Living in Guadalajara: an amazing expat base in Mexico with great quality of life!
It’s funny because my friend Nico, who is also from Germany went to that school in Guadalajara 2 years ago. What a coincidence! I guess this school is popular with Germans, yeah? Anyway, I am glad you asked! Living in Guadalajara was one of the best periods of my life. Since I already have lots of friends here, I did not experience the adjustment period but in this post, I will give you some tips about the cost of living in Guadalajara and how to live your way around this amazing city!
If you have questions that weren’t answered in this post, please feel free to get in touch with me via Instagram. I moved to another city, 4 hours away from Guadalajara but I still come there frequently. I miss Guadalajara so much and I have super great friends there. If you need an introduction (although not all of them can speak English), I can definitely put you in touch with them. They can be your first friends in Guadalajara. They are Mexicans and they are super cool!
Thanks a lot and good luck with your move!
Living in Gudalajara: personal experience
I did not feel strange when I first decided to live in Guadalajara since I already have friends there. Maylis, a French girl I met when I was backpacking South America has been living in Guadalajara for years. She’s a French teacher in the Alliance Francaise so checking out GDL for the first time did not scare me. A lot of people are freaked about traveling solo to Guadalajara and I get that – the news always gets to us. Imagine my mom’s face when I told her I am going to move to Guadalajara. She definitely freaked because all of her images of this city are from the hit TV show, Narcos.
I definitely am not saying that you need to know someone in order to feel safe in Guadalajara but it does give you confidence. After traveling the world for 10 years, I still was freaked about the idea of going to GDL because I had no idea what it’s like. But when I was already there, I found a different world I was expecting from.
Culture in Guadalajara
Before coming to Mexico, I actually thought that Guadalajara was the capital. It seems to have more exposure to the public eye (like TV shows) as opposed to Mexico City. Although they are similar in some forms, what I loved about GDL is that is very culturally rich. In fact, it is considered the cultural center of Mexico. Mariachi is from here. Actually, it originated from the state of Jalisco but you will see a lot of Mariachi bands in every corner of GDL.
Coming from a Catholic country, I also saw how there are many old churches are present in the city. Jalisco has a strong Catholic state and GDL houses the biggest and most impressive places of worship in the country. Although I am not a hardcore Catholic, this amazed me and I got to visit all these churches. I did not think I’d be interested in it! There are also many museums in Guadalajara but I have not visited all of them.
Living in Guadalajara will introduce you to eccentric coffee shops, fashionable restaurants, suburbs that contain markets and small shops with traditional folk-art and Mexican souvenirs. The street food on the sidewalk offers exciting dining wherever you are in the city, and the authentic taste of Mexico can be found here at any time of day.
Being a young expat in Guadalajara
When looking at places to relocate, I always make sure that I will be able to connect to young professionals like me. I feel that it’s very essential to the job that I do. There are lots of digital nomads in Guadalajara and I only met them when I was there, I swear! I bumped into them in the cafes and casually waved at them while I was biking in the neighborhood. What I also did when I was living in Guadalajara was to try all their cafes. Every week, I’d choose one cafe that I will work in (I lived in a small apartment so I preferred to go out for work) and with this, I was able to see the real GDL culture, and even made met a lot of fellow digital nomads! I eventually ended up hanging out with them since Maylis went to France for a few months to visit her family.
The nightlife is also very vibrant as the Avenida Chapultepec is lively 24/7. I remember meeting my first friends there (outside of the people I already know) when I randomly joined a salsa class in the middle of the Chapultepec. That’s also where all the bars and restaurants are. They are always full so on Saturdays, we always make sure to go out before 8pm. Otherwise, there will be no tables!
Transportation in Guadalajara
Well, I had a bike so it was easy for me to get around. The streets of GDL are flat and I find it surprisingly safe. If you don’t want to buy your own bike, there are lots of bikes for rent through MiBici. You will not miss them as they are in every corner of the city. Uber is super cheap I always take them and never had to pay more than $100 MXN ($5 USD)! Walking is also very popular. I walked a lot when I was there but GDL is big so it really depends where you are going. Some of my friends lived outside the center but I also remembered we walked 45 minutes to my friend’s house because there weren’t any available rides.
Guadalajara also has its own airport so if you decide to live here, you can easily access cheap domestic flights and travel around Mexico. It is an international airport and has direct flights to some US and Canadian cities.
