A Great—and Affordable—Lifestyle in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

San Miguel de Allende is arguably the best-known Spanish-colonial town in Mexico…and for good reason. It’s beautiful (and beautifully-preserved), it has great shopping for arts and crafts, fine dining, plenty of English-speaking locals, a huge expat community, and it’s relatively easy to reach.

Even better, it’s very affordable.

True, you won’t be able to buy a large colonial home in the historic center unless you have very deep pockets…showcase properties there can run in the millions of dollars. But you can find homes and condos in the 1,000- to 2,000-square-foot range, within an easy walk of the center, starting at around $200,000.

And daily living expenses are moderate. On a recent visit to San Miguel, for instance, I had a pleasant dinner on a rooftop terrace near the main square. The view was spectacular: from my table I could see the spires of San Miguel’s pink-hued cathedral and watch the sun set over the city’s rooftops.

I didn’t have a starter, but my main course was plenty…and I started the meal with a huge margarita in a frosted, salt-rimmed glass. The bill: about $20, including a hefty tip. There are plenty of restaurants and eateries in San Miguel de Allende, where $15 or so will get you an excellent dinner, as I got here. For lunch you can spend even less.

Cost of living in San Miguel de Allende

Of course, if you’re living in a city you don’t eat out every night. Supermarkets and traditional markets offer economical eating when you can cook at home. San Miguel has both, including big supermarket chains like Mega Comercial.

For some examples of prices, in a local convenience store I bought a liter of fresh milk for less than $1; a half-pound round of Oaxaca cheese (rather like mozzarella) for about $1.50; a packet of a dozen fresh, locally-made tortillas for about 80 cents; and a small watermelon (about three pounds) for about $1.25. You’d likely pay slightly less in a supermarket.

In a local breakfast eatery—the kind that Mexicans and savvy local expats frequent—I ate filling breakfasts of eggs-and-sausage or sandwiches on a crusty bread, accompanied by a large fresh-fruit smoothie, for about $2.50. (I could have eaten at home, but the smoothies, with fresh strawberries, bananas, mangos, papaya, pineapple or other fruits, were hard to resist.)

That’s not to say that you can’t spend big bucks in San Miguel if you want to. With so many enticing arts and crafts for sale, it’s hard to resist them completely. You can sometimes lower the cost by shopping at the Mercado de Artesanías, the handicrafts market, rather than in the shops near the main square.

And the town’s top restaurants can cost you plenty, especially if you order a fine wine to accompany your meal. The good news is that these high-end dining options, with superb food, are available…whether you can afford to eat there every night or save them for that special occasion.

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