Why I Love Saturday Mornings in San Miguel de Allende

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By Ann Kuffner | International Living

Saturday morning is my favorite day of the week in San Miguel de Allende. I get up early, grab a quick bite, then head to my favorite local park. Parque Juarez is an oasis of trees and trails, smack dab in the middle of this charming Spanish Colonial town. On the weekends it becomes a focal point for art fairs, concerts, and exhibits. That’s when local artisans set up displays, ready to offer their art, pottery, jewelry, and food for sale.

On Saturday mornings, Cesar—the best ever Zumba instructor—cranks up lively Latin tunes, then guides us through a high energy routine. One by one, an unexpected mix of locals and expats join the fray, ready to kick up their heels. The class includes a mix of people aged 10 to 80 years old. Some are seasoned dancers. Others simply come to have fun and get some exercise. The guys in their 70s seldom master the complex moves. But they clearly have a good time. The exuberance and energy of the group class is infectious, with plenty of hooting and howling as Cesar pushes us to pick up the pace. This level of Joie de Vivre is not at all unusual in Mexico, especially in San Miguel. Mexicans are experts at living in the moment.

After working up a sweat, I head to a local coffee house with a few friends. Then we stroll to the Mercado Sano, a popular organic market, for the weekly Tianguis market.

On Saturday mornings the parking lot behind the Mercado Sano center transforms into a bustling open-air organic market. Farmers from the campo bring their fresh, gorgeous organic produce to town. Think leafy green lettuces, ruby red beets, multi-colored carrots, creamy avocadoes, sweet cherry tomatoes, apples, blackberries, and figs. For about $10, I walk away with a bag bursting with healthy, colorful produce. You can grab breakfast, or lunch, from one of the six or so pop up cafés. Some offer eggs, tacos, and other Mexican dishes. Most dishes go for under $3. If you show up after noon, you can indulge in freshly made paella, or sushi. After grabbing a bite, it’s time to peruse the local art, richly patterned Oaxacan rugs, and clothing being sold.

Each week a different band performs at the market, adding to the festive air. It’s a popular spot to hang out. So, we expect to bump into a mix of friends and acquaintances. Last Saturday, in just the first hour we ran into four different groups of friends. Each meeting lead to a pleasant social interchange. Although San Miguel is a mid-sized town, we often run into friends while running errands.

It’s so easy to meet people in this town… I can’t imagine ever being lonely here! After moving to San Miguel, my husband, Mike, and I quickly signed up for Spanish, dance, and yoga classes, and started attending Sunday services at the Unitarian church. At each activity we met lovely people who’ve since become friends.

There are a few primary reasons we moved to San Miguel. First of all, I love Spanish Colonia towns. San Miguel is the most spectacular of those I’ve visited to date. That’s why it keeps winning travel popularity awards. The spectacular architecture, amazing history that surrounds us, and the art and cultural scene quickly sold me on this town.

San Miguel’s Benito Juarez Park offers residents and visitors a leafy, green space to spend the weekend.

For us, the cost of living was another major factor. It’s surprisingly affordable here. We are living comfortably on our Social Security income. To date, my best estimate is that we spend under $3,000 per month. We own our home, so save on rent. But we take full advantage of the culture and activities the town has to offer, and we eat out often.

At this point in our lives we were determined to live where affordable hospitals and healthcare are within reach. Two private hospitals and the local Red Cross are located within a five-minute drive of our home. The cost of healthcare is reasonable, and private healthcare insurance is available. We currently have Seguro Popular, the public healthcare plan, which is very affordable. But we are considering adding private healthcare insurance this year.

Last of all, I yearned to live in a town that’s bursting with culture. San Miguel reminds me of the San Francisco Bay Area, in that regard, where I lived for over 30 years. There are many cultural activities to attend here: concerts, dances, arts and craft exhibits, festivals, lectures, and movies. Each week it’s difficult to decide which we’ll pick. The cost for cultural events is a pittance here, compared to the Bay rea. A classical concert, with world-class musicians and singers, in a private venue, runs $10 to $15. We often take in an international art flick at a pocket theater. The $6 per person charge covers the film; a margarita, glass of wine, beer, or soft drink; and a bag of popcorn. The theater is cozy and intimate, with only 25 seats. It takes me back to my college days, when I frequented the funky movie theaters of the Berkeley, California, campus

And my husband and I are dancing again. While living in the Bay Area, we mastered the West Coast Swing. Since the move to San Miguel we’ve fully embraced the salsa, cumbia, cha cha, and bachata, attending Latin dance parties on Friday nights. I guess you could say that we’re dancing our way into a delightful new lifestyle.

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The 3 Best Places to Retire Abroad on Less Than $1,500 Per Month

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By Katie Brockman | The Motley Fool

For many people, retirement is an opportunity to start fresh and live the life they’ve always dreamed about. It’s a time to begin a new chapter and start a new adventure. For some, that may mean pursuing a new hobby or spending more time doing the things they enjoy. For others, it means packing their bags and moving to a new country.

Nearly 700,000 Americans receive their Social Security checks overseas, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA), so if you’re thinking about retiring abroad, you’re in good company.

Hammock on the beach next to the ocean

Besides providing the chance to start anew and try something different, retiring abroad offers a host of other benefits including being exposed to a new culture, paying far less for healthcare, and even enjoying a lower cost of living. In fact, according to expatriate resource Expatistan, the U.S. ranks as the 17th most expensive country out of the 106 countries on the list — and there are dozens of countries that offer a more affordable lifestyle without having to sacrifice quality of life.

Is retiring abroad the right choice for you?

For some, starting your golden years in a new place can be the thrill of a lifetime and what they’ve waited for all their working years. For others, just the thought is downright horrifying. Retiring abroad isn’t for everyone, and there are advantages and drawbacks to choosing to spend your retirement in a foreign land.

Consider the costs of flying back to the U.S. every time you want to visit friends and family. Can you cope with not seeing your loved ones for holidays and birthdays outside of Skype or FaceTime? The effects of social isolation can be devastating, particularly if you’re part of a close-knit community that you’ll be leaving behind. It may also prove to be a challenge as you grow older and find it more difficult to get around. You may have children or grandchildren who can help take care of you in the U.S., but if you move abroad then leaning on loved ones as you age may not be an option.

That said, retiring to a new country can be a wise financial decision that provides you with a much better quality of life — particularly if your savings aren’t as robust as you’d hoped.

Nearly half of married couples rely on Social Security benefits for at least 50% of their income in retirement, according to the SSA. And when the average Social Security check is just $1,300 per month, it’s not always easy to get by in most U.S. cities. But in many other countries, that Social Security check can go a lot further and provides more bang for your buck. So if you’re thinking about retiring abroad, these cities offer an excellent quality of life for less than $1,500 per month.

1. Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires is often referred to as the “Paris of South America,” and for good reason. With a distinct culture, world-renowned museums, and a mouthwatering restaurant scene, this city truly has something for everyone.

On top of that, it’s also affordable. The average 900-square-foot furnished apartment in a more expensive area of town costs roughly $600 per month, according to Expatistan. Utilities run you about another $100 per month, and groceries are similar in cost to what you’ll find in the U.S.