Food in Guadalajara
What I love about Guadalajara is the abundance of street food. Where I lived, there was a hospital nearby so every night, the street food stalls pop out of nowhere and that’s where I had the best street food! The hospital is a good spot as they receive many clients there. Not everyone likes to eat hospital food so these stalls are always full of people! The food choices are not limited to Mexican food. There are also burger and hotdog stands. If you don’t fancy Mexican food, Guadalajara has everything from Asian to Middle Eastern. They also have UberEats so if you want to stay in, the choices are unlimited.
Is Guadalajara safe?
The Mexicans are very friendly to expats, especially to white people but as a person of color, this is one of my advantages. I am not a Mexican (I am from the Philippines, btw) but a lot of people think I am Mexican since I can speak Spanish. I do not get that much attention but they are very accommodating to everyone. I always see locals helping tourists with directions, and just answering general questions from foreigners.
Although I felt extremely safe in GDL, some friends of mine told me that I should stop biking at night (after we drink LOL) because theft is pretty common for bikers. It did not happen to me so I am not an authority to speak about the subject. Personally, I wouldn’t do stupid sht if I am not confident about it. So far, I never felt harmed from biking and walking at night by myself. My advice is to know your limit because anything can happen to anyone anywhere.
Connecting with fellow expats in Guadalajara
I don’t usually make friends with foreigners when I am living abroad. Since I speak Spanish and have been in Latin America for a long time now, it’s very easy for me to meet locals. Honestly, I only meet foreigners on dating apps like Tinder and Bumble (they use both apps a lot in GDL) but other than that, I only look for current events on Facebook. Like many other Mexican cities, the ex-pat community in Guadalajara is big. There are weekly meet-ups (I managed to join a few).
Below are some of the expat groups on Facebook that have been useful when I was living in Guadalajara:
- MEXPAT Guadalajara: this is a good group as the postings are 100% expats. Feel free to ask questions (and please, there are no right or wrong questions). They don’t allow advertising or selling here which makes the group easier to follow. Political and religious topics are also not allowed.
- Women in Guadalajara: a small group of women exchanging, collaborating, and meeting up every once in a while. You don’t have to be living in Guadalajara in order to join the group. You can just be a passerby and they will still accept you as a member.
- Black People in Guadalajara / Afrodescendientes en GDL: If you want a more focused group, this group is for Black people from anywhere in the African diaspora. I was actually surprised that there were lots of African people in Guadalajara which isn’t very common. That’s when I realized how Mexico is really a melting pot – everyone’s here!
- Americans in Guadalajara: if you feel more comfortable connecting with fellow Americans, this is a small group that has regular events. I actually met a lot of great people in this group!
- Yoga in Guadalajara: if you’re not into drinking or gatherings, the best way to connect with expats in Guadalajara is through this group. Wholesome activities and lots of wellness events in the city!
Pros and cons of living in Guadalajara
Alright, let’s start with the pros: Guadalajara is a very affordable city to live in. You can easily live with $600 USD a month, depending on your lifestyle. I usually don’t dictate what’s comfortable for you but let’s put it this way: comfortable for me is $1,500 USD but I have a car, 2 dogs, and I live in Mexico full-time. With this amount of money, I am able to eat out, treat myself to massages, and do some things I deem luxurious.
Some more pros on living in Guadalajara: the Internet speed is superb and it’s very cheap! The weather is also warm all year round and unlike Mexico City, GDL has good air quality. It is also very easy to make friends if you’re new in the city. The roads are pretty safe – I biked here a lot and
cars were always very kind to me. People can speak basic English especially if you go to bars and cafes. Guadalajara is also safe for women and very friendly to LGBTQ+.
As for the cons, there aren’t a lot of things to do here. Many expats who live in Guadalajara travel all the way to Puerto Vallarta or to the beach areas of Nayarit (Sayulita, San Pancho,etc). That’s the only con I can see especially if you are looking to travel around Mexico. However, Guadalajara has an International airport so I still think that it’s a good expat base.
Cost of living in Guadalajara
I find Guadalajara really cheap (cheaper than where I live now in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico) but to better understand pricing, $1 USD = $20 MXN (or a bit less but I always do $20). Most foreigners who come to Mexico for the first time are confused with the $ sign in Mexico and they end up paying actual USD so don’t be confused. Mexico uses the same sign. To have an idea about the cost of living in Guadalajara, I have laid out some basic pricing for you below. All prices are in USD.
