(Continued from Part Two, here...)
Author's Note: No website or company has paid a fee to be mentioned in this blog. Any suggestions you see are based solely on our own experiences and personal preferences. All prices have been converted to USD using a rate of 20:1. All the information is for educational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. Please help support our travel blog by purchasing this guide, which is only $1.99 and available everywhere, including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo.
Living in Puerto Escondido
We’ve already covered a lot of aspects of Puerto Escondido that will come in handy whether you’re just visiting or planning on making it your permanent home. Now, it’s time to discuss the ins and outs of everyday life. While this section is aimed chiefly at those planning longer stays, many of the topics we’ll cover, such as the stuff about safety, shopping and transportation, will come in handy no matter how long you’re planning on being in town.
It’s fair to say that Puerto Escondido is not far away from being a genuine paradise, but there are some things you need to learn to live with. Anyone who has resided in multiple countries, cities and towns will tell you that there isn’t a place on earth that has it all. Want to escape the rat race? Done, but then don’t expect the same standard of amenities and services you get in a big, technologically advanced city. Want to reduce your cost of living by moving to the developing world? Understandable, but remember that you’re not always going to have access to the same variety of stuff. Sick of the cold? It’s always warm in the tropics but that also means mosquitos and sweating like a pig when you’re out in the middle of the day.
Knowing your priorities and being willing to make some tradeoffs are the keys to finding the right place to live. In this section, we’ll provide you with the honest truth about the pros and cons of life in Puerto Escondido so that you can make an informed decision about whether or not it might be the place for you.
Housing in Puerto Escondido
If you’re looking to relocate to Puerto Escondido permanently, you’ll almost certainly be looking to buy or build a house. A fully furnished 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom house in an area like Bacocho or Zicatela would typically cost between $120 000 - $300 000 but can go as high as $2-3 million when it comes to the most luxurious properties. Naturally, you can shave quite a few bucks off by building and furnishing everything yourself. Another advantage of doing it this way is that you can really build your own dream home. Of course, there’s also the small matter of months of build time and all the drama and setbacks that can come with it.
The most well-known real estate agents in the city are Blue Horizon and Puerto Escondido Real Estate & Vacation Rentals; however, there are many other options. We highly suggest only buying through registered and reputable agents as scams have been known to take place.
In terms of renting, the same typical 2 bed, 2 bath house generally costs between $1000 - $3000 a month. There are apartments and even small houses available for less, with a typical 1 bedroom place going for between $500 - $1000 a month. In terms of both renting and buying, if you’re willing (or prefer) to live a bit further from the beach or even outside of the city itself, you can find options between 20-50% cheaper. You can easily for rental properties on Facebook, or Airbnb, then negotiate with the owners.
Personally, we often rent through Airbnb using our American Express card (which protects every purchase we make and also earns us points for travel). If we like the place, we reach out to the owner and negotiate a longer stay. If we don't like the location for whatever reason, we simply leave the Airbnb and choose a new one. This has worked for us several times all over Mexico.
Note: Locals generally don’t advertise their rental properties through traditional channels. If you are looking for a long-term rental in Puerto Escondido you can walk around the neighborhood and ask about rentals. It is commonplace for locals to advertise their rentals by merely putting a hand-written sign in a window facing the street.
There is also a fast-growing market for pieces of land in the areas just outside the city such as Valdeflores, Palmarito, El Tomatal and others as people start to anticipate that this area is becoming a true tourist hotspot. The prices are rising fast but from an extremely low baseline, meaning they should remain a great bargain for the next couple of years at least. In 2021, a 2,000-3,000 sq. foot plot of land still only costs around $1,500 - $3,000 USD.
Shopping in Puerto Escondido
We’ve already discussed the Benito Juarez Market, which is a great place to shop for food, some basic goods and local specialties. So where else do people go for day-to-day shopping in Puerto Escondido? The city has a couple of large department stores, one by Mexican retail giant Chedraui and the more budget-friendly Bodega Aurrera. Both contain all the basics, but Chedraui has more categories and a greater selection of choices within each of these. Think Walmart with a Mexican flavor but also a lot of the same brands you’re accustomed to if you live in the USA or Canada.
Besides the main market and department stores, there is also the Zicatela market that services that side of town as well as a host of small shops selling fruits and vegetables, clothing, and other basic goods scattered throughout the city. There are also options for the more conscious consumer, with several shops that sell organic food and locally produced goods in both Bacocho (Señor Salud and Punto Verde) and Zicatela/La Punta (Kankedami, Verde Puerto and Canela).
As with every other town or city in Mexico, you don’t have to go far to find a pharmacy. Also just like the rest of the country, all of the pharmacies sell antibiotics and other medications that normally require a prescription right over the counter. You also don’t have to look far to find hardware, stationery and second-hand stores.
Where things become a little trickier is with specialized goods such as technology, sporting equipment and all of those other random yet useful miscellaneous items you find in more developed places. Fortunately, it’s the 21st century and courier services reach far more remote locations than Puerto Escondido. All it takes is a few clicks on Mercado Libre, Amazon or eBay and whatever you need will be delivered to your door.
