Expat Exchange
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Retire in Mexico

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Nov 27, 2021

Summary: What is it like to retire in Mexico? Retirees share their experiences living in Mexico.

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William Russell Health Insurance
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William Russell Health Insurance

What is it like to retire in Mexico?

Live in Mexico? Answer this Question

"Active expat community, hiking and bicycling opps are available Some nightlife, but still miss all the live music from Texas," explained one retiree living in San Miguel de Allende .

"Mazatlan has all of the above! It is a retiree's dream (when you take Covid out of the picture)," said another retiree in living in Mazatlan, Mexico.

"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," explained a retiree in Lake Chapala.

"There is a large expat community in Ajijic. Lots of things to do here," explained one retiree living in Ajijic and Chapala.

"Ajijic is definitely a retirement area. The majority of the expat population appears to be over 60... That said, there are numerous cultural activities plus exploratory trips around the area and other Mexico venues. Night life is somewhat subdued...but at 75 bed time comes early for us.," said another member in Ajijic.

"We have a small but active ex-pat community. We have a ladies lunch group once a month to hear speakers on local issues and meet other expats, plus keep up on what is happening in town. We have a couples group that has dinners every Thursday at different restaurants also to meet the other ex-pats. We have golf groups, tennis, bridge, cards, a church service or two in English. We also have a new Gold's gym. The university of Colima has a great music department that has brought us some classical music concerts the last few years, this year we are having Romeo and Juliet. We have many great restaurants and most have live music and dancing," remarked another retiree in Manzanillo.

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What advice do overseas retirees have for others considering retiring abroad?

Live in Mexico? Answer this Question

"Covid has really dampened our enjoyment of our new home, but I guess it has everywhere! We are fortunate not to have to work, and can stay home except for essential trips and walking for outdoor exercise. But what a beautiful place to walk," explained a retiree in Mazatlan.

"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," explained one retiree living in Lake Chapala.

"Lake Chapala is an inexpensive place to live and has a large expat community from all over the the wolrld with near perfect year around weather and lots of activities for retirees to take advantage of," said another member in Ajijic and Chapala.

"Be positive, learn the culture, and immerse yourself in the society, you'll be surprised at how many things we have in common," remarked another retiree in Apizaco.

"My wife says that I have all the patience in the world.... because I have never used any... That might be a bit extreme but having lived overseas for 20 some years I have learned to adapt... Here are the things that I have found important to surviving and enjoying a new country: Flexibility is a requirement for successfully living abroad. Do your schedule in pencil not pen. Lose your comparisons with your former home. It is what it is... Learn the local ground rules and play the game. Have or obtain a sense of humor... Without it one will not last long in any environment and certainly not outside his native land. Have or obtain a sense of adventure. This is an opportunity to meet new people, experience new things and to learn a new culture. Learn basic local language niceties and build your vocabulary... A simple Gracias coupled with a warm smile will work wonders..," explained a member in Ajijic.

"What are you waiting for? Don't let the news scare you. They want you to be trapped up there in your homes. Come down and see what paradise is all about," explained a retiree living in Manzanillo, Mexico.

What are the most challenging aspects of retiring in Mexico?

Live in Mexico? Answer this Question

"Paying annual bills, like fideicomisos, property taxes, renewing license plates, car taxes, etc. It seems to be different every year," added another person in Mazatlan.

"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," remarked another retiree in Lake Chapala.

"So far everything has moved right along except at a slower pace... We used the services of a recommended local attorney and we have a property manager. Between the two we have taken care of buying a home, car and paying the bills... If we had to do this alone it would take more time and probably peg the frustration meter...We will eventually take over the bill paying etc but for now this has proven to be a worth while expenditure," said a retiree who moved to Ajijic, Mexico.

"The US and Canadian news reports scaring everyone about coming down to paradise," said another retiree in Manzanillo.

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What are the most rewarding aspects of retiring in Mexico?

