Updated in 2022.
Today, I’ll answer that age-old question: what are the best places to live in Mexico?
But first, a story.
I was 14 years old.
My first taste of south of the border.
It was a family trip to a beach resort in Cabo San Lucas, a common vacation for middle class Canadians. A few days after arriving, we decided to leave the all-inclusive and take a bus into town.
I’ll never forget that day. Dusty roads, the smell of fresh laundry drying in the sun, the crow of roosters, the general cacophony.
I was enamoured by it all.
It was at that moment, that first bus ride into a Mexican town, that I knew.
I will live in a place like this one day.
But, life, as it tends to do, got in the way. It was only after graduating high school, earning a useless degree and more than a few menial jobs later that I revisited the dream of my childhood.
Eventually, I found a way to make it happen. But I had one problem; one question:
Where to live?
As many of you know, I eventually landed on Mexico City and never for a moment regretted my choice. But it wasn’t easy deciding. There was no information on the Internet that gave me a sound idea of what city or region of Mexico might be best for a guy like me.
Fortunately, having now travelled extensively through the country, I’m in a position to help other men out who are thinking of moving abroad to Mexico decide which city will fit them best.
If you’re a man wondering about the best places to live in Mexico, this post is about to tell you what you need to know.
Where Should You Live in Mexico?
So, here’s what we’ll do. We’ll start in the north of Mexico and move our way down. I’ll give a breakdown of the culture, nightlife scene and cost of living. I’ll also make a note about what personality types are likely to do well where, taking age into consideration (eg. many old people love Merida, many young people don’t).
Let’s get it rolling.
The North of Mexico
At the risk of making sweeping generalizations (which I love to do), I’ve decided to group the north of Mexico into one category. Although the respective locals of these states would fiercely disagree, in reality, the different states of the north share enough similarities for our purposes.
Basically, we’ll deal with the areas on the map:
The culture in northern Mexico is rather different than in the rest of the country. You’re going to see a lot more cowboy hats and western shirts here than anywhere else. The people are also much louder and more rambunctious in the northern states. They are also more direct and less passive aggressive – which I like. Initially I found Norteños to be a bit less helpful and friendly than other Mexicans, but my opinion changed once I got to know a few of them better. They do come off as slightly abrasive at first, but it’s nothing personal. They treat foreigners just as well as anywhere in Mexico. The dudes are also cool here – best sense of humor in the country and they love to take the piss out of each other.
The food here is different too. There is a much heavier focus on meat, dairy and beer (Tecate Light!) than in the rest of the country. Also, guacamole, which surprisingly isn’t all that abundant in Mexico City.
Another thing you’ll notice is that the people are taller and lighter skinned in the north than in the rest of the country. The Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire way back in the 16th century is partially to thank for this, as is subsequent European immigration to the northern states. Likely due to a smaller population density, less mixing took place here in the north than in other parts of the country. So if you have blue or green eyes and a pale complexion, you won’t feel out of place in a state like Chihuahua or Sonora.
But it’s not all sugar and spice. The norteño accent is very polarizing; that is, you’ll love it or hate it. I happen to like it.
Also, there is more of a machismo culture at play here, so more women will expect you to foot the bill for everything. You’ll encounter this much more here than anywhere else in the country.
Everything is more spread out here, including bars. Whereas in Mexico City or Guadalajara, you can be within walking distance of any bar or club you’d ever want to go, in many northern cities you’ll need to take a car to get to some good spots. Or an Uber (most northern cities like Hermosillo, Monterrey, Torreon, Tijuana etc are adopting it). Nightlife here is also more expensive. Cheapest way to do it in the nicer places is to go with a group and get a bottle. You’ll be surprised at how much girls here can drink. It’s a bit unsettling, but also reassuring to know that your girl won’t be acting like a fool after two cocktails.
Cost of Living
People from the north have a reputation in Mexico for being cheap. I didn’t really notice this, but if it’s true it could be because the north is quite a bit more expensive than the rest of the country. However, people also earn more here so that should even it out.
