Moving to Mexico? 15 Things You Should Know That Nobody Tells You
Be it about the culture, Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) or burritos, people always have something to say about Mexico.
When I moved to Mexico, I quickly learned that this amazing country has so much to offer other than incredible food.
If you’re considering jumping on this bandwagon, there are several things you should know before moving to the country of the mariachis.
- Mexico Will Exceed Your Expectations
- Mexico Will Feel Like Home Quickly
- Bureaucracy Can Make Life Interesting
- 8. Renting an apartment as a foreigner can be tricky
- 9. You should double check your visa situation
- 10. Networking is the best way to find a job
- 11. If you bring any pets, make sure they’re up to date on vaccinations
- 12. Setting up a bank account can take quite a bit of time
- 13. Mexican healthcare is some of the most accessible to foreigners
- Mexican Culture Is Incredible
Mexico Will Exceed Your Expectations
1. Mexico is safer than the news makes it seem
When I tell people I used to live in Mexico, one of their first questions is always about safety.
It makes sense: the news paints Mexico as a place focused on the war between drug cartels. What the news doesn’t show is people living regular lives without being directly affected by the drug business.
Mexico has over 130 million inhabitants, and the majority live normal day-to-day lives. There are certain regions to avoid, but as an expat, you’ll probably stay around major cities full of other foreigners and tourists.
You can easily avoid visiting the poorest or most dangerous regions in the country. Just use common sense and don’t do anything you wouldn’t do at home.
2. Any landscape can be found in Mexico
When picturing Mexico, many people’s minds jump to beaches—but that’s not the only great thing you can find in Mexico!
Mexico is a geographically diverse country full of lakes, jungles, majestic cities, incredible landscapes and mountains.
You can find small towns full of history and traditions or huge, modern cities. No matter what lifestyle you’re looking for, Mexico has a place for you.
3. Mexico is usually cheaper than the United States
Mexico is an affordable country for Americans, Canadians and Europeans due to the low costs of pretty much everything when using dollars or euros. 1 USD is usually about 20 Mexican pesos.
Looking at average costs, you can usually rent an apartment for between $200 and $800 a month, depending on location, size, etc.
When it comes to eating, you can find a cheap lunch for as low as $1-2 and can eat at a nicer restaurant for around $15. If you prefer to cook at home, you can get by pretty comfortably on $50/week per person.
As for other necessities like gas, utilities, transportation and entertainment, you will find pretty much everything will be significantly cheaper than other Western countries.
One thing to note is that if you are working a job in Mexico, the pay may be lower, making those living costs not so cheap.
Mexico Will Feel Like Home Quickly
4. Mexico is the perfect expat destination
One of the first things I noticed when I moved to Mexico was how often I heard people speak English!
Turns out, the expat population in Mexico is quite high, with more than 1 million expats living all over the country—most of which are American.
While Mexico is a great destination for any foreigner, it’s especially convenient for Americans. Flights are cheap to go back and forth from the United States, and you’re also in the same (or similar) time zone as your family back home.
It’s the perfect place to settle down in a new country, while still being relatively close to your loved ones.
5. You can learn Spanish on the go
Mexico is the country with the highest number of Spanish speakers in the whole world. If you want to learn Spanish, there’s no better place to move!
Wondering where to start?
FluentU is a great option to pick up the language (and learn cultural tidbits at the same time) through authentic videos, like movie trailers and news reports.
You can even download FluentU files for offline use, so you can keep studying as you eat at authentic Mexican restaurants that might not have Wi-Fi.
If your Spanish is already pretty advanced, there are still things to learn! Mexicans use lots of slang, so the more you know, the more you can impress the locals.
Mexicans love to teach foreigners how to sound a bit more Mexican, and there’s no better way to bond with your new native friends than this. They’re also keen on learning English, so the exchange can be mutual.
6. Mexicans are usually friendly and ready to help
Forget the fearful idea that Mexicans are all dealing with illegal substances or trying to rip you off.
In fact, after living in more than 10 countries around the world, I can assure you Mexicans can be some of the most helpful people.
Put all the bad stories the media tell you aside and try to have a fresh perspective. Open your heart to Mexicans’ friendliness!
I lost count of how many times I struggled with public transportation in Mexico City and locals stopped to make sure I was hopping on the right train.
7. You can make lots of close friends
With so many expats and friendly locals, you should make plenty of friends with ease.
Native friends and long-time expats will be able to help you out with bureaucracy and any other concerns you might have.
They’ll also take you out to the best local bars and restaurants, introduce you to the top spots in the city and, of course, enjoy all this right along with you.
If you’re not the most extroverted person, you can try online platforms such as Facebook pages for expats living in Mexico. You can also sign up for a language exchange group or other social activities to help you meet new people.
Bureaucracy Can Make Life Interesting
8. Renting an apartment as a foreigner can be tricky
Mexico has plenty of rental flats available. However, it’s important to know Spanish to receive a better price. If possible, invite a Mexican friend to join the negotiation to ensure there’s no miscommunication.