Healthcare is more affordable in Argentina than in the U.S. — even after you factor in Medicare coverage. Under Argentina’s public healthcare system, emergency care and doctor visits are free to everyone — including expats — though you may experience long wait times, because many hospitals and doctor’s offices are understaffed. If you go the private healthcare route, you’ll likely experience shorter wait times, but costs vary by provider and city.

2. Georgetown, Malaysia

One of the prime benefits for Americans retiring to Malaysia is that English is widely spoken, making the transition much easier. Learning a new tongue in your old age is easier said than done, and if you don’t develop a fluency, it can lead to feelings of isolation and frustration in retirement. This Asian country also boasts a warm climate and beautiful beaches, so it’s perfect for retirees looking for a tropical getaway.

The country boasts an exceptionally affordable cost of living. A furnished 900-square-foot apartment in an expensive urban area typically costs between $500 and $600 per month, according to Expatistan, and if you’re willing to settle down in a more rural town, you could even  pay less than $300 per month for housing.

Malaysia also offers some of the highest-quality healthcare in the world. While healthcare facilities in rural areas can be hit or miss, hospitals and doctor’s offices in the more populated cities offer high-quality care with highly skilled staff, and most doctors speak English. Being able to effectively communicate with your healthcare provider in a foreign country is a huge benefit for retirees. Malaysia offers both public and private healthcare, and while expats have access to the public system, there’s also the option of buying private health insurance.

3. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

If you’re looking to retire abroad while staying relatively close to home, Mexico is a fantastic option. You’ll need to do some research to make sure you choose the right city as some towns have higher crime rates than others, but one promising choice is the tropical destination of Puerto Vallarta.

The city is a popular tourist destination, so it’s also very retiree-friendly with plenty of restaurants, shops, theaters, and, of course, miles of sandy beaches. While housing can be more expensive than other Mexican cities, it’s still more affordable compared to many U.S. cities — the average furnished 900-square-foot apartment in an expensive area of the city costs just under $1,000 per month, according to Expatistan. However, there are less pricey options, and if you choose to move to a less expensive part of town, you could pay just $500 per month for a furnished apartment.

You’ll also find quality healthcare in Puerto Vallarta at an affordable price. Once you become a resident of Mexico, you are eligible to participate in the country’s public healthcare system. You can also buy private insurance, and while costs vary widely depending on the city and hospital, it’s usually more affordable than U.S. plans.

Choosing the right retirement destination

Of course, these are not the only options if you’re looking to retire abroad — there are dozens of fantastic cities around the world that would make fabulous retirement destinations. But the most important part is to do your research before making the leap.

Before you pack up all your belongings and buy your dream condo in a new country, visit your prospective retirement city for several weeks to make sure you can see yourself living there for the next few decades. Seek out other expats in the city and ask them about their experiences. Join online groups and forums to get an inside look at how other retirees are living, then decide whether you would enjoy that type of lifestyle.

It’s a big world out there, and if you’re the type of jet-setter who is ready for a new adventure in retirement, moving abroad may be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. Just be sure you’ve prepared and put some thought into your decision so that you can truly live the retirement life you’ve always dreamed of.

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The 10 Best Places to Retire in Mexico

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By Lorimer Wilson | MunKnee

In the process of putting together this comprehensive report I have consulted with highly experienced ex-pats who have lived and/or live in the places that I rate here so, without further wait, here’s the top 10 places to live and retire in Mexico and the reasons why:

  1. Lake Chapala, Jalisco
  2. Ensenada, Baja California
  3. San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato
  4. Guadalajara, Jalisco
  5. Merida, Yucatan
  6. Riviera Maya, Quintana Roo
  7. Mazatlan, Sinaloa
  8. Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco
  9. La Paz, Baja California
  10. San Cristobal de las Casas Chiapas

1. Lake Chapala, Jalisco (Winner)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dodSP4eHTTE&feature=youtu.be

According to Kristina Morgan of Focus on Mexico, “Of all the places in Mexico I have been, none can quite compare with Lake Chapala. There’s something about this place that just seems…magical and, as corny as it sounds, that’s the word I hear people use to describe Lake Chapala time and again. Lake Chapala gets into your heart and becomes home. It’s like stepping back 50-70 years here regarding the simpler lifestyle, culture and values. When I’m here I feel like I can be me, like I can breathe a little more freely and be the person I want to be and this is a sentiment expressed by most everyone who has ever been here or lives here”.

Lake Chapala used to be just a retirement community but in the last 10 years that’s changed and a lot of younger families and entrepreneurs are moving there for the obvious business opportunities and lower cost of living.

The Lake Chapala community is composed of a string of villages, mostly on the north shore, with Ajijic being the crown jewel of the area in terms of artisans, charm and amenities. Horses clopping down the road, vendors selling fresh fruit, women weaving, live music everywhere from classical to salsa and teenagers helping their grandmothers are common sights. There’s a happy hum of activity there.

The most compelling reasons are listed below.

Pros

The Climate: The weather, of course, is a huge draw. National Geographic touts Lake Chapala as the 2nd best climate in the world. The Lake is surrounded by the Sierra Madre Mountains and is a mile high so there is very little humidity. The distance inland is still close to the ocean but far enough away to not have to worry about storms and hurricanes off the coast. We have all the same flora as Hawaii as well as the same vegetation in arid states like Colorado—pines and palms—growing equally well, side by side!

The most-developed expat/English infrastructure in Mexico: You may feel like you’ve stepped back in time, but there’s still a lot to do here, from golfing, to boating, to organized group activities including a community theater in English, two American Legion posts, the Lake Chapala Society, churches in English in every denomination, concerts and events (the Bolshoi Ballet even came to Ajijic!), live entertainment, world-class restaurants that will impress even the most seasoned palate and much more!

Ajijic and the Lake Chapala area is the largest expat community anywhere outside the U.S. and Canada. I figure 20,000 expats can’t be wrong but as Latin World says, “Despite being home to one of the heaviest concentrations of North Americans in Mexico, Lake Chapala doesn’t feel quite as Americanized as other retirement enclaves in Mexico.” I believe that is due to the fact that this isn’t a resort area catering to tourists, but rather a place to adopt a new way of life and be a part of a community.

There are also many real opportunities to get involved and make a difference through any of the numerous charities here if you want to volunteer your time. The rewards are greater than any paycheck.

Affordable, top-notch medical care is available: The University of Guadalajara, less than 1 hour away, boasts an excellent medical school. In fact, many U.S. doctors are educated there! There are excellent facilities, doctors, specialists and medical staff in Mexico and a major benefit is that they are readily available (no long waiting periods). Many of the doctors even speak English and often have taken some training in the United States or abroad. The doctors here have such a gift for listening carefully to you and not making you feel as if they don’t have time to spend with you. They even make house calls! There are two clinics here as well.

