Mexico has long been one of the most asked about destinations for our digital nomad readers; in this guide we’ll review 14 of the safest cities in Mexico to live for expats, with a few personal opinions from our friends who live in them.
This is a supplemental add-on to our popular How to Become a Digital Nomad guide.
Living in Mexico
Living in Mexico hasn’t changed very much over the years for expats in our social circles. Mexico’s popular destinations have remained relatively the same over the past decade in terms of safety, in spite of what you might see in the news. And it’s proximity to the United States makes Mexico an easy jump off point for first-time digital nomads.
Every year we’ve heard from friends moving there who later decide to stay longer than planned, typically due to the weather, it’s low cost of living, unique architecture and accommodation options, its vibrant culture, great dating and/or networking scene, as well as the unexpected level of safety they experience.
Generally speaking, our friends would visit Mexico just to check it out, and then opt to stay for a year or more because the pace of life is conducive to a healthy work/life balance.
With that, we thought we’d answer the most commonly asked question we hear about this popular travel destination; where are the best places to live in Mexico?
The best places to live in Mexico aren’t too expensive for budget travellers or those living on a pension. Each location on this list ideal for just about anyone struggling with an internal debate over living in Mexico –expats, retirees, and digital nomads alike.
Best Time to Visit Mexico
If you’re heading to any of the safest cities in Mexico for a somewhat long-term visit, seasons won’t matter as much to you beyond your arrival date, but the seasons in Mexico are as follows;
The tempurature in Mexico averages around 24° Celsius (75° Fahrenheit) – 28° Celsius (83° Fahrenheit), year round.
Hurricane season is between the middle of May and early November. It isn’t the best time to arrive in Mexico, especially if you’re headed for the beach. Mexico is the wettest from June to September, with May and October being more moderate.
Dry season is between the middle of November and ends somewhere in April. Humidity is low, costs are a little higher, and so is the traffic.
From October to February it can be cold at night so bring a sweater.The hottest months are typically between March and June.
Related: View our collection of packing lists for men and women
Our friends say don’t drive to Mexico over the border –fly there. Flying is the safer, more comfortable option.
Uber coverage in Mexico is always expanding, and I’d wager this is your best bet getting around in Mexico if it’s an option.
If you don’t have your SIM card setup before you arrive you’ will likely need to scout a cab from the airport. Do not take a cab directly in front of the airport.
From the airport;
Your best bet is to opt for Cancun transfers (shuttle) or to pick up a car rental at Cancun airport. A shuttle starts at $3/USD per person, and the local car rental site we mentioned often has some pretty great discounts available. Of course, shop around –it’s on you to decide what works best for your budget.
If you’re flying to Mérida and/or Progreso –you’re in luck, they’ve got their own airport. Although costs are going to be higher, I recommend transferring there or flying direct.
Internet and Data Speed
Before getting into each location, yes –the quality and speed of internet access in Mexico is reliable and fast enough to meet the above average needs of a digital nomad.
The WiFi in cafes is anyone’s guess the world over and Mexico is no exception, but fixed internet connections were quite good according to everyone we spoke to.
Average fixed internet data speeds (including guest houses) are around 35 mbps down, 15 mbps up. Average mobile internet data speeds are around 29 mbps down, 14 mbps up.
The most reliable mobile carrier in Mexico is Telcel, which has great coverage in both the US and Mexico. You can buy a SIM on Amazon or the Telcel website in advance, or on the ground with no passport required.
Get a Skyroam Solis
If you’d rather be fully prepared in advance with no need to juggle SIM cards along the way, we highly recommend picking up a Skyroam Solis.
It’s a little orange puck that serves as a global WiFi hotspot to tether from, it’s got VPN service built-in, and you can also use it as a power bank. It also works in over 150 countries, so it’s likely to be a reliable travel tool well after you leave Mexico.
Use promo code HOBOLAPTOP to get a discount here.