In general, you’ll pay slightly more for everything in the north than you would in the central or south (apart from Mexico City). For affordable living, it is not one of the best places to live in Mexico. Groceries and taxis are slightly more expensive here. Rent? It depends. Monterrey is expensive, but in a mid-sized city like Durango it is very reasonable. You can still feasible live off of $1000 a month here in the north as a single man, but I’d suggest having at the very least $1500 a month so you can have a bit of fun.
Who Should Live in Northern Mexico?
If you’re a gentleman who doesn’t like crowds, likes beautiful women, doesn’t want to give up his car and wants to remain close to the United States, you should live in the north of Mexico. Young and older people alike could be happy here. For these folk, the north could indeed be one of the best places to live in Mexico.
But first there a few negatives to consider. First of all many of the cities up here are, for lack of a better word, ugly. So is the landscape for most people. Lots of barren desert, and oppressively hot in the summer. Let’s not forget about the narco violence and gangs that have rendered many highways unsafe to drive at night. Basically, I would rule out the states of Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon (apart from Monterrey) and Coahuila. Too ugly and too sketchy.
My top choices for the best places to live in Mexico in the north would be Hermosillo (*haven’t been, but I have it on good authority that it’s a decent base) Ensenada, Monterrey, Mazatlan, or Guaymas (Guaymas only if you’re looking for something slow-paced by the beach).
Ahhh, Central Mexico. In my opinion, the most underrated region of Mexico. My first solo trip to Mexico was here – smack dab in the geographical center of the country. I’ve spent a good amount of time here over the past few years so hopefully my insight will help you decide if central Mexico is among the best places to live in Mexico for your tastes.
I don’t have too much to say on the culture here – I didn’t really figure it out. The reputation is that folks from Central Mexico are among the most conservative in the country, but I didn’t get that vibe. What I can say, though, is that the people here are very helpful and friendly. Also less ostentatious than their northern counterparts. Overall a bit more chilled out, modest and quieter than big city folk or northerners. Central Mexico is also one of the safer parts of the country. Aside from a few cities, it has largely not been as affected by drug and gang violence as elsewhere. Aguascalientes and Leon are two of the safest cities in Mexico that offer a high standard of living.
Unfortunately, the food here isn’t that great. They’ll still have the Mexican favorites like tacos, tortas, quesadillas, gorditas etc, but much better food can be had in Oaxaca, Mexico City and the northern states.
Many people use Mexican Cupid.
Cities like Guadalajara, Leon, Aguascalientes, Queretaro and Morelia have a decent number of bars and clubs. Nightlife is fairly cheap in central Mexico, outside of Guadalajara. The only complaint I have is that most people seem to prefer chain clubs like Prive and Barezitto that are generic and expensive. If you’re looking for a dynamic and varied nightlife scene, you can find it in Guadalajara, but you won’t find it most anywhere else in this part of Mexico (at lease, I didn’t). That being said, people here do love to party. There are a lot of university students in these cities so you’ll find many excuses to drink from Thursday through til’ Sunday.
Cost of Living
A good quality about this region that makes it one of the best places in Mexico is that it is fairly cheap, and its cities offer safety, great weather and impressive infrastructure. In Aguascalientes, Queretaro and Morelia, you can life a fairly decent life for $1000 USD a month. For Guadalajara I suggest a bit more.
Also, I’d recommend having a bit of extra money for a flight out to Mexico City or the beach every now and then – things can get a trifle dull in smaller interior cities after a couple months.
Who Should Live in Central Mexico?
If you’re a fella who loves Mexico, but wants safety, security and a quieter lifestyle and low cost of living, you should live in central Mexico. Also, if you’re looking to meet Mexican girls and it’s your first trip to the country, central Mexico is the best jumping off point. Girls are very receptive, the cities are safe and picturesque and there is still enough fun to be had without the craziness, traffic, noise and pollution of a city like Mexico City.
I have a taste for bigger cities, but I could certainly be happy settling down for a time in a place like Aguascalientes or Guanajuato in a nice house with a pretty girlfriend. 25 degree weather year round, no fear of taxi kidnappings of knifepoint robberies…the good life.
