An Expat Guide to Living in Mexico

expat textiles

With Mexico’s amazing beaches, interesting history, friendly locals and great quality of life for expats, you can see why it’s one of the top countries for foreigners to set down roots and live the Expat life. I myself have been ‘living the dream life’ here in Mexico for almost 3 years now.

However, moving to a new country is never easy, and with language barriers, extreme weather, and a completely new pace of life, it can be a little overwhelming. But, with over 2 million Expats already living la vida loca in Mexico, we all want to know “what’s the secret?”. Luckily for you guys,  I have all the answers! I will talk you through everything you need to know about the language, weather, cost of living, healthcare, housing and job market in Mexico.

Cost Of Living

Due to the low value of the Mexican Peso compared to the currency of developed countries; the Pound, Dollar and Euro, the cost of living in Mexico is low. Expats coming from these developed countries can enjoy a much higher quality of life in Mexico, so long as they are still earning money in their own currency.

expat textiles

 

The basic cost of living is much lower than in Europe and the States, especially in regards to locally produced food and textiles. However, some expenses can actually be slightly higher here in Mexico. Utilities such as electricity and water can really rack up the expenses, especially in the summer months, and buying white goods can be a total rip off in some areas. Imported items that would usually cost you nothing to buy back home will also cost you an arm and a leg in Mexico, so you may need to think rethink your favourite brands.

The cost of living also depends on the area you choose to live. Rent in big cities or tourist areas such as Mexico City, Guadalajara, Cancun or Monterey, will cost you a lot more than the smaller, more traditional towns. The same goes for groceries, public transport and clothing. However, here is a rough guideline of costs in Mexican Pesos:

  • Bread $25
  • 1kg Apples $30 
  • Cereal $27
  • Nutella $45
  • 1kg Chicken $85
  • 6 pack beer $120
  • Soap $15
  • Double bed spread $500
  • Suncream $190
  • Sanitary towels $40
  • Toothpaste $40
  • Toilet paper $35
  • Pair of jeans $250
  • Basic t-shirt $150
  • 1lt Gasoline $14 
  • Month rent on a 1 bedroom apartment $7,000
  • Month water and gas $400
  • Month electricity $500

Language

The main language throughout the whole of Mexico is Spanish. Some areas also speak English to a very high standard, however some don’t speak one word. In tourist areas you can find some Mexicans who speak German, French and even Russian, although I admit this is rather rare.

expat sign

If you took a few Spanish lessons in school, or if you picked up a few words on your last trip to Spain, it’s not going to cut it! The Spanish used in Mexico is very different to that used in Spain, to the point that some of my Mexican friends don’t actually understand Spanish people. Mexicans use a lot of slang, and in small towns speaking in Spanish is often the only way to earn their respect.

I would recommend taking a few Mexican Spanish lessons in your home country before you make the move, or purchase a self learning program such as Rosetta Stone. After all, you are choosing to live in their country, it’s only natural to learn their language.

A few phrases to get you started are:

  • Que tal? – What’s up?
  • Una chela por favor – A beer please
  • Hola Güey! – Hey dude!
  • La cuenta por favor  – The bill please
  • No manches! – No way!

Weather

The weather in Mexico is extremely varied depending on the area you are choosing to live. You can find tropical forests, white sand beaches, water filled valleys, dry deserts, and snow-capped mountains all within hours of each other.

expat mountain

Coastal areas of Mexico such as the Riviera Maya, Baja California and Riviera Nayarit, are usually hot and humid all year round, with July through September being the hottest months. Further inland and north to Mexico city, Hidalgo and Monterey, you will find the weather can get fairly chilly, and at night downright freezing.

For those of you that love tropical beaches and hot weather all year round, I would suggest the Caribbean cost line. For those of you who prefer more distinguished seasons and cooler, less humid weather, I would suggest one of the more northerly cities.

Job Opportunities

Contrary to popular belief, Mexico has one of the strongest economies in the whole of Latin America! It is a place for budding entrepreneurs, artists, and the business minded to create successful companies and careers. That said, entering this growing economy isn’t always easy for a foreign person, and it usually goes hand in hand with a lot of strenuous, frustrating visa applications.

expat money

To live and work in Mexico you need to have the correct visa. Although there are many foreigners working in Mexico illegally for ‘cash-in-hand’, the consequences of being thrown out of the country and banned for 10 years aren’t worth the risk to me. However, with a little planning and research, one can get their foot in the door without any issues.

