Mexico is one of the largest and most beautiful countries in the Americas. Every year, countless numbers of tourists travel from all over the world to experience the rich culture, delicious food, beautiful beaches, and friendly citizens.
But for over a million expats from the United States and Canada, Mexico is more than just a weekend getaway; it’s their home.
It’s not just North Americans who immigrate to Mexico either. I’ve been here for a year and I’ve met countless Italians, Colombians, Argentinians, Danes, Australians, and expats from every continent. Many people choose to retire here, and there is an increasing number of young people who are gaining residency in order to call Mexico their home base.
In my conversations and research, I’ve come across a variety of reasons people decide to move to this country.
Here are the most common reasons Mexico makes it to the top of so many people’s list:
- Good cost of living and standard of living
- Strong expat community
- Relatively easy to get residency
- You can get by with English (plus Spanish is fun and useful to learn!)
- There are well-connected international airports
- There are hundreds of domestic destinations to travel to
- Mexicans are intelligent, friendly, and interesting neighbors
- There are many safe places to choose from
- Tacos! 🌮🤤
Of course, as with any country, there are some downsides and areas of concern as well. There is always an ongoing low-intensity conflict going on between the Mexican government and drug-trafficking syndicates (cartels). But these are usually confined to isolated places and are easy to avoid.
The Mexican culture is deeply patriarchal, and saturated with “machismo.” (Machismo is a Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin American term that is similar to the English term ‘toxic masculinity’). However, there is an incredibly strong and well-educated feminist movement concentrated in Mexico City and quickly spreading all across the nation.
So, all in all, is Mexico a safe place to live?
Yes. (In my white-male-from-the-United-States opinion, of course) But over a million people from all around the world agree with me. Just like any other country, be sure to stick to the safe areas.
Speaking of, let’s get to it, here are 5 of the safest places to live in Mexico:
Mexico City is the largest city in the nation, and the second most populous city in all of the Americas. (Only São Paulo, Brazil is bigger). Mexico City’s population is slightly larger than New York City. It’s one of the most important and vibrant epicenters of culture, finance, politics, art, and cuisine in the world.
If you’re an urbanite, you’ll fall in love with CDMX (Ciudad de Mexico). It has over 150 museums, stunning architecture and historical sights, and over a dozen trendy (and safe!) neighborhoods to explore. It’s also one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly cities south of the U.S.
The streets are filled with stylish Mexicans, tourists, and expats. Music flows from bars and cafes every day. Students flock from all around the globe to study. The nightlife is incredible and varied. And the food. Ooooh the food. You’ll find the best Mexican dishes, as well as gourmet cuisine from all around the world, at about half the price of NYC restaurants.
Playa Del Carmen
If you’re a beach lover, Mexico City might not be your cup of tea. But don’t worry, Mexico has thousands of miles of coastline. 😎🤙
One of the most popular destinations for expats, as well as tourists, is Playa Del Carmen, located on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico in the Yucatan Peninsula.
Playa Del Carmen is one of the hot spots in the Riviera Maya — the area starting just south of Cancun in Puerto Morelos and extending to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere. For many people, it’s the perfect sweet spot in between beach town, resort town, and small city.
Playa has all of your modern luxuries like shopping malls, Starbucks, condos with a/c and rooftop pools, and coworking spaces. Not to mention incredible scuba diving and snorkeling spots. The expat community has been entrenched for decades and is easy to find. They are still building condos and it’s easy to get into the real estate game for those looking to own.
There are tons of great day trips or weekend trips you can take to places like Cancun, Tulum, Lake Bacalar, and Merida. It’s a great base from which you can explore the beautiful nature of the Yucatan, learn about Ancient Mayan Culture, and explore some of the coolest nightlife in the country.
San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende is a colonial-era city in the central highlands of the Mexican state of Guanajuato. It’s a very popular place for expats to settle due to its stunning baroque Spanish architecture, thriving arts community, and abundance of cultural festivals and events.
San Miguel de Allende is small, compared to other Mexican cities, there are approximately 160,000 residents, with over 10,000 expats. But it’s absolutely packed with art and culture. A section of the old town is actually a Unesco World Heritage Site. There are schools for artists and their work is proudly displayed all around the city.
Many people are drawn to San Miguel de Allende because of it’s perpetual spring-like weather, the thriving international community, and excellent real estate value. The incredible restaurants, beautiful architecture, and quaint cobblestone streets only up the ante.
Nestled halfway down the pacific coast of the country in the state of Jalisco, Puerto Vallarta is another incredibly popular city/resort town. An excellent climate, beautiful beaches, stunning views, incredible food, and a vibrant nightlife draw tourists from every corner of the world.
Puerto Vallarta has been a thriving Mexican community for hundreds of years. Its ideal location in the Bahía de Banderas (Bay of Flags) on the Pacific has made it an important port and fishing town. The architecture, art, and culture of PV reflect it’s historic significance.
In the 1970s the Mexican government invested heavily in Puerto Vallarta, and the city started getting featured in media and pop culture in the USA. Since then, the city’s reputation has grown and spread around the world.
Puerto Vallarta is known as the gay beach capital of Mexico. For over 40 years, LGBTQ Canadians, Americans, and Mexicans have been investing in the city and its beaches to create gay-owned businesses and friendly neighborhoods. Rainbow flags are hung from nearly every business and in 2017, Puerto Vallarta became the first Gay Travel Approved® city in Mexico by gaytravel.com
Puerto Vallarta is an interesting mix of old and new, local and international, and beach and city. There are plenty of amazing day/weekend trips to nearby places like Sayulita and the Marietas Islands, and there is plenty of real estate available.
Oaxaca City lies on the foothills of the Sierra Madre, and is one of the most historically significant places in the country. The entire city center is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
For people who like cities – but not the CDMX/NYC size cities – Oaxaca might be just right for you. (It has the same population as my hometown of Buffalo, NY… GO BILLS!)
Oaxaca has plenty to do without feeling chaotic. It’s filled witih museums, art, music, and surrounded by nature. And I know I’ve talked up the food of other cities, but Oaxacan cuisine is other-worldly. You’d be hard-pressed to find better mole or mezcal anywhere in the world.
Oaxaca city has everything you need to be comfortable, a moderate pace of life, and will cost you about 25% less then Mexico City.