Proximity/Accessibility: Guadalajara, airport, coast: One of the reasons we chose Lake Chapala is its easy access to other places of interest in Mexico. Ideally located about 40 minutes from Guadalajara (Mexico’s 2nd largest city), 25 minutes from Guadalajara’s international airport, and as close as 3 hours to the pacific coast and a 12 hour drive to back to the U.S. so it is easy to trade the frigid winters and the wilting heat of summers north of the border for paradise. We wanted to know that they can get back home quickly if we need to so being so close to the airport makes being home in a few hours possible. It is interesting to note that travel is part of the culture in this area, for Mexicans and retirees alike and the low surcharge at the airport in Guadalajara makes flying more affordable.

Low cost of living: I didn’t move to Mexico to spend a lot of money! It has been said that Lake Chapala is the place to be if you want a bargain and all the amenities you’re used to from back home.

Home prices are still low here. I know people who have looked into different retirement destinations all over Mexico and say they have found the best deals here. We also have an MLS, which almost nowhere else in Mexico has so it is easier find the right home for you. On the coast, you must purchase property through a bank trust but because we are inland you are allowed to own property outright through a direct deed….

This is a real community: To me, this is the most compelling reason to come here. People come to Lake Chapala for the weather and lower cost of living and end up staying because of the people. Lake Chapala still has a small-town feel to it. It seems like everyone knows everyone and the people, both Mexican and expats, are very friendly and look out for each other. This area also has the largest singles population owing to the sense of safety and community here. It is said that people are nicer here than they were back home. The Mexicans are still very warm and welcoming, largely due to the fact that most of the transplants are very cognizant that we are guests in their country and we try to be as gracious and considerate as our Mexican friends are. There is still an old-world, genteel flavor here. Mexicans embrace family, customs and tradition and tend to dote on their children and cherish their elderly. The people who come here are frequently in awe of the close ties in our community and how quickly they are welcomed and accepted. I haven’t seen anything like this anywhere else in the world, not even in other places in Mexico.

A safe and secure environment: Despite a rather negative media representation which focuses on drug related violence, Mexico is actually a top choice when it comes to safety. The conflicts which make the headlines are mostly limited to the U.S. border area; the majority of the country is virtually unaffected, and news of these unfortunate events is as distant to these areas as it is to the U.S., and in some cases, even more so. “In Lake Chapala violent crime is almost unheard of,” points out Shawn Gaffney. “In Lake Chapala, the citizens walk the streets at any time of day or night safely and confidently.” Statistics back this feeling of comfort; in most parts of Mexico, violent crime is significantly lower than in large U.S. cities.

Stunning beauty: Lake Chapala has breathtaking sunsets over the lake, and majestic mountain views. Flowers are prolific and seem saturated in bold color. There are charming cobbled streets with stone walls and fuchsia bougainvillea draped like petticoats over the tops. The best way to give you a picture is that people say it looks like Hawaii. The vivid color here is whimsical and artistic, with many murals all over the area, including some that are painted on houses and businesses. There are at least 3 waterfalls in the area and thermal springs that will transport you with their relaxing and curative properties. Sun-drenched terra-cotta tiles, mesmerizing vistas and tropical foliage make it feel like you’re on permanent vacation—but without the heat, humidity, tourists, hurricanes or expense.

Solid investment: When you’re considering a place to retire, no one wants to flush their money into an area where they would have a hard time getting it back out if they ever needed to. This area is at a steady growth rate with promise of more future growth. You’ll get a lot of bang for your buck now while knowing your money will grow here.

Slower pace of life: We can learn so much from the people here about what is truly important in life. For those who are seeking to simplify their lives, Lake Chapala should be on your short-list. This isn’t a “time is money” culture. Mexicans work to live while many of us have lived to work. In general, the people here have their priorities straight. It’s all about how you treat people and recognizing that each day is a gift to be lived fully and graciously.

Cons

Altitude: At a mile high, some people who have respiratory illnesses may find this is a little too high in altitude for them. However, some people report feeling far better here and being able to sleep better than they ever could. The elevation is also a major reason we have such a temperate climate and why the area isn’t prone to natural disasters.

Language: If you move to Mexico you’re going to have to learn at least a little of the Spanish language to get by. Some people find this daunting and intimidating. The good news is that compared to anywhere else in Mexico, English is spoken to one degree or another by most people.

Small villages: If you’re looking for a big city feel then Lake Chapala isn’t for you. Think quaint fishing villages with an old world feel and modern amenities and you’ll have the idea. However, village life has its benefits in safety and community and if you need a break from the tranquility and want to head to the big city then Guadalajara is just up the road.

Noise levels: This can be said about any area in Mexico but I still think it needs to be said. Village life is noisy with live music, church bells tolling at all hours, roosters who crow all day and night, fireworks, parades and processions, parties and cars driving by announcing everything from their wares to who has a fresh catch of fish down at the pier. On Mother’s Day, some lucky moms are woken before dawn with mariachi bands serenading them outside their window. If this would drive you crazy, then be sure to look for homes on the outskirts of the villages or in a planned development, or gated community. Thankfully, there are a lot of places to choose from to escape the noise.

Not a Business Mecca: For those young and aggressive, they will be disappointed because the Lake Chapala area is NOT a mecca for business. Business gets done but for the most part, retiree’s are slower more set in their ways and thus are not seeking big opportunities so trying to sell them something using a carrot for the future can be frustrating and will land you in the “con man” category real quick.

It is not the ocean: Lake Chapala is Mexico’s largest lake at 77 miles long and 13 miles across but if your heart is set on a daily routine of drinking a margarita on the beach with endless waves stretching out to the horizon then this isn’t for you. While this is the largest lake in Mexico and the conquistadores thought this was the ocean when they first arrived here, it is still a lake – a beautiful lake.

In short, Lake Chapala is a one in a million place with everything it offers. Of course, one size doesn’t fit all but if you’re looking for a paradise with a low-cost of living, an established English infrastructure and activities, modern amenities, near-perfect climate and a friendly and safe community, come visit Lake Chapala and see if this might be for you. Retiring in Mexico couldn’t be better.

2. Ensenada, Baja California

According to John Vogel of BajaWine.info, “In Ensenada, you have everything that a major city could have but it’s still a small family town” The weather is very temperate between 60 to 80 F mostly all year round. It’s never too hot or too cold in Enenada as it’s on the Pacific coast in a bay so it’s somewhat shielded by direct ocean winds. For expats, it’s an easy transition because Ensenada is really half Southern California half Mexico. Most speak English as the border is just 1 hour away. So travel back and forth is relatively easy. It’s a major benefit for those that want to live an Mexico lifestyle but still get the San Diego Chargers game every NFL Sunday for a little tailgating.

Pros

  • Close to US Border
  • Easy going beach weather
  • Inexpensive
  • Very little rain fall
  • Family friendly city
  • All kinds of events held almost every weekend

Cons

  • Airport is in Tijuana about 1 hour away and San Diego International Airport is about 1 hour and 30 minutes away by car albeit, there is a border crossing that could take from 1 to 3 hours depending on time of day.
  • Anti-septic Mexican culture meaning that the culture in Baja is more close to the USA culture as it’s a mixed culture. If you’re looking for authentic rustic old Mexico, Ensenada is NOT the place to be. This is San Diego South and the people of Baja are a hybrid of Mexico and USA.
  • You must have a car to get around.

