Living in Playa del Carmen – Retiring, Costs, and Expat Life
Playa del Carmen has gained quite a bit of attention in recent decades, and is one of the fastest growing cities in Latin America. Life in Playa is good, and people move here from all over the world. We get a lot of questions about life here, so want to cover a few basics about living in Playa del Carmen.
A Brief Introduction to Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen, or Playa as it’s known locally, is a city in the state of Quintana Roo on the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico. Playa was once a small fishing village, and began to grow in the late 70’s as a tourist destination. Over the decades, it has grown rapidly as a tourist destination, especially surrounding the area of 5th Avenue.
Like many other beach towns, Playa del Carmen is a relaxed community with lots of expats, visitors, and people from other parts of Mexico. Life is bustling in this small city, but it’s a small community. Everyone knows everyone. It’s a great place to spend time outside, it’s easy to stay healthy, and it’s safer than you may believe.
Retiring in Playa
Many people move to Playa del Carmen from the United States and Canada to retire more comfortably. With the relatively cheap cost of living, beautiful Caribbean beaches, and relaxed atmosphere, it’s an ideal destination to spend your retired years. There are a few concerns we hear from people who wish to retire in Playa del Carmen: safety, healthcare, and real estate.
First, real estate prices have increased rapidly over recent decades. The growth has been steady, and many people are still finding their properties to be incredible investments. Furthermore, the cost is relatively cheap. You can find homes in Playa del Carmen for a hundred thousand American dollars, or you can buy a lot and build your dream home for a few hundred thousand.
As far as healthcare goes, you may be surprised with what you find here in Playa. There are reputable doctors and hospitals like Hospiten in town, and Cancún has some truly top-tier medical facilities. As a hub for medical tourism, you’ll find incredible care at a fraction of the price you’re accustomed to in many other countries (especially the U.S.).
It doesn’t take much surfing on the Internet to find horrible stories of robberies and assaults in Playa del Carmen. However, most of us who live here in Playa never come into contact with violence of any kind. We are a young couple, and we both walk around alone at night without fear. We aren’t silly, and don’t wear Rolex watches around town at night, but we go about our business without much second thought to any danger. More on this below in the Safety in Playa section.
Working in Playa
Maybe you’re not ready to retire, but want to move to Playa to investigate a new way of life. Working in Playa del Carmen may be a little bit different than what you’re used to in your home country. If you wish to get a job here legally, you’ll need to look into getting a Mexican work visa. You may also want to know that a typical Mexican work week is about 10 hours a day, 6 days a week.
On the other hand, there are many digital nomads here in Playa del Carmen (like us). Digital nomads are people who work online, or have a job that is location independent. The community in Playa is pretty supportive, there are groups and meetups, and great coworking spaces.
The Internet connection is not as reliable as it is in countries like Canada or the United States, but it works. Before we moved here, we were quite worried about the Internet quality. We’ve lived in a few places here and have always been fine. We hold online video conferencing sessions and meetings for work, and have no problem connecting from home.
Cost of Living in Playa del Carmen
One of the biggest draws to Mexico for exapts is the cost of living. Relative to Mexican costs, Playa del Carmen seems to be one of the most expensive cities to live in. You will find many different reports of the cost of living in Playa del Carmen, but all we personally know is our own experience. Here’s how it breaks down for us. Prices are in Mexican pesos, as the exchange rate fluctuates.
- Rent – $13,800/month (a private rooftop apartment in the gated community of Playacar)
- Utilities – $800/month (gas, electricity, water)
- Internet – $630/month (about 50 mbps down, 20 mbsp up)
- Cell Service – $600/month (2 phones, 3 Gb data each, unlimited calls/texts to Mexico, U.S., and Canada)
- House Cleaning – $1,000/month (once a week, full cleaning of home, fridge, laundry, etc.)
- Antibiotics – $65 (box of 12 Amoxicillin)
- Street Food – $15/taco (delicious, too!)
- Restaurant (Mid-Range) – $500 (two people)
- Movie Ticket – $40/each
- Doctor Visit – $400
- In-Home Vet Visit – $150 (two cats and a dog)
- Milk – $17/liter
There are things that aren’t included on this list that can add to the cost of living. Golf courses in the area can be pricy (still cheaper than American prices), and you will incur extra costs when going on tours or out to some of the fancier restaurants. Overall, the cost is much cheaper in our experience than our life in the United States.
To offer as full of a look as possible, let us be transparent… We lived in Northern California in a small two-bedroom duplex. Our total costs for rent, food, car insurance, car payments, dining out, and entertaining ourselves was about $6,000/month. Here, our costs are a bit different. We don’t have cars (we have a scooter), so got rid of car payments and insurance. We also don’t have health insurance to pay.
