From the safest places to live in Mexico to the best places to retire in Mexico on a budget, don’t miss this roundup of the best places to live in Mexico as an expat.
You’ve decided you want to move to Mexico, but it’s a big country: where specifically do you want to live? In this post, we’ll explore 11 of the best places to live in Mexico to help you make your decision.
With so many destinations to choose from, there really is something for everyone in Mexico. But even before you dive into this list of best cities to live in Mexico, take a moment to think about what you’re looking for in your new home abroad.
Having a concrete list of must-haves will help narrow down your search.
For example, when I was planning my move to Mexico, I knew I needed a stable and fast internet connection for work. That ruled out most small beach towns.
Of the questions every expat should ask themselves before moving to another country, one of the most important is:
- What sacrifices am I willing to make (and not make)?
In order to have a successful move to Mexico, you need to figure out what you absolutely must have to be happy and what you’re willing to compromise on in the spirit of adventure.
Don’t forget to research the requirements for getting residency in Mexico. While the 180-day tourist visa is generous, obtaining temporary or permanent residency in Mexico is that way to go if you want to make a home for yourself in this incredible country.
What is the best part of Mexico to live in?
The best part of Mexico to live in depends on what you’re looking for in your new home.
Hopefully, you already have a list of must-haves going, but in case you’re feeling stuck, here are a few questions to get the ball rolling:
- Big city or small town?
- Beach, mountains or desert?
- Do you want to be a part of a large expat community?
- Is your goal to immerse yourself in the culture?
- Are you happy to live in a tourist destination?
- What’s your monthly budget?
How much money do I need to live comfortably in Mexico?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions I get from readers and subscribers about living in Mexico. A lot will depend on where you live in Mexico and the standard of living you’re hoping to acheive.
Since 2017, I’ve lived in Querétaro, Mexico. While it’s not an expat hotspot, it’s still one of the more expensive places to live in Mexico. That being said, the cost of living in Querétaro is still very affordable compared to the U.S.
In my experience, $2,000 USD is more than enough to live comfortably in Querétaro, Mexico. With that budget, I’m able to travel frequently, dine out, afford the fastest interet, take Uber instead of public transportation and live in the city center.
That’s a very lax budget.
After calculating the cost of living expenses in Querétaro, I would feel comfortable living on less than $1,000 USD (perhaps, even less than $800 USD) although that would require me to pay more attention to my spending and wouldn’t leave much left over for savings.
Here’s another take:
According to Investopedia, most retirees can live very comfortably in Mexico City for less than $1,000 USD/month. That budget allows for a one-bedroom apartment outside the city center with money for groceries, utilities, personal expenses and public transportation.
Cost of living is very important, but it’s still just one of many factors you need to consider when deciding where to move in Mexico.
#1 Best Places to Live in Mexico: Querétaro
When I moved to Querétaro in Oct. 2017, I planned to live here for two years. Going on four years now, I have no plans to leave anytime soon.
Despite meeting much of the criteria for “best places to live in Mexico,” Querétaro is often left off of these types of roundups. Nearby San Miguel de Allende frequently overshadows it, or expats don’t think Querétaro is worth considering since the city is landlocked.
In this YouTube video, I break down the pros & cons of living in Querétaro Centro.
Keeping reading for the cliffnotes versions.
Querétaro is centrally located.
Querétaro is located pretty much dead center in Mexico. By bus, it’s approximately three hours north of Mexico City.
There are direct buses from Querétaro to the Mexico City airport which makes it easy to score the cheapest flights in Mexico back to the U.S. The city also has its own international airport.
The closest beach is Ixtapa which is a 5-6 hour journey by car.
Querétaro is one of the safest cities in Mexico.
If you’ve seen pictures or footage of Querétaro, then you know it has a beautiful historic center. There are many colorful streets, lots of flowers, and well-preserved colonial architecture.
Based on those images, you might think that Querétaro is a small town, but it’s actually a very big city. More than a million people live here, and it is growing. In fact, Querétaro the fastest-growing city in Mexico.
Despite its size, Querétaro is still one of the safest cities in Mexico.
In all the time I’ve called Querétaro home, I have never once felt unsafe—not even uncomfortable.
In my neighborhood (the historic city center), I feel safe walking the streets at night by myself. Since I don’t have a car, I regularly use Uber to get around. I would also feel just fine hailing a cab on the street.
Querétaro offers a high quality of life at an affordable cost.
Querétaro is by no means the cheapest place to live in Mexico, but it is still very cost-effective to call Querétaro home.
Just to give you an idea about the cost of living in Querétaro, our rent for our two-bedroom apartment in the historic city center costs $11,500 MXN ($569 USD).
Check out this post for how to rent an apartment in Mexico as a foreigner.
As for the quality of life, Querétaro is known throughout the country as the Orgullo de México (Pride of Mexico). One example of city pride is how well it’s maintained. People who are visiting me from other parts of Mexico will often comment on the cleanliness of Querétaro’s streets.
Querétaro gives foreigners a chance to immerse themselves in Mexican culture.
If you’re interested in the typical expat retiree experience abroad where you live in a community with lots of other people from your home country, then Querétaro probably isn’t the city for you.
