Move to Mexico they said. It’ll be fun they said. Your cup will runneth over with tequila and your belly will be full of tacos, they said. “They” made it seem as if moving to Mexico would be unabated paradisiacal bliss. But, what they don’t tell you is, in Mérida, it is so hot it feels like you’ve climbed inside an incinerator, have been reduced to ash and then set on fire again. They also left out the part about how the mosquitos here will suck you dry for every drop of blood you own, and leave you looking like Martin when he fought Hitman Hearns, except, it’s all over your body.
Nooo, they don’t tell you that part.
Despite those glaring omissions, moving to Mexico is hands down one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in life. It is, in fact, fun and my cup does runneth over, not only with tequila, but with gratitude and appreciation for such a beautiful country. Is it all rainbows and butterflies? Uhhh…did you see the part where I talked about feeling like I’m in an incinerator? Of course it’s not, no place is. So, in this blog post, I’m going to let you in on all the sh*t no one tells you about moving to Mexico, specifically Mérida.
It’s Really Frickin’ Hot!
Since I already brought it up…twice, let’s just start there. I am from Georgia and went to college in south Georgia where I’d never experienced heat and humidity on such a level as I did in Albany, GA. But, Mérida, far surpasses the hell I endured in college for 4 years. There are two seasons in Mérida, summer and super summer. That’s it. It’s not even so much the heat, it’s the humidity combined with the heat. Imagine having a plastic bag over your head, in the sun, while someone is holding a magnifying glass over you. That’s what it feels like in Mérida. There’s not an abundance of trees or tall buildings to provide any semblance of shade, so it’s just direct heat.
When I first moved here in 2019, since I lived in Centro and so close to everything, I felt the need to walk everywhere. This year, NOPE! I Uber everywhere! It used to be, I had to complete my errands by 9 a.m. or wait until nightfall, because anytime after 9 a.m. was just too brutal to be out and about walking. So, my advice if you’re thinking about moving to Mérida, Mexico, pack LOTS of breathable clothes! Pack lightweight clothes that won’t cling to your skin. There’s nothing more uncomfortable than being hot, with wet clothes clung to you. You may even want to invest in some self-cooling clothing like these moisture-wicking tees.
The Mosquitos are Monsters!
If the heat isn’t enough to set your body on fire, the clawing at your skin from incessant mosquito bites will surely do the trick. These mosquitos are a different type of breed. Seriously! They’re smart and they’re stealthy so you never see them or feel them, until you’ve been bitten at least 6 times. I’m not even kidding. I was in my apartment doing yoga one morning, I hadn’t even gotten started yet, and in the span of me stepping on my mat I’d gotten 6 bites. Then, they bite you in the most annoying places, like your elbow or your bra back fat. Do you know how hard it is to scratch an itch in those places? When I first moved to Mérida, I was miserable. I was hot and itchy ALL.THE.TIME!
Forget the OFF bug spray, instead the best repellent I’ve found, hands down, is Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Creamy Oil. This stuff is the truth! Gentle enough for babies, but the absolute best for keeping mosquitos away. And word to the wise, be generous with this stuff. These mosquitos here bite through pants and long sleeves. So slather it all over! You’ll thank me later.
Be Prepared to Pay a Lump Sum up front for rent
Speaking of apartments in Mexico, it may be super cheap on a month to month basis, but you may have to pay a lot on the front end. Fortunately, my landlord is suuuuper nice, like the best ever, so I only had to pay a deposit ($7500 pesos approx $357USD at the time of this post) + the first month’s rent (at the time, I was paying $6500 pesos, approx $309USD, now I pay $6000). However, many places will require you to pay a deposit + first month’s rent + an aval fee. What the heck is an aval? Basically, it’s a third-party guarantor, like a co-signer. If you default on your rent or, say, destroy the place and go ghost, your aval will be responsible for the costs. So, you will, essentially, be paying 3+ month’s rent upfront.
Healthcare is super affordable
How is the healthcare system in Mexico? It’s super frickin’ affordable, that’s how it is. I always recommend having travel and medical insurance while traveling (I use SafetyWing for $40/month); however, even if you don’t, the out of pocket costs are far more manageable than the U.S. For example, my friend severed a piece of her finger, had hand surgery to reattach it and only paid around $250USD…for surgery! You can’t even go to the emergency room without paying a co-pay of $250, let alone an entire surgery. That would easily cost thousands of dollars in the U.S.
Most medications you can buy over the counter in Mexico and they are 30-60% cheaper than in the U.S. On top of that, on Monday’s Farmacia Similares gives a 25% discount on all medications; so, your already cheap meds, just got even cheaper. Winning! Also, lots of pharmacies has a doctor’s office attached to it, AND IT’S FREE! No co-pay, no fees, no nothing. Tips are always welcomed, but not required. If you want affordable healthcare and an affordable cost of living, you may want to consider Mexico.
