Health and Medical Insurance Options for Mexico

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By Mexperience

Mexico’s public health service does not have reciprocal agreements with any other country, and US Medicare is not available here so visitors and foreign residents need to make specific provision for their health care needs.  In the event of an incident that requires healthcare or medical attention, you’ll need to pay out-of-pocket, or arrange a health or medical insurance policy that is valid in Mexico and provide suitable cover for you and your partner/family in the event of an accident or illness.  This article explains the various options for visitors, extended stays, and foreign residents.

Health Insurance for Short Visits to Mexico

If you’re visiting Mexico for a short period – on a vacation or short business trip, for example – travel insurance policies arranged in your country of residence which cover you for a limited time while you’re away from home should suffice.  These might be provided by your current healthcare provider (but double-check the small print), through an employer’s health plan if you’re here on a short business visit, or through purchase of a short-trip travel insurance product.  You can learn more about short-term travel health insurance on our guide to insurance in Mexico.

Health Insurance for Extended Stays in Mexico

If you plan to be in Mexico for an extended stay, but don’t intent to take-up residence in Mexico – for example, you might take a sabbatical, a volunteer job, or plan to stay in Mexico for six months or less – then a short-term travel insurance policy might not cover your needs.  In these circumstances, you may consider a private health insurance policy that covers you locally and, if you retain health coverages in your home country, you might also consider taking out a medical evacuation plan in the event of a serious medical incident that requires you to be flown home for treatment and recovery.

Health Insurance for Foreign Residents in Mexico

Short term health and medical insurance products designed for visitors to Mexico often require you to be resident in the country where the policy is issued.  If you intend to apply for, or have, residency in Mexico, then you should check the small print of your policy as many products will not cover you for long stays here and/or if you are not ordinarily resident in your home country. (If they do, you will probably need to evacuate to your home country to avail yourself of the service.)

Mexico’s IMSS Medical Insurance

Foreign residents (temporary or permanent) can apply for the Mexican public healthcare insurance system known an IMSS on a voluntary basis which provides access to certain doctors, clinics and hospitals in Mexico.  Some medications are also covered under this plan.  Coverage costs depend on your age; restrictions and limitations apply and, like all publicly-funded healthcare systems, patient demand is usually higher than the supply of services, so you may have to wait for care. (Note also that people who are enrolled in IMSS through an employer get priority over those who enroll voluntarily.)  

Private Medical Insurance in Mexico

Most foreign residents who can afford to do so will take out a private medical insurance plan that covers their personal needs and gives them direct access to private doctors, clinics and hospitals in Mexico.  Policies are crafted to the individual situation of the person, couple, or family, and premiums depend on things like your age, term of coverage, coverages included, and the deductible you are willing to pay in the event of a claim.  You can complete this health insurance request and our associate will contact you personally to discuss your situation and needs, and provide a no-obligation quote for you to review.

Medical Evacuation from Mexico

If you are resident part-time in Mexico and continue to have health coverage back home, then you might consider a medical evacuation plan to enable you to get home for treatment and to convalesce close to your own doctors and family in the event that you experience a serious accident or health event (e.g. heart attack) while you are here.

Comparing The Best Of Mexico: Puerto Vallarta Vs. Mazatlán

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By Lee Harrison | live and invest overseas

Best Beach On Mexico’s Pacific Coast?

One of the questions I hear most frequently is why I chose to live in Mazatlán, rather than the better-known Puerto Vallarta. In fact, even here at Live and Invest Overseas, Puerto Vallarta gets more coverage and higher ratings.

So why choose Mazatlán? Let’s compare the two.

In Some Ways, Both Destinations Are Quite Similar

Both Puerto Vallarta (PV) and Mazatlán enjoy choice spots on Mexico’s Pacific coast, with good access to the United States and Canada.

Both cities are longtime tourism destinations, which has both positive and negative consequences. For example, the touristy “Romantic Zone” in Puerto Vallarta is about the least romantic environment I’ve ever seen… similar to Mazatlán’s Golden Zone. 

PV and Mazatlán also both offer numerous, varied lifestyle options for the part-year resident, vacation homeowner, or full-time expat. They have good residential property inventories and can be great places to manage a rental.

English is widely spoken in both cities, and both are popular among American and Canadian expats.

The infrastructure is good in both PV and Mazatlán, not only for the practical stuff (water, electricity, cable, internet, etc.), but also with respect to tourism infrastructure, with restaurants, nightlife, and activities.

The cost of living is close between PV and Mazatlán in the expat areas. The statistical data I found claims Mazatlán to be a bit cheaper, but only by 11% overall. In many categories, they’re too close to call. Mazatlán has a “real” city behind the coastal areas in which you can live very inexpensively. But, since expats almost never live there, I don’t think it’s fair to include those areas in a cost analysis.

