Anyone you ever meet seems to have an opinion about Mexico, most have never even been. You can always tell the ones that have experienced Mexico firsthand. The people that give you negatives are those who have not felt the love of Mexico and have not been.
People that have been will talk to you about the culture, Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), burritos or safety of the country, people that have been always have their opinion and something to say. Then there are the news watchers that have never been to Mexico talking about how dangerous it is and acting like they know what they are talking about.
Personally, my idea of Mexico was always centered around water & food. I absolutely love shrimp guacamole and quesadillas, who doesn’t? But when I moved to Puerto Vallarta, on the western coast, I quickly learned that this amazing country has so much more to offer other than incredible food.
Mexico is a very popular country for adventurous people that are just tired of living where they are and willing to move abroad. It’s especially enticing for Americans and Canadians, because the US Dollar and Canadian dollars go a much longer way when converted to pesos.
If you are ready to take a vacation or if you think you are ready to make your home south of the border, there are several things you should know that can assist you…
1. Mexico is safer than the news makes it seem
When I tell people I live in Mexico, one of their first questions is always “Is it safe”.
It makes sense that people would ask because the news paints Mexico as a dangerous place and over dramatize news when someone get shot or is killed by the cartel. 1 person is killed in Mexico and it is major news in the United States and Canada. When someone is killed in Chicago, nobody cares but when it happens in Mexico it is world news. What the news doesn’t show you is all the people living regular lives without being directly affected or seeing any of this.
Mexico is a large country with a population of over 150 million, and like anywhere else people live normal day-to-day lives. There are certain areas and regions to avoid, but as an expat, you’ll probably stay around major cities full of other foreigners and tourists. You can easily avoid visiting the poorest or most dangerous regions in the country. Most all major cities around Mexico have ex-pat communities and are extremely safe. Just use common sense and don’t do anything you wouldn’t do at home.
2. You can find everything in Mexico
When picturing Mexico, many still believe that it is a third world country and other people’s minds immediately jump to beaches. Although there is poverty in Mexico there is also lots of business and money in Mexico especially in the tourist markets. Puerto Vallarta is a beach town and it is where my wife and I moved and have lived for 12 years, we love the beaches but beaches are just the beginning.
Mexico is an extreme diverse country with so much to see, there are lakes, jungles, magical cities, beautiful landscapes, waterfalls, beaches and mountains—you can find it all in Mexico.
The country offers perfect the perfect balance of culture, traditions and modern lifestyle. Some cities date back to the 13th century such as many towns through the Banderas Bay area, where we live. One town to speak of is San Sebastian which is east of Puerto Vallarta about 25 kilometers into the mountains, in this village you will find houses built completely of adobe blocks and the many pilgrimaging that was done dating back to the 1800’s.
Of course, Mexico has hundreds of cities and towns with their own history, pyramids, historic sites dating back for centuries and each with their own unique natural beauty. Mexico has so much beauty with beaches, deserts, mountains, forests and even has its own grand canyon. So if you are thinking of visiting do not listen to the news, take it from real people living full time in Puerto Vallarta Mexico, it is far better south of the border!
3. Mexico is cheaper than the United States
Mexico is not only cheaper in most areas than what you would pay in the United States, but many people have retired very nicely in Mexico at a fraction of what they could do it for in the U.S. or Canada. If you’re considering retiring or working for an American company in Mexico, you’re in an even better position. Earning US dollars while moving south will make you feel like you’ve won the lottery! My wife and I operate a business in Mexico and charge people in USD and many months we do feel like we won the lottery.
Although some areas have increased in pricing, you still will find so many things cheaper such as beer, wine & liquor, food and going out to dinner.
The people are incredible and helpful so when you move to Mexico, you will feel like home quickly.
4. Mexico is the perfect expat destination
Many people come to Mexico concerned about not speaking Spanish, but one of the first things we noticed is how often we heard people speak English! Most tourist areas in Mexico all have very large expat communities because so many are moving south of the border. Many have chosen full time and others part time but as it turns out, the expat population in Mexico is extremely high, with more than 2 million expats living all over the country. Most of them are Americans, due to the proximity to their country, however Canada is catching up quickly as they flock to the warm beaches of Mexico.
While Mexico is a great destination for any foreigner, it’s especially convenient for Americans and Canadians with all the special flight deals and with many states right on the border, it makes it easy to drive right in. So many expats have moved here because it is so easy to get back to the States when they choose.
