Living in Mexico.
August 7, 2008 3:09 PM   Subscribe

How can I go about living in Mexico for 3-6 months?

I just got a job that enables me to work from any location where I have broadband internet access. I was thinking that I would like to winter in Mexico somewhere, starting probably October or November. I currently live in America (Idaho specifically). I speak very little Spanish.

My requirements are:

- Natural beauty. This can be ocean, mountains, or otherwise.
- Low cost. This doesn't mean super cheap is necessary, only that it's not like living in Manhattan or S.F.
- Internet Access
- Nearby International Airport (my job requires some travel)

Optional things:
- American expat community. Would be nice to have some people to talk to in my own language.
- Alternatively, tourist area. Again, people to talk to, good party scene for fun at night.

So, my questions:
Where do you recommend?
What steps do I have to take to do this legally? Can I just hop in and out of the country on cheap flights to Texas to renew a tourist visa, for example?
What gotchas am I not considering?
Is it even a good idea in your opinion?

I'll have a budget of probably about $2500 a month, for context. I don't want to spend all of that, that's just what I'll be working with.

I can possibly drive my car down, it's a beat up old Ford Escort. I can also consider going without a car, if it's feasible.

I am temperamentally okay with travelling down there with 2 suitcases and living out of them for the time period. I just need my laptop to work.

posted by zhivota to Travel & Transportation around Mexico (11 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I've done this. A tourist visa will suffice--as long as you've got $$$ to spend they want you there. $2500/ month is a princely sum in much of the country. It is certainly sufficient everywhere outside of (presumably) the most expensive resort towns.

When I did this (~2000) it really was as easy as you describe: I just piled my crap in my car and drove on down. ON the natural beauty front, you need to be more specific about what you want--there are dozens of cities that fit your criteria.

As for internet access, I found that a given smallish city in Mexico was actually more likely than its American counterpart to have DSL or some sort of high-speed internet. I think it is because they always lacked telephone infrastructure and so they couldn't "cling" to dial-up.

While reiterating that there are lots of places in Mexico that fit your needs, I will randomly throw out Xalapa, Verzcruz. It is a beautiful, mid-size city within short (~1 hour) driving distance to the ocean, mountains and kickass jungle waterfalls.

posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 3:43 PM on August 7, 2008

Best answer: San Miguel de Allende, large expat community there.
Broadband, too.
posted by tesseract420 at 3:47 PM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

I know many people from Veracruz who say that it is gorgeous. Also Guanajuato has a festival each year that is worth visiting. I think the only international airports nearby are in Houston/Harlingen and Mexico City. You can take a bus from Mexico City to just about anywhere. I would advise against driving yourself to Mexico. The highways are notorious territory for bandits.

You will likely have trouble finding a place that is both naturally beautiful And has reliable internet access, unless you are living at a resort.
posted by mynameismandab at 3:47 PM on August 7, 2008

Best answer: Where do you recommend?
What steps do I have to take to do this legally? Can I just hop in and out of the country on cheap flights to Texas to renew a tourist visa, for example?
What gotchas am I not considering?
Is it even a good idea in your opinion?

In reverse order:

Great idea; there is a reason tens of thousands of US and Canadian citizens have made that move.

Gotchas: just like for immigrants to the US, you'll pay higher prices sometimes until your Spanish gets up to speed; you will be an outsider in a different country and will have to learn new customs, interface with a different legal system, etc. Allow more time for shipping of documents, although DHL and other shipping companies have very fast service to major cities. I would suggest having some kind of med-evac insurance — Mexican hospitals can be quite good, but there are situations for which you would want to come home.

Legalities: get Mexican car insurance (not required by law, but required by common sense) — can be easily done online before you drive down. Your car may end up with a different visa timeframe than yourself — you may need to exit after three months, and your car after six, or vice versa. Not a big deal; the border is only a day or two drive away from anywhere in Mexico, and visa and car permit renewals are a matter of standing in line and paying a few fees. Buying property or starting a business adds levels of complication, but you don't sound like you are doing that right now.

Where: Chapala (just outside of Guadalajara), with spring-like weather all year and more expats than you can shake a stick at; Puerto Vallarta over on the coast; Veracruz over on the other coast; any of a hundred colonial mining towns like Guanajuato, Zacatecas, San Miguel de Allende, Puebla, Cuernavaca; any small fishing town within an hour or so of a coastal airport. If you have the option of a week-long vacation to visit some places, that would be time well spent.