Food costs in Guadalajara
Of course, when you decide to live in GDL, you won’t be eating out a lot (actually, I did eat out a lot the first few weeks) so you should familiarize yourself with supermarkets. Soriana, Waldo’s, and Chedraui are the main supermarket chains in Guadalajara but you can also buy fruits and vegetables in mini super tiendas (store) or abarrote (grocery).
🍲 Basic lunchtime menu (including a drink) in the business district: $12 USD
🥡 Fast food (McDonald’s or similar): $5.68 USD
🍗 500 gr of boneless chicken breast: $2.55 USD
🥛 1 liter of milk: $1 USD
🥚 A dozen of eggs: $1.68 USD
🍅 1 kg of tomatoes: $1 USD
🧀 500 gr of local cheese: $3.23 USD
🍎 1 kg of apples: $2 USD
🥔 1 kg of potatoes: $1 USD
🍺 National beer in the supermarket (0.5L): $1.12 USD
🍷 1 bottle of wine (good quality): $11 USD
🥖 Bread for 2 people for 1 day: $0.89
Rent costs in Guadalajara
Although this varies per area, I paid $200 USD for a studio apartment in the center (about 15 minutes by walk to Chapultepec). I was living by myself. It was a great space and there was a big terrace. Getting cheap rent in Guadalajara really depends on your Spanish-speaking skills. The prices tend to go up whenever it’s a foreign-speaking tenant (sad reality in Mexico). You can join Guadalajara Short and Long Term Apartments Expats for more local tips from fellow foreigners and expats who have been living in Guadalajara for years. They can give you some insights on how to haggle for rent because seriously, GDL is cheap!
I know a $500 USD rent is cheap for Americans and Canadians but here in Mexico, that’s a lot. It’s also not very hard to find furnished accommodations. I always rent furnished ones since I move around a lot. If you have pets like me, clarify this to your landlord but some of them don’t allow pets. I had to sneak in my dogs in one of my apartments but GDL is very pet-friendly.
🏡 Monthly rent for 85 m2 furnished accommodation in the expensive area: $800 USD
🏠 Monthly rent for 85 m2 furnished accommodation in a normal area: $364 USD
🏘️ Monthly rent for a 45 m2 furnished studio in an expensive area: $400 USD
🏘️ Monthly rent for a 45 m2 furnished studio in normal area: $200 USD
🛢️ Gas (you need this for water heater and cooking): $50 USD can last you a year
🚰 Water bill: about $8 USD per month (fixed)
🔌 Electricity bill (no AC) per month: $15 USD
💡 Electricity bill (with AC) per month: can go up to $100 USD
🌐 Internet at home (20 MBPS) per month: $20 USD
🧹 Hourly rate for cleaning help: $5 USD
Before coming to Guadalajara without any plans of long-term rent yet, I recommend you stay in vacation homes or hotels first to get a feel of the place. I stayed in a lot of serviced apartments in GDL and they’re not expensive! This way, you can ease up and research more while you are in the area. The bad thing about getting a rental apartment before coming here is that maybe you won’t like the area or the house itself.
I myself am not comfortable in just basing my apartment on pictures. I need to have a feel of the neighborhood. The energy of the house is very important to me so I have to see it in person. I also have dogs so if I pay rent in advance without seeing it, and eventually, there is no space for my dogs, I’m going to get really pissed. Below are some temporary accommodations I recommend when in Guadalajara:
Serviced apartment in a great area: Casa Ixcaya by Barrio México
Every time I visit GDL, I still stay here because this serviced apartment is beautiful! They have a private parking and everything is self check-in. The instructions are also very easy to follow. Barrio Mexico has different branches in Guadalajara and I’ve tried them all. My favorite is Casa Ixcaya but you can also check out Casa Morelos, Casa Nican, and Casa Montore. They also offer long-term rent through the links I included above. I am sure you’re going to love this place!
Condo living in Guadalajara
Most of my friends live in condos. I don’t prefer condos because of my pets but there are lots of condominiums in GDL with ample space. This 2-br condo starts at $49 USD per night and can sleep 5 people! I think some friends of mine are subletting their condo when they go traveling. If the timing is right, get in touch with me and I will introduce you to them! By the way, I only use Vrbo when looking for short-term rent because Airbnb has lots of hidden fees. All Airbnb listings are also on Vrbo and there’s a lot of difference because Airbnb sucks and they like to put fees that are not visible to their clients.
