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Your top 12 options on the best places to live in Mexico as an expat

You are probably here because you are wondering what are the best places to live in Mexico. Well, you are in for a treat. I’ve called this country home since 2018! Read on and let’s get started.

📬 Reader Mail: Hola Trisha! I am currently living in Queretaro and although the cost of living is cheaper here than in any major city in Mexico, I feel like the community here is not in my age range. 

I am 30 years old and have not found a younger expat group so I would appreciate it if you can recommend other best places to live in Mexico that are fit for my age. 

I know you’ve made friends from living in different areas in Mexico so maybe I am just wrong about Queretaro? If you have friends to recommend here, I’d like to give it another try because the cost of living is really cheap.

Otherwise, I will look into your other recommendations. I really appreciate your help!

– Kirsten, San Diego, CA

Mexico is a very diverse country and honestly, whenever I am asked where is the best place I lived in Mexico, I can’t really say because I usually loved all of them!

I understand that if you’ve never been to Mexico, it’s hard to have an insider look and decide while you’re still back home (wherever that is right now). 

The Internet will give you unlimited options but it would be very unclear so my first tip for your hunt: get insights from someone who actually lives here. 

As we are all unique individuals with different needs, I learned that I can’t really speak for everyone but I do know the basic requirements that you are looking for in terms of living conditions, costs, safety, etc.

A little bit about me – I am a digital nomad so one of my first concerns is Internet connection whenever I am moving to a new place.

In this post, I will share with you all of my tips and tricks on how to live in Mexico. You can also check my Mexico blogs to see any content that is relevant to you.

If these are not enough, please feel free to reach out to me using the contact page. I’ve helped a lot of foreigners move to Mexico and who knows, I might be able to help you too!

puerto vallarta solo travel

I called Puerto Vallarta home for a long time and I am considering coming back to live here in 2023.

⁉️ Why live in Mexico?

Residency visa is easy

The first reason why I chose to live in Mexico is that visa is super easy. I never thought I’d get a 4-year residency visa here as I was only passing by.

When COVID hit, I got stuck here and first applied for a Mexico digital nomad visa also known as no-lucrativo (non-lucrative). It was only valid for one year so I thought I’d only stay here for a year. Actually, I thought that COVID will be over after a year.

2 years passed and COVID is still a thing. Living a life of travel and always moving around became harder for me. I recently went to Europe after 2 years of not going out of Mexico and it’s really a pain to travel that far! I was horrified!

No matter where you are from or whatever passport you hold, there are a lot of uncertainties when it comes to travel right now so legally living in Mexico is a great relief for me.

If you need assistance with your resident visa, just contact me and I’ll connect you to my amazing lawyer who helped me process all these quickly.

If you are not interested to go through this process, Mexico has a very generous 6-month tourist visa so you can just go in and out every 6 months.

living in Sayulita Mexico

Cost of living is affordable

Mexico is often generalized as a cheap country but that is not the case. With the number of foreigners moving here every year, I am afraid that it is becoming expensive, but if you are a dollar earner, you can live here quite comfortably.

I can’t say what is comfortable for you or not but I have articles in this blog on the cost of living in every area I lived in Mexico. Better yet, head to my magazine Mexico Insider for detailed cost of living guides.

As you know, I came from Tel Aviv before living here and Israel’s cost of living is super high. When I came here, my quality of life became better as everything is so cheap!

Well, that is, if you are comparing it to the United States, Canada, and Europe. I still find living in Southeast Asia the cheapest but prices in Mexico are pretty low.

puerto vallarta attractions

Mexico is pet-friendly!

Lastly, as I have dogs, it is very easy to travel around here with pets. Most of the rental homes accept pets but I still had some challenges.

For example, when I was looking for an apartment in Mexico City, there were only 2 out of 10 that accepted dogs even though Mexico City is a pet city.

With this, I decided that we always live in beach areas as they are more accepting of pets. Overall, I do think that Mexico is a dog country. Even domestic travel for pets is so easy and cheap!

find cheap hotels

The family that I built from moving to Sayulita in 2018.

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🔍 Searching for the best place to live in Mexico

What is the best part of Mexico to live in?

We also have very different interpretations of the “best part” so my usual advice to readers of this blog is to get to know the states first.

Mexico has 32 states and the first thing that you need to know is that they all differ in terms of weather, cost of living, and English-speaking communities

I’ve been asked a lot where Americans usually live in Mexico and honestly, I don’t know anymore. I encounter Americans in every place I lived in!

