Many American retirees, snow-birds and telecommuting professionals opt to seek out an affordable, comfortable home away from home. Many of these home-seekers find an affordable cost of living in Merida, Mexico. Merida is located in the northwestern part of the Yucatan peninsula, and is the capital of the state of Yucatan. As a capital, and the largest city in Yucatan, Merida certainly has its share of wealthy neighborhoods, fantastic views and cultured citizens. However, the cost of living in this tropical oasis can be quite low, if one is willing to look beyond areas that cater to foreigners. A history of lower wages makes prices on many goods in Mexico much lower than in Europe and the nearby United States, but recent economic and social improvements are rendering places like Merida safer for foreign travelers and residents.
Even though restaurants that cater to tourists often charge high prices, and imported foods are often as expensive or more so than in wealthier nations, food in Merida can be inexpensive—you just have to shop like a local. Meals can be obtained from street vendors for around couple of dollars, and beer may be found cheaper. Since Merida is a larger city, wholesale markets may offer bulk rates and allow foreigners to enjoy the benefits of Mexico’s large, low-cost agricultural industry. Negotiation is key to any purchase; the local culture of Yucatan places great stress on haggling and searching for the lowest price, contributing to the affordable cost of living. The value of the dollar in Mexican pesos has hovered between 10 and 13 for years, and this means dollars are like gold to Mexican merchants. Foreigners who insist on using their own high-value currencies will be at a disadvantage in negotiations. Using dollars or Euros will immediately mark you as a target for higher prices and will make it nearly impossible to get a good deal. Clothing can be expensive in Mexico, but it is available at a high level of quality. Handcrafted clothing is commonly sold, and imports from first-world nations are also available. The best way to secure affordable clothing in Merida is through flea markets and department store sales. The beauty and durability of handmade Mexican garb is an added value of this inexpensive resource. Handmade dresses, encompassing days of work for a craftsperson, can be found for as little as forty dollars. The advantage of handcrafts available in close proximity to mass-produced garments is that quality and price are constantly balanced, and the marketplace remains competitive. This translates into high quality for a fair and reasonable price.
Home prices in Merida tend to be significantly lower than in wealthier areas. Apartment rentals in quiet neighborhoods can be found in the low hundreds of dollars. Sales and rental advertisements for inexpensive properties are typically painted in Spanish on the building’s façade, with large lettering. Having a local advocate, translator or strong Spanish ability is important when seeking a home that fits with an affordable cost of living in Merida. Mexico has a high rate of outright home ownership, so mortgages are rare and almost non-existent for foreigners. The advantage that expatriates have in home purchasing comes from the pricing of real estate at levels that many first-world earners can pay in cash. Large, restored colonial homes are sometimes available at prices comparable to modest middle-class residences in the United States.
The most remarkable source of savings for expatriates living in Merida is healthcare. Private health insurance is available for a fraction of the cost of similar care in developed nations, and subsidized plans are also offered. Private hospitals are commonly staffed with U.S.-trained physicians, who will treat patients for a fraction of the cost charged in the United States. Because of lower costs, these hospitals are able to stock equipment and pay personnel at what constitutes a very low rate for international visitors. Many medications are available prescription-free, and the cost of medication is often a tenth or less of the U.S. cost. Multinational insurance plans can also be obtained in one’s home nation, which cover treatment in any country. Living in Mexico, a high-deductible, low-cost insurance plan is much more practical because out-of-pocket medical costs are so low by American standards.
Overall, it is possible to find a remarkably affordable cost of living in Merida. Mexico is uniquely friendly to foreign visitation, habitation and investment, and the unique tropical landscape and slow pace of the Yucatan provides its own draw for foreigners seeking an exotic setting and a relaxed lifestyle. Retired person or those with non site-dependent careers are shielded from the low wages typically paid in the area, and so can live to a very high standard if they are prepare to explore and engage.
Adam M Kowalski