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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 hoping 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 all along the coastline, some integrating into Mexican towns and culture, others resembling small pockets of America.


Living in Mexico as an expat

That said, Mexico doesn’t only attract retirees: the robust industrial and thriving manufacturing centres in its large cities also attract younger, working expats from America, Canada and further afield. Relaxed visa regulations also mean businesses and employees from Mexico’s northern neighbours have little red tape to contend with.

Teaching English in Mexico is also gaining popularity among expats, and the country’s natural beauty and gorgeous coastline mean jobs at resorts and in tourism are often up for grabs too.

As far as public transport is concerned, getting around in Mexico is easy, with several airlines, efficient bus services, reliable subways, and many taxi services available in major metros.

Accommodation-wise, expats can expect a real-estate market more affordable than most, with even Mexico's most expensive metro, Mexico City, priced much lower than its US, UK or Canadian equivalents.


Cost of living

Indeed, Mexico affords expats a quality of life not usually attainable in their home countries. With affordable housing, cheap food and inexpensive transportation, the country allows for quality living on a modest budget. Those earning a foreign currency will live particularly well in Mexico.


Expat families and children

Contrary to popular belief, Mexico is an excellent choice for raising a family. Though public schools tend to be underfunded and probably not up to expat standards, the country boasts a range of excellent private and international schools. Private healthcare in Mexico is cheap and first-rate, and the country has become something of a medical-tourism destination as a result.

There’s also plenty to get up to for families, including exploring Mexico’s many canyons, waterfalls, coastlines, rainforests and national parks. Of course, the country is also blessed with rich history and culture, which it celebrates at various occasions throughout the year, presenting great opportunities for expats to mingle with locals, such as on Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) or Cinco de Mayo.


Climate

The North American country is known for its tropical climate and humid weather, but due to its varying altitudes, weather can vary quite drastically from region to region. The rainy season generally occurs between June and November.

All in all, Mexico offers a welcoming government, warm weather, cheap beach-side property and a favourable exchange rate, ensuring a luxurious lifestyle for many expats, and a dream emigration destination for others.

Weather in Mexico

Mexico's wonderfully diverse topography includes everything from tropical coastlines to barren deserts and frosty mountain peaks to lush valleys. The sudden shifts in altitude make the weather just as varied as the landscape. The general climate in Mexico is best described as tropical, and most of the country experiences year-round sunny weather.

Mexico’s West Coast has a moderate and dry climate with average winter temperatures at a comfortable 66°F (19°C), and 77°F (25°C) in summer.

Unlike the mild West Coast, the Sonoran Desert experiences more rainfall from July to October. Winters here reach 53°F (17.2°C), while summer temperatures often exceed 104°F (40°C).

That said, the Chihuahuan Desert to the east is much cooler with winter temperatures dropping to 50°F (10°C), and summer temperatures hovering around 82.4°F (28°C). During June and October, the Chihuahuan Desert experiences a period of monsoon rains.

To the south, around Mexico City, temperatures of Tierras Frías (cold lands) change drastically between day and night. Winters here often dip to 45°F (7°C), while summer temperatures can climb to a mild 77°F (25°C).

In the scattered areas of Tierras Templadas (temperate lands), temperatures range from 60°F (15.5°C) to 75°F (23.5°C) for winter and summer respectively.

Finally, the Tierras Caliente (hot lands), found mainly along the coastal plains, are hot all year round, and humid during the rainy season (either May to November or June to October). Temperatures average between 89.6°F (32°C) and 95°F (35°C) throughout the year.

Otherwise, precipitation in Mexico is generally most common between June and November; the remaining months of the year are relatively dry.


Occasional tropical storms between August and September have been known to bring heavy rains. We suggest researching the climates of specific regions before moving.

 
 

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

 

2022

2023

New Year’s Day

1 January

1 January

Constitution Day

7 February

5 February

Benito Juárez Day

21 March

20 March

Labour Day

1 May

1 May

Independence Day

16 September

16 September

Revolution Day

21 November

20 November

Christmas Day

25 December

25 December

Pros and Cons of Moving to Mexico

A country of rich tradition and delicious food, 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 truly unique. 