3. San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato

According to Rebecca Fass San Miguel de Allende is “the most wonderful place on the planet”. This place is probably the most well-to-do city in all of Mexico. With world-class arts, music, and amazing restaurants with the highest end people from all over the world, SMDA is the most exquisite classy place to live in Mexico. So if you’re looking to hob-nob with the rich, famous, artsy types, and people who really hold their own at the highest levels, SMDA is the place to be.

Klaudia Oliver says “I can´t speak for that many places in Mexico but I can certainly suggest that San Miguel is THE top destination. Why? Because there is an overriding sense of well-being which permeates the inhabitants of this beautiful colonial town. There is a swirl of social events and it’s like a college campus for baby boomers with cultural and social activities constantly”.

Pros

  • Amazing cultural beauty
  • Old Mexico meets the well-heeled traveler
  • Small town full of super interesting internationally renown people who you will get to know quickly
  • English spoken everywhere
  • 3 hours away from Mexico City and all it’s available big city offerings
  • Friendly small town atmosphere
  • Beautiful architecture and history.
  • Excellent nightlife

Cons

  • Not close to major city or airport
  • High desert elevation means it’s cold in winter and hot in summer
  • Extreme temperatures mean that in one day can go from high 80′s at high noon and then into the 40′s at night.
  • Very expensive to live.
  • Feels like living on a desert island since there is nothing within an hour away.
  • Nearest airport is in the City of Leon; about an hour and a half away.

4. Guadalajara, Jalisco

The weather is amazing; Perfect really! Guadalajara is the 2nd largest city in Mexico so if you are used to living in the city, then you will enjoy Guadalajara as it is the very best big city in Mexico. Guadalajara is not as inexpensive as it used to be but you can still find bargains if you look hard.

5. Merida, Yucatan

An old colonial city in the heart of the Yucatan jungle. It is very hot and humid mostly all year round and so you must love warm to hot weather to enjoy Merida. Amenities are excellent. According to resident expatriate, Randy Miller, “Progresso, our closest beach, is a fabulous place to swim. It’s only a short 20 minute drive from the house. There are so many things to do here; art, markets, museums, theater and so much more”.

Merida is about a 4 hour bus ride from the major resorts of Cancun and Playa del Carmen. It’s a Mexican business working city where prices are low and life is excellent.

6. Riviera Maya, Quintana Roo

Welcome to the Jungle! The Riviera Maya includes Cancun in the North, Playa del Carmen in the center and Tulum in the South and all points in between.

According to Bil Mabra , ” Even though the cost of living in the Riviera Maya is a bit higher than other areas of Mexico it is still way more affordable than in the United States or Canada.”

Even with the real estate market in the U.S. taking a huge dive, the properties in Riviera Maya are still cheaper. Consider buying something that is not right on the beach but possibly walking distance or a 5-10 car ride to the Caribbean ocean….Lastly, upkeep on your Mexican home will not cost you as much because the cost of labor is a fraction of what it is in other countries.

If you are retiring then a question everyone has is about health care. In the Riviera Maya there are 3 top hospitals—2 of them are run by a group from Spain called Hospiten. The other is the American Hospital in Cancun. Hospiten is recognized for being a top-notch medical facility the world over and is on par or above most health care facilities you find in the U.S. and Canada. Most of the doctors and nurses that work at Hospiten are bi-lingual so even if your Spanish is not that great you can still communicate very effectively.

It is an every day occurence for people to migrate from the U.S. to have all types of medical procedures—everything from cosmetic surgery to heart bypasses and everything in between – done in Mexico. Compare the cost of healthcare and medications in Mexico to the cost in other countries and you will find the cost is usually more than 50% less.

The Riviera Maya climate is tropical but the actual daily temperature does not vary that much from the winter time to the summer time. Yes, summertime there is more humidity and it gets hot but typically there are only 3 months of the year where it is very hot from July to September. A lot of people take their vacations during this time if they want a little break from the heat. The other 9 months of the year it is very comfortable.

Highs in the winter time are usually around 84 degrees fahrenheit with lows in the high 60s to low 70s. Highs in the summertime are typically around 93 to 95 degrees with more humidity in the hottest months. If you come from a colder climate it takes a few months to get acclimated but once you do it sure is nice wearing your shorts and flip-flops in January and February.

Living in the Riviera Maya also allows many people to get in and out of the country very easy. There is an international airport in Cancun servicing many major cities daily in the U.S. and Canada and another airport is now being built near Tulum. Getting to and from the Riviera Maya of Mexico has never been easier.

As far as amenities go, how about going shopping at Wal-mart, Costco or Sam’s Club and then going to have lunch at Applebee’s? Yes, now in this area of Mexico there are mostly all the creature comforts which all of us have grown accustomed to such as high speed and wireless Internet, satellite TV and GSM mobile phones.

20 years ago, this was a small fishing community – from Playa del Carmen to Tulum. Now, because of the influx of European and Mexico City money, this area has exploded. This is good for many reason, people choosing to now move and live here, have all the necessary amenities that one could need. The beaches are some of the best in the world. Miles and miles of white sand and beautiful Caribbean warm waters.

7. Mazatlan, Sinaloa

Mazatlan is a local Mexican resort city. It is older, inexpensive, and has a wonderful older downtown with excellent cultural rustic Mexican life. Excellent seafood in this very unique resort town.

8. Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco

Life in the pacific tropics is excellent in Puerto Vallarta. Lovely fun downtown, great restaurants. Prices are relatively high for Mexico and so it’s not for the budget retiree.

9. La Paz, Baja California Sur

Inexpensive city life on the Sea of Cortes near Cabo San Lucas, La Paz is a family friendly small city. It’s very hot so it’s not for those that love colder climates.

10. San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas

Randy Bowser, who’s lived in Mexico for over 10 years says, ”I lived in San Cristobal de las Casa for 1 year and have to say really liked it a lot. The truest of Mexican culture exists in San Cristobal. It’s 5000ft above see level. It does have a chilly feel to the climate year round but the beauty of the area is well worth the trade-off. It’s not really a viable place to live for the younger generation but for those retiring from life and wanting a slow, relaxed, peaceful existence, then this would be the place for you. It’s a magical place.

Original Source

¿Por qué hay tantos ‘gringos’ en San Miguel de Allende?

Por Enrique Legorreta | Barrio

Se ha convertido en el lugar donde hacen realidad el ‘sueño mexicano’

San Miguel de Allende es uno de los lugares de México en cuyas calles podrías escuchar más inglés que español.

Esta ciudad colonial ubicada en Guanajuato se ha convertido en uno de los lugares preferidos para los norteamericanos y se estima que más de 10 mil estadounidenses jubilados radican aquí.

¿Pero por qué esta ciudad se convirtió en favorita de los extranjeros? El estadounidense Stirling Dickinson contribuyó en gran medida a popularizarla.

En 1937, Dickinson terminó en San Miguel de Allende casi por accidente, cuando en su viaje por el país, un retraso en el tren que tomaría le permitió conocer y enamorarse de la ciudad, de acuerdo con la revista Smithsonian.

Tras la Segunda Guerra Mundial, Stirling abrió una escuela de arte que recibió a varios jóvenes veteranos estadounidenses.

