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An affordable life

The cost of living in Mexico is considered to be low due to the weakness of the Mexican peso compared to the Great British pound (GBP) or U.S. dollar (USD), for example.

As such, many expats can expect to enjoy a very comfortable quality of life, even in the capital city, and should easily be able to afford luxuries such as a driver, cleaner, cook, gardener and childminder. An expat couple living a non-extravagant lifestyle (i.e. mid-range housing, domestic help, dining out twice per week, etc.) could comfortably live on $2,000–$2,500 per month. The cost of living will depend on location and lifestyle, but prices across the board compare very favourably to those in the U.K. and U.S. and are incomparable to the cost of living in capital cities in those countries.

There’s lots of useful information on the cost of living in Mexico at, here.

Tipping customs for expats in Mexico 

Expats usually leave tips in restaurants for around 20% of the cost of their meal (this might rise to 40% if the meal was a very inexpensive one, as the tip is for service, not simply based on a formula). Similarly, if staying in hotels, it is usual to tip the maid on a daily basis (usually 20-50 pesos) and to leave a larger tip at the end of the stay. In order to ensure that the tip is taken, a “gracias” note should be left with the first tip to indicate that the money has not been left accidently and is intended for the maid to take. Tips should be left on a pillow, and placed in the same place every day.

It’s not expected that taxi drivers will be tipped, except if they carry bags, etc., and the people (often children or elderly people) packing groceries into bags at supermarkets are usually unpaid, so tips should always be paid to them (10–20 pesos, and more if they carry bags to the car). Most service industry employees earn very low wages and rely on tips to sustain themselves and their families. These roles should be the focus of tipping behaviour in Mexico.

Note: foreign coins have no value in Mexico as even the banks will not exchange them, and should therefore never be used to tip.

Counting the cost of moving to a new country is one of the first steps you should take when you’re thinking of relocating. But can you afford to have inadequate health care cover? Speak to one of our expert sales team today.

Making the most of your money


When thinking about moving to Mexico, you have two main options when looking to find a suitable bank account. You can either open an account before you arrive or open one with a Mexican bank once you have relocated.

Before you arrive 

You may need to open an account with either an international bank or a Mexican bank that has international branches.

International banks 

Most of the major banks in your city of origin, such as Barclays (UK), the Bank of America Corporation (U.S.) or Toronto Dominion Bank (Canada), have international banking facilities. You may well be able to open an international account through your current bank.

However, there are limitations and you’ll need to check if you meet the criteria of individual banks. One of the main considerations with international accounts is that you have to maintain a fairly high balance compared to current accounts with local branches. The good news is that international accounts will often come with benefits as well, such as travel insurance, so they can be the best option for many expatriate customers.

Many banks in Mexico have been bought by large international corporations and so international banks in Mexico include the likes of Bank of America Mexico, Barclays Bank Mexico, Deutsche Bank Mexico, HSBC Mexico and Santander Mexico. Opening an account with one of these banks will be possible before relocating to the country. You can opt to have an international account in the currency of your choice, in this case the Mexican peso.

Once you have arrived 

If you choose to open an account with a local or regional Mexican bank, you’ll need to take the following documents with you to the bank when you arrive:

  • Official photo ID document (e.g. passport).
  • Proof of address (e.g. utility bill, no more than two months old).
  • Your Única de Registro de Población (CURP) or personal ID card (a social security card available from the local tax office).
  • Your visa.

Some banks may also require you to have one or two referees as part of the application process, so check this information before applying. The main benefits of choosing the option of banking locally are that you can find fee-free accounts and accounts that do not require large balances to be maintained. In fact, you’ll be able to operate these types of accounts exactly as you do with your current account at home.

Bank notes 

Once in Mexico, a tip that will help you not to lose money is that any bank notes issued before 1993 are now invalid, meaning that even banks will no longer swap them for legal tender. If you are given a note with a pre-1993 date on it, refuse to accept it, as it’s not worth the paper it’s printed on. Similarly, torn or defaced notes are not accepted by Mexican banks, so you shouldn’t accept them as change.