Mexico will Lowkey make you hate tip culture
I am an avid tipper. I tip accordingly and even go above and beyond for excellent service. I also haaaate going out with people who are poor tippers or don’t tip at all. However, living in Mexico has lowkey made me hate tip culture. It’s not the tipping itself that bothers me, it’s the forceful nature of the tip culture here that irks me, it’s the gringo tax that bothers me. It’s the adding the tip (aka propina) to your bill; yet, still expecting an additional tip because they hope you don’t notice, that gets me. It’s not everywhere or all the time, but it happens often enough. So, always pay attention to your bill and do the math yourself.
You can rent cars for $2, but there’s a caveat
Yep, you read that correctly, you can rent a car for as low as $2USD, buuuut here’s the caveat, you have to add on Mexican insurance which often times can be up to $30/day. Even if you purchase the insurance on a third-party site, like Expedia, their insurance is basically moot in Mexico. The same with your credit card insurance. Here’s why – if you get into an accident, the insurance company must send a representative to the scene. Is your American credit card company going to send a Mexican insurance adjuster to the scene of an accident? Probably not. And if an insurance adjuster does not show up to negotiate on your behalf, and no agreement can be reached between both parties, the solution – you both go to jail until an agreement can be reached. Tune in to the next episode of Locked Up Abroad: Highway to Hell. So, yeah…get the local insurance.
People are really friendly
I’m a Southern girl, through and through and being in Mérida reminds me of being in the South, back home. Everyone is so friendly! People speak when you pass them on the streets, in grocery stores, wherever. Every day I am ingratiated by the kindness of the people here. From the gummy, snaggle-toothed grin from a random old man emphatically waving and telling me “byyyye” from the other side of the street, to Luis, the little old man that I buy my mangos from who makes sure I have the best of the bunch, to the ladies that stopped me on the sidewalk one day, simply because they were intrigued by me. We carried on a conversation, albeit broken, and parted with a hug. One night I was at a food stand where a group of men who were there before me, insisted I go ahead of them. A couple of them moved out of the way and smacked their friend, who obviously wasn’t paying attention, for his rudeness for not moving fast enough. These are the moments that leave permanent impressions on my heart.
Police are Prominent
Mérida is one of the safest cities in the world. It’s why I moved here. A part of what keeps this city so safe is the heavy presence of police and military force. In Centro, you will see cops stationed on just about every block, big guns in hand and daring you to jump stupid. Driving through town, you can’t go a hundred feet without seeing cop lights glaring. That’s another thing, these cops aren’t incognito, they let their presence be known, so their squad car lights are on at all times, whether stationary or driving.
As a Black person, coming from America, not gonna lie, it took some adjusting. Almost 2 years later, I’m still adjusting. My heart races every time I walk by a cop who is cradling his big ass gun. I think about all the lives lost and blood spilled from Black men and women by the hands of cops in America and my stomach lurches in my throat. Old fears die hard. I remind myself this is not America, muster up smile, exchange pleasantries and be on my way.
Postage is a pain
How is the postage system in Mexico? Well, my experience in Mérida is, if you want anything delivered in a timely fashion, have it sent via FedEx or DHL. Even then, if it’s coming from outside of Mexico, you will likely have to pay an import tax, which is 16% of the value of the items (pro tip: if it’s not something super important that you need insured, have the sender declare the value under $50 and you will not be taxed). I once paid over $100 in import taxes on a package, until I got hip to the game. Also, if your packages are coming from outside of Mexico, you can expect them to be cut open, inspected and taped back together. If you’re having things like supplements, vitamins or foods shipped from outside the country, you’ll likely never see them. Many people say they get held at customs.
Avoid USPS at all costs. I once ordered a book in January, it arrived in March. I had my sister send me my new credit card via priority mail and it took two weeks. Plus, you can’t track the packages once they reach Mexico.
They have a one-stop-shop at the press of a button
Need cash delivered to your doorstep? Forgot an ingredient for that new recipe you’re trying and need someone to make a grocery store run? Need someone to go to your friend’s house, pick up your phone charger that you forgot and bring it to you? There’s one singular app for all of this! Rappi will be your new best friend! I’m not sure if this app is available all over Mexico, but it’s available in Mérida and it has me SPOILED! You can do just about anything in this app – pay bills, order takeout, order cash, all the things!
Keep small bills, always
Never have I ever seen a country notorious for not having change. And it’s not even always when it comes to big bills like $500 pesos. Nooo, I’ve tried to pay with $200 pesos before, when my total was $170 and the delivery person didn’t have 30 pesos. Like, what?! You’re a delivery person! Just the other day, a store gave me 40 one-peso coins, because they didn’t have any other change for the $100 pesos bill I gave them. I truly don’t understand it. So, if have big bills, break them as soon as you can. If you get ahold of small bills and coins, hold on to them, because they will come in handy!
