Cost of Living
The cost of living in Mexico generally varies by region and city, with inland cities less expensive and international beach resorts and large cities more expensive.
Your cost of living will depend upon the type of lifestyle you want to have and may be similar to what you left in your home country, if you want to maintain a similar lifestyle.
For cost of living by selected city in Mexico, you can visit either Expatistan or Numbeo, two popular crowd-sourced cost of living websites. Both allow you to compare costs on a number of selected items in your home city (or a comparable city) and cities in Mexico.
There are a number of international schools in Mexico, such as the American School of Puerto Vallarta. International schools are usually located in Mexico’s major cities.
International schooling is provided for students from elementary school through post-compulsory school. American college entrance examinations (SAT, ACT and AP) and/or British GSCE A-level examinations are available through most international schools.
Many international schools also offer either the globally recognized International Baccalaureate (IB) Program or the Cambridge IGCSE and instruction generally is conducted in English and Spanish. Certification from these schools is accepted worldwide for university entrance.
A list of some international schools in Mexico can be found on this U.S. Department of State website. You can also find international school information for specific cities in our Cities Education sections. Just click on the city and click on education.
Mexico offers many education options for your family, including public schools, private schools and international schools. Homeschooling is also allowed in Mexico. Many expats choose to put their children in private, bilingual schools because public schools often are crowded.
The public school system in Mexico is overseen by the Secretariat of Public Instruction (Secretaría de Educación Pública, SEP). Attendance is mandatory for students ages 6 to15. Basic education includes pre-primary school for children 3 to 5, elementary school for children 6 to 12 and secondary school for those 13 to 15.
Students at the age of 16 are given the option to continue schooling at the high school level. There are two possible degree options. The first is a qualified technician degree, or profesional tecnico, which is chosen by 9 percent of all students. The other is a high-school diploma, or bachillerato, a much more popular option.
The school year in Mexico starts in mid-August and ends in the first days of July and, by law, must cover 200 days.
Aside from public schools, Mexico also has private and international schools, which are popular choices for expats. According to the country’s Public Education Board, about 13 percent of all students attend private schools.
There are a number of international schools in Mexico, such as the American School of Puerto Vallarta. International schools are usually located in Mexico’s major cities. International schooling is provided for students from elementary school through post-compulsory school. American college entrance examinations (SAT, ACT and AP) and/or British GSCE A-level examinations are available through most international schools. Many international schools also offer either the globally recognized International Baccalaureate (IB) Program or the Cambridge IGCSE and instruction generally is conducted in English and Spanish. Certification from these schools is accepted worldwide for university entrance.
A list of international schools in Mexico can be found on this U.S. Department of State website.
Homeschooling is another option for expats in Mexico. There are no laws prohibiting homeschooling in the country, if you choose to do so. You can find out details at this Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) website.
More information on education can be found in our Cities section under each of our city profiles.
With a low unemployment rate in the country, Mexico employment prospects look good, especially if you have Spanish language skills. The best employment opportunities will be in the larger commercial centers in Mexico that attract major multinational corporations. Some expats focus on resort areas where English is widely spoken and travel-related jobs and new business opportunities are more plentiful. But, you should know that jobs in Mexico pay far less than what you would expect in the United States, Canada and many other developed countries.
Job search strategies you can use in Mexico are similar to the U.S. Industry associations are an excellent way to find out about opportunities in your field. Check job listings in local newspapers and online. Also, search both global and local online employment sites. Craigslist features job opportunities in 16 Mexican cities. Be sure to send unsolicited applications to targeted employers and contact temporary work or staffing agencies online or onsite. Most importantly, check out local online forums and bulletin boards. Local expats can be a great source for opportunities.
To get you started, here are a few websites that may help you in your job search:
A large number of expats living in Mexico have started their own businesses or moved their businesses to the country. Some expat entrepreneurs purchase a business, some start their own business and many – especially those who use the Internet to conduct their business – move their work to Mexico.
You can find out more details about starting a business in Mexico in our Mexico Entrepreneurs section.
You can also read our profiles of entrepreneurs in our Expat Entrepreneurs in Mexico Articles section.
To learn how to apply for a Work Permit, visit our Mexico Immigration section.
Mexican banks are similar to most banks in other countries in services offered, such as checking and savings accounts, certificates of deposit, joint accounts, ATMs, mortgages and insurance. Check each bank individually for requirements to establish an account.