Both cities can be very walkable if you settle in the right place—many expats live without a car. And both cities offer tranquil beachfront neighborhoods, which are completely residential and free from the trappings of tourism.

Finally, the cost of living is very low right now in both places, thanks to a U.S. dollar that’s very strong by historic standards. Based on exchange rates, the U.S. dollar has about 79% more buying power than it had in 2008. And the Canadian dollar is also near record highs against the Mexican peso.

And, of course, both cities benefit from Mexico’s super-easy residency. I got my resident’s visa at a consulate in about 20 minutes without translations, background checks, or document certifications. And you may not even need residency with Mexico’s long, six-month tourist stays.

But Mazatlán And Puerto Vallarta Differ In Important Ways

Here are some areas where the cities are different, along with my opinion as to which is better.

Beaches and Boardwalk

Mazatlán wins this category, with miles of contiguous beaches. Compared to those in PV, they’re larger and relatively uncrowded. The longest beach, at three miles long (almost 5 km), is along Avenida del Mar. There’s no construction on the beach, making it 100% accessible from the boardwalk. The Cerritos beach is also three miles long.

At five miles (8 km), Mazatlán’s boardwalk (malecón) is claimed to be the longest uninterrupted boardwalk in the world.

Restaurants, Cafés, and Nightlife

Puerto Vallarta takes this one easily. Even though Mazatlán is almost twice the size of Puerto Vallarta, PV has far more restaurants and cafés of the type an expat or visitor would seek out.

Make no mistake: Both cities have plenty of fine dining, cafés, casual beachfront restaurants, and night spots. But PV probably doubles Mazatlán’s offering.

Cultural Scene

I give this one to Mazatlán. With the Angela Peralta Theater, a symphony orchestra, chamber music groups, the Sunday concert series, and Friday Art Walk, Mazatlán offers plenty of cultural activity. Mazatlán’s carnaval celebration is the third largest in the hemisphere, after Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans’s Mardi Gras.

Ocean Views and Scenery

This category goes handily to Puerto Vallarta. PV is bordered by mountains to the east, and its elevation rises rapidly as you go inland. This provides for a wealth of magnificent ocean and sunset views from a number of areas. In Mazatlán, the only way to get views like this is to have a place on the ocean or on one of two very small and crowded coastal hills.

Also, the hills around Puerto Vallarta (and heading south) are thick, green, and lush, while the area surrounding Mazatlán is dry and brown during much of the winter high season.


High temperatures are somewhat higher in Puerto Vallarta than in Mazatlán. In August, for example, Mazatlán averages 88°F (31°C), while PV comes in at 93°F (34°C). Mazatlán, however, tends to be more humid than PV, so it won’t feel much different.

Puerto Vallarta gets more rain than Mazatlán, with 55 inches of rain (1,392 mm) falling on 75 days of the year. Mazatlán gets only 32 inches (800 mm), with rainfall seen on just 46 days.

But PV’s increased rainfall is what makes the area so green and lush, so I see this as a benefit.

To me, the weather between the two cities is a wash, in a practical way. If you’re here (in either city) in the summer, you’ll want air conditioning… if you’re here in the winter, you’ll throw the windows open and enjoy the sunshine.

Historic Colonial Center

Here I prefer Mazatlán. The historic center is large, active, and in pretty good shape. It’s undergone a dramatic restoration in recent years and is still improving. Plazuela Machado, the colonial town square, is unlike anything I’ve seen, with its historic buildings, outdoor dining, and large, renowned theater.

In Mazatlán, the historic center is miles from the Golden Zone, Mazatlán’s main tourist area.

The city’s old-fashioned, “non-tourist” central market is still thriving, as is its newer Saturday farmers’ market, an enormous flower market, and a bustling shrimp market (shrimp is a big industry in Mazatlán).

Most full-time expats live in Mazatlán’s historic center.

LGBT Lifestyle

Puerto Vallarta wins this category, for sure. PV is known to be the most gay-friendly city in Mexico. But PV is more than just gay-friendly… and gay people are more than just “accepted” or “welcomed.” Here it can feel like being gay is the norm.

You’ll see same-sex couples, both male and female, of all ages and nationalities.

I suppose there are gay people and same-sex couples in Mazatlán, too. But I haven’t personally seen any public displays of affection or anyone who appeared to be a same-sex couple. Mazatlán is more of a Mexican destination than an international resort, and their traditional conservatism shows in this area.

Outdoor Activities

PV definitely wins this category. If you enjoy outdoor activities, PV (and the nearby jungle) offers plenty. You’ll find quads, buggies, zip-lining, fly boarding, bungee jumping, etc.

