The Two Best Destinations in Mexico

I’ve lived in both the Colonial Highlands and the Yucatan Peninsula over my nearly nine years in Mexico, and have loved my time in each. In Mexico, there’s something for everyone. And in many parts of the country, you can enjoy life for half of what you’d pay in Australia. (A couple can live very comfortably on $2,800 a month or less, including rent.)

I currently live in the Colonial Highlands, which are in central Mexico, north of Mexico City. This region is drenched in history, and rich in beautiful, well-preserved, Spanish-colonial cities. Guanajuato, where I live, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as are many of the highland’s Spanish-colonial cities. And with good reason. Straight from a movie set, these fabled silver cities still carry the Spanish grace notes of times gone by—elegant haciendas with blossom-filled courtyards, soaring cathedrals, and shady plazas with terraced cafés and pattering fountains.

The climate here is mild, temperate and semi-arid (a big draw for many expats, including myself). Most days are sunny, and daytime temperatures range from about 20 C to 27 C nearly all year. Cities popular with expats include San Miguel de Allende, the Lake Chapala area and—on the coast about a five hours’ drive from Lake Chapala—Puerto Vallarta. You can get by in English in any of these areas.

Here, you can find most of the products and services you’re used to back home. You’ll have plenty to keep you busy, and enjoy a lower cost of living than in Australia.

Active adventure fans tend to love the Yucatán Peninsula, in far southern Mexico. It offers a hot, humid climate, jungle interiors filled with wildlife and archaeological ruins (from the peninsula’s powerful Maya civilisation), and some of the most beautiful, white-sand beaches and turquoise waters on the planet. The eastern Caribbean coast is very international and modern, while the western Gulf coast offers traditional colonial cities like Mérida and Campeche (along with modern amenities, of course).

I lived on the Yucatan Gulf coast when I first moved to Mexico. Like many expats who choose this region, I came for the authentic Mexican lifestyle and enviable property bargains in this area…though I quickly fell in love with the perfect beaches and great snorkelling on the Caribbean coast. So whether you’re looking for a swank oceanfront condo on the Caribbean or prefer to renovate a bargain colonial in Merida, the Yucatan Peninsula delivers.

True, for Australians the trip is longer than to Asia—most flights from Australia go to Los Angeles, then connect to Cancun, Mexico City or elsewhere in Mexico. But once you get to Mexico, you can stay on a tourist visa for up to a full, consecutive 180 days—nearly six months. That’s plenty of time to travel the country—or settle in someplace and enjoy life like
a local.

If you decide you do want Mexican residence, that’s easy to get, too. There are temporary resident visas valid for up to four years…but many foreigners opt for the super-convenient, permanent-resident visa. The permanent visa is a one-time process…and is valid indefinitely, with no minimum time in Mexico required. To qualify, you can show either investments in the bank or a regular monthly pension or income. Right now, for permanent residence, the minimum average investment is about $118,800, while the minimum monthly income is about $2,970.

And once you have a residence visa—either temporary or permanent—you qualify for some benefits. You can sign up to join Mexico’s national health system, for instance; it has a top cost per person of about $500 a year, making it an inexpensive health safety net. And if you’re age 60 or over, you can get a pensioner’s card, which gives you discounts of up to 50% off a wide range of services, including bus tickets, entrance fees to cultural events and archaeological sites, some medical devices and services, and more.

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