Shopping costs in Guadalajara
Amazon functions very well in Mexico but you need to be on the Amazon.mx website for to receive your orders. Some products on Amazon US are not available in the MX version but it has pretty much everything! For a more local merchant, Mercado Libre is the most popular but they don’t accept international credit cards. What you can do is place the order on the MercadoLibre website and pay it at the Oxxo (convenience store in Mexico).
If you want to shop physically, Guadalajara is home to a lot of shopping malls so you also don’t have to worry about that. Everything you need is here! It’s like you’re just back home. When I moved here, I was worried I won’t have access to things I really need for work (especially gadgets). In the beginning, I was asking friends from the US to buy them for me and bring them to Mexico because I had no idea about shopping in Mexico but when I learned about it, I found out that I can get everything here, as in everything! Mexico has H&M, Forever21, etc. To get an idea of the clothing costs, see below:
👖 1 pair of jeans (Levi’s or similar): $40 USD
👗 1 summer dress in a high street store (zara, h&m or similar): $15 USD
👚 1 blouse/top in a high street store (zara, h&m or similar): $10 USD
👟 1 pair of sport shoes (nike, adidas, or equivalent brands): $70 USD
👞 1 pair of men’s leather business shoes: $54 USD
👠 Women’s shoes: really cheap! From $25 USD and up
👢 1 pair of boots for winter season: $50 USD
As there are many supermarkets in Guadalajara, everything you need for your home is available. There are also lots of pharmacies in Guadalajara and they are very big on this. One of the biggest pharmacy chains in the country is called Farmacia Guadalajara and you will find it all over Mexico.
🏥 Cold medicine for 6 days (tylenol, frenadol, coldrex, or equivalent brands): $4 USD
💊 1 box of antibiotics (12 doses): $7 USD
🩺 Short visit to private doctor: $20 USD
✨ 1 box of 32 tampons (tampax, ob, etc): $3 USD
🕺 Deodorant, roll-on (50ml ~ 1.5 oz.): $2.40 USD
🧴 Shampoo: (400 ml ~ 12 oz.): $2.77 USD
🧻 4 rolls of toilet paper: $1.50 USD
🪥 Tube of toothpaste: $1.10
💇 Standard men’s haircut in expat area of the city: $9 USD
Visas, medical care, and other important things
Applying for a temporary resident visa in Mexico is very easy as long as you have all the documents. Actually, in my case, they only ask for a bank statement since I wasn’t employed in Mexico. It’s not a problem as long as you can prove that you are earning from a company outside of the country and that you can support your lifestyle while living here. If you are working for a Mexican company, you need to obtain a work permit and unfortunately, I do not have an experience in applying for this.
For digital nomads, the good news is that Mexico has a generous 180-day tourist visa. Upon entry, you will automatically receive a 6-month stay and that’s pretty long than other countries! However, if you overstay, you cannot declare that you are working as a digital nomad (Mexican company or not) because they can fine you. Technically, if you are in Mexico with an expired visa and are working online, you need a residency visa or a working visa. But that’s only if you get caught. There are lots of overstay cases in Mexico and I really don’t understand why, when you have enough time to go out of the country and come back – Mexico will still give you 180 days no matter how many days you are gone. You can always do a visa-run to the US or neighboring countries like Guatemala or Belize.
This month, Mexico has opened a new visa program for those who are trapped during COVID (entry must be 2019 or before) where you can easily get a 4-year visa within a day. I am currently doing this and will let you know the process on my Youtube channel. I documented the entire thing because the traditional way of applying for a residency Mexican visa is a pain – you need to do it outside of Mexico and I just didn’t have the energy to do that, especially during COVID.
As for health care, there are lots of hospitals in Guadalajara so health access is easy. However, you need to have travel medical insurance (if you are not a legal resident). I use SafetyWing as it’s cheap and the coverage is especially for digital nomads. I pay $40 USD a month and I don’t need to renew it as you have the option to do recurring payments through your credit card. You don’t have to think about it every month!
However, when I have a 4-year residency visa, I need to convert to a local provider or maybe expat insurance in Mexico. I still have not looked into that but I will cross the bridge when I get there.