And they make booking easy, with agents and kiosks all over town.

In Mazatlán, the biggest outdoor attraction is sportfishing, perhaps followed by golf… both of which you’ll find in PV, too.

Access to the United States and Canada

Here it depends on whether you’re driving or flying.

Mazatlán is a day’s drive closer to the U.S. border, with a drive time of about 13.5 hours. Many seasonal residents from the north drive down in the autumn and drive back in the springtime.

But PV has far better nonstop flight service to both the States and Canada.

  • Puerto Vallarta nonstops: 17 to the United States, 15 to Canada
  • Mazatlán nonstops: 4 to the United States, 5 to Canada

Real Estate

I give this one to Mazatlán.

Studies have shown that PV has the most expensive real estate market in Mexico, But this is a bit misleading. You have to realize that PV is weighted heavily with resort/expat properties, so it doesn’t compare well on nationwide samples that include cities (like Mazatlán) with large, working-class neighborhoods.

Mazatlán is mostly a Mexican market. In the vacation-home market (excluding the other parts of town), about 65% of the buyers are Mexican. Of the remainder, 60% are Canadian.

If you want a condo directly on the sand, PV prices will appear very expensive. But that’s mostly because the new luxury offerings (on the sand) tend to be larger in PV than in Mazatlán. On a cost-per-square-meter basis, PV is only about 6% higher. In both cities, I looked at new, high-end construction, both on the beach and outside of town.

But in the historic center, it was a far different story. I found three front-line condos for sale in Puerto Vallarta, ranging in price from US$600k to US$1.3 million. The cost per square meter averaged US$3,662.

Then I found a brand-new luxury building on the seafront in Mazatlán’s historic center. The average price here is under US$370,000, which works out to US$1,623 per square meter.

Back To The Original Question

So why did we pick Mazatlán? It was mostly the attraction of the walkable historic center and all the amenities it offers… including the fact that the historic center is miles from the main tourist area in Mazatlán.

And, importantly, it’s possible to buy a beachfront property in the historic center, which is rare… so you can enjoy the advantages of both.

Also, Mazatlán is primarily a Mexican resort. On any given night in the historic center, I’d say 95% of the people on the boardwalk are from Mexico. And while there’s a strong expat presence, it’s unquestionably a Mexican city.

To me, it just feels homier than Puerto Vallarta.

Which City Is Right For You?

If you want a quiet, lush, hillside setting that’s away from the noise of the beach area—with long ocean and sunset views—then you definitely want to head to PV.

Also, if you want outdoor, active diversions, then PV will be better for you.

Overall, Puerto Vallarta is just plain “nicer” than Mazatlán, which can be rough around the edges in some areas.

Pick Mazatlán if you want a less-touristy environment in a more Mexican city, or if you like life in the historic center. It’s the perfect spot if you want to walk for miles on an uncrowded beach, while in the city limits.

I’d say Mazatlán is better for full-time living, while PV would be better for a vacation home. Also, I think you’ll prefer Mazatlán if you’re over 55…

All analysis aside though, these cities are both good choices for a vacation- or second-home destination—depending on your preferences—and hold good opportunities for property investment.

Mexico is a Country of Many Choices

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By Donald Murray | International Living

Mexico, didn’t become the most popular expat retirement destination for U.S. citizens by accident. For decades, visitors from north of the border have traveled south of the border, seeking affordability, great tequila, fresh guacamole…and a slower pace of life. Even those who briefly visit for a suntan and a hangover often return, year after year, and many of those vacationers choose to retire here. Mexico is perfect for retirees. From Florida, or Texas, Cancún is less than a two-hour flight, so friends and family are always close. So beware: retirees in Mexico are advised to have a spare bedroom for all the family and friends that will visit.

Some estimates indicate about 2 million U.S. residents have retired to Mexico. In fact, more U.S. retirees have chosen Mexico, above all other countries, to spend their retirement years. Using a complex, comparative matrix considering safety, health care, affordability, government stability, and a functional infrastructure, International Living selected Mexico as its number one retirement destination for 2017.

It is impossible to paint any country with one brush and Mexico is no different. Like the U.S., Mexico is a nation of regions where climate, customs, expenses, attire, and food all vary, one from another, but as a rule, Mexico is a modern country. Paved roads, modern hospitals, a stable electrical grid and functioning Internet can be found almost everywhere.

For retirees who meet the modest income requirement of about $2,100 monthly (based on current exchange rates), a permanent pensioner’s visa can usually be issued, within just a few hours. The process needs to begin in your home country/state by visiting the nearest Mexican Consulate. Once your visa has been issued and you arrive in Mexico, the second part of the process involves obtaining your national ID card. Mexico’s process is relatively painless.

