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Ajijic Boardwalk, Lake Chapala

Moving to Lake Chapala, Mexico

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Nov 02, 2022

Summary: Moving to Lake Chapala, Mexico: DATASENTENCE Expats, retirees and digital nomads talk about everything you need to know before moving to Lake Chapala.

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What do I need to know before moving to Lake Chapala?

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

"Since realtors are not regulated here in Mexico one should hire an attorney just to be on the safe side... We did and it was worth every peso... Cheap insurance. Do your due diligence on line and stay for a month or more... If one has not lived abroad and in similar locals there might be a bit of a culture shock... How I explain this in simple terms: " If in the morning you have water for your shower.... It is a good day." and "If the water is hot... It is GREAT DAY!" Living here is an adventure...One needs to be flexible, have a sense of humor, and accept the fact that things here move at a different pace. The Mexican people are warm and friendly, the expats are willing to help get you settled, and the weather is outstanding... What is not to like?," commented one expat who made the move to Ajijic .

"Do your research. Figure out what is really important to you. There is so much to do here and lots of people who speak English. The locals are very friendly. There are always exceptions but we have been very happy. It is a noisy country and there is dust. Bill is a musician and does sound for many of the productions and I am a quilter. There is a theater group, a community choir, an art society and a multitude of clubs, restaurants, live music that you will recognize. Medical care is good and you will find alternative as well as traditional medicine. You will see donkey carts and BMWs sharing the road. Working is a problem since jobs are reserved for the citizens so planning on working here may not happen," remarked another expat in Lake Chapala, Mexico.

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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.

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How do I find a place to live in Lake Chapala?

We asked expats how they chose their neighborhood and found a place to live. They answered:

"We made a discovery trip here in July. Loved the place and stayed a month... We toured the entire area and eliminated those areas that were a bit far out or did not meet our needs. We sold our home in the states in three days which spurred us to find a home... We have a dog and two cats that made renting a bit of a hassle so we decided to buy. I made another trip in September and we decided on one of the homes we had previewed earlier. It is a smaller gated community (7 homes) and we are quite delighted," remarked another expat who made the move to Ajijic .

"When we started looking at the money we would have to live on after retirement, I realized that I would never be able to quit work and live comfortably. We started looking at places we could live. We wanted to be close enough to hop up to the states to see family but be able to afford to retire. Mexico was the obvious answer. After much internet research, I stumbled on Lake Chapala. My husband and I knew nothing about Mexico. His vision was from the old westerns. There is a group that provides a week long seminar that will answer all of your questions and also show you the fun side of the area. We booked a trip 3 months away. I used the time to look at real estate offerings. I had limited funds. This is a cash economy so it had to be a house I could afford. They have an MLS listings here so I could check out everything. I contacted a realtor and he helped weed out houses that had issues or less than savory neighborhoods. I wanted city water, a pressurized/filtration water system and city sewer. Many houses are on septic so I knew that I might have to make a compromise there. We had 14 houses on the final list. We bought the second one we had looked at and we paid cash. And it is on city sewer," explained one expat living in Lake Chapala, Mexico.

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What is a typical expat home or apartment like in Lake Chapala?

"Our home is a two story, 2 bedroom with around 2800 sq ft. We have a pool and small garden. The house is stand alone in a gated community. The area in which we live is primarily single family and we are about 10 minutes driving time to the center of town," commented one expat who made the move to Ajijic .

"We live in a single family dwelling that shares side walls with my neighbors. It is 2 story with 3 bedrooms and 2 baths. Houses are made with brick or cider block with a skin coat of concrete. Many houses have beautiful, lush gardens with indoor/outdoor living. We chose not to have one. Many people have maids and gardeners but it was not in our budget. Square footage of houses include covered porches so be aware of that. We looked at one house that a porch was 1/3 of the square footage which left very little living space," remarked another expat in Lake Chapala, Mexico.

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What is the average cost of housing in Lake Chapala?

