2023 Guide to Moving to Mexico
If you’re thinking about moving to Mexico, you probably have a lot of questions about how to move to a foreign country, even one as friendly and familiar as our Southern neighbor. Moving to another country is a big deal. You’ll want to know the basics: what type of visa you need, if your health insurance will cover you abroad, and more. And while it’s easy to do research on the internet, nothing beats first-hand advice. Use this guide to get started, and we’ll address safety, the visa process, cost of living, work & school, getting around, learning Spanish, healthcare & insurance, and finding home to rent or buy.
Why Move to Mexico
If you haven’t taken it yet, the Expatsi Test is a great, free way to see if Mexico is a good fit for your needs. Also, the questions on the test, about weather, legalities, human rights, cost of living, and more, are a good framework for the things you’ll want to consider about your new home. We’ve made Mexico our choice because we love the lifestyle, the cost of living, and the people, and we appreciate being able to get out of the American rat race.
12 Great Reasons to Move to Mexico
Safety in Mexico
Mexico is often represented in American news and movies as a desolate, lawless place (interspersed with Spring Break party beaches). The truth is, there are treacherous drug wars that take place in very specific locations in this massive country of 130 million people. It’s especially dangerous in towns that border the U.S., and can be deadly for journalists and politicians. There are also places with vast poverty and lack of resources from centuries of colonization and corruption, which can lead to crimes of opportunity. There is a lack of justice for victims of cartel violence and violence against women and LGBTQIA+.
The U.S. publishes a list of travel warnings for different Mexican states, which you can use as a guideline, but which many people consider to be hyperbolic. About 75 Americans are murdered in Mexico of the 30 million or so who visit each year. Our perception of safety is just that – perception. Before we left Alabama, a man came into the senior citizens pancake supper at a local church in one of the wealthiest suburbs and killed three people. I’m sure they felt quite safe.
You can affect your risk of violence in Mexico by being aware of risks and using good judgment. I think the two smartest things you can do are build a community of friends and learn the language.
The 7 Safest Cities in Mexico for Expats
How to Get a Mexico Residency Visa
Mexico has some of the easiest residency visas to get, and they also have a short list of options, which makes it easier still to apply. You can move to Mexico as a student by showing around $1,000 USD/month in income. In every case, you have a short appointment at a U.S.-based consulate, and then you finish the process in Mexico. (We partner with the website WhereCanI.Live and a team of Mexican immigration attorneys to provide consultations. Book one here.)
2023 Guide to Mexico Residency Visas
How to Learn Spanish
Either I haven’t done enough suduko puzzles or I haven’t taken enough ginkgo biloba, but learning a new language at my age is hard. Half the time, the French word I learned in high school comes to mind before the Spanish term. We’ve discovered that my husband and I learn differently — he does well with immersion, whereas I need one-on-one tutoring and structured homework. The most important thing is to be patient with yourself, I think, and keep trying. People in Mexico are so lovely and gracious, and they seem to reward any effort. The nice thing is having so many backup tools available these days, like Google Translate and DeepL. You can even use Google Translate on your phone to translate a menu or sign!
How to Learn Spanish Before You Move to Mexico
What to Know About Mexican Culture
Like the U.S., Mexico is a huge, widespread country with a variety of communities and cultural norms. That said, here are a few things to know that are different from “how we do things”:
- Christmas bonuses (aguinaldo) are mandated by law: Mexican companies are legally mandated to distribute an annual Christmas bonus, or aguinaldo, each year. It also applies to you if you employ people in your home or business, and it makes Christmas that much more festive for Mexican families.
- Houses are built differently: They don’t have central heat or air, they’re often built from concrete or clay instead of wood framing, and they usually don’t have basements or sheetrock.
- Holidays are off the chain: Mexico doesn’t skimp on holidays, spending days or weeks in revelry when we might celebrate for an afternoon.
- Sales tax is included, and tips are lower: What you see is what you pay at stores, and unlike rising tip rates in the U.S., 15% is still considered a generous amount.
- Gas stations are full-service: It’s like the whole country is Oregon or New Jersey.
- The work week is longer: Although the lifestyle is more laid back and less rushed, Mexicans still work harder and longer than most Americans, with a 48-hour, six-day work week.