However, we have luxuries here we couldn’t afford in the United States. We have a regular cleaning lady, we have somebody pick up our laundry and drop it right back off at our front door, we have in-home vet visits, and we are able to eat out much more often. All said and done, including entertainment and fun activities, we spend about $2,000 a month.
So, the costs are appealing, but what is it like to actually live in Playa del Carmen? The truth is that there are so many things to do in Playa del Carmen, we haven’t even gotten around to doing all of them. Whether you’re checking out some of the beautiful local beaches, heading to visit some Mayan ruins near Playa, or just spending your time walking around town, there’s a lot to do.
The expat community is fairly active, and we will offer a few links at the end of this post. There are meetups in different parts of town, places where expats hang out, and tons of opportunities to meet people all over the world. We read a few times that it is hard to meet people in Playa, but we’ve found it easier than many places we’ve lived (including New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco).
You can meet people from all over the world. Most expats we know here in Playa have friends from the U.S., England, Germany, Canada, South America, and of course Mexico. It’s a bit of a melting pot, which creates a beautiful culture and interesting friendships.
Many people work tirelessly in Mexico, including expats. However, the flip side is that the relaxing time is likely more relaxing than you can imagine. We used to work 60+ hours a week each, and now work about 25-30 hours. In our free time, we walk to the beach to take a swim, go to dinner or drinks with friends, or take the scooter around town to try something new.
One reason we love living in Playa dle Carmen is the mixture of relaxing beach life and small-city life. As we are from and have lived in relatively big cities (and in country towns), we love that we can play in the street, but still go to parts of town with some hustle and bustle. Overall, it’s a pretty relaxing atmosphere.
When you get to town, we recommend checking out some of the tours in town to get to know what Playa has to offer.
Renting in Playa del Carmen
If you’re new to Mexico and Playa del Carmen, the rental process may seem a little foreign. You can look online for listings, but the only way to seriously rent somewhere is to use agents. Rental prices will vary in different parts of town. Playacar tends to be the most expensive area, and for good reason. The gated community is clean, safe, and offers some of the most upscale homes in town. Living on the other side of the freeway is signficantly cheaper, but you’re farther out of town.
Our advice is to visit different areas. When we first moved to Playa del Carmen, we stayed in a vacation rental for a month. During that first month, we saw apartments and homes all over town. Renting in Playa del Carmen is a bit of a task as you have to go see for yourself, but it’s worth it to know where you want to live. If you are looking for trustworthy agents, feel free to contact us.
Getting Around Town
Playa del Carmen is a small city, but you will need to figure out a way to get around. For those thinking about living in Playa, this is a common question we hear. There are a few things you can do. First, taxis are relatively cheap. From one side of town to the other will run about 100 pesos, with many trips within El Centro running around 50 pesos. We use taxis when we need to go get groceries or it’s raining.
You can also get a car or a scooter. There are of course dangers associated with a scooter anywhere. I’ve had two scooters, and have had one very minor accident. I tore up my toe and needed antibiotics, but nothing major. In general, I find the scooter to be the most efficient way to get around. Gas is cheap as the mileage is good, and it allows some freedom. It’s also cheaper and easier to park than a car.
You can also walk a lot of places, especially if you live toward the center of town. Many of our friends who live in El Centro don’t have any transportation other than their feet! You may consider getting a bicycle, especially if you live a little bit out of town.
Safety in Playa
When we told family and friends we were moving to Mexico, the question of safety was almost always one of the first things brought up. The news would have you think that this area is incredibly dangerous. To be clear, bad things can happen to good people. However, most of us living here never have any brushes with danger of any kind.
Much (almost all) of the violence surrounds a few issues: gangs, money, and drugs. Often, stories come out that an innocent tourist was killed while in Playa. Later, it’s revealed that they were buying or selling drugs, trying to fight off a robbery, or were in a super dangerous area of town. We walk around alone at night in many areas, with no worry about safety.
There are a few things to consider when living anywhere that is a tourist destination or a city. Don’t be dumb. Don’t carry around huge wads of money, don’t wear incredibly expensive jewelry, and don’t wander into areas that you shouldn’t be in. Although neither of us have ever been mugged, the advice is simple: if somebody is robbing you, just give them what they want. You can replace ID cards, credit cards, passports, money, etc.
Finally, there are quite a few resources out there for expats living in Playa del Carmen. When were new to the area, we spent quite a bit of time in the expat groups on Facebook. People are helpful, and you can get some guidance on what to do with new situations. It’s also a great way to meet people, get food recommendations, and find out what is going on with the community.
Expats & Locals Market in Playa del Carmen
Expats & Locals in Playa del Carmen
Expats in Playa del Carmen
Expats Meet Up Playa del Carmen
Real Estate, Expats and Locals Riviera Maya
Locals and Expats. No rules forum
Real Estate for Expats in Playa del Carmen
Mexpats Club (Expats in Playa del Carmen)
Digital Nomads Playa Del Carmen