How Much Does It Cost to Live in the Riviera Maya?

Akumal Bay in the Riviera Maya

Before moving to Mexico in 2015, I spent hours searching for information online about the specific costs associated with living south of the border — but I never found anything. The sites I stumbled across would only say that the cost of living was cheaper. Cheaper than what?

Words like cheap and expensive are very subjective and are worthless without hard numbers to back them up. In an effort to help others who are thinking of making the move down, I publish a detailed list of our expenses at least once a year.

Where is the Riviera Maya?

The Riviera Maya is a popular tourist destination on the eastern side of Mexico that borders the Caribbean Sea. It runs from the area of Puerto Morelos down to an area south of Tulum.

Reoccurring Monthly Expenses

1. Before moving to Mexico, we sold everything and used part of the money to buy a condo in a gated community. Condo prices start around $175,000 USD.  

2. The maintenance fees pay for a full time staff of around 25 employees made up of security guards, gardeners, maintenance workers, cleaning staff (for common areas) and an HOA manager to oversee it all. 

3. The phone plan includes unlimited calls to the U.S.

4. Electricity can be expensive in Mexico, so we always monitor our usage closely. The amount shown in the chart was our monthly average from May-July. The most expensive electric bill that we have ever received was around $105 USD.

5. The cell phone plan is AT&T’s con Todo Damos Más Plan. It allows you to pay for 12 months and received 12 months free. Although we already paid for two years of service, we divided the amount over the term to show the impact on the monthly budget. The service includes unlimited calls and texts (Mexico, United States and Canada) + 3 GB of data per phone (Facebook, Whatsapp, and Twitter do not count toward data usage). The phone service also works great when we travel back to the States.

6. Before moving to Mexico, we sold everything and used part of the money to buy a car.  

7. We have medical insurance through WEA. We chose a plan that does not include the United States (it’s much cheaper that way) with a $2,500 deductible. Since routine healthcare is not very expensive in Mexico, we generally pay for things out-of-pocket. 

Annual Expenses

8. This is for a shared policy that covers the entire complex that we live in (e.g. the structures and grounds). We elected not to get an additional policy that covers the contents. We don’t have anything that isn’t replaceable. 

9. This is an annual fee to maintain a bank trust for the property.

What About Food, Gas Etc?

People often ask us about the cost of groceries, eating out, entertainment and even gasoline. I didn’t list those in the chart because they are all variable expenses that we can control by modifying our behavior.

For example, we can choose to splurge and stay at an all-inclusive resort for a few days and then get back on budget by eating at inexpensive restaurants in the pueblo for a few days. Since many restaurants give us a locals discount, we have found that it’s often cheaper for us to eat out than cook at home.

Let’s Wrap This Up

People often ask me how much money they’ll need a month to live in Mexico. That magic number depends on three important factors: 1) where you want to live, 2) the amount of debt you have, and 3) the type of lifestyle you’re looking for.

In our case , we kept our monthly costs low by buying a modest car and condo when we moved. Since our reoccurring expenses are generally less than $600 USD a month, we have enough disposable income left over each month to live a very active retirement lifestyle (e.g. travel, eat out, visit local attractions etc.).

Just to be clear, housing costs are generally higher in the Riviera Maya than they are in many other areas in Mexico. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has been here and looked out at the crystal-clear blue Caribbean water. The good news is that it makes buying property here a good investment.

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About the Author

Q-Roo Paul
Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) was a deputy sheriff in Florida for 25 years before retiring at the rank of lieutenant in 2015. He and his wife moved to Mexico looking to maximize their retirement income. They later started a blog called Two Expats Mexico (qroo.us) to share their experiences, as well as information about the logistical and legal aspects of retiring south of the border.

55 Comments on "How Much Does It Cost to Live in the Riviera Maya?"

  1. Thank you so much for this I went down twice this year to check it out and I will be back in December to once again look around . All of your info has been very accurate once again thank you

  2. Larry lloyd Wall | November 8, 2018 at 10:44 am | Reply

    Thank you for the information, you just gave me information I will be loking into regarding cell phone service.

  3. Great info. We have done research over the past 18 months and just returned from Mexico. We found pretty consistent expenses compared to those you share. Thanks for keeping up the research!

  4. Very interesting. Seems it is a lot cheaper on the east coast than here in Puerto Vallarta. On coming back after y months away I noticed it was quite a bit more expensive here.
    Regarding fuel for the car and electricity these costs have skyrocketed due to the fact that the government no longer subsidizes these two items. Supposedly there will be competition with other companies arriving in the country and that should bring down the cost but I’m not holding my breath.