In fact, the US State Department has recorded 1.5 million Americans currently living in Mexico. That’s not even counting those on a tourist visa who stay here long term.

In all my living abroad consults, especially in Mexico, Americans feel more comfortable if there are fellow Americans living in the place they want to move to but it’s a case-to-case basis because some of my clients also tell me to not suggest a Mexican city/town with lots of Americans.

Identify the living condition you want to be in and take it from there.

best places to live in Mexico

Guanajuato, for me, is very neutral – it’s high and low-profiled at the same time. I loved living here!

What is the safest place to live in Mexico?

I always say that safety is objective and personal but in this part, I have to say I feel safer living in small towns like Sayulita and San Pancho.

When you live in small beach towns in Mexico, there are a lot of familiarities and everyone knows everyone. I personally felt safer this way but the problem was, that I did not have any privacy.

Everyone knows what’s happening in your life and it’s so impossible to walk on the streets without anyone knowing you. I just missed the anonymity and privacy although I felt 100% safe in Sayulita.

If you like big cities, I consider Puerto Vallarta as the safest city to live in in Mexico. Although it’s a little bit more American than other big cities like Mexico City or Oaxaca, the layout of the city is super friendly and you can still have your privacy regardless of being involved in the expat community.

If you choose Mexico City, it’s not 100% safe but if you are going to live in the Roma or Condesa areas, it’s definitely safe (but expensive).

best places to live in Mexico

As a woman, safety is one of my concerns when I moved to Mexico. But believe me, I feel way safer here than Europe!

Where is the cheapest place to live in Mexico?

This is the thing – when you see the cost of living in Mexico posts on the Internet, a lot of those posts don’t really explain that it varies by area.

When I was hunting for the best places to live in Mexico, I thought that all these places will have the same rent prices but I was really surprised about the big difference, believe me!

For example, I am living in Puerto Vallarta right now and am currently preparing for my next move. In my head, Puerto Vallarta cost of living is expensive because there are many expats living here but I was so shocked how the rent prices in Mexico City are double!

Since food is cheaper in Mexico City, I implied that rent prices will be lower but it wasn’t the case. I was really astounded by the big difference not to mention the houses in Puerto Vallarta are way bigger and have outdoor space.

Personally, I vote Oaxaca City as the cheapest place to live in Mexico, then La Paz (Baja California Sur). For you to understand better, let’s do the math.

A one-bedroom apartment in Oaxaca City (nice area) ranges from US$150 – US$300. In Mexico City, that will be around US$500 – US$650 and in Puerto Vallarta, that’s like US$300 – US$450.

Since all these prices vary and I am consistently hunting for places to live in Mexico, I learned that the best thing to do is to set your budget and stick with it.

Since I am living alone, I set a US$500 – US$650 limit for myself. That’s quite high by Mexican standards but since I have big dogs, I need to have a patio/terrace. This requirement for a home comes with a price.

best places to live in Mexico

🇲🇽 12 best places to live in Mexico as a foreigner

I know that sometimes it’s hard to pick where to live as most of us also long for company and more detailed information.

Sometimes, it’s harder for us to leave our current life because of the fear of being alone – believe me, I get that all the time!

If you ever feel this way, please contact me and I will definitely connect you to people I know in these places. I’ve connected a lot of readers to my friends all over Mexico and everyone felt more comfortable to arrive knowing they have someone to turn to. Just get in touch!

#1: Puerto Vallarta

🧑🏻‍🤝‍🧑🏾 Groups to join: Puerto Vallarta Information Zone | Puerto Vallarta – Everything You Need To Know

This is where I currently reside and I consider Puerto Vallarta as a great place for young expats. The layout is very friendly and you can easily walk if you are living in the Zona Romantica.

What most foreigners don’t know is that Puerto Vallarta is a big city. There are different areas like Fluvial Vallarta, Marina Vallarta, Pitillal, Versalles, etc.

The thing is, the Puerto Vallarta Malecon is the most popular imagery on the Internet which makes everyone think this is PV. It’s a good reference when hunting for apartments but PV is not all about this area.

There are supermarkets everywhere, Uber is cheap, and mind you, we have Costco! Not all Mexican cities have Costco so for Americans and Canadians who live here, this is a plus.

I have a car but you don’t really need a car in PV as Ubers work here. There are also lots of expat communities so you can easily make friends here.