Get the Best Airbnb in Mexico: A Hack for Nomads
Airbnb deserves it’s own subhead within this article because it’s probably the best way to get accommodation in Mexico (and most other places).
The Airbnb hack we most commonly share on this blog involves finding a place you like, staying there for a few days, and then making an offer directly to the host for a long-term rental deal.
That way they get to know you, and you get to know them and their home.
In our experience most hosts won’t be able to reliably rent out their home for more than 2 weeks out of every month with the app.
With this in mind we take the nightly rate, multiply by 10 – 14, and then make that our offer for a full month, outside of the app. They get a reliable tenant and don’t have to reset the apartment often, and you get a sweet deal.
We typically rent more than one apartment within a country at one time with this Airbnb hack –namely, living in the Philippines. One for a home base, one for a getaway.
Something to ponder. If you want to get up to $43 USD off your Airbnb stays and experiences, sign up with this link.
Another Airbnb hack is to rent an apartment the old fashioned way and then make arrangements to become an Airbnb host yourself. Huge passive income potential with this one.
Mexico Travel Medical Insurance
We reviewed both companies side-by-side in this comprehensive travel insurance comparison to save you a lot of time researching your best option. Either company will allow you to sign up remotely, after you’ve already started travelling.
If you’re looking for remote health insurance that has much better coverage than your average travel insurance –something that even includes cancer treatment, check out their freelancer health insurance.
Best Places to Live in Mexico
Alright, now that we’ve covered some of the basics –let’s explore 14 of the best places to live in Mexico for their safety, cost of living, and ease of living long-term.
These are in order of our preference, not by how safe they are. We’ve got close friends living in every one of these cities at the moment, we were spoiled by the wealth of information they’ve shared and look forward to getting into greater detail on each down the line.
1. Mérida (and Nearby Progreso)
Mérida is quickly becoming one of the best cities in Mexico for digital nomads, and it’s at the top of our list for the safest cities in Mexico because it’s far-flung from any border towns –both Mérida and nearby Progreso are generally nice and quiet, even during high season.
Yet, no too quiet –it’s still a lively place when you want it to be.
Mérida is a laid back city, and Progreso is a nearby beach town that’s not as developed as Cancun (in spite of Cancun’s close proximity). The vibe there is chill, it’s home to an eclectic expat community, and it’s going to have everything you need.
2. Playa del Carmen
Home to a majority of our single friends of both sexes, this place has it all; convenience, great shopping, coworking spaces, plenty of curb appeal, and close proximity to the beach –although it is a more lively tourist location, and spring break hits this place somewhat hard.
That may be what you’re looking for, especially if you’re a solo traveller looking to partner up for some fun.
However, Playa del Carmen isn’t as saturated in tourists the way Cancun or Mexico City are, and it may be the right balance for work and pleasure for many of our readers. It’s definitely one of the best cities in Mexico to visit, at least a handful of times. It’s a great hub.
The downtown area has a massive walking street, 12th street is where the clubs are concentrated (no need for a cab to get around between them), 5th avenue has plenty of bars and live music, and it’s known for having a lot of European visitors that are DTF. I live vicariously through my friends there, and live they do!
Playa del Carmen is still very much suitable for those who are more introverted, and families, too. The street vendors, restaurants, and world class living standards will have something for everyone.
3. Oaxaca City
Various points throughout Oaxaca are already known for the culture and great street food, but Oaxaca City ties it all together extremely well. It’s modern and urban enough to get things done, has a vibrant artist community, and plenty of expats call it home year ‘round.
People often plan to pass through Oaxaca and settle elsewhere –and then stick around because it’s got everything a digital nomad needs.
The sights in this state are otherworldly, and I highly recommend you find out for yourself what we’re talking about. The city itself will make a great home base for digital nomads and retirees alike.
4. Puerto Vallarta
We couldn’t go too far down this list without mentioning Puerto Vallarta. Puerto Vallarta is one of the longest standing expat home bases we’ve come across.
