House sitting in Mexico – is it for me?
According to Robert Nelson of Expats in Mexico there are some 1 million expats living in a variety of locations around Mexico. Many of these are US or Canadian citizens. This figure does not include the seasonal “snowbird expats” who travel down from cold climates in North America to “live” part-time in Mexico on travel visas.
So it will come as no surprise that Mexico is now often seen as a great choice for house sitters looking for travel and adventure in a hot climate with a variety of lifestyle options. House sitting in Mexico is on an upward trend!
Coupled with an attractive dollar exchange against the peso, it currently costs less to live here than in most other Central American countries.
The elephant in the room – safety and security
Let’s get this out of the way at the outset. When we were in the USA three years ago, we were told over and over about the dangers that exist in Mexico, and how we should avoid visiting at all cost! However, having visited Mexico a number of times, we were both keen to experience living here for a longer period of time.
So, despite the warnings, of six months spent in Central America, we have been house sitting in Mexico for four months, exploring different regions. We’ve traveled by long distance bus, walked the streets of cities including Mexico City, and house sat repeatedly in San Miguel de Allende.
In all this time, we haven’t experienced any dangerous situations, heard any reports of personal theft, or been told about any other more scary situations that involved tourists or expats. We have also been reassured by the increased armed police presence, especially in cities like the capital, and in Guadalajara.
We all know that bad things happen in Mexico, but usually in particular areas where drug cartels battle for supremacy. This violence is unacceptable, but it hasn’t deterred us from living here, experiencing all that this amazing country has to offer.
Earlier today I was reading about the tragic shooting at Fort Lauderdale Airport in Miami. And last month 12 people lost their lives in Berlin.
Nowhere is totally safe these days, and danger is certainly not limited to Mexico. Take traveler precautions in the same way you would elsewhere in the world, but please don’t be put off by negative or sensational reporting. We found the citizens of Mexico to be some of the friendliest, most generous, creative and fun people we’ve met on our travels around the world.
How do I find a house sit in Mexico?
We found our house sits in Mexico through Trusted House Sitters. However, since we’ve been here we’ve realized just how many house sits are fulfilled through expat referrals, or through Facebook groups that support the local expat communities.
HouseSitMexico (see below) has also been re-launched, now offering a comprehensive platform dedicated to matching house sitters with home owners across all regions of Mexico.
Mexico specific house sitting platforms:
International house sitting websites:
Some of these Facebook groups are for expats, not house sitters specifically. Approach the moderators before blasting in with requests for house sits, as this is sometimes frowned upon. Offer good information to the group and then network with members to see if you can find local house sit assignments through word of mouth.
If you want more general information about living in Mexico check out Expats in Mexico – a website full of relevant information and articles.
Where are the most popular house sitting destinations?
There are expat communities all over Mexico which have become popular house sitting destinations.
An overcast day in Puerto Vallarta
Some of the larger settlements (in no particular order), are in the following towns and cities:
- Cabo san Lucas, La Paz, State of Baja California Sur
- Cancun, Puerto Morelos, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Riviera Maya, State of Quintana Roo
- Lake Chapala, Ajijic, State of Jalisco
- Merida and Progreso coastline, State of Yucatan
- Puerto Vallarta and coastline north and south, State of Jalisco
- San Cristobal, State of Chiapas
- San Miguel de Allende, State of Guanajuato
Where else will I find expat communities?
Whilst there are many well established expat communities, there are many other smaller groups in regional towns and cities across Mexico.
Once an area has become flooded with expats and property prices start rising, it’s common to find people who relocate nearby in the hunt for less expensive homes, or less populated destinations.
For example, San Miguel de Allende (above) has become a popular city, not only for expats to live, but also for Mexican and international tourists to visit. Consequently prices have risen substantially and urban sprawl is, in some people’s eyes, spoiling the city’s magical qualities. Traffic congestion, for example, has become a big problem.
There are people who are now selling up and moving away to totally different areas, or to nearby villages like Pozos, or cities such as Queretaro.
Look on maps to find towns near to some of the more saturated house sitting areas – chances are you will find an overflow of expats.
Other places where you may find house sitting in Mexico
- Guadalajara and Tlaquepaque, Jalisco
- Guanajuato City, Guanajuato
- Lake Patzcuaro, Michoacán
- Mexico City
- Mazatlán, Sinaloa
- Oaxaca City, Oaxaca
- Santiago de Querétaro, Querétaro
- San Felipe, Baja Mexico
- Tapachula, Chiapas
Visas and immigration
One of the big pluses for long term house sitters in Mexico is the generous 180 day visa that is provided at point of entry for citizens of many countries.
Please check online for the up-to-date Mexican visa regulations for your particular home country. However, at the time of writing, 180 days applies to anyone with Canadian, US, UK, European (Schengen), or Australian citizenship.
This means you can easily take longer term house sits without the need to concern yourself with inconvenient (and sometimes expensive), visa runs to extend your stay in this country.
The official language of Mexico is Latin American Spanish. Europeans will notice some small differences in the vocabulary when compared to the traditional Spanish language. These are fairly easily learned with a good translation dictionary.
Generally speaking we believe you will have a more immersive experience if you can speak a little of the Spanish language.