Live in Mexico? Answer this Question

"We came from the US about 4 yrs ago, have always been adventurous and have lived in several states mostly in the west. For us it had nothing whatsoever to do with the political environment or the economics. We had saved and prepared well f or retirement, more lucky than smart. We knew the culture and people would be wonderful and the climate is so much better than in beautiful Seattle. Our kids are scattered throughout the US and we travel back every few months and they come here. Just what we hoped for. The city of Merida is fabulous. We live by choice in a neighborhood where no one speaks English so we try (somewhat successfully) to communicate in Spanish and to fit in. People are accepting and kind. Driving is an adrenaline rush every day. All in all, it has been 99% of what we had hoped and plan to stay for as long as our health is good. We have used healthcare here numerous times and have found it to be of highest level and advanced," said another retiree in living in Mexico.

"Slowing down Making friends from other countries Discovering Mexico’s rich food culture," explained a retiree in San Miguel de Allende .

"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," explained one retiree living in Lake Chapala.

"Every day is an adventure... Shopping is fun as we try new products each week... Some are not as good but many are as good or better than NOB (North of the Border). The cost of living allows us to eat out more and the dining selection here is excellent.," said another member in Ajijic.

"We are living the "american dream" in Mexico. We have a wonderful life. We are pampered, have time to pursue whatever we want, have time for our friends, the weather allows us to go outside almost every day to play. I am selling real estate, so not retired, but my husband is," remarked another retiree in Manzanillo.

What are healthcare services like in Mexico?

Live in Mexico? Answer this Question

We asked retirees if they have access to good medical care in Mexico. They wrote:

"A few weeks ago I used my GEHA (government employees health association) insurance at Hospital San Antonio. Well I should say I tried to use it. At first the staff at Hospital San Antonio said that my entire emergency would be covered but they charged my $25000 USD UP Front and I had to pay it or the administrative staff there told me they would send me to a public hospital in the worst part of Guadalajara. They bullied me and I felt so uncomfortable but I was not in a position to fight. I paid the up front fee and then on discharge they just deducted it from the bill which I still had to pay and they gave me a bill with codes to submit to my insurer for reimbursement...such lies and thieves trying to trick people about accepting insurances. I will never go back to Hospital San Antonio in Tlyacapan," remarked another retiree in Lake Chapala.

"Yes, in San Miguel and Queretero nearby we have excellent care and it’s reasonably priced," said a retiree who moved to San Miguel de Allende , Mexico.

"Medical care here is excellent and reasonable. For most things, it is possible to pay out-of-pocket, but it's good to have some sort of health insurance for catastrophes," said another retiree in Mazatlan.

"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," commented one retiree living in Lake Chapala, Mexico.

"Yes, I get 100% medical services such as Doctors, Hospitals, Operations & Medicines for free through the ISSTE system. My Wife was an English teacher at a Federal School so I was able to enter the system as her spouse," explained one retiree living in Apizaco.

"We have not had to use hospital services as of yet. However, Guadalajara has exceptional hospitals that are affordable and an hour away. Local dentist and medical services receive high marks from those living here any length of time," said another retiree in living in Ajijic, Mexico.

How do I meet people in Mexico?

Live in Mexico? Answer this Question

When we asked people living in Mexico about club and activities where newcomers can meet others, they responded:

"Basically the same way you meet people everywhere. Volunteering somewhere is a great way as is taking an in-person class, a church, and, of course, expat groups," added another person in Mexico.

"Stroll the malecón in the evening, hang out at Captain Don's bar in 5 de Diciembre neighborhood, and at probably lots of bars in Old Town ("Zona Romantica")," remarked another retiree in Puerto Vallarta.

"Take a look at Incanto: https://www.incantovallarta.com/ I've attended several events there and have made friends in this environment via Bingo & Theater. The owner is a great and friendly host. Stroll within the calendar, as well, since you teach Improv. The current calendar looks like its still within the high season. This and many other options are available in Puerto Vallarta," said a retiree who moved to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

"Comunidad Cristiana Calacuaya, Monte Maria, Comunidad Fuente de Vida Vive, Centro de Fe, Esperanza y Amor Centenario," said another retiree in Mexico City.

"It's really no different that meeting people anywhere, with the exception that Mexicans - in general - are more welcoming. Smile, laugh, wave, learn simple greetings. Breathe..," commented one retiree living in Mexico.

"Definitely look up the two Merida Expat groups on Facebook before you come. Get acquainted with what goes on, advice for newcomers, how to find things, and, most importantly, introduce yourself and tell when you are coming. There is a breakfast club here, a monthly meet and greet, a bowling league, etc. FB has an activities calendar. I immediately went to several events within my 2nd week here," explained one retiree living in Merida.