You Can’t Flush Toilet paper
Yep, that’s right. You can’t flush toilet paper in Mexico. I mean, technically, you can, but it may turn into a real sh*tty situation (pun intended). Specifically in Mérida, the city does not have the sewage infrastructure to handle the gobs of toilet paper that people flush; therefore a lot of places will have signs advising not to flush toilet paper. So, what are you supposed to do with the toilet paper? Throw it in the garbage bin. It sounds utterly disgusting, but you actually get used to it. In fact, after living in Mexico for over a year and a half, I find that when I go back to the states, I forget that I can actually flush toilet paper and have to stop myself from throwing it in the trash.
You will get gringo’d
What is a gringo? It’s a term used mostly in Latin American countries or Spain to refer to foreigners. Since gringos (especially white Americans and Europeans) are perceived to have money, locals will often times raise the prices. This goes for anything, properties, restaurants, shops, taxis etc. One of the first days I arrived, I stopped in a little mom and pop convenient store to buy a bottle of water. She charged me $14 pesos. That same bottle of water goes for maybe $7.50 pesos in any other store. I definitely got gringo’d. Another time, I made the mistake of going to the beach on a day that a cruise ship docked. I wanted to get my typical beach chair under a palapa and the prices were much higher. I told the guy I live in Mérida, they knocked 50 pesos off. Research the price of things or talk with a local (if it comes to major things like renting/buying a property or getting your car fixed), to make sure you’re getting a fair price. Don’t get gringo’d!
Uber is not everywhere
You would think that Uber would be in major cities and tourist hotspots like Tulum and Mexico City, but surprise surprise, it is not. Uber is available in Mérida and I am sooo thankful for it, because it is super cheap to get around and super convenient considering I don’t have a car here. In the cities where Uber is not available, you’ll likely have to rely on taxis and they are the worst. They will gouge prices like it’s nobody’s business and it’s annoying af. It’s not regulated, they charge what they want and/or if you know you’re being gotten over on, you have to try to haggle the prices down. Who has time for that?! Word to the wise, ALWAYS get the price of your ride before the driver starts driving.
You get exactly what you ask for – no more, no less
In restaurants, most times if you do not ask for water, you will not get water. If you do not ask for ice in said water, you will not get ice. If you want your housekeeper to dust and mop, you best tell them to do so, because if not, it will likely not get done. It’s like there are no assumptions here. So, if you want something, you better speak up!
You have exactly 3.5 songs to enjoy a hot shower
Where do I even begin with the water woes here? From the moment I arrived in Mexico and stayed at an Airbnb, showers have often been hit or miss. Hot water is a luxury. Hot water that lasts longer than 4 songs on your music playlist, I feel like, is almost unheard of. I’ve taken many-a-cold shower or have had the hot water run out before I’ve had a chance to rinse the shampoo out of my hair. I’ve also run into issues where my water just stops working altogether or the pressure is suuuuper low. Often times, it’s a neighborhood issue, but every few months I encounter this and all I can do is wait it out.
If you live in a house, you may be responsible for having your gas tank changed out, if your hot water runs out. For me, I live in an apartment and thankfully have never had to deal with that. Any issue I have, my landlord takes care of it.
You can have an entire staff for next to nothing
Need a personal drive? Personal chef? Someone to do your laundry and run your errands? A gardener and person to clean your pool? In the states, you’d have to be moving on up to the East side to enjoy such luxuries, but in Mexico, this is everyday living at what many consider an incredibly affordable price. Imagine having a personal chef prepare lunch and dinner for 7 days for a family of 4 for around $72/week. I’ve spent more than that for a dinner of one.
Here a mold, there a mold, everywhere is mold mold
Ok, here’s the thing, living in the tropics, there is bound to be a little mold at some point. But, word to the wise, if you’re leaving your home for days on end and it’s rainy season, be sure to leave a window open and the ceiling fans on. You’ve got to have some air circulation, because if not, you can expect to come back to a house full of mold – lesson learned the hard way. I spent two full days cleaning my apartment top to bottom due to the mold that grew on every surface of my apartment. A spray bottle of vinegar will usually do the trick, but sometimes a pro cleaner is needed. You can also purchase Damp Rid at Home Depot to help keep the moisture in your home at bay.
I’ll wrap this post up by saying this is MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE and it does not define every experience of every person in Mérida or Mexico. I’m sure this is a post I’ll be updating through time, but these are a few of the things I’ve learned so far living in Mexico.
Have you ever visited or lived in Mexico? What are some things you were shocked to learn? Leave me a comment below!
Planning a trip?
- Book your flight with Skyscanner or Airfarewatchdog, two of my favorite sites for finding the cheapest flights and awesome flight deals!
- Book your accommodations with Airbnb and save $40 if you’re a first-time user
- Book your travel insurance with Safety Wing or World Nomads. You never know when you might need it. Lost luggage, trip cancellation, accidents. Better to be safe than sorry.
- Don’t forget these packing essentials