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Moving to Mexico

Thoughts of warm weather and a relaxed atmosphere are what attract droves of foreigners to Mexico's shores every year, particularly retired expats moving to stretch out their pensions and unfold their sun loungers. Mexico has seen such a large influx of foreign pensioners that retired communities have sprouted up and down the coastline, some integrating into Mexican towns and their culture, whereas others resemble small pockets of America.

That said, Mexico isn't only a recipient of relocated wealth: the robust industry and thriving manufacturing centres in its large cities attract working expats. As a member of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the industry in Mexico is both competitive and prevalent in both the USA and Canada, and relaxed visa regulations mean businesses and employees often transcend borders.

As a developing country, there are a few concerns for expats moving to Mexico, and sometimes headlines of health scares and violence have overshadowed Mexico's usual international status as a tourist oasis.

The real Mexico, new arrivals will find, lies somewhere in the middle of these two polarities of the ideal and the problem-ridden. Expats shouldn't expect the infrastructure and gears of bureaucracy to run as smoothly as in their home countries.

That said, expats can often afford a quality of life not usually attainable at home. While poor sanitation and health crises are unfortunately common, private healthcare in Mexico is cheap and first-rate, attracting hordes of foreigners not content with medical care in their own country.

As one of the world's largest countries, Mexico's culture and history run as deep as the country is broad. Home to the famous Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations and Maya and Aztec ruins, Mexico affords countless colourful and musical experiences filled with traditional food in diverse environments for expats to appreciate.

Families with children, young adults and retirees are enticed by diverse landscapes, from alluring canyons, waterfalls and coastlines to humid rainforests and protected national parks such as the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve in Chiapas.

We believe that perspective is everything: in the face of culture shock, expats can isolate themselves or see language barriers as an opportunity and embrace their new life. All in all, a welcoming government, warm weather, cheap beach-side property and a favourable exchange rate and cost of living, ensure a luxurious lifestyle for many expats, and a dream emigration destination for others.

Fast facts

Population: About 129 million

Capital city: Mexico City 

Neighbouring countries: Mexico is bordered by the USA to the north and Guatemala and Belize to the southeast. 

Geography: Mexico is a large country sitting at the bottom of the North American continent. It has an extremely varied geography from coastal low lands to a high plateau in central Mexico. Two large mountain ranges run north to south, the Sierra Madre Oriental and the Sierra Madre Occidental. The country also consists of many islands spanning out into the Pacific Ocean.

Political system: Federal presidential constitutional republic

Major religions: Christianity and Roman Catholicism. Other religions are tolerated and freely practised.

Main language: Spanish is the main language, though there are over 60 indigenous and minority languages.

Money: The official currency in Mexico is the Mexican Peso (MXN), which is divided into 100 centavos. It is relatively easy for an expat to open a bank account in Mexico, despite the considerable amount of paperwork. There are many universal ATMs throughout the country.

Time: GMT -5 to -7 with daylight savings. The state of Sonora is GMT -7 year-round.

Electricity: 127 Volts, 60Hz. Standard plugs in Mexico are two- or three-pin, flat-blade attachments.

Internet domain: .mx

International dialling code: +52

Emergency numbers: 911 for all emergencies. For roadside assistance from the Angeles Verdes, call 078.

Transport and driving: Mexico has an extensive and affordable public transport system. Cars in Mexico drive on the right side of the road.

Weather in Mexico

Mexico's wonderfully diverse topography includes everything from tropical coastlines to barren deserts, frosty mountain peaks to lush valleys. Needless to say, the country's weather is incredibly varied and as affected by altitude as it is by longitude.

That said, the general climate in Mexico is warm-temperate, and most of the country experiences year-round sunny weather. In places with higher altitude – Mexico City included – expats may experience shortness of breath until they adjust to the change in pressure. These locales can experience extremely hot temperatures during the day with sudden shifts resulting in cold evenings.

Mexican coastlines are known for their high temperatures, averaging between 89.6°F (32°C) and 95°F (35°C) throughout the year, and their moderate-to-high level of rainfall. Occasional tropical storms between August to September have been known to bring heavy rains.

Otherwise, precipitation in Mexico is most common between June and November; the remaining months of the year are relatively dry. This feature serves to separate seasons in Mexico more so than temperature difference.

Expats concerned about the weather in Mexico should research the specific region they'll be moving to for more information on what to expect.


Embassy contacts for Mexico

Mexican embassies

  • Mexican Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 728 1600

  • Mexican Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7499 8586

  • Mexican Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 233 8988

  • Mexican Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 2 6273 3963

  • Mexican Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 460 1004

  • Mexican Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 667 3105

  • Mexican Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 4 472 0555

Foreign embassies in Mexico

  • United States Embassy, Mexico City: +52 55 5080 2000

  • British Embassy, Mexico City: +52 55 1670 3200

  • Canadian Embassy, Mexico City: +52 55 5724 7900

  • Australian Embassy, Mexico City: +52 55 1101 2200

  • South African Embassy, Mexico City: +52 55 1100 4970

  • Irish Embassy, Mexico City: +52 55 5520 5803

  • New Zealand Embassy, Mexico City: +52 55 5283 9460

Public Holidays in Mexico




New Year’s Day

1 January

1 January

Constitution Day

1 February

7 February

Benito Juárez Day

15 March

21 March

Labour Day

1 May

1 May

Independence Day

16 September

16 September

Revolution Day

15 November

21 November

Christmas Day

25 December

25 December

Pros and Cons of Moving to Mexico

The birthplace of talented and famous artists such as Frida Kahlo, and home to gorgeous landscapes, breathtaking beaches, many UNESCO World Heritage Sites and ancient ruins, Mexico is a truly unique country. The media often focuses on two extreme perceptions of Mexico: the intense and violent drug crime or the sun-soaked, luxurious lifestyle. Moving to Mexico involves much more than just that, and residents may face culture shock, problems with finding employment or difficulties doing business, but will soon realise that the country, with its blend of Spanish and indigenous cultures, has beautiful attributes and positive aspects too.

Here is a list of our pros and cons of moving to Mexico.

Lifestyle and culture in Mexico

+ PRO: Warm and welcoming people

There’s no need to worry about making local friends in Mexico – the people are as warm as the climate and foreigners are treated well. Mexicans will go out of their way to help, including in bureaucratic settings if expats are polite and courteous in turn.

+ PRO: Rich in cultural celebrations and cuisine

Mexican culture thrives in modern society, from the striking architecture of countless cathedrals to cultural celebrations such as the colourful and interesting Día de los Muertos traditions with vibrant outfits and the iconic calavera (skulls). Expats can enjoy street food not only during these celebrations, but also on a regular basis, relishing genuine Mexican flavours and indulging in traditional cocktails made with authentic tequila.

+ PRO: Fascinating history

One of the main reasons that tourists come to Mexico, apart from the weather and beautiful natural landscapes is its rich history. Visitors and expats can explore Aztec and Mayan ruins and learn remarkable – and sometime shocking – stories of indigenous groups and Spanish colonisation.

- CON: Language barriers complicate many aspects of life

The most commonly spoken language in Mexico is Spanish and, much to the surprise of many new arrivals, there are over 60 other languages spoken by minority groups. Expats who don’t speak Spanish may have difficulties when dealing with the authorities, doing business or securing accommodation in Mexico. Even Spanish speakers may need to pick up local slang and expressions. That said, learning Spanish can be seen as an opportunity to gain new knowledge and better orientate oneself in one's new home.

- CON: Patience is fundamental

Time is but a social construct, and the concept of time is likely to differ from that in expat’s home country. Few things stick to a set time and the pace of life in Mexico is slow, which can be frustrating for both foreigners and local Mexicans. It’s important to stay calm and not lose one’s patience.

Visas and paperwork in Mexico

+ PRO: Relaxed visa policy

Mexico’s borders are open visa-free to foreigners from Canada, the USA, many South American countries, the UK and Schengen Area countries, as well as Japan, for stays up to 180 days. For longer stays and other foreign nationals, visa and work permit applications are simple to process.

- CON: Bureaucracy and paperwork can get overwhelming

Much to the dismay of expats and Mexican citizens, administrative processes may take time and paperwork can be confusing. New arrivals often need to check that their qualifications are recognised and certified in Mexico depending on their field of work, while things like opening a bank account often requires paperwork done in Spanish. Fortunately, loopholes to dodge paperwork can sometimes be found, but keeping records of transactions is still important.

Transport and driving in Mexico

+ PRO: Efficient and diverse transport networks

When travelling around the country and within cities and towns, there are many options. Some cities are walkable, while expats may prefer a car in others. Taxis and ride-hailing apps are available and easy to use, while first-class buses are comfortable and affordable. Major cities also have metro systems.

- CON: Driving restrictions in urban areas

Major urban areas such as Mexico City have limitations and regulations for vehicles to reduce traffic and pollution, so getting around by car may not always be the most convenient option. We encourage expats to check the rules for their specific area and see if it applies to their vehicle. While it may be annoying, this is an opportunity to improve urban spaces and encourage healthier transport alternatives.

See and do in Mexico

+ PRO: Diverse and stunning natural environments

What isn’t there to see and do in Mexico? Being such a large country, spanning several time zones, Mexico affords diverse landscapes and jaw-dropping scenery. The adventurous can go hiking and explore the flora and fauna in rainforests, while others can relax in natural hot springs or along the warm coastline.

