The Real Costs of Living in Mexico

So many things are so much cheaper in Mexico it’s hard to know where to begin. Even after 12 years living in Mazatlán full-time, I still get surprised.

Case in point: pet care. Dr. Cesar, my vet, makes house calls. Actually, that’s all he does: he’s a mobile vet and shows up at your door with an over-sized tackle box full of injections, pills, and other equipment. I call him from my phone or—much easier and free—I message him via WhatsApp; he’ll come the same day if it’s an emergency or if he’s nearby; otherwise we make an appointment for the following day. The last time he came, he gave both my cats their annual inoculations and the charge was about $10.

Let’s talk about home maintenance. My plumber charges $8 for a house call, and he can usually come by on the same day I contact him. If it’s an easy repair, he does it on the spot and there’s no further cost. If he needs parts, he’ll go on his bicycle, buy them, come back with the receipt, and then I pay him at cost. An electrician, washing machine, or air conditioner repairman is the same: $8 to $10 for a basic house call and simple repair, plus parts if any are needed.

At these prices, it’s hard not to tip them, or just pay them more. But that disrupts the regular local payscale and can make for inflated “gringo prices.” I’ve come to terms in my own way by giving regular service providers a “bonus” at Christmas, which is more in line with the local culture.

What about medical care? Here in Mazatlán, a basic office visit to most doctors, even specialists, is $21 to $23, and appointments are usually available the same day or the same week. You can walk into the emergency room at any of the many private or Red Cross clinics and be seen by a doctor for $13. And it doesn’t have to be for a real emergency—if you need a prescription for flu symptoms, relief from “Montezuma’s revenge,” or think you sprained your ankle, they’ll gladly assist.

There are also big reputable laboratory chains that offer imaging, vision tests and glasses, all kinds of blood tests, and more at unbelievable prices—in spotless, professional, well-run centers with the newest equipment and highly trained personnel. For example, at Salud Digna—which has more than 50 locations throughout Mexico—I can make an appointment by phone or online for the next day or just walk in and wait in line. A “Woman’s Package” includes a mammogram with ultrasound, Pap smear, and bone density scan for less than $20. A “Complete Adult Package” checks 26 things, including cholesterols, a general urine exam, glucose, proteins, and triglycerides for the same price. You pick up the results the next day and then meet with your regular doctor to go over them.

Recently, fed up with my Dollar Store reading glasses, I went to Ver De Verdad, a popular eyeglass chain. An on-the-spot exam and a pair of stylish Prada-copy polycarbonate frames: $46.

I like to ride my bike around town, especially along the beachfront boardwalk. However, it gets dirty and the humidity makes for a lot of rust. Do I want to clean it? No. What to do? Enter Roberto, a bicycle repairman I found through a local bike rental shop. He came to my house, cleaned the entire bike, sanded, sealed and painted the rusty rims, replaced the brakes, oiled and lubricated the gears, etc., all for about $10. I have a car, too, and when it needs to be washed, I take it to Javier, for a $4 cleaning, inside and out, that’s better than I’d do myself.

Last year I moved from one side of town to the other, and I’m embarrassed to say it took five full-to-overflowing loads of a specially rigged pick-up truck to do so. That included appliances (refrigerator, stove, washer, two air conditioners), two couches, 15 big plants, patio furniture, two-bedroom sets, assorted living room pieces, and umpteen boxes of assorted “stuff.” The team of six movers carried everything up three flights of stairs (or winched things up over the balcony), placed all the items in the correct rooms, and even switched rooms for a few things. This was all done in an afternoon after the crew had come and assessed exactly what I had to move. The cost? About $265.

These are real costs from where I live in Mazatlán, and they’re a big part of the reason so many of us are deciding to move to Mexico. Although prices may vary in other parts of the country, you can rest assured your overhead here is going to be much less than in the U.S. or Canada.

That makes it really easy to live a less stressful, less complicated, and generally happier life. And isn’t that what we’re really looking for?

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