1. Being sent over to Mexico by your current employer

Does your company have a branch office in the country? This is probably the most common and easiest route to a job in Mexico. Your current employer will usually pay for, and fill out the necessary documentation, so all you have to do is grab your visa, hop on a plane, and enjoy your new life in Mexico.

2. Working in Hospitality

Mexico being the beautiful holiday destination it is, there are many tourist zones throughout the entire country. This means that there are an abundance of hospitality jobs such as bar work, receptionists, waiters, hotel staff, and entertainment. If you’re snapped up by a hotel, then they will usually pay for and arrange your work visa for the duration of your contract.

3. Skills otherwise not found in Mexico

As the country is still developing in terms of it’s economy, there are still areas of industry that lack expertise. If you’re a skilled professional in areas such as engineering, communication or roles in the technical sector, you may be able to secure an invitation from a Mexican company. You will also need to have a good grasp of conversational Spanish for these kinds of  roles.

4. Starting your own business

This option is probably the most difficult, but the most profitable. The difficulties come from the outrageously long and confusing application process to acquire the necessary documentation. A way to overcome this obstacle, which a lot of Expats now do, is to have a local attorney or business person skilled in these matters help you out.

5. Being a creative soul

Believe it or not, there is actually a lot of work, and a dedicated visa, for anyone wanting to come to Mexico to work with their art-form. Be it a musician, a painter, a singer or a poet, there is a visa that can help you live and work in Mexico, so long as you are bringing something new and profitable to the country. So all you aspiring rockstars don’t need to hang up those leather pants just yet.

Housing

Whether you’re renting or buying, housing in Mexico is fairly cheap compared to most other countries. In Cancun for example, you can get a nice, newly built, 2 bed apartment for $100,000. However, the quality of housing available, and the cost vary dramatically depending on the city, or even the neighbourhood you choose to live in. This is the same for crime rate and cleanliness. It all depends on the location you choose. I would recommend speaking to other Expats who live in the city you want to move to, or even to local real estate agents, to find the right neighbourhood for you.

expat housing

There are two ways of finding housing in Mexico;: using a real estate agent or going it alone. The first is more expensive, but using a real estate agent will allow you to find the best areas to live quickly and easily, and they will be able to speak Spanish on your behalf. However, I believe the best option is to do the search yourself. This could mean walking the streets and making phone calls, searching online, or looking through the local newspaper. For this option you will need to have a good grasp of Spanish, or know someone who does, but in the end you will definitely save money.

A few things to remember when looking for housing in Mexico are:

  • The rental market in Mexico is largely unregulated, meaning your landlord can raise the rent at the drop of a hat, and the tenants will have to pay it, or be kicked out. I’m talking things out on the pavement and locks changed.
  • Each person with a visa to live/work in Mexico can only bring household items into the country on a duty-free basis once. So be sure to choose the things you want to move with very carefully.
  • Contracts are usually in both Spanish and English, however, in court only the Spanish version will be considered binding. Be sure to double check this version, and make sure it matches up exactly to the English one.

Healthcare

One of the most important things to consider when moving to a new country is the level of healthcare. Luckily, in most cases, the level of healthcare in Mexico is pretty good. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of back room doctors, dentists and surgeons who have little to no training. But these practices are very easily spotted and avoided.

expat holbox

Most doctors and dentists in Mexico actually completed part of their training in the U.S, and many American doctors have studied in the larger cities of Mexico such as Monterey, Guadalajara and Mexico City. Every notable city in Mexico will have at least one, if not two, first-rate hospitals, and they will usually be much cheaper than in your home country.

There is an option in Mexico to pay for health insurance, and some jobs will come with this benefit. However, most of the prescriptions in Mexico will be around half the price of your home country, and a general trip to the doctor will only set you back around 500 Mexican Pesos.

 

Are you thinking of moving to Mexico? Let me know what your concerns are in the comments below!