- CON: Be vigilant of safety matters when going out and about

Whatever expats get up to, whether it's tourist and leisure activities, taking a drive out of town, enjoying a celebration or going about one’s day, they must be aware of safety matters. Many residents find that reality doesn’t match the media scares of violence in Mexico, but it’s wise to stay updated on crime matters and health hazards.

Cost of living in Mexico

+ PRO: Foreign incomes can stretch further in Mexico

Expats from high-income countries such as the US and Canada are in luck and find that the cost of living in Mexico can afford them a relatively luxurious lifestyle. 

- CON: Not everything is cheap

Don’t move to Mexico believing that everything is automatically cheaper – especially for those from developing countries. Of course, typical expat and tourist areas are on the rise and upmarket beach-side condos aren't in everyone’s budget. Credit cards also charge high-interest rates and big purchases need to be planned accordingly.

Healthcare in Mexico

+ PRO: Private healthcare is affordable and public healthcare is universal

Residents and tourists in Mexico can affordably access medical care, a drawcard that lures many Americans. Insurance packages can also be found at great prices. Residents working in Mexico and citizens are entitled to public healthcare, and private hospitals offer first-rate facilities and services.

- CON: Quality of public healthcare is not standard

While there are excellent hospitals and clinics, a visit to a public hospital does not guarantee high standards as quality varies considerably between states. High standards are also difficult to find in rural areas and insurance should cover expenses for potential repatriation. Expats’ embassies in Mexico are likely to provide info on the best hospitals to go to.

Accommodation in Mexico

+ PRO: Accommodation options to suit any budget

Those looking for luxurious living can often find villas, haciendas and stylish condos modernised to meet their needs. Expats on a budget can also find a comfortable home or apartment or flat-sharing situation with ease, using online portals, networking, social media or driving around prospective neighbourhoods.

- CON: Securing a lease may seem complicated

Although landlords don’t always ask for proof of employment or reference letters, tenants may need a guarantor who is a Mexican citizen. This can be close to impossible for new arrivals with no connections in Mexico. Tenants should also ensure they understand the lease and have a copy of it in Spanish.

Shipping and removals to Mexico

+ PRO: Expats can import household goods duty free

While furnished accommodation options and furniture and appliances are readily available, expats who want a taste of home can import personal items duty free. Mexican Customs allows this only once within the first six months of arrival but it can save money on paying hefty taxes.

- CON: Complicated shipping regulations tied to visas

Bringing household possessions into Mexico comes with rules and regulations. Arrivals with temporary residence will have to export their items when they leave, contributing to additional admin and stress. Expats who brave this will likely employ the help of a customs broker or a relocation company.

Education and schools in Mexico

+ PRO: Excellent private, bilingual and international schools

Expats moving with children will discover a wide range of schooling options to suit their needs, language and preferred education system. International and private schools include a mix of American, British, Mexican and Japanese curricula and languages, which helps children settle into their new lives.

+ PRO: Inclusive education

Mexico is working towards inclusive education to ensure that students with disabilities get the help they need in regular classroom settings. Specialised professionals such as speech therapists and psychologists collaborate with teachers to help students. Parents concerned about special needs education in Mexico can contact their school directly to enquire about the kind of support available.

- CON: Public schools are not up to scratch

Although public education in Mexico, from primary up to some tertiary institutions, is free, many don’t meet standards required by expats, with underpaid teachers, insufficient resources and high drop-out rates. While public school seems like a great opportunity, many families may be disappointed.

Safety in Mexico

Safety in Mexico is a common concern for expats and travellers alike. The country has historically suffered from high crime rates, and statistics have become a hefty deterrent for those considering the move. Expats should note that reports of crime and kidnappings in Mexico are highest in urban areas, particularly in Mexico City. However, crime is prevalent throughout the country.

Drug-related crime is the biggest concern in Mexico, but resort areas and popular tourist destinations such as Cancún, Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta are largely protected from this. Expats in urban areas may want to employ private home security companies, whereas those in retirement communities and resort areas are considerably safer. As some areas can be isolated and safe from crime, expats must research their specific route and destination thoroughly.

Crime in Mexico

Street crime is an issue in Mexico’s cities, and resort areas are not exempt from this. Expats are advised to dress casually and keep expensive jewellery and watches out of sight. Expats should also keep a close eye on important documents, such as passports, as these are frequently stolen in Mexico. 

Drug-related crime in Mexico 

As much as the crime in Mexico can be a problem, the fear cultivated by the violence of drug cartels is not usually an expat concern. While murders and gunfights between rival gangs and law enforcement make sensational international news, they do not generally affect people who are not connected to the drug industry.

Expats in Mexico are also often concerned about police and military checkpoints along highways, although the government is usually careful not to perturb foreigners. Despite this, foreigners should not become complacent and should remain aware of and up to date about current dangers regarding drug-related crime in Mexico. 

Travel to Ciudad Juárez is not advised, as the area is infamous for a high incidence of drug-related violence. The states of Chihuahua, Nuevo León and Tamaulipas are also known for high levels of drug violence, and expats travelling to these areas should do so with extreme caution. Clashes between cartel members and police can turn violent quickly and without warning. 

Public transport safety in Mexico

Expats should be extra vigilant when travelling on public transport in Mexico.

It is advisable to only travel on buses during the day, as theft and hijacking are common at night. Expats should also ensure that the bus they are travelling on uses toll roads (cuotas) and not free roads (libre), as the incidence of crime on the libre roads is considerably higher. Expats should always travel on first-class buses as an added safety measure. Armed robberies and kidnappings of entire buses have been reported in Tamaulipas and Nuevo León.

Bus stations and airports have also been targets of robberies in the past. Expats should only use official, authorised and regulated taxis in Mexico. These cannot be hailed off the street and should be reserved by telephone or met at a taxi rank. It is best to avoid hailing taxis from the side of the road altogether. The metro in Mexico City is a prime spot for pickpockets. 

Road safety in Mexico

Hijackings are a problem on Mexico’s roads. Expats driving in Mexico should exercise extreme caution when driving and avoid driving at night. Highways between Monterrey, Nuevo Laredo and Reynosa are particularly dangerous, as is the Pacific Highway.

Expats should only use toll roads and should be aware of their surroundings when stopping at traffic lights. Camper-vans and SUVs are particular targets for hijackings. 

Scams in Mexico

Perhaps most alarming to foreigners are kidnappings, or kidnapping scams, which try to elicit ransom money from families. Expats in Mexico need to be careful of robbery, particularly when withdrawing money from ATMs or changing currency at a Bureau de Change. It's best to steer clear of ATMs when they are being refilled, as armed robberies during this process are common. 

Express kidnappings are a risk in Mexico. Criminals will kidnap their victims for a short amount of time, take them to an ATM and demand money. Victims are then usually released. Expats should be aware of this when withdrawing money. 

A common scam in Mexico involves criminals posing as police officers and demanding people pay a fine. Expats should always ask police officers for identification if in doubt. 

Health hazards in Mexico

It's best to avoid drinking tap water in Mexico, and expats should not take ice in their drinks. To be certain, it is best to stick to bottled water and treat food or unbottled drinks sold by street vendors with caution. 

Expats should visit a doctor six weeks before leaving for Mexico to ensure that they have received the correct vaccinations and take precautions against mosquitoes. 

In case of medical emergencies, expats should have little apprehension utilising healthcare in Mexico, which is of a generally high standard. 

Natural disasters in Mexico

Hurricanes, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are all possible occurrences in Mexico. 

Hurricane season in Mexico is from June to November. There are two active volcanoes in Mexico: Popocatépetl and the Volcán de Colima. These areas are closed off to the public and the surrounding areas are designated 'danger zones'.

Oaxaca is the area most affected by earthquakes in Mexico and expats should research what to do in the event of an earthquake

Emergency number in Mexico

Mexico has a single, nation-wide emergency number: 911. Expats in Mexico City can also download the 911 CDMX app.

Working in Mexico

Though Mexico's coastal communities are largely a nesting-ground for pensioners living out their golden years among its tropical beaches, the country's large cities are a stomping ground for many young working expats.

Mexico City has cultivated lucrative industries which are pulling in young and industrious entrepreneurs and professionals. Over the years, the Mexican industry has been integrated into the economies of the USA and Canada and has become a common branch location for large international companies.

Expats working in Mexico will find themselves in a colourful and fast-paced business environment which places a high value on interpersonal relationships.

Job market in Mexico

Due to cheaper manufacturing and labour costs, many companies which were once established in the USA have moved and expanded to Mexico. These industries often source management and professionals from other countries, particularly for the high-paying occupations of manufacturing plant managers and IT managers. 

There are job opportunities in Mexico's finance, healthcare, telecommunications, tourism and hospitality industries. English teachers at local private schools and learning centres, needing at least a TEFL certificate, also make up much of the expat workforce in Mexico.

Alternatively, entrepreneurs may set up their own business or find freelance opportunities. There are prospects in IT and consulting services that can be taken advantage of. Being self-employed and running a business can be risky, and we commend that entrepreneurs do their research into the field they are in as well as the legal aspects by seeking the guidance of a lawyer or professional with specific knowledge on it.