There are some tourist areas like Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Puerta Vallerta, etc., where many Mexicans involved in tourism now speak English. But, if you find yourself in places where there are less worldwide travelers, some elementary Spanish is a distinct advantage.
In many expat communities there are Spanish schools and conversation practice groups. You could also try learning through online classes.
Cost of living in Mexico
After spending seven months in various countries throughout Central America, (July 2016 to Jan 2017), we’ve found Mexico by far to be the cheapest country in which to live and travel.
Superb roadside pizzas in Condesa, Mexico City
However, fuel prices have just this month been raised by up to 20%, which is sure to make a difference to some prices over 2017. This has been a real bone of contention for Mexicans. We’ve read about road blockades and demonstrations throughout the country. It remains to be seen as to what the government’s response will be.
We have mainly lived long term in what is considered one of the more expensive Mexican cities. As well as this, we have been in San Miguel de Allende through Christmas and New Year. I mention this because our food and drink expenditure was more than usual at this time!
During the six weeks of our most recent house sit here, we spent a total of 24,342 Mexican pesos. Here is the breakdown:
This averages out to 566 pesos (rounded) per day over 43 days. At current exchange rates this is just under $26 US dollars per day.
We tracked our expenses with Trail Wallet (featured in last month’s issue) and set a daily budget of 780 pesos, which equates to us each teaching one online lesson per day. We were very pleased to discover that even in an expensive month we were still under budget.
We do shop carefully and as much as possible in local markets. We walk or take buses most of the time. We check the supermarkets for “3 for 2” days. In this way all our wine for Christmas was purchased in Soriana on a 3 for 2 offer, making it very affordable at around $5 US a bottle.
We also enrolled for a “points” card in the supermarket. You don’t need to be a resident as long as you can provide Passport ID and an address. You will quickly and easily be issued with a shopping card which entitles you to special offers and discounts.
Generally we look for our travel clothes in second hand shops or markets, although this time I did treat myself to some new clothing in the Liverpool department store sale just after Christmas.
We balance our eating out costs by sometimes eating in $2 taco joints with a once a week blow out on a ten US dollar per head meal in a trendy pizza restaurant in the city centre.
There are so many ways to keep your costs low while house sitting, and we will cover this in much more detail in a future issue, but for the moment we are happy to say that house sitting in Mexico is great value for money.
Getting about in Mexico
Getting about in Mexico is easy, relatively inexpensive, and very comfortable. The city to city coaches are some of the best we’ve ever encountered, with reclining seats, entertainment and WiFi. We traveled Mexico City to San Miguel for less than $25 US one way. Cheaper buses are available and a visit to a city bus terminal will provide you with many different price options.
Alternatively, look out for low cost air flights with domestic airlines like Volaris, AeroMexico, and Interjet, all of whom have a free baggage allowance (at time of writing). We have consistently found flights at less than $50 US.
Once you are at your destination, you’ll find taxis are generally cheap, Uber is becoming available in more and more places, and buses are mere cents.
We tend to walk as much as possible – one, because it gives us a chance to explore the labyrinth of streets in the more interesting cities, and two, because it’s our way of staying fit.
WiFi for work
So far we haven’t experienced any problems with WiFi whilst traveling, house sitting, or working online, in Mexico. In some situations it has been better than we’ve previously experienced in England or the US.
Many expats have hi-speed unlimited internet for streaming Netflix and other US programs, and generally this is included as part of your house sit.
Sightseeing in Mexico
Mexico offers some of the best and most diverse sightseeing options we’ve encountered in Central America. If you have an interest in ancient Mayan or Aztec civilizations then you will be kept constantly engrossed by museums, ruins, and galleries.
Beaches on both sides of the country are stunning, and you’ll experience long days of endless sunshine. Travel inland and you’ll encounter splendid scenery and a rich cultural heritage.
Many sites in Mexico have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites or Biosphere Reserves, while over 100 the beautiful colonial “pueblos” have also been given special designations to preserve their historic importance.
A high percentage of Mexico’s land is protected in one way or another.
According to website Geo-Mexico: “there are currently 40 biosphere reserves in Mexico. Only the USA with 48, the Russian Federation with 41 and Spain with 41, have more. The guiding principle of biosphere reserves is that the local populace is not displaced, but actively involved in all aspects of management, research and monitoring.”
Climate in Mexico
The Climate in Mexico varies depending on where you are. Along the coast (on both sides of the country) it is hot and humid, often unbearably so in the summer.
Inland communities at higher elevations such as Guadalajara (1600m / 5200 ft above sea level) and in particular close by Lake Chapala, are much dryer and more temperate.
In San Miguel during the past couple of months (Dec/Jan) it has been cold in the evenings and mornings, and long trousers, sweaters or jackets have been necessary.
However, during the daytime the temperature rises considerably and we’d find ourselves changing back into shorts and t-shirts.
This is a country diverse in its flora and fauna, and that is because of it’s different climate zones that include everything from arid deserts to lush tropical rain forests.
Wherever you end up house sitting in Mexico, you’ll find contrasts. Rich people and poor people, quiet times and extremely noisy times, cheap living and luxury living.
But I can almost guarantee that with a positive, unafraid outlook and an immersive approach to life, you will experience a country with a degree of richness in every aspect of its history, its culture and its geography . But most of all, it’s people! We have really enjoyed our time house sitting in Mexico.