Moving to Mexico: A Guide for Expats to Live Here

Moving to Mexico can be challenging. There are many things you need to deal with, from securing a visa and finding a good place to live, to opening a bank account and setting up your life here. 

This page will guide you through all the essential information you need to know about moving to Mexico. We also link to relevant resources, so that you can find more step-by-step guides on each topic.

Job Opportunities 

There are many job opportunities for English speakers in Mexico. 

If you are a native English speaker, a common job for expats is a language teacher. Schools often hire native speakers to teach at language centers, private schools, and universities.

Jobs in schools and universities are not limited to teaching English. It’s also possible to teach specialized subjects like biology, business, or math.

Other popular industries for expats are tourism, hospitality, and telecommunications.

In addition, Mexico has branches of multiple multinational companies that may need native foreign speakers to communicate with international partners. Some companies include: Volkswagen, Finsa, Pepsico, Whirlpool, and Huawei.

Speaking Spanish might increase your chances of finding a job in Mexico, regardless if you’re going to be an English teacher or not, especially for communicating with colleagues and supervisors.

There are many job sites you can use to get a job in Mexico including: 

Include a phone number on your resume, and if you have WhatsApp, let your potential employers know they can reach you there.

If you’re already in Mexico, let the company know and include a local phone number. In other cases, you can buy an online phone number from a service like Skype.

If you successfully get a face-to-face interview, dress professionally since Mexican culture takes the first impression seriously. 

You can absolutely work as a freelancer and digital nomad too

Read more:

Cost of Living

Living in Mexico is very affordable.

Your expenses could be anywhere from US$1,000 to US$1,500 per month if you’re single with no kids. 

If you’re a couple, US$1,500 to US$2,000 per month would be perfect for a comfortable lifestyle anywhere in Mexico. 

This budget will cover housing, utilities, food, and recreational expenses.

tocula city in Mexico
Living in Mexico is affordable. You may need to spend only US$1,000 to US$1,500 per month.

If you relocate with your kids, add 35 percent for each child to the budgets above.

This is only a rough number only. If you eat out a lot, travel regularly, or live in a luxurious place, your cost of living will be much higher than this.

To find out more, read our in-depth guide on How Much You Need to Live in Mexico


There are two visas that allow you to live in Mexico long-term.

Let’s look at each one more closely.

Temporary Resident Visa

A temporary resident visa allows you to live in Mexico for 180 days to 4 years. After that, you can change your visa into a permanent resident visa. 

Here’s a list of popular temporary resident visas in Mexico:

The process to apply for a temporary visa is generally the same. 

For example, for a work visa, you need to get a job offer from your Mexican employer. After that, you can submit an application for a work permit to the National Migration Institute (INM). You can do it online with the help of your employer. 

Once a decision has been made by the INM, you can submit your other documents, such as your passport and your academic certificates.

Then, you will receive a working visa, which allows you to live in Mexico for one to two years. Then, it’s renewable for up to 4 years. 

You can start the application process from your home country at the Mexican consular or embassy, or in Mexico.

Mexico also has a visa for digital nomads, listed under the temporary resident visa. The main requirement is a proof of income of over US$1,036 for six months. 

However, with this visa, you are not allowed to work in Mexico, and your income needs to come from abroad.

Permanent Resident Visa

If you want to live in Mexico indefinitely, you can apply for a permanent resident visa. This is also the next step for temporary resident visa holders to extend their stay in Mexico.

You are a candidate to apply for a permanent resident visa if any of the following situations applies to you:

Once having a permanent resident visa, you can work without a Mexican work visa.

Read more


Before you arrive in Mexico, make sure you know the basics of Spanish. Mexico has an expansive territory where every region has its own accent and slang.

Understanding the basics of standard Spanish will make your relocation process easier as an expat in Mexico.

Speaking Spanish is also fundamental to having a social life in Mexico.

If you want to live in a tropical climate, Cancun is a good place.

Not many Mexicans will feel confident conversing in English. Most Mexicans who speak English as a foreign language are young, around 30 years old, on average.

Learning Spanish once you move to Mexico is easy. Your Mexican friends will support and encourage you to learn Spanish. Mexicans are very proud of their culture and are usually willing to share it with you.

Some Mexican slang comes from popular national TV shows and classic movies. Learning Mexican Spanish through movies is recommended for also understanding the culture.

You can also learn Spanish online from your home country.