Many foreigners are interested in volunteering or finding an internship in Mexico. Volunteering in social, community or environmental projects is a common way of experiencing life in this North American country. This type of work has the bonus of bypassing some complicated work permit paperwork processes for stays shorter than six months, but options are largely unpaid and more for the experience than a sustainable work option.

Finding a job in Mexico

Nevertheless, unemployment in Mexico is high and finding employment can be challenging. Expats looking for employment in Mexico often end up accepting salaries that are less than those available in other countries, but the cost of living is also lower, so this must be considered too. 

It may be useful to take a short trip to Mexico first before settling on a job, while others prefer to already have one in place.

Having secured employment is helpful as the hiring company can arrange visas and work permits. Companies must prove that hired expats are not taking jobs which Mexican workers would be able to do. The process seems complicated but the hiring company undertakes much of the paperwork.

Possessing recognised qualifications and being able to speak Spanish are crucial for expats looking for employment in Mexico and embassies should be contacted to make sure that the qualifications are officially recognised in Mexico.

The best places to look for jobs are Mexico City, Guadalajara, Monterrey, Juárez and León, as well as through online job listings, including Glassdoor, LinkedIn and CompuTrabajo. Recruitment agencies and relocation companies may be able to provide additional support.

Work culture in Mexico

Mexico offers a dynamic business environment, but expats will need to familiarise themselves with the cultural nuances of the working world. 

Business in Mexico is largely built around personal relationships, and networking is thus central to successful interactions. It’s also important to learn Spanish. Although most executives within the large cities will likely be able to speak English, learning the local language will go a long way to integrating into the work environment.

Business hours in Mexico are long: 8am or 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday. There is often a two-hour siesta, however, between 2pm and 4pm. Offices in the tourism industry are usually open on Saturdays as well.

Doing Business in Mexico

Mexico is a country whose rich culture permeates all aspects of life, especially business. Expats wanting to do business in Mexico should consider the cultural nuances of the business climate, or they might risk being caught off guard, offending potential associates or even missing out on various business opportunities.

The country offers a friendly and hospitable business environment, ranking 60th out of 190 countries in the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business Survey for 2020. It ranked particularly well for getting credit (11th) although ranked lower on paying taxes (120th) and starting a business (107th).

When relocating to any country, getting familiar with local customs may take time, but understanding the basics is fundamental when doing business in Mexico.

Fast facts

Business language

Although many Mexican business people speak perfect English, Spanish is the official language of business. Learning a few choice words and phrases will go a long way toward getting to know associates. Formal pronouns for you (usted instead of ) should be used in professional settings.

Hours of business

Businesses usually run from 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday, with a two- or three-hour siesta in the early afternoon. This may vary across types of businesses.

Business dress

The dress code for the Mexican business world is smart and formal, with an emphasis on style. Men wear ties, dark colours and accessories, and the basic assumption is that people endeavour to look as good as they can. Women also dress smartly and stylishly (business suits are widely worn) and often go to work in high heels and make-up.


Business greetings in Mexico are usually a handshake with a slight bow. It is important to use someone's title when greeting them as it is a sign of status and highly valued in Mexico. Someone without a title should be referred to as Señor (Mr) or Señora (Mrs), followed by their last name.


Gifts are not usually given at business meetings, though a small token of sincerity might be appreciated. Expats invited to a colleague's home should take along some wine, sweets or flowers, but should avoid red petals and marigolds.

Gender equality

Women are ostensibly treated as equals in the Mexican business world, often rising to senior positions. Nevertheless, business in Mexico can still follow paternalistic patterns, and the presence of machismo in the workplace is, regrettably, a reality that many expat women deal with.

Business culture in Mexico

The defining characteristic of business culture in Mexico is that successful, productive business relationships are invariably built upon personal trust and familiarity between individuals.


In Mexico, business is ideally conducted face to face and among people who know and trust each other. If at all possible, we recommend expats try to network and organise their initial introduction to a potential business partner through an existing contact. Due to this interpersonal approach, business in Mexico can often proceed slowly, with people tending to take time to establish personal relationships before getting down to negotiations.


Even though management structures in Mexico remain hierarchical, business etiquette is marked by a combination of formality and genuine warmth, friendliness and openness between individuals. Executive company decisions are always made by the person in the highest authority, yet junior employees are also encouraged to share their opinions during meetings and engage in debate.

Expats should use titles and formal pronouns until explicitly instructed not to do so, but should not shrink away from engaging in personal discussions with their colleagues. In Mexico, a person’s qualifications, expertise and work experience – as important as they are – will not serve them as well as their ability to develop personal relationships with associates.


Business meetings must be scheduled in advance and then confirmed a few days before they take place. Expats need to be punctual while bearing in mind that their hosts might not show the same courtesy in return. This is more the case in informal settings than in professional ones, and the meaning of time is a key issue in Mexican culture. Meetings often begin with small-talk – this is to encourage people to get to know each other – and will proceed at the pace determined by the important role players present.


Expats should bear in mind that, in Mexico, it is very rare to hear the word 'no' being used in a direct or confrontational way. Direct refusals are seen as rude; and if someone doesn't like an idea, a gentler, more diplomatic expression, such as 'Let me think about it' is usually used.

Displays of emotion are common during business meetings in Mexico. These might be uncomfortable to witness at first but are regarded positively in the Mexican workplace. Emotions are considered illustrations of emphasis, engagement and passion.

Business cards

Business cards are swapped frequently in Mexico. Expats should make sure that one side of their card is translated into Spanish, with this side facing up when the card is handed over. Professional qualifications are often listed on business cards.

Attitude toward foreigners

Mexico is a friendly, welcoming place to do business – and foreigners shouldn't experience much difficulty assimilating themselves into Mexican corporate culture. Expats should bear in mind, though, that not being able to speak Spanish will alienate them from the general public. In some areas of the country, Americans have been known to be treated with suspicion and even hostility. There are political tensions between these countries, and expats should make an effort to understand the language and culture.

Dos and don'ts of doing business in Mexico

  • Do be willing to invest in personal relationships with colleagues

  • Do learn to relax and to take things as they come

  • Do learn Spanish – Mexico's culture will offer itself up to those who do

  • Don't be impatient, pushy or rude. Let things develop at their own pace.

  • Don't be blasphemous, especially during business meetings

  • Don't feel frustrated if good ideas are not used immediately. Mexican business people are open-minded but may be slow to change their ways

Visas for Mexico

When crossing national borders, travellers must always check updated and relevant information on visas. This can be a stressful experience, but luckily, when it comes to Mexico, there is a relaxed immigration policy allowing many nationalities free entry.

Those nationalities that do require a visa to visit Mexico should apply at their nearest Mexican consulate before arriving in the country. Expats should also visit the official website for the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs (Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores), where they can select their country of citizenship for specific information on visas, the full list of visa-free countries and the most up-to-date information.

The Mexican government does make it clear, though, that merely holding a visa does not guarantee entry into Mexico: arrivals will be asked several questions by authorities to confirm the information provided on the visa is correct. 

Types of visas for Mexico

There are several categories of visas that expats may apply for: tourism, business or transit visa; work visa; temporary resident visa; student temporary resident visa; or a permanent residence visa. Expats can also obtain a visa for diplomatic reasons or to conduct adoption proceedings.

Visa-free entry visitors

Permanent residents, visa holders and citizens of several countries do not need to apply for tourist, business or transit visas, and stays shorter than 180 days. These countries include many South American countries, Canada, the USA, the UK, Schengen Area countries and Japan. 

There are some requirements of these visitors, including a passport valid for the duration of their stay as well as completing a Multiple Migratory Form (FMM) provided at the port of entry. Immigration authorities may request certain documents confirming plans and finances during the stay, including a travel itinerary, a business letter or letter from an educational institution in the case of students travelling. In case visitors are asked, whether they needed a visa or not, it’s helpful to carry these documents. 

Tourism, business or transit visas

This visa is suitable if the reasons for travel to Mexico include tourism, or sports, artistic or religious activities, transit or business reasons. This visa is considered for visitors who are not authorised for lucrative activities. Expats who are working in Mexico or have a contract with a Mexican company must consider a work permit.

If new arrivals, who are not from a visa-free country, are entering as a tourist or business visitor for a short stay of up to 180 days, this is the best choice of visa. 

Applicants may need to show financial records to prove economic solvency as well as documentation to prove the purpose of their travel. The document needed depends on the reason for the visit and could include a letter of invitation from an organisation to partake in activities that are not remunerated or an acceptance letter from an educational institution for courses shorter than 180 days.

Alongside documents, applicants must visit the nearest Mexican embassy and may need to have an interview, asking the same questions as the visa provides.

Travellers are generally required to surrender their visa to the Immigration Officers at the border when they leave Mexico and must request a new one if they want to return.


Family members or children dependent upon the main applicant must apply for a visa alongside them and need only prove their relationship rather than supply financial records for economic solvency.

Visas for minors under the age of 18 must be signed by both parents or legal guardians, or at least one legal guardian provided documents proving their full parental authority or the absent guardian’s authorisation.

Applicants over age 65

Visitors over the age of 65 who are applying for this visa for tourist reasons are exempt from providing extensive economic solvency proof. 

Temporary resident visas

The Temporary Resident Visa is the most common visa for expats employed in Mexico and their dependants who intend on living in the country for longer than six months, but less than four years. 

