The first place we visited in Baja California Sur was La Paz, the state capital. For us, the main highlight of La Paz was the waterfront promenade, or El Malecón, as it is called by the locals. This spectacular pedestrian walkway and strip of swimmable beaches is the city’s main attraction, a must-see for anybody visiting La Paz.
The Malecón offers wide sidewalks (wide enough for bicyclists and roller skaters to use), beautiful local artwork, and benches just a few feet from the ocean, and many other attractions along the way. People often ride their bikes and go for walks there.
Many of the residents we spoke with said the city’s gorgeous waterfront was the primary reason they chose to live in this area. La Paz is the political center of the region, as well as an important commercial center in its own right. You can enjoy beautiful sunsets, a myriad of water activities, and the authentic feel of a city that has yet to lose its charm to huge skyscrapers and thousands of tourists. La Paz has a population of about a quarter-million residents. The city is full of people from all walks of life and boasts great hospitals, many schools, and a number of restaurants, bars, and shops. Life in La Paz is laid-back, but never dull.
There is plenty to do here, and the beach is only a short drive away from any area of the city. If you’re looking for a city full of beautiful scenery without the resort town feel, La Paz may just be the place for you and your family to settle down in Mexico.
We spoke with La Paz local, Carole who was originally from Canada. She was walking her little dog on El Malecón when we stopped and spoke with her.
Carole: I’m originally from Ontario, Canada, but I hate the cold. My husband and I were both looking for a warmer climate. We got lucky because a job basically fell into his lap. He was a college instructor, and he got an offer to come teach down in Baja, so we jumped at the chance.
I wasn’t sure I would like La Paz, because the city itself seems rather congested, but as soon as I saw the waterfront, I knew that I could be happy here, as long as we lived close to the water. We got a nice rental near the water, and now I walk my dog down here every single day. It’s done wonders for my stress levels. My husband teaches during the day, and I work online, but only part-time. We are living comfortably here on a third of what we were earning in Canada.
And no more snow!
Colegio El Camino is a bilingual, Private K-12, nonsectarian, nonprofit organization governed by a permanent board of governors. There are over 400 students from all different countries and backgrounds.
El Camino offers education in Los Cabos to students from all nationalities, religions, cultures and socio-economic standing. In addition to their bilingual curriculum they offer support services including licensed psychologists, a mentoring program, career and college counseling, a nutrition program recognized by AdvancED as an outstanding practice, afternoon academic academies, afternoon sports program, the Camino Language Acquisition Support Program (C.L.A.S.P), para-academic workshops and the IB Diploma CAS (Creativity, Action and Service) program.
Communication is a key component in any successful institution and to guarantee that parents are informed and the lines of communication are open and easily accessible we are equipped with their bilingual website www.elcamino.edu.mx.
Heath Sparrow is the Headmaster at Colegio El Camino, and you can contact him through the school's official website.
Today we are exploring the beautiful port city of Manzanillo, in the Mexican state of Colima. It is a busy port town on the Pacific coast. There is a lot happening here, and we weren't sure what to expect when we arrived. It is obvious that there is a lot of wealth here--and a fair amount of poverty, as well, as you go inland and away from the private beaches.
The weather has been beautiful since day one. It's not very hot or humid, although warm enough to swim every single day. The skies have been blue and gorgeous. Some of the beaches have been very crowded, although there are private beaches that are available to those who stay in exclusive areas. There are many beaches worth exploring, and we have visited several since our arrival.
We are staying in "La Punta" which is a developed community in a wealthier part of Manzanillo. The area itself seems very secure. There are a lot of federal police to protect the tourists here. The police are armed, and they tour the public beaches in pairs and hand out informational flyers to anyone who looks like a tourist.
Playa La Boquita in Manzanillo, Mexico
We visited Playa La Boquita yesterday and rented a palapa and chairs for 180 pesos (about $11 US dollars). The beach itself is very nice and safe to swim, the waves are not rough and there are lifeguards. This is an authentic Mexican beach experience. Playa La Boquita is just minutes outside of Manzanillo.
Don't get scammed into paying for parking when you drive in. The parking on the beach itself is free, although the palapas are not. Stay away from the rocky areas of the beach (on the right hand side, and for many meters towards the center of the beach). The rocks are painful on the feet and some have urchins. But there is an area in the middle with no rocks and the water is warm and pleasant to swim. Lots of great food and beach vendors selling fruit and oysters, I stepped on a rock and got a small urchin spike that I had to remove with a needle later, back at our condo. Wear water shoes. Otherwise the beach is very safe, pleasant, and the water is safe for swimming.
There are some expensive condos nearby that are linked to the beach by a pedestrian bridge. We saw locals cross over and walk their dogs along the water.
