I just bought a beachfront home in one of Mexico‘s Spanish-colonial cities.
The ocean view is spectacular, the property is surrounded by sidewalk cafés and boardwalks, and I got a heck of bargain.
Indeed, right now the U.S. dollar is at an all-time high against the Mexican peso.
This purchase was remarkable not only for its value, but also for the simplicity and ease in making the property my new home.
In fact, I made this recent move abroad with only my pickup truck and a credit card. I loaded up the truck with the dog, the cat, and a handful of household items… and drove south.
I crossed the border at Nogales and continued on Highway 15 until I got to my new oceanfront home.
I had avoided Mexico for years, but I tell you now, based on my recent experience, Mexico is hands down the easiest option for Americans and Canadians looking to live or invest abroad.
#1 This country is a culturally familiar neighbor…
After living in South America 15 years, I’d forgotten Mexico‘s familiarity, which shows up in many small ways. … like eating Mexican food… or seeing full-size, V8 American SUVs and pickups on the road instead of those wimpy Chinese vehicles… or even seeing the cattle ranchers, with Arizona-style cowboy hats and belt buckles.
There’s a lot of American influence in Mexico, and a lot of Mexican influence north of the border, which gives Mexico a very familiar feel.
But Mexico also has a rich culture that we aren’t that familiar with… a colorful culture with fascinating traditions, fiestas, arts and artisans, music, and dance.
#2 Easy and fast residency…
If you want to become a resident of Mexico, the process is quick and easy… both for temporary and permanent residents. Like many countries, you can use income to qualify… such as a pension or social security.
But what’s really unusual is that you can qualify for residency with savings, such as a 401k or IRA balance.
Best of all, my visa paperwork did not require any notary seal, apostille, or translation, as it does in most countries. Just bring your English pay stubs and be on your way…
#3 Six-month visa-free stays…
If you don’t want to fuss with residency at all, you can get a six-month tourist entry by just driving over the border. If part-year living is what you have in mind (or operating a vacation rental), then the six-month tourist entry can do the trick.
#4 The dollar is strong…
The U.S. dollar is at historic highs against the Mexican peso, resulting in some terrific bargains. The cost of living is unbelievably low (even in expensive areas), and the cost of real estate priced in pesos is at bargain levels… at least for now. Have a look at these charts.
Both the U.S. dollar and Canadian dollar are enjoying amazing buying power in Mexico…
#5 Mexico has the best food in Latin America…
Forget those beans-and-rice countries, eating guinea pigs, or the bland-and-boring food that you’ll find in much of Central and South America.
Mexican food is rich and savory, with loads of exciting options. From its new upscale Mexican gourmet dining, to its mouthwatering seafood, to spicy salsa, tamales, tacos, and enchiladas, Mexico can’t be beat.
What about Brazil? I lived in Brazil, and the food is great… but Mexico’s is better.
#6 You can drive there…
When traveling from the U.S. or Canada, it’s a pleasure to simply drive over a land border and continue on your way. No worries about overweight bags, luggage limitations, or restrictions on liquids, flammables, and other airline annoyances. Even pets are a breeze.
In some parts of Mexico, you don’t even need a vehicle permit to bring your car or truck. Where you do need one, you can get the permit and the insurance online before you leave, and just drive right through.
Of course if you’d rather fly, Mexico is our closest neighbor… with good flight service to the United States, and lots of non-stops to Canada that don’t pass through the United States.
#7 Lots of English-speaking expats…
More than one million Americans now call Mexico home, easily the biggest expat destination in the world.
What’s more, over 1.6 million Canadians visit Mexico each year, with about a half-million actually living there.
This influx from the north is the biggest testament to Mexico’s standard of living and convenience. And the number of expats—both Americans and Canadians—doubled between 2000 and 2010… a trend that continues today.
#8 Plenty of English-speaking service providers…
In many countries, it’s hard to find English-speaking lawyers, doctors, dentists, or even restaurant workers.
Not in Mexico. Here, you’ll find plenty of English-speaking professionals, service providers, and residents in much of the country. Make no mistake, you’ll do better in Spanish… but if you don’t speak Spanish, you can still get by in plenty of areas.
#9 The real estate markets of Mexico are still depressed…
The Great Recession took its toll in Mexico, especially in the areas popular as second-home markets. Even today, many are just now turning around.
And what’s more, Mexico has not had the best of publicity over the past six years or so. The Great Swine Flu Epidemic fizzled after a few cases, but its legend lasted for years. And the drug violence in some border cities (and beyond) has affected the perception of the entire country.
This has been unfortunate for Mexico’s tourism industry but has created plenty of real estate bargains for expats.
#10 You can relocate to Mexico cheaply from the United States…
I’ve spent many tens-of-thousands of dollars moving from place to place in South America. Mexico is one of the world’s few expat locations where it’s practical to just pack up and drive.
And even if you use a mover, your things are going quickly by land, rather than sea container.
What’s more, Mexico offers new residents duty-free importation of your household effects.
#11 Mexico is no backwater…
It’s the world’s largest Spanish-speaking country, with a population of 122 million… almost three times the population of its nearest rival (Colombia) in Spanish America. Its GDP is more than double that of Argentina, its nearest competitor.
Mexico City is the largest city in the western world, with over 21 million people in its metropolitan area.
Most important, they have a good energy supply and a solid manufacturing base… they make their own appliances, televisions, and automobiles, with their own raw materials. Their high-end manufacturing sector (such as aerospace) continues to grow at record levels.
#12 You can return easily to use Medicare…
You can’t use Medicare outside the U.S., which is a drawback for many countries. But in Mexico, you can simply drive or fly north for Medicare coverage… or remain in Mexico for quality medical care at pennies on the dollar.
#13 It has many of the conveniences of home…
In Mexico, you can buy almost anything you’re accustomed to having back home, from your favorite peanut butter to your favorite automobile.
And I’ve really enjoyed the convenience of having Home Depot nearby, shopping at Walmart, or even getting the occasional burger at Wendy’s.
Not the “real” Mexico, you say?
I don’t buy that argument. The fact that we share a lot of common ground doesn’t make Mexico any less “real.”
After all, Canada has Home Depot, Walmart, and Wendy’s, too, yet it’s still the “real” Canada…