Applicants of a temporary resident visa must normally provide proof of employment and comply with the stipulations of the visa and work permit.

Expats are required to apply for a Temporary Resident Visa at a Mexican consulate before arriving in the country. Once arriving in Mexico, the holder of the visa is required to visit their nearest immigration office within 30 days to have their visa replaced with a Temporary Resident Permit card.

Student temporary resident visas

Students staying in Mexico for less than 180 days can apply for a tourism, business or transit visa. Educational courses extending longer than 180 days requires a student temporary resident visa.

Students studying courses or conducting research through Mexican higher education institutions must provide their acceptance letter and financial records or acceptance of a Mexican scholarship to prove they can sustain themselves during their stay.

Within 30 days of arrival, students must apply to the National Migration Institute for their residence card.

Permanent resident visas

The Permanent Resident Visa needs no extensions and is for expats who plan to live in Mexico permanently. A benefit of this visa is that, according to Mexican foreign investment law, legal residents may be considered as nationals when they want to invest.

This visa is most common for retirees to Mexico or those with close family ties in the country. Provided certain conditions are met, expats don't need to have a Temporary Resident Visa before applying for a Permanent Resident Visa.

Like with temporary residence, visa holders must visit the nearest immigration office within 30 days to receive their residence card.

Family Unity

Dependents and family members may apply for permanent residence at the embassy accompanied by the permanent resident or Mexican citizen. For foreign spouses of Mexican citizens or permanent residents, they typically must hold temporary residence for two years and then can apply for permanent residence status at the National Migration Institute

*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Work Permits for Mexico

To work and earn an income in Mexico, foreigners must obtain a work visa or permenant residence visa that permits participating in such remunerative activities. The process seems complicated, but much of it is undertaken by the employing company. 

Work visas

There are several routes that expats can take, but to be granted a work visa, a job must already be in place. This is because Mexican companies need permission to employ foreign workers. Expats may first enter Mexico on a tourist visa to familiarise themselves with the job market and let them network to find employment. Alternatively, expats can find a job-based in Mexico from their home country. 

Once they have received and accepted an offer of employment, the employing company or person that is based in Mexico must apply to the National Migration Institute to get permission for hiring a non-Mexican employee. The process is not in the hands of the expat, but they must wait until the application has been confirmed.

Once the application is authorised, the expat must apply for the work visa, which is similar to a temporary residence permit, with permission to engage in professional activities and receive remuneration.

These visas are valid for stays both shorter and longer than 180 days. Expats entering Mexico must visit the nearest immigration office within 30 days with their visa and necessary documents to receive a residence card.

Permanent resident visas

Expats can also look into a permanent residence visa. This is for expats who intend to reside in Mexico indefinitely, and can work and receive public healthcare as a Mexican citizen and resident.

*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Cost of Living in Mexico

Compared to its North American neighbours, Mexico is more affordable and prices are generally lower. For this reason, along with the relaxed and high-quality lifestyle, the country has become an increasingly popular destination for foreign retirees, who find that their pension stretches a lot further in Mexico than it would back home.

The cost of living in Mexico varies substantially depending on where an expat lives. It is possible to live inexpensively in the country's rural areas, but life in the cities is considerably more costly.

Cost of accommodation in Mexico

Expats living in Mexico will likely find accommodation to be their greatest monthly expense. This naturally depends on where they live in Mexico as property prices and rentals can vary considerably. In general, expats will find good value for money when it comes to renting or purchasing property, particularly in the more rural areas. Cities, resort towns and beachfront locations tend to be more expensive.

Both furnished and unfurnished accommodation are available and houses and apartments often come with fully-equipped kitchens, which may help expats save on start-up costs.

Cost of transport in Mexico

Mexico has an extensive public transport system which is affordable and reliable. Buses travel between most towns so travelling around the country is easily done without a car. 

Many towns are easily navigable on foot or bicycle, but driving does give more freedom and many expats prefer this and must budget for purchasing, maintenance and fuel costs.

Cost of schools in Mexico

While public schooling in Mexico is free with expenses only for school supplies and textbooks, the standard of private and international schools is preferred by expats. Expats can select from a range of private schools that provide can bilingual education and a familiar curriculum to help ease the transition process for their children and secure a quality education. International schools provide a multicultural space for children from all over the globe to get to know each other and the costs are high but are generally worth it. School fees range between institutions.

Cost of healthcare in Mexico

Some public healthcare facilities in Mexico are excellent, providing a high standard of care, but many expats prefer private hospitals and these come at a heavier fee. Expats must be sure that their insurance covers for the specific hospital they visit if they have international medical schemes. Healthcare expenses quickly add up with check-ups, medication and additional support so it is important to research the best insurance companies.

Cost of living in Mexico chart

(Note that prices may vary depending on location and service provider and the table below is based on average prices for Mexico City in May 2020)

Accommodation (monthly rent)

One-bedroom apartment in the city centre

MXN 12,000 - 16, 000

One-bedroom apartment outside the city centre

MXN 6,000 - 8, 000

Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre

MXN 24, 000 - 30, 000

Three-bedroom apartment outside the city centre

MXN 12, 000 - 18, 000

Food and drink

Dozen eggs

MXN 32

Milk (1 litre)

MXN 20

Rice (1kg)

MXN 21

Loaf of white bread

MXN 32

Chicken breasts (1kg)

MXN 95

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

MXN 57

Eating out

Big Mac meal

MXN 120


MXN 16


MXN 46

Bottle of beer (local)    

MXN 40

Three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant

MXN 310

Utilities/household (monthly)

Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

MXN 1.50

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month) 

MXN 400

Basic utilities (average per month for a standard household)

MXN 700


Taxi rate/km 

MXN 5.20

Bus fare in the city centre       


Gasoline/petrol (per litre)

MXN 20.40

Culture Shock in Mexico

Expats will undoubtedly experience some degree of culture shock in Mexico. This North American country’s rich and varied way of life can seem mysterious at first, and the frustrations that come from the challenges of adaptation are often compounded for those who don’t understand Spanish, the country’s main language.

It may be all too easy for new arrivals to become overly judgmental and frustrated by customs and practices that seem incredibly foreign to them, but which are completely natural to Mexicans.

Studying some of the nuances of the culture can make the first few months in Mexico not only more tolerable but also more enjoyable. Learning to laugh at and accept certain realities are two crucial behaviours that can help ease culture shock in Mexico.

For the most part, despite some initial 'ruffled feathers', most expats are won over by the warmth of Mexican culture. Not to mention, with a low cost of living, many expats will find their lifestyle considerably easier in Mexico. With enough income, it’s easy to overlook any differences that might initially be culturally difficult to stomach.

Time in Mexico

The laid-back, lazy pace that makes Mexico an ideal vacation spot also makes it an infuriating place to tackle the simple tasks demanded by relocation. It can take forever to complete errands that may otherwise be quick and easy in an expat's home country, and it is frequently impossible to work to a rigid schedule.

Dinner time and bedtime may be later than what expats are used to, which can impact families with children, and friends meeting for social gatherings are rarely punctual.

New arrivals must understand that ‘ahorita’, translating to ‘right now’, in reality, most likely means ‘later’. This may not be acceptable in one's home country, but adjusting to the flow of life makes things much easier.

Language barrier in Mexico

Mexico is a Spanish-speaking country, and while some Mexicans, especially in the cities and tourist hubs, speak English, many do not. Many expats living in Mexico may get on fine only knowing a few key Spanish words, though these foreigners usually surround themselves with other English-speaking expats. But trying to learn Spanish can be fun and useful, and the effort made is appreciated.

Knowing the language gives foreigners the upper hand when looking for employment, understanding prices and following basic instructions on packaging. Even the most basic language course will go a long way.  

Meeting and greeting in Mexico

Expats in Mexico will quickly notice that most Mexicans, both friends and casual acquaintances, kiss each other on the cheek in greeting.

For foreigners, trying to figure out when to engage in this charming custom can be confusing, especially when someone leans towards someone expecting them to kiss back. Even those who are familiar with kissing in other cultures may find that Mexican cheek kissing has its own set of rules.

Greeting with a kiss may not apply in business or professional settings or with strangers, and shaking hands is the preferred method.

Dining in Mexico

When dining at a restaurant, it isn't unusual for strangers to say 'provecho' (enjoy your meal) to others at a table, as they leave the restaurant. This open, friendly communication is common in Mexico and is an excellent example of a culture that is incredibly polite and congenial. 

Expats should remember that in this situation, and generally when at a loss as to what to say, replying with 'gracias' (thank you) is always an appropriate response.

Religion in Mexico

Mexicans, as a rule, are tolerant of other religions and lifestyles, and it’s not uncommon for locals to belong to more than one church. In large cities, a wide range of religions can be found. As a result, expats living in Mexico have the freedom to celebrate and embrace their faith without fear of reprisal from others.

Nevertheless, it is predominantly a Roman Catholic culture, a truth evidenced by the sheer number of local holidays, fiestas, pieces of artwork, popular songs, nativity scenes and altars on government property which celebrate Catholicism.

Religious festivities are common, and everyone can enjoy the happenings along with the rest of Mexico without fear of exclusion. Joining in can better help expats familiarise themselves with Mexican culture. Expats should note that these festivities can often cause inconveniences and traffic jams.