Please note that Mexico is a broad and diverse country. Even though Spanish is the official language, some people in rural communities may speak a native language.

Read more:


Mexican food is the result of two cuisines — local indigenous cultures and the heritage the Spanish and other European and Asian cultures brought during colonization.

Some Mexican dishes may taste like your own home cooked food.

Tortilla Mexican food
Mexican food can be spicy. Try a tiny bit first to be safe.

However, the principal ingredients in Mexican cuisine are white corn (tortillas), tomatoes, green tomatoes, different chilies, and a diversity of spices.

Mexican food is greasy and spicy, which will probably make your stomach upset. You’ll get used to it with time.

Survival tip: Don’t trust a Mexican who tells you that this is not spicy. You will have a different spiciness tolerance. You better try a tiny bite first to be safe.


Healthcare in Mexico is of good quality and affordable. You will find English-speaking doctors in most hospitals and clinics throughout the country.

While it’s possible to visit a public hospital, expats in Mexico still prefer visiting a private hospital because of English-speaking doctors and much less waiting time. 

If you are a Mexican resident, you will be covered by INSABI, which is basically public insurance available to all Mexican residents. 

However, you will be mainly limited to public facilities only. If you are working in Mexico, you will be covered by IMSS, which is the national social security. It provides better coverage than INSABI and will also cover your parents, your spouse, and kids if they live in Mexico.

Additionally, many Mexicans and expats get private health insurance because of the shorter wait times and quality service. 

Private health insurance also gives you more access to healthcare providers.

Read more:

Specialized Clinic and Doctors

If you don’t want to visit a hospital, you can visit doctors who have their consulting offices or who belong to a specialized clinic.

The cost of this consultation depends on the doctor’s experience and expertise. However, prices vary according to the location of a private doctor’s office or hospital.

A consultation with a specialized doctor can go from US$45 to US$80. This cost also applies to dentists, nutritionists, and psychologists.


Some pharmacies in Mexico offer medical appointments and simple checkups. I recommend this service for non-urgent injuries. For example, an upset stomach or headache.

A consultation at these pharmacies ranges from US$3 to US$8.

These pharmacies also offer medical certificates. Plus, you can have a quick and affordable blood pressure and glucose test done there.

Pharmacy chains that may offer this service are:

In addition to these pharmacy chains, there are individual pharmacies throughout Mexico, but not all of them are trustworthy. 

So, if you want to visit them, it’s better to get a personal recommendation from your Mexican friends.

Where to Live in Mexico?

Mexico is a vast country with a variety of ecosystems and industries. 

The country is divided by northern, central, and southern states. Keep in mind that each region has a different lifestyle based on the weather and its closeness to the ocean.

You can expect different diets and traditions from one zone to another as well. You can also expect people from the northern states to eat steak every weekend, while in the south, people may eat fish every day.

Guanajuato is another popular place to live in Mexico for expats.

Guadalajara is popular destination for expats in Mexico.

In the past, it was tricky for expats to relocate to small towns. Nowadays, some villages have local communities of expats that have decided to stay in Mexico and live a chill and hippie lifestyle.

Here are some of them:

Most big cities in Mexico have a balance between village and metropolis lifestyles.

One advantage to living in a city is that you’ll find a more open-minded and diverse population. 

This means that it could be easier for you to make friends with other expats.

Also, it will be easier to find people who can understand English — or your native language.

If you’re looking forward to living in a big city, you should consider the following growing cities.

In case you move to Mexico for work, there are zones in Mexico that focus on one industry or another. You can check each area’s leading industry sector to decide on where to live if you also want to work in Mexico.

For example, if you work in the tourism industry, you can live in Quintana Roo, where Cancun and Playa del Carmen are.

If you’re more interested in the automotive industry, you should consider Puebla, Guadalajara, Zacatecas, and the country’s northern states, home to the major automotive manufacturers in Mexico.

Where to Look for a Home?

Nowadays, it’s easy to find a home in Mexico online. If you have Facebook, enter the following (no quotes) into the search bar:

“casas o departamentos en renta + your preferred location”

If you don’t have Facebook, here are a few websites that you can look on:

Also, if you’re already in Mexico you can walk around your hotel or Airbnb and see if there are any houses for rent. Signs that say SE RENTA followed by a phone number are what you’re looking for.

You can also try out your Spanish and ask locals if they know any houses, apartments, or rooms that are for rent.