 

Stay Salty x

44 Comment

  1. Great tips! I am an expat in Ecuador. I think it is harder to get a job in Ecuador as the whole country is in economic crisis, but so cheap here tho! I haven’t been to Mexico yet, but this looks like paradise. Would love to live next to the beach in Mexico 🙂

    1. Thank you! Oh wow, I bet that’s amazing. What is the lifestyle like there? Some places here are really cheap too, not so much the area I live in, as it’s very multicultural, but others further north are for sure. It’s truly amazing here, you should visit one day! 🙂

  2. Sher says: Reply

    ooh you permanently live in mexico! very cool. are you based in a specific city? i’m headed in two months so would be fun to meet up if you’re free for a drink 🙂

    Sher
    http://www.shershegoes.com

    1. Yes! I live in Playa del Carmen. I just travel to all the other countries from here. Where are you coming to in Mexico? I’d love to meet for a drink for sure! Hit me up when you arrive 🙂

  3. Your post was very interesting. That’s quite a list of really expensive items that I would never even have thought would cost so much? I do remember strolling down to the market for alcohol on doubt and couldn’t believe how expensive it was, so since was actually staying in all inclusive decided to leave the bottle and go back to resort. I hadn’t realized so many job opportunities!

    1. Yes! I was shocked too! To get some ‘imported’ brands you can pay up to double what you would pay back home in the UK or US, it’s crazy. Some alcohol here is very cheap, like rum and tequila, but some others are so expensive, especially whiskey. Glad I could give you a little more info about a country you visited 🙂

  4. Aisha says: Reply

    This is very details and contains really great information! I’ve spent only a week in Playa Del Carmen and absolutely loved it so the idea of moving to Mexico for an extended period is very appealing to me. This guide would certainly be a big help if I made the leap!

    1. That’s so fantastic to hear! I myself live in Playa del Carmen, so I’m glad that this would help you. IF you ever do decide to move then not hesitate to contact me!

  5. I never plan to be an Expat. I kind of like my own country. But I like the way you have explained the expat life in Mexico.

    1. I love my own country, I just feel there are too many things in this world to stay in one place. Glad you enjoyed my post 🙂

  6. Sarah says: Reply

    BRB, packing my bags! I’m always so intrigued to read about expat life & you certainly didn’t disappoint! The thought of moving to another country with dramatically lower living expenses & still maintaining my U.S. salary is so tempting, but I’m not sure it will ever be in my cards! I’m digging your website & going to look around some more! 🙂

    1. Aww this was so lovely to read Sarah! Thank you! It’s definitely a comfortable life here for any digital nomads or location independent workers. I’m very glad you enjoyed this post and that you are enjoying my blog. If you ever do think of moving down here then hit me up 🙂

  7. Mexico will be sure in my bucket list! I’m so glad to know “The basic cost of living is much lower than in Europe and the States”. Thanks for your informations!

    1. That’s great! I really enjoy spreading the love for this amazing country. And yes, the cost of living is so much lower, and the quality of living can be so much higher, win-win!

  8. Very detailed coverage and helpful info for expats. While I am not planning to move there, as a future traveller as well, it is very helpful to know. I’m looking forward to future posts on this topic…especially the food scene…so I can bookmark them for when I visit there!

    1. Ooh good to know you are interested in the food scene! I have a post coming up that you will just LOVE! Stay tuned 😉

  9. Hi Fern, really love your post – so detailed!
    I remember I once read a book about an expat’s life in Mexico called “This is Mexico”, and that was as close to an expat’s life experience as I ever got haha. But on a more serious note – I am definitely saving this post as a reference for later as I always wanted to live for a bit someplace else (at least for a month or more) and Mexico is a great choice!
    Daria.

    1. Hi Daria!
      I’m so glad you found this post useful, and that you are thinking of moving to this beautiful country for a little while. You’ll just love it! Mexico is a great place for a first time Expat 🙂

  10. Hanani says: Reply

    This is very tempting! My fiance and I are currently living in Korea, and we’re trying to decide where to go next. So, I’m going to share this with him 🙂

    1. Ooh that’s great! It will be a big culture change from Korea, but you’ll absolutely love it here. This country is so vast that there’s definitely a place for everyone 🙂

  11. Really good explanation, thank you!
    I know how hard it is to move to another country, I moved to Wales last year due to a job opportunity but I’m originally from Portugal.
    You will always miss home but in my point of view moving around the world is always filled with amazing adventures. Thank you for sharing all of this great info, I’ll definitely use it if Mexico presents as a possibility to live I’m sure I’ll do visit it.

