How Must Does It Cost To Live In Mexico City?

Mexico City market
Living in Mexico City can be an amazingly cost-effective experience, especially if you're earning the US dollar or similar. Most things are astoundingly cheap. The subway is 3 pesos per ride (24 cents), produce (especially from the market) is bountiful and inexpensive, and you can rent a room for as little as 2000 pesos a month ($158). 

Of course, you can spend serious money in Mexico City if you drive, shop at Antara and other top malls, rent a fancy Polanco condo, and eat at restaurants in La Condesa. However, if you take public transportation, cook with market food or eat at street stands, really scour the rental listings, drink at cantinas, and buy your clothes/house supplies at discount grocers or markets you can live like a king on your home currency (or comfortably on the peso).

I should note that 6000/month rooms are the norm for foreigners. I succeeded in finding rooms at 3500, though if you really look and are willing to live in a more interesting neighborhood you can find them for 2000.

However, not everything is cheap. Long distance buses are reliable and comfortable but they can be expensive. A round-trip ticket to Acapulco or Guanajuato, for example, averages over 800 pesos ($63), though that's better than driving because the tolls are steep. Imported clothes and books are wildly overpriced as are electronics. You will want to buy your iPod, latest Dan Brown paperback, laptop, or Banana Republic sweater in your home country, believe me. You can find cheap generic medication but the quality could be compromised. The good stuff will cost as much as at home or more.

You also have to factor in the cost of a visa run. Thankfully, tourist visa in Mexico are valid for an astounding 180 days or six months. But the border is far. You can nab cheap round-trip flights through Volaris or even Interjet for less than $200 to U.S. border towns, Cancun (a six hour bus takes you to Belize), or even Guatemala City. But I consider this money well-spent as you'll be forced to explore fascinating new places. Guatemala is cheap cheap cheap so I'd suggest heading that way, especially since Antigua is less than an hour from the airport.

As for heading home for a visit, Mexico City isn't a sun destination so flights are expensive. A round-trip flight to Toronto, Canada is at least $600, if not $800. Interjet has cheap flights to a couple of US cities.

To give you a better idea of what you can expect to spend, I've broken down costs by category (in pesos, with costs in US dollars in brackets):

Basic Budget Per Month
  • Rent (room in shared apartment, all included): 3500 ($275)
  • One bedroom apartment: 6500 ($511)
  • Groceries at discount supermarket: 2000 ($158)
  • Cell phone (pay-as-you-go): 200 ($16)
  • Internet (shared): 200 ($16)
  • Public transportation: 500 ($40)
  • Bottled water: 120 ($9.50)
  • TOTAL: $514.50 room / $747.50 1 bedroom
Caveats: I only use my cell for necessary texts as airtime is expensive here. I'm also a pretty thrifty grocery shopper and I try to avoid buying pricey packaged goods. Internet service is basic. Public transportation includes one round-trip subway trip per day, limited use of the Metrobus (which is 6 pesos per ride) and one round-trip standard bus ride per day (5 pesos per ride). I also haven't included medical insurance. I buy my very basic travel insurance for about $125/six months through Travel Cuts. Entertainment also not included.

Average Costs
  • Tacos and drinks for two at a street stand: 45 ($3.5)
  • Cab ride waaaaayyyy across town: 75 ($6)
  • Short cab ride: 25 ($2)
  • Nice dinner out for two including drinks and tip: 500 ($40)
  • Movie: 60 ($5)
  • Beer: 25 ($2)
  • Coffee and sweet bun at a street stand: 16 ($3)
  • Yoga class: 150-200 (max $16)
  • Paperback book: 200 ($16)
  • Small tank of gas: 225 ($18)
  • Medical check-up (low-quality): free at Farmacias del Ahorro
  • Medical check-up (better quality): 300/visit ($24)
  • Haircut: 100 ($8)
Please let me know if I've missed anything and I'd be happy to edit the above.

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