It’s been your dream to retire in Mexico. You’ve done hours of research. You’ve watched all the YouTube channels and learned about the different areas. You know about others’ mistakes and some insider tips. And now you’re ready to take it to the next level. But no amount of YouTube videos, Facebook Groups or other online information will truly give you the experience of actually being in Mexico. That’s why you need a scouting trip to Mexico.
When you visit Mexico, you’ll get to actually walk the streets of the city you’ve been learning about. And, you’ll get to taste the foods you’ve been hearing about, see a few neighborhoods, hear the noises and smell the air. But most importantly, you’ll actually get a chance to explore on your own and decide if Mexico is right for YOU.
That’s the importance of the scouting trip. And I want to share what you should try to accomplish so you hit the ground running.
Decide What Area(s) You’re Going to Visit
But before you pack your bags, you should have a good idea of what area(s) you’d want to visit. Mexico is a large country and if you’re thinking about visiting both beaches and mountain towns, you may need more than just a few days.
So, the first thing you have to do is come up with a plan. Make a list of wants and needs, and narrow down the cities that match your needs. That way you focus on the places in Mexico that closely match your desires.
Another thing to consider is “what restrictions are currently in place regarding COVID?”
Mexico doesn’t require foreign travelers to present a negative COVID-19 test or proof of vaccination. And in many cases, airlines are also dropping their mask mandates. In many parts of Mexico, the use of masks is no longer mandatory. But many private businesses, hospitals, government offices, public transportation and such are still requiring them. If you have your heart set on visiting certain places, check their COVID restrictions to ensure you’ll be able to enter. For more information, visit our COVID-FAQ page.
How Are You Going to Get Around?
Perhaps one of the most important things to consider when you’re planning your trip is how you’re going to get around?
Mexico is a country filled with a variety of great public transportation options. You have taxis in every major airport that can easily take you to your hotel or final destination. But there are also other alternatives like Uber, Didi and BlaBlaCar as rideshare options.
If you’re planning to visit a few different cities, and don’t feel like driving, then the best option is taking one of Mexico’s super comfy buses like the ADO , ETN or Omnibus de Mexico. Traveling by coach bus in Mexico is incredibly inexpensive, safe and very comfortable. They even have bathrooms on the bus for longer treks.
But what if you just want to have your own car? Check out our driving tips!
A car will give you the most flexibility to be able to explore! If you see a neighborhood you like, you can easily drive through it at different times of the day.
If you want to check out some places on your own and don’t want to have to rely on a taxi to wait for you, then driving your own car would be the best option. I recommend renting a car in Mexico.
But a word of caution here: renting a car in Mexico isn’t the same as renting in the U.S. For starters, car insurance in Mexico is mandatory and extremely penalized if you are in a car accident and are caught without it. Don’t rent a car in Mexico without insurance. Car rentals offer this as part of their contract, and don’t assume your credit card will cover any damages either. Get the car insurance.
Our COMPLETE Mexico Relocation Guide has a full directory of vetted contacts we recommend working with including insurance agents that can help ensure your car is protected while you’re driving in Mexico.
Line Up Some Rentals to Visit
Part of the scouting trip is getting a feel for the rental market. Especially if you have a specific budget in mind. So, I recommend lining up some rentals to visit while you’re in town. You’ll get a sense of certain neighborhoods, the architecture in Mexican homes and the average cost of living.
A few options for this are to look in Facebook Marketplace and set up some showings. Just keep in mind that depending on where you’re looking, most landlords will only speak Spanish. I’ll discuss a solution for this further on.
When you meet with agents or landlords, it’s also important for you to know what questions to ask. To help you out, I created a short video with the top questions you should ask before renting in Mexico.
If You’re Moving with Kids, Visit Some Schools
And if you are planning to relocate to Mexico with your kids, then touring a few schools might be a priority for you. Mexico has both a public and private school system. There are some private schools around Mexico that have special accreditation with schools in the UK, Canada or the U.S.
It might be something to consider if you ever plan to move back to your home country, and don’t want your kids to have to move down a year or two.
Join Facebook Forums for the Cities of Interest to You
One of the best ways to get a feel for a city or community is to meet with a few locals.
