Mexico Fast Facts

Puerto Morelos, Mexico

Population: 116,220,947

Capital City: Mexico City

Climate: Varies from arid to tropical

Time Zone: GMT-8 to -6

Language: Spanish

Country Code: 52

Coastline: 9,330km

As many as 1 million U.S. and Canadian citizens already call Mexico their home, with more joining them all the time. In terms of numbers, Mexico is the most popular expat destination for North Americans in the world. This should come as no surprise, actually. Mexico has a lot to recommend it.

Convenience, for one thing: From the U.S. and Canada, you can drive to Mexico—in your own car—or fly there in a few hours, in most cases. Mexico offers many of the First-World conveniences we’re used to—including good highways, plenty of airports, reliable telephone service, and fast internet connections.

Mexico’s lower cost of living means a comfortable, fulfilling life here will likely cost you a fraction of what you pay “back home.” As much as 50% below what you’d pay in the rest of North America.

And then there are all those enticing differences that make Mexico so special: the vibrant local culture and rich history; the friendly people and their relaxed lifestyle; the sunny climate; the delicious food and drink; the miles (nearly 6,000) of coastline, much of it warm, sandy beach. You’ll also enjoy a slower, more relaxed pace of life here, where children still play in the streets and neighbors know each other.

And thanks to Mexico’s large size and varied geography, those moving here have so many choices…little silver-mining towns where the winding streets seem to head up to the clouds…fishing villages where you can rise at dawn to buy the day’s catch fresh from returning fishermen…beach towns where the sound of surf and the tang of salt water linger in the air… and cosmopolitan cities.

So whatever lifestyle you seek, you’ll likely find it in Mexico. No wonder more U.S. expats live in Mexico than in any other country in the world…

The Pros and Cons of Living in Mexico

By Don Murray

Remember that time you fell in love with the “perfect” person? And the times you found the perfect job and the perfect house in the perfect neighborhood? I’m guessing, if you’re like most folks, many of those perfect situations didn’t endure the passage of time. Relationships, jobs, and housing are only a few of the many things requiring compromise in our lives as perfection doesn’t exist.

The truth is that regardless of how much expats brag about their lives in their chosen, overseas destination, no country is perfect. Every country has pros and cons and Mexico is no exception. Here are a few of the pros and cons I’ve discovered while living in Mexico.

Climate

Climate in Mexico

Pros: Mexico is a huge country that is normally sunny throughout. It has a varied climate and it is this variety of climate that offers something for everyone. The coasts, bathed by the Caribbean Sea on the east, the Gulf of Mexico north of the Yucatan Peninsula and the Pacific Ocean on the west, are all tropical climates. Warm tropical air, laden with humidity is the norm in those areas while higher elevations in the interior of the country are much cooler. In fact, Mexico City sitting at about 7,500 feet in the Sierra Madre, is often surrounded by snow-capped mountains during the winter months.

Lake Chapala (just outside Guadalajara), brags that it has the best weather in the world with ample sunshine, average temps around 77 F, and rain falling mostly at night.

Cons: If you live on any of Mexico’s Coasts, it is possible to find yourself in the path of a large, incoming storm that has been given a human name. Hurricanes. They do happen in Mexico, but here’s the deal. Hurricanes are the only natural disaster that provide a week’s notice. You have plenty of time to prepare and/or leave the impact area if necessary as forecasting is quite accurate, these days. Since 1955, Mexico has been impacted by 12 named storms. That’s one storm every 4.3 years and that includes storms that make landfall on the Caribbean Coast and the Pacific Coast. That’s a lot of coastline. The odds are you’ll never experience a hurricane if you live in Mexico, but some will.

Oh, and I can’t forget about sunburn. Excessive exposure to tropical sun can be rough on skin. I’ve found that I need to moderate my beach-cruising time during spring break. Be sure to use ample sun screen and practice applying sun screen with one hand while holding a chilled Margarita with the other.

Cost of Living

Cost of Living

Pros: A well-known strategy for making the most of living in Mexico is to earn dollars and spend pesos. A long-time, advantageous exchange rate adds additional value to an already favorable economy. That means that those with an income originating in the U.S. such as retirement income or a computer-based revenue stream will do well in Mexico’s economy. Costs for nearly everything are lower in Mexico.