- There are docs in the pharmacy: For quick prescriptions and common ailments, just visit your local pharmacy and ask the physician. It will only set you back a couple of bucks, and no appointment is needed.
- Cops might extort you: Not just “might”, honestly. They probably will. This is a great article about how to handle a Mexican police officer soliciting bribes. And it’s not like that doesn’t happen here, it’s just more organized.
- Entrepreneurs are everywhere: One of the things we love about Mexico is the huge variety of businesses that operate out of people’s homes, from their back porches, off the back of a bicycle, etc. Obviously, you want to exercise caution consuming unknown street food with your weakling gringo stomach, but it’s preferable all day to arresting kids for lemonade stands.
How to Work or Study Abroad in Mexico
Most Americans don’t move to Mexico for their careers, because the wages are much lower. Instead, they retire, study abroad, or work remotely. However, some people have begun to explore the possibility of working abroad in Mexico as a means to finding new opportunities.
Although there are many different types of jobs available in Mexico, certain sectors, such as construction and tourism, are especially in demand. Depending on your qualifications and what type of job you’ll be taking up, salaries may vary from a couple hundred dollars per month for laborers, up to thousands for higher-level positions. When it comes to securing a work visa for Mexico, those interested will require an invitation from their employer or sponsor who is willing to provide an official letter of proof to ensure all proper documentation is taken care of.
If you can earn U.S. wages while living in Mexico, you’ll be better off. Due to international tax concerns, few jobs allow workers to work completely remotely in another country, but certainly more do now than did pre-pandemic. If you can do contract labor, like teaching English online or doing freelance work, you should be quite set. We often see retirees in our community making extra money by selling American, Canadian, or European delicacies that are hard to find locally.
Studying abroad in Mexico is a great option for people looking for undergraduate or graduate programs. Much lower costs for tuition, rent, and food mean you may be able to kick off your career without drowning in student debt.
10 Best Universities in Mexico
How to Travel Within Mexico
Mexico has very walkable inner cities and affordable taxis and rideshares, so it’s easy to get around most areas. If you want to drive, be sure you have the right licenses to go with your visa, and don’t drive long, remote distances after dark. Buses are one of the most preferred methods for inner- and inter-city travel, and there are super comfy, luxury options for long distances. Mexico doesn’t have the quality of roads we have in suburban or rural areas, but the interstate and highway system is quite comparable.
Guide to Getting Around Mexico by Car, Plane, Train, Bus, or Rideshare
How to Get Medical Care in Mexico
Mexico is a Latin American powerhouse when it comes to healthcare. It boasts an extensive array of hospitals and clinics that are equipped with cutting-edge medical technology, offering excellent care for everything from basic first aid all the way up to complex surgery. With both public and private institutions available, Mexico’s health system provides comprehensive solutions for individuals in need of treatment.
Public health programs are very affordable and available for expats, but they might include some lackluster care and longer waits. Although pricier, you do have the option of obtaining private treatment where you can handpick your own doctor or hospital, and several private options exist in all the big cities. We partner with International Insurance to provide health insurance quotes for Mexico.
Many Mexican doctors are U.S.-trained and speak English.
10 FAQs About Healthcare in Mexico for Expats
How to Buy or Rent a Home in Mexico
Home ownership (and honestly home rentership!) has become out of reach for too many Americans. If you’re in that boat, or even if you’re shopping for the beachfront resort of your dreams, it’s much easier to afford in Mexico. Whether you’re looking to rent, buy, or build, I recommend starting by building relationships in an expat forum or expat Facebook group for the area you’re moving to. Be aware of scams, and ask around before you give anyone money.
Guide to Renting, Buying, or Building a Home in Mexico
Living in Mexico can be an amazing experience — a unique culture, beautiful beaches and scenery, friendly people, and delicious food. The cost of living is low, so you can explore more while saving money and still get your needs met. With great healthcare options and convenient transport, you may find that Mexico is a great place to settle down. So, if you’re looking for a new adventure, consider making Mexico your home. Then let’s have a margarita together!
Good luck with the move and enjoy exploring all that Mexico has to offer!