Life in Mexico can be very affordable. Generally, one can live a very nice life for about 30% to 50% of what it costs north of the border. Many couples live a very comfortable life for $1,500 to $2,000 a month, all inclusive. You can certainly spend more, and some people spend less. Life along Mexico’s Pacific, Gulf, or Caribbean coastlines costs more than life inland, as it does in all countries bordered by oceans and seas. That said, it is still significantly cheaper than a comparable life up north.

From the Baja Peninsula and the gorgeous Pacific Coast, the Central Highlands all the way across the country to Mexico’s Caribbean coast and down the Yucatán Peninsula’s world-famous Riviera Maya…expats have built their retirement nests throughout this vast and wonderful nation. Many have gathered in some favored spots such as Puerto Vallarta, the southern Baja, the Lake Chapala region and colonial cities such as Mérida and San Miguel de Allende. Others, preferring a more tropical experience, have settled along the Caribbean Coast from Cancún south to Tulum, an area known as the Riviera Maya. Each of these places has been well-vetted by those who have come before, and they continue to be magnets for those seeking an affordable and stimulating retirement. And if you’re one of those who would rather blaze your own trail than follow another’s path…Mexico offers thousands of square miles filled with unspoiled towns and villages.

Honestly, the hardest part of retiring to Mexico is deciding which region, city, town or village best suits you and your lifestyle. Do you want a walkable village without the need to own a car? Perhaps Chapala, Ajijic or San Miguel would suit you. Think you might enjoy a larger, colonial city, filled with historic architecture and indigenous occupants? Consider Mérida, Valladolid or San Miguel de Allende. How about a Caribbean lifestyle closely connected to the sea? The Riviera Maya can’t be beat. Consider Cancún, Playa del Carmen, Tulum or the small village of Akumal. You can’t go wrong.

Why You Should Move To Mexico In 2017


By David J Pierce | Escape Artist

Mexico is already the most popular country for American and Canadian expats. Estimates put the number of expats in Mexico at well over 1 million and increasing every year. Since Trump took office, the peso has been crushed and Mexico is now very cheap for us gringos. Here’s why you should move to Mexico in 2017.

I expect the number of applications from the U.S. and Canada for residency in Mexico to significantly increase in the next two or three years… during the Trump years. Not because of the hype and hyperbole around those who want to get out of the U.S., but rather value seekers moving to a low cost country.

When I began exploring Mexico in 2000, one U.S. dollar was around ten pesos. It sat there until 2008 when it went to around 12 pesos to the dollar. As of this writing, a dollar is worth 22 pesos. This makes life very cheap in Mexico for U.S. expats and gives you a quality of life you could never afford in the States. The threat of Trump has crushed the peso. Mexico’s loss is your gain and why you should move to Mexico in 2017.

Lower costs and a higher quality of life for those moving to Mexico are especially attractive in the middle and southern regions of the country. Focus on cities Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico City and Guadalajara. The further north you go, the more good are imported from the United States, pushing up prices.

A strong dollar has the opposite effect on countries who use the dollar or peg their currency to the USD. While costs are falling throughout Latin America for Americans (and Canadians to a lesser extent) expats, residents of Panama, Ecuador and El Salvador are paying in U.S. dollars and see no benefit. Likewise, much of the Caribbean is pegged to the dollar and having a tough time.

Note that I’m not necessarily advocating you move to Mexico for the long term, or buy a home there. If you pay cash, real estate in Mexico is cheap. If you need a mortgage to afford property in Mexico, don’t do it. The weak peso is pushing up interest rates and might cause real problems in the next year or two.

I’m focused on the short term benefits of moving to Mexico during the Trump years.

Let’s look at the business reasons for moving to Mexico in 2017. Then I’ll talk about the quality of life benefits.

My two top picks as the best cities for expats are Guanajuato, Mexico and Panama City, Panama. Guanajuato being the best for retirees thinking of retiring in Mexico and those with portable businesses and Panama being the best for traditional businesses with employees. For more on this, see The World’s Best City for Expats. More on Guanajuato later.

The reason for choosing Panama for business is simple – taxation. If you operate a business with employees in Mexico, you will pay tax to Mexico on your worldwide income. Also, if you are a tax resident of Mexico, you’ll pay Mexican tax on your worldwide income. For more, take a read through Taxation of Expats in Mexico.

But there are legal ways to manage your worldwide tax exposure. For example, operating through an offshore corporation in Panama while living in Mexico, running an online business with no employees in Mexico, or being a perpetual traveler (good for Americans, not so much for Canadians).

Pro Tip for Americans: You always need to have legal residency somewhere, be it in Mexico where you spend your time or Panama where you have your corporation and banking. Foreign residency will help you qualify for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. If not in Mexico, then consider Panama residency through investment.