In spite of the growing interest in this area, it’s still one of the safest cities in Mexico and ideal for long-term stay.
There’s plenty of beaches, a quality nightlife, the internet here is great, and there’s a hell of a lot of deals on accommodation –especially during low season.
One thing a friend pointed out about Puerto Vallarta is that the locals haven’t been totally ruined by tourists, and it’s still an easy going place where you can make nice with the locals.
Above all, it’s the setting. The environment is gorgeous, the beaches are pristine, there’s a lot of information about it available on the internet, and the food is sheer greatness.
5. Puerto Escondido
Puerto Escondido is another port town in Mexico that’s worth at least a week or two visit. You’ve heard your Aunt Faye talk about Puerto Vallarta –less people have experienced Puerto Escondido.
Puerto Escondido is on the Oaxacan coast, and it’s a surfer’s paradise.
Puerto Escondido is not only a great a beach town for surfing in Mexico, it also has enough modern comforts to make it a Bali alternative for US citizens not too interested in a 30-hour flight.
What do surfers enjoy most? Great breaks, great food, a decent gym, cheap drinks, and simple living. If you want to get to the point and your priorities are just right –I strongly endorse this place for its surfing community. If only for awhile.
Guadalajara is quickly becoming a cheaper alternative to Silicon Valley for software engineers and the like. And for good reason –it’s got all of the best attributes of a newly-annointed tech-driven city with less drawbacks, and plenty of exotic goodness.
It’s Mexico’s second-largest city and home to a sweet variety of expats from around the world. It’s got plenty of coworking spaces, and they’re packed with talent you can network with.
I’ve got a special place in my mind for our introverted nomad readers who posess a tech background, and this may be the best place for you to thrive.
The architecture, Western-style living, diverse food options, and swanky-yet-affordable living standard make it a prime target for nomads looking to bust a nut on their next big idea.
Puebla is a great place, although it isn’t for those who get distressed under the slightest of altitudes –this place is a little closer to the sky.
I recommend visiting Puebla for the food, for the view, and for the lower numbers of mind-numbing tourists. The altitude and distance to get their makes it a great place to weed out holiday vacationers and give way to more travelled tourists and expats.
Puebla is a UNESCO heritage site with colonial charm, and it’s definitely one more of the safest cities in Mexico to live.
It’s a place to reflect, relax, and get work done. And the internet isn’t too bad, although it won’t be the best.
8. San Miguel de Allende
In the Philippines where I currently live, we know San Miguel. Pretty much anywhere the Spanish touched back in the day bares the name somewhere; there’s a lot of places named after this Miguel fellow. I know it for the beer brand.
San Miguel de Allende is a retiree hot spot, so you know it’s got what you need as a digital nomad, and even a little of what you don’t.
Personally, I appreciate hanging with pensioner dudes over a pint more than young dudes getting drunk looking for girls –something I discovered in Chiang Mai. Nothing personal, but that might be your thing, too.
The stories of this place. The comforts. The quiet nightlife. All of these may be the ultimate recipe to get shit done.
My friend here is happy as a clam; he’s a single guy in his mid-thirties and he likes it quite a bit. Whether you will or not, well –read the Agoda reviews and decide for yourself.
Tulum is located near the southern end of the Mayan Riviera. It’s hip to the eco resort, people who are into breathing exercises, and it excels in the area of wellness retreats –with good reason.
There’s all the yoga in Tulum. It’s an Instagram model’s paradise, I’m told.
It’s chock full of amazing places to regain your sanity, eat amazing food (really, really amazing food), and has enough priceless views to make your Instagram following envious. And boost your sponsored post rates.
There’s also plenty of bars, cafes, restaurants, and the tourist turnover is plentiful enough to experience single-serving friends that will help you make memories worthy of lasting a lifetime, if you stick around long enough.
Oh, the people you’ll meet.
The downside? It’s bloody expensive. You may have done Bali, but have you done Tulum?