When renting out an entire apartment or house, you’ll have to sign a lease for an agreed length and have a Mexican co-signer, or aval.

If the property is damaged while you rent it, and you don’t or can’t pay for repairs, the co-signer (aval) will be responsible.

If you don’t have a Mexican relative or close friend to ask for this favor, the landlord may ask you to leave twice the amount of the deposit cost.

Every owner and agency has its own procedures and rules on how this is managed.

There are a few points you should know to avoid scams.

  1. Never give money as a deposit before visiting the place.
  2. Signing a lease is highly recommended. This way, you know your rights as a tenant.

Read our guide on how to find a long-term rental in Mexico and how to rent an apartment in Mexico city to find out more. 

If you want to ship your household goods to Mexico, it’s also easy to do so. Read our shipping to Mexico article for more information.


Before signing a lease, assure which utilities are included in the rent. For example, gas, electricity, and water.

For a single room in a shared house expect to pay US$60 to US$100 for rent with all utilities, including internet and laundry.

Dryers are not often found in a typical Mexican house. Because of the warm weather, people hang their laundry in the sun to dry. You can also drop your clothes off at a laundry service or do it yourself at a laundromat.

Moreover, for one- or two-bedroom apartments you might pay between US$200 to US$360 per month. However, you may be responsible for paying for the gas, electric, water, and wifi.

If you need more space, a three- or more bedroom two-level house can be found for US$500 and up per month. Depending on your needs, you can also rent a house in a complex, which might be more expensive because of the services and amenities such as surveillance and private yards.

Read more:

Phone and Internet

Having a Mexican phone number will indeed help with settling down. 

Although you can communicate through WhatsApp, you may need a phone number to call shops, the embassy, and other government agencies.

There are a lot of phone companies that offer a wide variety of services and plans. These are the most prominent phone companies in Mexico:

The most significant advantage to using these three companies is that they offer calling and message services to the U.S. and Canada at no extra fee.

You can also get service under a prepaid plan.

On average, you can get unlimited data for social media, 2GB of internet, unlimited calls and SMS to any company in the U.S. and Canada for US$7 to US$12 per month.

If you get a VPN, it’s going to cost you another US$6 per month.

For home, you have plenty of choices for internet, cable, and phone services. You can decide which services to pay for according to your needs.

Some popular providers in Mexico are Telmex and Telcel. 

The vast majority of providers offer plans with unlimited internet. What varies, however, is the price and speed.

You could pay US$25 to US$35 for unlimited internet of 200MB and one line of phone service with unlimited calls within Mexico.

Prices and packages are very competitive, but before signing up for a service, make sure the company has coverage in your area.

Also, some companies are still expanding their reach and may not have the infrastructure to connect new customers just yet.

For electricity, you’ll use Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE).

A bill will arrive in your mailbox every month. Depending on your lease, you or the landlord will have to pay at either the supermarket, convenience store, or at one of the CFE offices.

Most Mexican houses use LP gas for the kitchen, and some use natural gas. Rental homes usually come with gas tanks that have to be refilled or replaced every four to six months with LP gas.

In most cases, you will hear a van passing with loud music and someone saying, “el gas.”

You’ll hear this once or twice per week, and it will be your opportunity to exchange your empty gas tank for a filled one, or to fill your existing tank with LP gas.

Some people prefer calling an established company to refill their gas tanks. You can ask your landlord which option is better.

Opening a Bank Account

It is possible to open a bank account as an expat in Mexico. There is a wide variety of national and international banks to choose from.

However, when choosing a bank, think about how compatible it is with the bank in your home country.

Here is a list of the most popular banks in Mexico:

Opening a bank account in Mexico is easy, and it wouldn’t take long. But as a foreigner, you may not be able to open an account online.

Some banks may charge a fee for account management or require a minimum transaction number each month.

Here are the basic requirements and documents for opening a bank account in Mexico:

Also, if you open a bank account in Mexico to receive your weekly or monthly salary, ask the bank for a payroll account, called cuenta de nómina in Spanish.

Apart from the requirements and documents above, you may also bring with you a signed letter or contract from the company you work for.

If you take a few days to open a bank account upon your arrival in Mexico, you can get money from an ATM.

The banks listed above may allow you to get pesos from your foreign account. However, transaction fees may apply from your foreign bank and the ATM.