  5. Thank You! Very much needed information. WEA is an insurance carrier? What about hurricane insurance?

    • We have a shared condo policy but we don’t carry any additional insurance for our contents.

    • We have a condo south of PDC and in addition to common area insurance, we chose to obtain a homeowners policy that does cover hurricane damage inside. Like Paul, we’re not overly concerned about our contents as it can be replace; we are more concerned about glass breakage, which our common area policy has limitations. We live right now in the US, so most often we are not there and there is some comfort in knowing that our policy covers incidents such as a water pipe break, including damage that might occur in an adjacent unit. The policy is similar in content as to what you might see in the US and runs about $500 USD /yr.
      We are not renting the unit right now, but in the event we would decide to do so we would seriously consider renters liability insurance. Unfortunately, such insurance is very expensive and could run $2,000-$3,000 USD/yr which very likely could make us decide not to rent.
      This is only my experience, therefore if you would like more info, I’d suggest you contact an agent.

  6. Thank you for that update on expenses. We live on the outskirts of Mazatlan it’s much cheaper here and less crowded and the beaches are beautiful. Here we paid 700,000 pesos for our house, our water is 50 pesos a month and electric every other month 70 pesos, internet 350 pesos. We have AT&T but different plan than yours I paid 400 pesos for a year for 2 phones, we have all the extras on them at no extra fee.

    • How is the heat where you live? I have been thinking Playa Del Carmen but, since I have psoriases the heat scares me plus, it looks to be a little less expensive as you described it.

      Thanks in advance!!

      • The high temperatures don’t tend to be as high as where we used to live in Florida; however, the humidity is just as high.

        Since most restaurants are not air conditioned in Mexico, our bodies became accustomed to the heat and we don’t mind it most of the time. In fact, when we go to an air conditioned restaurant nowadays, we usually have to bring a jacket…lol.

      • the rainy season July – Oct is hot but mid afternoon when it’s the hottest we do indoor things. The Nov-June the weather is great we moved here from Washington state. I knew how hot it could be here and summers back home had gotten hotter so coming here in the winter months made the adjustment easier.

  7. We have been going to Playa del Carmen from B.C. for 28 years & still love the area even though it has completely changed since 1991. We find after 2-3 months every Winter we are ready to go back home.

  8. I’m a Texas State Trooper and looking to retire in about 3 years. You make this all seem so tempting to me but I do have concerns about safety and security. Seems that the “border violence” has found its way to all points in Mexico. Is this not a concern for you?

    • I follow crime reports closely and I feel very safe in this part of Mexico. The majority of the violence and homicides are attributed to fighting between rival crime groups. it is very targeted and the majority of it occurs in select neighborhoods and areas — just like in the States.

      I jokingly refer to the area that i live in as Copland because so many current and retired law enforcement officers from the U.S. purchased condos here. Even though they can’t carry a firearm here, they all say they feel very safe here.

    • Mitzi,

      We moved to Mexico last year. We live in the Lake Chapala area. We have traveled some around Mexico and never once felt unsafe. We have good friends, both young and old, who travel extensively in Mexico and they report the same, very safe. That being said, just like in the US, there are places that are not safe, especially after dark. Common sense and a little due diligence will greatly reduce the probability that you will find yourself in an unsafe environment.

      Regards,
      Troy

  9. Muchas Gracias! We follow all of your excellent posts but this is the best one, imo. Sam y Wendy

  10. Hi Just wondering I hear lots of people saying its not safe in Mexico. I have been on holiday a number of times to Puerto Vallara and loved it. Does it just depend on the area your in and just being careful and wise on when your out and about. I was looking at visiting your area to see what its like. My husband and I are retired Government Employees. Unfortunately my husband isn’t into traveling for months at a time but I am 🙂 and have lots of girl friends that would be interested as well. Just haven’t found my space yet. I am recovering from cancer surgery and looking for a relaxing space.

    • Mexico is a very large country and just like back in the States, there are areas and neighborhoods where the incidence of crime and violence is much higher. Generally speaking, the tourist areas tend to be very safe. The violence that you hear about even in some tourist areas tends to occur in particular local neighborhoods where you’re not likely to be anyway and the victims are often involved in criminal activities.