Communication in Mexico

In surprising similarity to many Asian cultures, when Mexicans communicate, they make an extended effort to be polite and not disappoint. It is common to be told that things are possible when they are not, that something will happen which never does, and to be given an answer even when one is unknown. This may be why many expats have the experience of asking for directions only to receive a set of wrong instructions.

If the truth is unappealing, Mexicans often will still provide an affirmative response and then may fail to deliver. In terms of business communication, prices for projects often escalate after an original quote has been given because the actual cost of the project was too unappealing to initially provide.

While this is less of a problem with Mexicans who have lived in the United States or are accustomed to doing business with foreigners, exasperated expats should be wary of 'yes' answers that come too quickly and should get multiple opinions on matters of importance.

Bureaucracy in Mexico

Mexico is a country of bureaucracy. When opening a bank account, buying property, dealing with visas or sorting out any legality, the sheer number of documents and signatures required can feel overwhelming and senseless. 

Every piece of paperwork must be saved because it's likely to be needed at a later date, and many documents must include an official stamp or signature or else it isn't legal. 

Few expats can avoid complaining, but at least they are in good company; the average Mexican on the street is equally as frustrated.

Family in Mexico

Family is of the utmost importance in Mexican culture, and family obligations often take precedence over work responsibility. Families can seem confusing in their extended complexity and, although things are changing, it is common for them all to live together.

At some point, expats may feel excluded by the sheer size and closeness of Mexican families. They love to be together, and even call their friends 'hermanos' (brothers) and 'hermanitas' (sisters) in affection, making it difficult to figure out who is actually related. 

Children in Mexico are loved and adored and appear to have no restrictions put on their behaviour, especially boys.

Traditionally, young lovers move in with their in-laws, having children at a young age. To many Mexicans, it’s odd that when someone marries in other cultures, they move out of the house to get away from their parents. That said, modern households are evolving, with extended families living in separate households.

Mexican helping hand

This is one of the best things about Mexican culture. If  anyone has a problem with their car, if they are lost or just need help, someone will come to their aid. Mexicans won’t say no to someone in distress, and sooner or later, expats will be the happy recipients of this behaviour. 

On the other hand, this same attitude may be a cause of lengthy delays. For example, if someone’s car breaks down, a stranger may stop everything they are doing to help, and even request friends come to assist. But this may also mean mechanics may not complete their work on an expat’s car in time as they have been busy assisting others in need.

Like other parts of Mexican culture, accepting this without frustration will go a long way.

Gender issues in Mexico

Mexican society is traditionally patriarchal, with the male breadwinner and the roles of wives and mothers centred on cooking and cleaning.

This is changing over time with progress in gender equality, but gender-based discrimination remains an issue in social and business settings.

Accommodation in Mexico

Expats looking for accommodation in Mexico will find that the selection is plentiful and varied. New arrivals should be able to find, without too much hassle, a home that is comfortable, spacious and well-suited to their needs.

Still, the process of finding accommodation in Mexico can sometimes be tricky, and expats will want to acquaint themselves with the property market before making a final decision on where to live.

Types of accommodation in Mexico

Mexico, being one of the world's largest countries, has a wide array of accommodation options, varying wildly in style, size, quality and price, to match its diverse climate, landscapes and terrains. Urban housing in Mexico is considerably more expensive than that in rural areas. This price difference does not always translate into better quality accommodation, so expats should assess all factors before committing to a property.

Detached houses

It's possible to find older colonial-style buildings, perhaps shared by a few other people, and larger multi-family homes for a bargain if expats do their research. Those looking to live outside the city limits where rent is considerably lower might even be able to rent a room in a ranch house (hacienda) during their stay in the country.

Apartments and condominiums

Many expats choose to live in an urban apartment block and some may splurge on a brand-new condominium complex, kitted out with all modern conveniences. Expats from high-income countries such as the USA and the UK find that their money goes a lot further in Mexico than it would back home, the better cost of living affording them grander housing opportunities. Still, beach-front condos with swimming pools are still pricey, often enjoyed be retiring expats, and may not fit everyone's budget or lifestyle.

Flat and house-shares

Don't be fooled when moving to Mexico that all accommodation is affordable – rentals have been increasing in typical expat areas, and luxurious living may not be for everyone. Luckily, there are low and middle-income budget options too. Many young and single people choose to rent a room in a house or flat, which is a great way to meet new people and not feel so alone in a new country.

Furnished vs unfurnished

Both furnished and unfurnished accommodation can be found, and while expats staying short term may want a fully-equipped space, it is easy to buy affordable furniture in Mexico. It's a must to find out exactly how unfurnished the 'unfurnished' accommodation is, as it could be nothing more than a shell requiring much work. This could give tenants more freedom on design and decoration but could be costly. Those moving for a long period, be it to work or retire, may want a feel of home and may consider shipping their furniture from their home country to Mexico, which can be done stress-free.

Finding accommodation in Mexico

As with most things today, the internet is a great resource for finding rental accommodation. Expats can find plenty of online listings by entering 'bienes raices en' followed by the area in which they intend to live, as the search term and Point2Homes is one of many useful property portals.

Many local Mexican newspapers carry rental listings and word-of-mouth is also a highly effective means of finding accommodation in Mexico – informal lease agreements can be organised with minimum fuss.

Enlisting the help of a real estate agent or going through a relocation company is another option, as these professionals will have local advice and experience. The Asociación Mexicana de Profesionales Inmobiliarios (AMPI) is a useful reference to find out registered real estate agent's experience and qualifications.

When house hunting, especially in Mexico City, expats should make sure that their prospective home is close to their place of employment. Traffic can be a nightmare, easily adding on a couple of hours to one’s regular workday.

Landlords will usually try to take advantage of expats who don’t speak Spanish. Thorough market research should be conducted to get a feel for prices in the desired area, and each property should be inspected carefully; for example, expats should turn on the taps, switch on the lights, flush the toilets and check for damp walls and ceilings.

Renting accommodation in Mexico

Far more people rent than buy property in Mexico, so the rental market is consistently excellent with a wide variety of options available. Expats who don’t speak Spanish may find it difficult to use the services of some real estate agents, which could make the process considerably more complicated and is an additional expense.


Tenants may find that proof of employment and letters of reference are not always needed, but landlords frequently demand that a guarantor (aval, in Spanish) can co-sign the rental agreement. Landlords may insist that the aval is a Mexican citizen and they must agree to cover any damage or fees that the tenant cannot.

Expats need not be overly concerned about this as there are other ways to rent accommodation in Mexico, negotiating with the landlord or paying a higher deposit.


Both fixed-term and open-ended leases are available. Expats will probably sign their lease agreement on an annual basis, but alternative arrangements can be made. Month-to-month rentals are quite popular in Mexico, especially in the more touristy areas. With open-ended leases, though, tenants should confirm the notice period for ending the contract to ensure that both parties have enough time for arrangements when leaving.

We advise expats to insist on an inventory of the place, to protect themselves from being unfairly evicted or short-changed on their deposit money. It's also important to check the rental contract in both English and Spanish, get a Spanish-speaking friend or translator to ensure the contracts say the same thing.

Some landlords may ask for rent and deposits to be paid in cash, but bank transfers are often preferable as they keep an accurate record of payments and bills can be paid from abroad if expats are outside the country. Tenants and landlords must agree on how they will transfer payments.


Expats will often be required to pay the first month's rent upfront and a further month's rent as a deposit. The landlord might request a firmer financial commitment before agreeing to rent the property; expats can try to avoid this by offering to pay their rent in advance every month. It's worth negotiating any deal, but always remain polite and stay on good terms with the landlord.


Expats will almost certainly be liable for their water, electricity, phone and internet bills while in Mexico. These should be paid on time, as Mexican landlords are already hesitant to rent to expats and don't need any further reason to doubt their worthiness as tenants.


Healthcare in Mexico

Healthcare in Mexico is of a high standard and is affordable for expats. In fact, the quality and lower cost of Mexican healthcare have resulted in many US citizens, especially those who don't have insurance, going to Mexico each year to find cheaper treatment.

Mexico has universal healthcare, meaning its citizens and residents are entitled to free healthcare coverage, but there are different programmes depending on citizenship and employment status in the public sector. While public healthcare is affordable and relatively efficient, private hospitals are generally more consistent and offer specialised facilities and procedures.

Public healthcare in Mexico

Public healthcare in Mexico is subsidised by the Mexican government through the Secretariat of Health. Retired expats can also receive state-subsidised health cover, but coverage is not automatic.

Unemployed Mexican citizens receive coverage through a programme called INSABI, which expats are unlikely to use.

Citizens and foreigners working in Mexico qualify to receive treatment under the public programme, Instituto Mexicano de Seguro Social (IMSS). It is funded by employees, employers and the federal government. Employees contribute part of their salary each month which is automatically deducted. This amount is then matched by their employer.

Workers who are formally employed by the Mexican government go through a separate programme, the Instituto de Seguridad y Servicios Sociales de los Trabajadores del Estado (ISSSTE).

The quality of care provided by the state system varies considerably. Some hospitals and clinics are truly first-rate, whereas others, particularly in rural areas, are less consistent.

Private healthcare in Mexico

Although public healthcare is of a high standard and affordable, most expats still opt for private healthcare in Mexico. Specialised procedures are more accessible and waiting times are much shorter with private options.

