better time to Learn Spanish. Surrounded by the language, engulfed in a country passionate about its history and culture, there is no better place to learn than in Mexico. Language classes are available everywhere.

If you view your retirement as an opportunity to improve your golf game, Mexico has no less than three of the world’s top ten golf courses for you to try—and dozens more besides.

You can retire in Mexico in total seclusion if you want to, buying a property in the middle of a stunning landscape, with nothing but nature around you for miles. Or you can live in the middle of one Mexico’s towns or cities surrounded by the local communities, sharing their culture and their way of life—or something in-between. Whatever you want, you’ll find something to suit your tastes somewhere in Mexico.

Value for Money for Mexico’s Retirees

Everything everywhere costs money and Mexico is no exception. How much you spend will depend on your living choices and lifestyle expectations.

However, you’ll find that Mexico can offer good value in just about everything you’ll need to buy, from land and real estate, through to furniture and DIY materials, food and drink, and entertainment.

Mexico offers excellent value for money for people who choose to retire here, which is a primary reason why it’s one of world’s top places for foreign retirees.

Connect to our extensive guides to Money in Mexico and also the Mexico Cost of Living Guide for practical advice about money matters and prices you can expect to pay for living in Mexico.

Income Required for a Retirement in Mexico

The income you need to live will ultimately depend upon your lifestyle expectations. Products, services, food and drink can be purchased to suit every budget and, like everywhere else in the world, you get what you pay for.

Since the immigration reforms which came into effect in November 2012, the law now sets out specific financial requirements for people who wish to reside in Mexico. As part of this, the Mexican immigration authorities require that you demonstrate a proven income in order to obtain a retirement visa in Mexico. Thresholds vary depending whether you are permanently or temporarily resident in Mexico and require either a regular monthly income (between $2000 and $3000 US dollars or equivalent) or a fixed investment sum, e.g. a pension fund. The Mexico Immigration Guide gives fully updated information about criteria, income requirements for the current year, and application procedures.

Mexperience publishes a Mexico Cost of Living Guide updated annually. The guide illustrates the costs across a comprehensive basket of goods and services in Mexico and helps you to compose a detailed budget based on your individual circumstances.

In our guide to Money in Mexico you’ll find an online Currency Converter, or see the section further down this page which discusses your retirement finances.

Also remember that currencies fluctuate and you may need to allow a few percentage points either way into any figures you’re working with, to allow for this.

Permits and Visas for Retirement in Mexico

If you are around 50 years of age or older and can prove a fixed income for yourself and each dependent (e.g. spouse, dependent children who may live with you), getting a retirement permit to live in Mexico is a formality.

For comprehensive information about Immigration Policy in Mexico, including permits suitable for retirees, read our guide to Immigration and Visas in Mexico, and part of our guides to Living in Mexico and Working in Mexico

Amenities Given Up by Retirees in Mexico

Food & Drink: For Europeans, most of the food and drink you enjoy in Europe can be obtained in Mexico. Exceptions include specialty foods like Marmite and Coleman’s mustard, or Heinz Baked Beans, but you can get these shipped over with friends and family when they visit. European wines are widely available now, some at reasonable prices and others at premium prices; although you’ll also find an excellent selection of Latin American wines as well as Mexican wine from Baja California which is excellent.

For Americans and Canadians, most foods you can buy in the US can now be obtained at major supermarkets or hypermarkets in Mexico. Specialist foods which are particular to a country (e.g. Parma Ham from Italy) will be available in major towns and cities, but at a higher price than what you may be used to paying for them at home.

Inevitably, not all the foods you can buy back home will be available in Mexico, although you will find all of the ‘basics’ in plentiful supply in Mexico and you’ll discover ranges of new foods which you can’t get in your home country — and you’ll probably come to miss some of those when you’re living in Mexico and making visits back home.

Radio and TV: All major US TV networks and other global channels (CNN, Fox, BBC World, Bloomberg, Disney, Discovery, etc) are available in Mexico via cable or satellite TV.  Most cities have a local cable service provider offering different packages of channels; the Sky brand of satellite television is available universally in Mexico. DirecTV is no longer available. People with full-sized satellite dishes and sophisticated decoders may access even more channels.

