Thinking about moving to Mexico? Read this first.
There are currently an estimated 2 million expats living in Mexico who loved the relaxed way of life, the sizzling sunshine, friendly people, and low cost of living.
If you’re thinking of joining them, we’ve put together the ultimate guide to making the move to Mexico from the UK…
- 1 Mexico Visa Requirements for Brits
- 2 Way of Life in Mexico
- 3 Cost of Living in Mexico
- 4 Popular Areas for Brits
- 5 Jobs in Mexico for British Expats
Mexico Visa Requirements for Brits
Mexico is a notoriously bureaucratic country and immigration rules have seen some recent dramatic changes.
Here’s what you need to know about visas for UK expats moving to Mexico…
UK citizens visiting Mexico for a short length of time (up to 180 days) don’t require a visa to enter the country.
It is however necessary to complete an immigration form and ensure that your passport has at least 6 months validity remaining on entry to Mexico, and at least 2 blank pages.
If you want to work in Mexico, you will need to apply for a work visa before entering the country — it’s not possible to enter on a tourist visa and then apply for a work visa once you’re there.
It is however possible for British citizens to apply for a business visa before entering the country. The business visa is valid for 180 days, but is very limited in terms of how you can work and whether or not you can receive payment for your work.
A better idea is to apply for a working visitor visa, but to get one you will need a firm offer of guaranteed employment with a Mexican company before you apply, and you will need to make your application from the UK.
Your Mexican employer will be required to contact the National Institute of Immigration on your behalf, to provide them with original documents including your birth certificate, marriage certificate (if applicable), and a copy of your passport, along with your offer of employment.
Once your application is accepted you must take your letter of authorisation to the Mexican embassy in order to apply for a temporary residence visa which should be ready within a couple of days.
These two visas will allow you to live and work in Mexico for up to four years and leave and enter the country multiple times.
If you’re sure that you want to make Mexico your permanent home, or you’ve already been living in Mexico for 4 years and you are not longer eligible for the temporary residence visa, it’s time to apply for permanent residency.
There are certain requirements which must be fulfilled in order to be granted a permanent residency visa.
These may include having family connections in Mexico, proof of sufficient monthly income to support yourself, or having 4 years of regular status as temporary resident.
As an applicant you may not have to meet all the requirements — even fulfilling just a few requirements can help you qualify for a permanent residency visa.
The process can however take up 4 months to complete, so be sure to apply in good time.
Way of Life in Mexico
Mexico is a country with a rich cultural and historical heritage, and the Mexican people are powerfully patriotic but remain warm and welcoming to foreigners.
Big cities thrum with life, colour and culture, and offer a wealth of museums, galleries, theatres, shopping, restaurants and nightlife.
Away from the hustle and bustle, quaint villages and towns have a strong sense of community and family, and offer fiestas fuelled by tequila and excellent locally brewed beers, musical events, and plazas buzzing with activity way into the evening.
Venture out of the populated areas and you will discover lush rainforests, beautiful beaches and rugged coastlines, deserts, lowlands, high plateaus, and majestic mountains and volcanoes. If you’re into exploring the great outdoors Mexico has an abundance of experiences to offer.
English is spoken in big cities and resort areas but is not commonly spoken outside of those areas, so for day to day life you’re going to need to learn some Spanish to make the most of living in Mexico.
Take a look at this helpful video for more information:
Big cities are equipped with excellent public transport systems — particularly the metro. It’s cheap and efficient and the best way to get around.
Taxis can also be a good way to get around the city, as they offer comfort and convenience for a relatively low price.
When travelling further afield, the train service provides a way to reach certain areas of the country, but to travel between cities and for long distance routes or around towns and villages the best option is to travel by bus.
Bus travel is affordable and remarkably quick, as many routes make few stops. Local buses tend to get overcrowded, so don’t be surprised if you end up without a seat.
Driving in Mexico
To be blunt, driving around Mexico can be chaos — particularly in the cities.
Other drivers can be inconsiderate and largely unaware of the risks of the road, so you’ll need to keep your wits about you.
Cars drive on the right hand side of the road here, and there is a good road infrastructure with many free interstate roads, making having a car a relatively cheap and easy way to explore the country.
It’s not the same story wherever you go, however, as there are still plenty of less well maintained roads with tolls and poor road signs.
Drivers in Mexico will also encounter police roadblocks from time to time, although they rarely bother foreigners.
Locals are also occasionally known to set up unofficial roadblocks of their own in order to extract illegal tolls from drivers, so be aware.
Weather in Mexico
With such a varied topography, it comes as no surprise that Mexico’s climate is also wide ranging.
As a rule it is more temperate in the mountainous north and central areas, and hot and humid in the south.
Along the coast and in lower lying areas it can get extremely hot and sticky — particularly in summer, yet mountainous areas with higher altitude can experience freezing temperatures during winter.
Generally though Mexico benefits from a wonderful, warm tropical climate with very little change in temperature all year round, with the best, hottest months being November to May, and those with the most rainfall being from June to October.
Mexico City has pleasant summers and mild winters, with an annual average temperature of 18°C.