  11. Paul… great article.

    Everyone’s situation is a little different, so it’s hard to compare exactly.

    For example we live in the highlands south of Mexico City (Cuernavaca) and
    the temperature is always 27 deg. Celcius (80 F) year round.

    So air conditioner costs etc. need to be adjusted.
    (while we have AC units, we NEVER use them… it’s just that nice) {grin}
    And humidity is always low… even in the rainy season (june-oct)

    The web-sites I use to give me a ball park cost of living number.
    According to both.. it’s about 20% cheaper to live in Cuernavaca than Cancun (closest place I could get)

    #1 – https://www.expatistan.com/cost-of-living

    #2 – https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/in/Cuernavaca-Mexico

    Both give you a pretty good idea of everyday cost of living.

  12. Norm Stackhouse | November 8, 2018 at 1:17 pm | Reply

    Hi, I was wondering weatherwise, I have heard that it rains more on the Caribbean side. Any truth to this at all?
    Also, what about hurricane season, how has or have they affected you in any way since you’ve lived there?
    We’ve been to Tulum once and PVR three times. Definitely want to return to this side again soon.
    Love your posts and the language lessons!! Great Job.

    • I suppose it does rain more on the Caribbean side, but unless there is a storm major front moving through (which isn’t that often), it may only rain for less than an hour in the early morning or late afternoon.

      I’m happy to hear that you like the Spanish lessons. 🙂

  13. Thanks for all of the detailed info.
    Where are you getting 100 megas of internet? Our rental property in Playacar can’t get higher than 10 from izzi.
    Also, how was the experience of buying a car? How did the payment work? A bank transfer?
    We are planning to move to our condo next year and plan to buy a new car.
    We also know that electricity can be very expensive. We no longer rent our condo during July or August because the electric bills were sky high.

    • We have Telmex. They offer up to 200 MPS.

      To answer your question about the car: yes, it was by direct bank transfer. We’ve helped about 15 expats buy cars and we did it that way each time.

  14. Great info! We currently live full time in Mazatlan ( 2years already wow!) however we rented a condo for 4 months in Playa Del Carmen (which we love) and are looking forward to it.
    Mazatlan currently has a building boom going on and is becoming fast a large tourist destination while maintaining it’s Mexican identity.
    Great job of giving a nice breakdown of cost of living Paul!

  15. Hello Paul. Thank you for all the info. They really are helping me figure out if I can afford to retire in that part of Mexico. I’ve never been in Mexico ever and I am in the process of figuring out which country to retire in. Is there anyone you know I can inquire about condo rental in your complex?
    Thank you
    Kris

    • Hello Kris Reyes,
      From my experience …. finding a long term rental depends on the time of year one begins to look and if you’re willing to sign a one year lease etc. We secured something 8 months in advance and I spent several weeks in Mexico looking at various options.

      Best if people look at a variety of properties from Playa Del Carmen to Tulum and rent air B and B for a few days in each area to see what’s best suited to your lifestyle. How close is the nearest construction? You’ll learn a lot by spending a couple of weeks scouting options.

      Certain areas require a car while others don’t. If you choose an area that requires a car that means you basically need to go through the temp it permanent residency process in order to legally buy and register a car and that’s a multi step process and cost $. Then be prepared to spend US$11,000-$15,000 plus insurance on a new car because it’s hard to buy used ones.

      Best of luck to you!

  16. Paul Thanks for all the great info. Boy those health insurance premiums look great . Going to pull the trigger and move there one day when we retire cant afford the health insurance here maybe mexico is the way to go.

    • Another option is to participate in one of the public healthcare systems, IMSS or Seguro Popular. We have some articles planned to explain the advantages and disadvantages of each.

  17. All your info is of great interest to us….security and being safe is of most importance…..when you travel in Mexico ( your trip to Puebla) did you drive there or most of your travels inside the “República” are by plane? We enjoy traveling by car since you get to see/do more but again we ask is it safe to do this? Thank You! JR and Marcy

    • Hi Marcy,

      To answer your question, when we travel any further than the Yucatan Peninsula, we always fly. We choose that route because it’s faster and I absolutely loathe long car rides.

  18. One of the many reasons I like Paul’s blog is that he does indeed give precise, concrete, real information about the topics he addresses. He is a wealth of useful and interesting information.