Internet Program Streaming: Netflix, plus a range of other similar services (like Amazon Prime) are readily available in Mexico.  You can pay for your subscription using your foreign credit card, your Mexican credit card, or using vouchers you buy at local convenience stores enter the payment reference on the voucher to access the service.

Newspapers and Magazines: Generally, European newspapers, with the exception of Spain’s El Pais, are not available in Mexico. Major European dailies such the FT and Le Monde can usually be found in major airports in Mexico. American editions of international magazines such as Time and Business Week can be bought in most main towns and cities in Mexico. Many European and American based magazines will deliver to Mexico by regular mail if you subscribe. Note, also that you can now access most journals online via the Internet, either free or via paid subscription. If you enjoy reading the paper version, you can still subscribe, although most expats get their news online these days.  Sanborns department store is a good place to find and buy international magazine titles off-the-shelf.

Tea: Coffee is far more common than tea in Mexico. Tea is generally drunk black (often with a slice of lemon) or alternative herbal infusions, like chamomile, lemon or mint. Many places in Mexico are situated at altitude, and in these areas, the water boils at a lower temperature than it does at sea level. Some say this affects the taste of tea and, therefore, coffee becomes an alternative. By the way, Mexico produces some very fine coffees: Chiapas, Oaxaca, and Veracruz are the three principal coffee-growing states in Mexico, so there’s no need to pay a premium for imported coffees.

Healthcare for Retirees in Mexico

It’s important to know that, if you have a health care plan in the US or Canada, most policies do not cover your health care requirements in Mexico.

Also, Mexico has no reciprocal health care agreements with other any other countries, so even if you have government-funded health-care in Europe or a health plan in Australia or Canada, for example, these will not cover you in Mexico, either.

It’s essential to make arrangements for your health care when you retire in Mexico. Mexico offers excellent health care facilities, some in line with top US medical centers, but they are private and all medical care must be paid for at the point of delivery.

There are several health insurance companies in Mexico who sell medical insurance plans.

Some US and Canadian plans may offer coverage in Mexico in return for an additional top-up fee, but the conditions may be strict and the time frames limited: check with your insurance company for details.

It’s more difficult and more expensive to get health coverages after the age of 65; this also applies in Mexico.

Specialist insurance companies do exist which provide health care in Mexico, sometimes for lower premiums than you would pay for a private health care plan back home. It’s worth getting some quotes to compare as health care insurance is likely to be one of your higher retiree expenses in Mexico.

Detailed Healthcare Information: For detailed information about health matters in Mexico, connect to our Mexico Healthcare section here on Mexperience.

Working Permits for Retirees in Mexico

Some residency permits (see Immigration, below) allow you to work and take part in some lucrative or paid activities while you’re in Mexico, although you will need to pay Mexican tax on all your income derived from them, including any rental income you may receive from renting part or all of a house you may own in Mexico.

Work that you sell (for example, photographs, writing or art) might be exempt from Mexican taxes if it is sold outside Mexico. Also see Taxation notes, below.

Read the information on Immigration and Visas in the living and working section for further details about residency permits that allow lucrative work in Mexico.

Buying or Renting Property for Retirement in Mexico

Whether you rent or buy your retirement home in Mexico will depend on your plans and aspirations with regard to retirement here, your attitude towards property as an investment, and the resources available to you.

You may sell your home and buy a new home in Mexico, if you intend to move to Mexico for the long-term, or even permanently.

If you are planning to live in Mexico for only part of each year, then you may decide to rent your house in your home country (if you own one) and use the proceeds to fund the rental of your house while in Mexico; or trade down to a smaller house back home and use the remaining proceeds to buy a second home in Mexico.

If you do decide to buy property in Mexico, you may consider renting first to get a feel for the area(s) you’re thinking about moving into, before committing to a place or neighborhood—unless you already know the area you want to live in from previous visits/experience, in which case you might only rent for a short time, while you scout a property for purchase.

Historically, most property deals in Mexico have been transacted in cash, although Real Estate Financing in Mexico is being made available today through various specialized finance houses. It may be easier and less expensive to finance your Mexican house from a bank in the USA, and some banks are now offering mortgages in the US for homes purchased in Mexico. European banks will not normally finance a house in Mexico as the market is unknown to them.

You’ll need to consider insurance for your property in Mexico, too.  Mexico is subject to hurricanes (if your property is near the sea) and earthquakes (whether you’re by the sea or inland) and it makes sense to protect your investment with an adequate insurance policy.

