Moving to Playa del Carmen – The 2019 Guide for Expats
Every year, people move from their home countries to the beautiful town of Playa del Carmen. Moving to Playa del Carmen can be scary, and we’ve created this guide to help answer some commonly asked questions about the move. If you’re interested in life in Playa del Carmen, check out our post Living in Playa del Carmen – Retiring, Costs, and Expat Life.
When we moved to Playa, it was a huge choice. People thought we were crazy, and it took months of back-and-forth before we decided to take the plunge. We had tons of questions, and were grateful to learn a lot along the way. We’re glad we worked through the fear to find the freedom we were looking for.
Why Move to Playa del Carmen?
People move to Mexico for all kinds of reasons. One of the biggest reasons people move here is because of the cost of living. Although Playa del Carmen is one of the more expensive cities in Mexico, it’s far cheaper than most places in the United States and Canada. Although moving to Playa del Carmen can be expensive at first, the overall cost of living is much cheaper. Many come here to make their retirement money go further, or to continue their remote work.
People also choose Playa del Carmen because of the large expat community and relaxed way of living. There are tons of expats in Playa del Carmen from all over the world, creating an awesome melting pot. Life is pretty mellow in the beach town, offering a reprieve from the chaos of American and other foreign cities.
Finally, the weather is wonderful in Playa del Carmen. Some people come down just for the high season when the weather is at its best. It rains a lot in summer, and it can get quite warm and humid. However, the tropical weather is a relief for many living in snow and cold climates.
Things to Know Before Moving
Before moving to Playa del Carmen, you should definitely do your research. You may read a lot of conflicting or scary information on the Internet. There were quite a few things we were curious about when we arrived, so we want to cover a few of these questions.
First, there’s the issue of water in Playa del Carmen. Yes, you cannot drink the tap water. However, it’s not a huge issue. We get alkaline water delivered right to our front door for just a couple of US dollars. We just text the number when we are running low, and they deliver a new jug quickly and painlessly.
Next, safety is a minor concern. Honestly, don’t move to a shady part of town. Living here, we have never come into contact with aggression or violence at all. As long as you stay away from shady stuff and people, you’ll be fine. Don’t be scared by the excessive reports in the media. It really isn’t as dangerous or scary as they’d have you believe.
Next, consider the process of renting in Playa del Carmen. Make sure you’re familiar with the cost of living in Playa del Carmen and that it makes sense on your budget. If you’re coming from elsewhere in North America, it’s likely that Playa is much cheaper.
Before moving to Playa del Carmen, you have to consider your obligations. Forwarding mail, handling outstanding loans, etc. can be time-consuming. In our experience, lenders don’t like you leaving the country, so you may consider changing your address to a trusted friend or family member’s address. You also have to prepare to cancel things like Internet, utilities, cell phones, etc.
Finally, figure out your visa situation. There are many types of visa to enter Mexico, so consider your options. Many people come down on tourist visas, and this works as long as you’re willing to leave every few months to renew your visa.
Making the Move to Playa
We only moved once, but our experience is that you should plan your move months in advance. Relocating to Playa del Carmen from another country takes a lot of work. Here’s how we did it, and it went pretty smoothly.
First, we booked our flights and a vacation rental through AirBNB. You can also investigate staying in one of the many hotels in Playa del Carmen. It will be more pricy, but less risk as you know what you’re getting. We booked our place for a month, in the area we knew we wanted to live. This gave us a date set in stone where we were moving, and made it completely real.
Over the next few months, we put our stuff into different sections. One was things we wanted to take, another was stuff we were going to sell, and the final was stuff to put in storage. This was tough, but we figured it out. We had multiple garage sales, sold stuff online, and gave stuff away to friends.
We handled cancelling all of our bills, updating our addresses and setting paperless billing in our accounts, and got really ready to go. Of course, we were left in a home without furniture or Internet the last few days, but it’s part of the price you pay! Getting out was hard, but it was quickly worth it.
To prepare for your arrival in Playa del Carmen, you will want to do a few things:
- Get some pesos at your local bank just to be prepared
- Check to see if your phone will work with Mexican plans (more on this later)
- Make sure you have active passports that don’t expire this year
- Bring any products you LOVE that may be hard to find here
Arriving in Playa del Carmen
There are many ways to get from Cancún to Playa del Carmen when you arrive. We just simply took a taxi outside the airport. There’s no reason to book anything ahead of time. Even with a bunch of huge suitcases, a dog, and two cats, we had no problem grabbing a van to take us right where we were going.
Our recommendation is to slow down and take your time. Get your cell phone set up, get some groceries, and make sure you have pesos (paying with cards and dollars is pointlessly wasting money, read our post Should You Pay in Pesos or Dollars in Mexico? for more about this). If you don’t have water, head to an Oxxo to get some. You may also want to figure out basics like where the nearest grocery store is, where the nearest hospital is (hopefully you won’t need it), and where the dangerous areas of town are.
Common Questions & Issues
So, there is SO much you may wonder when moving or arriving. First, you can always contact us with any questions. We don’t charge anything, we don’t bite, and we’re happy to help! If you have What’s App, let us know and we will send you our number for easy text communication!
There are a handful of cell providers in Playa del Carmen. We recommend going with Telcel. They’re one of the biggest companies, and the service is excellent. We pay about 300 pesos a month for 3 GB of data, along with unlimited calls and texts to and from Mexico, the United States, and Canada. When you travel in North America, all of your minutes and data are included on your regular plan.
Getting set up with Telcel the first time can be confusing. If you have a phone that works with Telcel (most unlocked phones will), all you need is a SIM. Known as chips here in Mexico, you can buy one easily at any Oxxo. Just get an Amigo Sin Limite chip and put a few hundred pesos on it. From there, you can create an account on the Telcel website and activate your plan. In the future, all you have to do is go to Oxxo once a month and give them your phone number to add another month to your plan. You can also do it online easily.
There are many companies providing easy water service right to your door. Expect to pay 30-50 pesos for a jug of water delivered, depending on the company. We go with one of the more expensive ones who delivers alkaline water. Try searching Facebook to see your options.
Finding a Longer-Term Place
To find a long-term place, you’ll need to find some agents. We called every agent we could find, and saw a ton of places. We ended up renting from an agent that we met right when we got here, and he is awesome. We’ve recommended him to many friends, and he’s always been helpful, honest, and thorough. If you need help finding a trustworthy agent, just reach out to us.
Traveling with Pets
If you’re traveling with pets or considering bringing your animals with you from another country, you may get scared by the information out there. We brought two cats and a dog, and it really wasn’t that hard. We flew Aeromexico, as they had the cheapest flight costs for animals. They handled them well, and all went smoothly.
To bring animals into Mexico, just remember you will need a health certificate from your vet. Call a local vet in your country, and ask if they do health certificates for Mexico. If they do, and are confident, they’ll know what to do. Don’t get tricked into paying a company thousands of dollars to help with paperwork. Customs was super easy, the people were friendly (even with limited Spanish), and they helped us fix issues with paperwork. Do remember that if you have a layover, you will need ample time to take your animals through customs before your next flight.