What is life like in Mexico?

Live in Mexico? Answer this Question

When we asked people living in Mexico what life is like and how people spend their time, they said:

"Mexicans work to live though btwn work and commuting they spend on average an exorbitant amount of time there yet always have time to stop and chat," said another retiree in Mexico City.

"Most locals work in tourism or in the service industry. Many people are also involved with fishing and boating. Locals are very family-oriented and really enjoy sports, especially soccer - but also baseball and basketball," commented one retiree living in Huatulco, Mexico.

"That is a broad question to answer. I have lived in 2 other Central American countries and will say they focus a lot more on family than we do in the USA. Merida is by far more sophisticated than where I've lived before, is a wealthier city than I've lived in before. I would expect the proximity to the US has affected values, although the Yucatan retains much Mayan culture, different than the rest of Mexico," explained one retiree living in Merida.

"The locals work long hours (normally 48 hours a week) but their priority still remains to their family first. Family is everything to them and they will miss work to take care of a sick child or bring an aunt to the clinic. Outside of work and family they love music, dancing, to eat, and play and watch soccer and baseball," said another retiree in living in Tijuana, Mexico.

"Lives revolve around socializing. The expat community is primarily retired Canadians and Americans. There are many philanthropic activities for newcomers to join. Because people are always coming and going, newcomers are quite welcomed," explained a retiree in Ajijic, Mexico.

"People here love kayaking, fishing, scuba and off-roading. There is a large, modern marina. There are rocky beaches, sandy beaches, public and isolated. There are also many restaurants with excellent food - Italian, Mexican, American, Greek, and even Texas Style BBQ," explained one retiree living in San Carlos.

William Russell Health Insurance

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

Learn MoreGET A QUOTE

William Russell Health Insurance

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

Learn MoreGET A QUOTE

What do I need to know before retiring in Mexico?

Live in Mexico? Answer this Question

When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Mexico, they said:

"I suggest you never secure a 6 mo lease until you see and feel the property. Committing to 6 month online is not recommended whether you get a 180 day visa or not. Get a hotel when you arrive and make that your base camp to find longer arrangements. Don't think what you see online is what is actually there. Bait and switch happens in Mexico....and don't forget it. Once they have your money you are behind the curve," commented one retiree living in San Carlos, Mexico.

"We chose Merida over Tulum, Cancun and all of the of the primarily tourist destinations in MX. There are a thousand cities each unique. I would not live in Tulum for the dame reason I would not choose to live in San Diego. We live in a quiet Mexican suburb, have access to the beach (many) in 20-30 min, Have all the conveniences that we would have in a city of 1 mil. people. Many whine about the heat in Merida, but with 5 minutes of research you know what the weather is month in and month out. As a beautiful historic city Merida is a dream at least for us. The city is feeling it's growing pains but the people and culture are a delight. We (I) recently had occasion to undergo an emergency cardiac procedure here and spent time with multiple specialists, most spoke English well, at the costs were much lower than expected; the technology and care was exceptional. Tulum, to me at least, is not what I want; neither is anywhere near there like Cancun Playa del Carmen, Akumal, etc. A little like trying to have a quiet normal life in the FL Keys," explained one retiree living in Merida.

"There are many people from the USA, Canada and Europe have visited Mexico, love it and have considered relocation. Many visitors also spend their Mexico trip to the top resort areas at the best time of year to be there. This being the winter months. The down season is usually from May through October and the top resort areas are ghost towns. Reason for this is the abysmal heat and humidity. I once spent a month in Mazatlan in August. Mazatlan is just the start of the tropics and the heat and high humidity were abysmal and almost impossible to tolerate. Even walking a short distance can be very unpleasant as are the temperatures that can top 120 degree with 98% humidity. The only tolerable place to be are inside with the air conditioning on high. I love and visit the tropical areas yet only in the winter. I live in the South area of Rosarito Beach, Baja California. Year round climate is beautiful. Never too hot or cold. Winters are very mild and similar to San Diego, Ca. I have friends in Rosarito that spend their summers here and winters in the tropics. Living in the tropics is most certainly not the ideal area for most people. Even the locals hate the low seasons. I have not seen this topic get a lot of attention here yet what I have said is absolutely true," said another retiree in living in Mexico.