All of this means that you can move to Mexico, increase your quality of life, and lower your costs by 50% to 70% compared to the United States. I don’t know how long this currency arbitrage will last, but I do know that moving to Mexico for the next few years is a great opportunity for those earning  in dollars.

Of course, moving to Mexico is not all about saving money. Finding a great value and improving your quality of life in the process are both important. Here are the other reasons to move to Mexico in 2017.

Mexico is close the to the United States, allowing you easy access for meetings and family visits. I live in San Diego, which is a 30 drive from the border and 1 hour from Rosarito. I can fly to most major cities in Mexico in a few hours. If you live on the East Coast of the U.S., Mexico City and Guadalajara are even closer.

And there are some good business opportunities and resources for expats in Mexico. For example, a number of outsourcing firms have set up in Tijuana and other border towns. They call this nearshoring (rather than offshoring) because of the efficiencies realized when dealing with someone nearby. Executives often schedule meetings in the United States and can be in California in about an hour considering the border wait time.

Now for a little on the quality of life benefits of moving to Mexico in 2017.

Being from southern California, I know beautiful beaches. I can tell you from experience that the northern baja areas of Mexico, from Rosarito down, are beautiful. Parts of Rosarito remind me of La Jolla (an amazing city in San Diego), but at a fraction of the price. A small home in La Jolla will cost well over $2 million, where the same in Rosarito might be for rent at $1,500 a month. You can find beachfront or beach adjacent for as little as $500 a month.

And Mexico has some great historic cities. My favorite is the state of Guanajuato, which is a 5 hour drive north of Mexico City, so mas or menos in the center of the country. I suggest you start exploring this region in the capital of Leon, which has 1.5 million residents and great weather. Leon was founded in 1530 and has architecture dating back to the 13th century.

If Leon is to hip and modern, drive an hour to the towns of Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende. Both are oozing with history and paved in cobblestone. Because there’s no airport, they haven’t had the rush of tourists like Leon and remain true expat paradises.

I’ll close by mentioning that healthcare is quite good in medium to large cities in Mexico. If you’re a retired expat looking to cut healthcare costs, look to southern cities in Mexico where private hospitals are cheap and often staff U.S. trained doctors.

Which is another reason I suggest the Guanajuato region of Mexico. You can live in a historic town such as San Miguel de Allende and be about one hour from good medical care in Leon.

The best two private hospitals in Leon are Hospital Angeles (my personal choice) and the Hospital Aranda de La Parra. Both have a full staff with the with good doctors and modern equipment.

Why Mexico Is The Clear Favorite For Americans Going Abroad


By Kathleen Peddicord | Live and Invest Overseas

8 Reasons Mexico Is North America’s Favorite Place To Retire “Overseas”

Over the past four decades, Americans have voted Mexico the world’s #1 place to live or retire in the way that really counts: They’ve packed up and moved there. This country is home to more American expats and retirees than any other, at least 1 million and as many as 2 million, depending on the survey.

This shouldn’t surprise anyone. It’s easier for an American to get to Mexico than to any other country other than Canada.

Why do Americans choose to go south of the Rio Grande rather than to the Great White North?

The weather!

Americans looking to start a new life in a new country primarily seek three things: warm weather, beautiful beaches, and a low cost of living. Mexico competes handily in all three categories.

This big, diverse country offers dozens of great living options, from colorful and historic colonial cities like San Miguel de Allende, Cuernavaca, Guanajuato, and Oaxaca to beach towns like Playa del Carmen and Tulum (on the Caribbean coast) and Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlán (on the Pacific).

While the living is not as cheap as it was in the 1970s when Americans began migrating here in volume, it’s a global bargain and more of a budgeter’s delight right now than it’s been in a long time thanks to the U.S. dollar’s strength against the Mexican peso.

In some parts of the country, this translates to super real estate deals. But even where real estate trades in U.S. dollars (as it does in many Mexican markets, including Mazatlán), the strong dollar makes everything else—from a liter of gasoline and a week’s worth of groceries to a suite of bedroom furniture and a night out on the town—a bargain. Two can dine five star, enjoying three courses and good wine, for less than 50 bucks.

