Playa del Carmen

Overview

Walking down the streets in Playa del Carmen, it’s hard to imagine that it was recently a small and sleepy fishing village. It wasn’t until the 1970s when Playa del Carmen experienced a shift in tourism, largely due to the attraction of tourists to a nearby island – Cozumel. This destination is great for expats looking to move to a mid-sized city in a tropical climate along the Caribbean coast. Additionally, for those that are not very acclimated or experienced with the Mexican culture, Playa del Carmen is a great starting point, as there are a lot of expats and tourists located here.

Quick Stats About Playa del Carmen

Population149,923
Elevation10 meters (30 feet)
StateQuintana Roo
Language(s)Spanish (primary), English (prevalent)
CurrencyMexican Peso

Cost of Living in Playa del Carmen

Similar to the cost of living (COL) of other beach towns within Quintana Roo, the monthly rent will usually be above average compared to the rest of the country. However, living in Playa del Carmen is affordable, especially for what the city offers.

I love spreadsheets, and the approach I used to calculate my predicted monthly budget worked out pretty well, so I went ahead and did some sample calculations on what the expected monthly budget may look like for certain categories of expats in Playa del Carmen.

Solo Expat

For the solo expat, I made the following assumptions:

  • Living in a one-bedroom apartment in downtown is desirable
  • Some alcohol is included in their groceries
  • Eating out at restaurants is a weekly occurrence (3 times a week)
  • Gym membership is included
  • Health insurance for one person is desired

Given the above assumptions, shown below is the calculated monthly budget for living in Playa del Carmen. This does not include the following: incidents, transportation costs, subscriptions (e.g., Netflix, Spotify), tourism activities (e.g., snorkeling with turtles), clothes, etc.

Line ItemMonthly Cost (USD)
Apartment (1 bedroom) in downtown Playa
del Carmen
607.91
Basic Utilities48.94
Internet and Cable20.38
Groceries (including some alcohol)131.13
Entertainment (restaurants, gym membership)148.22
Health Insurance (IMSS or Seguro Popular)1.34
Total957.92
Assuming a conversion rate of 22.39 MXN/USD. Last Updated: August 2020.

Expat Couple

For the expat couple, I made a lot of similar assumptions as the solo expat, shown below:

  • Living in a two-bedroom apartment in downtown is desirable
  • Some alcohol is included in their groceries
  • Eating out at restaurants is a weekly occurrence (3 times a week)
  • Gym membership is included per person
  • Health insurance for two people is desired
  • More utilities are consumed compared to the solo expat

Given the above assumptions, shown below is the calculated monthly budget for living in Playa del Carmen. This does not include the following: incidents, transportation costs, subscriptions (e.g., Netflix, Spotify), tourism activities (e.g., snorkeling with turtles), clothes, etc.

Line ItemMonthly Cost (USD)
Apartment (2 bedroom) in downtown Playa
del Carmen
839.91
Basic Utilities73.41
Internet and Cable20.38
Groceries (including some alcohol)262.26
Entertainment (restaurants, gym membership)265.18
Health Insurance (IMSS or Seguro Popular)2.86
Total1,463.82
Assuming a conversion rate of 22.39 MXN/USD. Last Updated: August 2020.

Expat Family

This one is a bit tricky since I myself do not have any kids, but I gave it a try. For the expat family, I made the following assumptions:

  • Two adults and two kids
  • Living in a three-bedroom apartment in downtown is desirable (can be substituted for a house)
  • Some alcohol is included in their groceries (obviously for the adults)
  • Eating out at restaurants is a weekly occurrence (3 times a week)
  • Gym membership is not included
  • Health insurance for the family is desired
  • Both kids are of age to attend international primary school
  • More utilities are consumed compared to the expat couple and solo expat

Given the above assumptions, shown below is the calculated monthly budget for living in Playa del Carmen. This does not include the following: incidents, transportation costs, subscriptions (e.g., Netflix, Spotify), tourism activities (e.g., snorkeling with turtles), clothes, etc.

Line ItemMonthly Cost (USD)
Apartment (3 bedroom) in downtown Tulum1,071.91
Basic Utilities97.88
Internet and Cable20.38
Groceries (including some alcohol)440.56
Entertainment (restaurants, gym membership)499.10
Health Insurance (IMSS or Seguro Popular)5.36
International Primary School635.28
Total2,760.46
Assuming a conversion rate of 22.39 MXN/USD. Last Updated: August 2020.

Cost Saving Tactics

Given the above estimated monthly budgets, there are multiple ways to reduce expenses for those that might be on a tighter budget. For instance, living outside of downtown, limiting the number of times eating at restaurants, and shopping at local markets instead of the supermarket are all valid ways to reduce monthly expenses.

Visa(s) for Expats

It is fairly easy to obtain a residence visa within Mexico for non-lucrative purposes. This process starts outside of the country at a Mexican consulate (ideally in your current home country), and finishes within Mexico at the Immigration Institute. Once in Mexico, foreigners must complete a “canje” (or “exchange” in English) within 30 days after arrival. During the “canje”, foreigners that hold a Mexican visa sticker in their passports granted by a Mexican consulate must apply at the Immigration Institute for a resident card of the same characteristics as the visa sticker given at the Consulate.

Shown below are the different residence visas that foreigners can apply for and the different ways to qualify for one. Additionally, all USD figures below assume an exchange rate of 19 Mexican Pesos per USD, and some figures are variable based on the Mexican consulate.

Temporary Residence Visa

The temporary residence visa is initially set to only last for one year when you obtain it; however, it has the ability to be extended for 3 additional years after elapsing the first year. This does require a visit to the local immigration office for doing so, but you’re not required to go through the same financial qualifications again. At the end of 4 years, you have the option to automatically convert the temporary residence visa into a permanent residence visa without the need to meet the financial requirements for obtaining it.

