RETIRING IN MEXICO: BACALAR

By: Bea Lozano | TopMexicoRealState.com

It’s that time of the week again when you start planning your next weekend getaway. The Riviera Maya is so vast that living in Playa del Carmen doesn’t really give you a great idea of everything there is to see. So this week, we are running away to the Magical Town of Bacalar! Are your bags pack? Let’s go!

How to get there

Bacalar is located approximately a three-hour drive south of Playa del Carmen (four if you’re coming from Cancun). The best way to reach this beautiful town is by renting a car and driving. This allows you to move around Bacalar easily without having to rely on public transport within the town.

Once you have your car, head onto the Federal Highway 307 heading south and following the signs that read “Chetumal”. Once you have passed Felipe Carillo Puerto (where you should definitely stop for breakfast at the market), be on the lookout for signs that read Bacalar. There is no “taking wrong turns” as it is fairly easy and straightforward.

If you are not into driving and would rather be taken, you can take an ADO Bus from the Playa del Carmen terminal, which will take you to the town. It takes approximately 4 hours and costs $240 mxn one-way.

Where to stay

Bacalar is quite a small town, sitting on the edge of a lagoon. Accommodation varies in quality and price, as in any other place on Earth. However, to get the great experience of waking up to the beautiful colors of the lagoon, a hotel by the water’s edge is ideal. You can choose from more rustic, eco-friendly hotels to more modern ones. Don’t expect to find 5-star resorts, as most hotels here are locally owned and have seen better days, but are still charming and comfortable.

You should also consider a hotel that has hammocks hanging over the shore! Nothing beats getting up in the morning, enjoying breakfast and just relaxing on a hammock counting the colors in the lagoon.

What to do

Bacalar may be small, but there are plenty of things to do there. Other than just relaxing by the lagoon (which you should definitely put on your list as a priority), you could take a tour to cross the lagoon and possibly see some local wildlife. The lagoon is the second largest fresh water lake in the country, so it’s not something to be overlooked.

For the adventurous bunch, visiting (and eating) the Cenote Azul is a must! This waterhole is 90 meters deep and of an intense navy blue. Nothing can really be seen downwards because of its depth and small amount of light it receives, but there are friendly fish on the surface, an upside down boat to hang around in, and a restaurant serving delicious Yucatan food.

Take a tour to San Felipe Fort. Located in the heart of Bacalar, this small fort has a lot of history. Initially built to fight off pirates, who would come to the town to steal corn, the fort stood up there for years and is now an iconic landmark of the town. You can’t leave without visiting – costs are quite accessible and tours are available all day long.
Bacalar is not by the ocean, so if you are really looking forward to spending a day at the beach, you should drive down to Mahahual to spend the day. This beautiful town is located approximately a two-hour drive from Bacalar and has some of the most beautiful beaches in the region.

Shopping and eating

As mentioned before, Bacalar is a small town, ran mainly by locals. Restaurants are found throughout with local Mexican and Yucatan food (don’t expect menus in English!). But hey, you are in a country whose cuisine is a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage, so you surely want to eat some of that deliciousness!

Shopping in Bacalar is quite limited – for the same reason. However, the road to Bacalar will present you with many options for buying tropical fruits, hammocks, carved wooden souvenirs, and much more.

Recommendations

Bacalar is a must see in the Riviera Maya – so make sure you don’t leave without visiting! We recommend a long weekend so you can runaway for a day trip to Mahahual (although that can be a weekend getaway on its own).

Bring cash! Bacalar is a small town and some places might not take credit cards – especially foreign ones. So make sure you have some cash handy to pay any souvenirs, cenote visits, tours, amongst others.

Among other activities you can do in Bacalar is take a stroll through Downtown, the plaza that is directly across from San Felipe Fort, and take in the gorgeous and colorful Caribbean houses. There are also Mayan ruins near Bacalar that you can visit such as Chacchoben.

We recommend you take a translation app or study up your Spanish before visiting. Although most tour guides speak broken English, if you plan on visiting local restaurants or shops, you might find yourself lost in translation.

One weekend comes after the next, and if you’re in search for amazing adventures, check back next week for a new weekend getaway destination!

U.S. RETIREES LIVING WELL IN MEXICO

By: Rafael Romo | CNN

It’s the life Sara Wise always dreamed of: a place with unbeatable weather, sunny beaches, good medical care and an active social life — and all at very affordable prices.

The former manager of retail businesses didn’t find what she wanted in her native U.S., but rather just south of the border in Mexico.

