Mexico offers retirees several inexpensive and comfortable places to live, either seasonally or permanently. In general, smaller towns offer a lower cost of living, while the larger cities and areas popular with tourists tend to be more expensive.
In Mexico, as in the United States, costs for retirees vary from one region and city to the next. As a rule of thumb, basic utilities such as electricity, phone and water cost up to 50 percent less than in comparable U.S. cities. Food is about one-third less expensive. Household cleaning and maintenance costs are about 10 percent of the cost for the same in the United States, as basic manual labor is plentiful and wages are low. Public transportation is readily available and inexpensive, which allows most retirees to live in Mexico without the use, or expenses, of a private car. Medical insurance is available on a public plan at about $200 per year. For those interested in owning property, there is a significant savings in property taxes, and houses cost from 50 to 70 percent less than in the United States, depending on location.
San Miguel de Allende, Lake Chapala and Ajijic have been hosting retirees for decades. A huge expatriate community makes visitors and relocators from the United States feel at home. The weather is temperate throughout the year. Property values are trending higher, but the basic costs of living, including food, utilities and transportation remain low. The region has also become an important center of low-cost artisan products, including rugs, pottery and tableware. Cuernavaca, the capital of Morelos, is conveniently close to Mexico City. It offers a mild climate and a large number of restaurants, shops and cultural activities.
Close to the United States is Baja California, a peninsula extending south from the California border. Loreto and San Felipe are inexpensive towns in Baja California that offer ready access to ocean beaches. Puerto Penasco, on the eastern shore of the Sea of Cortes in Sonora, is an easy drive south from the border of Arizona. Another location offering small-town pace and prices is Barra de Navidad in Jalisco, a coastal town on the Costa Allegre, or Happy Coast.
Oaxaca, in southern Mexico, has one of the most reasonable costs of living in the entire country and has long been a center of Mayan crafts and culture. The Mayan Riviera is the region of beaches, tropical rain forest and Mayan ruins covering the Yucatan Peninsula. Low-cost beach towns are thriving in this region, although popular vacation destinations such as Cancun should be avoided by the budget-conscious.