In this post we’ll look at some of the best and cheapest cities to live in Mexico. Clearly safety concerns are a major factor for anyone thinking of moving to Mexico and below we have five options which offer a higher than average quality of life and generally rank amongst the safest cities in the country. We also have a cost of living table at the bottom with estimated monthly costs for 20 different Mexican cities.
5 of the Best Cities to Live in Mexico
Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco
First up, we head to the state of Jalisco and the city of Puerto Vallarta. Located on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, it’s a good option for anyone who wants the beach lifestyle and an international feel, but also wants to live in a proper city and not just a tourist resort.
With around 400,000 people living in its metropolitan area, Puerto Vallarta certainly is the former but tourism does unquestionably play a major part in its economy. Its growth into one of the most popular seaside destinations in Mexico has come thanks to its pristine beaches but also its safe reputation.
Widely considered to be one of the safest places to live in Mexico, Puerto Vallarta has become one of the most popular locations in North America for digital nomads and remote workers. It may particularly appeal to younger nomads due to its status as something of a party town while Puerto Vallarta is also often referred to as Mexico’s gay capital with plenty of LGBTQ Americans and Mexicans having set up businesses in the city or along the beachfront.
Estimated Living Costs* – 17,500 Mexican Pesos per month ($850)
*The cost of living estimates for the five Mexican cities in this post (and those in the table at the bottom) are designed to cover the living costs for a single person. That includes the cost of rented accommodation, although the figures are more designed for budget-minded people who want a comfortable standard of living but don’t intend to go overboard on expenditure.
Overall, the figures should be seen more as an index and a means of comparison rather than an accurate estimate of what you might spend, as everyone’s situation and idea of a comfortable standard of living will be different. You can easily spend far more than these figures if you are planning to have a very active social life or want a modern private apartment in one of the best neighbourhoods.
Over 2,000 km to the east of Puerto Vallarta, we head to Merida, the 12th largest city in Mexico with a population just shy of one million. While it is not a coastal city, Merida is only 35 km from the Gulf of Mexico and Playa Chuburná.
It will come as a surprise to many, that Merida was actually voted the second safest city in all of the Americas in 2019, beaten only by Canada’s Quebec City which features in our rundown of the best places to live in Canada. The city is also notable for its large indigenous population with the Maya making up around 60% of Merida residents.
It’s a pretty laid back place and the region isn’t swamped with visitors even during the more popular tourist seasons. However Merida is large enough that there’s enough going on to keep you occupied. Many people and nomads moving to the area from overseas opt to base themselves in the nearby beach town of Progreso.
Estimated Living Costs – 14,500 Mexican Pesos per month ($700)
Mexico City, Mexico City
If big city living is really your thing, then there’s generally not much point looking anywhere beyond Mexico City. While the capital is certainly not one of the cheapest cities to live in Mexico, it’s still affordable in comparison to the majority of major global cities.
With over 20 million people living in its metropolitan area, Mexico City is enormous and it is the beating heart of life in this country. Certainly anyone looking to find a good job in Mexico will most likely have more luck here than elsewhere and it’s also the place with by far the widest range of options when it comes to everything from culture and arts to cuisine and sports.
It would be an exaggeration to suggest Mexico City is an ultra safe haven. Few cities of its size are and you need to keep your wits about you, particularly if you look obviously foreign. There are many pickpockets and many districts that are best avoided but if you do your research, you can find some good areas that are considered safe to live in.
Estimated Living Costs – 18,500 Mexican Pesos per month ($900)
Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo
If the beach lifestyle is more your thing and you want to avoid living in a Mexican city in the true sense of the word, Playa del Carmen may be your best option. This popular tourist resort south of Cancun is growing rapidly but at heart it remains a vibrant beach town which attracts visitors from far and wide.
Most come for its beaches and its party vibe with Playa del Carmen coming alive most nights thanks to its array of bustling bars and nightclubs. Average daily highs hover between 28 and 33°C throughout the year and even at night, it remains warm making this a truly year-round destination (that’s not the case in all of Mexico, with cold nights pretty common in areas at altitude such as Mexico City).
Away from the main party district, Playa del Carmen has plenty of character with street vendors and excellent restaurants dotted throughout the town, while there are loads of great options for day trips with plenty of historical sites and quieter beaches in the wider region.
Estimated Living Costs – 16,500 Mexican Pesos per month ($800)
Finally, we move to the state of Jalisco and the city of Guadalajara, the seventh largest in Mexico with the third largest metropolitan area which is home to some five million residents. For anyone looking to avoid the more touristy, typical expat destinations, this could be a good option.
Guadalajara is one of the most developed regions in all of Latin America. In some respects it eclipses even Mexico City in terms of its status as an important centre for finance and business in the country, having grown into one of the biggest tech hubs south of the US-Mexico border. It’s far from a dull city to live in though and its range of cultural sites and festivals throughout the year contribute to its status as one of the best places to live in Mexico.
Compared to the other major ones, Guadalajara also ranks as one of the cheapest cities to live in Mexico. According to our calculations, it’s quite possible to live on around $750 each month, making it a more affordable place to be than several cities which in truth don’t have as much to offer in terms of living standards or opportunities.
Estimated Living Costs – 15,500 Mexican Pesos per month ($750)
Find Work Placements in Mexico
Join Worldpackers (using our $10 discount code) to get access to dozens of work placements across Mexico which will help give you a taster of life in the country. These include everything from farm work to painting and arts projects, as well as hostel jobs and teaching roles.
Cost of Living in Mexico – Cities Compared
The table below features 20 Mexican cities including most of the biggest ones in the country as well as a few smaller places which tend to be popular with expats, digital nomads, retirees and remote workers in Mexico.
We used numbeo’s cost of living comparison tool to help calculate an estimate for the cost of living in each case. While these figures are based on real data from real people living in these cities, it’s important to note that everyone’s lifestyle is different. These figures are only estimates but should give you an overall impression of how living costs compare across Mexico.
|City||Estimated Cost of Living (Monthly in US Dollars)|
|San Miguel Allende||1000|
|Playa del Carmen||800|
This covers just about every major Mexican city. Even León, right at the bottom of the list, does not have the outright lowest cost of living in Mexico but you’ll struggle to find a cheaper place without losing a lot in terms of your overall quality of life or compromising your safety.
As of March 2021, $1 = 20.5 Mexican Pesos, €0.84 and £0.72.
This post on the cheapest cities to live in Mexico was published in March 2021.