Moving overseas can be extremely simple. In fact, I made my last move abroad with only a pickup truck and a credit card.
What’s more, the consulate offered same-day visa service for my residency, and didn’t require any government authentications or translations… just my pension deposit slips.
In fact, I could have qualified without proving income… In Mexico (alone) you can qualify for residency by showing a bank balance or IRA. And free importation of household effects is part of the deal.
So I loaded up the truck with the dog, the cat, and a load of household items… I used the credit card to get my online vehicle permit and insurance… and drove south.
I got on Interstate 19 at Tucson, crossed the border at Nogales, and stayed on that same highway until we got to our new oceanfront home in Mazatlán’s historic center.
That was it… my international relocation. As you probably know, relocating overseas is usually not this simple. Believe me, I’ve done it the hard way plenty of times.
I started scouting for an overseas home in 1998 and moved abroad in 2001. I’ve spent much of my time since traveling, seeking out the best places to live and invest overseas.
All the while, I bypassed Mexico.
I flew right over a country that has everything you could want in an overseas destination.
For me, Mexico was too familiar to be appreciated.
Yet Mexico offers two dramatic coastlines with beautiful beaches… Spanish colonial culture and architecture… a strong and colorful indigenous influence… colonial highlands with amazingly fine weather… a dozen mountain ranges… and most of the familiar everyday conveniences that we enjoy in the United States and Canada.
I usually think of Mexico as a place that “needs no further introduction”… but that’s not true. In fact, many of us have overlooked it completely… and need to be re-introduced to our southern neighbor.
Finally, I took a closer look and realized that Mexico is easy, familiar, diverse, and affordable. And, finally, I asked myself: Why go farther?
Two years ago, I bought a home in Mexico… and here are the 13 compelling reasons why:
#1 It’s a culturally familiar neighbor.
After living in South America for 15 years, I’d forgotten Mexico’s familiarity, which shows up in many small ways… like eating Mexican food… or seeing full-sized, V8 American SUVs and pickups on the road instead of those junky Chinese and Russian 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 history, 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 401(k) 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 to the consulate 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.
And if your six-month visa runs out? You can simply drive to the border, and get another six months when you cross back over… legally.
#4 The dollar is at an all-time high.
The United States dollar is at historic highs against the Mexican peso, resulting in some terrific bargains. The cost of living is unbelievably low (even in formerly-expensive areas), and the cost of real estate priced in pesos is at bargain levels… at least for now.
Have a look at the chart below.
The Canadian dollar also has a lot of power these days in Mexico, when compared to historic norms.
#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, from spicy salsas to tamales, tacos, and enchiladas… Mexico can’t be beat.
In fact, the New York Times recently reported that “New Mexican” cuisine is catching on at high-end restaurants the world over.
(What about Brazil, you say? I lived in Brazil, and the food is great… but Mexico’s is better.)
#6 You can drive there.
When traveling from the United States 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.
When the snow comes to the north, I can just load up and drive to our beachfront home.
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 States, and lots of nonstops to Canada with no layover in the United States.
#7 Lots of English-speaking expats.
More than 1.5 million Americans now call Mexico home, easily the biggest expat destination in the world. (In fact, more Americans now move to Mexico than Mexicans to the United States.)
What’s more, over 1.6 million Canadians visit Mexico each year, with about a half-million actually living there at least part-time.
This influx from the north is the biggest testament to Mexico’s standard of living and convenience.
#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 throughout 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 a bargain.
The Great Recession took its toll in Mexico, especially in the areas popular as second home markets.
Now the coronavirus will certainly depress property prices. This is unfortunate for Mexico’s tourism industry, but it has created plenty of real estate bargains for expats.
#10 You can relocate to Mexico cheaply and easily 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 spending months in a sea container.
To boot, Mexico offers new residents duty-free importation of household effects.
#11 Mexico is no backwater.
It’s the world’s largest Spanish-speaking country, with a population of almost 130 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 22 million people in its metropolitan area.
Most importantly, the country has a good energy supply and a solid manufacturing base… it makes its own appliances, televisions, and automobiles, using its own raw materials. The high-end manufacturing sector (such as aerospace) continues to grow at record levels.
#12 You can return easily to use Medicare.
If you’re over 65, you should know that you can’t use Medicare outside the United States. And while this is a drawback for many countries, in Mexico, you can simply drive or fly north for Medicare coverage… or remain in Mexico for quality medical care at a fraction of the price.
#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.
I’ve really enjoyed the convenience of having Home Depot nearby, occasionally shopping at Walmart, or even getting a burger at Wendy’s now and then.
Home Depot? Walmart? 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, and it’s still the “real Canada.”
So, again, I come around to: Why go farther?