Your top 10 options on the best places to live in Mexico as an expat
I’ve been living in Mexico for the last 3 years and I honestly feel like right now, because of COVID, this is the best country to live in. For the last 3 years, I’ve been moving around the country to get to know the best places to live in Mexico. In this post, I will share all my personal experiences and opinions of each place.
Mexico is a very diverse country and honestly, whenever I am asked where is the best place I lived in Mexico, I can’t really say because I usually loved all of them! I understand that if you’ve never been to Mexico, it’s really hard to have an insider look and decide while you’re still back home in the US – the options are just unlimited!
As we are all unique individuals with different needs, I learned that I can’t really speak for everyone but I do know the basic requirements that you are looking for in terms of living conditions, costs, safety, etc.
A little bit about me – I am a digital nomad so one of my first concerns is Internet connection whenever I am moving to a new place.
In this post, I will share with you all of my tips and tricks on how to live in Mexico. You can also check my Mexico blogs to see any content that is relevant to you.
If these are not enough, please feel free to reach out to me using the contact page. I’ve helped a lot of foreigners move to Mexico and who knows, I might be able to help you too!
Why live in Mexico?
The first reason why I chose to live in Mexico is that visa is super easy. I never thought I’d get a 4-year residency visa here as I was only passing by.
When COVID hit, I got stuck here and first applied for a Mexico digital nomad visa also known as no-lucrativo (non-lucrative). It was only valid for one year so I thought I’d only stay here for a year. Actually, I thought that COVID will be over after a year.
2 years passed and COVID is still a thing. Living a life of travel and always moving around became harder for me. I recently went to Europe after 2 years of not going out of Mexico and it’s really a pain to travel that far! I was horrified!
No matter where you are from or whatever passport you hold, there are a lot of uncertainties when it comes to travel right now so legally living in Mexico is a great relief for me.
If you need assistance with your resident visa, just contact me and I’ll connect you to my amazing lawyer who helped me process all these quickly.
If you are not interested to go through this process, Mexico has a very generous 6-month tourist visa so you can just go in and out every 6 months.
Cost of living in Mexico is also very cheap. You can live comfortably here for $1,000 USD a month. I even know some people who live less! It really depends on the lifestyle.
As you know, I came from Tel Aviv before living here and Israel’s cost of living is super high. When I came here, my quality of life became better as everything is so cheap!
Lastly, as I have dogs, it is very easy to travel around here with pets. Most of the rental homes accept pets but I still had some challenges.
For example, when I was looking for an apartment in Mexico City, there were only 2 out of 10 that accepted dogs even though Mexico City is a pet city.
With this, I decided that we always live in beach areas as they are more accepting of pets. Overall, I do think that Mexico is a dog country. Even domestic travel for pets is so easy and cheap!
Choosing the best place to live in Mexico
What is the best part of Mexico to live in?
We also have very different interpretations on the “best part” so my usual advice to readers of this blog is to get to know the states first.
Mexico has 32 states and the first thing that you need to know is that they all differ in terms of weather, cost of living, and English-speaking communities
I’ve been asked a lot where Americans usually live in Mexico and honestly, I don’t know anymore. I encounter Americans in every place I lived in!
In fact, the US State Department has recorded 1.5 million Americans currently living in Mexico. That’s not even counting those on a tourist visa who stay here long term.
In all my living abroad consults, especially in Mexico, Americans feel more comfortable if there are fellow Americans living in the place they want to move to but it’s a case to case basis because some of my clients also tell me to not suggest a Mexican city/town with lots of Americans.
Identify the living condition you want to be in and take it from there.
What is the safest place to live in Mexico?
I always say that safety is objective and personal but in this part, I have to say I feel safer living in small towns like Sayulita and San Pancho.
When you live in small beach towns in Mexico, there are a lot of familiarities and everyone knows everyone. I personally felt safer this way but the problem was, I did not have any privacy.
Everyone knows what’s happening in your life and it’s so impossible to walk on the streets without anyone knowing you. I just missed the anonymity and privacy although I felt 100% safe in Sayulita.
If you like big cities, I consider Puerto Vallarta as the safest city to live in in Mexico. Although it’s a little bit whiter than other big cities like Mexico City or Oaxaca, the layout of the city is super friendly and you can still have your privacy regardless of being involved in the expat community.
If you choose Mexico City, it’s not 100% safe but if you are going to live in the Roma or Condesa areas, it’s definitely safe (but expensive).
Where is the cheapest place to live in Mexico?
This is the thing – when you see the cost of living in Mexico posts on the Internet, a lot of those posts don’t really explain that it varies by area.