My top choices for the best places to live in Mexico in central Mexico would be: Guanajuato, Guadalajara, Leon, Morelia, Queretaro, Zacatecas or Aguascalientes.
I’ve talked a great deal about Mexico City on this website, but what’s a few more words? I could spend my life talking about this city. That’s how much I love it. I haven’t met anyone who has come to Mexico City and hasn’t been impressed. It’s far from the third world hellhole most people expect. I consider it one of the best places to live in Mexico.
But, despite my affection for this city, I’ll try to be as objective as possible for the sake of the reader. People that come here should know what to expect and it isn’t all fun and games. Mexico City can be pretty intense for those unfamiliar with sprawling Latin American metropolises. That being said, it is, without a doubt, one of the best places to stay and play down here.
It’s not easy to say. Chilangos (Chilango=person from Mexico City) would tell you they have a distinct culture, but it’s mostly just a mix of different people coming together, like you’d find in any big city. You’ll find food and people from all of the country and all over the world here. People from Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, Peru, France, Spain, Russia. List goes one. Perhaps that’s why I like it so much – as a foreigner, you can remain anonymous but still feel as though you’re part of the fabric of the city. You’ll still find that Mexico City is very distinctly Mexican, with taco stands, juice carts and Oxxo corner stores every few feet, but it also has many features more characteristic of a European city (the cafes of Condesa and Roma) or an American city (the affluent neighborhood of Polanco and Santa Fe). Everything comes together real nicely.
Mexico City has solid nightlife. There is something for all shapes and sizes. I suggest staying around Condesa, Roma or Polanco if this is a priority for you. Nightlife is more expensive here than in some other parts of the country, but that’s to be expected for a city of this size. Luckily, UBER is cheap and there are several places without cover charges. I’ve written quite a bit about Mexico City’s nightlife, so feel free to Check Out This Post if you’re looking for specific recommendations.
Two things Mexico City nightlife lacks, however are BIG, two story-type clubs and reggaeton clubs. A lot of the bars are small, and they tend to mix up the music. If you’re looking for the former, there are a few spots in Polanco, Santa Fe and San Angel, but really, there a’int much.
Nevertheless, night owls and party animals will not be disappointed here. If it’s a party scene you’re after, Mexico City is definitely one of your top options.
Cost of Living
After spending about 20 months of my life in this city, I can give you confident figures for cost of living. Initially, out of necessity, I was living off under $1000 a month here. It wasn’t fun. I don’t suggest attempting it. Once I started earning more and discovering all that the city had to offer, I was spending $1000 or more each month, with rent only accounting for $300 of that (I was luckily, expect to pay more than this in rent if you plan to live in Mexico City).
Bottom line, $2000 a month would be perfect. More is always better, but $2000 would definitely allow for a good life here in the capital. $600 will get you a good apartment with a roommate or two in Roma or Condesa, and the remaining $1400 would cover all the basics and allow you to go out to bars 2 or 3 times a week, assuming you don’t make it rain. At the time of writing, the Mexican peso is very weak, but even if it gains strength somehow, $2000 will be fine. If you’re making that much, Mexico City can be great. If you’re making significantly less, you’re quality of life will suffer, and you may want to opt for a smaller city.
Who Should Live in Mexico City?
In my opinion, this city is best suited for young people. 35 years old and under. It’s noisy, polluted and the traffic will wear on even the most patient of men. But it is goddamn exciting to live here. If you’re young or young at heart, like big cities and want to have a bit of fun, Mexico City is the best place in Mexico to live. But if you’re on a tight budget, looking for a slower pace of life and are seeking tranquility and fresh air, maybe reconsider.
Pockets of tranquility can be found in the city. Residential neighbourhoods in Coyoacan, del Valle, Napoles, and Narvarte can be surprisingly quiet. But the chaos of the city is never far away. Many say that Mexico City has the worst traffic in the world.
It’s also not the safest city in the country. Although nothing ever happened to me, I have a few friends that have recently been robbed, ripped off or assaulted. Most of them have been women, unfortunately. This sort of thing can usually be avoided by sticking to nice areas, but it is something to keep in mind.