7 More Reasons To Choose Mexico

  • The country is familiar, from its administrative set-up (the Mexican government is a stable democracy, with executive, legislative, and judicial branches functioning in a similar way to those in the United States) to its big-footprint shopping. If you’re itching for an adventure in a foreign land that’s not too foreign, Mexico could be the experience you seek.
  • It’s easy to go back and forth, making it a top choice for part-time living. Drive down as often as you like without worrying about plane fare.
  • All the North American attention from both expats and tourists means that many Mexicans, especially in the service industry, speak English. This can make things like navigating the residency process at the immigration office and managing the real estate purchase process with your attorney much easier.
  • Property markets in many areas of Mexico are depressed. The Great Recession took its toll in this country, especially in the areas popular as second home markets among Americans. Many still have not fully recovered, making for a nice buyer’s advantage.
  • Automatic six-month tourist stays and easy and fast immigration make it possible to come and go and spend as much time in the country as you’d like. You can maintain a second home here (a place you rent out when you’re not using it yourself, say) without having to bother with the expense of obtaining formal resident status.
  • Moving to Mexico can be as hassle-free as an international move gets. Nothing’s as easy as loading up a truck and driving south. Your entire moving budget could be gas and tolls.
  • You can return easily to the United States to use Medicare. If you’re considering this move as a retiree, nearing or over the age of 65, this can be Mexico’s most compelling advantage. Mexico offers excellent healthcare, but Medicare won’t pay for it—with limited exceptions, Medicare doesn’t cross any border. However, if you retire in Mexico, you’d be only a drive or quick flight away from accessing your benefits.

This means keeping and continuing to pay for Medicare coverage in addition to any other health insurance you might opt for. This can be a good strategy for a Medicare-eligible retiree moving to any foreign country, a safety net.

Of course, Mexico is an interesting and appealing option for reinventing your life at any age. It’s also a big, diverse place, offering many attractive lifestyle choices, including…

  • Mazatlán: If you don’t want to choose between living in a city and living at the beach, in Mazatlán you don’t have to…
  • San Miguel de Allende: The best of Mexico’s Spanish-colonial heritage and a charming, lively place to spend time, voted the world’s #1 city by Conde Nast Traveler
  • The Riviera Maya: If you seek quintessential Caribbean… on a shoestring or a luxury budget… Mexico’s Riviera Maya coast is calling your name…
  • Guanajuato: The crown jewel of Mexico’s colonial cities, oozing romance at every turn…
  • La Bahia de Navidad: Situated on Mexico’s Costa Alegre (“Christmas Bay on the Happy Coast”), La Bahia de Navidad is a super affordable, small-town version of up-scale Puerto Vallarta four hours to the north. With a Mexican population of just a few thousand friendly folks, the 500 or so full-time expats integrate easily into the two main towns on the bay…

3 Popular Seaside Towns In Mexico Within Driving Distance Of U.S.


By Lee Harrison | Live and Invest Overseas

Three Top Coastal Retirement Choices In Mexico (That You Can Drive To)

One of the most valuable conveniences you could hope for when purchasing a home abroad can be the ability to load up the car and drive to it… it’s one of Mexico’s biggest advantages.

Today let’s look at three popular spots on the Sea of Cortez, all within a day’s drive of the U.S. border: Puerto Peñasco, San Carlos, and Mazatlán.

The Sea of Cortez is the body of water that separates Baja California from the Mexican mainland; it’s also known as the Gulf of California. It starts at the mouth of the Colorado River. The sea is noted for its warm, calm, and relatively protected waters and for being one of the most biologically diverse seas on earth.

Anyone who has driven to western Mexico from the United States has likely skirted along the Sea of Cortez. The towns we’re going to look at today are quite different from each other. (More on that in a minute.) But they also have several things in common:

  • They all enjoy the convenience of U.S. franchises, big-box stores, and U.S. products;
  • Many people in these places speak English, including virtually all service providers;
  • Each location has a large, English-speaking expat community;
  • The weather is just about perfect in the winter, with balmy days and cool nights. But it’s far from perfect in the summer. I believe the precise meteorological term is “hot as hell”;
  • Sportfishing is great on the sea and a big tourism draw to the area;
  • Property taxes are extremely low, even on the beach. You can expect to pay somewhere in the US$200 to US$400 range.

Let’s take a look at three attractive choices just south of the border…


Puerto Peñasco (AKA Rocky Point), Sonora

Drive time from U.S. border: 1 hour 10 minutes, 62 miles (100 kms).

No direct flights to the United States or Canada.

Puerto Peñasco enjoys miles of wide, sandy beaches bordered by the warm waters of the Sea of Cortez… waters that are warm, clear, and calm all year long. The grade going into the water is gentle, making it perfect for small children.

For sun lovers, Puerto Peñasco sees 362 days per year of brilliant sunshine… which is about as close to always as you can get. This is no surprise, since the town is on the edge of the Altar Desert… one of the driest and hottest in the Americas.

And if you’re a boater, you’ll appreciate the large, sheltered marina, which hosts both commercial and pleasure craft.

Best of all, beachfront homes here are a real bargain.

This popular destination is known as Puerto Peñasco in Spanish, and Rocky Point in English. Surprisingly, it had its English name first, named so in 1826 by a retired Royal Navy admiral who was in the area scouting for precious metals. The Mexican president renamed the town in the 1930s.

