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An Expat Talks about Retiring in Lake Chapala, Mexico

Mar 26, 2019


Lake Chapala, Mexico

A retiree who has lived all over the world as a house sitter, talks about packing up and making the permanent move to Lake Chapala, Mexico. She had been there many times before and is thrilled she finally made the move - she appreciates the lower cost of living, expat community, close proximity to Guadalajara.

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?

Lake Chapala

Why did you choose to retire abroad?

After being priced out of my house in Los Angeles and unable to rent it because of stricter regulations, I sold everything and made the move to Lake Chapala, Mexico, just south of Guadalajara. I'd been house sitting here for years and I just love the strong community, the fabulous weather, the proximity to an international airport and the beauty of the Lake.

Are you retired abroad all year or part of the year?

All year long!

Why did you choose the country you retired to?

Mexico is still pretty close to home and my aging parents. I deliberately chose a community with a large expat community that's near an international airport. (Guadalajara's airport is 45 minutes away.) Cost of living here is remarkably cheap, the people are kind, and I really enjoy Mexico's culture! Notably, it's easy for an American to get a 6-month tourist visa to Mexico.

Did you ever live abroad before you retired abroad?

Yes, I've been an international housesitter for a decade now, where I live in others' homes and care for their pets and property. I've housesat in London, Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris, Gibraltar, throughout Africa, Osaka, Kuala Lumpur, Hanoi...

How long have you lived abroad since you retired abroad?

10 years! I retired early (47) and have had the opportunity to live in several countries abroad.

How many countries (other than your home country) have you lived in as a retiree?

11

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What have been the most challenging aspects of being retired abroad?

Getting mail! The mail system in Mexico is not great, or secure, so I need to rely on friends coming from the States to bring mail and packages. Receiving mail in other countries where I've lived has also posed a challenge in that forwarding mail is often quite expensive.

What have been the most rewarding aspects of being retired abroad?

I love having a more international perspective on the US. I appreciate the different cultures I live in and I like the challenge of adapting to different customs. And I really love the expats I meet overseas. They are often quite adventurous people!

What would you do differently if you were just starting the retire abroad process?

Honestly, I'd have started cleaning out my home in Los Angeles sooner. It was too much of a rush -- and emotionally and physically exhausting -- to sort through boxes of old letter, photographs, videos, files, etc. in a short time.

What is life like for a retiree in your city and its surroundings? (Is there an active expat community? Cultural Attractions? Recreation? Nightlife?)

Lake Chapala has a very active retirement community. Many people are learning and experimenting with new skills such as writing, acting, learning Spanish, signing, painting... Additionally, the expat community is extremely philanthropic. Organizations help orphans, poverty-stricken communities, abandoned dogs and cats, the environment, etc. Guadalajara -- an hour away -- has world-class music, dance and art programs.

What residency documents or visas did you need to obtain to retire in your host country? How difficult was this process? (Please describe)

It's possible to live here on perpetual 6-month tourists visas that are given upon arrival.

Did you buy a home or apartment, or rent one? Is this a difficult process? (Please describe)

I continue to housesit in the same home I have for the past 10 years. There are many housesitting opportunities here for people considering moving to Lake Chapala.

Financially, has living abroad in your host country met your expectations? Exceeded them?

Mexico stretches my dollar considerably! For example, I joined a fantastic gym and get 3 personal training sessions per week -- for about $63 US/month!

What are the most important financial considerations for retiring to your host country?

The same for retiring anywhere: Open a bank account in the US that will receive retirement checks, as the US government no longer sends Social Security to overseas banks. Consider the costs to get back to the States in an emergency. Research the medical assistance available locally.

How much can a retiree live on comfortably in your host country?

That is such a personal question. I recommend that people housesit in the community they are thinking of retiring in so they can gauge costs, safety, reliability of utilities, etc.

Do you have access to quality medical care? (Please describe - is it close? Expensive?)

Yes, but the quality is not uniform. However, as this area is growing in population (both Mexican and expat), new medical facilities are being built that should improve the quality, access and expense.

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Is there a lot of crime where you live? (Please describe)

Crime in Mexico is very fluid based on what is happening with the cartels and their fight for turf. Lake Chapala is generally safe for expats, as the government is keen to keep crime down in order to keep foreign money flowing in. However, we have had crime waves where Mexicans have been brutally victimized. Petty crimes such as purse-snatching are rare.

Describe available transportation where you live. Do you need a car? Is there access to safe public transportation?

It depends on where you live. I housesit up on a mountain, so I keep my car here. There is a good bus system, however, and many places are easily walked to.

Is there high-speed internet access where you live?

No! Internet here is notoriously slow.

Do you have any other thoughts you would like to share about retiring abroad?

I highly recommend you housesit -- where you can "live like a local" while caring for someone's pets and home -- in the country and community where you are thinking of retiring to. You can learn a lot more living in a neighborhood than visiting in a hotel!

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