But how do you do this if you don’t know anyone in town? There are a variety of Facebook groups in each city that can easily be found if you search expats forums on Facebook for the cities you are most interested in. Keep in mind you’ll need a Facebook account to join.
As you prepare for your scouting trip, reach out to a few locals in these Facebook groups that seem to really know the local culture. Ask them if you can take them out for coffee, a margarita or lunch. Get their advice on their favorite neighborhoods and areas and why they like/dislike them. But take everything you learn from another person with a grain of salt.
At the end of the day, you’re the one who would be relocating here. But this is a great way to make some new acquaintances and start networking.
What Kind of Medical Care is Available?
Knowing what medical care is available should be a priority for any newcomer. Not because you’re assuming the worst will happen, but because it’s important to know what options you have if you should need emergency care. That way, when you’re shopping for health insurance in Mexico you have a pretty good idea of what level of medical care you’d have access to and that might make a difference in your decision-making process.
There’s a saying out in the Mexico expat world that says, “Your first friend in Mexico should be a doctor.” You may want to know things like: Is there an emergency room nearby? What emergencies can they cover? Is there any English-speaking staff? What’s the number of private ambulances in that medical center? What specialists practice there? And if this hospital isn’t big enough, where is the nearest big hospital? I’m sure you have will have plenty of other questions to ask.
What’s the Vibe Like?
But perhaps the most important thing you’ll realize during your scouting trip will be: “Do I see myself living here?” No amount of YouTube videos, Facebook posts, and other forums will give you the experience of you actually being in a place yourself.
And if you don’t like the vibe, then you won’t like living there.
So, truly go on your scouting trip with an open mind. Leave all the expectations you might have about living in Mexico behind. And experience a place with a fresh mind. And at the end of the day, if you don’t see yourself enjoying a place long-term, scratch it off your list. It’ll save you a lot of headaches and money, trust me.
And whatever you do, don’t buy a place in Mexico before spending at least 6 months to a year here. Selling a house in Mexico isn’t as easy as it is north of the border.
Many people think they would love living on the beach because they’ve seen pictures of it online and it looks paradisiacal. But then after spending a few weeks in humid and hot weather they might realize the beach isn’t for them after all.
On the other hand, some people may move to Mexico determined to live in a popular expat community but might find that a neighboring town with less expats is actually more affordable and feels more authentic. But if you bought a house, and all of a sudden you like another part of Mexico more, it’s not that easy to sell it and move. Rent first!
Does It Feel Safe to You at All Times?
One of the things that really make people worry as they start to research Mexico, is safety. The media cover Mexico as a deadly country and warn people of the dangers of living here. And although there is crime in Mexico, you can talk to any expat who is living here full time and they’ll tell you they feel perfectly safe!
But, even more importantly, how do YOU feel?
When you make your scouting trip to the places in Mexico you’re interested in, how do you feel walking around alone? Do you feel unsafe? Are you on guard? Does the vibe feel sketchy?
These are important things to make a note of. Because if you don’t feel comfortable walking around by yourself in your own home, you won’t have the best experience living in Mexico. I also encourage you to visit various neighborhoods at different times of the day. That way you get an idea of how safe it feels at all times.
Working with A Relocation Expert
Living in Mexico can be a wonderful experience, as long as you do your due diligence and keep these things in mind. But what if you would rather have someone do most of the legwork for you? Someone who could line up rentals in your budget for you to visit? Someone who knows the local language and can help you translate certain things on your visit? Someone who can help facilitate getting you from point A and point B without you having to worry about renting a car? Or having to get the right type of car insurance? Someone who understands the local culture and can help you avoid mistakes?
And most importantly, someone who is a local in the area can also tell you which areas might not be the best for you. Saving you time, possibly money and headaches.
That’s why we offer our Relocation Tours! I’ve hand-picked a few local tour guides in a few cities around Mexico that will show you what it’s truly like to live in a part of Mexico. And there is no agenda to sell you anything, so you can truly explore a city without feeling the pressure of signing an exclusivity contract with a realtor.
We offer our tours in a variety of cities across Mexico, and are always adding more!
I encourage you to check out what we include and consider it as an option if you would rather have someone else handle most of the legwork for you.