Any discussion of Puerto Peñasco has to start with the fact that it’s only 62 miles (100 kms) from the U.S. border, a drive that takes about 1 hour and 10 minutes. It’s just over three-and-a-half hours by car from Phoenix and six hours from San Diego.

Properties in Puerto Peñasco can be quite a bargain, even on the beachfront. I always look for good deals at a development called Las Gaviotas because it’s on the beach, it’s within walking distance to downtown, and the prices are low. Units here rent for about US$125 daily, or US$1,200 per month. You’ll often see listings from US$110,000 to US$150,000.

As of today, a walk-out-onto-the-sand townhouse will run you US$204,000, beachfront condos start at about US$149k in good areas, and an ocean-view home (three blocks in from the beach) will set you back US$109k. Luxury properties in high-end developments can easily exceed US$500k.

Disadvantages of Puerto Peñasco:

  • Puerto Peñasco does not have an attractive historic center, so there are better places to enjoy a downtown lifestyle near the sea.
  • The seafront restaurant district is fairly touristy, so it’s hard to enjoy the malecón(seafront promenade) without the annoyances of vendors and tour guides looking for your business.
  • There are no big cities nearby, for the practical items that big cities offer. Your best bet for a real city is probably Tucson, Arizona.

Advantages of Puerto Peñasco:

  • Puerto Peñasco is just over an hour from Arizona. And after crossing at Lukeville, Arizona, I didn’t stop for any customs or immigration checks. Also, no vehicle permit is required this close to the border.
  • Puerto Peñasco has a large expat community, and you’ll have plenty of neighbors from Arizona or California.
  • U.S. dollars are accepted almost everywhere, except at the gas station. You’ll get a better deal spending pesos, but it’s nice to know you can use dollars in a pinch.

San Carlos, Sonora

Drive time from U.S. border: 5 hours and 15 minutes, 261 miles (421 kms).

No direct flights to the United States or Canada.

Miles of sandy beaches… clear, warm waters… excellent diving… and a large expat community. These are what come to mind when I recall San Carlos.

San Carlos is a popular drive-to destination for people in the western United States and Canada. It’s as far south as you can go in western Mexico without having to get a vehicle permit. I first traveled to San Carlos from Álamos, on the recommendation of our realtor there who pointed out that some Álamos residents also own second homes in San Carlos.

The city was born as a well-planned tourist destination in the mid-1950s… it had formerly been three large ranches. As such, you won’t find a colonial historic center in San Carlos… but you won’t find the poverty or run-down neighborhoods that you might expect in a real city either.

The town has a positive, upbeat atmosphere, bolstered by the abundance of cheerful cafés, bars, shops, and restaurants. Most venues cater to the American and Canadian residents, so you’ll see plenty of burger joints along with a good selection of seafood restaurants.

Sandy beaches highlight the entire area, bordering warm, calm waters. The city sits at the top of a giant cove, and the San Carlos coastline actually runs east and west, rather than north and south. In town, the 1.5 miles (2 kms) of beaches are mostly behind oceanfront homes and buildings. But as soon as you leave town heading down the coast, you’ll encounter over 3 miles (4.9 kms) of beautiful, uninterrupted beach. Heading north, it’s just as beautiful.

San Carlos is a noted diving destination, with visibilities commonly in excess of 100 feet (31 meters) and sometimes over 200 feet (61 meters). It’s also a sportfishing destination and a good place for boaters, with two good marinas.

It’s an easy drive down Highway 15 from Arizona, on what they call the “Hassle Free Highway.” (The hassle-free label refers to absence of vehicle permits and customs… not the absence of speed limit enforcement.)

Properties in San Carlos are a good deal. A modern beachfront condo will start at about US$200,000, for a two-bedroom, 1,400-square-foot (130-square-meter), on-the-sand building. The best deal I saw on a house was a two-bedroom, one-bath, 1,300-square-foot (120-square-meter) home just one “realtor block” in from the beach (234 meters actual distance). The asking price was only US$83,000. A nice beachfront house on a large lot (in the Bahia sector) will start at US$325,000.

Disadvantages Of San Carlos

  • San Carlos is a planned city that came into being fairly recently. So you won’t have the feel of Mexican heritage that you see in most Mexican cities. You will, however, see many homes in the colonial style.

Advantages Of San Carlos

  • It’s an easy drive from the U.S. border, with no vehicle permit required. Like Puerto Peñasco, San Carlos lies in Sonora’s “free zone,” which enjoys reduced customs requirements.
  • It’s a noted diving location, with good diving facilities.
  • San Carlos has two nice marinas with plenty of slips.
  • It’s adjacent to a real city (Guaymas), with good services and commercial establishments.

