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Mexico Bolsters Its Reputation as an Inexpensive Country for Expats

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Credits: diegograndi | Adobe Stock images

Numbeo, the crowd-sourced cost-of-living data company, just released its annual Cost of Living Index by City 2020 study that shows Mexico bolsters its reputation as an inexpensive country for expats.

The study looked at 440 cities to compile a cost of living index based on these factors: 1) rent index, 2) groceries index, 3) restaurant price index and 4) local purchasing power index.

Puebla was the least expensive city in Mexico surveyed. It ranked at #369 in the study with an index of 34.53. Guadalajara was just a bit more expensive with an index of 36.15 and a ranking of #348. The most expensive Mexican cities in the study were mostly industrial cities with thriving economies. The most expensive city in the country in this study was Tijuana with an index of 38.93 and a rank of #310. Other more expensive cities were Monterrey (38.74), Cancún (38.71), Mexico City (38.55) and Querétaro (37.52).

The most expensive cities in the world were no surprise and match closely annual studies that track the best countries in which to live. Zurich, Switzerland lead this year’s list with a cost-of-living (COL) index of 128.9, followed closely by its Swiss neighbors Basel, Lausanne, Geneva and Bern. Oil-rich Norway rounded out most of the top 10 with #6 Stavanger, then Oslo, Trondheim and Bergen. Reykjavik, Iceland was #9. Interestingly, New York City and San Francisco, the two most expensive cities in the U.S., ranked #11 and #12 in the study.

Looking for really inexpensive places to live? The cheapest place was Thiruvananthapuran, India. Nearly as inexpensive were Visakhapatnam and Vijayawada, also in India. Other economical cities were Islamabad and Karachi, Pakistan; Bhubaneswar, India; Mysore, India; Lucknow, India; Bhopal, India; and, Lahore, Pakistan.

If your city is not on the list, it likely did not have enough responses from local residents to provide a stable index base for comparison. I did a quick comparison between Puerto Vallarta and the city closest to my former home, San Jose, California, to see what Numbeo had to say about the cost-of-living differences.

Numbeo shows that consumer prices in Puerto Vallarta are about 54 percent lower than San Jose. The biggest difference by far is the cost of housing. Rent in Vallarta is nearly 78 percent cheaper. I can vouch for that. Our former home was 2,000 sq. ft. with four bedrooms and three baths and was rented for US$3,500 after we left for Puerto Vallarta. Here, our 2,350 sq. ft. three bedroom and three bath home with a small pool rents for US$1,400. Vallarta, of course, is a major international resort area and more expensive than many other cities in Mexico because of a strong local economy based primarily on the 4 million visitors each year.

As we explain, though, in our cost-of-living sections, how much you spend depends greatly on the type of lifestyle you want to live, your resources and where you choose to live.