The global pandemic changed work processes worldwide and remote work became widely accepted. The new ways of working and the rising digital economy have allowed many people to embrace the digital nomad lifestyle. But why are digital nomads flocking to Mexico?
Mexico has become a digital nomad hotspot attracting younger remote workers and entrepreneurs. In Nomad List’s report, “Fastest growing remote work hubs of 2022,” Mexico City, Playa del Carmen, Mérida and Puerto Vallarta ranked high in different categories.
We spoke with a few remote workers and entrepreneurs who were in Mexico for both the short- and long-term. Let’s dive into what is making Mexico attractive for this group of digital workers.
Easy entry without health requirements
Even during the height of the pandemic when most of the world was “closed,” entering Mexico was easy. This made it an obvious choice for many digital nomads looking for their next destination.
Leesi, 35, is a digital entrepreneur and expat from China. She lived in the U.S. for several years with her husband before heading to Mexico. “After we established our business (an online store) in 2019, we realized we don’t really need to be in the U.S. to run it. So, we started thinking of traveling. We moved to Mexico in May 2021 because it was the only country that opened without restrictions. We left the U.S. because life got a little boring there,” said Leesi.
Leesi and her husband now have a more exciting reason to extend their stay: they are having a baby. “Our original plan was to go to China, but it seems impossible now, even for me as a citizen. So, we will have the baby here. We hope we could go to China after, and if not, we are keen to move to Thailand next.”
Lower cost of living
According to recent Numbeo data, the cost of living and rent in Mexico were on average approximately 48 percent and 73 percent, respectively, much lower than in the U.S.
So, moving to Mexico is an attractive option for remote workers earning in stronger currencies. That way, they can stretch their dollars further and increase their savings.
Twenty-eight-year-old Emily Bitz, a freelancer who works online, told me, “I chose to come to Mexico because my boyfriend quit his job and we decided to get away for the winter. The cost to live here for a month is about CAD 1,200. That is about the cost of rent for a studio apartment in Canada. So, moving to Mexico was a no-brainer! We will be heading back home to Canada for the summer and the foreseeable future if my boyfriend gets a job.”
Tae Haahr, who is 30, was a remote worker even before the pandemic. “I chose Yucatán Mexico because the cost of living was half of what it was in Calgary, where I previously lived.”
Favorable time zones for North American businesses
Digital nomads working for companies in the U.S. or Canada can work almost regular daytime hours from Mexico.
Bitz said, “We also chose to come because of Mexico’s proximity to Canada and similar time zones. And the lack of COVID entry laws.”
Digital nomads working for companies from other regions of the world have a different time zone advantage. They can work while their teams and clients are off, increasing efficiency.
Ideal for working while traveling
Mexico is never short of beautiful places to visit. The weather permits outdoor activities for anyone pursuing a travel-based lifestyle. And there’s never a dull moment with Mexico’s vibrant culture, which guarantees an interesting stay.
Mexican cities have good digital infrastructure in general, but connectivity can be an issue in some places.
Bitz and her boyfriend have traveled a great deal in Mexico. “We have been all over – to both the coasts and inland. The people are friendly! The Wi-Fi is sometimes hit-or-miss, though. The food is awesome with lots of fresh and local food options. But it is very hard to find any international ingredients for cooking, so we do eat out a lot.”
Relaxed lifestyle for overall well-being
Living and working in fast-paced cities and high-stress jobs take their toll on health and well-being. And the global pandemic made things worse with doom and gloom everywhere. So, a relaxed remote working lifestyle is an attractive option to many.
The day-to-day life in Mexico is not yet COVID-restriction free. There are health guidelines including mask mandates in some places. But living and working in sunny parts of Mexico is a refreshing change, especially when coming from colder countries.
Haahr, who has decided to stay in Mexico, said, “Initially, I was going to be here for about five months, but I’m getting a residency visa in June. I decided to stay because my mental health is so much better. I feel it’s a combination of the ocean, the sun and the overall focus on a slower life.”
Haahr also was concerned about the very strict COVID-19 rules back home, but thinks Mexico is better.
“While COVID is still very real in Mexico and there are regulations in place, it’s not the be-all and end-all,” Haahr said. “It’s hard to explain, but it seems, at home life just stopped and never picked up again. When I talk to my family and friends, the conversation always reverts to the pandemic or whatever the topic of the day is. While right now in Mexico, you wear your mask, be careful and respectful when you’re out, and take safety measures. Everyone knows the drill, but they’re still living. I feel like the environment back home in Canada is too toxic to go back to, right now anyway. Everyone seems like they’re waiting for something to happen.”
While there are many reasons to remote work in Mexico, other countries are beginning to relax their COVID restrictions, also. And digital nomads who flocked to Mexico during the pandemic will have more options again.
So, it begs the question:
Will Mexico continue to grow as a digital nomad hotspot?
The popular digital nomad destinations within Mexico are increasingly catering to remote workers, with a range of accommodation options and co-working spaces.
And many areas in Mexico now have vibrant communities of young digital nomads and expats. So, Mexico seems well-positioned to continue as a digital nomad hotspot.
But Mexican Immigration (INM) is no longer giving a 180-day entry to every qualifying visitor, as reported by Mexico News Daily. Some visitors are getting a lower number of days, depending on individual circumstances. If this will impact the digital nomad inflow in the future is yet to be seen.
But digital nomads who want to stay for longer periods have the option of applying for a Temporary Resident Visa in Mexico.