Mazatlán, Sinaloa

Drive time from U.S. border: 14 hours, 723 miles (1,165 kms).

Four nonstop flights to the United States, and five to Canada.

Mazatlán is a long-established, well-developed resort city on the Mexican coastal mainland opposite the tip of Baja California. It’s a fairly large city, with the resort areas and historic center are along the coast… while the non-resort sectors—the seaport, tuna fleet, and industrial area—lie farther inland. As you can imagine, most expats and part-year residents live on or near the coast.

One thing that sets Mazatlán apart is that it has a large and well-maintained colonial historic center. In fact, as I write this, road crews are working seven days per week converting the paved roads in Centro back to cobblestones. They’re also widening the boardwalk, adding bike lanes, expanding many of the sidewalks, and improving the lighting.

But what originally made Mazatlán famous were the beaches… about 20 miles (32 kms) of white sand, bordering clear, warm waters, with a boardwalk running adjacent to the beach for about 10 miles (16 kms).

Since Mazatlán is a real city, you’ll also find a good offering of big city amenities… things like hospitals, theater, jazz, classical concerts, and fine dining, along with the waterfront seafood restaurants and beach scene.

The city also offers several golf courses and a large marina district with good marine facilities as well as residential developments. Sportfishing is a big attraction in Mazatlán, with a good-sized fleet of boats to service the influx of anglers going for sailfish, wahoo, mahi mahi and yellowfin tuna, as well as the area’s record-setting marlin.

Mazatlán’s a great place to combine colonial city living with a beachside lifestyle

Properties in Mazatlán vary from basic vacation construction to high-end luxury. A large, two-bedroom beachfront condo just north of the Golden Zone (away from the historic center) will start at about US$199,000. A waterfront home in the marina district will go for US$189,000, for a three-bedroom, 2,100-square-foot (192-square-meters) unit.

The best luxury addresses on the water will sell two-bedroom, 2,100-square-foot units starting at about US$340,000. If you want a luxury seafront unit in the historic center, you’ll pay about US$350,000.

Disadvantages Of Mazatlán

  • If you’re driving, it’s at the limit of a one-day drive. I actually break it into two days when I go to the United States, while our younger family members do it in one.
  • In the Golden Zone (the main tourist area), you’ll find plenty of touristy annoyances, such as tour guides and vendors. As a resident, you probably won’t spend much time there.
  • Mazatlán is mostly a Mexican resort, and Mexicans are not known for their quiet partying… so it can get noisy downtown during weekends and holidays.

Advantages Of Mazatlán

  • Mazatlán offers city amenities, such as theater, orchestra, and city-style shopping.
  • You’ll find plenty of fine dining, cafés, and hole-in-the-wall bars to enjoy.
  • Most of the beaches are directly accessible, without buildings blocking access.
  • There are a variety of lifestyles to choose from: quiet or bustling… historic or modern… expat areas or those more popular with well-off Mexicans.
  • Convenient flights make the trip to Phoenix in less than two hours.

Is A Home On The Sea Of Cortez For You?

Puerto Peñasco is perfect for those who want a convenient, short-term getaway. I think it’s best for the part-time or vacation homeowner, and from the western United States, it’s feasible to go for a long weekend.

San Carlos is still within an easy drive of the United States, and offers more amenities to the expat or part-time resident. It’s also a better base of exploration from which you can discover more of interior Mexico.

Mazatlán is best for full-time or long-term living, offering the chance to combine colonial city living with a beachside lifestyle.

The Sea of Cortez is calm, warm, sheltered, and close by. If you’re looking for an easy-access seaside home, there’s a good chance that one of these cities will be right for you.


Social Security: What you need to know before retiring abroad

social 3By Justin McCuin, Social Security manager in Redding | Daily News Lifestyle

Retiring outside of the United States can be an exciting way to spend your golden years. Perhaps retirement in Poland or Peru is in your plans. In many cases, it’s possible to receive your Social Security retirement benefits while living abroad. Our website can help you navigate your benefit eligibility while living overseas.

If you’ve worked in both the United States and another country, it may be possible for your credits to combine for a larger benefit. Currently, there are 25 countries with such international agreements with the United States. To find out if you have qualifying work in a country with such an agreement, visit

You can receive benefits in many countries. To find out whether you can receive your benefits in the country where you are retiring, you should use our Payments Abroad Screening Tool at

There are easy ways to get in touch with us and report changes to Social Security when you live overseas. You can contact your local U.S. embassy, write to us by mail, or call us at 1-800-772-1213. You can find other information in regards to living overseas at

Social Security is with you throughout life’s journey, even if that journey takes you outside the United States. You can always access our wide range of safe and secure online resources at