Living & Lifestyle

The Charms and Compromises of Living in the Mexican Countryside

Exploring the practical aspects, attractions and drawbacks of living amidst a rural idyll in Mexico

Home on a rural country lane

One of the many attractions Mexico offers to people who create a life situation here is the diversity of location types it has to offer.  We’ve mentioned in a related article how the country’s topography and climate zones offer choices about the natural environments to live in across Mexico.  Another pivotal aspect regarding location as you short-list places for your home here is whether to live in a town or city, or in a rural or semi-rural area of the country.

Country Living in Mexico: The Charms

There are many attractions to living in the Mexican countryside.  The principal ones include:

Creating your countryside idyll: There’s something comforting about taking enjoyment in a home situated in the Mexican countryside: away from the hustle of urban pursuits and the congestion of contemporary pressures; living amidst the sounds and scents of nature.  The pace of life is more gentle and so, it seems, are the people—often with the benefit of vibrant local communities who organize themselves around common interests. A country home in Mexico can offer this idyll, far-enough away from urban sprawls characterized by rushed lifestyles, and often close enough to a town or city where a plentiful choice of services and amenities may be readily obtained. Rural living in a small Mexican town or village promises respite from the urban ‘rat-race,’ a place where you can live life more deliberately, where young children can experience their childhood in large gardens and wander picturesque streets, and where life’s demands at least appear to be a little less demanding.  The charms of living in the Mexican countryside are  alluring—and it can be quite affordable…

Affordability: Whether you are renting or buying a property here, you’ll usually pay less per square meter of land and living space in Mexico’s (semi)rural areas than you will in urban towns and cities, especially in comparison to the country’s three big cities: Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Monterrey.  Provincial cities in Mexico’s highlands — whether urban or (semi)rural — can offer some of the best value real estate in Mexico, although prices are very localized, so you need to examine markets on a per-location basis.  There are some notable exceptions where property prices in provincial areas can be as high as, or higher, than urban alternatives.   Perhaps the most notable of these is San Miguel de Allende—a colonial mountain town where prices have soared in recent years and homes in the center are comparable in cost to Mexico’s City’s most expensive neighborhoods. Valle de Bravo and Tepoztlán—semi-rural colonial enclaves within relatively easy reach of the capital that have been popular with Mexicans and foreign residents for decades—are two other places where residents pay a premium to rent or buy.

Nature and outdoor living: Living in the Mexican countryside gives you easy access to Mexico’s natural habitats, country walks, and breath-taking natural landscapes.  The sound of crickets chirping at night is a sure sign you’re falling asleep in a rural idyll, and birdsong drifting through your bedroom window adds to the charm when you wake up in the morning. In addition to the immediate access to nature, country homes tend to offer ample gardens, outdoor swimming pools, and quaint terraces which provide attractive spaces for outdoor living.

Local people and community: People living in rural and semi-rural spaces tend to be more laid-back than their urban counterparts.  You’re more likely to be greeted with a cheerful ‘buenos dias’ on a morning stroll than doing the same thing in urban areas, where locals are generally much more rushed and pressured by the events of their daily lives.  Smaller towns also like to show-off their community spirit: both foreign residents and local Mexicans organize events which, with a little local research, you can learn about and be welcomed to as an active participant.

Relaxed and laid-back country lifestyle: Countryside living in Mexico is taken at a slower pace and rhythm than urban life.  Provincial rural or semi-rural areas are often the environment of choice for retired people who don’t have the pressures and responsibilities of professional lives, and families to raise: although some foreign residents of working age—and even those with young children—do establish lifestyles and become an intrinsic part of local communities in Mexico’s provincial outlying towns and villages.

Country Living in Mexico: The Compromises

As you explore options for countryside living in Mexico, consider the compromises you’ll have to make, which include:

Access: Local country roads in Mexico can be adequate but usually take longer to traverse than the line on the map suggests.  Some of the access roads may cut through mountains or jungle terrain. Country roads which pass through small hamlets often feature obstructions like speed-bumps, farm animals and dogs wandering into the road space, as well local events like festivals or funeral processions adding to the myriad of combinations that can delay your progress en-route.  When getting to where you need to be matters—for example, when you have a flight to catch—these otherwise quaint experiences become reminders about the compromises made in rural living in Mexico.