En la actualidad, la ciudad cuenta con una fuente Memorial a Dickinson cercana a su tumba.

Años después, otros estadounidenses fueron atraídos a este lugar, formaron familias, abrieron negocios y comenzaron a participar en organizaciones sin fines de lucro.

El aumento en la población estadounidense se nota en el precio de la vivienda, que en gran medida se cotiza en dólares. Adrián Toscano, agente de bienes y raíces de Agave Sotheby’s International Realty contó a Telemundo que en la década de los ochenta la propiedad más cara costaba 110 mil dólares, hoy el precio puede llegar hasta los 12 millones de dólares.

“Gente como yo va a Florida a morir, a San Miguel de Allende vienen a vivir (…) Muchos amigos hemos vivido en otras partes del mundo, pero escogimos San Miguel de Allende porque es maravilloso, económico y hay muchas oportunidades para apoyar a la comunidad”, explicó a la agencia AFP Michael Gerber, habitante de origen estadounidense de 75 años de edad.

Adrián Toscano dijo a Telemundo que debido a que hay mano de obra barata y diversos eventos, la ciudad es una opción atractiva para los jubilados que buscan “gastar bien su dinero y estirarlo”.

Otro atractivo para muchos es que tiene un clima agradable y templado todo el año.

La arquitectura es otro punto fuerte de la ciudad, coronada por la parroquia San Miguel Arcángel, uno de sus lugares más representativos.

Y a esto se suman la oferta gastronómica y cultural, con numerosos restaurantes y eventos.

Todo esto le ha valido numerosos reconocimientos a San Miguel de Allende, entre ellos la ‘Mejor Ciudad del Mundo’ por la revista Travel+Leisure.

Este año fue nombrada como Capital Americana de la Cultura (2019) por el Bureau Internacional de Capitales Culturales.

También fue declarada Ciudad Patrimonio de la Humanidad por la Unesco en 2008 debido a su aporte cultural y arquitectónico al barroco mexicano y a su importancia en la lucha de Independencia de México.

Fuente original 

Overview of Pátzcuaro, Mexico

Resultado de imagen para patzcuaro

By Grace Kary | International Living

Patzcuaro is a sleepy lakeside town situated in the central highlands of southern Michoacán state in Mexico. Rustic and relaxing, combining an indigenous and colonial history, it offers authenticity and solidity. The peaceful environment is no accident but related to how the area was settled.

In 1572 Bishop Quiroga took stewardship of the local Purépecha people insulating them from the worst of the Spanish invasion and laid the foundations of the crafts communities situated around Lake Pátzcuaro. He allotted a different craft to each village with the vision of providing a plan for indigenous self-sufficiency. The Lake Patzcuaro region is now rich in copper, wood, weaving, and other crafts.  Hand-painted lacquer work on wood is available in Patzcuaro and in nearby Santa Clara del Cobre there is hand pounded copperware and an annual festival in August celebrating copper artisanal ware: pots, jewelry, sinks, etc.

This bridge building between indigenous and colonial cultures is important to the region and supported by state government and enjoyed by the local expats. It is a big draw for artists who can find reasonably priced living/studio situations in an area with beautiful light, steady year-round temperatures, and a pace of life amenable to hand-crafted expression. It is easy to see why it was included in the federal program of designated “pueblos magicos” or magical towns. Surrounding villages specialize in hand woven shawls called rebozos, hand woven baskets, and many other crafts. Day trips visiting the villages and events centered around the Mexican holidays engage the local community.

The small island of Janitzio comes alive with Purépecha celebrations during the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) ceremonies Oct 31 to Nov 2. You need to book well in advance as 100,000 people descend on the town from international destinations.   Boats surround the island and festivities take place in the church. Ducks are hunted and prepared as pato enchiladas or chili duck together with the pescado blanco or white fish from the lake.

Ceremonies are initiated where mothers and children fashion altars for their departed loved ones. Dances such as the Los Viejitos take place both during Day of the Dead and in the central squares during other celebrations. The group of dancers don masks and canes and perform a dance in a staccato style as old men but with great agility.

Most startling of the ceremonies is the animecha kejziatakua which begins at sunset when fishermen in wooden canoes lit up with candles perform the butterfly net dance moving their nets back and forth emulating the motion of butterfly wings to awaken the souls of the dead and guide them into the cemetery.  The play of dancing lights, the reflections on the water, and incense wafting in the air create an unparalleled sense of awe and aura which is part and parcel of the sacred ceremony.

Retire in Pátzcuaro

Retire in Pátzcuaro
©iStock.com/Esdelval

In addition to the indigenous influence and colonial beauty, Patzcuaro has weather which is temperate year-round due to the high elevation and lake effect resembling a “permanent fall”. The lush greenery of the surrounding forests, the beauty of the lake, the islands, and surrounding villages attracts not only those with artistic proclivities but also those who want a relaxed, friendly community but with modern amenities.

Though it is semi-remote it offers high-speed internet through cable, ATM banking, local hospitals, clinics, and dental services as well as access to medical and big city amenities in the capital city, Morelia, less than an hour way. International flights are available through Morelia, as well.

Morelia is where local expats get their big city fix: cultural events, shopping for items not available in Patzcuaro, and more action than is available in the relatively sleepy environs of the town.

Lifestyle in Pátzcuaro

Lifestyle in Pátzcuaro
©iStock.com/arturogi

The local expats are a well-organized group and have a weekly men’s breakfast and women’s luncheon, as well as regular organized events and involvement in charities.   The best online site for tourists or potential retirees is www.lakepatzcuaro.org. It is an exhaustive guide to the region with many historical photos and postcards illustrating the history and information on travelling to and from the area and a guide to local activities and events. It has documented the history and crafts of surrounding villages. It seems indicative of living in harmony with the area and learning about the local culture. Though the population is in the neighbourhood of 77,000 the village mentality still prevails and rampant development is nowhere in evidence.

In terms of day-to-day shopping Patzcuaro has several mini-marts, dozens of independently owned stores, and specialty food outlets. There is a daily street market of fresh produce, meats and poultry, spices, condiments, and other basic household goods as well as a cooked foods section. The prices are still at Mexican rates and have not been affected by an influx of expats.

The heart of the pueblo resides in the Plaza de Quiroga, also known as the Plaza Grande as well as a smaller, Plaza de Gertrudis Bocanegra or Plaza Chica. Plaza Grande, in particular, is dotted with reasonably priced restaurants and at the Iglesia de la Salud they serve a local delicacy, a type of tamale called the corunda, which is a delicious tamale with cream cheese and salsa. Top this off with atole made from local guavas and you will enjoy some of the pleasures of life at Patzcuaro.