Medical care is one example with costs hovering around one third to one half the cost of similar care north of the border. And the quality of care is excellent in all major cities. Dental care is another area where you can expect to pay around one third the cost in the States. Food, housing, property taxes, and utilities are silly-cheap. My electric bill for a 1,600-square-foot beach front condo (air conditioned) rarely breaks $40 monthly. Housing costs vary wildly depending on proximity to a coastline and the community. That said, you can live a very comfortable life for around $1,500 monthly (more or less) nearly everywhere.

Safety and Security

Safety and Security in Mexico

While the U.S. press regularly reports on violence in Mexico, the truth is that crime statistics in Mexico almost exactly mirror crime in the U.S. Anyone paying attention knows that Mexico’s most dangerous and violent crimes are related to organized criminal activities such as selling and distributing drugs. Like all business efforts, the sale of drugs in Mexico is competitive, especially in tourist areas. Disputes between rival drug dealers are often settled by very visible displays involving guns. One bad guy protects his territory by eliminating the competition. I mean, drug dealers can’t take each other to court, to settle territorial disputes…right? So stay out of the drug business and chances are, you’ll be perfectly safe living in Mexico.

Pros: Aside from typical tourist crimes targeting those who’ve consumed too many Margaritas, and a few real estate deals gone wrong because the buyer didn’t want to hire a lawyer or accountant for representation, living in Mexico is safe. We regularly drive our Jeep throughout the Yucatan Peninsula and have never encountered any serious crime. We walk the streets, at night, in cities, towns, and villages without fear. And the occasional traffic stop can often be settled alongside the roadway, with the transference of a few dollars. It’s an effective system and while some suggest that taking this effective shortcut encourages such shenanigans, it’s a quick and inexpensive way to handle such things.

Cons: Local roads in nearly all towns and cities are encumbered by large speed bumps called topes (toe pays) that are suspension killers and can even damage tires. They are often difficult to see, especially at night. Two-way streets can become one-way streets at unmarked intersections so you must pay close attention. It’s always best to travel during daylight hours, just in case of a mechanical problem along the way. Better safe than sorry.

Medical Care

Medical Care in Mexico

Pros: Without question, Mexico offers exceptional, professional, and affordable medical care. Residents can choose between two national care plans which are either completely free or almost completely free depending on your situation. Many doctors speak English as their second language, especially in large cities. Pharmaceuticals do not require a doctor’s prescription, except narcotics and a few strong antibiotics. Simply walk into the pharmacy and tell them what you need. And the cost is literally pennies on the dollar compared to U.S. prices. Typical doctor visits can range from $15-$40 depending on the specialty area. With costs so low, many simply pay out-of-pocket.

Cons: While hospitals provide excellent results and most have modern, updated equipment, nursing care is not up to the standards we see in U.S. hospitals. Rooms can be shared, and family members are expected, in most cases, to provide meals and incidental care to patients as nurses are scarce.

Proximity to the U.S.

Proximity to the U.S.

Pros: Mexico’s proximity to the U.S. is, perhaps, the greatest benefit. Much of the U.S. is accessible in under two hours from major international airports. And for those so inclined, one can simply drive across the border.

Cons: Even your crazy uncle and cantankerous mother-in-law will want to visit you in this wonderful land of Aztec and Maya ruins, bright sun, tropical beaches, ample tequila, warm water, and world-class food. And if you don’t want them staying with you, hotels are cheap.

Activities and Recreation

Activities and Recreation in Mexico

Pros: Expats are typically an active bunch, rarely found sitting home in the rocking chair. Mexico offers a huge menu of activities to keep expats healthy and entertained. With easy access to the Gulf of Mexico, the Pacific Ocean, and the famed Riviera Maya on the Caribbean Sea, beach lovers can soak up the sun and play in the surf on some of the world’s best beaches. Mexico’s snorkeling, swimming, boating, and diving and fishing offer the best of the best locations on the planet.

Then there’s exploring. The Yucatan Peninsula is filled with sunken, water-filled caves called cenotes (say-note-tays) where you can swim among stalactites and stalagmites one million years old. Or share a meal with a Maya family, visit ancient ruins or stroll through stunning colonial cities such as Merida or Valladolid. Becoming bored is impossible.

