Understanding What it Costs to Live in Mexico
With its rich Mariachi and Corridos musical traditions, stunning beaches, deliciously spicy street food and historic architecture, Mexico is known as a colorful place to live. It has a well-deserved reputation among expats for being an inexpensive locale, especially for remote work. Recently, Mexico has become one of the most popular places for digital nomads and expatriates to move to. The low cost of living in Mexico is a big part of the reason. Below, you’ll get all the details on the costs of rental housing, groceries, dining, entertainment, transportation, medical care and more.
All of the numbers below are sourced primarily from Numbeo, which collects data from users on the ground. These numbers were up to date as of October 2022. Read on to find out whether moving to Mexico could make your expat dreams come true.
Is Mexico Expensive?
Across the board, the average cost of living in Mexico is far lower than in the United States. So much lower, in fact, that the numbers alone might tempt you to start packing your bags if you’ve got a fully remote job. Combine those numbers with proximity to the U.S., relatively easy and inexpensive travel, beautiful scenery and the incredible variety of lifestyles at your disposal, and Mexico might start to sound like a paradise. Even more so if you are thinking of moving with your family to Mexico. News stories about crime can sometimes be worrying. But overall, with proper precautions and insurance, it really does make sense to consider Mexico when thinking about expatriate destinations.
The Cost of Living in Mexico vs. the US
It is considerably cheaper to live in Mexico than in the United States. While there are more and less expensive cities in Mexico, you’re likely to have an objectively better lifestyle in Mexico than in the U.S. given the same level of resources. Overall consumer prices are nearly 100% lower, not including rent. And if you add rent into the mix, they are almost 140% lower. Rent alone is a whopping 275% lower. Restaurant prices and grocery prices both hover right around 100% lower as well.
However, local purchasing power — meaning, what you can buy with what you can earn locally — is also quite a bit lower than in the U.S. (nearly 165% lower, in fact). So the expats who will fare best are those with incomes from outside of Mexico. These might be U.S. or European retirement pensions, investment returns, passive income from royalties, or remote-work salaries.
What Are the Most Expensive and Cheapest Places to Live in Mexico?
Mexico City, Puerto Vallarta and Monterrey are the three most expensive cities in Mexico, according to Numbeo, while Guadalajara, Mérida and Queretaro are the three least expensive. Mexico is, on average, at least 60% less expensive than the least expensive city in the United States. And Mexico City, the largest city in North America by population, costs only 30% of what it costs to live in its U.S. counterpart, New York City.
To put these numbers in real terms: A one-bedroom apartment in the U.S. will run you about USD$1,670 on average in a city center or about USD$1,350 outside of a city center. In Mexico, that same one-bedroom apartment would be USD$459 in a city center or USD$280 outside. Food cost differences are similarly jaw-dropping. In the U.S., a meal for two in a mid-range restaurant costs about USD$65, while that same meal in Mexico would clock in at less than half the price. Eating at home? A kilo of potatoes or onions, or a half-liter bottle of domestic beer, will cost you about USD$2.65 in the United States; in Mexico, it’ll run you, on average, about USD$1.25.
Most Expensive Cities in Mexico
- Mexico City. Mexico’s biggest metropolis boasts Aztec and Spanish history, a fantastic foodie scene, and dozens of museums. With more than 25 million people, this city won’t leave you lonely. And even in these inflationary times, the cost of living remains reasonable.
- Puerto Vallarta. A beautiful town in the west of Mexico on the coast of Banderas Bay, Puerto Vallarta once had a reputation as a sleepy seaside village. But lately the city has been growing rapidly, adding 14% to its population over the past ten years alone. With a population of half a million people, Puerto Vallarta offers gorgeous seaside vistas, classic colonial architecture and a high percentage of English speakers.
- Monterrey. Monterrey is considered one of Mexico’s top cities for business. It has a metro system and cosmopolitan touches like a museum of contemporary art. It also is full of natural attractions like the eco-park Parque Natural La Estanzuela; the Garcia Caves, the world’s second-largest cave system; and Cerro de la Silla, a steep mountain that offers an expansive view of the city from its peak.