Always have some cash on you 

It’s always wise to have a range of denominations of pesos on you, including notes and coins. Many people, taxi drivers for example, will either genuinely not have or claim to not have the correct change for you. If you hand over the correct money with any tip you want to add on top, you’ll avoid losing fairly significant amounts of cash in certain situations.


One of the best ways to save money in Mexico is to shop as the locals do. Many excellent large supermarkets can be found across Mexico and you’ll no doubt want to use these for much of your staple food shopping.

But making use of the local markets will save you money on items such as fruit and vegetables, and is also a fantastic way to begin to immerse yourself in Mexican life and culture. Mexican markets are vibrant, colourful and lively places to visit. The best time to buy food at the markets is in the morning, which is when the vendors have their freshest produce available. Clothes shopping is often best done later, around midday.  

Always take pesos with you to markets. It is possible to use credit cards at some markets, but you will not get the best exchange rates if it’s a foreign card and Mexican credit cards typically charge high rates of interest.


At traditional Mexican markets, it’s certainly worth using your best negotiation skills to get a better price for goods. The key things to remember are to arrive early, as merchants will want to kick off their day with as many sales as possible, and exercise a certain air of practised nonchalance. If you seem interested but do not appear desperate for the item, you are far more likely to achieve a good deal.

Street food

There’s nothing like eating out to get the taste of a new country. There will be times when you want a sit-down meal to enjoy the atmosphere of a restaurant, but don’t dismiss the opportunity to sample some delicious and nutritious meals from street vendors. Gorditas, for example, are a hearty and cheap Mexican food, a type of thick tortilla (gordita means “chubby” in Spanish) that is filled with meat or cheese. These can be bought for the equivalent of around US$2. As with anywhere else in the world, exercise the normal caution in checking for cleanliness.

Rural versus urban

You’ll find how much you need to spend will vary across locations in Mexico, and the basic rule of thumb is that living in more rural areas is far cheaper than being in cities. The greatest savings will be made on accommodation outside of the cities and the more remote you go, the less you will pay for property. That said, your pocket will feel considerably lighter if all of your food and clothes shopping is done in large city retail outlets.

Public transport

Public transport is relatively cheap in Mexico, so to save money, use it whenever possible — many expats find that they can even live without having a car once they’ve relocated.

Buses, trains and the metro system will all cost you less than those in either the U.K. or the U.S. and you’ll find that both Mexico City and Monterrey have good metro systems. Bus travel has seen massive improvements in Mexico since the 1990s when the road infrastructure in the country began to be upgraded and improved. There is now an efficient and well-run national bus network, which enables easy and cheap travel between major cities and towns. Local buses are also cheap but, be warned, they can be incredibly busy at peak times with no limitations on the number of people allowed to travel on them. Having a working knowledge of Spanish will be a real plus when using any public transport.

Avoid being ripped-off at gas stations

If you are travelling in your own car and need to fill up, here are some tips to avoid being short-changed:

  • Even though all pumps are full service, stand next to the pump and check that the dial is set back to zero.
  • Know the fuel capacity of your vehicle (e.g. 50 litres), so you can check you are not charged for more fuel than your car can physically take.
  • Ensure that the fuel gauge has risen before you drive off, to check that you have actually received the fuel paid for.
  • Always try to pay with cash, to keep your credit card details safe. As you hand over the cash, it is wise to state aloud the amount you are handing over. In this way, you are far less likely to have an attendant claim you gave them a smaller denomination.
  • Likewise, when paying for your fuel, always insist upon a receipt so that you avoid being told that you spent 70 pesos, when in fact your fuel only cost 65 pesos, thus enabling the cashier to pocket the “extra” five pesos.
  • Tip the attendant say 10–20 pesos, but only if they wash your windscreen as well.  

Making the most of your money also means getting the best deal for your health care cover. Pick up the phone and talk to us today about the kind of provision you’ll need for you and your family for your move abroad.

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