For the last six years, the 63-year-old Minnesotan and her 70-year-old husband Mike Wise, both retired, have been enjoying the warm weather and friendly beaches of Puerto Vallarta, a resort on the Pacific coast.

They have a very active social life and say they have more friends in Mexico than they ever did in the United States, mainly because Puerto Vallarta is full of people just like them.

According to local government estimates, there are around 35,000 U.S. and Canadian citizens living in Puerto Vallarta, many of them retired like Mike and Sara.

“We get together and we have happy hours, we have wine and appetizers, we have coffees in different neighborhoods and we get together at different restaurants,” Sara Wise says.

Medical care is another factor they considered when they decided to move here. To their surprise, they found more options for quality health care and at much more affordable prices than in the United States, including procedures like surgeries and advanced dental care.

“The accessibility to the doctors is something that we never experienced in the United States and from what we understand it’s getting more difficult, not less,” Mike Wise says. “And the cost is somewhere between a quarter to a half of what things cost in the U.S.”

Puerto Vallarta has adapted to this relatively new, foreign clientele. Around town, doctors and dentists put out signs in English, and often have English-speaking employees.

Kimberly Altman, 63, a retiree from California who has been living in Puerto Vallarta for three-and-a-half years, says a doctor’s visit is usually $40.

“No matter what they do, $40 per visit and you can get to see them the very same day you need them. It’s very convenient in a lot of ways,” Altman says.

Mike Altman, 68, Kimberly’s husband, says affordability goes well beyond just medical care. For him, part of the beauty of living in Puerto Vallarta is how far dollars go when it comes to real estate.

“We have an ocean view, 3,000-square-foot condominium that I can afford on my Social Security. How’s that? We have 24-hour security and indoor parking,” Altman says.

According to the U.S. Department of State, 1 million American citizens of all ages live in Mexico, and 20.3 million visited as tourists — making it the No. 1 destination for U.S. travelers.

The number of expats living in Mexico has continued to grow, local officials say, despite safety concerns from the drug violence which has made headlines around the world. Jesus Gallegos Álvarez, tourism secretary of Jalisco state, where Puerto Vallarta is located, was gunned down in March 2013 in the city of Zapopan.

In March, authorities confiscated 1 metric ton of marijuana and 38 kilograms of methamphetamine in nearby Tlajomulco de Zuniga. The seizure was made possible after the arrest of Geronimo Ibarra Alcaraz, 23, an alleged member of a criminal group who, Jalisco authorities say, led them to the discovery of 19 bodies buried in a field, including a restaurateur from Tlajomulco.

But many expats insist their little corner of paradise has largely remained untouched by the drug violence.

“I feel very safe here. I go for walks with my dog at midnight. I go alone and I don’t worry about it. When we lived in northern Minnesota, I’d wake up every morning and hear how many people were killed in Minneapolis overnight. We don’t have that down here,” Sara Wise says.

With plenty of food options, water sports like sailing and diving and American stores like Costco and Home Depot, retirees say they can enjoy the best of Mexico while still having access to many American products.

“We’re here for good,” Sara Wise says with a chuckle. “They’ll probably take us out in a jar of ashes.”

MEXICO LIVING: ORGANIC GARDENS

By: Bea Lozano  |  TopMexicoRealState.com

If you are living on Mexico then you know the organic food movement has been going strong for quite a few years, there is a strong desire in people to go back to basics when it comes to their nourishment. If you visit the local supermarkets, there is a lack of organic produce which is pushing locals living in Mexico to look for new ways to produce their own organic food.

Organic farming integrates cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers are not allowed, although certain organically approved pesticides may be used under limited conditions. In general, organic foods are also not processed using irradiation, industrial solvents, or chemical food additives.

Moce Yax Cuxtal is a local NGO that has been working in the Riviera for many years, protecting Native Trees, creating beautiful organic gardens for businesses and individuals and educating people to produce their own food at home. The goal of Moce Yax Cuxtal is to promote the creation of urban gardens where families can get their fruits and vegetables, thus contributing to the decrease in spending and environmental impact.

Guadalupe de la Rosa, president of Moce Yax Cuxtal and workshop facilitator, is offering an aromatic herbs workshop, which will allow you to grow and reproduce herbs like rosemary, basil, mint, cilantro and lemongrass. The workshop will also include tips on organic pest control, drying and conserving your herbs and so much more.

The workshop will be taught on Saturdays in September from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. at their garden, located on 35th Avenue between 28th and 30th in Gonzalo Guerrero. These and other courses are offered year-round, so feel free to contact the Moce Yax Cuxtal members and ask for more information.