I’ve struggled in blending with locals here as all my friends are foreigners but I also found a community of Mexican girls (from work) that I frequently see while living here.

puerto vallarta travel

Puerto Vallarta is getting more expensive but there are still many areas that are cheap (i.e. Versalles)

#2: Sayulita

🧑🏻‍🤝‍🧑🏾 Group to join: Sayulita People

I have mixed emotions about Sayulita because this is where I lived the longest. It’s full of Canadians and Americans but lucky for me, I lived in a very Mexican neighborhood so all my friends were Latinos.

There is also a big population of Argentine expats here (like everywhere). Speaking Spanish on a regular basis and cultural immersion is very important for me and I am happy to have had the best of both communities in Sayulita.

Sayulita is the safest area I have lived in in Mexico. Again, small towns will make you feel safer because of the overfamiliarity.

There are lots of outdoor activities – people are always out and about and that’s what makes it so fun! I need to warn you that Sayulita is not for everyone. Before moving here, check the lifestyle first and see if it fits you.

sayulita lifestyle

#3: Mexico City

🧑🏻‍🤝‍🧑🏾 Group to join: Foreigners and Expats in Mexico City (CDMX)

I live in Mexico City on and off because this is one of my favorite cities in the world! Mexico City’s vibe is very good for expats and digital nomads like me.

As I told you, I feel that sometimes, Puerto Vallarta gets very American so in order to have a break from that, I go here for a little cultural diversion.

There are many digital nomads in Mexico City and they are just not Americans or Canadians – it’s really diverse! Lots of Europeans and Latinos live here. It’s just the diversity that I am looking for.

Many expats avoid Mexico City because of the air quality and the high altitude but if these two main ‘cons’ don’t really bother you, you will definitely enjoy living in Mexico City as an expat.

Apartments in Mexico City are affordable but since I only want to stay in the Roma and Condesa area, it’s always hard to find rent that’s less than US$650 (which is my budget). I always overdo this budget in Mexico City!

best places to live in Mexico

#4: Merida

🧑🏻‍🤝‍🧑🏾 Groups to join: Expats living in Merida | Expats in Merida Yucatan | Merida Mexico Expat Community

Most of my friends who are living in Merida are families with kids. In fact, many people say (even the Internet) that it’s the safest place to live in Mexico.

I did feel safe traveling to Merida but I also did not see the difference from other Mexican cities when it comes to safety. Again, how we quantify safety really depends on our living needs.

Majority of the people who sign up for my travel consultations are young professionals. There is a big community of digital nomads and young expats there which makes it a conducive environment for people my age.

My only ‘con’ about Merida is that there aren’t a lot of things to do. You need to go out of the city in order to find adventures thus making it your base in Yucatan really works.

living in merida

#5: San Miguel de Allende

🧑🏻‍🤝‍🧑🏾 Group to join: San Miguel de Allende Newcomers, Expats, and Friends

San Miguel de Allende is an expat’s favorite. This is the city that is considered an extension of the US as many American expats live here but there is still a lot of vibrant Mexican culture that is visible.

Famously known as SMA, this city has a European feel in it because of the old structures. I also felt very safe walking here even in the wee hours of the morning!

SMA is actually more popular with retirees because of the efficient layout. You can walk everywhere (if you like walking long-distance) and the streets are very safe.

This city is full of life and I consider this one of the most beautiful cities in Mexico. You’ll also never feel alone as there are lots of expat communities here.

best places to live in mexico

#6: La Paz

🧑🏻‍🤝‍🧑🏾 Group to join: Loco La Paz Ex-Pats

When I chose to call La Paz home, the main factor I considered was the weather is definitely great all year round. I mean it is hot but it’s not as humid as in the south (Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Puerto Vallarta, Oaxaca, etc).

I don’t know about you but I prefer dry to humid heat. There is also very little rain in La Paz as compared to the Pacific Coast where it rains from June – October.

Life was different for me in La Paz since most of the friends I made there were Latinos and Spanish-speaking. I don’t know why it did not happen for me but I did not come across Americans or Canadians.

I am not saying there aren’t any but it was just the opportunity presented before me. When you come to think of it, Baja California is an American lair so I was really surprised that I was not able to connect with any!

Because of Baja California’s close proximity to the USA, prices are higher in the Peninsula than in the mailand. Expect the cost of living in La Paz to be more expensive than the rest of the places on this list.

la paz digital nomad

These two crazies went on a 7-hour flight with me from Puerto Vallarta to La Paz!