While there are clusters of expats in the city, it’s not a major expat community like some of the other places to live mentioned on this list.
After living in Madrid (huge tourist destination, huge expat city) it’s been a really nice change of pace to settle into life in Querétaro where I really feel like I’m a part of the community.
Between shopping at the market, speaking Spanish daily and just feeling at home in the city, this is really the experience that I envisioned for myself when I decided to move to Mexico.
Querétaro has a university atmosphere.
With so many universities within the city limits, there are a lot of students living in Querétaro and they help to give a really progressive, young vibe to the city.
It seems like every other week here, a new cafe or a hipster cocktail bar is cropping up somewhere. One of my favorite spots is Cervecería Hércules, which is a craft brewery located inside an old textile factory.
I’m not sure if this is just the people I know or if this speaks to the city as a whole, but I get the vibe that Querétaro is a very creative city. From artists to entrepreneurs, the city is home to people following their passions and building a life that they love. I find that such an energizing kind of thing to be around.
More Posts About Best Places to Live in Mexico (Querétaro)
#2 Best Places to Live in Mexico: Mérida
Understandably, one of the top concerns for expats moving to Mexico is safety. Based on crime statistics, Mérida has earned the title “safest city in Mexico.”
Like Querétaro, Mérida is a metropolis of nearly a million people. For expats interested in big city amenities, Mérida has universities, major corporations and museums.
Travel back to the U.S. as well as other parts of Mexico is convenient thanks to the city’s international airport.
Although Mérida is located on the Yucatan Peninsula, it’s important to note that the city itself is not on the water. The closest beach is in Progreso which is about 40 minutes away by car.
Mérida’s expat community is growing, but given the size of the city, you will have more need to speak Spanish.
#3 Best Places to Live in Mexico: Oaxaca City
Frequently touted as one of the most affordable expat cities in Mexico, Oaxaca City offers low-cost food, housing and transportation. The city is situated in the Sierra Madre de Oaxaca mountain range which means a cooler climate (by Mexican standards, of course).
This is a great city for nature lovers who only need to leave the city limits to enjoy a hiking trails, waterfalls and ancient Zapotec ruins. The nearby Pueblos Mancomunados are a hit with outdoor lovers looking for an off-the-beaten path adventure.
In need of some sand and sun? You can take an overnight bus to the coast or a seven-hour collectivo. If you’re prone to motion sickness, you might want to skip the winding highway all together and book a flight out of Oaxaca’s international airport.
Oaxaca City is growing in popularity among digital nomads. For more about what it’s like to live in Oaxaca, follow Susan of Brooklyn Tropicali (@brooklyntropicali) on Instagram.
#4 Best Places to Live in Mexico: Puerto Vallarta
One of the most established expat communities in Mexico, Puerto Vallarta has been attracting foreigners for more than 60 years. With the beautiful coastline, plentiful outdoor activities and reliable infrastructure, it’s easy to see why.
If you plan on traveling back and forth between Mexico and the U.S. (or having lots of friends come visit), Puerto Vallarta’s international airport makes travel easy and affordable.
Is quality healthcare a top priority? Puerto Vallarta boasts several top hospitals that can provide you with top-of-the-line medical care.
In Puerto Vallarta, it’s easy to connect with other foreigners so you can celebrate holidays from your home country. Search on Facebook for expat groups to connect with other American citizens living in Vallarta & gather for a special Thanksgiving in Mexico.
#5 Best Places to Live in Mexico: San Miguel de Allende
It’s impossible to talk about expat communities in Mexico without mentioning San Miguel de Allende. Of the approximately 140,000 people living in the metropolitan area, some estimates place the expat community in San Miguel between 20,000 and 25,000 foreigners.
Located in the heart of central Mexico’s Bajío region, this colonial city is one of the most picturesque towns in the entire country. The high-desert climate means warm days and cool nights for the majority of the year.
Because of San Miguel’s popularity among foreigners, the cost of living is significantly higher than in other parts of Mexico. The city is also a popular tourist destination which can drive up prices.
However, if you’re looking for a place to live in Mexico where you can get by just speaking English, San Miguel de Allende is a good option. Expats looking to immerse themselves in the local culture and use their Spanish on a daily basis might want to look elsewhere.
#6 Best Places to Live in Mexico: Lake Chapala
One last major expat community in Mexico for this roundup: Lake Chapala.
When you visit Mexico’s largest lake, you’ll find one of the largest concentrations of U.S. expats not just in Mexico but in the entire world. There are a number of towns along the coast of Lake Chapala with Ajijic being one of the most popular among foreigners.
Situated at approximately the same altitude as Denver, Lake Chapala has a pleasant climate year round. In January, you can expect temperatures in the low-70s (Fahrenheit). In May, temperatures get up to the mid-80s (Fahrenheit).
The communities around Lake Chapala are largely self-sufficient, but if you’re craving the city, Guadalajara is only 45 minutes away by car.
#7 Best Places to Live in Mexico: Huatulco
Many “best places to live in Mexico” lists focus heavily on the Rivera Maya, but living in Mexico is a lot different that vacationing here. Pacific coast cities such as Huatulco are worth considering for a long-term stay in Mexico.