Cost of Living in Puerto Escondido
The relatively lower cost of living in Mexico is one of the main things that attracts foreigners from wealthier nations. No matter what part of the world you’re talking about, where the gringos go the prices go up.
That’s certainly true of places like the Riviera Maya and Baja California Sur, where the cost of living has been slowly increasing for years and has now reached the point that most Mexicans are shocked when they arrive in these places and see how much a meal or an activity sets you back. Sure, these places are still extremely affordable if you’re converting back from dollars, euros or pounds, but there are places in Mexico where you still get a much better bang for your buck.
Puerto Escondido is certainly one of these, and Oaxaca in general is known as one of the cheapest places to live in all of Mexico. Of course, the above rule of thumb still applies, and prices here are definitely creeping up as more and more foreigners buy up property and inject their disposable income into the local economy. The price of renting and buying property in Bacocho or near the beachfront in Zicatela would undoubtedly shock most Oaxacans. Right now, it’s still around 20-30% cheaper than places such as Los Cabos, Playa Del Carmen and Tulum, but we don’t expect this state of affairs to last much longer.
In terms of daily costs, groceries and basic goods are around 10% cheaper than in the above-mentioned places, while gasoline costs the same or even slightly more than in most other parts of Mexico (a little over $1/liter, or around $4/gallon). One aspect of life in Puerto Escondido where you can really find great value is eating out. The “fancy” restaurants are cheap in comparison with what you find in swanky parts of Mexico City or other coastal hotspots, while the prices at “normal” restaurants and for street food as mouthwatering as the food itself. It’s not difficult to find a delicious meal in a clean, well-maintained restaurant for under $5.
Taking everything into consideration, you can easily meet all your basic needs for between $500 - 1,000 USD a month (excluding housing), while anything in the region of $2-3K a month will allow you to live a very comfortable lifestyle.
Healthcare and Hospitals in Puerto Escondido
The quality and availability of healthcare are some of the most critical considerations many of us make when deciding where to live. This is especially true for those with pre-existing conditions, are advancing in years, and families with young children or those planning on having them soon. Fortunately, Mexico is known for having high-quality medical services available at far more reasonable costs than in the USA or Canada. On the downside, the system can sometimes be complicated and confusing to navigate, with prices sometimes varying drastically between states and institutions. Free healthcare options are available to Mexican citizens and in some cases to foreign residents, but having some form of health insurance is highly recommended. There are public and private health insurance schemes available to residents, so we suggest further reading on this subject.
Puerto Escondido has both public and private hospitals, several clinics, ample dentists, general practitioners, and even a few specialists. The primary public hospital is Hospital General, while Hospital Angel Del Mar is the primary private healthcare facility.
Hospital Angel Del Mar/Contact
Tel: 954 104 2270, Emergency: ext.103
Sexta Norte, Sector Reforma, Puerto Escondido
Both are equipped with functioning trauma units, with the Hospital Angel Del Mar being highly regarded in this sense. It’s also possible to receive a wide range of other treatments at both facilities, however, cases that require advanced treatments or the use of highly specialized equipment are normally transferred to larger hospitals in Oaxaca City, Salina Cruz and, in extreme cases, other parts of Mexico.
In most cases, foreigners and expats in Mexico stick to private healthcare options as they provide greater flexibility and, generally speaking, a better level of care (with the exceptions being things such as free vaccinations at government clinics, certain really good government hospitals, etc.) Private insurance costs are also not exorbitant compared to many other countries with fully or partially privatized healthcare systems. Overall, the healthcare options in Puerto Escondido are more than enough for most people’s needs, with the possible exception of those that live with complicated chronic conditions that sometimes require advanced care. As long as you have insurance, you can rest assured that good first-line medical care will be available (and not bankrupt you and your family) should you have an accident or unexpected health problem.
Schools in Puerto Escondido
If you’ve read any of our other books or blog posts you’ll know that we’re big fans of the education opportunities available in Mexico. That’s not to say we compare the public school system favorably with that of other countries, but unlike the USA and many other more developed places, private schooling is far more affordable in Mexico. You’re also highly likely to find good, dual language private schools anyplace that has an expat population, and Puerto Escondido is no different. There are several options, especially for younger age groups.
One of the most well renowned of these is , which has both a pre-school (3-5 years) and a primary school (6-12 years). The school has been around for 30 years already, which makes it one of the oldest in Puerto Escondido, and is known for both its solid “traditional” education (incl. being registered in the national education system known as SEP), and excellent programs/electives that teach the children more about nature, entrepreneurship, technology, etc. The curriculum also includes learning in the organic garden, physical education, arts and computer skills. While the curriculum is taught in Spanish, there is an hour-long English lesson every day.
Another excellent option for younger kids is Papalotes, a Waldorf Education System school where children aged 3-12 can develop their intellectual, artistic, and practical skills in an integrated and holistic environment. School administration is done entirely by a volunteer committee of parents, which both brings down costs and allows those with the time and motivation to play an active role in the school. There is also a fantastic three-week-long summer school program called Camino Verde (Green Path) where the kids learn about art and movement in the first week, scientific experiments/STEM in week two and modeling/design/construction in the final week.