The media and Hollywood tend to focus on two extreme perceptions of Mexico: its violent drug crime or its 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 generally as warm as the climate and foreigners are usually treated well. Most Mexicans are happy to help, including in bureaucratic settings if expats are polite and courteous in turn.

+ PRO: Rich in cultural celebrations and cuisine

Traditional Mexican culture is very much alive and well today, 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 more than 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 an 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 locals. 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 US, 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, though, visa and work permit applications are necessary.

- 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 require paperwork done in Spanish. 


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 to 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 when 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 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 often 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. Expats working in Mexico and permanent residents 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. 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, as well as 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 expats 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 need to 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 that expats may be used to, 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 something of a 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, and often between drug gangs.

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 solicit 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, including for Covid, 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 also two active volcanoes in the country: 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

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

Mexico City has cultivated lucrative industries that are pulling in young and industrious entrepreneurs and professionals. Over the years, the Mexican industry has been integrated into the economies of the US 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 that places high value on interpersonal relationships.


Job market in Mexico

Thanks to cheaper manufacturing and labour costs, many companies that were established in the US 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 recommend entrepreneurs do their research and seek the guidance of a lawyer or professional with specific knowledge in their field.

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 are done more for the experience than a sustainable work option.


Finding a job in Mexico

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

Securing employment before the move is helpful as the hiring company can arrange visas and work permits. Companies must prove that hired expats are not taking jobs that 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. Online job listings are incredibly helpful. These include 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 central to successful interactions. It’s also important to learn Spanish. Although most executives within 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 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.

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

Business hours are usually from 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday, with a two or three-hour siesta in the early afternoon. This may vary across different 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.

Greeting

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

Gifts

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.

Relationships

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.

Hierarchy

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.

Meetings

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. The meaning of time is a key issue in Mexican culture, but this is more the case in informal settings than in professional ones. 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.

Communication

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. 

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 US, 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 get 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 documents 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.

Dependants

Family members or children dependent on 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 in 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 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 permanent residence visa that permits participating in remunerative activities. The process seems complicated, but much of it is usually undertaken by the employing company. 

Expats should also visit the official website for the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs (Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores) for more info.


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, to network and to find employment. Alternatively, expats can find a job in Mexico from their home country. 

Once they have received and accepted an offer of employment, the employing company or person who 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 allows them to 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 much more affordable. In fact, 2021's Mercer Cost of Living Survey ranked Mexico 152nd out of 209 cities. 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's 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 is 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 provide expats with more freedom. Many expats therefore prefer to drive 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, private and international schools are often preferred by expats due to their higher standard of education and facilities. Expats can choose between a range of private schools that offer bilingual education and a familiar curriculum to help ease the transition process for their children and secure a quality education. Alternatively, international schools provide a multicultural space for children from all over the globe to get to know each other. While the costs are high, they 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. That said, many expats prefer private hospitals but these come at a heftier price. Expats with international medical sceheme must ensure that their insurance covers the specific hospital they visit. Healthcare expenses quickly add up with check-ups, medication and additional support, so it's important to research the best insurance companies.


Cost of living in Mexico chart

Note that prices may vary depending on location and service provider. The table below is based on average prices for Mexico City in February 2022.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

One-bedroom apartment in the city centre

MXN 13,100

One-bedroom apartment outside the city centre

MXN 9, 000

Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre

MXN 26,700

Three-bedroom apartment outside the city centre

MXN 16, 300

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

Coca-Cola       

MXN 16

Cappuccino 

MXN 46

Bottle of beer (local)    

MXN 40

Three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant

MXN 700

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 900

Transport

Taxi rate/km 

MXN 5.20

Bus fare in the city centre       

MXN 6

Gasoline/petrol (per litre)

MXN 22

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.

Studying some of the nuances of the culture and accepting certain realities can help ease culture shock in Mexico. Of course, the low cost of living may help smooth over some of the initial trepidation expats might experience in their new country.


Time in Mexico

The laid-back pace that makes Mexico an ideal holiday and retirement spot also makes it a challenging 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 times and bedtimes are later in Mexico, and social gatherings may start and run later than expats may be used to.