Because many Mexican doctors complete their medical training in Europe or the USA, they are often fluent in English. That said, expats should not expect the same from nurses. 

Health insurance in Mexico

Expats already covered by the national healthcare system who would like to access private healthcare should have additional health insurance to shoulder the high expenses incurred by this sector. Senior citizen expats often qualify for discounts on healthcare coverage in Mexico.

Expats should be aware that some private hospitals in Mexico do not accept international health insurance, and the patient will have to pay for their treatment upon release from the hospital. In this case, hospitals usually provide the paperwork needed for expats to be reimbursed by their insurance company on their own terms. Expats need to ensure that their Mexican hospital of choice allows this or accepts foreign insurance providers.

When selecting health insurance, expats must consider if it covers necessary costs for medical treatment and possible repatriation.

Pharmacies in Mexico

Expats should have no problem finding pharmacies in Mexico as there are many available around the country. Some pharmacies are open 24 hours and some offer clinics and consultations with a healthcare worker.

Expats who do not speak Spanish may prefer pharmacies linked to private hospitals where they are more likely to find English-speaking staff.

Health hazards in Mexico

Mosquito-related health hazards exist in Mexico, including the Zika- and Chikungunya viruses. Expats should refer to their GP or a professional healthcare worker for information and advice on these viruses. New arrivals should be sure to take precautions such as using mosquito repellent.

Mexico's landscape is diverse, and with Mexico City and other areas being at a high altitude, new arrivals may experience headaches and a lack of energy. Mexico City also struggles with pollution which can impact respiratory conditions, especially with the elderly and young children.

Expats should also avoid drinking tap water and having ice in drinks. Other factors to consider in Mexico are safety, violent crime and a risk of natural disasters.

Pre-travel vaccinations for Mexico

Expats should visit a doctor six weeks before leaving for Mexico to ensure that they have received the correct vaccinations. Although malaria risk is relatively low, expats should research mosquito-related diseases.

It is advised that expats make sure their routine vaccinations are up to date before travelling to Mexico. The following vaccinations are recommended:

  • Hepatitis A

  • Hepatitis B

  • Typhoid

  • Rabies

Emergency services in Mexico

The general emergency number in Mexico is 911. Emergency services are available, although response times may be slow, particularly in rural areas.

In Mexico City, one can download the 911 CDMX app to one's smartphone as well as use emergency buttons attached to CCTV cameras.

Education and Schools in Mexico

The Mexican education system has had its share of struggles. The dropout rate in public schools is high, and rural schools are underfunded and have a shortage of buildings, teachers and textbooks. Urban public schools are better, but the quality of education is still relatively low, while private schools grant a high quality of bilingual education that is usually well suited to expat children, but can be expensive.

The education system in Mexico is often segregated by social class and stark differences are seen between more developed northern and central states compared to southern regions. Wealthy families normally send their children to private schools where there is no shortage of good teachers and textbooks, while poorer families send their children to public schools.

Many expats homeschool their children or send them to a Mexican school for half the day and homeschool them in the afternoons. Immersion in a Mexican school for half the day can help expat children learn Spanish and assimilate better into the local culture.

Public schools in Mexico

Although public schools in Mexico charge no tuition and textbooks are freely available in primary schools, they are unlikely to be an expat’s first choice for their children due to poor and differing standards. 

The Mexican education system is regulated by the Secretariat of Public Education (SEP) and is administered by individual states. Public schools in Mexico are secular as religious instruction is banned in public education, and school days in Mexico are shorter than that of many other countries. The school year usually runs from September to the following June.

The system is normally divided into three levels: 

  • Primary school (primaria): grades one to six, ages six to 12

  • Junior high school (secundaria): grades seven to nine, ages 12 to 15

  • High school (preparatoria), grades 10 to 12, ages 15 to 18

Children must achieve at least 60 percent in the national examination at the end of each school year to proceed to the next grade.

For high school, students have several options. Students can attend specific colleges for technological-, technical- and vocational training courses and receive a bachillerato, preparing them for the workforce. Otherwise, students who attend preparatoria gain a general education in subjects they may specialise in, such as in physical or social sciences. This prepares them for tertiary education.

Unfortunately, there have been reports of corruption in Mexican public schools. These schools are often underfunded and lacking in resources and drop-out rates are high. This is especially true in rural areas which receive bilingual, bicultural and community-centred curricula often through distance learning. Urban centres are only marginally better.

Because of these disadvantages, public schools are rarely an option for expat children. That said, those who are fluent in Spanish can benefit from attending public school for half the day, followed by homeschooling in the afternoon.

Private schools in Mexico

Most expats send their children to private or international schools, which are concentrated in the big cities, as they offer a broader curriculum and better teachers than public schools. While public schools are secular, religious education may be available at some private schools.

When considering a private school, expats must ensure that it is accredited through the SEP and visit the school, meet with teachers and check the curriculum to see if it is a suitable option. Parents may not be able to do this themselves before moving, but relocation companies offer extensive school-searching services.

Those with children who will be going to university in their home country should also ensure that the school is accredited internationally.

Expats enrolling their children in a private school in Mexico must generally present school records proving that their child has completed the previous year of school and has qualified to continue to the next grade level. Schools usually ask for a copy of the child’s birth certificate, a copy of their school records and photo identification for the child and the parent.

Bilingual schools in Mexico

Bilingual education is available in both public and private schools. Language is a complex issue affecting education in Mexico and it’s not just a challenge for foreign students: around sixty indigenous languages are spoken in the country. 

Often in bilingual schools, half the day is taught in Spanish and the other half in the second language, usually English, French or one of the main native languages. International schools cater not only for the language but also curriculum of one's home country.

International schools in Mexico

An international school is often the best choice for expats moving to Mexico with children. Attending an international school will ensure that children receive a world-class education and can attend university in their home country or anywhere else in the world.

Most international schools in Mexico are located in large cities, such as Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey. English and American, as well as German, French and Japanese schools are available in Mexico. Tuition costs range greatly from affordable to exorbitant for most elite schools. Parents must also factor in where the school is and how they will get around between home, school and work daily.

Tertiary education in Mexico

Tertiary education in Mexico is similar to the model followed in the United States and there are several types of higher education institutions and qualifications. A Bachelor’s degree is typically four years long, a Master’s degree is two years long and a Doctoral degree is three years. Alternatively, the Higher Technician certificate allows students to train with skilled workers and professionals in a specific field and then enter that trade themselves. 

Expats should note that tuition in public universities is free, with some administration costs, while private institution fees vary.

Special needs education in Mexico

Like many other countries, Mexico is working towards inclusive education in both private and public spheres. A specialised group of professionals, part of the Unidades de Servicio y Apoyo a la Educaión Regular (USAER), assist children with disabilities in regular classroom settings. These professionals include speech therapists, psychologists, special education teachers and others.

Students with severe disabilities are not normally catered for and attend Centros de Atencion Multiple (CAM) for specific attention and care.

Unfortunately, there are barriers to inclusive education such as limited training for teachers and confusion of roles between the main class teacher and those that fall under the USAER. Many school environments are physically not adapted to individuals with certain handicaps, and much infrastructure and resource development are still needed. 

Private and international schools are likely to afford better resources and support for expat children with disabilities.

Nurseries in Mexico

Preschool is an important part of early childhood development and many parents opt to send their children to nurseries and preschool. A nursery (guardería) not only allows parents to continue working and have extra time to themselves but also helps infants develop, gain necessary skills and begin socialising.

Daycares are easy to find in large cities – some provide Montessori-based holistic approaches and others are attached to international schools. Parents must consider how close the nursery is from their accommodation as well as the style of education.

Homeschooling in Mexico

Many families choose to homeschool their children in Mexico and this is a beneficial solution to expat parents staying for a short term who are unhappy with public education but cannot afford international schools. Some parents may opt for part-time school learning and part-time homeschooling. 

Distance learning is possible through Mexico’s education system, and parents must decide which curriculum they will use and how they will educate their children.

Homeschooling is not a decision to make lightly and parents must do their fair share of research and decide if it is suitable for them. Additionally, homeschooling parents can seek tutors for private lessons and assistance.

Tutors in Mexico

Tutors are a fantastic way to learn in Mexico and can be found to cater for all ages and subjects. Expats can network or use online platforms to find tutors, such as Apprentus, Preply or Mexico City’s UniversityTutor.

Children who may be in public, private or even homeschool can benefit from extra tuition. Adults can find tutors for their university courses or pick up some extra Spanish classes to better orientate themselves in their new homes. 

International Schools in Mexico

Mexico has a number of international schools in its major cities catering to a variety of nationalities, with a wide range of curricula including American, British, Mexican and Japanese school systems. Due to the lower standards and language barriers in public schools, most expats in Mexico choose to send their children to one of the many excellent international schools.

Below is a list of some of the international schools in Mexico.