Connect to the Guide to Real Estate in Mexico here on Mexperience for the latest information and comprehensive advice about renting, buying, selling, insuring, and financing property in Mexico.

Banking and Finances for Retirees in Mexico

Mexico’s banking system has improved enormously over the last decade and banks in Mexico are much more customer-focused now than ever before. A genuine choice of services is beginning to emerge through banks introducing innovate products in an ever-increasingly competitive market.

Mexico has a selection of banks to choose from, and you will need to open an account locally, for day-to-day management of your finances. You will need a resident permit (temporary or permanent) in order to open a local bank account in Mexico. Most foreign retirees in Mexico keep a bank account active back home, too, especially if they have have social, family, investment or business connections there.

Charges and interest rates on borrowing are still higher than you may be used to at home and the conditions for keeping an account open may be stricter than you expect.

In years past, all banking in Mexico had to be done at the local branch, which made waiting lines at banks longer. However, Internet banking is now widely available in Mexico, making it possible to bank online, pay bills, and transfer money to others easily and without the need to line up at the bank. The procedure for opening an online account can be bureaucratic but it’s worth it, as it will save hours of time each year not lining up at banks to transact your business.

Notwithstanding the advent of internet banking, a lot of Mexicans continue to bank in person, and this means that lines at the local bank (and especially local ATMs)—on pay weeks (“quincenas)*—can be enormous as literally millions of people across the country line up to withdraw cash, cash checks, and pay credit cards and other bills.  Try to avoid banks during quincenas if you can.

You should seek professional financial advice for all matters regarding finance management and taxation if you are considering a retirement in Mexico.

Tax Affairs for Retirees in Mexico

You will need to contact the tax authorities in your home country and ask them what the current tax policy is on, for example, pension and investment income earned in your home country and paid while you are resident overseas.

In some cases, you may need to watch out for double-taxation; that is, your income being taxed in your home country (or the country where the income is generated) as well as in Mexico where you are living in retirement.

Mexico now has tax ‘Double Taxation Agreements’ with many countries (including the USA, Canada, the UK, Ireland, and some other European countries); in these cases, you will normally get to choose which country you wish to be taxed in and will only be taxed on your income once.

Because of the complex and changing nature of taxation and the fact that everyone’s situation will have unique characteristics, it’s essential that you plan for tax efficiency when you retire to Mexico.

As a first step, you could contact your local tax authorities in the country where you reside and ask for information and advice which they should give you free of charge. Thereafter, some fees spent on professional tax planning advice, from a qualified financial adviser or accountancy firm will pay dividends in the long term.

Moving to a foreign country can in some cases provide some useful opportunities to maximize your earning’s tax efficiency. However, because the laws change every year, it’s essential to consult a professional who is dedicated to reading the latest information and news and who understands not just Mexico’s tax system, but the tax system where you reside and, if different, the one where your income(s) is(are) generated.

Mexico’s Treasury is known as “Hacienda” or its full title, Secretaria de Hacienda y Credito Publico; the web site is  The government department responsible for tax collection and administration matters is called SAT – Servicio de Administración Tributaria,

Mexico’s tax system, like most countries, is involved and complex. You will almost certainly need the help of a local accountant to help you file your return (there are plenty to choose from and the fees are reasonable), unless you are good with Spanish and have the inclination to engage with the necessary bureaucratic procedures and paperwork.

Although advice and information is available online, it’s best to seek professional help. Also see the Useful Contacts page.

If you hold substantial assets, it’s essential that you get proper advice and plan carefully in relation to your tax position before you make the decision to retire in Mexico and you should consult your accountant, qualified financial adviser or other tax specialist in this respect.

Estate Planning for Retirees in Mexico

If you plan to retire in Mexico, you should make time to consider and plan for Estate.  It would be a pity for your spouse (or heirs) to discover that your foreign Will is invalid because you’re resident in Mexico, or that any assets you hold in Mexico (e.g. property, investments) are subject to punitive taxation due to lack of some straightforward planning and preparation. Read our guide to Estate Planning in Mexico to find out what you need to know to protect your assets and ensure your loved ones are not left dealing with complex legal matters in an attempt to defend your estate when you die.



