Increase in Canadians Retiring in Mexico

Here in Campeche, where I live in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, we have only a small expat community. It’s growing steadily, though, with British, Dutch, Italians… and Canadians. In fact, a lot of the North American tourists I see here in the Yucatán these days come with distinctly Canadian accents.

And that’s true not only for the Yucatán Peninsula, but also for other tourist regions of Mexico, including Puerto Vallarta and Mexico City. U.S. tourists are still the single largest group visiting Mexico. But Canada is #2, and the numbers having been growing for at least the last seven years. In 2012 about 1.6 million Canadians visited Mexico, more than visited any other foreign country in the world other than the U.S.

So, what’s up with that?

It’s not surprising, really. Canada’s winters are long and cold, and many Canadians see no reason to stay home and trudge through them if they don’t have to. Not when Mexico is a short plane ride away. So lots of those who come to Mexico on tourist visas don’t come just to see the sights—they plan to stay awhile.

They spend two, three—up to six—months living in Mexico, taking advantage of Mexico’s generous tourist visa, which allows them to stay up to 180 days. (Not surprisingly, the highest tourist numbers from Canada are in the December-to-February time frame, when temperatures at home are particularly chilly.)

Most of these Canadian snowbirds tend to go to warm beach locations, like the Yucatán’s Gulf and Caribbean coasts. Other destinations popular with Canadians include Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo, both on the Pacific coast.

There are no firm numbers on how many Canadians choose to buy a property rather than rent—Mexico doesn’t really track the nationality of foreign buyers. But, unofficially, I can tell you that I’ve met many who do choose to buy a home or an apartment here in Mexico. It gives them roots here and the chance to make long-term friends, not to mention giving them a place to stay every winter.

The big question for many Canadians is whether to make the move full-time. Some hesitate to move away from family and friends back home. Many don’t want to lose access to Canada’s national health-care plan. (They must be in Canada six to seven months a year, depending on the province, to keep their health coverage valid.) But others do the math and come up with a different result…

They figure Mexico’s lower cost of living and low-cost, excellent private health care make a full-time move worthwhile—they can always base themselves in Mexico and go back for family visits during Canada’s cool summers. (I have Canadian friends who are debating this issue right now.) In the end, it’s a very personal decision.

But whether they ultimately choose to live here full- or part-time, there’s no question that more and more Canadians are giving this Latin-American country a big thumbs-up.

Welcome to Mexico, compadres.

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