Let’s face it: Since the recession most of us are watching our pennies more carefully. We want to get good value for our money—especially when considering a move abroad.
First, let’s limit ourselves to cities with a certain number of expats. Mexico has plenty of small, isolated villages where you can live for next to nothing. But realistically, you probably wouldn’t choose to live in them. But Mexico’s medium-sized cities tend to be low cost and have a great quality of life.
So here are my picks, in no particular order. They all have at least a small expat community to ease your transition to life overseas.
Xalapa, capital of Veracruz
Xalapa is arguably the most cultured medium-sized city in Mexico. It has what is considered the best symphony orchestra in the country and the best anthropological museum outside Mexico City. There are several universities, theaters, excellent bookstores, and every type of music you can imagine. Xalapa has a vibrant café culture, and the food is outstanding.
Yet for its size—about 400,000 people—Xalapa is cheap. You can buy a two-story, three-bedroom house in a nice neighborhood for about $150,000; a filling lunch for $5 or less; and rent an apartment or small house for around $500 a month.
There may be as many as several hundred expats in the Xalapa area, but there are no “expat neighborhoods” or big expat organizations. You’ll need to learn Spanish to fit in here—but you’ll be able to locate a few English-speaking expats to help you over the first hurdles.
The Lake Chapala area is home to the largest North American expat community in the world. Even so, Lake Chapala is surprisingly affordable.
Condos start at less than $100,000—and just over $100,000 will buy you a pleasant two-bedroom unit of about 1,000 square feet in a complex with a pool. A couple can dine well in a nice restaurant for about $35 and eat at home for a fraction of this amount.
You can spend much more here, of course. There are homes that will set you back half a million dollars or more. You can also drop a bundle in the gourmet supermarkets that carry every U.S. and European food item you can imagine. But if you need to live without them to stay on budget, you can.
And what you’ll get for free in Lake Chapala are hundreds of activities to take part in, plenty of English-speaking compatriots to socialize with, and a local population that is friendly, helpful and welcoming to new expats.
Yucatán Gulf Coast
This stretch of coast running north and east of Mérida is dotted with small fishing villages. Locals from Mérida have had homes on this coast for generations; expats have begun moving here in recent years.
You won’t find trendy bars, boutique shops, and high-end restaurants on this coast. But you will find some of the most affordable beachfront property in Mexico…and very low day-to-day costs.
Real estate prices are rising on this coast, but you can still find beachfront condos for around $100,000 and beach houses a block or so back for the same amount. Buy your fish fresh from the dock for pennies on the dollar—or get a plate of fresh ceviche at a local restaurant for $5 to $9.
When you feel the need to splurge, just head to Mérida for a meal or a concert—it’s as little as half an hour away.
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