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. Expats living in Mexico may get on reasonably well only knowing a few key Spanish words, but knowing the language makes things such as looking for employment, arranging accommodation, and day-to-day tasks that much easier.


Greeting in Mexico

Expats in Mexico will quickly notice that a kiss on the cheek is a common casual greeting. For foreigners, trying to figure out when to engage in this charming custom can be confusing, and even those who are familiar with kiss greeting in other cultures may find that Mexican cheek kissing has its own set of rules.

Greeting with a kiss does 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 other diners as they leave the restaurant. This open, friendly communication is common in Mexico and it’s an excellent example of the culture’s polite congeniality.

If unsure of how to respond, expats should remember that replying with a simple 'gracias' (thank you) is always appropriate.


Religion in Mexico

Mexicans are generally 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, as evidenced by the sheer number of local Catholic holidays, fiestas and songs, as well as the ubiquitous Catholic artworks, nativity scenes and altars on government property.

Religious festivities are common and anyone can join in. In fact, participating can help expats familiarise themselves with Mexican culture, and is a great way to make local friends. Expats should note that these festivities can often cause inconveniences and traffic jams.


Communication in Mexico

Somewhat similar 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.

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


Bureaucracy in Mexico

Mexico is a country of bureaucracy. Whether 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.


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 large families 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 truly related.

Traditionally, young lovers move in with their in-laws and have children at a young age. Only later on would they finally move out of their parents’ homes. That said, modern households are evolving, with extended families living in separate households.


Gender issues in Mexico

Mexican society is traditionally patriarchal. 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 have a varied selection to choose from. 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, kitted out with all modern conveniences. Expats from high-income countries such as the US and 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 by retired 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.

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 determine registered real-estate agents' 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 estate agents, which could make the process considerably more complicated and expensive.

Guarantors

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.

Leases

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. It's also important to check the rental contract in both English and Spanish, or 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.

Deposits

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.

Utilities

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 affordable. In fact, the quality and lower cost of Mexican healthcare have resulted in many US citizens, especially those who don't have insurance, travelling to Mexico for cheaper treatment.

Mexico has universal healthcare, meaning its citizens and residents are entitled to free healthcare coverage. 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

The Mexican government subsidises public healthcare in Mexico through the Secretariat of Health.

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

Citizens and foreigners working in Mexico qualify for treatment under the public programme, Instituto Mexicano de Seguro Social (IMSS). Besides government funding for the IMSS, employees contribute part of their salaries, and employers match the amount. Retired expats are also entitled to state-subsidised health coverage.

Mexican government employees are covered by a separate programme referred to as the Instituto de Seguridad y Servicios Sociales de los Trabajadores del Estado (ISSSTE).


Private healthcare in Mexico

The quality of care provided by the state system can vary greatly, so most expats opt for private healthcare in Mexico. These options may be more pricey, but the facilities are often more advanced, specialised procedures are more accessible and waiting times are much shorter.

Since many Mexican doctors complete their medical training in Europe or the US, they are usually fluent in English, but nurses mostly only speak Spanish.


Health insurance in Mexico

Expats opting for private healthcare should strongly consider additional health insurance. Senior expats may qualify for discounts on healthcare coverage. Some private hospitals in Mexico do not accept international health insurance, in which case patients will have to pay for their treatment and be reimbursed after the fact. When selecting health insurance, expats should bear this in mind.


Pharmacies in Mexico

Expats should have no problem finding pharmacies in Mexico. 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

Mexico has some mosquito-related health hazards, including the Zika and Chikungunya viruses. New arrivals should seek advice on relevant precautions from their GP or a professional healthcare worker.

Mexico's landscape is diverse, and with Mexico City and other areas being at high altitudes, new arrivals may experience headaches and a lack of energy. Mexico City also struggles with air 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.


Pre-travel vaccinations for Mexico

Expats should visit a doctor six weeks before travelling to Mexico to ensure that they’re up to date with all necessary vaccinations. Although malaria risk is relatively low, other mosquito-related diseases are still a problem.

We advise any travellers to ensure their routine vaccinations are up to date before travelling to Mexico, including for hepatitis A and B, typhoid, rabies, as well as for Covid-19.


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, expats can download the 911 CDMX app, which will also allow them to programme panic buttons.