If you want to rent a room in a shared space, it’s a fairly simple process. Paying a deposit of a month’s rent is normal, and sometimes there’s only a simple contract involved between you and the apartment’s owner.
If you want your own apartment, the bureaucracy can be a bit challenging.
You’ll need an aval (guarantor) that must be Mexican. This person will be responsible if you cause problems or miss a payment. In this case, you can find a Mexican friend willing to help.
If you don’t know anyone yet, there are companies that offer this kind of service for a fee.
To find somewhere to live in Mexico, you can use websites like Vivanuncios to browse online listings. You can also work with a realty agency to find what’s available.
There’s always the old-fashioned ways too: word-of-mouth or walking around an area you like and looking for se alquila signs.
9. You should double check your visa situation
Unsurprisingly, you’ll need a visa to live in Mexico.
By law, you can stay in the country as a tourist for up to six months. You’re also able to make a visa run to another country, then re-enter Mexico for another six months. However, this visa doesn’t allow you to work in the country.
If you want to work in Mexico or you wish to stay longer than six months without worrying about your visa running out, you can look into a temporary or permanent resident visa.
The temporary residency visa in Mexico is called the Residente Temporal (Temporary Resident) Visa. This visa allows you to work and stay in Mexico for up to four years (you have to renew each year).
After four years, you can apply for the Residente Permanente (Permanent Resident) Visa, the official immigrant visa. This visa allows you to work and live in Mexico as long as you want without having to renew.
You are eligible for the permanent resident visa once you’ve either lived there for four years, work or study in Mexico, want to retire in Mexico or you have close family relations.
You can find more information on Mexican visas here.
10. Networking is the best way to find a job
Once you have your visa figured out, you can start looking for work.
To search for jobs in Mexico, you can utilize the internet, physical ads or simply ask around.
Check out Indeed or OCCMundial to see some of the top job postings in Mexico.
Don’t be afraid to talk to strangers or ask people for help on your job search, this will make connections and get you in touch with someone who knows something.
Mexico is big on networking, so the more you make connections, the easier it will be to get in with a good job.
11. If you bring any pets, make sure they’re up to date on vaccinations
In order to bring a pet into Mexico, you will need to have all the proper documentation for the required vaccinations and other treatments.
Rabies vaccinations are required for all pets and need to be no more than a year old. There may be more vaccinations required depending on the kind of pet you have, so research which ones are required ahead of time. You’ll also need to have proof that your pet has been treated for parasites prior to arriving in Mexico.
As you get closer to your move, you’ll need to bring your pet (if it’s not a dog or cat) to a vet within 10 days of traveling to get a health certificate.
All documentation you bring for your pets needs to be the original copy with your vet’s signature on it.
Lastly, I’d recommend that you microchip your pet should anything go wrong.
12. Setting up a bank account can take quite a bit of time
In order to set up a bank account in Mexico, you must go through the process in person. This will typically mean that you need to stand in line for a very long time as most Mexicans do their banking in person.
Once you are able to get through the line, you will need to present your visa, ID, proof that you live in Mexico and a deposit.
You will then receive paperwork, and it’s a good idea to bring someone who is fluent in Spanish with you if you don’t speak fluently yourself so that there aren’t any misunderstandings.
Once you have your account set up, things should be relatively easy as more Mexican banks are offering mobile options. Just be prepared for a long wait should you need to visit a bank in person.
The good thing about setting up a Mexican bank account is that you will save yourself lots of money on fees you would see if you stick with your bank account from home.
13. Mexican healthcare is some of the most accessible to foreigners
While Mexican bureaucracy can complicate many things for expats, healthcare isn’t one of them!
Compared to other countries, Mexico tries to make its healthcare rather easy for foreigners to navigate.
You should still buy health insurance if living in Mexico, but it will be cheaper than some other countries (especially the U.S).
If you live and work in Mexico, you are even eligible for coverage under the Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social (IMSS), which is the national healthcare program provided by the government.
The IMSS program is rather cheap but may not cover everything, so additional insurance may be worth considering.
Mexican Culture Is Incredible
14. Mexico will introduce you to Latin American culture
Many foreigners use Mexico as an entrance point to the rest of Latin America.
Once you fall in love with Mexico’s culture, you might be ready to check out a few nearby countries with similar but unique cultures.
Even though I lived in Mexico, I spent a lot of time falling in love with other countries in Latin America where I could also speak Spanish and learn about different cultures.
If you’re anything like me, living in Mexico will make you want to travel all over South and Central America.
15. You might want to stay in Mexico
Since I left Mexico, there hasn’t been a single day I haven’t thought about going back. This is something you’ll realize pretty quickly: Mexico is addictive.
You’ll fall in love with the country and people, immerse yourself in the culture and gobble up the food. Mexico changed me for the better. I absolutely love this country and miss it every single day.
So beware: once you move to Mexico, you might never leave.
As with any country, there are pros and cons to living in Mexico. However, the good easily outweighs the bad!
Now that you know what to expect, start researching the best places to live in Mexico!