Read more: How To Open a Bank Account in Mexico

Credit and Debit Cards

Credit and debit cards in Mexico are accepted widely in cities and big businesses in Mexico. You can also use it to pay at a restaurant and supermarket. 

Mexico bank notes
Always carry cash with you since not every places accepts a credit card.

However, in smaller cities, they may not accept a credit card. Carrying some cash is always best.

Find out more: How to Get a Credit Card in Mexico as an Expat


The tax information you need to know depends on your specific situation, but here’s what you should know as an expat in Mexico.

In Mexico, everybody pays taxes for almost any goods and services. On your receipt, you’ll see a value-added tax (IVA).

The percentage of IVA will vary according to the Mexican state you’re in, but it goes from 8 percent to 16 percent.

The price you see on the goods at the supermarket and shops is the final sale price — it already includes the applicable taxes.

As for personal taxes, you report your income to the Servicio de Administración Tributario (SAT). This is the government body in charge of collecting federal taxes.

All residents in Mexico must pay income taxes regardless of their nationality. 

Depending on your total earnings per year, you’ll pay a tax rate anywhere from 0 percent to 30 percent.

In Mexico, all residents pay taxes from any worldwide income regardless of their nationality. But if you paid foreign taxes on a foreign source of income, you will receive a tax credit.

The same goes for any income earned abroad in order to eliminate double taxation. 

Note that the SAT could classify you as a resident if you spend less than 183 days in Mexico. SAT also believes Mexico is your “center of vital interests,” so you’ll have taxation obligations.

The same also holds true if over 50 percent of your total income is made from Mexican sources.

Mexico is divided into states and municipalities that have their own tax regulations. That said, taxes tend to differ in each area, so you may want to hire an accountant.

Read more: Mexico Income Tax for US Expats: Do You Need to Pay?


Mexico provides free basic education from kindergarten to high school.

If you’re a parent, you can sign your kids into a public school. Just visit the website of the school for enrollment procedures.

Secretaría de Educación Pública (SEP) is the institution that handles public education in Mexico, from kindergarten up to high school.

Some public universities are also aligned with SEP’s calendar and guidelines.

Private schools are widespread in Mexico. You can find a school that fits your budget. Villages, though, may not have the same options as big cities.

You might pay anywhere from US$130 to US$500 per month, per child, for primary education.

Every state in Mexico has its own public university too. You can find one on this list of the best public universities.

All universities have specific requirements, but be ready to present your documents, as you may need them.

Lastly, tuition fees for foreigners could be up to 60 percent more expensive than for locals.


Mexico has more than 30 international airports, but the main airports are Mexico City International Airport (AICM) in Mexico City and Cancun International Airport (CUN) in Cancun.

There are plenty of direct flights to Mexico from North American and European countries, mainly from the USA, Canada, and Spain, but also from France, Germany, and the U.K.

If you’re coming from a South American country, the flight route to get to Mexico may include a stopover in Colombia or Panama.

Another common route to arrive in Mexico is through a flight operated by American Airlines. This tends to be cheaper, although passing through the U.S. may require you to get a transit visa.

Depending on where you’re going to live, you may have to take a domestic flight or a bus to get to your new home in Mexico.

Both Mexico City International Airport and Cancun International Airport offer affordable domestic flights and buses that will get you to your final destination. Volaris and Viva Aerobus are two airlines that provide low-cost domestic flights.

Social and Cultural Life

A few years ago in Mexico, it wasn’t common to have expats as neighbors. Over the years, however, seeing expats in Mexico has become more the norm.

Dancing is a part of Mexican life.

Mexicans show a welcoming attitude toward expats. For some cultures, this could be overwhelming.

That said, it could seem that Mexicans like to invade people’s personal space. However, Mexicans are always open to the needs of expats and respect cultural values that aren’t their own.

For example, when you’re introduced to someone, expect a kiss on the cheek from the other person. This social rule applies for women meeting men and vice versa. In close relationships between men this can also exist.

In Mexican culture, the roles between men and women differ.

You will find some families that embrace a macho culture because they were taught that lifestyle is the correct one. On the other hand, Mexico is a country that is evolving into a modern society where women are becoming equal to men.

Mexicans are friendly and warm people. People are chatty with new people in the neighborhood, especially if you come from a foreign country. Mexicans are curious about other cultures. They may want to ask you about your family, your hometown, and why you moved overseas.