Originally a fishing village, Huatulco is home to around 56,000 residents. The expat community isn’t huge but is still around 1,000 people.
Before hitting the beach, you can get some exercise along one of the large public walkways and promenades. In recent decades, the government has made significant investments in the city’s infrastructure. Huatulco has some of the best water treatment facilities in Mexico.
Even though it’s small compared to other cities on this list, Huatulco still has its own international airport with direct flights to the U.S. and Canada as well as other parts of Mexico.
#8 Best Places to Live in Mexico: Mexico City
When I first moved to Mexico, I swore I could never live in Mexico City. But the more time I spend there (it’s only three hours from Querétaro) the easier it is for me to imagine calling it home.
Many foreigners write off living in Mexico City before they even visit, believing it’s wholly unsafe. However, high crime rates are limited to certain areas, and some of the safest places to live in Mexico are neighborhoods in Mexico City such as Roma, Condesa and Polanco.
Plus for retirees and older expats, Mexico City has some of the best hospitals in Mexico.
Digital nomads feel right at home in Mexico City with its many cafes and co-working spaces where they can set up office. Like most capital cities, there are a lot of transplants from all over the world which makes meeting people easy.
Especially if you’re considering moving to one of Mexico City’s trendier neighborhoods, it’s important to note that the cost of living in Mexico City is more expensive than in other places on this list. But for a slightly higher price tag, you get access to world-class restaurants, fabulous shopping and over 150 museums.
Mexico City is also one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly cities in Mexico.
The Mexico City airport is the busiest airport in Latin America with affordable flights not just to the U.S. but all over the world.
For more about what it’s like to live in Mexico City as an expat, check out my friend Laura’s blog Eternal Expat.
#9 Best Places to Live in Mexico: Guadalajara
If you like the idea of living in a big city but aren’t sold on Mexico City, Guadalajara could be the place for you. The largest city in the Mexican state of Jalisco is home to more than 5 million residents.
For a relatively low cost of living, you can enjoy a variety of trendy restaurants, bars and social activities. Nightlife is concentrated around Avenida Chapultepec and the historic center which makes bar hopping a breeze.
Many say the museum scene in Guadalajara rivals that of Mexico City. You can look forward to immersing yourself in history, art, culture and architecture.
When you get tired of sipping tequila in the city, the beach is only four hours away.
#10 Best Places to Live in Mexico: Sayulita
Big cities or, even, large towns aren’t the right fit for every expat. If you prefer a quieter way of life, check out one of Nayarit’s most beloved beach towns: Sayulita.
Located approximately one hour north of Puerto Vallarta, this chill surf spot is perfect for people who want to slow down and sip an ice-cold cerveza while enjoying the playa. The people are friendly, and the area has low crime rates.
Sayulita is popular among retirees for its affordability, but as more co-working spaces crop up, digital nomads are settling here and living out their fantasies of working from the beach.
#11 Best Places to Live in Mexico: Puebla
Before Taylor and I decided where we wanted to live in Mexico, we nearly chose Puebla over Querétaro. I’m happy with our decision but still think we would have liked living in Puebla.
Mexico’s fourth-largest city, Puebla is located three hours east of Mexico City. Two giant volcanos (Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl) separate Puebla from CDMX. Popo is still active and last erupted in June 2019.
Hiking is a popular activity in Puebla, and if you’re up to the challenge, you can summit Iztaccíhuatl.
The colonial downtown has over 5,000 historic buildings including a 16th-century cathedral. Th church is nice, but my religious experience in Puebla came when I tried mole poblano for the first time.
Because of the size of the city, quality medical care is available and you can find English-speaking doctors. The closest airport is 45 minutes outside the city.
What is the safest place to live Mexico?
When going through the cities on this list of best places to live in Mexico, I specifically referenced safety in a few of the descriptions.
Please don’t think that because I didn’t mention safety or low crime rates in the city you’re most interested in calling home that means it’s not safe. Many (if not most) expats and Mexicans alike feel safe in the cities mentioned on this list.
The safest place to live in Mexico is wherever you’re committed to maintaining situational awareness.
That just means knowing what the heck is going on around you which is good practice wherever you’re living in the world.
Final Thoughts on the Best Places to Live in Mexico
One of the biggest mistakes I see expats make when they move to Mexico is failing to recognize just how big Mexico is.
The places on this list are far from the only places in Mexico where people have found happiness and built rewarding lives for themselves. Just a few of the places I’ve seen on other roundups include:
- La Paz (I wrote a whole blog post about living in La Paz, Mexico!)
- Playa del Carmen
Lists of “best places to live in Mexico” are a good place to start, but before you commit to moving to a city, you should give living there a trial run to see if it lives up to your expectations. Remember that living in a place is a lot different than vacationing there.
Thanks to Mexico’s generous tourist visa, you can try living in Mexico for six months without needing to pursue temporary residency. If you can, travel around and check out a few different cities to see where you feel most at home.
The city you end up choosing might surprise you.
Share your thoughts on this list of best places to live in Mexico. Is there anything you’d like to add? Are there any cities I should have included?