Cost of Living in Pátzcuaro

Here’s an example of a monthly budget and typical prices for a couple living in Patzcuaro:

Expenses US$
Groceries $200 – including fish, meat, vegetables, and fruits.
Sundries $25
Housekeeper $60 – clean entire house and laundry once a week  (if not included)
Transport (local) $30
Phone $20
Personal Services $60
Water $10
Eating out (three times a week) $90
Rent $700
Trips to Morelia $50
Import items such as cheese $50
Car insurance/licensing etc. $60
Gas $80
Total $1,435

Real Estate in Pátzcuaro

Real Estate in Pátzcuaro
©iStock.com/jose carlos macouzet espinosa

In terms of land and surroundings the area is larger than San Miguel de Allende and houses range from rustic single log cabins with fireplaces to large properties with beautifully designed houses, gardens, and indoor swimming pools. There are a number of online real estate vendors catering to English-speaking clients planning on purchasing in Patzcuaro area and some of the selections are spectacular utilizing wood constructions culled from locally sourced materials. But locals warn not to buy too soon, but take some time with rentals and make sure the area is stimulating enough your retirement needs.

The Takeaway

Pátzcuaro’s magic, like a cat curled by an open fire, luxuriates in simple creature comforts, time suspended between historical origins and moment-to-moment daily being steeped in time tested subtle energies that overt new age venues can only attempt to manufacture.  It is a very grounded and practical place for a retiree to call their new home.

Original Source

The Next Generation of Mexican Retirement Towns

By Grace Kary | International Living

What do a colonial village devoted to Day of the Dead ceremonies, a charming pueblo perched against a monolithic rock, a high plains ghost town, and a new age community clinging to a mountainside have in common?

These seemingly disparate pueblos magicos (magic towns) comprise the next generation of up and coming retirement communities in central Mexico.

In 2001, the Ministry of Tourism devised a program sponsoring 121 magical towns in Mexico defined by their natural beauty, cultural richness, traditions, folklore, historical relevance, cuisine, art crafts, and hospitality. These four pueblos certainly earned their place on the list. Many retirees are seeking an oasis from the hub, a nurturing atmosphere, without having to fight for quality of life and these four options are ideal in the central Mexican highlands.

The two smallest communities are Bernal and Mineral de Pozos, both with populations in the neighborhood of 3,000 and within striking distance of Queretaro, San Miguel de Allende, and Mexico City allowing for ease of access to major airports and urban services. Tepoztlán, with a population of around 14,000, is four times the size and is approximately an hour from Mexico City. With a big jump in population, the final entry is Patzcuaro with a population of approximately 77,000. It is under an hour from the airport in Morelia, three-and-a-half hours from Guadalajara, and four-and-a-half hours from Mexico City.

Pátzcuaro

Patzcuaro

Pátzcuaro is known for its gorgeous natural setting beside a lake. It is particularly famous for its beautiful Day of the Dead ceremonies, which take place on an island in the lake. Patzcuaro is a visible combination of rich indigenous history (Purépecha or Tarascans) and colonial roots.

The forest and lake combination at this high elevation combines to create something of a permanent fall. Often in the 70’s F during the daytime, it plummets 20 degrees at night. Like the rest of Mexico, the warmest month is May and the rainy season receives about two hours of rainfall a day between June and October. The air quality is pure, clean, and crisp. These factors combine to make it a magnet for artists.

Until about 10 years ago Patzcuaro housed a robust foreign retirement community but when cartel activities heated up in the state of Michoacán those numbers diminished to about 10 people despite the fact that the activities were concentrated in specific locations in the state nowhere near Patzcuaro. In the past five years, the numbers have been increasing as people are drawn back to Patzcuaro for the many advantages it initially offered and is now back to around 300.

In comparison to the Lakeside (Chapala) region, Patzcuaro is about half the price though it has more than double the population. It offers basic living costs at provincial prices, which are some of the lowest of any of the Mexican colonial cities. While Lakeside is being aggressively developed into a series of boutique villages, Patzcuaro remains authentic and intact with no overt signs of development on the horizon so the economic advantages should remain stable.

Unlike the state of Guanajuato or Jalisco, Michoacán is clamping down on over-development. That being said, it also translates to limited growth opportunities to sustain a large expat community separate from anything already established in the area.   However, the shopping and entertainment extras are not far off and usually available in neighboring Morelia, the state capital.

Colonial buildings, mansions, and courtyards ring a distinctive main square. There are many excellent reasonably priced restaurants to choose from in the main plaza (Plaza Grande) and at the Iglesia de la Salud they serve a local delicacy, a type of tamale called the corunda, which is a delicious tamale with cream cheese and salsa. Top this off with atole made from local guavas and you will enjoy some of the pleasures of life at Patzcuaro.

The small expat community is comprised primarily of retirees that are well organized and devoted to the area. Local expat American and hotel owner, Victoria Ryan, who has lived in the area for 20 years recommends renting some time before buying because one needs a more independent mindset in Patzcuaro than in communities like San Miguel de Allende or Chapala which offer organized classes and activities for retirees.   She has seen expats buy and then discover it was not stimulating enough and quickly pull up stakes. To date, the community is beginning to grow but it’s still small, quiet, and it’s likely to remain so.

For a life in touch with nature and beautiful surroundings, in rhythm with Mexican festival seasons, Patzcuaro is an excellent choice.

Pozos

Pozos

Pozos is about an hour northeast of San Miguel de Allende and about an hour-and-a-half due north of Queretaro and stands at one thousand feet higher elevation than San Miguel. If an aerial shot were to be taken of the bleached ruins from above they would look like dominoes cascading into gorges (where the mine shafts are below). From the street view, downtown is now a collection of reclaimed century buildings full of shops selling pre-Columbian instruments, galleries, a good selection of restaurants, two internet café’s, the ubiquitous real estate offices in communities poised for development, and at least half a dozen boutique hotels.

A pair of developers from Mexico City descended 10 years ago, and after much negotiation with the local ejido and government, bought the rights to a lot of the land. They are in the process of aggressively developing high-end condo communities and have installed an art school, the Escuela Modelo, which is beautifully designed and constructed and offers classes from etching to photo-based instruction.

The expat community is small and most live in close proximity to each other with the exception of a group of women who were lavender farmers and made a community at the entrance to the town. Some have now sold up or are selling their gorgeous ranch houses  for around $650,000.

It is highly recommended any property potential retirees wish to purchase already have water and electricity access because it can be extremely expensive to bring in and because of the two-hundred-year period it was uninhabited getting clear title is paramount. That being said, the ancient cactus gardens on the expat properties are breathtaking. Cacti in the area sprout between tumbling ruins and old stone fences.

There was a change of local government in 2017 so for the first time there is a local police force. There is a local medical clinic open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. which foreigners can access and there are full medical services available eight kilometers away in San Luis de la Paz. There are no taxis after 7 p.m. and not many in commission but it’s a very small town.

Like Marfa, Texas, it has a bit of an island economy so prices can run as high as San Miguel, but rentals, are still in general, lower. The expat community numbers about 25 to 30 people and most are part-time residents. My understanding is that single women do not go unnoticed in Pozos the way they do in San Miguel de Allende or Tepotzlan.  So, it is probably better suited to couples at this stage of the expat community development although there are three single women living there.

The expats have an advocacy group with local government, put together two local festivals, and do volunteer work in the community. In addition, there are artists and business people who own local hotels and real estate businesses.  Internet varies:  Homes can get dishes, VET, SKY, or AT&T modem for reasonable rates.  For private servers, the prices escalate significantly. There is no fiber optics. There are two Internet cafes and no ATM’s.  Most business needs are attended to in San Luis de la Paz, which is eight kilometers outside Pozos.