High-speed internet access is going to be spotty (unless satellite is an option?) outside of medium or larger cities, though it is spreading quickly — any area with lots of expats and tourists will almost certainly have access of some sort; major cities have similar options to a US city. Driving down will let you bring more stuff, and see more of the country, with the expense and hassle of a long drive (including lots of military checkpoints where they keep an eye out for drugs headed north and guns headed south). Buy a Guia Roja for the maps (can be ordered online, or purchased at any Sanbornes in Mexico). Mechanics in Mexico are good at keeping older vehicles running, so your car's age isn't a problem except for the irritation of waiting in some small town while something gets fixed.

Everyone will have a horror story of how their friend's cousin's ex-boyfriend's cat once got mugged/woke up without a kidney/had a bad hangover in Tijuana; you will hear similar endless and poorly-attributed stories of getting hit up by corrupt police for bribes. All happen from time to time, but aren't representative of the normal expat experience these days. Similarly, the papers are full of horror stories of drug shoot-outs, but unless you are involved in the drug trade your chances of getting caught up in that are very slim (sort of like the relevance of inner city violence for a resident of rural Idaho).
posted by Forktine at 3:50 PM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Here's the English homepage for the Mexican immigration department. On the left, check out the sidebar option that best fits your needs and see if you qualify.

It LOOKS LIKE (from a perusal of the website here) that you can enter as a tourist and extend your stay through a local government office without having to leave the country as long as you identify yourself and bring along proof of your ability to pay your expenses; I don't know how that plays out for wired workers like yourself.

There's also this (the FM-T) which makes it seem like you can do pretty much what you want to do; there's a list of Mexican consulates where you can apply linked on that page.
posted by mdonley at 3:55 PM on August 7, 2008

Best answer: I lived in Cuernavaca for a month in 2004 and am looking to do it again in similar situation that you're in now.

Cuernavaca has great weather all year (never too hot, never cold), has a large expat community and tons of Spanish language schools. It is an hour south of Mexico City and a executive bus company called Pullman de Morelos has hourly service from its own bus terminal to Mexico City Airport for about $10. Cuernavaca is a large town and swells with many Mexico City residents who have second homes there on the weekends. With all of the Spanish language schools, there's always an influx of students of all ages from around the world (Mostly US and Canadian, but I met New Zealanders, Japanese and Europeans while I was there).

Since it is in the middle of Mexico you can get to other places in Mexico pretty easily by bus (or via Mexico City). Cuernavaca's airport has vivaAerobus flying into it now so you can get to other places in Mexico pretty cheaply.

You can get broadband internet from the cable company or Telmex and many restaurants and cafes have wireless. A few places like Sanborns, hotels and airports have paid wifi from Prodigy Movil (Telmex). You can either buy prepaid cards or it is a roaming partner with Boingo. I had to do some stuff with sending and receiving FedEx packages and never had a problem.
posted by birdherder at 4:17 PM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Seconding San Miguel de Allende - lovely town, inexpensive, gorgeous landscape, wonderful people, cold beer, but not too many tourists. The ex pats that I met were all interesting folks.

I also really loved Guanajuato for the same reasons as San Miguel.

Seriously, pick up a good guide book and read through it. Many, many towns suit your needs.
posted by wfrgms at 4:20 PM on August 7, 2008

Another rec for Guanajuato IF you are dead-set on Mexico.

But I would strongly consider Antigua, Guatemala. It is a beautiful, colonial-style city, surrounded by volcanoes, and has a large expat community. It is about an hour from an international airport, and is substantially cheaper than anywhere in Mexico.

As an aside, what do you people who are able to work from anywhere do for a living? I would give anything to have a job like this!
posted by btkuhn at 4:56 PM on August 7, 2008

Sayulita is quite nice (but look out for stingrays). Beautiful, near an international airport; I don't know about Internet access. It's a fishing village with surfer tourism.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:54 PM on August 7, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for answers. I guess some answers to direct and indirect questions:

- I am not dead-set on Mexico. I just gravitated towards it because I still need to travel inside the USA regularly, and Mexico is close enough and popular enough to make that reasonable.

- I'm not expecting you to know exactly what I want and tell me a place to go. I am just looking for everyone's experiences and opinions. So I like the suggestions so far. I do need to get a guide book and read up on this more.

- Looks like a 6 month visa is pretty straightforward to get. I think that should probably take care of it for me (who knows though... but 6 months is certainly sufficient for a start).

- As far as natural beauty goes, I like it all. If it's beautiful to you, it's probably the same to me. I want to stay OUT of deserts and such things though. I have had quite enough desert here. Lush mountains, jungles, beaches, these things appeal to me.

Thanks everyone so far, I'll probably mark a lot of best answers here.
posted by zhivota at 8:26 PM on August 7, 2008

Response by poster: Oh, and to answer the question about what I do... It has to do with technical training for corporations. I'm still pinching myself about it all, personally.
posted by zhivota at 8:13 AM on August 8, 2008

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