International schools in Mexico

The American School Foundation 

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American, Mexican and IB
Ages: 3 to 18

The American School Foundation of Guadalajara, A.C 

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American and Mexican
Ages: 3 to 18

The American School Foundation of Monterrey 

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American and Mexican
Ages:  3 to 18

The Edron Academy 

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Cambridge IGCSE and IB
Ages: 2 to 18

Greengates School 

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Cambridge IGCSE and IB
Ages: 3 to 18

Instituto Bilingüe Victoria

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Mexican, Cambridge IGCSE and A-levels
Ages: 3 to 18

The Japanese School of Mexico

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Japanese and Mexican
Ages: 3 to 18

Puebla American School Foundation

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: IB and AP International Diploma
Ages:  2 to 18

Transport and Driving in Mexico

Travelling within Mexico can be an exciting experience, given some of the country's transport options are, shall we say, not for the faint of heart. Mexico has a relatively well-maintained road network, consisting mainly of toll roads, and a relatively efficient public transport system within and between its major cities. Whatever the mode of transport, we recommend that expats learn at least a little Spanish and familiarise themselves with the local customs – it’d make a world of a difference when getting around in Mexico.

Public transport in Mexico

Mexico’s public transport system is extensive, affordable and efficient, and a good knowledge of Spanish is helpful when navigating the system, especially during peak hours.


The regional passenger train system in Mexico is close to non-existent, and though plans for development have been projected, there has been little progress. That said, tourists and travellers can still see a bit of the country by train. Expats can explore the Copper Canyon area by taking the Chihuahua Pacific Railway, also known as El Chepe, or travel between Guadalajara and Tequila by taking the Tequila Express.


Mexico City, Monterrey and Guadalajara all have metro or light rail systems. Mexico City’s metro system is joined by el tren ligero, the light rail system, reaching the southern suburbs of the city. The Monterrey Metro, better known as Metrorrey, is much smaller than Mexico City's metro and only has two lines. 

Expats should be aware that the metro is a prime operating spot for pickpockets and should look after their valuables. Wealthier citizens don’t tend to use the metro, and tourists should avoid it or at least be vigilant during peak hours. 


An extensive bus network offers an efficient and affordable way of getting around Mexico. There are three classes available on long-distance bus routes: executive, first- and second class. First-class buses have comfortable reclining seats as well as toilets and movies onboard. Many long-distance routes are non-stop, getting travellers to their destination quickly. 

There are local buses and micro-buses (micros) in most cities and towns, such as Mexico City’s metrobús and its green and white micros. These are cheap and tickets can be bought on board, but they can be uncomfortable as passenger limits are hardly regulated. 

Taxis in Mexico

Expats can travel around Mexico’s cities by taxi relatively cheaply. Taxis either use meters or charge by zones, with prices varying between different zones.

For safety reasons, new arrivals to large cities and expats who don’t speak Spanish should phone a cab company, use an app such as Uber or Cabify, or get one at a taxi rank (sitio) rather than hail one off the street.


Latin America is home to the colectivo. Colectivos vary between different countries but are essentially a shared taxi, be it a car, minivan or a pick-up truck. Riders will have to wait until the vehicle fills up before they get going. 


Mototaxis and tuk-tuks found around large cities are a cheap and exciting way to get around, although the safety of these three-wheeled vehicles is questionable.

Driving in Mexico

Expats driving in Mexico should do so cautiously and make sure to drive slightly under the speed limit. It is important to always follow the rules of the road, even if the other cars don’t seem to be. 

It's best to stick to toll roads if one has never driven in Mexico before or if unable to speak Spanish. Expats should make sure to have Mexican pesos in their vehicles as US dollars are not accepted at tolls.

Expats should keep an eye out for particularly elevated speed bumps and unexpected potholes which could damage their car if they do not slow down. Speed bumps are found on major toll roads as well as minor roads. Livestock on the road is also a problem in Mexico; expats should be aware of this and drive cautiously. This is the primary reason why driving at night in Mexico is not advised and can be extremely hazardous.

Drivers in Mexico should always beware of police roadblocks, which function to stem the flow of drugs from Mexico into the USA. Police don’t usually bother foreigners too much but being wary of these checkpoints is nevertheless recommended. Expats can expect checkpoints along most major and some minor roads. Police will most likely search the car and ask drivers to produce their driving licence and insurance information. 

Car insurance

Car insurance in Mexico is required by law and it must be administered by local insurance companies licensed in Mexico. It is affordable and expats can buy Mexican car insurance online or in border towns in the USA. Those staying longer than 16 days may find it cheaper to pay for a six-month insurance plan. Insurance is crucial when driving in Mexico. Should a foreigner be in an accident, they could be sent to jail and would not be able to leave Mexico until the damage is paid for.

Roadside assistance

Mexico has a roadside assistance service called the Angeles Verdes (Green Angels) who drive green trucks and can fix anything from a flat tyre to a leaking radiator. Their services are free, but drivers must pay for parts and petrol, if necessary, and tipping is highly valued.

The Angeles Verdes can be reached by dialling 078.

Driving licenses

Expats can use their home country’s driving licence in Mexico, but they are advised to get an International Driving Permit so that it can be translated into Spanish. Expats need to apply for this within six months of arriving in Mexico but can often organise this from their home country. Expats must carry both their International Driving Permit and their home country’s driving licence with them when driving in Mexico. 

Driving restrictions in cities

Mexico City and other urban areas have limitations on the number of cars allowed to enter over certain times. Older cars with certain number plates and vehicles not registered in Mexico are restricted from entering Mexico City for specific hours in the mornings. The aim is to reduce pollution, but expats should be aware of this and check on these matters when they are renting or buying a car.

Air travel in Mexico

There are numerous domestic airports in Mexico and, since it is such a large country, travelling by plane is often the best way to cover long distances. Mexico has a range of low-cost domestic airlines to choose from, including Aeroméxico, Interjet and Volaris, affording travel options to suit every budget.

Sea travel in Mexico

Expats and tourists can also travel by boat, ferry or ship. Cruises are popular around the Pacific coast and the Mexican Caribbean given the warm, tropical climate. There are also passenger and vehicle ferries sailing between Baja California, islands off the coast, and various coastal locations along the Mexican mainland.

Walking in Mexico

Walking short distances when exploring towns and cities is generally one of the best ways to travel and get familiar with the surroundings. In Mexico, though, pedestrians must be wary. The terrain and standard of pavements aren’t great and could prove a challenge for some, while it’s important to stay vigilant when walking close to roads as vehicles can drive recklessly, ignoring road signs.

Cycling in Mexico

Another quick and easy way to get around is by bike. Expats can rent bikes in major cities from services such as ECOBICI, Mexico City’s bike-sharing programme, and follow different cycle paths and lanes. This seems like a fantastic opportunity even for children, but cyclists should be aware that the bicycle lanes are not well-maintained, and wearing a helmet and staying vigilant for car and foot traffic are essential.

Otherwise, Mexico’s diverse and unique natural landscape affords extensive opportunities for mountain biking and exploring new areas. Of course, there are necessary precautions to take, ensuring the level of fitness and prepping sufficiently for such expeditions.

Shipping and Removals in Mexico

Shipping regulations in Mexico may seem complicated, but luckily, expats have an opportunity to import their items free from duty tax. Within the first six months of their arrival to Mexico, expats can import items duty-free. This is allowed only once and the goods must be accompanied by an itemised list, with additional copies and a certification by the local consulate. 

It's important to decide if it's worth the complications of shipping, or necessary to hire assistive services, as well as consider the regulations for importing household items, vehicles and pets into Mexico.

Be sure about shipping

Is it necessary to ship personal items over to Mexico? Shipping can get expensive, and modern appliances can be bought easily in Mexico as well as furniture and custom-design items. It is also possible to rent an already-furnished house or apartment. In some cases, though, expats may want to ship sentimental goods that cannot easily be replaced.

Hiring shipping and removals companies

When moving abroad, expats face multiple challenges, and Mexico’s customs procedures can be complicated. 

Customs brokers and shipping- and removals companies can ease the process of transporting goods that don’t fit into a suitcase. They are a costly solution, but it may be easier than trying it alone. Alternatively, relocation companies are a one-stop solution: not only do they help with moving goods, but they provide inclusive and comprehensive services to help expats immigrate and settle in. This is an expensive route but can ease a lot of the stresses and is worth considering.

Insuring goods in transit to Mexico

When moving goods, it is important to insure them against damage. Most shipping companies have insurance included in their package, but it is important to check and confirm the prices.

Shipping household items to Mexico

Shipping goods to Mexico can seem like a mission: there are many rules, regulations and hidden costs, dependent on the type of visa.

Menaje de Casa

Expats need to consult the nearest Mexican embassy or consulate and apply for a Menaje de Casa. For this, their visa must already be processed as the application needs expats' passport and visa information as well as a detailed itinerary with copies in Spanish, including serial numbers for electronic goods.

Expats with temporary residence (with an FMM, temporary residence visa or student temporary resident visa) need to export any imported goods when they leave. Those with permanent residence can bring their goods over indefinitely. 

Expats may be granted duty-free imports on certain goods imported within six months after arriving in the country, but there are normally costs involved, including application fees for the Menaje de Casa and fees when going through a customs broker or removals company.

Customs regulations on household goods

Firearms cannot be imported and food and beverages are not considered household goods.

While furniture, linen and clothing can be imported, only electric appliances older than six months are allowed, and they must correspond to the number of family members – not including more than one of each major electronic appliance (such as a washing machine or oven). When shipping electronic goods, expats should ensure their voltage and electricity usage. 

Expats should refer to their Mexican embassy and see the customs regulations for a full list of items that are allowed or prohibited.