4. The Language
Concerned about going to Mexico because you do not speak the language? Do not worry about that because you can learn on the fly, Mexicans love to help foreigners learn Spanish. Plus there are several apps available with voice translation to help as well as many courses. Just do your best and do not worry, so many people speak English that you may not even have to learn. My wife and I have been here for 12 years and still only speak 30% and have never had a problem other than possibly being charged too much so there is an advantage to learn. Have fun with it.
5. Mexicans are some of the friendliest people on the planet
Get out of your head that all Mexicans work with the cartel and they all sell illegal drugs or they are all trying to rip you off, it simply is not the case. Mexicans are some of the friendliest people on the planet and always want to help. Everywhere in the world there are some bad people but mostly exceptional people that are loving and very spiritual.
When you decide to move to Mexico, get rid of all the bad stories the media and people tell you and have a fresh perspective on this amazing country. Try not to prejudge based on stories you’ve heard from other people. Open your heart share the love to these beautiful people!
6. You will make so many new true friends in Mexico!
There are so many cool expats and people from everywhere around the world and many that you will have so many things in common with because your both decided to come to Mexico. People living in Mexico love to help and give advice that can be invaluable because they have already been down that road. I know when we first moved to Puerto Vallarta, we had so many local expats that helped us with our immigration, landlords, apt. & house hunting (which is the best way to find a good place to live) taxes and so on. It will save you a lot of headaches and time, now we do the same and assist people all the time and it makes us feel good. They’ll also take you out to the best bars and restaurants, introduce you to the top spots and people in the city and, of course, enjoy all this right along with you. Us like so many others, even after 12 years of living here, we love playing tourists by showing others the way around Puerto Vallarta.
The friends you make here are by far more real and we have much stronger friendships than what we ever have had in the USA. You never know about economics because the field is even and money does not play a role in friendship like it does in other parts of the world.
Many people ask us how to meet people in Mexico if they are not that super outgoing extrovert. There are many ways including; several local Facebook groups in every expat city in Mexico that generally meet up every week or once a month, of course bars and coffee shops, art and cultural events and more. People are just like you and looking to meet others that live there too so go out and make some new friends
7. Finding a place to live as a foreigner can be tricky
Mexico has plenty of long term, short term and vacation rentals available but how do you find the best deals without being gringonized (Being charged too much because of skin color). If you speak Spanish you will get a better deal and if not try to get a Mexican friend to assist you with negotiation to make sure everything is clear.
One thing that we have found about renting in Mexico, you will never get your security deposit back from a Mexican landlord so we now always take it out of the last month. They are never happy about that, but it is the only way you will get it. They may try to threaten you but really there is nothing they can do. We always took good care of our places and did a walk through at the end and if there was a problem outside of normal wear and tear, we would pay at that time.
Generally speaking, housing should be much less than the United States except in the Banderas Bay areas where pricing has increased by 200 – 300 % because of the demand. So many people are flocking to Puerto Vallarta and Banderas Bay so prices have gone insane however there are still many great deals available outside of the gringo marketplace. It is much better to find an apartment or rental by getting referred rather than Craigslist because their prices are always much higher.
8. Immigration Status
If you want to stay in Mexico longer than 6 months at a time, you’ll need a resident card to live in Mexico for more than 6 months and if not then no problem because a tourist Visa is good for 6 months so all you have to do is leave and come back and you should not have any problems. The tourist visa does not allow you to work while visiting so if you want that you would have to apply from your home country before coming to Mexico. It is rather uncomplicated to get your resident card but I suggest to give your first 6 months as a tourist and if you decide to stay permanently then when you go back, you can apply for your residency which is required that you start the process from your home country.
This setback can be a disappointment to expats who move to Mexico hoping everything will be as easy as in their own countries. Well it is not. It is a slower pace so do not expect people to be on time for appointments or show up at all. It is weird, the Mexican people do not want to disappoint you in person so they make commitments that they have no intention of fulfilling. Slow down and enjoy the slower pace and live and enjoy this country and don’t sweat the small stuff.
10. You might want to stay in Mexico
In the 12 years of living in Mexico full time, there hasn’t been a single day I haven’t thought about going back to the United States. This is something you figure out fast: Mexico is addictive. You’ll fall in love with the people, country and beauty so immerse yourself in the culture, food, and the arts. My wife and we are just as much in love with Mexico and Puerto Vallarta as we were the day we arrived. I must caution you, once you get a taste you may never leave because life is happier in Mexico, so get started and just do it, make that decision and you will be happy you did.