We had some fantastic food while we were there, and the kids had a blast playing in the sand all day. It's an affordable day trip because you can cart your own food in, including beer, soft drinks, and anything else you can carry to your table. The only expense we had at the beach itself was the rental of the palapa, although there were some locals who brought their own chairs and beach umbrellas as well as their own food.
Hi! I just found your blog. Love it! We are moving to Tulum! I have an 8 year old and a 12 year old. Its difficult to find any information on schools in Tulum. I'm not sure that there are even any expat kids living in Tulum as a result. Do you have any sites/info on where kids in Tulum go to school?
Tulum is a beautiful place. There are lots of expats in Tulum, as well as several active "expat communities". We have found that there are many private schools that you can choose from, it's been a while since we went back to Tulum but I would suggest asking other expats that live in the area. We've had very good luck with Mexican private schools and two of our children are currently enrolled in bilingual private schools. You can also choose to teach them using an online K-12 program that is U.S. based.
We didn't opt to do that, because we really wanted our kids to have a bilingual experience. You can try Tulum International School and go from there. I have noticed that many of the private schools in Mexico will have a Facebook page rather than a regular webpage, Facebook is very widely used in Mexico for communication so if you don't have an account it's a good idea to create one (even just a "dummy" account) in order to research and ask questions. A lot of expat groups exist on Facebook as well, including groups for every city in Quintana Roo.
We had a great experience at 24 Hour Passport and Visas, we realized very late that 2 of our children's U.S. passports were going to expire in less than 6 months and we were only going to be in the US for a week! They got us a very speedy turnaround on both passports, (went to their office very late on Friday and had them in our hands by the following Tuesday). Great service, and they were patient with our kids, which were crawling around trying to touch everything. It was pricey to get the expedited service, but well worth it for us.
We used their San Francisco location (on Van Ness) and the staff was friendly and took our kid's passport photos and everything. It was a bit pricey but absolutely worth it, as we were paying for a hotel and rental car while we were in the U.S.
Note: we are not affiliated with 24 Hour Passports in ANY way, we just wanted to share our experience, their customer service was great.
One of the most frequent questions we receive from American expats is what to do about taxes when you become an expat. When it comes to U.S. taxes, the answer is never simple! Today, we have a guest post by Inez Zemelman, EA, the founder of Taxes for Expats, a firm specializing in tax preparation for U.S. taxpayers who are living overseas.
Taxes for US citizens residing abroad is always a tricky subject. The following information is provided by Taxes For Expats -- They are a professional tax firm that work directly with expats in Mexico and taxpayers across the globe (they have clients in 175 countries) and they often get asked to break down the clunky IRS tax code & explain filing requirements for Americans who live outside the U.S. For more in depth info, please see their U.S. Tax Guide for 2017 for complete info.
(Note: Taxes for Expats is not affiliated with Expat Fever and has not paid a fee in order to be posted here.)
If you are self employed or have a job, you likely need to file a U.S tax return. If you are a US citizens or Green Card holder, you must (assuming you meet the minimum filing thresholds) file an annual tax return reporting your worldwide income from all sources. The minimum requirements are $4k USD for those who are married filing separately (generally those married to a non-US citizen), and $400 for those who are self employed. If you are single the threshold is $10k USD.
You must file - but you likely won’t pay (if your return is prepared correctly). There is a general misconception that you do not need to file if you earn under $100k. This is incorrect. You must file, but if you take advantage of the proper exclusions, most expats won’t end up paying any taxes to the IRS. To take advantage of these exclusions, you need to file; they are not automatically granted. Each year, you must continue to file if you meet the minimum filing requirements. Failure to do so can lead to penalties.
How do expat returns differ from a tax return when you live in the states?
Deadlines: For those residing abroad, tax due is June 15 (automatic two month extension is granted). Note - if you owe any tax, it is still due on April 15th, so get your returns done early in the year to avoid any unpleasant surprises. An additional extension until October is also available - this must be filed before June 15
Many deductions/exclusions available only to those residing abroad: The tax man giveth, but Uncle Sam does not give automatically. In order to benefit from the tax saving methods available - the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE), Foreign Tax Credit, Foreign Housing Exclusion, Treaty exclusions, and many more - your tax return must be prepared correctly and tax saving tools utilized properly.
No W-2 (country equivalent) sent to the IRS: Unlike a U.S. employer which will issue a W-2 or 1099, which will be sent to the IRS and to you, your foreign employer will not provide you with such a form (and even if there is a local tax declaration, it does not get forwarded to the IRS). As such, you should keep accurate records of your finances. The U.S. calendar year remains Jan 1- Dec 31, and your local tax declaration may be on a different fiscal year (ie; Apr 1 - Mar 31); we have a special income calculator in our questionnaire that helps normalize your earnings to the U.S. calendar year.