- Tijuana. Just south of San Diego, so close that it’s a home base for some Americans who work on the U.S. side of the border, Tijuana once had an image as a slightly shady getaway town. But the Tijuana of today has evolved into a happening city. Its draws include Telefónica Gastro Park, a sprawling collection of eateries and craft beer that was recently named a top worldwide gastronomic destination.
- Cancun. Known for its fabulous all-inclusive resorts, Cancun is also the closest city to one of the world’s greatest sights, the ancient Mayan temple of Chichen Itza. You’ll also find the Mayan Museum of Archaeology within the city. It also has beautiful beaches and tranquil islands, and even an underwater art museum. (But bring your wetsuit because most of its more than 500 sculptures can only be seen via scuba diving excursion.)
Most Affordable Cities in Mexico
- Puebla. Mexico’s most affordable city is less than two hours away from populous Mexico City, which is close enough for day trips. Its claims to fame include the massive active volcano of Popocatépetl, its stunning cathedrals, and its most beloved invention, the delicious mole poblano sauce made with chocolate and ancho chili peppers.
- Querétaro. Querétaro is at the heart of Mexico’s second most extensive wine region and is quickly becoming known as a great destination for affordable, safe living for foreigners. With a population of fewer than 800,000 people, Querétaro has six universities, manufacturing centers for some of the world’s largest corporations, and the fastest-growing economy in the country. Its historic center has beautiful architecture and lots of bright flowers, so it’s very pretty too.
- Guadalajara. Guadalajara is a city of contrasts, famous for being both the home of traditional mariachi music and one of the biggest gay pride parades in all of Latin America. In short, Guadalajara offers everything that foreigners move to Mexico for: inexpensive living, great culture, historic traditions, delicious dining options, and lots to see and do. Although it’s the second largest city after Mexico City in terms of land mass, its population is a tenth of the size, so you’ll have room to breathe.
- Mérida. Built on top of an ancient Mayan city complex, Mérida features a huge museum of Mayan culture, an active fishing port in nearby Progreso, two large eco-reserves, and a thriving arts scene. There is ample European-style architecture from the 17th to 19th centuries, including several beautiful cathedrals and churches. The climate of Mérida is notably tropical, with high temperatures and high humidity, especially in the summertime.
The Average Mexico Cost of Living
Housing Costs in Mexico
Mexico offers many locations to explore, each one more interesting than the last. Environments range from modern cities to placid seasides to enchanting mountain vistas. With its low cost of living and variety of destinations, it’s no wonder expatriates are flocking to Mexico. In addition to the highest- and lowest-cost cities listed above, there are gems that fall somewhere in the middle. These include San Miguel de Allende, an artsy haven, and Lake Chapala, a large lake that is home to many foreign retirees.
The monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in an average area of Mexico City will cost about USD$400-$500. In a nicer area, expect to pay around USD$680-$830 per month. As in most cities, going outside the city center will allow you to spend less. Trendy spots like San Miguel de Allende, with its thriving arts scene, or Playa del Carmen, with beautiful miles-long white sand beaches, have dramatically lower-priced rents outside their city centers.
But not all cities have the cachet of a San Miguel de Allende or Playa del Carmen, and thus many have remained quite affordable. Puebla, which is still flying under the radar of most foreigners, is definitely on the more affordable side, with a one-bedroom apartment costing around USD$300-$370, and a three-bedroom, around USD$600-$730.
Monthly rents for apartments in popular expat spots in Mexico:
- Campeche, Campeche: One-bedroom, USD$260-$320; three-bedroom, USD$408-490
- Mérida, Yucatán: One-bedroom, USD$360-$440; three-bedroom, USD$660-800
- Guadalajara, Jalisco: One-bedroom, USD$440-540; three-bedroom, USD$920-1120
- Mazatlán, Sinaloa: One-bedroom, USD$600-$730; three-bedroom, USD$810-990
- Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo: One-bedroom, USD$780-960; three-bedroom, USD$1290-$1580
- San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato: One-bedroom, USD$590-$720; three-bedroom, USD$1820-2230
For a standard WiFi connection, you’ll pay USD$23-$29 per month depending on your provider. The cost of utilities for one person averages about USD$46-$56 per month.