Local streets: Cobbled streets are picturesque and charming—and prevent road traffic from driving along your residential street at high speed.  They also get very slippery in the rain and can be awkward to walk over. They are the least idyllic pavement type for people with mobility issues.  If you’re considering renting or buying a home which is accessible only via cobbled streets, consider the side-effects this may have on your day-to-day living.  Some back-streets leading to beautiful properties in Mexico’s rural towns and villages may be less well-developed than cobbles.  Dirt tracks, or roads with loose stones or gravel are not uncommon in rural areas. During the rain season they can flood and become mud-baths. Some residents act to create a common fund among neighbors to pave a dirt road for the benefit of all the residents living alongside it; permissions must be sought and although they are usually granted, the cost of the road’s construction and its ongoing maintenance will usually be borne by the residents.

Range of amenities and local services: Rural and semi-rural places in provincial Mexico feature fewer local services and amenities: these include things like food stores, supermarkets, local markets, dentists, doctors as well as leisure facilities like cinemas and restaurants.  Rural stores, the local tienditas, sell everyday basics—although most foreign residents tend to seek out a wider assortment of goods and these won’t be available without a trip to the nearest large town or city. If you choose to live in the Mexican countryside, you will need to accept that the No Hay factor is far more prevalent in Mexico’s (semi)rural areas than it is in urbanized centers—and plan accordingly.

Access to healthcare and medical services: If access to health and medical services is important to your situation, then you should take care about where you choose to live in Mexico.  Urban areas tend to be well-served by doctors, dentists, opticians, clinics and hospitals whereas smaller towns and villages may have, at best, a small local clinic with limited facilities.  Most foreign residents who live in rural (or semi-rural) towns and villages in Mexico travel to the nearest large town or city for routine healthcare matters, including check-ups, dentistry, and eye care.  If the state of your current health carries a higher risk of requiring immediate medical attention or hospitalization — for example, if you have a known heart problem — then living in the Mexican countryside, even a small few miles from the nearest hospital, could be problematic in the event of an emergency: as discussed earlier in this article, it often much takes longer to traverse country roads and your journey to the nearest hospital will take longer in a situation where every minute matters.

Schooling for your children: If you have school age children, you should plan your location with their schooling requirements in mind.  Some foreign residents choose to school their children in local Mexican schools, and some home-school, but most choose to educate their offspring at private schools.  While provincial towns you may consider for living might offer at least one privately-run elementary school, access to private secondary and tertiary education facilities is only available in larger cities in Mexico.  If you purchase a home in rural Mexico when your children are very young, a local elementary school may be adequate for their needs. When your children need secondary-level schooling, you’ll probably need to commute each school day to the nearest city where an adequate choice of schools exists, or move.  Houses in rural and semi-rural places in Mexico usually take longer to sell than houses in urban areas.  Some families rent their country home and use the rental income to pay their rent in a city while their children are passing through their secondary school-age years. Learn more about schooling your children in Mexico.

Electricity supply: Mexico’s electricity supply has been improving constantly in recent decades but the reliability of rural and semi-rural electricity supply continues to trail behind urbanized areas. When the lights go out places with higher concentrations of residents tend to get higher priority for service restoration than homes situated on quiet country lanes.

Internet access and cell phone coverage:  Provincial areas tend to have slower internet connection speeds than urban areas, and the same climatic conditions which cause electricity outages can cause internet connections to fail. Access to Wireless Home Internet (internet access at home delivered over mobile data networks) is helping to alleviate provincial dead-zones and providing a back-up to landline-based internet services, but if you’re situated in a very rural area, then this service may be unavailable.  Cell phone coverage is constantly improving across the country, but in rural and semi-rural towns you can expect signal strength and reliability to be less robust that coverage in more urban areas.  If communication technology is critical to your lifestyle plans – for example, if you work from home – you should research this aspect of local services before you commit to a long-term arrangement or house purchase.

Maintaining a country home: Bigger country homes need more maintenance; large gardens need constant tending; swimming pools require routine care, and when you’re away you need to take additional steps to mitigate burglaries – which are common in country homes left unattended by their owners.

Noise: Mexico’s countryside is not always as quiet and tranquil as one might expect.  Local festivals and events tend to be rowdy affairs, with loud music and fire crackers being standard features of these local gatherings.  Local churches ring bells and set-off loud fire-crackers on all kinds of occasions: weddings, christenings, and Saint’s Days to name a few.  And however rural your street might be – if it’s part of a hamlet or residential conurbation, you won’t escape the constant parade of local merchants driving past in cars and small trucks with loud-speaker announcements offering to buy or sell a myriad of goods and services.  This soundscape is not unique to the countryside, but it’s worth remembering that living in a rural idyll doesn’t exclude you from it.