Type of Financial
Qualifier
Amount of Financial Qualifier
InvestmentMonthly average balance equivalent to approx. $35,00 USD for the past 12 months
Bank Accounts
(e.g., Savings)
Monthly average balance equivalent to approx. $35,000 USD for the past 12 months
IncomeMonthly pay stubs of approx. $1,950 USD for the past 6 months
Pension (Free
of Liens)
Monthly bank statements showing approx. $1,950 USD for the past 6 months
Last Updated: August 2020.

Permanent Residence Visa

The permanent residence visa is more difficult to obtain due to higher financial requirements, and it should be noted that only pensioners can apply for permanent residence without having the temporary residence visa first.

Type of Financial
Qualifier
Amount of Financial Qualifier
InvestmentMonthly average balance equivalent to approx. $130,000 USD for the past 12 months
Bank Accounts
(e.g., Savings)
Monthly average balance equivalent to approx. $130,000 USD for the past 12 months
IncomeMonthly pay stubs of approx. $3,250 USD for the past 6 months
Pension (Free
of Liens)
Monthly bank statements showing approx. $3,250 USD for the past 6 months
Last Updated: August 2020.

For those looking for a list of Mexican Consulates abroad, Mexperience provides a comprehensive list on their website.

Year Round Climate in Playa del Carmen

In Playa del Carmen, the summers are long, hot, oppressive, wet, and overcast. Additionally, the winters are short, comfortable, sometimes muggy, and mostly clear. Throughout the year, the temperature typically varies from 65°F to 90°F and is rarely below 56°F or above 93°F.

The hot season lasts from middle of April to middle of September, with an average daily high temperature above 88°F. The hottest part of the year is end of July, with an average high of 90°F and low of 72°F.

The cool season lasts from end of November to middle of February, with an average daily high temperature below 83°F. The coldest time of the year is middle of January, with an average low of 65°F and high of 81°F.

Education

According to the World Economic Forum, Mexico ranks at 69 out of 130 countries for their educational quality at the elementary level. Their top universities, including the National Autonomous University of Mexico and the private Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education, both rank in the 601-800 range in the current Times Higher Education rankings and are consistently featured among the top universities within Latin America.

A much more in depth review of the country’s education system and rankings can be found in this World Education News + Reviews article.

Structure of the Basic Education System

Basic education is normally divided into three steps: primary school (grades 1 through 6), junior high school (grades 7 through 9), and high school (grades 10 through 12). The standards of the national public education program is overseen by the federal government body called Secretaria de Educación Pública, or SEP.

Primary School (primaria)

The curriculum intends to start the basic compulsory education system. Depending on the school, a bilingual education may be offered from the beginning, which generally consists of one half of the day in Spanish, and the other half is in a second language (most commonly English).

Junior High School (secundaria)

Generally speaking, the curriculum intends to continue the basic compulsory education system introduced in primary school. However, at this level, more specialized subjects are generally introduced, such as World History and Physics. Some also provide vocational training and/or distance learning.

High School (preparatoria or bachillerato)

For high school (preparatoria), students have the option to choose between two main types: SEP-incorporated school or a University-incorporated school (variable by state). High school curriculums generally consist of the first few semesters having a common curriculum, and the latter ones allowing some degree of specialization (e.g., physical sciences, social sciences) with the intention of preparing students for studying at a university. There are some types of high schools that prepare students for getting a job as a skilled worker after graduation, and these are generally referred as bachillerato.

Healthcare

Although Mexico’s performance of its healthcare system on an international scale is ranked 61 by the World Health Organization (WHO), it is highly regarded by those who take advantage of it via medical tourism, especially by those living in the United States. Mexico’s healthcare facilities are structured into a three-tier system:

  1. A very basic level of care is open to nationals without an income
  2. A public system paid for directly from resident’s wages and overseen by the Mexican social security system which is open to foreign nationals
  3. Private sector

Shown below are some examples of out-of-pocket fees charged for certain services and procedures within Mexico, which may vary depending on the location and provider.

Service/ProcedureCost (USD)
Routine Doctor Visit$12 – $15
X-Ray$24 – $30
Routine Dental Visit$25 – $50
Dental Cleaning$30 – $35
Specialist Visit$40 – $50
Standard Filling$45 – $50
Dental Extraction$50 – $55
Complete Blood Work$50 – $80
MRI$300 – $500
Dentures$350
Crown$400 – $450
Single Implant$700 – $900
Source: International Living. Last Updated: August 2020.

Healthcare in Playa del Carmen

The majority of the hospitals within Quintana Roo are located in Cancún and Playa del Carmen, with those in Cancún being a short drive away (approximately one hour away). Shown below is a partial list of the hospitals that can be found in Quintana Roo.

Name of HospitalLocation
Hospiten HospitalPlaya del Carmen and Cancun
CostaMedPlaya del Carmen
AmerimedPlaya del Carmen and Cancun
Galenia HospitalCancun
Hospital AmatCancun
Hospital AmericanoCancun
Last Updated: August 2020.

When going to a hospital in Playa del Carmen or Cancún and you’re a resident of Mexico, make sure to bring your identification as you may benefit from being charged less for services. And lastly, many expats have found that Star Medica in Merida provides the best service in the Yucatan Peninsula, which is a 3 hour drive from Cancún.

Contact Me

If you currently live here as an expat, I’d love to hear about your first-hand experiences and whether they align with the above content. I’d also love to hear from you if you’re looking to becoming an expat and have outstanding concerns or questions that aren’t addressed by the above content.

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