Cost of Living in Chapala

A reader asked us about the cost of living in Chapala and housing availability. We suspected that the cost of living question would arise, yet I write this with some trepidation. The cost of living here is dependent on two major variables and boy do they vary.

So let’s unpack the variables. Let’s go with the simpler one first: the relative value of the (for us) U.S. dollar and the Mexican peso. Over the last few years, the peso has been declining in relative value to the dollar, so in that sense the cost of living in Mexico has become increasingly less costly. At present, we are withdrawing from our U.S.-based bank accounts at an exchange rate of between 17 and 18 pesos. Just a few years ago, the exchange rate hovered around 10 pesos to a dollar. So, relatively speaking Mexico has gotten cheaper and cheaper for those with U.S. dollars.

[A parenthetical insert here–locally the prices in pesos are symbolized exactly like both U.S. and Canadian currency. This still knocks us for a loop on occasion. Walking into Walmart, you’ll immediately see laptops and HD tvs, with $ signs on them in the thousands. Not to worry, the prices are in pesos, so yes, you have to do the math to approximate what you’re paying in U.S. or Canadian currency.]

The second variable about the cost of living in Chapala is the most difficult to gauge: lifestyle.

For example, we currently rent an apartment (called a condominium here) for $650 U.S. dollars. This is a little bit on the pricey side in Chapala. Perfectly decent one bedroom apartments can be had for as little as $400. Typically, apartments come with utilities included in the rent, although this is not always so.

In our case, we get electricity, water, trash collection, and internet included with our rent. (We also have a pool just off our back patio….and we are just two blocks from the lake and the malecon.)

Now I am talking cost of living in Chapala specifically here. Once you look in Ajijic you have a different story. Ajijic is generally more upscale and the costs of renting reflect that difference. Yes, you can find rentals in Ajijic on the lower side, yet prices of $800 to $1200 U.S. are more abundant (again here, one to two bedrooms).

From there, you can rent all the way up into the thousands of dollars per month.

As to availability, supply is more limited in the snowbird months of November to April than from May to October. That said, our observation is that it is relatively easy to find rentals at any time. The Lake Chapala Society in Ajijic has a bulletin board with listings as does the local Walmart (it’s on the wall near the shopping carts). Also, just walking around you’ll see For Rent (En Renta) signs on potential dwellings. Also literally just ask around as you explore.

If you have a vehicle you will be paying about the same price for fuel as in the U.S.

Where we observe the biggest differences in the cost of living in Chapala are with food and healthcare.

We’ll explore these in our next post, coming soon.

Living la vida calma, Bob and Bonita


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