From the white sandy beaches and the turquoise waters to the hedonism of Spring Break, Cancun is known around the world as the number one coastal destination in Mexico, and one of the most popular beach destinations on the planet. And while most people only come here for vacation, some of us choose to live here full-time. If you think you have what it takes to make this Mexican paradise your home, read on.
Living in Cancun is no different than living in any other beach destination in the United States. The vast majority of people here speak English, which means learning the Spanish language isn’t a hindrance; you can get by without speaking a single word of the local lingo.
That being said, the best rates on apartments in Cancun can only be found if you happen to speak the local lingo and can get boots-on-the-ground. On a random side note, I didn’t speak Spanish for the first six months I lived here; it was only after that point I started to pick up the language and moved out of the English-speaking part of Centro into the outskirts of downtown.
Consequently, once I made the transition my rent dropped by a couple hundred dollars per month.
On top of that, you won’t be able to negotiate for anything if you can’t speak Spanish. And Cancun being Mexico, everything is negotiable. Something I love telling my friends about is the time I was speaking to a mercantile lawyer about a business deal and his reply to one of my technical questions was, “No te preocupes. En México existe muchas vueltas.”
In other words, “Don’t worry; here in Mexico there are many turns.” It simply means there is always a way to get something done as long as you speak Spanish, have a little bit of money to grease the wheels, and know how to navigate the cultural aspects of negotiation and wining/dining a potential business partner.
As far as amenities go, living here is exactly like being in California. One of my best friends actually talks about how he feels like he hasn’t left San Diego, because the layout and design of the newer parts of the city look exactly like anything you’d find on the West Coast of the United States. There’s movie theaters, Home Depot and Costco, Sam’s Club and Walmart, gymnasiums, spa and massage parlors, and more five-star resorts than Las Vegas, Nevada. Including the world’s largest all-inclusive resort: the Moon Palace, where I was lucky enough to stay for four nights on-the-house during TBEX in Cancun, Mexico in September, 2014 when I was a featured speaker on advanced Facebook marketing.
We personally prefer to stick to fully furnished long-term rentals in Cancun as opposed to unfurnished apartments, but if you have furniture from the United States or Canada and you are looking at moving to Cancun with all of your supplies, that’s an option as well, although you will need car insurance and some extra paperwork related to your vehicle. There’s an excellent guide on driving in Mexico here.
The cost of living in Cancun is one of the major selling points of the city. Cristina and myself usually stick to two-bedroom apartments in downtown, which usually rent out at around 600 – 650 USD a month, fully furnished and with all utilities included. Before she lived with me I was renting a one bedroom studio apartment for around US$400, fully furnished as well, and with all utilities.
If you want to go high-end in the Hotel Zone, double those prices during low season with 6+ month or longer leases, and quadruple those prices for high season.
The city center is always abuzz with local activities. The downtown park, known as Parque Las Palapas, usually has cultural events every single weekend. Beyond that, there are also dozens of beaches to choose from, not just in the hotel zone but also in the coastline surrounding, up and down the Riviera Maya and out at Isla Mujeres. Check out our video of Turtle Beach below, and our Cancun page for our entire collection of videos from our four+ years in the region.
Getting into the country is very easy, since Mexico is one of the only countries in the world where you can arrive on your passport and stay for up to six months without a visa. And if you wants to pursue a residency visa at some point down the road, the process is extremely straightforward. You can find all the relevant details on getting your visa in our guidebook for living in Cancun.
If you need a vacation rental for a short-term stay, you are better off using Craigslist or AirBnB, but if you plan on looking into long-term rental property, let us know. Cristina runs her Cancun Apartment Rentals agency which helps people find apartments and houses for three months or longer durations. The best prices on properties are always found on the long-term rentals of six months or longer, because you can negotiate down with the managers or owners, if you speak Spanish and have a local connections.
There’s also plenty of parks and plazas to choose from, and if you like jogging in the early morning hours and happen to live downtown, you can always sneak over to the Eco Park Kabah for the jogging trails. Get there early, because by 6:30 in the morning the trails are packed with joggers getting in their morning runs before work.
The Mexican government has done an extremely good job at making the transition so easy that you won’t even realize you are in another country while living in Cancun. Everything is extremely streamlined and specifically designed for the English-speaking, North American clientele, so no matter where you go in the matter what you do, it will be almost impossible for you to determine that you even left the United States or Canada behind.
Another secret to living here is the fact that if you have your residency visa you get the same “rights” as Mexicans for many of the local services, such as discounts off restaurants and hotels with a flash of your ID. On top of that, all of the national parks and museums, nation-wide, are free on Sundays for natives as well as residents. Plus, the only way you can open up a bank account in Mexico is if you have a visa.
Let us know if you are coming! We aren’t always in the city, but even if we aren’t physically there we have plenty of friends who can meet up and show you around and give you the local welcome.
If you are looking for more information on how to get your visa or for Cancun and Mexico in general, you can pick up our Live Like a Local Cancun guide, packed with other restaurant recommendations, apartment and condo referrals, tips on navigating the public transportation system, local negotiation tips and strategies, market and discount day overviews and more!