Here are a few major banks in Mexico that provide financial services for consumers:
The currency of Mexico is the peso (MXN) and coins are centavos. Paper currency denominations are: $20, $50, $100, $200, $500 and $1,000. Coin units are: $.05, $.010, $.20, $.50, $1.00, $2.00, $5.00, $10.00 and $20.00.
If you would like more information on Mexico’s monetary system and the most current exchange rate, visit the country’s central bank, Banco de México.
There are four time zones in Mexico. Most of the country uses Central Standard Time, which is officially named Zona Centro or Central Zone. The state of Quintana Roo (Cancún and the Riviera Maya) uses Eastern Standard Time. Officially, it is called Zona Sureste or Southeast Zone. The states of Chihuahua, Nayarit, Sonora, Sinaloa and Baja California Sur use Mountain Standard Time, called Zona Pacífico or Pacific Zone (except for the cities on or near the Bay of Banderas that are on Central Standard Time). Baja California Norte uses Pacific Standard Time, which is called Zona Noroeste or Northwest Zone.
All island territories including reefs and keys observe the time zone based upon the longitude of their location.
Daylight Saving Time begins at 2:00 a.m. local time on the first Sunday in April and falls back to Standard Time at 2:00 a.m. on the last Sunday in October. The states of Sonora and Quintana Roo do not observe Daylight Saving Time.
There are several health insurance options for expats in Mexico, including international health insurance plans, Mexican health insurance plans and the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS). Researching your options early will help you manage costs, ensure that you have adequate coverage and allow you to make the best medical choices for you and your family.
For detailed information on health insurance, read our article, “Health Insurance Options for Expat in Mexico.”
Healthcare in Mexico is steadily improving and generally costs at least half of what you would pay for similar services in the U.S., Canada or other developed countries. As in most nations, healthcare often depends upon where you live. Urban areas generally have better quality hospitals and doctors and better access to healthcare services.
We discuss healthcare services in our Mexico Healthcare section and in our Cities Healthcare sections. For individual cities, just click on the city and click on Healthcare.
For more information, read our article, “The Quality of Healthcare in Mexico.”
The numbers to dial for emergencies in Mexico are: Fire 068, Ambulance 065 and Police 066.
If you rent from an expat, you will most likely pay first month, last month and a deposit, similar to the U.S. Terms may differ, however, if you rent from a Mexican company or individual. Our real estate expert Harriet Murray points out that Mexico has a full body of rental laws in the country’s civil code.
She recommends renters purchase a rental agreement form at stationery or office supply stores to document the terms of the agreement, if the landlord does not offer a written contract detailing the terms of rental. Custom agreements should be written by a qualified attorney.
Rules and procedures will vary based on the status of your visa, whether you are importing your vehicle temporarily or indefinitely, whether the vehicle is brand new from a country with which Mexico has a free trade agreement, such as NAFTA, or the vehicle is classified as used or classic.
Temporary residents and retirees are permitted to import their vehicles to Mexico. All new vehicles (i.e., current or later model years with an odometer reading of less than 600 miles) from the U.S., Canada and the E.U. are admitted duty free.
If you do not drive your vehicle to Mexico yourself, only an authorized customs broker can carry out the importation of your vehicle to Mexico on your behalf. The only exception to this is spouses and family members may temporarily import their family member’s car if they prove the relationship. Cars that are leased or financed require a letter from the leasing or financing company giving permission to be taken into Mexico.
If you wish to bring a large truck over one ton in weight, you will need a special certification. You also may bring a trailer and motorcycles with your vehicle, up to three non-road legal recreational vehicles.
The duration of the temporary importation permit conforms to your immigration document, which is up to 180 days for tourists and up to the end of the total 4-year term for temporary residents. Permanent residents may not import or drive foreign plated cars (unless the importer is in the car or the car is imported by a direct family member).
If you or a family member does not bring the vehicle in to Mexico, you will need to employ a freight forwarder/broker that specializes in vehicles and is experienced with Mexican customs. This may be the same company or affiliate of the company you are using for your household move, if you choose to use an international moving company.