A Realistic Budget.


by: Carl Franz|The People´s Guide to Mexico
I have several retirement guides to Mexico on my shelves, some dating back to the early Fifties and Sixties. Almost without exception, their authors present Mexico as a bargain hunter’s dream, a warm, inviting “paradise for peanuts.” For some retirees, however, the promise of living cheap turns out to be misleading, if not entirely false. Why? Because they innocently believed they could uproot their American life, with all of its comforts and conveniences, and transplant it to Mexican soil — with the help of a full-time gardener and maid thrown in for good measure, and all this for very few pesos.

Yes, it is possible to live in Mexico on far less than the average person spends in the US. The big question, of course, is how? In our experience, the answer to that question is to learn to live like your Mexican neighbors. To enjoy the best of Mexico, including the financial bargains it offers, you must adopt a more Mexican style of living. This might seem obvious, but when you’re in the ‘pink cloud’ planning stage this fact is easy to overlook.

Lorena and I have lived for months at a time in a number of small Mexican towns and villages. At today’s prices, I’m sure we could find a simple but quite adequate (by our standards) house or apartment for no more than $150 a month and probably even less. Add a generous $3 a day for food we’ll cook ourselves and another $2 a day for restaurant meals and beverages. Figure $100 a month for utilities, miscellaneous and local bus rides. Add this all up and I’ve got the perfect title for my next book: HOW TO LIVE LIKE ROYALTY IN MEXICO ON $400 A MONTH!. (If we wanted to squeeze, I’d find a $75 house and trim our other expenses, for a stingy total of $300 a month. Imagine the headlines!)

If this figure sounds fantastic, remember that to many Mexicans, even this modest sum would seem generous.

Before you tear up your contract to buy a beachfront condo, consider this: if you were to visit us in this hypothetical village, you’d find us sitting around a cheap pine table, eating the vegetarian dinner we’d cooked ourselves on a tiny gas stove; or lounging on lumpy beds, reading by a naked 60 watt light bulb, or washing our own dishes and laundry. In other words, we’d be enjoying a lifestyle shared by our Mexican neighbors (which is much like we live in our cabin in the US).

One of the best ways to forecast what it will cost you to live in Mexico is to first calculate how much you spend now, in familiar, comfortable circumstances at home. Using these figures, here are some very rough “ballpark” figures on the cost of living in Mexico’s popular retirement communities. Keep in mind that these figures are moderate rather than ‘budget..’

Housing: 50% of whatever you’re paying now. If you rent a small house or apartment for $800 a month, $400 should get you an equivalent place — or even better — in Mexico. For this price, however, you shouldn’t expect a lavish beachfront condo or a swimming pool in a gated community. In areas that don’t see many tourists or foreign residents — which is most of Mexico — your housing costs might go as low as 25%.

Food: Eating out becomes an important form of entertainment, so I’ll be conservative and guess-timate that you’ll trim about 25% from your current food bill. On the other hand, diligent do-it-yourself cooks and tortilla-lovers will probably at least 50%.

 Alcohol: Liquor costs less in Mexico, but it also goes down easier. I might as well warn you now: heavy partying is a major expense for many retirees, and alcoholism is a very real hazard. Cerveza costs about the same as premium US beer and middle-shelf Mexican wines and hard liquor are 50% (or less).

• Heating: Negligible unless you’ll be in the highlands above 5,000’ in winter. If so, better add $10-20 per winter month for gas and electric space heaters.

 Utilities: Mexicans gripe that la luz (lights, power) is expensive, but by US standards it is not. Figure an average of $30 a month or $50 if you must have air-conditioning. Gas for cooking and hot water will cost $10 to $30 a month. Water may be free or just a few dollars a month. Mexico is perennially short on water so if you have a green lawn fetish, get over it.

• Telephone: Basic service is affordable, but long distance international calls will be a painful drain on your checkbook. Call your long-distance phone company and get their rates to Mexico. If they seem high, expect to pay even more for international calls made from Mexico. Plan on using email and a fax machine if you make many calls or need to keep tabs on a business.

• Internet connections: $20 to $30 a month is average, not including set-up fees. Email at pay-for-messages services run $1-$2 per message and internet cafe computer use is $3 -$6 an hour.

Laundry: About double whatever it costs at your local laundromat.

Hired help: $2 or $3 an hour is probably “generous” for occasional housecleaning and yard work.