Sayulita is a small-ish town on the historical Riviera Nayarit and up the coast from Puerto Vallarta. In the Philippines we’d call this kind of place “provincial”. It’s community centric, mainly occupied by locals, and tourists are less common.
Internet? Yeah sure, but of the unreliable flavor only a copywriter or Instagram model could stand. Although I hear it’s getting better, literally by the month, because of recent investments in the telecommunications tech there.
It’s quickly getting attention with tourists thanks to Instagram, so if you’re going to visit now is the time. The prices on Agoda keep climbing, but the reviews are definitely positive for the most part.
11. San Cristobal de las Casas
San Cristobal de las Casas is another colonial town that’s getting more and more exposure, again, because of Instagram.
The guest houses seem more unique than others as this is a lesser-known place and there isn’t too much info about it online. The cafes, restaurants, and scenery are some of the best in the country.
I’m told that Europeans have firmly solidified their presence here, and the historical landmarks of Chiapas –both natural and man made are divinely worth the visit.
Do your research, as I have heard conflicting opinions of this place. Some say it’s worthy for digital nomad life, others say it’s a pass-through city.
Okay, I couldn’t put these in an order one might expect. I had to save some of the best for last. If you’re looking for colour, culture, food, eye candy architecture and quality internet that is worthy of most digital nomads, this is the place for you.
But emphasis on the colour. And again, for the ‘Grams.
Imagine beautiful buildings coloured vibrantly, spread out atop winding hills for a gradation that’s hard to find, at the cost of living that Mexico locals can enjoy –this university town has beautiful surroundings, and beautiful people.
A close friend currently living in this town arrived on a lark 3 years ago and she’s still there.
It’s got everything; night life, the arts, culture, and a great dating scene. It’s well-travelled by people that know what they want.
Guanajuato is an old silver mining town. There’s a bit of old money that lingers like the cobblestones under your feet, and tunnels to drive through make room for plenty of walking streets.
It’s ornate, and I got a feeling it’s what a lot of you might be looking for. And you guessed right, Agoda might be a good jumpoff point to read reviews and get a closer idea of what it might be like to visit.
Valladolid is all about the eye candy (although not quite as much as Guanajuato). It’s a non-beach town that isn’t too far from Tulum, yet without the trappings of a tourist joint.
It’s a place for travellers and expats, and less-so your typical beach tourists. It’s in a great location surrounded by more popular places to visit, and homebase-worthy because it isn’t consistently ravaged by international tourism.
Rich in culture and rustic beauty, it’s in the very least a place to explore for a week or over a weekend.
14. Mexico City
The last one on my list is probably the one most readers were expecting –and maybe not one of the safest cities in Mexico according to the mainstream media. So keep your wits about you. I’m not endorsing this one per se, my friends are.
Mexico City, warts and all, is certainly worth a visit and perhaps worthy of being your homebase in Mexico. Provided you can let live and let die, and there are no white knights in your bloodline. I’ve read blogs of nomads who lived well and then died here, and posthumous blogs always leave a stain in the memory.
Mexico City has all the goodness of a top digital nomad destination, but it also has strings. It’s the last city on my list for a reason; no interest personally. But you might. If you can find pepper spray.
So don’t take my word on Mexico City. Check out the Agoda reviews.
I could be wrong on this one; I hated Bangkok until I lived there. Now it’s my favourite place to live long term in Thailand. My friends in Mexico say I’m insane because I didn’t even want to put it on the list.
In fact, every person I spoke to in order to write this article said that they loved Mexico City. Some for a weekend, some for a week, and a handful lived there for a year or more.
This is all we’ve got for the best cities in Mexico to live –at least for now, in 2020. However, we’re keeping our minds open to the latest developments in this country and may add more in the future. Be sure to save this article for later with Pocket and check in from time to time.
What do you think?
Did we nail all the best cities in Mexico, or do you have a better suggestion? Please let us and others know in the comments.
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