I had a black friend who once told me she felt uncomfortable going outside because people would stare at her. In Mexico, the black community is very small. So, my friend’s good looks caught the attention of Mexicans passing along.

Please don’t confuse this with racism. Within time, my friend found out people were just curious about her.

Some people would kindly ask to take a picture with her. She wasn’t used to that type of attention. This situation is an example of when I say that Mexicans can be overwhelming and curious about other cultures.

Moreover, Mexican people use slang and colloquial expressions to speak in daily and informal scenarios. You may get confused, but they will be pleased to explain the meaning in that specific context if you immediately ask.

It is probable that once you get to know a Mexican person, they will soon invite you to a family gathering. They will stuff you with food because they want you to have the best experience ever and try authentic Mexican food.

Also, Mexicans don’t always accept “no” for an answer. They will try to convince you to eat more food — be prepared.

Independence Day

Mexicans are very patriotic and proud of their culture and traditions. Hence, national days such as Independence Day and Revolution Day are essential. The same goes for Día de Muertos.

Note that Cinco de Mayo is not a holiday celebrated all around the country. And of course Cinco de Mayo is not Independence Day.

Just for context, Cinco de Mayo was when, in 1862, the Mexican army defeated the French army. The Cinco de Mayo battle is only remembered in Puebla, where the battle took place. A commemorative parade takes place every Cinco de Mayo in Puebla. Elsewhere in Mexico, it’s a regular day.

Emergency Numbers

Here’s a list of emergency numbers in Mexico:

Tourist Police078
Highway Assistant074
Ambulance911 (just simply tell them you need an ambulance)
Fire Department068

Which Documents Should You Bring to Mexico When Moving There?

Administrative affairs in Mexico are quite complex and strict when it comes to the documents you need. Knowing this, you should bring with you all original documents, not just a copy.

Additionally, all the official documents you submit for any visa application must be legalized by the Mexican embassy or via an Apostille.

Besides your passport, you may also need other official documents for future procedures. 

Assuming that you want to apply for a permanent residence and a work visa, study in Mexico, or get a driver’s license, you may need the following:

You should always bring the originals with you plus a photocopy. Again: the Mexican administration can be very square-minded and strict.

As for travel vaccines, here’s a list of vaccines you should have when in Mexico: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Malaria, Typhoid, Dengue, and Zika.

Is It Safe to Drink Tap Water in Mexico? 

The tap water in Mexico is not safe for drinking, so you’re better off buying drinking water. For this, you have two options:

Is It Safe to Live in Mexico? 

Mexico is the third-largest country in Latin America and home to more than 128 million people. Mexico is also a polarized country, mixed with very wealthy and very poor people.

Also, there are areas that are safe to live and areas that aren’t that safe. Areas popular with expats are safe to live in including Mexico City, Yucatan, Cancun, and Playa del Carmen. 

There are also areas that aren’t considered safe because of crime such as the port city of Manzanillo. 

riding a bicycle in Mexico city
It’s perfectly safe to live in Mexico.

In general, if you stay in a city area and avoid walking alone at night or doing shady business, it is safe to live in Mexico. 

In addition, these are the primary “keep yourself safe” recommendations you’ll hear from locals and other expats living in Mexico.

1. Make friends with your neighbors and listen to their recommendations.

2. Stay aware of what is happening around your neighborhood.

3. Do not walk alone at night in unfamiliar neighborhoods.

The United States Travel Advisory website has a good breakdown on which areas are safe to live in and which are not.

Moving Timeline

If I had to move to Mexico again, I would start planning one year in advance because I have no kids, pets, or real estate property to take care of back home.

The time you need to plan your move to Mexico will depend on these factors, plus the time it takes to find a job that suits your expectations.

Before relocating to Mexico, I would suggest you consider visiting for a short time and seeking a place to live.

Here is an estimated timeline that I would take.

12 Months Out

Six Months Out:

Three Months Out:

One Month Out:

Now, on to You

Having said all this, it’s now your turn to start a new life in Mexico.

The country is a welcoming place for expats. So, you’ll feel comfortable in most places throughout Mexico — especially in big cities.

But where you choose to live will depend on your wants and needs and whether you’re retired or not.

Essential Reading

Here are some of the most important guides you must read when moving to Mexico:

Living Your Life in Mexico

Find common topics that will help you overcome the challenges of living, working, retiring, and starting businesses in Mexico.

Latest Guides for Expats in Mexico