If you are thinking about retiring in Mexico as an American, then you can live comfortably in the country south of the border for as little as $1,500 per month. That price includes your groceries, healthcare, entertainment, utilities, and a two-bedroom house with maid service once per week. Much of the cost depends on where and how you prefer to live. A small village will cost less than living on the coast in a resort area.
You’ll have several visa options to consider if you want to retire in Mexico as well. A tourist visa is the easiest way to go, giving you up to six months to stay in the country. When your time is about to expire, then you can cross the border briefly to apply for another one to stay almost indefinitely. A temporary resident visa can last for up to four years, but it requires proof of income. A permanent resident visa allows you to work in the country, but you must meet specific income requirements to qualify for this program.
You’ll discover that the conversion rate of the dollar to the peso can get you some great deals on real estate. A simple apartment can be as low as $400 per month. You can even purchase real estate with a direct deed, which is helpful if you want to live along the coast.
There are several additional pros and cons of retiring in Mexico that you’ll want to consider as well before deciding to take the plunge.
List of the Pros of Retiring in Mexico
1. Your healthcare options in Mexico are improving dramatically.
The healthcare access and quality index that measures what you can receive for care in Mexico rose from 45.5 to 66.3 from 1990 to 2016. The median value of this rating around the world is 63, so that means you can receive above-average care in the country. There have been steep drops in heart disease care, stroke response, and infant mortality rates during that time. The United States still has a care rating of 88.7, but you can manage this issue by living in a border community and coming across to receive specialist care if you want.
2. The food in Mexico is incredible.
You’ll find that your grocery bills in Mexico are going to be substantially lower once you decide to retire here. Most of the produce that you’ll find at local stores comes from local growers, so it tends to be fresh, affordable, and has a minimal impact on the environment. The seasons are much longer thanks to the weather, so there is a variety of choices available throughout the year. Onions, chilies, carrots, and tomatoes tend to be available all year long. If you love avocados, then you’ll find them at almost any time for an incredible price. Your beer and liquor costs are going to be much lower too.
If you are a vegetarian, then you’ll need to be careful about having lard in your beans or tamales. Some stews and soups tend to use chicken or beef broth instead of a vegetable version. Just ask questions and you’ll find it is pretty easy to accommodate most eating needs.
3. You can enjoy restaurants in Mexico without going broke.
You’ll find that your grocery bills in Mexico are very affordable, but it is also nice to enjoy a restaurant every so often too. If you live in one of the larger urban areas, then you’ll find several different ethnic options from which to choose at any time. You can even find American fast food in Mexico without looking very hard. It will cost you about half of what you’d expect to pay when eating out somewhere in the United States.
Make sure that you stock up on tortillas every time you head out to grab a bite. They are very different than their store-bought counterparts, have fewer ingredients, and are usually made fresh on site.
4. Traveling in Mexico is a simple, easy process.
As long as you plan ahead, you can pick up tickets to fly to one of the resort areas in Mexico for about $100 round trip. There are bus lines that run to your preferred destination that can be more comfortable and cost less than a flight – and don’t take that long either. You’ll want to take the usual precautions when you travel to protect yourself, but it isn’t that much of a challenge to go somewhere. Driving is fine in Mexico too, although you’ll want to play for the random traffic problems that can occur in many of the cities.
5. You are going to love the weather in Mexico.
If you always feel a little bit cold, then retiring to Mexico is going to feel like paradise. Even in the winter months, the weather tends to be warm and filled with sunshine. As you move toward the coasts, the weather typically stays in the 70s°F throughout most of the year. It can get quite comfortable during the nights in the winter. There are hot summer days in the central interior, but that is also the perfect time to take a nap in the air condition.
6. It is cheaper to fly internationally when you retire in Mexico.
The average cost of a roundtrip flight to Europe from Mexico is about half of the cost of what you’d pay in the United States for such an experience. You can fly to other countries in the region for less than $200 roundtrip if you want, including Peru and Ecuador if you watch for some decent deals. If you like the idea of traveling as part of your retirement, then moving to this country might be the best decision you could make since it is so affordable and easy to do when living here.
7. You can come back to the United States at almost any time.
If you retire in Mexico as an American, then coming back across the border is a relatively simple process. You can find direct flights to various regions that are less than $300 for a roundtrip flight so that you can see family whenever you want. You can also cross the border by walking or driving with relatively little hassle. Since you’ll be living somewhere during your retirement where people like to vacation, this advantage makes it a lot easier to convince people to come to you for a visit.
8. There is a healthy expat community in Mexico.
There are times when you want to hang out with other people who understand you on a certain level. You’ll find that there is a healthy American expat community living in Mexico that is willing to support you when you run into the struggles of retiring in a foreign country. Whether you need to manage feelings of loneliness or you’re struggling with your identity in your new community, your group of new friends can encompass several cultures.
Americans, Belgians, and Israelis tend to retire in Mexico most often, but the larger metropolitan areas have significant cultural populations all over the world.
List of the Cons of Retiring in Mexico
1. Mexico tends to be a noisy place to live.
You can find quiet, rural areas that are nice for retiring in Mexico. You’ll also find that even in small towns, the party-like atmosphere that this culture embraces can result in all-night parties. Every neighborhood sees events like these each weekend in the same way that Americans like to invite people over for a barbecue. You might want to invest in a good set of earplugs before moving down here, along with a white noise machine, especially if you don’t have a neighborhood office available to you.
