Expat Exchange
The Lakefront Promenade in Lake Chapala, Mexico

Lake Chapala, Mexico

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Nov 02, 2022

Summary: Expats, digital nomads and retirees discuss what it is like to live in Lake Chapala, Mexico: Cost of living, Finding a home, Meeting People and more.

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What do I need to know about living in Lake Chapala?

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

"A big plus for Ajijic: It's less than an hour's drive to Guadalajara -- with its international airport and vibrant cultural scene," said another expat in Ajijic, Mexico.

"Don't let the media scare you away. If you are not involved in the drug business, you most likely will not be in trouble. There is a presence of police and military here, but we're also hosting the Pan Am games this year," added another expat who made the move 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?," remarked another 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," explained one expat living in Lake Chapala, Mexico.

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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," mentioned another expat in 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," commented one expat who made the move to Lake Chapala.

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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," mentioned another expat in 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," commented one expat who made the move to Lake Chapala.

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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," commented one 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," remarked another expat living in Lake Chapala, Mexico.

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How do I meet people in Lake Chapala?

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

"Ajijic Writers Group, Ajijic Society for the Arts, Rotary Club, Democrats Abroad, St. Andrews Church, Lake Chapala Society ...and many more," commented one expat who made the move to Ajijic, Mexico.

"The Lake Chapala Society, tennis, swimming, gyms, volleyball, tennis, golf, pubs, restaurants," remarked another expat living in Lake Chapala, Mexico.

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What should I bring when moving to Lake Chapala?

People living in Lake Chapala were asked what three things they wish they had brought and three they wish they had left behind. They wrote:

"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," added 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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Will I be able to find a job in Lake Chapala?

When we asked people about industries and career opportunities in Lake Chapala, they reponded:

"Since this is primarily a retired community of expats, most people volunteer to help poor Mexican communities, orphans, stray dogs and cats....There are many creative opportunities, such as the Writers Group, the Arts Society, a choral group, etc. It's a very vibrant retirement community," said another expat in Ajijic, Mexico.

"Most folks, who remain to be working, are artists, metal workers, mecanicos, gardeners, if they're out of work, they┬┤ll look for work, perhaps, helping an ex pat," added another expat who made the move to Lake Chapala.

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What is life like in Lake Chapala?

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

"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," added another expat in Ajijic, Mexico.

"Of course, the local folks thrive on the family life, fiestas for any reason at all and the all popular soccer games," remarked another expat who made the move to Lake Chapala.

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What do expats in Lake Chapala appreciate most about the local culture?

"New things are always here to explore like art, Churches for their age and design, food love the food! I've explored most of the country by car now and love it. Always feel safe but use common sense too. It many ways there's always reminders of where you came from in the diverse terrain and geography like Mexico's," added another expat who made the move to Ajijic.

"Fresh food--veggies, fruit everywhere. Street markets that have everything you need, and the smell of cooking. People saying "buenas dias" and "buenos tarde" when passing on the street. No one's in a hurry, except macho jovenes in their cars, and then it's only to the next tope. Tequila and basic Mexican home cooking. The craftsmen and women, who still make items as their parents and parents before them did, and the fact that chicken wire has so many uses," explained one expat living in Lake Chapala, Mexico.

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What do expats find most challenging?

"Can't really think of any past the language barrier when you can't talk to a car mechanic or shop person. Cops have all been extremely nice and not threatening at all," added another expat in Ajijic.

"Narco cartels and the resulting territorial violence is more than challenging--it's scary when it gets close. The unbelievably loud firecrackers and rockets set off anywhere for the slightest pretense of a fiesta, and boomboxes. Opportunistic thievery and denial. The adolescent attitude of the people who are well beyond adolescence in years. Sometimes, this is endearing, other times you really wonder. The poverty," remarked another expat who made the move to Lake Chapala.

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Is there a lot of crime in Lake Chapala?

We asked people if there is a lot of crime. They answered:

"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," mentioned another expat in Lake Chapala.

"There is less crime here than where we lived NOB. There is some petty crime.. burglaries and an occasional mugging. But these appear to be no worse than many places up north," commented one expat who made the move to Ajijic.

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Is there a lot of diversity? Are people in Lake Chapala accepting of differences?

"Expats in this community are generally accepting and welcoming of diversity. It is a very LGBT-friendly community. There is an active Jewish community (that runs a great film festival every year!), a small Muslim community and an agnostic group that meets regularly. There are meditation groups, church groups, political clubs..," mentioned another expat in Ajijic, Mexico.

"The people are very accepting. You never hear them yell across the plaza or fighting in public, there's alot of PDA, family love, siblings holding hands, walking down the street," commented one expat who made the move to Lake Chapala.

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What are the pros and cons of living in Lake Chapala?

Expats, digital nomads and retirees living in Lake Chapala responded:

"Very friendly expats. Very welcoming community. Mexicans are very warm. Restaurants are affordable, although somewhat limited in scope -- but that's getting better. Weather is incredible year-round. Crime, security, corruption is getting worse," mentioned another expat living in Lake Chapala.

"Mexico has exceeded our expectations after about a year abroad. We feel safer here in the Lake Chapala/Ajijic area during COVID than we did in the States. And, we were so glad to escape the negative politics in the US and avoided the election chaos while here in Jalisco. We glance at the goings on from abroad and shake our head. Politics here in Mexico is not perfect but as expats they are very glad we are in their country spending money and creating jobs, laying low and they leave us alone. We love what we did for our country and what our country did for us, but that's all in the past," said an expat in Lake Chapala.

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What type of social life can someone expect in Lake Chapala?

When we asked expats and global nomads about their social experiences in Lake Chapala, they replied:

"Will you be asking about security, corruption -- law & order? This is the reason I left this area last year and will not return. Otherwise, the expat community is large and diverse and very welcoming," remarked another expat living in Lake Chapala.

"It's been more difficult with COVID to be sure, but we've still been able to meet people and participate in the some activities, but most are shut down," said one expat living in Lake Chapala.

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"We've made many, many friends here and have traveled to various parts of Mexico with. The celebrate birthdays, births and weddings, so far no deaths/funerals," said an expat in Lake Chapala.

"There's a huge cultural and economic divide between the expat and native communities. Not much intermingling," remarked another expat in Lake Chapala.

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What advice to expats in Lake Chapala have about housing?

"We have chosen not to purchase, but many friends do own in the Lake Chapala area and love the experience. To each their own. We live in a a 2 bedroom/2 bath home with incredible views of Lake Chapala and our rent is $11,500 MX (about $550 USD) ALL INCLUSIVE water, gas, electric, WIFI in a gated community! We are in paradise each day," commented one expat who moved to Lake Chapala.

"We stumbled upon an incredible home and we purchased it in lee's than 30 minutes. I would suggest that you rent 1st. The soccer field, the areas, schools, etc. can get very loud and last into the wee hours of the morning. You need to judge where your going to go shopping, how your going to get around, locations of hospitals, Dr.'s/Dentist offices, then what's available in the areas that you've settled on the rent or purchase and then there are the legal issues for renting or purchasing. Most people who don't live in a closed Fraccionamiento live in areas of no zoning," said another expat.

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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 an expat in Lake Chapala.

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

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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.

The Lakefront Promenade in Lake Chapala, Mexico

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