Imagine a place where the sun shines almost every day, the water is crystal clear, and the locals are warm and welcoming. That place is Bacalar, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
This beautiful town is located in the lush, tropical Mexican state of Quintana Roo and offers a wonderful mix of Mexican culture and Mayan paradise. It's conveniently located about 30 minutes from the state capital, Chetumal, which hosts every store with any modern amenity you could possibly need, including Wal-Mart, Costco, and Home Depot. There are also modern, affordable hospitals in Chetumal, in case you need medical care.
So if you're ready to say goodbye to cold winters and stressful commutes, it's time to explore retiring in Bacalar, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
Qualifying for a Retiree Visa
If you are planning on moving to Mexico to retire, the first step is to research the different visa options and requirements. The retiree visa is a very popular choice for those who want to enjoy their golden years in Mexico. A retired couple can retire very comfortably in Mexico with an average income of about $2,500 a month, or $30,000 a year.
For retirees who want to live in Mexico, the first stop is to visit the nearest Mexican consulate and apply for a permanent resident visa.
Finding a Home and Settling in Bacalar, Mexico
Although there are expensive hotels and pricey waterfront homes, Bacalar is a very affordable place to retire, if you manage your living expenses correctly.
Finding a home in Bacalar, Quintana Roo, Mexico is relatively easy. With a wide range of housing options available, from waterfront condos to homes in town, you're sure to find something that suits your budget and your needs. Using a service like Airbnb or Facebook marketplace, you can find short term rentals as low as $19/night. Monthly rentals range from less than $500 per month for a small studio to several thousand for an entire home near the lake. The closer you rent to the Bacalar Lagoon, the higher the price will be.
You can choose to rent or buy and there are plenty of real estate agents in town who can help you find the perfect place. Some sample prices for a monthly rental on Airbnb are shown below. This search was for the entire month of April 2023 and it's just a sample of the range of different prices that you will see for a monthly and/or short-term rental.
Enjoying the Local Scene and Living the Good Life in Bacalar
You will find a warm and welcoming Mexican community in Bacalar. The locals are friendly and generous, always willing to share their local culture with foreigners. You will be able to experience the real Mexican way of life, from the fabulous local cuisine to traditional celebrations.
Eating out is affordable and you can find fresh fruits and vegetables at the local markets. Plus, there are plenty of activities like scuba diving, horseback riding, lake tours, diving and fishing trips and more that you can enjoy while living here.
If you’re looking for a place to retire that offers a lower cost of living, good healthcare, and plenty of activities and amenities, Bacalar is a great choice. And with a retiree visa available to those over the age of 50, it’s easy to make the move.
Reader Question: I'm looking for advice on lodging in Loreto, Baja CA. I've never been there, nor have I ever been to any of Baja California. I've selected Loreto largely due to advice from your book "Expat's Relocation Guide: Baja CA SUR", the scenery, safety, small town feel, quiet, outdoor recreation, etc..
My main home is near Boise, ID, however I'm recently retired and 6-months of snow don't work for me anymore. I need a month or longer breaks from it. Do you have any advice on the best way to find short-term lodging in Loreto?
I've gotten some ideas from Craigslist, AirBNB, among some other websites. It's hard to select something site unseen that I might stay in for a month or longer. One of my thoughts was to come down with no reservations and just my tent and camping gear. That way I could see something firsthand, before committing to it.
All I really want is a small house for my wife and I and our little Aussie, and of course for a reasonable price. No fancy amenities, just quiet and close to the ocean would be nice. Any help is appreciated.
Nice to hear you are thinking about Baja. It's very nice there; there are a lot of retirees and "snowbirds" that come down just to escape the snow for a few months. As I have said in the book, you can drive down and use your own car (or truck) as a visitor for 180 days. I don't think a tent would be a very good idea, though, unless you are used to very rough living. A little cheap camper shell might be an affordable way to go that also gives you a reasonable place to cook, shower, etc, there are lots of RV lots that cater to Americans in Baja.
The peso is very weak against the U.S. dollar right now, (almost 20:1!) so your U.S. dollars can stretch very very far down here. You can even buy a lot of land for the price of a used car in the U.S. Some U.S. expats do this, then just come down and park their RV on their own lot and enjoy the warm weather, and drive back home when the snow subsides wherever they live.
A "luxury" RV is also cheap down here. For a few thousand dollars, you could have something like this that would give you cooking, eating, and sleeping facilities that would allow you to travel in comfort and see all of Baja at your leisure (note that the price is in PESOS, not dollars! So about $3,800).
You can also purchase a little pop-up in the U.S. and take it down with you, of course. I suggest getting a wheel lock if you take your own car or truck down. Baja is generally very safe but every little bit helps.
An RV is an affordable way to travel, (and the preferred way for retirees in Baja) but you have lots of options, including Airbnb. That is what we used for lodging, and it's easy to get cheaper prices if you book in advance. I looked and it seems that you can get a studio in Loreto for as little as $35 per night. Once you are there, it may be possible to negotiate a longer stay with the owner if you like the place. You can also "walk the town" and you will see lots of rental signs.
However, a word of caution: do not "wire money" or rent anything on the internet sight-unseen, (Craigslist is full of scammers with Mexican rentals that doen't exist). But you can be safe using a recognized service like Airbnb. Also, if you book on Airbnb, always book with a credit card, not a DEBIT card, so your personal funds are protected, get a card with good purchase protection, and make sure that you keep a spare hidden somewhere else with a copy of your passport and driver's license. We have never had a problem using Airbnb, but we also like more affordable travel options, so we are in the market for a nice RV this year so we can travel with all our extended family to all of the beautiful seaside cities in Mexico (Zihuatanejo is our next destination!)
Now, although Loreto is beautiful, I wouldn't decide on a place without seeing all of Baja first. It's easy to drive the entire peninsula in two days or so. My family and I did it together in our little minivan, if we would have had a camper, we would have enjoyed ourselves more. We only stayed in Loreto 1 day, but all the surrounding cities were also very nice. We stayed in San Jose del Cabo for weeks and thought it was beautiful, but there are so many breathtaking places that it's hard to pick a city that we liked more (we probably liked Cabo San Lucas the LEAST, but only because it was a "party" city-- I probably would have loved it in my twenties, but in my forties, not so much...).
I suggest taking your car or truck down and enjoy a lazy drive around the coast, stopping frequently to enjoy the beauty of the place. Assuming you are on Social Security, you can apply for a retiree visa very easily if you decide to settle and even transfer your Social Security funds right to a Mexican bank account, or just use ATMs to make a withdrawl down in Baja and enjoy retiree life for 1/4 of the cost of living in the U.S..
I hope you find a place in Mexico that you can enjoy and call home. We are so happy here and don't regret our move one bit.
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Just a middle-class dad and mom with three young kids, looking to escape the rat race. This is our journey!
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