> The Peoples Guide to Mexico: Finding work and Renting in Puerto Vallarta
The People's Guide To Mexico

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Puerta Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta:
Renting a House - Finding Work? Part ll

Answered by Robert & Deborah Foster


Hi Robert,

While considering a relocation move to Mexico many questions arise. First, being -- Money! How much will we need to live nicely (not extravagant) in a quiet neighbor in Mexico? In the beginning we would like to rent.

I have always worked and mostly enjoyed my career. Don't know if I am ready to fully retire yet. Will we be able to work if we want or need to?

How much does internett service and local cable cost? We exercise regularly and besides outdoor activities we also enjoy a gym. Are there many local gyms?

What is the situation for receiving daily US Newspapers? What is the availability of books written in English?

On the subject of health care; do we need to keep our US medical insurance? Of course, we'll need a car & again the subject of insurance comes up.

Thank you for your help.

Lisa & Rick

Robert Responds

Hola, que tal?

You've asked about a wide range of topics. They're the sort of questions many people have. I'll try to give you meaningful, useful responses to each, to the extent that I'm capable.

You describe yourself as something of a money-driven workaholic. Nothing wrong with that. Takes all kinds. But, you may have a tough time adjusting here, if you're used to working for others in a structured environment. Entrepreneurs, with a slightly fatalistic streak, and an ironic sense of humor, tend to do much better.

Working in Mexico

Work permits can be obtained in some limited instances, for high-tech specialty jobs, or real-estate sales. But they're scarce, and must be obtained for you by the sponsoring company. Most gringos who need to generate money here start their own businesses. Permission to do that is much easier to come by. Even easier if you have FM-3 migracion status.

Many foreign entrepreneurs do extremely well here. Many more struggle for a few months, or a year or two, then pack it in and go home, having run through all available energy and capital. Growth in PV is absolutely explosive, with all the opportunity that implies. But, the local bureaucracy, the different customs, and different ways of doing business, will stress and exhaust you more than you may think. When your money is on the line, and you're not getting answers to your questions, or the answers you're getting seem contradictory; when people don't seem to understand the "urgent seriousness" (heh heh) of your situation, when nothing seems to make any sense at all, you can feel as if you're trapped in a culture-shock nightmare.

This is especially tough for people with "control issues." You've GOT to learn to let things slide, accept more uncertainty and apparent chaos, even in money matters, or you'll go nuts. For example, I know of one guy who was trying to build a house in the mountains above town, near El Tuito. The rigors, uncertainties, and setbacks of this little project did him in. He had a nervous breakdown (literally) and moved back to Canada.

The good news is that often, much of the sense of chaos, of things snowballing out of control, is an illusion, a symptom of stress, paranoia and culture shock. Often, things do have a way of working out here, in their own way and own time, just when they seem most hopeless and baffling.

Is Speaking Spanish Important?

You don't say how well you speak Spanish. If you don't have some degree of real fluency, start studying like a fiend right now. Get serious about it. Get some books and devote at least an hour a day to it. Nothing will enable you to deal with life here more efficiently, economically, and enjoyably than some practical proficiency with the language. Many people, when they are planning to move down, know a few words, or a few phrases, and kid themselves that they speak Spanish. They're shocked to find how confused, panicked and helpless they feel when a rushed bank clerk is trying to explain why their last deposit is going to be classified as "held funds" for another three weeks.

That's not to say you can't survive here without Spanish. You can. It's just a lot harder and always more expensive. (I even know one gringo real estate tycoon-wannabe who has done well using a full-time secretary-translator. He's lived here for 13 years and disdains learning the language of his adopted country. His loss, in my opinion.)

What will it cost

Deborah and I live a bit more simply and cheaply than the lifestyle you have in mind for yourself I think. But, based on what you describe, I'll take a WAG (wild-ass guess) on a budget for you two. Say, $1600 a month low end-2,000 a month high end. The variables are endless of course. How many long distance calls will you make to back home? How often will you run the air conditioner? How much will you spend on booze? Will you want a nice car, with full insurance? And on an on.


Rent might run you $800 to 1,000. That's more than I would normally say, but I'm bumping it up a couple of hundred a month because of your emphasis on quietness. If you insist on an always quiet neighborhood, you won't be able to live in working class Mexico. You'll be forced into a remote rancho in the countryside, or a freestanding walled house in a more upscale area.

Even then, there are no ironclad guarantees. Let's assume you rent a place at the end of a dirt road, 22 miles from town. You think, this is great! It's totally dead out here. Total tranquility! Well, unless you are also renting the surrounding acreage, you may not have things under control quite as much as you thought.

What a surprise when every Saturday night a group of old Dodge pickups pulls up under that big tree just down the road and has a huge family cookout and fiesta, with music so loud it rocks your mundo until 4 a.m. You later learn that they've been partying there every Saturday night for the last 14 years, with no end in sight.

Even upscale neighborhoods often have big family bashes, or rent homes out to vacationers. Even if you live in upscale Conchas Chinas (in fact, especially if you live in Conchas Chinas), the place next to you may be rented out to a group of vacationing college kids every other week. Hope you like Metallica and drunken, bratty screaming on the terrace at 2 a.m.

I think the best approach is to select an affordable, freestanding house in a working class neighborhood (obviously, avoid a place close to cantinas, pool halls, or the rodeo grounds) and hope for the best. Learn to live with the occasional family party in the distance, the car alarms, the fireworks during fiestas, and the crowing roosters. Once you make up your mind to accept it, you'll probably be able to get used to it all. Mostly, it becomes part of the normal background noise of life.

A Car

If you get FM-3 status, you can bring a car and keep it with you as long as that status is maintained. I wouldn't bother bring a car, however. I'd just buy something here. Plenty of selection of used and new. We have an old Safari and just carry minimum liability (required by law). Runs us around $140 a year.


Mexican national health insurance through IMSS (the Social Security system here) can be purchased by foreign residents. Runs around $300 or so per person per year. We don't bother. We're in good health, and prefer to pay out of pocket for private care if the need arises. Even private care is so affordable that just paying as you go is a viable option, depending upon your risk tolerance and the depth of your resources.

Gyms are all over the place here. There's one just up the street from my house.

PV English Library

PV has a beautiful new library with a fair selection of books in English. And, newsstands in town sell major newspapers of course, but they're often a day or two behind, and go for several dollars each. Why not just read the NY Times on the web everyday?

Internet, Cable & Satellite

Unlimited internet service from Telmex is about $20 (US) a month.

Cable and satellite mini-dish service is ubiquitous here. Basic cable in my neighborhood is about $20, and includes a lot of channels in English.

Hope that's helpful.

Robert and Deborah Foster

Return to Part I: Renting in Puerto Vallerta

Budget Living in Puerto Vallarta
An Interview with Robert & Deborah Foster
Buying Coastal Property


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