Here are some of the best places to live in Mexico City: Roma, Condesa, Coyoacan, Juarez, Napoles, Narvarte, Del Valle, San Angel.
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The South of Mexico
If you’ll forgive me once more for a sweeping generalization, I’m going to do my best to group the south of Mexico together. Yes, I know, there is a grand difference between Oaxaca and Cancun, but this post is running long enough already.
It would kill me to bore you anymore than I have. For some, this will be one of the best spots for living in Mexico due to its lower cost of living (outside tourist areas), slow-paced lifestyle and natural beauty.
Primarily indigenous. Very family oriented and generally known as hardworking. Not super outgoing to outsiders, friendly, but a bit more reserved than in the rest of the country. Outside of vacation destinations, very little English is spoken so you might want to Up Your Spanish if you plan on coming here. If you’re looking for a longterm, family oriented partner, this region is one of your best choices
You’ve got Cancun and Acapulco in the south of Mexico, as well as Playa Del Carmen. So there is plenty of fiesta to be had. If you prefer city nightlife with a more Mexican vibe, I’d suggest Xalapa or Oaxaca City. Merida has a decent number of bars as well.
There are a few tourist trap cities around here, and they’re not the best place to go for nightlife, unless your style of nightlife is Americans-on-vacation-in-Mexico nightlife. Don’t get me wrong, that kind of nightlife can be fun too, but it gets old after a few weeks. Trust me. You’ll start to lose faith in humanity (that is, if you haven’t yet). I view the south of Mexico as a place to relax and get by without needing much money. Weather is great if you don’t mind the heat, food and rent is cheap and the people are chill. It’d would be a great place to bootstrap an online business now that I think of it (in cities outside of Cancun or Playa del Carmen, of course).
Cost of Living
The main draw of the south of Mexico is that it is cheap. Substantially cheaper than the rest of the country. I fancy you could find a nice one-bedroom to rent in Merida close to the center of town for about $500 USD. Even Playa del Carmen with its inflated tourist prices could still be done for under $1000 a month.
Who Should Live in the South of Mexico?
If you love the heat, don’t want to spend a lot of money and want access to some of the best beach vacation destinations in the world, the south of Mexico might just be for you. The low cost of living and warm year-round weather is definitely appealing. This is the sort of place that older guys who want to kick back a little should look at. Folk people who meet this criteria, the south could suit you well.
However, keep in mind that poverty is more rampant here in the south and, although crime rates are low in the Yucatan and Quintana Roo, Veracruz and Guerrero are known for narco violence. I’d suggest Oaxaca City or Merida for those looking for a slightly more metropolitan vibe, and Playa del Carmen for those that want a 24/7 beach party.
Final Thoughts On The Best Places To Live in Mexico
There are a few things/regions of I haven’t covered. For example, Baja California kind of has its own thing going on – aside from its northern border cities, it doesn’t fit neatly into any category.
In reality, I’ve only touched on a handful of Mexico’s 31 states.
But I think it’s enough to give you an idea.
Before I knew any information about Mexico, these were the type of things I wanted to know when I asked myself that momentous question: Where to live in Mexico?
The main reason Mexico has become my favourite Latin American country is due to its impressive number of incredible cities that are safe, vibrant and picturesque. While countries such as Colombia and Brazil also boast a handful of amazing cities, the general lack of safety is a bit of a turnoff for those looking for somewhere to live longterm.
Also, the Mexican tourist visa is among the most favourable in Latin America. Tourists are granted 6 months upon arrival, and there is no limit for how long you must be out of the country before returning. This means that you can live in Mexico year-round simply by border hopping right before your six months are up. The same can’t be said for Colombia, Brazil or Peru, where you’re required to leave the country for six months after your tourist visa is up.
This is a huge plus, and makes Mexico one of the few feasible options for tourists looking to live longterm in Latin America on a tourist visa.
Anyway, I hope I’ve been able to helped you determine some of the best places to live in Mexico, and I hope you’ve enjoyed the post.
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