2. Police officers in Mexico can be hit or miss.
Most neighborhoods and apartment buildings come with a security officer. Police officers are seen out and about in many neighborhoods. You’ll quickly discover that the American version of law enforcement provides a different definition than what you’ll receive in Mexico. The only thing that speaks consistently in this country is money. If you have a neighbor disturbance, then call your local office that enforces the rules of your community. Fines work a lot better, even if it provides only temporary benefits. You’ll want to figure out some way to protect yourself.
3. Expect to see high levels of classism during your retirement.
If you decide to retire in Mexico, then this action will put you in a class all by yourself. Most people in the country treat retirees the same way that they interact with tourists. Even though there is the occasional crime that targets these groups, the cultural classism will usually create barriers against potential problems. You’ll quickly notice that people who work in the sanitation industry or as maids are treated very differently – including a requirement to enter through a different door. You might encounter some resistance from everyone if you try to intervene to help someone who you feel is being treated unjustly.
4. Water is not guaranteed when you live in Mexico.
Your digestive system can get used to drinking the water in Mexico. The profile is different and can make you sick initially, but it only takes a couple of weeks for the transition to occur. You’ll discover that the real problem is availability. It is not unusual to lose your water access for a day or more even when you retire to an urban area like Mexico City. Some of the smaller towns can lose water for up to a month.
This disadvantage is so common that most properties come with a large water tank for storage that fills up when you do have access. If you need a refill, then the expense is going to be a lot higher than what you’d experience in the United States.
5. There can be limitations to energy access in Mexico as well.
There will be times when your electricity will go through a rolling blackout. Your access to natural gas can be hit or miss as well. There aren’t citywide utility networks as there are in most places around the world. You’ll find that there is no physical way to check on the status of your energy connection unless you can access your roof, so you might not know that you’re running low or received a disconnect until one of your appliances refuses to work. Some of the shortages can last for a month or more, which means you can struggle to get anything to come to your home since the first priority is for the tourists.
6. You may not have reliable Internet access after retiring in Mexico.
You can connect to the Internet in Mexico, but it can be challenging at times to receive a reliable stream – especially if you want a high-speed connection. Since customer service needs a lot of time to make things happen in this country, it could be 1-2 weeks before a technician can come out to your property to see what is going on. You may need to make several follow-up calls if you experience an outage, and the excuse is always that business bureaucracy gets in the way. You might want to consider having a VPN attached to your cellular phone to serve as a backup plan.
7. Every business must manage bureaucracy problems at some level.
When you decide to retire in Mexico, then you will want to plan for plenty of extra time to open all of the accounts you will need to manage your life. Every new item you need will take at least a day to resolve, including the bank account you need to open. That’s assuming that you arrive with all of the correct documentation that makes it possible to open an account for you in the first place. Most people bring a book with them to enjoy or make sure that their phone is fully charged before leaving to take care of this chore.
8. You will need to plan extra time for your deliveries.
One of the easiest ways to receive your prescriptions when retiring in Mexico is to have them delivered to your door. You’ll quickly notice that many of the delivery windows are only suggestions. You never really know when something might arrive, even if you’ve received a promise in writing. Most businesses respond to public displays of displeasure that could impact their community reputation, but you’ll want to plan for some form of outside delivery or express option that can bypass the usual system if you need something in a specific window. It also helps to stock up on critical items just in case there is a delay that happens for some reason.
9. Getting used to the traffic in Mexico can be challenging.
When you live in the United States, you can almost guarantee that congestion will happen for about an hour in the morning and again at night. That’s why it is called “rush hour.” It is the time that everyone leaves for work or comes home. If you retire in Mexico, then you’ll discover that terrible congestion can occur at any time, including the weekends. It is not predictable because the public works department will work at seemingly random times to take care of maintenance work. You’ll encounter stop-and-go traffic deep into the night as well. You’ll want to plan every outing in a way that avoids the common periods of traffic, and then learn to put up with the unexpected.
10. You’ll need to be aware of the crime situation for your neighborhood.
Crime happens in all places and countries. It is not unusual for people to think that Mexico is dangerous because of the various news stories that make their way north of the border. The levels of violent crime are not as high as the sensationalized stories of cartel activity might suggest. People who retire here and stay away from the drug trade are usually managing pickpockets and other petty crime. If you leave your car in the street (or anything else, for that matter), then you can expect something to be gone in the morning.
You might consider investing in some security cameras and a central system with off-site storing as a detriment. Living behind a gate and wall whenever possible, or at least a secured building, can give you an extra level of peace as well.
Verdict of the Pros and Cons of Retiring in Mexico
There are a lot of positives to consider if you want to retire in Mexico. You’re going to be living somewhere with lots of sunshine and warm weather. You’ll be close to the coast, have access to high-quality health care, and be eating some of the best food in the world.
You will discover that there are several challenges to navigate as well. Life is different here, but it can also be one of the reasons why retirement south of the border is such an inviting proposition.
The pros and cons of retiring in Mexico are based on your expectations, financial resources, and where you want to live. If you take the jump, then you’ll likely agree with most other retirees that the positives far outweigh the potential negatives that exist.
Blog Post Author Credentials
Natalie Regoli, Esq. is the author of this post and the editor-in-chief of our blog. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington and her Masters in Law from The University of Texas School of Law. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Natalie has almost two decades of experience as a lawyer and banker. If you would like to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.