#7: Queretaro

🧑🏻‍🤝‍🧑🏾 Group to join: Queretaro Expats

Queretaro is one of the most low-key places to live in Mexico. It’s not the first city you’ll think of when you are deciding to move to Mexico.

But most expats choose this city because of the modern infrastructures and business opportunities. It’s like a quieter Mexico City but is also a modern and conducive city for expats.

The cost of living in Queretaro is also very cheap compared to a lot of Mexican cities. You can live here on less than US$1,000 per month – the apartments are affordable and you can also splurge a little for luxury Mexico living.

where to live in mexico

#8: Playa del Carmen

🧑🏻‍🤝‍🧑🏾 Group to join: Expats in Playa del Carmen

Living in Playa del Carmen is low on this list because I didn’t really find it as safe. Since it’s too crowded, crime rates have increased in Playa in the last year.

Though I do not have an experience being harmed, it’s just the general feeling and of course, horror stories I heard from friends. There are lots of digital nomads in Playa del Carmen whom you can ask about current situations.

Despite all these, Playa is still visited by Americans. It’s one of the foreign hotspots in Mexico so I guess if you want to live here, just go and see it for yourself!

However, Playa del Carmen is so beautiful! In fact, their beaches on the other side are way better than ours here on the Pacific Coast.

The state of Quintana Roo is really rich in outdoor activities and there are more places to see there like the Cenotes. If this is what you are after, you will definitely love Playa as your base.

living in playa del carmen

#9: Oaxaca City

🧑🏻‍🤝‍🧑🏾 Group to join: Expats Oaxaca

Another low-key Mexican city, living Oaxaca City is also on the top list of cheapest destinations in Mexico. You can find a very decent apartment here for US$300.

The city is super lively and there are a lot of expats you can connect with. This year, the Mexican government is building a new highway which will allow you to go to the Oaxacan coast (Puerto Escondido, Huatulco, Mazunte, etc) for only 2 hours instead of 8.

Although the finish date is not really clear, once this is done, I will go back and live in Oaxaca City because this accessibility is a big deal when you want to travel around Mexico.

Oaxacan food is also the best in Mexico so if you are after a gastronomic adventure, this city has it all!

Eating out in Oaxaca City is really affordable and I bet you won’t be able to finish trying all the restaurants, markets, and bars even if you live here for a full year.

Digital nomads in Oaxaca also enjoy a high-speed Wifi speed which is a luxury in Mexico as a remote worker.

Oaxaca City COVID

#10: Guadalajara

🧑🏻‍🤝‍🧑🏾 Group to join: Mexpat Guadalajara

Most people think Guadalajara is not safe but when I lived here, I didn’t really feel that Narcos-kind-of-feeling. My mom actually freaked out when this was the first place I chose when I moved to Mexico but I explained to her that it’s not like what she sees in the news.

I will never walk alone in Guadalajara at night though and if I do, I make sure that I am with friends.

I will always come back and consider living in Guadalajara because I loved the vibe, the people, and the weather! Though it is only 4 hours away from my current home in Puerto Vallarta, it has cooler weather.

The culture and lifestyle in Guadalajara definitely fit everyone. However, like Queretaro, I only made friends with Spanish-speaking people here but I am sure there are a lot of Americans and Canadians around.

I was just not given the opportunity to meet them because all my friends who live here are Mexicans or Europeans.

tequila from guadalajara

#11: El Pescadero

🧑🏻‍🤝‍🧑🏾 Group to join: Que Pasa, Pescadero?

I briefly lived in El Pescadero to try the small town life in Baja California Sur. I stayed there for one month and rented a one-bedroom apartment for US$650.

It has a big space for dogs so I didn’t mind the cost although I’ve been told by locals that there are way cheaper options than this. I really just needed the yard for my dogs!

I lived in a compound full of American and Canadian expats. I didn’t really imagine that El Pescadero would be as touristy but as always, I managed to hang out with locals.

El Pescadero is super quiet and there is very minimal nightlife. If you go out in the evening to socialize, the only bar called Sugar Shack will be filled with expats. I made friends with the owner and his wife (Alejandro) so I was able to see the local life in El Pescadero as well.

As a single woman, it was hard to socialize in El Pescadero especially if you are looking for active nightlife. However, if your goal is to connect with the outdoors like surfing and hiking, El Pescadero is a great sleepy town to live in.

I also met many families with children living here. It is just 10 minutes away from Todos Santos and an hour away from Los Cabos so you can always explore outside of El Pescadero.