Documents required to import your vehicle into Mexico are:
- Registration from your country of origin not expired more than 3 months
- Invoice or bill of sale
- Original vehicle title
- Driver’s license
- Passport copy
- Original Temporary Resident visa
- Permission from finance/leasing company
To import your pet into Mexico, you will need a health certificate (original and a copy) issued by your veterinarian. The certificate must be on letterhead with the veterinarian’s license number printed on it. You will need to present this certificate at the Office of Animal and Plant Health Inspection (OISA) located at the port of entry to Mexico.
If you bring more than two pets, you must complete additional forms and pay additional taxes.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides further details on requirement for importing your pet into Mexico.
If you are planning to live in Mexico as a full-time expat, you will need either a Temporary Resident visa or a Permanent Resident visa.
A Temporary Resident visa will allow you to stay in the country for a maximum of four years. It will also allow you to have a permit to perform paid activities in the country, as long as there is an offer of employment. With a Temporary Resident visa, you have the right to enter and leave Mexico as you wish.
A Permanent Resident visa will allow you to remain in Mexico indefinitely, with a permit to perform paid activities in the country, if you wish.
Our legal expert Alfonso Roman details requirements for both types of visas in his blogs, “What You Need to Know About a Temporary Resident Visa for Mexico” and “How to Obtain a Permanent Resident Visa for Mexico.”
You can also find detailed information in our Mexico Immigration section.
If you have personal items you would like to sell, you may want to consider Craigslist. The service is in English and covers 16 cities/areas within Mexico and works the same way it does in the U.S.
Expats also use garage sales and list their items for sale on local online groups and community boards.
The cuisine in Mexico is a mixture of Mesoamerican indigenous dishes with Spanish and African influences, largely as a result of slavery. Beans and chili peppers are staples of the daily diet. Regional cooking developed over the centuries, with Oaxaca, Veracruz and the Yucatan Peninsula particularly noted for exceptional local cuisine.
You can learn more about Mexico’s cuisine and other information in the Lifestyle section of our Mexico profile. For local cuisine, visit the Lifestyle section in each of our Cities profiles.
The lifestyle in Mexico is all about sunshine, rich cultural traditions, historical heritage, a slower pace of life and lower living costs. Mexico has been an expat magnet for decades.
The real secret behind Mexico’s charm, though, is its people. Friendly, caring, helpful and fun loving, they will welcome and warm the heart of anyone they meet.
Mexico offers a vast range of things to do and places to see. In the large cities, cultural activities like opera, symphony, world-class museums, art galleries and top-rated restaurants are plentiful. Professional sports, horse racing and other spectator events are also part of the urban offering.
Away from the big cities, the towns and villages of Mexico offer folk festivals, plays, street musicians, fiestas and perfect evenings in the central plaza to enjoy with friends and family.
On Mexico’s coasts, you can fish, dive, snorkel and toast your body at the beach. In resort cities, such as Puerto Vallarta, you can happily eat your way across the city in some of the best restaurants Mexico has to offer.
For more information visit the Lifestyle section of our Mexico profile or the Lifestyle section of any of the cities in our Cities profiles.
There are many wonderful places to live in Mexico. Many expat communities can be found throughout the country but choosing a location is a very personal choice. To help make your selection a little easier, we have profiled the top 10 cities for expats in Mexico in detail.
In the navigation bar, click on Cities and then click on the specific city that interests you. You will find information categorized by 15 topics, ranging from the local climate to transportation options available in that city. Each of these expat centers have well-developed social infrastructures.
It is important to know that the cities we feature are the most popular and have the largest expat communities in Mexico, but there are many other great places to live. If you have good Spanish language skills and want to fully integrate into the Mexican culture, you will have many cities, towns and villages to choose from.
We are often asked how many people live in Mexico and what are the people like? Officially the United Mexican States (Estados Unidos Mexicanos), the country is divided into 31 states and Mexico City (CDMX). Mexico’s population of nearly 125 million makes it the eleventh most populous country in the world.
Mexico also is the largest Spanish-speaking country in the world. Nearly 93 percent of the population speaks Spanish. Mayan, Nahuatil and other indigenous languages also are spoken in Mexico.
About 60 percent of Mexicans are of Indian-Spanish (Mestizo) descent, another 30 percent are Indian and 9 percent are Caucasian. Just over 80 percent of the Mexican people belong to the Catholic Church, down from over 90 percent in the 1990s. That number still makes Mexico the second largest Catholic country in the world, behind Brazil.
For more information on the people of Mexico and their government, visit People in our Mexico profile.