Overall complexity: Living abroad has many benefits, but increased complexity of your U.S. tax return is not one of them. Chances are you have non-US pension, you may be self-employed or own a non-US corporation, or invest in non-US mutual funds - dubbed PFIC (foreign passive investment corporations). Finally, you likely contribute to a non-us social security system, and you need to read up on what totalization agreements are, along with calculating how to treat your employer contributions to your superannuation account and understanding the various tax treaties- it’s no fun; let us make this annoying process less painful.
Reporting your financial accounts - does not generate tax due: Aside from the filing of your returns, you also need to declare your non-US financial accounts (such as bank accounts, superannuation and any other non-US pension) to the U.S. treasury. Note - this does not cause you to owe tax - but you must report these balances. This reporting consists of two main forms --- FBAR (FinCEN 114) and FATCA (form 8938).
These two forms are similar, but have different filing thresholds (10k USD for FBAR - 8938 depends on your filing status and where you reside (see link above). 8938 is filed with your tax return, FBAR is filed separately.
Ines Zemelman, EA is the founder of www.taxesforexpats.com.
The Bisbee Black and Blue Marlin Tournament begins on October 24, 2017 in Baja California, and is open to all! What better way to get away from the cold and enjoy fabulous fishing in the pristine blue waters of Baja California.
To register, go to the official website for the tournament.
Bisbee Tournament Dates: 10/25/2017 - 10/27/2017
If you attend this event, send us your stories and photos, we would love to share them with our readers!
The celebration of the Mexican War of Independence on September 15 is a big event all over Mexico! We spent the day purchasing traditional candies and costumes for our kids. Here is our youngest son all decked out in his traditional garb.
There is fun and fireworks and lots of great tradition on this day. All over Mexico, the politicians come out en masse to celebrate the day, making long speeches while famous bands play in the background. We always look forward to watching "La Paquita Del Barrio" who is considered a national treasure for her salty, heart-felt lyrics ("Paquita from the neighborhood" is the stage name of Grammy-Award winning singer, Francisca Viveros Barradas). The kids all get dressed in traditional Mexican costumes and have great fun breaking pinatas and playing with other children. Lots of fireworks, too, which are a huge hit.
For those of you who are here as expats, enjoy the day and enjoy the fun! It's ten times bigger and better than Cinco de Mayo in the U.S., and you're sure to have a blast.
Reader Question: I live in California with my wife and young son. 5 years old. I'm so burned out on California it's for this reason I'm trying to persuade my wife to expatriate to Cabo San Lucas.
My wife is concerned about the schools; however, all of the info I've gathered the private schools seem to be terrific. Are you concerned about safety at all?
Secondly how do you create income ? What's a monthly budget in Mexico ? Lastly, are there sports for kids. Basketball Etc?
Manny's Answer: Hi Todd,
Like you, we are also California "escapees", and we love living in Mexico. The month before we moved, the quote we got for our family medical coverage was almost $3,000 per month (to continue with Aetna). So we knew something had to change, and drastically.
There are good schools and plenty of ways to live and make money down here. A lot of Americans buy real estate and just do the Airbnb or sell timeshares, or find some other job that caters to tourists.
We liked San Jose Del Cabo the best, there are lots of expats from Texas there and it's more laid back and friendly. The entire state of Baja California Sur has a lot to offer and I suggest exploring a bit if you have the budget to do so.
You can go down for a week and even rent a cheap condo right on the beach for less that $1,000 if you don't mind a 1-bedroom or a studio. Then you can explore and find out if Cabo is for you.
As for a budget, it's really all over the place. The average Mexican family lives on $400-$500 USD per month, but I doubt that is the lifestyle that you want. But you can easily live a comfortable life on 2K a month in Mexico, and that's why so many retirees flock down here once they become eligible for Social Security.
As for private schools, I can't speak for all of them. But we've had great luck and have found them to be very affordable. Our eldest son is now bilingual after only 2 years, when he was struggling with just learning English at the terrible California school he was attending before.
As for sports, there are many children's sports. Baseball and Soccer are HUGE down here, and there are plenty of other sports that he can enjoy, too. It's been a great move for us.
So I left my American Express card at home on accident and had to use my Wells Fargo Visa card at a doctor's office in Mexico for the first time in over a year. Wells Fargo charged me almost EIGHT DOLLARS in fees for a SINGLE TRANSACTION!
So I did save hundreds of dollars by going to a Mexican doctor but Wells Fargo took their chunk which is infuriating, especially since it was a single purchase.
God, no wonder people warned me against using their cards. From now on, no more purchases with the Wells Fargo card, ever! It's staying at home for emergencies. I don't have any affiliation with either of these companies, but American Express doesn't charge me any of these stupid fees AND they give me points towards travel.
Wells Fargo could take a few pointers from them. I suggest to everyone, if you are coming to Mexico, bring an American Express card. They don't charge foreign transaction fees and you earn points for future travel. No more Wells Fargo for me.
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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