By Glynna Prentice | International Living
If you’re looking to retire in a lively college town with plenty of activities, you should look to scenic Guanajuato, Mexico.
This state capital in central Mexico is a UNESCO World Heritage city, filled with Spanish-colonial buildings. It offers more activities and cultural events than you can possibly manage—thanks to being the main campus of the state university. And to top things off, in Guanajuato, rentals and home purchases are still very affordable.
Rent in Guanajuato from $300 a month
Expat James Pyle, who’s lived in Guanajuato for over a decade and works as a real estate buyers’ representative, estimates that a simple, unfurnished studio or one-bedroom apartment in Guanajuato can rent for as little as $300 a month. “Very nice” homes, he says, run in the $750 to $900 range. At the other extreme, large three- to four-bedroom homes with all amenities can rent for $1,500 to $2,500 a month—and he has indeed placed major business executives in homes at these prices.
If you want to buy a home, decent expat-quality housing can run you in the $100,000 to $150,000 range. (Of course, you can pay more if you want—higher-priced homes are available.) As examples, I saw a two-story, two-bedroom property is for sale. It has 1,000 square feet of space for $99,000, and a three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom house with a terrace for $110,000.
A low cost of living
Daily living costs are relatively low in Guanajuato. Most supermarket items run about 30% below what you’d pay in the U.S. But the real advantage is the many local items. This area is the strawberry capital of Mexico, for instance—and the growing season starts early in the year. A kilo of luscious, ripe strawberries—2.2 pounds—can cost as little as $1.20 in the local markets. Mexican specialties like cactus paddle and chiles can cost pennies on the dollar—and they’re fresh. (Vendors sell the cactus paddle—nopal—with its many spines already cut off by hand…and if you prefer your cactus pre-prepared, you can buy it as nopalitos—cut into strips and already cooked.)
Of course, part of the fun of living in a college town is going out. The restaurant scene in Guanajuato is short on fine dining, say expats who live there—for gourmet meals, you need to head to San Miguel de Allende, about 50 miles away. But Guanajuato has plenty of decent eateries where you can get a good, pleasant dinner for $10 or less….and comidas corridas, or fixed-price lunches, starts at about $4.
Many cultural events, from film festivals to concerts, are free in Guanajuato. But even for-pay performances are generally affordable. A concert by a top-ranked Mexican orchestra took place while I was there, for instance; the ticket price was about $8.50, and friends who attended it said it was excellent.
Note, though, that you’ll need to learn Spanish if you live here long-term. Unlike San Miguel de Allende, where about one out of every eight people is an English-speaker, Guanajuato is a Spanish-speaking city. Fortunately, this is a great place to study Spanish, and many people do. (James Pyle, for instance, first came to Guanajuato to take Spanish classes.)
And with so many activities, you definitely have plenty of incentive to learn…and to practice.