There are over 1 million expats living in Mexico and more than 750,000 of them are Americans. Mexico is home to more American expats than any other country in the world and consistently ranks in the top 3 best countries for expats worldwide. But what are the best cities in Mexico for expats?
Our research and anecdotal reports from expats living in Mexico show that the top 10 best places for expats are Cancún, Guadalajara, Guanajuato, Lake Chapala, Los Cabos, Mazatlán, Mérida, Mexico City, Puerto Vallarta and San Miguel de Allende.
You can find out detailed information about each of these in our Cities profile section. Just choose a city and click on the topics that interest you the most.
No. If you’re a U.S. citizen, you may receive your Social Security payments outside the United States as long as you are eligible. You can have your benefits mailed to you or directly deposited into a bank account in Mexico, which is a participant in the Social Security Administration’s International Direct Deposit program. Many retired U.S. expats use U.S. financial institutions for their direct deposit and then use Mexican ATMs to withdraw cash as needed.
How safe is Mexico? The answer to that question most often depends upon where you live or visit. The U.S. Department of State reports that crime in Mexico varies widely by location. For example, Mérida, the capital of the state of Yucatán and the home of many expats, reported a homicide rate of only 2.2 per 100,000 people, making it one of the safest places to live in Mexico. Aguascalientes, a central Mexico highland city of over 1 million, also had a low homicide rate of 4.2.
Overall, Mexico’s homicide rate is one of the highest in the world with an average of 21.5 reported homicides per 100,000 people, far higher than the 4.7 per 100,000 in the U.S., according to the World Health Organization.
According the U.S. Department of State, millions of Americans safely live, work and take vacations in Mexico every year. However, organized criminal groups continue to produce significant levels of violence throughout parts of the country. The northern half of Mexico is considered a higher threat area, primarily due to organized criminal conflicts and competition for drug trafficking routes to the U.S.
You can find additional personal safety information for Mexico at this U.S. Department of State website.
For safety information on a city we profile in our Cities section, please click on the city and then click on Safety.
The top 10 safest cities for expats in Mexico by crime rate per 100,000 residents are:
1. Sayulita, Nayarit/334
2. Campeche, Campeche/378
3. Mazatlán, Sinaloa/1,036
4. Tulum, Quintana Roo/1,061
5. Cancún, Quintana Roo/1,257
6. Puerto Peñasco, Sonora/1,463
7. Puebla, Puebla/1,576
8. Chapala-Ajijic, Jalisco/1,859
9. Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca/1,862
10. Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo/2,158
Read our blog “The Top 10 Safest Cities for Expats in Mexico” for more details on personal safety.
The highways in Mexico generally are fair to good. The country has made massive investments in its road infrastructure in an effort to connect the country’s main towns and cities with reliable roads. Roads are good around popular tourist areas and major cities but rural-area roads are rougher and are often unpaved. The interstate highway system roads are well maintained.
Multi-lane expressways often have narrow lanes and steep shoulders, so drivers unfamiliar with the roads should be cautious. Drivers should also be aware that speed bumps (topes) are widely used in Mexico, so watch for signs and slow down to avoid vehicle damage.
You can find more information about transportation options in our Mexico profile section. Additional transportation information for the individual cities we profile can be found in our Cities section.
First, you should know that U.S. driver’s licenses are valid in Mexico and that Mexican law requires that only owners drive their vehicles, or that the owner be inside the vehicle. You will also need Mexican insurance for all vehicles, including rental vehicles. U.S. vehicle insurance is not valid.
Mexican liability insurance is recommended in the event your vehicle is involved in an accident. Driving under the influence of alcohol, using a mobile device while driving and driving through a yellow light are all illegal in Mexico.
If you drive your vehicle up to 25 km into Mexico, you must apply for a temporary vehicle import permit with Mexican Customs, BANJERCITO or at some Mexican Consulates in the United States. The permit requires a valid passport and a monetary deposit that will be returned to you upon leaving Mexico before the expiration of the permit. Failing to apply for a temporary vehicle import permit may lead to impoundment.
The U.S. Department of State recommends that if you have an emergency while driving, dial 911. If you are driving on a toll highway (cuota) or any other major highway, you should contact the Green Angels (Angeles Verdes). They provide a fleet of trucks with bilingual crews. You can call them at (01) (55) 5250-8221.