• Visits to Home: Include the cost of round-trip travel to visit your family and old home in your projected cost of living in Mexico.

These on-the-spot figures will give a much more realistic estimate of your actual cost to live comfortably in Mexico. Don’t forget inflation: in Mexico it often runs 15% or more a year. How far will your money stretch in one, two, and five years?

A few words from friends and readers living in Mexico

We regularly receive letters and email from Americans and Canadians who have successfully relocated or retired in Mexico. In sharing the details of their new lives with us, a common theme emerges: these are people with an unusual spirit of independence and self-reliance. This doesn’t mean they’re reckless — more than a few confess that it took years of visiting Mexico before they took the final plunge and moved there. Overall, however, these people have devoted serious thought and often quite a bit of study to the challenge of living in a foreign country.

Some of these people might strike you as unconventional, but they all share success and satisfaction in their new lives. You don’t have to imitate Milo’s semi-nomadic RV lifestyle, but his strategy of dividing his time between northern Mexico and the American southwest makes a lot of sense, especially on a very modest income.

• Although technically not allowed to work in Mexico, Helen got by for many years on a modest but unpredictable income as an independent clothing designer. Like many other self-supported foreigners, Helen benefited from the tolerance Mexicans have for those who work in the creative arts. Learning Spanish, hiring Mexican friends and making local contacts also helped. By the time she began collecting Social Security, Helen had pared her needs down to the essentials. Having thoroughly adopted Latin America as her home, her time is now devoted to reading, writing and bilingual tutoring.

• After dropping out of a highly paid, highly stressful career, Alan combined a modest investment income with Social Security to underwrite a comfortable, laid-back life in a popular Mexican retirement town. In spite of health problems, Alan seems very satisfied and has few, if any second thoughts about his move. On most days Alan can be found enjoying the morning sun in the town plaza, reading a newspaper or visiting with fellow retirees. If you’re a newcomer and have questions about Mexican doctors or medical insurance, or just want to know the going price of a two-bedroom apartment, Alan is your man.

• Lynne & Harold retired from well-paid civil service jobs. To their children’s horror, the couple immediately moved to Mexico. They’ve rented a very comfortable garden apartment for well over ten years and claim to be perfectly happy. Well into their 70’s, both Lynne and Harold are very active in local clubs and charities. In addition to Harold’s weekly poker game, their main entertainments are reading, cable television and visiting with friends. They also make frequent sightseeing trips around Mexico, both on their own and in organized groups.

• Jim and Rhonda took early retirement and moved to a comfortable rental house in San Miguel de Allende. A trial period of a year convinced the couple that they could be happy in Mexico. Jim and Rhonda continue to rent and although they have FM2 status, they’ve imported only their most useful household goods: stereo, computer and television. “Nothing else was worth the shipping cost or hassle,” Jim says. “Everything we need is available here, either new or at garage sales.” In addition to frequent side trips, both are involved in various classes, hobbies and civic activities. They’ve made a number of good Mexican friends who share their interests in art, music, archaeology and architecture. Their lives are busy yet they set aside personal time for painting, writing, yoga and reading. Rhonda keeps close track of their spending, which averages $800 a month (not including trips to the US).

• Hazel & Armand retired on a small disability pension, supplemented by odd jobs and a talent for turning flea market junk into salable treasures. Using Salvation Army furniture and used home appliances, they converted an old schoolbus into a wonderfully cozy motorhome and headed for Mexico. They lived half of each year on a little-known Mexican beach or parked among the papaya trees at a friend’s rancho. Replacing furniture and appliances was their major expense: every spring Hazel and Armand would give away most of their possessions before returning north. Although they lived well below the American poverty line, their generosity to friends and Mexican neighbors was legendary. They’re gone now but definitely not forgotten!

• Milo is a lean, middle-aged bachelor with a deep distrust of the government and an equally strong aversion to holding down a regular job. An athlete and dedicated outdoorsman, Milo explores Mexico in the winter and summers in the American Southwest. He has his own small service business, which he insists that I not describe. “There’s no paper on me,” Milo explains. “I don’t pay taxes or social security. Everything I own is in someone else’s name. I charge fair prices and I work hard. I also work strictly for cash.” Milo’s annual income of $12-15,000 just covers his expenses, which include a small, self-contained RV.$/pgretbudget.html