Every May, there’s a mariachi festival; every July, a pre-Hispanic music festival; every September, a celebration of the nopal and maguey plants. There are art walks in summer and winter, and one or two home-and-garden tours annually.

The three large deserted mines, and the abandoned residences, create picture postcard landscapes in every direction. Vista after rough-hewn vista stretch uninterrupted and the pace of life is slow and relaxed.

Bernal

Bernal
©iStock.com/ferrantraite

The world’s third largest rock looms over the vicinity and is said to be responsible for the magic in this third town. Locals claim UFO sightings but more commonly enjoy watching the changes as light plays on the surfaces of the giant rock. Perhaps some of the gothic appeal arises from ravens that nest in the craggy outcroppings as they wheel at sunset.

Whatever the stimulus, Bernal does not need rumors of the arcane to bring in the brisk tourism. The natural beauty, hiking opportunities, boutique hotels, and shops with local crafts plus the wonderful quiet, and lack of traffic make it a favorite for foreign tourists, Mexican Americans, and weekenders from Mexico City and other larger centers.

Of the four towns, Bernal defines the word ‘charming’ in a colonial setting. Much more manicured than rough-hewn Pozos, with shops emphasizing a European tone, it is reminiscent of dainty towns in Provence, France, but with an alternate topography. Whereas Pozos is like the old, rough and tumble artistic San Miguel de Allende, Bernal is a mini version of the current boutique incarnation.  That being said, the neighborhood roosters still crow, dusty walks and locals vendors abound keeping things intimate and easy to negotiate. Because of the distance to Queretaro it is more self-sufficient than Pozos.  There is a local hospital and three medical clinics. Also, banking can be done locally as there are three ATM’s.

Ranked among the five safest towns in Mexico, its picturesque beauty, pure peacefulness, and welcoming locals are just a few of the reasons to consider retirement here.

While huge real estate banners are now popping up like eyesores on the chiseled Pozos landscapes, Bernal’s potential development is out of sight. But of the three communities, it is currently the one attracting the highest rate of growth. This is evident in the housing prices, which have escalated in the past two years. There are still some ground floor opportunities, but you have to do your homework.

In terms of an expat community the numbers are still very low, so like Pozos or Patzcuaro it will appeal to independent settlers wanting the Mexico experience without too much of a separate expat experience.

Tepoztlán

Tepoztlán
©iStock.com/Roberto Michel

Finally, Tepoztlán is a new age community situated about an hour outside of Mexico City acting as a refuge from the zany pace of life for Mexico City residents. It’s also a health sanctuary and attracts a sophisticated crowd from Mexico and internationally, too. The elevation is 2,000 feet less than Mexico City so year-round it is temperate, the air is fresh, the greenery is lush, and it’s devoted to a natural practice lifestyle while still offering the basics with a spa twist. Arts, crafts, music, and meditation are all on the menu.

There is an integrated expat and Mexican community similar to San Miguel and it is casual and progressive: devoted to natural, ecological, and spiritual lifestyle practices. Tepozteco archeological site is located in the pueblo and there are academics involved in archeology living in the community. Seasonal foreigners swell the community to 1,000 expats from November to May. And along with the legitimate alternative practitioners, there is a host of hucksters and charlatans, but genuine healers and shamans can be unearthed in the rubble.

If you want to improve your health with yoga, good eating, fresh mountain air, and engage in allopathic, alternative, or indigenous health remedies and practices this is the ideal retirement venue. The town boasts walk-in massage treatments, spa hotels, temazcals (sweat lodges), and wellness and therapy boutiques. Restaurants such as the Sonora have healthful food, spa, and music.

The weekends can be packed because of the influx from Mexico City. But during the week the pace is wonderful, and you can take your time at the daily market and on the weekends,  there is an additional artisan and food market. There is a museum and the Ex-Convento Dominico de La Natividad has beautiful frescoes.

There are direct shuttles from Mexico City airport to Tepoztlán. There are Bancomer and HSBC ATM machines and there are great quality restaurants and bars— too many to choose from—with prices in the neighborhood of $7 to $60. Medical is chiefly available through Cuernavaca 40 minutes away.

Rentals can be difficult to find and are running pricier these days but still below San Miguel de Allende rates. But you can still buy a house for around $100,000.

Housing on the Airbnb market evidences the thoughtful design details of many of the homeowners. So your initial dip in the Tepoztlán environs can be beautiful and inviting.  These days with the world geared towards de-stressing practices, Tepoztlán is ahead of the curve as a unique community combining indigenous knowledge and new age lifestyle practices.

Original Source

Top 8 Reasons Retirees Move to Lake Chapala

By focus on Mexico

So you’ve worked hard for years and can finally look at retiring! That’s great! But where will you live? For some people, getting out of the rat race and enjoying a much better quality of living for far less money is more than wishful thinking, it’s their reality and one of the many reasons Lake Chapala is one of the top retirement destinations in the world. This article lays out what I feel are the top reasons why you too should consider Lake Chapala as a retirement destination. For the sake of brevity, I’m going to limit this to eight reasons why people fall in love with–and choose to stay–at Lake Chapala. (I actually tried to keep it to seven top reasons – but I just couldn’t do it!)

1. Lake Chapala’s weather is ranked as one of the best in the world.

8Reasons Pic1 waterfront

Are you tired of freezing in the winter and shoveling snow? Or maybe you live in one of the states in the US that are so hot and humid in the summer you feel like you’re walking into a sauna when you open your front door. Lake Chapala has the best weather on the entire continent. The number one reason most Americans and Canadians begin their search to retire outside the US or Canada is a better climate. It’s so comfortable here both snowbirds AND sunbirds come here to roost. If you googled anything related to great weather, Lake Chapala undoubtedly came up and may even be what brought you to Focus on Mexico! Lake Chapala’s micro climate has an average temp of 74 degrees year ’round and was named the second best climate in the world after Nairobi, Kenya. Imagine cool summers, the sunshine in the winter and using a fan or fireplace to adjust the temperature more to your preference.

2. Lake Chapala’s lower cost of living affords you a vibrant lifestyle.

8Reasons2 Golg

It can be tricky to calculate cost of living because it really comes down to your lifestyle, but on average, Americans save about 55% by living in Mexico and Canadians save about 49% according to Numbeo, which compares various costs of living worldwide. It includes price comparisons by the housing, food, entertainment, transportation, and so on. Right now, Americans can take advantage of historic lows in the value of the peso to a dollar– a tremendous benefit for people bringing in US dollars. The Canadian currency also is hovering around all-time highs compared to the peso.

Rents and real estate are affordable. VERY affordable depending on where you’re moving from! People coming to the area from places like British Columbia, California and New York will be shocked by the stunning homes you can buy for so little.

Among the delightful differences, you will find when you leave tract and cookie-cutter homes behind are the architectural details in Mexico: artisan brick dome ceilings, arches, custom-forged wrought iron and wood carvings. In newer homes, you will find state of the art building components that you’ve come to expect from back home.