When I was hunting for the best places to live in Mexico, I thought that all these places will have the same rent prices but I was really surprised about the big difference, believe me!
For example, I am living in Puerto Vallarta right now and am currently preparing for my next move. In my head, Puerto Vallarta cost of living is expensive because of the ‘whiteness’ but I was so shocked how the rent prices in Mexico City are double!
Since food is cheaper in Mexico City, I implied that rent prices will be lower but it wasn’t the case. I was really astounded by the big difference not to mention the houses in Puerto Vallarta are way bigger and have outdoor space.
Personally, I vote Oaxaca City as the cheapest place to live in Mexico, then La Paz (Baja California Sur). For you to understand better, let’s do the math.
A one-bedroom apartment in Oaxaca City (nice area) ranges from $150 – $300 USD. In Mexico City, that will be around $500 – $650 USD and in Puerto Vallarta, that’s like $300 – $450.
Since all these prices vary and I am consistently hunting for places to live in Mexico, I learned that the best thing to do is to set your budget and stick with it.
Since I am living alone, I set a $500 – $650 limit for myself. That’s quite high by Mexican standards but since I have big dogs, I need to have a patio/terrace. This requirement for a home comes with a price.
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10 best places to live in Mexico
I know that sometimes it’s hard to pick where to live as most of us also long for company and more detailed information. Sometimes, it’s harder for us to leave our current life because of the fear of being alone – believe me, I get that all the time!
If you ever feel this way, please contact me and I will definitely connect you to people I know in these places. I’ve connected a lot of readers to my friends all over Mexico and everyone felt more comfortable to arrive knowing they have someone to turn to. Just get in touch!
#1: Puerto Vallarta
This is where I currently reside and I consider Puerto Vallarta as a great place for young expats. The layout is very friendly and you can easily walk if you are living in the Zona Romantica.
What most foreigners don’t know is that Puerto Vallarta is a big city. There are different areas like Fluvial Vallarta, Marina Vallarta, Pitillal, Versalles, etc.
The thing is, the Puerto Vallarta Malecon is the most popular imagery on the Internet which makes everyone think this is PV. It’s a good reference when hunting for apartments but PV is not all about this area.
There are supermarkets everywhere, Uber is cheap, and mind you, we have Costco! Not all Mexican cities have Costco so for Americans and Canadians who live here, this is a plus.
I have a car but you don’t really need a car in PV as Ubers work here. There are also lots of expat communities so you can easily make friends here.
I’ve struggled in blending with locals here as all my friends are white but I also found a community of Mexican girls (from work) that I frequently see while living here.
Group to join: Sayulita People
I have mixed emotions about Sayulita because this is where I lived the longest. It’s full of Canadians and Americans but lucky for me, I lived in a very Mexican neighborhood so all my friends were Latinos.
There is also a big population of Argentine expats here (like everywhere). Speaking Spanish on a regular basis and cultural immersion is very important for me and I am happy to have had the best of both communities in Sayulita.
Recommended: A Sayulita travel guide like no other, and other tips from someone who got “trapped” here
Sayulita is the safest area I have lived in in Mexico. Again, small towns will make you feel safer because of the overfamiliarity.
Before moving here, check the lifestyle first and see if it fits you.
#3: Mexico City
Group to join: Foreigners and Expats in Mexico City (CDMX)
I live in Mexico City on and off because this is one of my favorite cities in the world! Mexico City’s vibe is very good for expats and digital nomads like me.
As I told you, I feel that sometimes, Puerto Vallarta gets very American so in order to have a break from that, I go here for a little cultural diversion.
There are many digital nomads in Mexico City and they are just not Americans or Canadians – it’s really diverse! Lots of Europeans and Latinos live here. It’s just the diversity that I am looking for.
See also: The digital nomad guide to Mexico City
Many expats avoid Mexico City because of the air quality and the high altitude but if these two main ‘cons’ don’t really bother you, you will definitely enjoy living in Mexico City as an expat.
Apartments in Mexico City are affordable but since I only want to stay in the Roma and Condesa area, it’s always hard to find rent that’s less than $650 USD (which is my budget). I always over go this budget in Mexico City!
Most of my friends who are living in Merida are families with kids. In fact, many people say (even the Internet) that it’s the safest place to live in Mexico.
I did feel safe traveling to Merida but I also did not see the difference from other Mexican cities when it comes to safety. Again, how we quantify safety really depends on our living needs.
Majority of the people who sign up for my travel consultations are young professionals. There is a big community of digital nomads and young expats there which makes it a conducive environment for people my age.
My only ‘con’ about Merida is that there aren’t a lot of things to do. You need to go out of the city in order to find adventures thus making it your base in Yucatan really works.