Food and Entertainment Costs in Mexico
Mexico’s cuisine is popular all over the world for its fresh flavors and spicy profile. Dining out has become a major attraction in Mexico’s expat centers, with foodie-friendly specialties and a large variety of options. Grocery prices are very affordable, and fresh produce is especially plentiful and available due to Mexico’s ideal growing conditions.
If you dine out in Mexico City’s or Playa del Carmen’s expatriate hotspots, expect to pay about USD$34-$41 for a three-course meal for two people. An inexpensive lunch out will set you back around USD$4-$6. Ordering a domestic beer at a restaurant will cost you around USD$2-3. Prices for dining out in Mexico’s less expensive cities are lower. However, there isn’t as much of a price differential for food costs as there is for housing costs. Going out to the cinema will run you from USD$4-5. And joining the local fitness club might cost you USD$20-25 in a smaller city or USD$35-$40 in a bigger city.
Shopping at local markets and cooking fresh meat and produce at home are great sources of enjoyment for many foreigners living in Mexico. You can expect to pay USD$1.03-$1.25 for a liter of milk, USD$1.53-$1.87 for a dozen eggs, and USD$5.17-$6.31 for a kilogram of chicken breast. Here are some costs of other grocery items you might want to pick up:
- Beef (1 kg): USD$8.18-10.00
- Wine: USD$4.44-$5.42
- Domestic Beer (.5L bottle): USD$1.11-$1.35
- Rice (1 kg): USD$.80-$.98
- Potatoes (1 kg): USD$.64-$.78
Transportation Costs in Mexico
One of the benefits foreigners report in Mexico is the convenience of being able to get around without a car. Mexico’s major cities were largely designed on the walkable Spanish model. And public transportation is inexpensive enough that taking buses and cabs easily becomes a part of life. Using public transport is both convenient and affordable, with bus tickets costing USD$.45-$.55 and a monthly pass around USD$14-$17. Of course, expats do drive anyway. And for North Americans, the ability to drive to and from Mexico is sometimes a major factor in their decision to move there. If you do prefer to drive, you can buy a Volkswagen Golf for USD$15,750-$19,250. A liter of gas will run you about USD$1.01-$1.23.
Healthcare Costs in Mexico
The affordability of healthcare in Mexico is a major selling point for Americans wanting to move to another country for a better cost of living. Mexico boasts many US-trained doctors and dentists, and many speak English. Healthcare and medicines (many manufactured right there in Mexico) cost around 50% less than the same or similar products and services in the United States.
However, public care facilities are crowded and often have long waiting times. Also, care is usually delivered in Spanish. If you are not fluent, that puts you at a significant disadvantage. And lastly, if you aren’t enrolled in the Mexican medical system, you usually must prove you can pay in order to receive care. Many expatriates opt for international health insurance in order to gain access to private facilities where they can be seen quickly and with a higher standard of care.
Learn More: Healthcare in Mexico for Expats
If you are a foreigner employed in Mexico, you can participate in the national health insurance plan for employed people, IMSS. It will cost you from USD$40-USD$60/mo, depending upon your age. Private facilities such as hospitals and clinics accept private insurance and offer comforts such as private rooms, another reason expats often opt for global medical insurance. Learn more about health insurance in Mexico.
Best Insurance for US Expats in Mexico
- Premium Benefits, Coverage and Service
- Define your deductible and prescription benefits
- For Foreigners in the US or US Citizens Abroad
Best Insurance in Mexico for Foreigners
- Flexibility to tailor plans to suit your individual needs
- Access to Cigna Global’s network of trusted doctors
- Convenience and confidence of 24/7/365 customer service
Find a Beautiful Lifestyle at an Affordable Cost in Mexico
Many an expat has found the beauty and lifestyle of Mexico well worth considering. That makes it one of the most popular destinations for internationally-focused US citizens for decades. Whether your ideal retirement or expatriation locale is a mountain paradise like Ajijic, a beach party atmosphere like the Riviera Maya, a busy metropolis like Mexico City, a classic colonial village like Mazatlán, or a colorful, artsy retreat like San Miguel de Allende, Mexico truly offers something for everyone.