"Take time to get to know different alcaldias and colonias of Mexico City according to what is most important to you," explained a retiree in Mexico City.

"It is beautiful but very remote (nearest large city is Oaxaca - about a 7-hour drive away. You need to be able to handle the sense of isolation and remoteness. It really feels like you are living on the edge of the world, far from anywhere else," explained one retiree living in Huatulco.

"Merida is a great city with lots of free activities for adults and children. It is sophisticated, with diverse areas to live in and friendly people, and a good public transportation system. It is a pretty city. However, it is Hot! Come prepared for heat during the day, but the nights cool off comfortably. Make sure your home is well ventilated so that you can enjoy fresh air at night and not need air conditioning. You will not need to bring much, there are plenty of malls and stores with merchandise for you and your home from high end to low," said another member in Merida.

What type of recreational activities are there in Mexico?

Live in Mexico? Answer this Question

"There is a large sport club here for tennis and golf. Every Sunday the streets are closed for bikeathons for the entire family to participate in. And any time you want to hike, go visit a ruin. Most of the cenotes allow swimming and are wonderfully cool and magical," explained one member in Merida.

"Our most popular recreational activities are all water based. So all water sports - snorkeling, diving, paragliding, SUP. But we also have tennis courts, horseback riding,golf, and one of my favorites and unique to Mexico - swimming in a cenote. Cenote fresh water caves - both open are and covered - an offer a refreshing way to cool off," said another retiree in Playa Del Carmen.

"Anything related to the beach, snorkeling, golf, exploring cenotes (caves), dining out. The food is amazing and the options are endless," remarked another retiree in Playa Del Carmen.

"Boating, swimming, fishing, snorkeling, scuba, para sailing, sunset cruises, booze cruises, bird island tours, Jack Nicklaus golf courses and others, tennis, ultralight flying, ziplining, and lots of fine dining with ocean views," explained one retiree living in Puerto Penasco.

"All around Playa del Carmen there are adventure area for zip lining, ATV riding, cave tubing, snorkeling, scuba diving, tours to visit Mayan Ruins and nearby resorts, beaches and islands such as Cozumel, Tulum, Islas Mujeres etc," said another retiree in living in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

Where will I buy groceries and do other shopping in Mexico?

Live in Mexico? Answer this Question

"There is everything in Merida from local street vendors, market stalls, to Super Duper big box markets. There is a Walmart that is a step above what you find in the States, Sears, and a few super duper markets that sell everything from household goods to groceries, all in one place. Several malls have recently opened, so you can shop from high end to low end, and Centro has many streets of unusual and unique shops. You will need to guard your money as these unique shops have lovely hand made items," explained one retiree living in Merida.

"We have so many grocery stores that I always wonder how they all stay in businesses. Most of them in the expat area are located on the same road. We have Walmart and Sams, as well as many others. We have small organic market once a week," said another retiree in living in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico.

"We have so many large grocery stores in Playa, that I wonder sometimes how they stay in business. We have two Walmarts. Local produce markets are not easy to find. There is one very small one in town once a week," added another person in Playa Del Carmen.

"We have Super Ley, Ley Express, Bodega Aurrera (Walmart) Sam's Club, Local vegetable and meat markets, Oxxo convenience stores, and a local store that brings special U.S. food here for our convenience (salami, bacon, sausage, bagels, english muffins, diet sodas, cheeses, spices, pies, etc) and special orders," explained one retiree living in Puerto Penasco.

"SHOPPING is great. Many do their grocery shopping at Wal-Mart, Sams Club, Chedraui (the Mexican version of Wal-Mart that is fantastic) the Mega store and others. Fifth Avenue is known for its lively, atmosphere with stores, restaurants with all types of specialty foods such as Mexican, Argentinian, Brazilian, French, Italian, Seafood, Steak and even fast food places like McDonald's and Burger King, Domino's Pizza, KFC. We have Office Depot, Home Depot, DHL, Fedex...just about everything," said another member in Playa del Carmen.

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

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Get a quote for international health insurance from our partner, William Russell.
GET A QUOTE

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