#5: San Miguel de Allende
Group to join: San Miguel de Allende Newcomers, Expats, and Friends
San Miguel de Allende is an expat’s favorite. This is also one of the whitest cities I’ve been to in Mexico although you can still immerse yourself with the Mexican culture.
Famously known as SMA, this city has a European feel in it because of the old structures. I also felt very safe walking here even in the wee hours of the morning!
SMA is actually more popular with retirees because of the efficient layout. You can walk everywhere (if you like walking long-distance) and the streets are very safe.
This city is full of life and I consider this one of the most beautiful cities in Mexico. You’ll also never feel alone as there are lots of expat communities here.
#6: La Paz
Group to join: Loco La Paz Ex-Pats
When I chose to call La Paz home, the main factor I considered was the weather is definitely great all year round. I mean it is hot but it’s not as humid as in the south (Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Puerto Vallarta, Oaxaca, etc).
I don’t know about you but I prefer dry to humid heat. There is also very little rain in La Paz as compared to the Pacific Coast where it rains from June – October.
Related: Is La Paz Mexico safe for tourists?
Life was different for me in La Paz since most of the friends I made there were Latinos and Spanish-speaking. I don’t know why it did not happen for me but I did not come across Americans or Canadians.
I am not saying there aren’t any but it was just the opportunity presented before me. When you come to think of it, Baja California is an American lair so I was really surprised that I was not able to connect with any!
Because of Baja California’s close proximity to the USA, prices are higher in the Peninsula than in the mailand. Expect the cost of living in La Paz to be more expensive than the rest of the places on this list.
Group to join: Queretaro Expats
Queretaro is one of the most low-key places to live in Mexico. It’s not the first city you’ll think of when you are deciding to move to Mexico.
But most expats choose this city because of the modern infrastructures and business opportunities. It’s like a quieter Mexico City but is also a modern and conducive city for expats.
The cost of living in Queretaro is also very cheap compared to a lot of Mexican cities. You can live here on less than $1,000 USD per month – the apartments are affordable and you can also splurge a little for luxury Mexico living.
#8: Playa del Carmen
Group to join: Expats in Playa del Carmen
Living in Playa del Carmen is low on this list because I didn’t really find it as safe. Since it’s too crowded, crime rates have increased in Playa in the last year.
Though I do not have an experience being harmed, it’s just the general feeling and of course, horror stories I heard from friends. There are lots of digital nomads in Playa del Carmen whom you can ask about current situations.
Despite all these, Playa is still visited by Americans. It’s one of the foreign hotspots in Mexico so I guess if you want to live here, just go and see it for yourself!
However, Playa del Carmen is so beautiful! In fact, their beaches on the other side are way better than ours here on the Pacific Coast.
The state of Quintana Roo is really rich in outdoor activities and there are more places to see there like the Cenotes. If this is what you are after, you will definitely love Playa as your base.
#9: Oaxaca City
Group to join: Expats Oaxaca
Another low-key Mexican city, living Oaxaca City is also on the top list of cheapest destinations in Mexico. You can find a very decent apartment here for $300 USD.
The city is super lively and there are a lot of expats you can connect with. This year, the Mexican government is building a new highway which will allow you to go to the Oaxacan coast (Puerto Escondido, Huatulco, Mazunte, etc) for only 2 hours instead of 8.
Although the finish date is not really clear, once this is done, I will go back and live in Oaxaca City because this accessibility is a big deal when you want to travel around Mexico.
You might also like: All roads lead to Oaxaca City – the new digital nomad hotspot in Mexico
Oaxacan food is also the best in Mexico so if you are after a gastronomic adventure, this city has it all!
Eating out in Oaxaca City is really affordable and I bet you won’t be able to finish trying all the restaurants, markets, and bars even if you live here for a full year.
Digital nomads in Oaxaca also enjoy a high-speed Wifi speed which is a luxury in Mexico as a remote worker.
Group to join: Mexpat Guadalajara
Most people think Guadalajara is not safe but when I lived here, I didn’t really feel that Narcos-kind-of-feeling. My mom actually freaked out when this was the first place I chose when I moved to Mexico but I explained to her that it’s not like what she sees in the news.
I will never walk alone in Guadalajara at night though and if I do, I make sure that I am with friends.
I will always come back and consider living in Guadalajara because I loved the vibe, the people, and the weather! Though it is only 4 hours away from my current home in Puerto Vallarta, it has cooler weather.
The culture and lifestyle in Guadalajara definitely fit everyone. However, like Queretaro, I only made friends with Spanish-speaking people here but I am sure there are a lot of Americans and Canadians around.
I was just not given the opportunity to meet them because all my friends who live here are Mexicans or Europeans.
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