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Baja Mexico Retirement

Ensenada , Baja, Mexico, 2005

Mexico leads the world of nations in the number of U.S. expatriots living here. I'm a twenty year resident of Ensenada , a Pacific beach community just 80 miles South of the border. It is estimated that 20,000 U.S. citizens live here, mostly retirees.

Baja California is a narrow Penninsula that offers an incredibly diverse climate and landscape. A two and one half hour drive, from the Pacific coastline's crashing waves takes you to the flat Sea of Cortez on the eastern coastline. San Felipe's air and water temperatures are 10 to 20 degrees warmer than Ensenada year round.

Retirement in Ensenada Aside from climate differences, Ensenada is a bustling port city of 450,000 residents. San Felipe is a sleepy shrimp fishing village with a population of 17000. The short drive between these two coasts is over some of the most beautiful desert imaginable. The 110 mile trip includes three passes at 4,000 ft. elevations.

The list of reasons given for retiring here are: lower cost of living, a higher quality of life style when compared to the U.S., a slower pace, greater tranquility, a more pristine environment, proximity to the border (family and medical services), high speed internet access, quality medical and dental care, good fishing and surfing, less terror threat, lower violent crime rate and finally the love of Mexican culture and her people.

Economic reasons to retire in Mexico are the mostly frequently heard motives for moving here. However, it is usually expressed in terms of improved lifestyle and environment: "My beach home, in Baja, cost me $200,000. A comparable home, North of the border, on a more crowded beach, would cost over two million. I could not afford the property taxes on a U.S. beach house. My property tax bill in Mexico is $100 per year".

Other economic benefits living in Mexico usually relate to the lower cost of Mexican labor. The minimum wage is $5.75 per day. Car repairs, medical and dental bills, home maintenance and servants are a fraction of what these services cost in the states. Most retirees and middle class Mexicanos can afford to pay a cleaning person. Sixty to one hundred dollars per week to clean, cook and wash clothes. At the hundred dollar level, child care is included.

A night on the town: dinner, drinks and dancing, for my wife and I, rarely costs more than $60.00. First run, Hollywood movies at our state of the art Cineplex are $2.50 a ticket.

Whether it be downtown parking for a dollar instead of $7.00 in San Diego , a dollar cigar instead of $6.00, or 10% tips instead of the 20% expected by stateside waiters, it all adds up. A less expensive and more enjoyable lifestyle because we can afford these little extras of life´s pleasures.

We spent our vacation this summer in Northern California . A modest five day stay for two that cost us $2,000. We could not find a decent hotel for less than $80.00 a night and dinner tabs approached the same. We stay in decent hotels in Baja for $25-40.00 with dinner costing $35.00. We decided that next year we will vacation in Baja. We can afford a U.S. vacation but at Baja prices we can do more and stay longer.

Five years ago Baja California began experiencing a huge number of Italian vacationers in August. The number has increased to the point where almost every vacation spot has a number of Italian families visibly present. The reason is economic. August is when the schools in Italy are closed for summer vacation. They can family-vacation in pristine Baja instead of overpopulated and contaminated European beach resorts for a lot less money (including airfare and rental cars).

Retirement safety and security

In the past, stateside retirees in Baja had to run the risk of: losing their retirement property to discriminatory foreign investment laws. Since NAFTA and friendlier foreign investment legislation, foreign born retirees in Mexico can feel secure in their investment if the coastal property they are purchasing is eligible for a living trust and is title insurable.

Title insurance, issued by U.S. title companies: Fidelity, First American or Stewart Title, is available throughout Mexico. These policies are issued in the United States and subject to U.S. courts for enforcement. Affordable Financing has also become available to foreigners in Mexico , using Mexican property as collateral. Seller financing is the most common way to purchase in Mexico .

Ensenada Medical ServicesMost retirees are very concerned about the quality of medical services in Mexico. My twenty year personal experience and those of my retired friends, is that our medical and dental care has surpassed the care we received in the states. An office visit costs thirty five dollars and dental procedures are 50 to 70 percent less than the same North of the border. Most U.S. major medical plans

Will pay the hospital and doctor costs. Either direct payment or at the very least reimbursed to the patient.

Hospitals, clinics and professional offices are state of the art on both Baja coasts. In addition to very well trained physicians, surgeons and dentists, the culture is very prone to personalizing patient care. I have the home phone numbers of my physicians and dentist. They do make house calls. Hell, my vet makes house calls to care for my three dogs and a cat.

Immigration is very friendly in Baja for documenting retirees. The permit is called a FM-3 Rentista. It is renewable on an annual basis at a cost of $150 dollars. The only requirement is that you must demonstrate retirement income that is equal to $1,000 a month for a single person and $1,500 dollars monthly for a retired couple. It is important to obtain and maintain current this visa. It is a way of guaranteeing your rights-that you have legal status in Mexico .

My moving to Ensenada in 1985 was the best move of my life. However, as a Spanish speaking Latino, the transition to the Mexican culture was relatively easy. Mexico is not for everybody, especially type A gringos. Manñana does not mean tomorrow but sometime in the future. And one of Mexico´s favorite pastimes is telling you what you want to hear. This phenomenon is called la cortesia; don´t tell the truth if it is distasteful to the other person. (see US Mexico Cultural Distinctions)

The other piece of advice I always give to foreigners in Mexico is do not go into business. Mexico is not a business friendly country. It is tough enough for Mexican entrepreneurs who understand the language and culture. It is very difficult for the English speaking businessman who does not know the laws, culture and business practices that are so distinctively Mexican. For help in moving to Mexico, visit our website and also the website of

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(619) 819-9369


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Ensenada, Mexico: (646) 176 6759 US: 1(619) 819 9369