If you are thinking about moving to Lake Chapala, cost of living in probably a key consideration. Expats commented about the cost of housing:

"Much lower than in Washington state. Taxes are minimal but utilities (electricity) is rather expensive... Based on the former occupant's usage, we opted to install solar. This was a significant amount but with a 3-4 year pay back...We are able to have a maid, gardener and pool guy which we certainly couldn't afford up north... Eating out is inexpensive and about 1/2 of what it would cost NOB. The average cost of housing depends a lot on the area one chooses. The closer to Ajijic center the more expensive. Houses with views (which we have) command a higher price tag... We were looking in the $3-400,000 range and there is a good supply at these prices," remarked another expat who made the move to Ajijic .

"Much lower. We pay our property taxes and water yearly. Our taxes are $699 MX and water is $1000 MX per year. Electricity is expensive in Mexico but still less than the US and is paid every other month. We have our propane tank filled on the off month and runs about $1600 MX for 2 months. Phone and internet is $600 MX per month and that is with unlimited long distanse. We have satelite which comes out of Canada. They have grocery stores that carry US products but it is imported and therefore expensive. Produce, eggs, meat, chicken and fish is amazing and reasonable. You can pay as much as you want or as little as you have for a house and find something to fit your needs," explained one expat living in Lake Chapala, Mexico.

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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.

Should I buy or rent a home in Lake Chapala?

If you have not spent a lot of time in Lake Chapala, you should rent before even thinking about buying. We asked expats there about the buy vs. rent decision:

"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," remarked another expat in Lake Chapala, Mexico.

"We purchased a home... Buying is easy but selling is a challenge so they say... Ours went well and we have moved over 20 times in our marriage so buying and selling homes is not new to us... One serious recommendation is to get an attorney to look over the papers and assist in closing. Realtors here run from great to not so and having a knowledgeable third set of eyes makes the process painless," said another expat in Ajijic.

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What should I pack when moving to Lake Chapala?

We asked people living in Lake Chapala to list three things they wish they had brought and three they wish they had left behind. They responded:

"Thanks to reading this website we brought two vacuums which worked out well. We could have left more of our art work at home. Also my hobby "stuff" in 25 book boxes that are now gracing the wall of our guest bedroom," said another expat in Ajijic .

"Two things that I didn't bring and eventually did buy in the states was a vacuum and a sponge mop. We brought down large area rugs to put on the floors in the bedrooms that need to have a vacuum run over them. Everything here were shop vacs although now you can find vacuum cleaners. Sponge mops are still not found. I brought down a counter top dishwasher since our home did not have one. I also purchased a rice cooker and proper food processor on a trip to the states. I didn't need to bring my straw broom. The dust does not sweep up as well as it does with the plastic bristled brooms that they sell here," remarked another expat who made the move to Lake Chapala.

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What cultural faux pas should I try to avoid making in Lake Chapala?

We asked people in Lake Chapala if they could share any humorous cultural blunders they commited. For new expats, keep in mind that these incidents are an inevitable part of expat life. Learning to laugh about them is the key!:

"Undoubtedly, but I have selective memory, and most Mexicans have been very kind and tolerant of me butchering their language. I did get "drawers" and "balls" mixed up when I was trying to explain changes to the kitchen. Cajones vs cojones. Yes, those kind of balls," added another expat who made the move to Lake Chapala.

"Io far (knock on wood), my biggest blunder is going into a doctor's office and saying to the receptionist "habla espanol" when, of course, I meant "habla ingles." however, she was very gracious about it and laughed with me instead of at me," explained one expat living in Lake Chapala, Mexico.

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What are medical services in Lake Chapala like?

When we asked expats and global nomads about the quality of medical care in Lake Chapala, they replied:

"Hospital San Antonio del Lago de Chapala is a private hospital and is known to charge huge bills to patients. We used to request for daily billing details about medicines, health report, isolation charge, the staff was least bothered about this. But at the time of discharge, we got final bill and we couldn't recognize all billing things. I felt helpless on discharge from the hospital management. There were so many things that didn't reached to us but were still added in the hospital bills. Request to patients who get hospitalized in Hospital San Antonio del Lago de Chapala. DO KEEP A WATCH ON YOUR BILLS! ," said another expat.

"We chose to self-insure in Mexico for now, but we still have Medicare in the USA just in case....," said one expat living in Lake Chapala, Mexico.

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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.

Ajijic Boardwalk, Lake Chapala

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