Shipping pets to Mexico

Bringing cats and dogs into Mexico through the border is usually not a problem, but owners should have recent documentation of vaccinations, including ones for rabies and distemper. Additional fees are likely charged when bringing four or more pets in. 

Expats who have more exotic pets than cats and dogs will need to check with a Mexican consulate for the latest guidelines.

Pets arriving on airlines are required to have a certificate of health issued just before their arrival – one for each pet travelling. Pets must travel in a pet carrier which fulfils the criteria of the airline. Rules may differ across airlines, so check their website for specific requirements.

Pet-owners must ensure the health and safety of their animals when bringing them into Mexico, for example, if travelling by car, animals should not be left alone for a long time in a hot vehicle.

When entering and leaving Mexico with pets, expats must see SAGARPA, the Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fishing and Food, who checks that everything is in order at the port of entry/exit.

Shipping vehicles to Mexico

Shipping a vehicle into Mexico depends on the type of visa the expat holds and can be a tricky thing for some. Regulations are not standard across the country, differing between states.

Expats who hold the FMM visitor visa, have temporary residence, or student temporary residence visas can import their car into Mexico from abroad. They must get a Temporary Import Permit, a TIP, issued at the border. The TIP is normally valid for as long as the visa is valid.

Permanent residents will have to take a different route if they want to keep their car; they are no longer able to drive a vehicle with a foreign number plate in Mexico. This is when a shipping company and customs broker must help – customs brokers can resolve this process, but taxes and duties must be paid, plus service charges to the broker.

Alternatively, they could export the car from Mexico permanently or sell it on to someone else with appropriate visas and permits.

Whether importing a foreign-licensed vehicle or buying a car in Mexico, expats must be sure to check the driving regulations in place in their state and city.

Frequently Asked Questions about Mexico

Relocating to Mexico presents a host of potential complications to ponder before the move. From worries about safety and drug violence, to finding the best accommodation and schools, new arrivals often have a number of concerns about moving to Mexico. Below are a few common questions that we tend to receive from expats considering a move to the North American country.

What about the drug violence? Is it safe in Mexico for foreigners?

The drug violence in Mexico is a result of the government finally cracking down on drug cartels. The violence is almost completely centred around rival cartels and government law enforcement and is localised to specific areas. Tourists and expats are not generally affected, though it's essential to be vigilant and aware of high-risk areas.

Is it easy to get into the USA from Mexico?

This depends; citizens of the USA and Canada are usually whisked through the border with no visa needed, although a passport is required. Long lines at border crossings are common. For other nationals crossing the border, entry depends on visa status. Expats wanting to stay in Mexico for several months or more must look into visas and work permits.

What is Mexico City like?

Mexico City is one of the largest cities in the world and often avoided by expats. It has some of the worst air pollution in the world which is a major health issue, and with dense urban crowding and safety concerns, it isn't the most picturesque city. Yet, many find its modern districts and busy industrious centres alluring, and finding work in Mexico's capital city may be easier than other areas. 

Should I buy a home in Mexico?

Even ocean-side beach housing is a fraction of the price of homes in the USA. Buying property also reduces the amount retired expats need to have in their bank account. Homes for sale are often quoted in USA dollars, and mortgages don't really exist, so having the cash ready is usually required. There are also low property taxes. Expats staying short term may prefer to rent accommodation as it is more suitable.

What about giving out bribes?

As in most countries, it is illegal to give bribes, although it is common practice in Mexico, particularly for traffic violations. Foreigners should avoid partaking in bribery, as it is against the law.

Can I get help moving to my new home in Mexico?

The moving process is daunting and organising visas can be a paperwork nightmare. Our guides provide useful information to help expats settle in, find work and schools for children, and relocation companies can also ease the stress. Expats may want to bring furniture and belongings with them, and there are shipping and removals options available to them.

Articles about Mexico

Banking, Money and Taxes in Mexico

Banking in Mexico is fairly easy and straightforward as there are many modern financial institutions throughout the country. Still, large stacks of paperwork often need to be completed to satisfy the increasingly complex Mexican bureaucracy.

While being able to speak Spanish will make things considerably easier, even new arrivals who aren't fluent should find it is possible to effectively manage their finances in Mexico. 

Money in Mexico

The official currency in Mexico is the Mexican Peso (MXN), referred to simply as the peso, which is divided into 100 centavos. There are also MXN 5, 50 and 100 coins which are rarely used.

  • Notes: MXN 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1,000 

  • Coins: MXN 1, 2, 10, and 20, and 5, 10, 20 and 50 centavos

Some tourist areas accept US dollars, but expats will have to use Mexican pesos. Money can be exchanged at the airport, large hotels, banks and ATMs or exchange kiosks. Traveller's cheques are not so commonly used anymore and may be difficult to exchange.

Banking in Mexico

Expats have a variety of options when it comes to banking in Mexico, with both local and international banks to choose from. Some international banks, such as HSBC, have branches in Mexico and are popular, but do not necessarily provide better service than Mexican banks. Other top banks include BBVA, Santander, Banamex and Banorte.

Opening a bank account

For those staying only short term, opening a local bank account may not be necessary, and if expats already bank with one of the main international firms, they can dodge a bullet. These expats can avoid the bureaucracy and queues at local Mexican branches. Their banks can be contacted before arriving in Mexico to make necessary arrangements and alert them of travel plans.

To open a local bank account, new arrivals must usually visit a local branch office in person. Expats will likely need to present their visa, identification and proof of a Mexican address, along with an initial deposit.

Expats can open a basic, checking or deposit account in Mexico. A basic account, or cuenta de nómina, is useful for those earning a wage, and they can be opened easily at any Mexican bank. Retail banks offer checking accounts which normally require a monthly deposit. Those needing an account for daily transactions will want a checking account that uses only MXN as levies from ATM withdrawal fees can add up if used frequently over an extended period.

Often, bank accounts such as deposit accounts need a minimum balance, though the amount varies across banks. Specialised student accounts may also be available for those who are studying and have unique needs.

Citizens of the US or Canada generally open an account using US dollars. Other nationalities cannot, although overseas accounts can be accessed via Mexican ATMs. Expats who are likely to make international transfers should look up the fees involved as exchange rates may not be in their favour.

Many bank tellers in Mexico can speak English, but expats should nevertheless make sure to have any Spanish paperwork translated.

Internet banking

To avoid wasting time queuing in long bank lines, internet banking is a useful tool. Most banks offer comprehensive services online and via apps.


There is a universal ATM network spread out across Mexico and expats will rarely have to search far to find one, but there may be additional withdrawal fees when using an ATM owned by a different bank. It's also important to be mindful of safety issues such as ATM fraud and robbery in the large cities.

Credit cards

Major international credit cards are accepted at large stores in Mexico. Small grocery stores (tiendas) usually only accept cash. 

Interest on Mexican credit cards tends to be high but are useful when making large purchases. To apply for a Mexican credit card, expats will need to have already set up a Mexican bank account. They generally will also need to provide proof of good credit history. If this is not possible, then a deposit can sometimes be paid to secure credit card payments. The requirements and benefits of bank accounts and credit cards vary across different banks, so research should be done to find the most suitable option.

Taxes in Mexico

Taxes for expats in Mexico depend largely on whether they qualify as residents or non-residents. For tax purposes, expats are considered residents if they have their primary home in Mexico. This does not exclude them from filing taxes in their home countries, although many countries have double-taxation agreements so income tax doesn't need to be paid in both countries.

Residents are taxed on their worldwide income, whereas non-residents are only taxed on income earned in Mexico. The tax rate for non-residents ranges from 15 to 30 percent.

Taxes, including tax rules for retired expats and homeowners, can be confusing, and expats are advised to hire professional help from experienced tax advisers.

Deduction for healthcare

Expats working in Mexico can receive free public healthcare through the Instituto Mexicano de Seguro Social (IMSS). A deduction is taken from their account and matched by their employer and the federal government. 

*Tax regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats are advised to seek the assistance and advice of a professional tax consultant.

Expat Experiences in Mexico

When considering a move to a new city, there is nothing more useful than hearing real life stories and experiences from other expats who have lived there. We'd love to hear about your expat experiences. Please contact us if you live or have lived in Mexico and would like to share your story.

After moving back home, Rudi has had time to reflect on his adventures abroad. He talks about his life in Cabo San Lucas and gives advice to prospective expats moving to the city. Read more about his expat life in Mexico.


Wanting to escape a high-stress job and in search of a bit of adventure, Marcia and Judd are American expats who moved to Mexico’s resort town of Puerto Vallarta. Read more about their expat life in Mexico.

Susan McKinney de Ortega lives in a small village in Mexico. She describes herself as a memoirist, journalist, spa owner, mother of bilingual teenaged girls, daughter of a former National Basketball Association coach, and beginner dressage rider. Read about her take on expat life in Mexico.

Ellen and Jim Fields are living large on the splendid Yucatan peninsula of Mexico. They have been here for eight years and counting, and run an expat services company. Read about their wonderful life in Yucatan, a truly magical part of Mexico.

Marcia lives in the port town of Mahahual with her husband Kim. She runs a small hotel while Kim builds houses that happily seem hurricane resistant so far. Marcia has some great advice for expats setting up a home and a business in Mexico, which she has shared in her interview here.