Cons: Mexico offers so much to do that you’ll have difficulty choosing. Simply keeping up with great restaurants can be taxing and will require dedication. Oh, and you might wind up gaining a few pounds. Just saying…!

Find Out More From Our Mexico Editor

From the Archives of Mexico

The Perfect Retirement Solution

The Perfect Retirement Solution

Swimming with endangered green sea turtles in Akumal, strolling the cobblestone shopping district in Playa del Carmen, exploring cenotes or ancient Maya ruins or just lazing in a hammock…this is my life today. But it’s a far cry from where my husband Don and I were back in 2008. In the wake of the financial collapse and the deep recession that followed, our comfortable existence was completely upended. At an age when we expected we could begin to slow down, we found ourselves starting over in a very inhospitable economy. Add to that Don’s second heart attack and the loss of his health insurance when his job disappeared, and you have a recipe for real desperation.

See the World and Save Money with a Roving Retirement

See the World and Save Money with a Roving Retirement

Neither Yvonne nor Michael Bauche qualified for a pension in Canada. And so the adventurous duo decided to embark on a round-the-world trip that has seen them visit Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Portugal, Italy, France, and the Caribbean. “We cut our expenses in half,” says Yvonne of their new life on the road. “Running two cars, paying for electricity, gas, phone, cell phone, internet, food, and eating out used to cost us almost $4,000 a month. Our average expenditure is now about $2,000, and we live and play very well on that.”

Puerto Morelos: The Riviera Maya’s Best-Kept Secret

Puerto Morelos: The Riviera Maya’s Best-Kept Secret

Beach Living
By |
April 29, 2015

Just south of Cancún, on Mexico’s Riviera Maya, sits the small fishing village of Puerto Morelos. While still a working-class traditional Mexican town, Puerto Morelos has also drawn retirees in increasing numbers who come to live full-time or part-time as “snowbirds” escaping the cold North American winters.

We “Country Shopped” to Find Our Right Fit

We “Country Shopped” to Find Our Right Fit

Beach Living
By |
April 21, 2015

When my husband, Mike, and I celebrated New Year's Day 2008 and our 7th wedding anniversary in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, we were feeling good about where we were in our world. As with so many other people, that came to a crashing halt quickly—on February 1, 2008, we had to close our real estate business.

The City Our Dreams Were Made Of…

The City Our Dreams Were Made Of…

Beach Living
By |
April 10, 2015

Financial struggles weren’t the only thing motivating our retirement abroad, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that’s what got us looking for an out-of-the-box solution to begin with. Like a lot of people during the financial crisis, my husband, Donald, and I took a big hit. Here we were nearing the end of our working years, and our financial security had evaporated in a seeming instant. My husband had his second heart attack in three years, and then lost his job—along with his medical insurance. We were tired, vulnerable, and drowning in stress. I remember my husband declaring that he felt as if he’d, “been running a marathon for 60 years.” We both worked regular jobs, and even started a couple of small businesses on the side to claw our way back. But it would be years before we could hope to retire, and we were spending all our time and energy just to hold on.

The Last Opportunity in This Booming Beach Town

The Last Opportunity in This Booming Beach Town

Real Estate
By |
January 21, 2015

Hip, trendy, vibrant... Those three words sum up Playa del Carmen, Mexico. This is a boomtown, plain and simple. Over the past 20 years, the population has exploded. Fifth Avenue, the main shopping and entertainment drag, is described locally as the longest pedestrianized street in the Americas. Each time I visit—that's every month for the last three months now—it feels like new blocks have sprung up and fashionable restaurants and boutiques have opened their doors.

Discovering Paradise on Mexico’s Riviera Maya

Discovering Paradise on Mexico’s Riviera Maya

Real Estate
By |
November 27, 2014

Carlos stares into the afternoon sky, scans the horizon, and glances at his cell phone to check for messages. Then, using his machete and with a few deft flicks of his wrist, he slices through the scrub. Brightly colored butterflies float on the breeze. Whenever they come close, Carlos gently brushes them away from us and away from any danger to them. Carlos, though hardly five feet tall, wears the wide smile common among Mayans. It's contagious. He's one of the most successful developers on the Riviera Maya but here in the scrub, he's a world away from bustling Mexico City where he spends a lot of his time. In the Riviera Maya is where he's at his happiest—not in any boardroom or first class airline seat.