There are also two private high schools, the Escuela Libertadores De America and the Colegio Internacional Del Pacifico, while Papalotes has plans to open a middle school and high school in the next few years as well.
Transportation in Puerto Escondido
Taxis are also easy to find and, as long as you’re using one that’s registered to a local association, perfectly safe to use. These taxis are painted white and green and will have a card with the driver’s name and association number clearly visible somewhere in the front seat area (taxis with other colors from nearby towns sometimes pass through, these are fine to use also). It’s very uncommon to have someone unregistered offer you a ride as the taxi associations “control” the streets to ensure they don’t lose out on fares. A short ride costs around $2 while a longer one across town costs just $3.
The colectivos are even cheaper, costing a standard price of usually under $1 per trip no matter where on the route you hop on and off. They’re also safe to use, but we’d suggest sticking to daytime travel and avoiding wearing flashy, expensive-looking accessories just to be on the safe side. Talking of which...
Safety: Puerto Escondido is considered an extremely safe city by Mexican standards. In fact, even when compared with more developed places, it doesn’t stack up badly. Violent crimes and burglaries are almost unheard of. On the other hand, crimes of opportunity do happen if you’re careless with bags and valuables. People here are proud of the city’s reputation as a safe place and almost everyone you meet is friendly and helpful.
Like other parts of Mexico that attract tourists, it is spared from the open violence between gangs that afflicts many other parts of the country. Ultimately, the harsh reality is that harm to tourists and foreigners is bad for business and attracts far more attention than when innocent (and often poorer) Mexicans are affected. In other words, you’re highly unlikely to run into trouble with gangs in Mexico unless you meddle in “their business”.
Our ultimate advice to expats and travelers is that no matter where you are, simply using your common sense and trusting your intuition are the most important aspects of staying safe. Of course, making some local friends that can share the lay of the land with you never hurts either.
Other Notes About Living in Puerto Escondido
Other important things to note about living in Puerto Escondido: While we’ve already covered most of the core aspects of life in Puerto Escondido, there are a few other important things we would like to mention. We’ve already told you that Puerto Escondido is popular among so-called “digital nomads”, however that does come with a small caveat.
The internet connection in Puerto Escondido can be spotty, especially during busy periods. Even when it’s operating normally, the download and upload speeds average about 3-5 MB p/s and 0.5-2 MB p/s, respectively. There is the option to get faster satellite internet, but that starts at around $125 a month while a standard Telmex line costs between $20-45 (if you’re renting, internet is often included at no additional cost).
Another thing that can be a little inconsistent at times is the water supply, although this is rarely an issue as multiple companies operating trucks that bring potable water to refill cisterns and tanks if the municipal supply doesn’t arrive on time or you finish yours early. If you’re careful with your water you shouldn’t have to worry about this and once again, if you’re renting, these water refills are normally paid for by the landlord.
Like many parts of Mexico, the tap water is not preferable for consumption but is fine for showering, washing clothes and dishes, etc. Drinking water is typically sold in garrafons (5 gallon/20 liter plastic bottles) which can be purchased for a one-time price of around $5 and then refilled for $1. Several companies drive around the city all day honking their horns, shouting “agua” and exchanging empty bottles for full ones.
In terms of language, you can get by on English alone when you’re in the touristy areas of town. However, if you’re planning on spending any substantial amount of time in Mexico, learning some Spanish is vital and the more you know, the easier and more pleasant your life here will be. There are many language schools and private teachers that offer Spanish lessons in Puerto Escondido and online. Alternatively, download an app like Duolingo to practice for free and do your best to learn from everyday encounters. At the end of the day, the more you immerse yourself in the local culture, the richer your experience of this place or any other will be.
Puerto Escondido is undoubtedly an up-and-coming city with plenty of opportunities to invest in businesses and property. For better or worse (probably a bit of both), the new federal highway from Oaxaca City due to open by 2022 is set to accelerate the region’s growth. Prices are steadily rising, but for now, it’s still a good deal cheaper than some of the other most popular spots in Mexico for expats. In terms of lifestyle, it’s a laid-back place with plenty of culture to soak in and a thriving community of people exploring alternative lifestyles and healthier ways to live. If you’re looking to expand your horizons and like the sound of living in Mexico’s most diverse state, this might well be the place for you.
That’s equally true for nature lovers and those who want to spend substantial amounts of time on some of the most beautiful beaches in the country. Aside from the ocean vibes, there is a lot to get excited about inland as well, with beautiful tropical landscapes morphing into high-altitude temperate forests within just a couple of hour’s drive inland. The smorgasbord of activities on offer will keep you busy throughout the year and the culinary culture of Oaxaca is quite simply a foodie’s dream. Yes, there are some compromises to be made, but where is that not the case? When everything is said and done (which it now is), you could do far worse than ending up in Puerto Escondido.
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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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