In Summary

There are some truly beautiful and picturesque rural and semi-rural towns and villages in Mexico, but as you’re exploring places to live, it’s important to remain focused on the practical aspects of living day-to-day in the place of your choice.

Weighing-up the choices between living in a Mexican rural idyll and an urban conurbation (or somewhere in-between) brings into play a range of practical and personal considerations.  Some people enjoy the diverse culture with ready-access to an abundant range services and amenities afforded by living in urbanized areas, while others prefer the relative tranquility and simpler lifestyles afforded by rural Mexico.

For all the compromises, a country home in Mexico can provide an idyllic lifestyle for you and your family: with near-perfect climates, gardens that burst with color and fragrance, and an abundance of affordable space, it’s no surprise that rural Mexico remains a popular choice for foreign residents exploring options here.

The counterbalance is that every activity you engage with when you live in a rural place will take at least a little bit more effort than if you live in an urban environment.

Ultimately, whether the Mexican countryside is a good choice for you will depend on your life-stage, your lifestyle preferences, and practical matters like the state of your health, whether you have children to school, and how much regular access you need to certain things and services: these may include professional contacts for work, local shops, healthcare services, and transport links—especially airports.

Reflecting on your immediate and forthcoming lifestyle needs and considering your choices pragmatically, will help you to make informed decisions.  This is one reason why we recommend you rent for a while before committing to buy, unless you’re already familiar with the area and the locale.

Taking time to choose your location with care pays dividends in the longer term. Rushed decisions driven by impulse or whimsical notions—especially when you’re buying a property here—are costlier to recover from if you discover the compromises after the fact. Some people use a process of trial-and-error, moving around to different types of places before they choose a location to settle longer term: this can work, but it will demand more time, effort, and funds from you.

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5 Comments

  1. JohnD says

    Good job. Re: “There are some truly beautiful and picturesque rural and semi-rural towns and villages in Mexico…” Why not an article or a series highlighting some examples of such areas.

  2. Ian Huntington says

    Well written article and very true. We live in a 4,000 ft house on a remote Caribbean beach surrounded by wild, undeveloped jungle. It is a two hour drive to competent medical and Canadian style supermarkets. We make that trip two or three times a month. For top notch, medical specialists, we drive five tours to Merida. There are not a lot of people but it is amazing how noisy and how many interruptions it can get at times.

    We drive about 30 minutes to a Pueblo with fairly good restaurants on roads that can be rough and slow the first 15 minutes, then paved and smooth.

    I write all this because everything the article says is pretty spot on. We love our rural life in Mexico tremendously.

    • Ian Huntington says

      This is Ian again. I was not able to address the issues of security and internet because our workers needed direction. So, here’s round two.

      Security: We have two homes in rural areas on opposite corners of Mexico.
      Baja, in 17 years, the house has been broken into three times as the house was vacant 10 months a year. I have put up walls and locked wrought iron fences that I think have made that a bit harder. Neighbors tell me there has been a dramatic increase of burglaries but our house has not been hit.
      Quintana Roo, we have lived here for 16 months and have been successfully burglarized once with another thwarted attempt. We are very remote here but in both cases the burglar entered off the beach. After the first theft we installed very decorative wrought iron bars on all the windows and sliders. We also now have a dog who sleeps inside at the largest sliding glass wall. His barking and the bars thwarted the the second burglar. Neighbors on both sides (a hundred yards away) where home and were hit.

      Internet/cell reception: We have Tel Cel internet and phone with a T-Mobile cell phone too. We have an antenna on top of the third story with a signal booster that sends the signal down into the house. Most of the time the internet and cell reception is good enough to play Netflix and everything with no problems. We pay about $20 a month.

      Housekeeping: Because we are quite remote we must use local people. We have a team of three local ladies who come once a week and do a great job. They asked for 750 pesos for what takes most of the day. We pay them 900 pesos, the difference is a propina.

      Electric: We have a large solar system but about a year ago CFE electricity was brought out here. We use CFE to charge our solar system during cloudy periods. Typically our electric bills (billed every two months) is between 100 and 200 pesos.

      Life in the country is not for everyone. Many people require the stimulation of city life. We miss the restaurant scene and excellent sushi bars of British Columbia but, we are not at all regretting our country life in Mexico.

  3. John Arnold says

    I didn’t see security and safety as a con in México. In areas I have lived in Mexico.. Living in the campo is not safe in Guanajuato and many homes have safe rooms.

  4. Stanley Wolf says

    Well explained and pretty comprehensive – good job!

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