Yesterday, I made a case for why we’ve named Portugal’s Algarve coast as the best place in the world to live or retire overseas.
However, this year, for the first time ever, we have named a co-#1… another spot we believe ranks as well in all categories of importance to the would-be expat or retiree overseas.
For decades, Americans have voted Mexico the world’s best place to live or retire in the way that really counts—they’ve packed up and moved there.
This country is home to more American expats and retirees than any other, at least 1 million and as many as 2 million, depending on the survey.
This shouldn’t surprise anyone. It’s easier for an American to get to Mexico than to any other country other than Canada.
Why do Americans choose to go south of the Rio Grande rather than to the Great White North?
Americans looking to start a new life in a new country primarily seek three things: warm weather, beautiful beaches, and a low cost of living. Mexico competes handily in all three categories.
This big, diverse country offers dozens of great living options, from colorful and historic colonial cities like San Miguel de Allende, Cuernavaca, Guanajuato, and Oaxaca to beach towns like Playa del Carmen and Tulum (on the Caribbean coast) and Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlán (on the Pacific).
While the living is not as cheap as it was in the 1970s when Americans began migrating here in volume, it’s a global bargain and more of a budgeter’s delight right now than it’s been in a long time thanks to the U.S. dollar’s strength against the Mexican peso.
In some parts of the country, this translates to super real estate deals. But even where real estate trades in U.S. dollars (as it does in many Mexican markets, including Mazatlán), the strong dollar makes everything else—from a liter of gasoline and a week’s worth of groceries to a suite of bedroom furniture and a night out on the town—a bargain. Two can dine five star, enjoying three courses and good wine, for less than 50 bucks.
Here are seven more reasons we say you should seriously consider choosing Mexico:
1. The country is familiar, from its administrative set-up (the Mexican government is a stable democracy, with executive, legislative, and judicial branches functioning in a similar way to those in the United States) to its big-footprint shopping. If you’re itching for an adventure in a foreign land that’s not too foreign, Mexico could be the experience you seek.
2. It’s easy to go back and forth, making it a top choice for part-time living. Drive down as often as you like without worrying about plane fare.
4. All the North American attention from both expats and tourists means that many Mexicans, especially in the service industry, speak English. This can make things like navigating the residency process at the immigration office and managing the real estate purchase process with your attorney much easier.
4. Property markets in many areas of Mexico are depressed. The Great Recession took its toll in this country, especially in the areas popular as second home markets among Americans. Many still have not fully recovered, making for a nice buyer’s advantage.
5. Automatic six-month tourist stays and easy and fast immigration make it possible to come and go and spend as much time in the country as you’d like. You can maintain a second home here (a place you rent out when you’re not using it yourself, say) without having to bother with the expense of obtaining formal resident status.
6. Moving to Mexico can be as hassle-free as an international move gets. Nothing’s as easy as loading up a truck and driving south. Your entire moving budget could be gas and tolls.
7. You can return easily to the United States to use Medicare. If you’re considering this move as a retiree, nearing or over the age of 65, this can be Mexico’s most compelling advantage. Mexico offers excellent health care, but Medicare won’t pay for it—with limited exceptions, Medicare doesn’t cross any border. However, if you retire in Mexico, you’d be only a drive or quick flight away from accessing your benefits.
This means keeping and continuing to pay for Medicare coverage in addition to any other health insurance you might opt for. This can be a good strategy for a Medicare-eligible retiree moving to any foreign country, a safety net.