    1. Ah Diana, thank you so very much. It’s amazing to hear that you moved to wales to start a new life. I’ll be visiting Portugal in the new year so any tips for there would be great! 🙂 I really hope you get to visit Mexico soon.

  12. Great post – you’ve pretty much convinced me to up sticks and head over to Mexico!

    1. Haha awesome! We’ll be happy to have you over here 🙂

  13. Very useful article. Mexico seems great:)

    1. Thank you! I’m glad you found it useful 🙂

  14. I just got home from visiting Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta. I am so ready to drop everything and go back South. The people were so kind, the food was fantastic, and I love getting to speak Spanish all the time!! It sounds like you’re loving it down there!

    1. I really am! It’s great here, and close to the best beaches, which is a major plus! Where are you living right now?

  15. Sudipto says: Reply

    The beaches of Mexico are a dream for me. But isn’t the drug problem of Mexico spilling onto the streets? I’d really like to visit Mexico some day 🙂

    1. Oh no, that’s a total misconception. Yes there is a drug scene here in Mexico, and it’s more prominent in the poorer areas, but that’s the same in and country or city. I really wouldn’t let that put you off at all 🙂

  16. Such an informative post! I wouldn’t consider living in Mexico, purely because I’ll probably never move from the UK but I would love to visit on a trip. I do set off on solo trips all the time but not sure if Mexico is the place to do that? As you live there, you’re probably the best person to ask! Do you think I’d be OK travelling to Mexico solo? TIA!

    1. Hi there! Good question. I think so long as you travel to the more touristic places you’ll be totally fine! The Riviera Maya, Merida, Holbox, Mexico City, Guadalajara, Monterey, San Luis, Los Cabos, Oaxaca etc. Just do your research before hand. I’ve travelled all over Mexico, even to some of the smallest towns and I’ve never felt unsafe at all. I hope you make your trip soon, email me if you have any more questions 🙂

  17. Finding so many details in one post is rare! This is a perfect guide for expats preparing to move to Mexico. Well researched, and summarised.

    1. Ah I’m so glad you enjoyed the post and found it so informative! I hope it helps more expats too 🙂

  18. Adele says: Reply

    Really comprehensive guide Fern and the pics are stunning as always xx

    1. Ah thank you so much! I’m glad you found a lot of good info in this post! 🙂

  19. neil says: Reply

    Great Read! Thanks for even sharing the cost of those little stuff like bread, nutella, etc. I was kinda looking to see how much living cost i would need, i guess this comes in quite handy!

    1. My pleasure! I know when I was moving to Mexico, I was very interested in the cost of the everyday items. It really helps you to budget when you know the details. Thanky you for your comment 🙂

  20. Mary Ann Gabriel says: Reply

    Hello,
    I am here for a couple of weeks an have some concerns about travel in the more rural areas. I am staying on the beach between Progreso and Telchac and I would like to travel to Taxec. Would you recommend sticking to the coast? I would be traveling by myself and would have no cell service throughout the central areas of the Yucatan?

    1. I’ve found that traveling through the Yucatan is extremely safe so long as you are sensible. Don’t show off a flashy cell phone of camera when alone in the poorer areas, and stick to well known public transport when travelling between cities. You will have a fantastic time and will learn so much about Mexico visiting those areas! Enjoy it! 🙂

    2. Also, you can purchase a really cheap Mexican burner cell phone and sim while you are there. For both it will cost you less than $20 usd. Totally worth it!

  21. I’d love to someday move to Mexico. I’m actually from Mexico but been in the US since I was 3 months old. I don’t know what it is but I still have many mental hangups about moving someday. For know, I enjoy reading about people such as yourself who are way ahead of me on this journey. Gracias y Saludos, Fidel

    1. That’s such an unusual story. If you want any more information or anything that will help you get over these ‘mental hangups’ then please send me a message! I absolutely love living in Mexico, it’s not without its difficulties, but the good points outweigh them for sure.

      1. Thank you, Fern. It’s more like everyone will think I’m crazy because my family sacrificed so much to make it in the U.S. I don’t want to want it to seem like I’m not grateful and don’t appreciate it. But sometimes you just have to make your own way.

        Hey while we’re on this. I’m launching a podcast this month and would love to interview you about your story and give us advice on how to get over those mental hangups for those of us who want to be expats but not wait until we’re retirement age. I know your story would resonate with so many of us! Thank you

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