By Michaela | Retire in Lake Chapala
Unless you have a serious aversion to Mexico, Ajijic, on the shores of Mexico’s largest lake, Lake Chapala, is one of the finest places on the planet that you could consider retiring to. True, it’s not the commercial advertisement of a hot bikini clad body sipping a margarita on the beach, but it has enough development, a large expat community and a perfect year around climate to make settling here easy and stress free.
After having traveled to other Central American countries such as Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Nicaragua searching for a pleasant climate to call home, Ajijic, Mexico has check marked all the boxes on my wish list. When you look at all the factors of what makes an ideal retirement destination for year around living you find that there is a world of difference between retiring to Lake Chapala verses other retirement destinations such as Boquete, Panama; Cuenca, Equador; Grenada, Nicaragua; or any other country in Central America. Hands down, Lake Chapala beats the climate options, commerce options, ease of travel to and from USA or Canada, and quality health care options compared to these other destinations. Heck, they even have all the things we love such as Walmart, Costco (Guadalajara), Autozone, etc. Even Amazon.mx!
Lets look at some of the things people look for in a retirement destination:
Likely the #1 reason why so many choose Lake Chapala as their retirement destination. Lake Chapala has an incredible climate with with an average temperature of 72 degrees F (21 degrees C). Rains happen only in the summer and then mostly only at night. How awesome is that?
Cost of Living
Cost of Living is about 35-50% of what it would cost to live in the U.S. or Canada. Assuming you own your own home, have 2 cars, and eat out/entertain (2-3 times/week), you can expect to pay about $19,000/yr USD per couple. Some even live here well on Social Security at $15,000 /year.
Rents run at $500-2500 USD/month with a normal range of $700-$1200 USD for year long leases that can include some or all of the utilities such as electric, gas, cable, water and trash, gardener and maid. Remember too, there is no need for heat or AC in the home.
Personal services are a quarter of the cost of the US (maid, car driver, personal care, concierge – $2-4/hour). Auto mechanic a quarter to a third of the USA cost. Haircut – $3.00, Car wash – $3.00.
Imagine living in a real Mexican Village complete with plaza/churches/festivals/parades, boating/kayaking on the lake, hiking in the mountains, discovering ancient artifacts (caves, pyramids, petroglyphs), lazing the day away in thermal baths, visiting rustic rural villages/farms, and even enjoying world class shopping, 5 star restaurants and the opera in the second largest city of Mexico, Guadalajara. Now this is living your retirement years to the fullest!
There is a huge entertainment schedule weekly with live music every night at some restaurants throughout the village.
A 400-year old village with cobble stone streets and church bells ringing, colorful murals and homes, mountains, Mexico’s largest lake (50 mile long, 12 miles wide), ever blooming flowers, birds galore, butterflies, palm trees, and more.
Health & Health Care
Once you are acclimatized to the altitude, you will notice a significant feeling of increased vigor.
You’ll eat healthier than ever before with an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables from roadside stands and the weekly organic farmers market. You will be amazed at how much easier it is to eat less processed foods while living here as all foods are prepared on a ‘as ordered’ basis with fresh ingredients.
The health clinics in Ajijic are just minutes away with English-speaking doctors ($15/visit) and full service hospitals and specialty centers are located in Guadalajara along with many forms of alternative medicine offerings both in Ajijic and in Guadalajara.
You can walk to most anything from Ajijic and a drive of more than 5 km (3.1 miles) from the main street (Colon Street) seems totally unnecessary.
For those times you desire something special, Guadalajara has other options such as Sam’s Club, Frescos and Costco. You can find anything in Guadalajara, Mexico’s 2nd largest city, that you could find in the USA (theater, opera, a zoo, Home Depot, etc.)
Mexico is huge country with a surface area encompassing more than all of Central America combined so there is more ground to cover for travel options and exploration.
You have access to a lot of climate zones too, from true desert to true jungle with jaguars and crocodiles. You can enjoy semi cold winters and snow, or sweltering, humid summers, or dry searing desert heat all within a couple days drive and depending on the season.
Flights to anywhere in the world is a breeze while living in Ajijic with only a 30 minute drive to the airport. Once there, flights to the U.S. and Canada are frequent and well priced.
Mexico is bound on either side by the Pacific and Caribbean Oceans, offering the Lake Chapala expat a variety of beach options. In fact, Mexico has 9,330 km (5,800 miles) of coastline! The Pacific Coast village of Cuyatlan is the closest and only 3 hours away, Manzanillo 3.5 hours and the Caribbean can be easily accessed through the Guadalajara airport with direct flights taking you to Cancun, Cozumel and Chetumal.
So what are you waiting for? If you can afford only one move or don’t have time for trial and error, make it Lake Chapala!