The first thing to consider when thinking about moving to Playa del Carmen or making plans to winter in the Riviera Maya is what type of lifestyle you would like to enjoy. Are you considering living in a hippy community in the jungle off the grid, a gala beach house with pool and garden, a modest condo in town, or a typical small family house in a Mexican neighborhood? There is a lifestyle for every budget in Playa del Carmen, but only you know what your budget is. To help you determine how you could live in the Riviera Maya, here are some questions for you to ask yourself.
Where will you live? Do you plan on living in a touristic area or off the beaten track? Will you live on the beach or in the outlying areas? The answer to this question will affect your cost of living more than any other. The average rent for an ex-pat in Playa del Carmen is between $8000 and $12000 Mexican pesos a month for 2 bedroom apartment with 2 bathrooms in the downtown area no more than 7 blocks from the beach. The average rent for a Mexican family in the outer-laying areas of the city is between $3000 and $7000 pesos, depending on the location and condition of the building.
What type of housing do you prefer? You can find modest homes in typical Mexican neighborhoods, extravagant beach houses with fabulous amenities, and many middle ground condominium and house options. Are you looking for a fixer-upper? How much remodeling or updating are you willing to do? Think about what kind of amenities you want and what you can or cannot live without. One of the keys to finding your home or home away from home is to find a Real Estate Agent who clearly understands your needs and budget.
How energy conscious are you? Electricity is billed bi-monthly in Mexico. Electricity per kilowatt has a different cost depending on the season, location and rate of usage. During the summer months when electric consumption is high the price per kilowatt is less. The Mexican government subsidizes the cost of electricity during these months. During winter the cost per kilowatt is more. The cost of electricity is more expensive in the downtown and touristic areas than it is in the outer areas. Also the rate per kilowatt is different if you are considered to be a high or low consumer. Your electric bill will vary greatly depending on the efficiency of your appliances and how much you use the air-conditioning or fans. The average ex-pat family in a two-bedroom, two bathroom condo with approximately 1500 square feet can easily average $2500 MXP bi-monthly for electricity during the summer months, using the air-conditioning, washing machine and microwave oven.
Will you be paying for water and gas? The water bill is usually not expensive, unless you have a swimming pool. The price of water per liter is also dependent on location. Tanks of gas can be purchased from trucks that roam the city playing a tune like an ice cream truck might in the US. Gas can be purchased in 30 liter or 20 liter tanks. The price of the tank is around $600 pesos and around $300 pesos to refill a 20 liter tank. Many buildings have a stationary tank on the roof that can hold around 100 liters of gas.
Consider your spending habits. Do you eat out often? Do you like to hit the clubs or bars? Will you be diving or playing golf? Will you be sightseeing? Will you travel much in Mexico? How often will you travel to the US?
Consider how much you spend on food and other items. Will you mostly eat local foods? Will you purchase many imported items? Do you love junk food or processed foods?
Do you make coffee or generally go out for coffee? Some items like Domino’s Pizza, for example, are almost double the price of what they would normally cost in the US. Other items like tacos are very cheap, a little as 6 pesos per taco. Most imported products and prepared foods tend to be more expensive. Boxed cereal and American brand chips can be up to 5 dollars more expensive than the US. Produce and other Mexican staple food items are considerably cheaper than the US.
What do you drive? Playa del Carmen still has a small town feel and most of us use a bicycle get around town. Do you plan bringing a car from the US? Keep in mind the price of gas! Thinking of purchasing a car here in Mexico? Cars are generally more expensive here, but also tend to hold their value longer.
Do you watch TV? Do you need cable TV? What about internet? Electronics are generally 25 to 30 % more expensive in Mexico, than in the US. If you will be purchasing computers, televisions, DVD players etcetera, keep in mind the difference in price. Depending on the area of Playa del Carmen you will be living, your options for internet or TV also may vary. An average ex-pat couple with internet and basic cable package from Cablemas spends approximately $550 pesos a month.
The price breakdown for an average American ex-pat couple, with no children living with them in Mexico, not including; nights out on the town, excursions, travel, eating out, gas and maintenance of a car, taxi rides, or any extras is as follows (all prices are listed in pesos):
$550 cable with internet
$1000 smart phone service (2 smart phones)
= $18220 or a loose approximation to $1500 USD depending on the exchange rate
Living in Mexico, in many ways, is cheaper than the US and in some ways is more expensive; it varies greatly upon your lifestyle. One thing that holds true regardless of your budget is the quality of life we experience living here in paradise and the life lessons we gain living in this beautiful, culturally diverse beach town are priceless.
About the author-
Lisa Juliot walked across the San Diego, Mexico border 8 years ago, with a backpack and the dream to travel Mexico and Central America. A long time blogger and travel writer, sociologist at heart and amateur photographer, she currently resides in Playa del Carmen and works as the Social Media Community Manager at BuyPlaya.