You NEED a car when living in El Pescadero. I found it so hard to commute around town or the neighboring towns but my American neighbor was super nice to lend me her car during my one-month stay there!

best places to live in Mexico

#12: Cabo San Lucas

🧑🏻‍🤝‍🧑🏾 Group to join: Cabo Expats | Los Cabos Expats

I am currently living in Cabo San Lucas and I love it! I know you might find it odd that I chose Cabo San Lucas (America’s favorite destination) as a place to call my home but I feel like Cabo is a really great place to live in, especially for young expats like me.

Look, I am not into the nightlife. I am in my early 30’s and have been traveling the world for 14 years – I already had my fair share of crazy nightlife in this lifetime. I did not come to Cabo for that.

The reason why I decided to live in Cabo is that I love how different the culture is than the mainland. Many say that Cabo is just like California, USA.

I’ve never been to California so I can’t really say anything about this subject however, I love the change of scenery! Living in Puerto Vallarta was too Mexican for me I needed a little change.

I used to live in an apartment by the Cabo Marina which was too expensive for me (US$1,000 per month). It was also a condo so it wasn’t a great spot for my dogs.

Speaking Spanish really helps a lot in finding apartments. Now I am living in an apartment downtown and I am paying US$350 a month!

It’s only a 10-minute walk to the center so this was really a great deal for me. It also has a patio for my dogs to play around. My street is super Mexican but well-lit. I feel super safe walking by myself. Cabo, in itself, is actually a very safe area for expats.

living in cabo

✈️ Are you planning to move to Mexico? This blog thrives on reader questions so feel free to ask questions about the best places to live in Mexico by using the comment box below. You can also sign up for a 1-on-1 coaching with me if you need more help!

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18 − eight =

Matthew M

Thursday 6th of October 2022

Under the section for "Where is the cheapest place to live in Mexico"

"Personally, I voted Oaxaca City as the cheapest place to live in Mexico, then La Paz (BCS)."

Then under #6 La Paz: "Expect the cost of living in La Paz to be more expensive than the rest of the places on the list."

So is La Paz one of the cheapest or one of the most expensive?

Obi

Thursday 9th of June 2022

Great post… but it seems you are emphasizing too much of safety which makes it sound like Mexico isn’t a safe country.. Compared to USA and other countries, Mexico is actually a much safer country than the USA media has portrayed… and this coming from someone (me) who has lived long in top cities in USA (Chicago, Los Angeles).. So it would be worth if you start replacing the word “Safe” with “Comfort” in your analysis.

I currently live in Puerto Vallarta now and can pretty much relate to most of your thoughts on those cities as i have visited them most all.

Cheers.

Trisha Velarmino

Thursday 9th of June 2022

Hola Obi! Thank you so much for being here! I am in Puerto Vallarta for a week though I live in Cabo now. Let me know if you want to grab a drink! Would love to know how you're doing in PV.

Jax

Tuesday 18th of January 2022

Hi Trisha,

I read your blog and it is extremely impressive how you travel so many places on your own with your dogs! I have been living in Puerto Vallarta for 4 years and traveled all around the bay. I just got my permanent residency and work remotely. I have been toying with the idea of moving but I guess the thing that concerns me most is finding a good place to live with a yard for my dogs. The difficulty is deciding where to go next. I like Sayulita, but I don’t think I could live there. I love the vibe, but it is so small. I am also thinking about San Jose del Cabo, Oaxaca City, and Puerto Escondido. I think my ideal place would be Sayulita on a bigger scale, have you been to Puerto Escondido? Anyway, I would love to have some advice about where you think is the best place to move to with two dogs. Would love to hear your input. The most important thing for me is an affordable place with a yard (no more than $650 USD), good Wi-Fi and a friendly vibe.

Obi

Thursday 9th of June 2022

@Jax, I wouldn’t trade Puerto Vallarta for Sayulita.. if you are going to relocate, might as well move out of the city/state and go to other distant cities like Oaxaca, etc..

Travis

Sunday 16th of January 2022

IMO, San Jose Del Cabo is far superior to Cabo San Lucas. It is a nicer city, with far fewer tourism annoyances (seedy clubs, prostitution, drugs)

MADISON GORZEN

Sunday 16th of January 2022

Hi Trisha! I am inquiring about your services, as I think that they might be able to help me in my process to move to Mexico. I am currently a university student, so the earliest that I would be moving is September of 2022. I would need help finding long term housing and just general Visa information. Keen to hear more about your services. Thank you very much, Madison.