Affordable-living in La Paz, Mexico

I’m in an SUV in La Paz, in Mexico’s Baja California Sur. The sun is hot and we’ve rolled down the windows as we drive through town. We go at a leisurely pace, stopping at street corners to obey the four-way stop signs; La Paz is too low-key to need many stop lights.

Here, two hours from the tip of the Baja Peninsula, I feel as though I’m on the frontier…the end of the line. It’s probably due to the laidback, away-from-it-all air that La Paz has—helped by its location, between rugged, deserted mountains and the unspoiled Sea of Cortez.

I certainly don’t feel as though I’m roughing it. La Paz has modern shops, comfortable restaurants, and a malecón (boardwalk) running right along the sea that just begs you to come for a seaside stroll.

Or a swim—when I was there last month, I saw several locals swimming leisurely in the sea right off the malecón, their clothes and towels piled in a tidy heap on the sand.

Not surprisingly, this part of Baja is popular with Californians, who drive straight down the Peninsula to La Paz—about a 900-mile trip. It also gets a lot of sailing types, who sail into La Paz’s harbor and decide to stay. In the high season, I’m told, several thousand expats live here full- or part-time, so you hear a fair amount of English—yet the city feels Mexican.

And there’s a lot to like. In addition to its neighborly, easy-going atmosphere, La Paz is affordable. Eating out in the many casual restaurants, for instance, is inexpensive. I pay about $5 for a filling breakfast, and about the same for a lunch special. For shopping, La Paz already has a small shopping mall inland…and a 100-acre mall, with supermarkets, department stores, and another Cineplex, is due to open soon.

Right now, due to the recession, property prices are way down. Looking to rent for a while? Sea-view homes, of the two-bedroom, two-bathroom type that U.S. expats prefer here, rent for about $1,000 a month—down from about $1,500 a month before the recession. If you don’t mind being inland, you can drop your rent to about $500 a month.

If you’re looking to buy, you’ll find a selection of sea-view condos, and even houses a little inalnd, for about $150,000.

And if you ever feel you want a bit of big-city action, Los Cabos is just two hours down the road.

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