  19. David Twitchell | November 8, 2018 at 4:49 pm | Reply

    Good info Paul, we have done many of the things that you have — for instance buying a house and owning our own car outright prior to moving here. we just renewed our temporal for 3 more years as we just passed our anniversary date here. Are you Temporal or Permanente? Like another commenter I saw earlier, we also live in the Lake Chapala area. Our hoa fees are higher at around 287 US dollars per month but we don’t have a homeowners insurance factored in this gated and quiet community and water is included. A lot of your other pricing seems in the range, but we only pay maybe $30 per month for landline telephone and internet inclusive. But we don’t have 100 MPS speed. We seem to eat out, drink, and dance quite a bit so our overall cost is about triple to your 600 per month but we could easily go on with less. The only thing I wish we could revisit is Shaw television from Canada; it has cost as much as comparable in the US and we’re disappointed in that investment overall. Do you have cable or satellite or do you use internet TV?

    • We’re currently temporary residents but we switch over to Permanent in about 7 months.

      We use a Streamsmart box for television streaming. It works off a system called Kodi. You need a fairly quick Internet connection to make it work or it will keep freezing.

  20. Thanks for sharing this, can’t wait for my turn at this!

  21. Curious about more details on your health insurance plan, if you’re willing to share. I checked with WEA and received some quotes, which were a lot higher than yours, but I included coverage in the U.S. I’m just not sure what we need to have. Do you have emergency flight coverage? The area we plan to move to, next fall, doesn’t have as good as health care as you do close by. Do you worry about coverage when you travel back to the states? I still have my 85 year old mom who can’t travel, so I would need to go back to the U.S. from time to time. Appreciate anything else you can share with me.
    Thanks for all the info you provide, it has helped alot!!

    • The key is NOT to include coverage in the U.S. or Canada. That significantly drops the rate. If you plan on being a full-time resident in Mexico, you can purchase travel insurance when you go back to the States.

      We don’t have emergency flight insurance because we plan on receiving any needed medical attention here in Mexico. The healthcare is very good where we are and there are multiple hospitals and facilities to choose from. That is one of the factors that made us choose this particular area.

      • Thanks for your reply Paul! Our heart and future home is in Zihuatanejo. The health care is not as good as what you have access to in your area. Anything major would require a trip to Morelia or Acapulco.
        I recall in an earlier post, you said your wife had coverage in the U.S. What changed for you to drop it?

  22. Hi Paul
    Can you tell me who your internet provider is please. We need to change ours as we are paying 900 a month for 5mbps…if we’re lucky. Thanks

  23. For those of you that don’t have USA insurance coverage because it’s cost prohibitive you may want to look into signing up with a Christian Healthcare Sharing Ministry as a possible option

  24. Hi Paul and Linda. I think I saw that you were going to put together something about insurance with pre existing conditions and you may have done that I just don’t see it. Im wondering if you know people who have had things like diabetes and cancer and make the move down. Any advice for people who are nervous about them not covering pre existing conditions….something like having to undergo chemo or radiation if a cancer reoccurrence were to take place?

  25. You mentioned about health insurance . Do they have hospitals/clinics/doctors there that accept medicare and/or Medicaid? How about health insurance like Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield or GHI?
    I know some other countries accept them. Thanks 🙂

  26. As a retired expat living in Nicaragua I am considering a move. I get 1576.00 SSI a month. If renting a furnished house would this be enough to live on?

  27. Hi! I live in San Felipe on $953 a month. No way would that be possible in the USA. The Sea of Cortez is right near my front window. Life is great in Mexico.

  28. William E. Thomas | November 11, 2018 at 1:06 pm | Reply

    I’ve lived in Puerto Vallarta for the last 23 years and the cost of living here is VERY much higher than yours! Hard to find a unit without maintenance under $400 USD and some are over $1000 USD. Electricity is sky high (we put solar panels on our house). The Fidecomiso (bank fees for trust) are $650 USD per year and water costs are very high. Dining out is very similar in cost to So. California. Property taxes are going up every year ! Depending on your style of living you can easily spend $100 USD per day for a couple living in Puerto Vallarta. I’m sure people live there for less, but it all depends on where and how you like to live. This part of Mexico is no longer cheaper than the USA. Property costs are very similar to So. California….Condos under $250,000 are hard to find and in “good”areas they are well over $500,000 for a 2 bedroom condo. You’ve got a good deal on the Riviera Maya…

  29. THANK YOU FOR YOUR EXCELLENT INFORMATION.. DAN COOK IN BAKERSFIELD, CA..

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