Cost of Living in Mexico
Overall the cost of living in Mexico is cheap relative to the UK, but prices vary depending on location, so expect things to be more expensive in cities, tourist destinations, and beach areas.
Groceries and food items cost anywhere from 10 to 130% lower in Mexico than in other countries depending on the product, and small markets selling local produce are plentiful.
Eating out is also quite affordable compared to the UK, with a meal out costing about 50 – 75% less.
Public transport is cheap, as are bars and entertainment such as cinemas and theatres.
Accommodation in Mexico is significantly cheaper than in the UK.
For example, renting a one bedroom flat in Mexico city costs around MXN 9000 per month (that’s roughly £350), compared to MXN 39000 in London (about £1500).
Utilities such as gas and electricity are cheaper too.
The quality of healthcare in Mexico is high, and it is also affordable.
The Mexican national health care system is divided into the IMSS (Instituto mexicano de seguro social) for employees in the private sector, and the Seguro popular for the unemployed and retired.
Both Seguro Popular and IMSS are available to citizens and expats who are temporary and permanent residents.
Public hospitals are generally of a good standard, but they are often overcrowded and waiting lists can be long, leading many expats to opt for private health insurance.
There are a range of basic and high-end plans which are based on age, medical history, gender, and other factors.
Prices for private health insurance plans vary widely, but expect to pay anywhere from between MXN 21500 (around £840) and MXN 390000 (around £15000) per year.
Pre-school for children starting at age three is entirely optional in Mexico, and if you choose that your child attend you will have to pay for the privilege.
Primary school, middle school, and high school are compulsory but free to attend.
If your child isn’t bilingual however, they may be better off completing their mandatory education in a private school which tend to offer a broader curriculum, and there are many international schools in Mexico although, mostly in larger cities.
Private school fees vary depending on the establishment, but in general you will pay an enrolment fee plus annual or monthly school fees, as well as covering transport to and from school and any additional trips and activities.
As a rough guide expect to pay around £5,500 for primary school fees per year, and around £6,500 per year for middle school and high school.
Popular Areas for Brits
The romantic Caribbean paradise of Cancun boasts stunning beaches, turquoise waters, and Mayan culture.
There are atmospheric archaeological sites aplenty here, as well as excellent local cuisine and fresh seafood, and superb snorkelling and beach activities.
Vibrant Mexico City offers up a wonderful mix of rich history, contemporary cool bars and clubs, bustling markets, a wealth of museums, the oldest city forest in the Americas, ancient canals, and an exploding culinary and arts scene.
Just across the border from Los Angeles and San Diego, Tijuana’s thriving bar scene, gourmet food scene, and notorious nightlife attracts tourists in droves, but it is also blessed with a cutting edge arts scene, a fabulous beach, great shopping, and an excellent cultural centre.
This stylish sun drenched getaway in the Yucatan Peninsula is known for its idyllic white sand beaches bordered by lush tropical jungle.
The coastline is a luxury location with gourmet restaurants, beach bars, and yoga retreats, and it’s an excellent location for diving, whilst Tulum town is the perfect place to grab some delicious street food.
Puerto Penasco or ‘Rocky Point’ is far from the sleepy seaside town it used to be.
Recent development has brought fantastic restaurants, bars, and clubs to the beachfront, and it’s a great place to sample some super fresh seafood or enjoy some sensational swimming and watersports.
Once the playground of Hollywood’s rich and famous, beautiful Puerto Vallata is one of Mexico’s safest cities, and is surrounded by forest covered mountains, sparkling sand, and azure sea.
Chic shops and restaurants line the picturesque streets, and when night falls it’s time to party in some of Mexico’s hottest clubs. For those who love the outdoors, diving, horse riding, trekking, sailing and more await.
Monterrey has one of Mexico’s highest standards of living, and is known as the most Americanised city in Mexico.
Built around the imposing Cerro de la Silla mountain with its waterfalls, forests and caves, this city is ideal for outdoor activities, but it’s also a fabulous place to shop in glitzy malls, dine in fine restaurants, and party.
Playa del Carmen
Once a small coastal fishing town, Playa de Carmen has grown into a scintillating tourist city with beaches, bars, restaurants, great shopping, and big resorts.
There are some incredible coral reefs and underwater here and it’s a popular snorkelling and diving spot. Mayan ruins can be found close by, as well as some amazing golf courses.
Jobs in Mexico for British Expats
Mexico currently has a strong economy, and expats stand a good chance of finding a job here — particularly in the big cities.
One thing for certain will increase your likelihood of finding employment in Mexico — learning Spanish.
Whatever field you choose to work in, having a reasonable level of Spanish language could give you the edge you need over other candidates when applying for work.
Unskilled workers will find it harder to find a job, but if you are a skilled professional you may find yourself in demand.
Major industries include tourism, technical, the service industry, food and beverages, mining, textiles, logistics and transport.
Teaching English is also a good way for UK expats to get a foot in the door of Mexico’s job market — particularly if you have previous experience or a TEFL qualification.
Job listings can be found online, or you could apply via a global recruitment agency such as Adecco or Manpower. Start your job search well in advance.
Are you thinking about moving to Mexico from the UK?