Moce Yax Cuxtal
(984) 115 4490 Lupita
(984) 804 7088 Laura

Or visit their facebook page /grupomoce to keep posted on their latest courses and events.

If you care for the planet we are sure you would also love Holistika, a sustainable development in the Mayan Riviera. Holistika is located in the beautiful town of Tulum, a few blocks away from the beach and surrounded by mangrove and the jungle.

WHERE DO THE EXPATS IN MEXICO MEET? WHERE ARE THE MEXICO EXPAT COMMUNITIES?

By: John Venado | BestPlacesInTheWorldToRetire.com

Around Guadalajara there is an area called Lake Chapala. Fortune Magazine did a cover story several years ago of the ten best places to retire in the world and Lake Chapala was number one. That just gave it a stimulus. There are over 40,000 Americans in the greater Lake Chapala area.

Mexico City is a town of 26 million people, and there are lots Americans living there. We know a number of them because they are involved in some art organizations that we are involved in as well. When we go to Mexico City, we see some friends who used to live in Lake Forest in Chicago. We have a met a number of new people in Mexico City.

Puebla, which is a couple of hours south of Mexico City, is another major colonial town. Volkswagen has their largest plant there. Puebla has about 4 million people and they have lovely old colonial buildings and a great climate.

Acapulco, which is on the west coast, historically was an area where a lot of expats live and still do. The Acapulco area had a renaissance in the last few years from Acapulco all the way down to the airport. There are a lot of new big condominiums and condominium hotels that have been built.

Another area in the state of Oaxaca called Huatulco is being developed by Fonatur (the governmental agency). Huatulco has seven consecutive bays.

A number of our friends on the west coast in the US have always related to Puerto Vallarta, both the old town or down on the beach south of the city. There are a lot of new condos and high-rise hotels.

Cancun is a large tourist magnet for all of Mexico. We now have three terminals at the airport. Millions of people a year go in and out of the Cancun Airport. It is the number one tourist area in Mexico and it’s the number two in terms of number of people flying in and out.

APP DEVELOPED SPECIALLY FOR EXPATS LIVING IN MEXICO TO BE LAUNCHED

By: Marie Callan | BanderasNews.com

According to Banderasnews Website a Bi-National Start-Up is developing an App to Assist Expats Living in Mexico.

Two young Mexican entrepreneurs, Oscar Herrera and Alejandro Vargas set on a mission to help foreigners and expats living in Mexico pay bills and purchase services through mobile apps.
SimplePay is a must-download for expats in Mexico
Ensenada, México – Young entrepreneurs in Baja Mexico have joined forces to make life simpler for expats and foreigners in Mexico. SimplePay, is an app for iPhone, Android, and Web, which will serve three key purposes.

First, the app will allow users to pay utility bills and services such as CFE, Telnor/Telmex, Water, Gas, etc. SimplePay will also partner with government agencies and HOA administrations so that HOA fees, fideicomisos, etc., can be paid all in the same place anywhere you are.

“Living for so many years involved in the American community in Mexico (Puerto Vallarta and now Tijuana) has opened my eyes to all the inefficiencies that Mexico has yet to offer. That is why we developed SimplePay, an app for Americans in Mexico who are used to efficient processes that exist in the US,” says Oscar Herrera, CEO of SimplePay.

Other advantages will include purchase services online (insurance, utilities, real estate title, etc.) But my personal favorite is the on-demand assist. Through SimplePay’s app, users will be able to get a call-back from a bilingual assistant to help them in any circumstance.

“It is very common for my English-speaking (rusty-Spanish) neighbors to ask me for help translating to lawyers, doctors, cleaning lady, and more… So I said, let’s also develop a simple way for someone to request a call-back and a bilingual assistant will translate anything you need on-demand,” explained Herrera.

SimplePay is a must-download for expats in Mexico. The app is expected to be ready in the fourth quarter (September|October) of 2015. In the meantime, you can find more information about SimplePay on Facebook.
About SimplePay: SimplePay is based in Tijuana, B.C. Mexico. Oscar Herrera (27) is a serial entrepreneur who went to college at San Diego State University. He grew up in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, and is currently residing in Playas de Rosarito, B.C. Other of Mr. Herrera’s ventures include LasEspeciales.com, a Hispanic digital platform featuring weekly inserts, which allows users to find, discover, and save on all kinds of retail products through indexed ads. Alejandro Vargas (25) is a seasoned programmer with experience in major companies. He has worked on GE General Electric projects. Mr. Vargas resides in Ensenada, Baja California.