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 often receive bilingual, bicultural and community-centred curricula 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 should 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 will usually need to 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 a 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 expat 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. Parents should 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 usually catered for in these settings and usually 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 professionals from the USAER. Many school environments are not physically 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 should 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 for 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 need to decide which curriculum they will use and how they will educate their children.

Homeschooling is not a decision to make lightly, and parents will need to 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 locally or use online platforms to find tutors, such as Apprentus, Preply or Mexico City’s UniversityTutor.

Children in all types of schooling 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 best international schools in Mexico.


International schools in Mexico

The American School Foundation 

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American, Mexican and IB
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.asf.edu.mx

The American School Foundation of Guadalajara, A.C 

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American and Mexican
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.asfg.mx

The American School Foundation of Monterrey 

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American and Mexican
Ages:  3 to 18
Website: www.asfm.edu.mx

The Edron Academy 

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Cambridge IGCSE and IB
Ages: 2 to 18
Website: www.edron.edu.mx

Greengates School 

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Cambridge IGCSE and IB
Ages: 3 to 18
Websitewww.greengates.edu.mx

Instituto Bilingüe Victoria

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Mexican, Cambridge IGCSE and A-levels
Ages: 3 to 18
Websitewww.victoriaschool.edu.mx

The Japanese School of Mexico

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Japanese and Mexican
Ages: 3 to 18
Websitewww.liceomexicanojapones.edu.mx

Puebla American School Foundation

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: IB and AP International Diploma
Ages:  2 to 18
Website: www.cap.edu.mx

Transport and Driving in Mexico

Travelling within Mexico can be an exhilarating experience, given that 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 some basic 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.

Trains

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.

Metro

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 tend not to use the metro, and tourists should avoid it or at least be vigilant during peak hours. 

Buses

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 run non-stop, and get 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 taxis 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.

Colectivos

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

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, and so can furniture and custom-design items. It is also possible to rent a 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 will check that everything is in order at the port of entry/exit.


Shipping vehicles to Mexico

Shipping a vehicle into Mexico will depend 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 the 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 usually have a number of concerns about moving to Mexico. Below are a few common questions that we tend to receive about life in the North American country.

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

The drug violence in Mexico is partly a result of the government 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 generally unaffected, though it's essential to be vigilant and to avoid high-risk areas.

Is it easy to get into the USA from Mexico?

This depends; citizens of the US and Canada are usually whisked through the border without the need for a visa, although a passport is required. For other nationals crossing the border, entry depends on visa status. Expats wishing to stay in Mexico for several months or more must have the correct visas and work permits. Long lines at border crossings are common.

What about bribes?

Although bribery is fairly common in Mexico, particularly for traffic violations, it is illegal and could lead to fines and jail time. Expats are strongly advised not to partake in any form of bribery.

What is Mexico City like?

Mexico City is one of the largest cities in the world, but tends to be avoided by expats. The city has high levels of air pollution, which may cause health issues, and the dense urban crowding means it isn't the most picturesque place. That said, many find its modern districts and busy industrious centres alluring, and finding work in Mexico's capital city may be easier than in other areas. 

Should I buy a home in Mexico?

Owning assets can be beneficial for retirees. Homes for sale are often quoted in US dollars, and mortgages aren’t common, so having cash ready is usually required. Property prices are low and even oceanside housing is a fraction of the price of homes in the US. The property taxes are also much lower. That said, expats staying short term may prefer to rent accommodation.

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

The moving process is daunting and organising visas can be an administrative nightmare. Our guides provide useful information to help expats settle in, find accommodation, work and schools. Relocation companies can also certainly help ease the stress of a move, and can assist with all of the above, including school placements, visas, job applications and more. For those expats who simply need help with the shipping of their belongings, there are many good shipping and removals options available.

Articles about Mexico

Banking, Money and Taxes in Mexico

Banking in Mexico is fairly straightforward, and 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 that it's 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 services 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 will therefore also be able to avoid the bureaucracy and queues at local Mexican branches. That said, their banks should 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. 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 do this, however, 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.

ATMs

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 to the one expats have an account with. 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 they 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 their primary home is 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 the 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 salary each month 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.

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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.