‘Outside living’ is a way of life at Lake Chapala so you can enjoy lush gardens, fountains and views of the lake and mountains that will take your breath away.

Lake Chapala boasts restaurants on a world-class scale that are very affordable. Most recently we had a rib-eye dinner for two with appetizers, sides and 2 mojitos for $38 USD, including tip. But it’s also easy to keep a very nice lunch or dinner for one person under $10 USD.

The cost of labor, domestic help, cooks, and gardeners and more are very affordable and besides helping you, by hiring Mexicans to help you cook, tidy your house, garden, translate, or drive, you also help to support the local economy.

3. You’ll be inspired by Lake Chapala’s breathtaking beauty.

8 Reasons3 evening fountain

Lake Chapala’s charming cobblestone streets, colonial architecture and horses tied to hitching posts outside of local homes and businesses, enhances the feeling you’ve stepped back in time. These are just a few of the myriad of things that make this area a photographer’s dream.

Lake Chapala is located a mile high, like Denver, in the central highlands of the Sierra Madre Mountains in Jalisco, Mexico. The lake is 66 miles long and 13 miles across. In the rainy season, there are also waterfalls that you may hike to. Just west of Ajijic there are thermal springs that you can swim or relax in that are reputed to have healing, therapeutic properties.

Lake Chapala is on the same latitude as Hawaii so you will see the same fruit, flowers, trees and plants. There are Birds of Paradise, pine trees and palm trees as well as banana plants and cacti growing side by side, just to name a few. But the beauty and color aren’t limited to nature.

The homes, businesses and exterior walls and even telephone poles will often be painted in saturated colors, like tangerine and cobalt blue; terracotta red and violet. Murals have become one of the defining characteristics of Lake Chapala’s villages. You will see incredible murals painted by local artists just about everywhere you go and many of them feature local residents!

4. Close proximity to the US and Canada has its benefits.

8Reasons4 GDL airport

Lake Chapala is a prime location in terms of access and proximity. It is also home to the oldest and largest expat community anywhere outside the US or Canada. Approximately 20,000 expats make Lake Chapala their home.

Should you need to get back home quickly, Mexico is a fast and affordable option. Lake Chapala is just 30 minutes from the international airport in Guadalajara. Or if you prefer to drive, a 12-hour drive to the border.

Lake Chapala is like the hub of a wagon wheel, where going out in any direction for 2 hours can take you to beaches, mountains, canyons, archeological sites and colonial pueblos. The closest beaches are a doable 2 1/2 hour drive away. There’s even snow skiing available in the mountains on the other side of Lake Chapala, as well as a couple of towns patterned after Swiss villages found at chilly altitudes complete with pine trees. A five-hour drive in any direction will lead you to Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende, Patzcuaro in the mountains and more beaches and archeological and historical wonders, including pyramids.

5. Lake Chapala and Guadalajara have affordable and world class medical care

8reasons5 DrH

It may be surprising to now that Medical care at Lake Chapala can be just as good or better than what you would find back home. Most of the doctors at Lake Chapala speak English and some have even been trained in the US – but the cost is a fraction of what you would pay out of pocket. It’s not uncommon for a doctor to give you their personal cell number in case you need to call.
Doctors at Lake Chapala also tend to have a more holistic approach to health than I’ve seen North of the border. If alternative medicine is your thing, many of the physicians locally will assist you in putting together a plan that incorporates different but compatible approaches that are right for you.

6. Living at Lake Chapala offers a new lease on life!

8Reasons6 dancing

People are retiring in better health than ever before in history and many people are simply not ready to sit in a rocking chair and relax. Retirees have been coming to Lake Chapala for almost 100 years now. Our local culture has evolved and become a unique fusion. We find ourselves reaping the benefits of fusion both in goodwill from the Mexican people and in having an enviable English-speaking infrastructure in place. There’s so much to do you may be overwhelmed by all of the options! From activities like Toastmasters, Walking clubs, Zumba, Yoga, a world-class community theater with live productions in English, live music almost every night of the week to movie theaters with movies in English, Rotary Club, Writers Groups, Photography clubs, Artist groups and too many to list here. Believe me, if you’re interested in something, it’s here and if it’s not, get it started!

Would you love to help people now that you’re retired? Many of us from North of the Border long to be able to have our lives count for something. We want to make a difference and help. There are real needs and opportunities to help from rocking babies, or reading and doing crafts with the older children at one of the local orphanages to helping out at one of the animal rescues, teaching English to Mexican students or adults looking to expand their skill set and much more. There are ways you can know you’re making a real difference here.

Lake Chapala isn’t just for retirees, either. Many younger families with children are moving to the area to start businesses or work remotely to take advantage of the weather, lower cost of living, opportunities to learn Spanish and to be a part of a close-knit but welcoming community.

7. The Mexican people are friendly and the culture is rich in history and tradition.

 

8Reasons7 MxnDancersI have traveled to multiple countries over the years and one thing that sets Mexico apart, even in Central and South American countries, is the culture. Many countries have become Spanish-speaking foreign versions of the US and Canada…Mexico – even with the ex-pat population – is still …Mexico! With its rich traditions, emphasis on family and relationships, history and food it’s a charming and life-changing cultural experience.

A strong theme found in people who retire in Mexico is increased happiness, lower stress and enjoying a simpler lifestyle. Many people liken it to stepping back in time when people were more courteous, the family was a top priority and our elders were respected.

Culturally, Mexicans don’t even recognize a generation gap. Many of them have their grandparents living at home with them and they’re valued members of the family, not a burden. This attitude spills over in the community where you will encounter many friendly, kind and helpful people who still take the time to say hello to and help strangers. In fact, The Happy Planet Index rated Mexico as the second happiest nation in the world in 2016, right behind Costa Rica. That’s due to the fact that Mexicans don’t believe that money is time. They believe the time is something we all have, family and relationships are paramount and the mark of a man’s character is in how he treats people.

Contrary to media hype, safety is one of the lowest concerns cited by people living at Lake Chapala. Exercising common sense precautions like staying out of the drug trade, not flashing money or walking down dark alleys at 2 a.m. go a long way. Most people at Lake Chapala feel safer there than they did before they moved from their city or town in the US or Canada. If you ask an expat what they think, you will likely hear, ” The media creates such a mistaken perception of Mexico! That’s ok by me as it reduces the number of people coming!”

8. No, you don’t have to speak Spanish.

 

8Reasons8 CHAPALA signI hesitated to add this because I feel it’s important and respectful to learn some Spanish if you plan to spend any real amount of time in Mexico but the fact is it is surprisingly easy to get by at Lake Chapala on little or even no Spanish. The area has been a well-established retirement community for Americans and Canadians for so long that most Mexican people you will encounter speak at least some English. In a pinch, a great sense of humor and a friendly game of charades are all you really need to get by until you can pick up some basic phrases.

So, welcome to Focus on Mexico! Explore the website and be sure to watch the videos, too. The bottom line is that there’s no way to know if Lake Chapala is right for you unless you come and visit. Focus on Mexico works to give you the information you need to decide if Lake Chapala may be right for you through our 6-day Fast Track seminar. The biggest regret most people have once they make the move here is not coming sooner!

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