How My Rent Abroad is Always Under $200

I have lived abroad for the past 7 years, including in Mexico (Guadalajara, Mexico City, Veracruz and Cancun) and El Salvador (Quezaltepeque and Ciudad Delgado). I have never paid more than $200 for rent, so I am completely shocked when I see what other expats are paying. I have stayed in rooms for as little as $50 in Mexico City to a huge 2 bedroom apartment for $125 in Veracruz.  I currently live in Progreso, Mexico in my largest home yet, a 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom rental which is $375 per month. I have a long term renter who stays in one of the rooms and splits the rent with me, so again, I manage to keep it under $200 USD. 

How is this possible? Below are some tips on how you can get the best rental prices abroad. A lot of it may seem like common sense. But, for people considering the move who have never been abroad, it will be very helpful.

  1. Speak the local Language

If you come to Latin America and do not speak Spanish, you are going to get the gringo price on everything from rentals to restaurant menus to taxi rides. Invest some money in Spanish classes BEFORE you arrive. It is also a matter of respect and you will be treated much better and notice a friendlier disposition from locals if you try to speak their language.

  1. Do not Rent from an online Website or Realtor

Anything that is posted online or comes from an English speaking realtor is way overpriced. If it’s in dollars, that’s even worse. I am a single mom and when I approached realtors in the area, several of them sent me homes over $1,000 USD per month, despite indicating my income limitations. Also, online announcements are often made by the same realtors and are overpriced, knowing that us “gringos” like to research and arrange a rental before arriving.

  1. Do your research on the Ground

There’s no way around this. If you want the best price, you need to arrive, walk around the area you like, knock on doors and call phone numbers. You will find much better prices dealing directly with the people who own the home. And in my experience, most of them are older and not technologically savvy. They won’t post an announcement online even though they can make more money off their rental. You can do this easily by renting an Airbnb or hotel room for a week or month while you do on the ground research. With an Airbnb, you also get someone local who can point out vacant homes and save you a lot of time and effort. I have a master bedroom with private bathroom for rent on Airbnb. For more information, click here

  1. Negotiate the rent 

In El Salvador, we rented a home in a gated community for $200 that was originally listed higher. I noticed that other homes in the same residential area were priced at $200 and told the landlord. She was happy to lower the price. Many rental prices are negotiable (this is where Spanish comes in handy even more!). This is especially true for areas with many vacant homes.

  1. Ask for Help

If you are beginning to learn Spanish and/or have a noticeable accent, ask a local to make the call. They will be able to negotiate on your behalf and get a more realistic price than if you call ­­­­yourself. If you don’t know a local, look for a bilingual taxi driver or waiter to help you out. Just remember to leave them a tip for their service.

  1. Make Local Friends

Before I found this house, I made friends with Rebecca from the lavanderia (who found my first apartment for me), a nice waiter on the beach and a couple who owned a nearby restaurant. They knew that I was looking for a home to rent and sure enough, the couple came through as soon as they saw that this house was for rent. They even called the number, got the price and arranged the meeting for us. In a small town like Progreso, everyone knows each other and trust is built on those relationships. Making friends with the locals will help you out in many ways.

I hope that this article has been helpful for those considering moving to Mexico. You will always find a big range of prices, especially if you are looking in touristy towns like Cancun, Puerta Vallerta and Playa del Carmen, to name a few. If you have any additional questions, feel free to comment below.

If you would like more information on moving to Mexico, please join the Future Mexico Expats group on Facebook. 

 

Mexico: Living at the Beach on $800/month

One of the first questions that people ask before moving abroad is how much money they should expect to spend per month. And the answer is always, it depends. Which is true. This post is specific to the country of Mexico, which right now has a favorable exchange rate for those who are making dollars. But it still depends on the city, location within the city, the size of the dwelling and lifestyle factors. There seems to be two types of expats that relocate to the developing world; those who want to live like a king and those who want to blend in with the locals. I am definitely the latter.

That being said, I do enjoy eating out a couple times a week, and I love my margaritas on the beach. I’m sure we could slice the budget down even further by giving up those luxuries, but I’d rather not. I decided to relocate with my daughter to Progreso, in the state of Yucatan, Mexico. It is a small beach town. There is a retired ex-pat population and cruise ships stop here 2 – 3 times per week, but other than that, it isn’t a big tourist destination, which is exactly what I wanted. It is about 4 hours by bus to Cancun so we are also close enough to a major airport and a tourist hotspot if we want a little more adventure.

Progreso is a small, quiet and relaxing beach town.

Our Expenses in progreso, mexico

Rent: $200 USD monthly for a furnished studio apartment with separate kitchen and bathroom. Utilities (electricity, water, cable, and internet) included.

Part-time nanny: $35 per week

Food: $30 per week ($25 at the grocery store and $5 at the market)

Well baby visit: $20 once a month

Vaccines: free

Formula and Diapers: $16 per week

Transportation: $3.50 per week. (I take a taxi to the supermarket at the entrance to the town once a week.)

Laundry service: $3 once a week

Spending money per week: $57.50 for eating out, buying clothes, medicine, etc.

Personal Insights on mexico

As you can see, we don’t spend much money at all compared to living in the U.S. Mexico has always been a bargain for expats, but even more so recently. The exchange rate, which is nearly 20 pesos to 1 dollar, helps save a lot of money monthly, especially on formula and diapers. I also make my own baby food with fruits and vegetables from the market and a blender.

One of the biggest money savers is that we don’t need a car. Our apartment is located 2 blocks from the beach and 4 blocks from the town’s market and supermarket. Everything is within walking distance and my daughter loves to go for walks in the stroller. Our other entertainment is the beach, which is free.

Her stroller is our main mode of transportation, even on the beach.

And although she isn’t quite ready to play at the parks, there are plenty of them around. Overall, Mexico is a very family friendly country and you can find children playing in the streets and at the parks well into the night.

There are plenty of free parks for kids and some have exercise equipment for adults.

I try not to eat out every day, but when I do want to treat myself to a margarita, they run about $3 at the beachfront restaurants and food is $5 – $8 per plate. If I go to eat at the market, meals are $2 – $3.50. At the end of the week, I always have spending money left over.

Additionally, if I were a single person, I would be spending just $576 monthly, as the nanny, pediatrician and baby items run about $224 per month.

To make sure you get the best deal possible when you move to mexico or abroad

  1. Learn the local language. If you don’t, you will end up paying much more for housing.
  2. Rent a hotel room or Airbnb for a few days. You will find the best rental prices by walking around and looking for “for rent” signs.
  3. Ask the locals (The lady that owns the laundry mat found our current apartment for us).
  4. Weigh the pros and cons of the location. You may pay more to be downtown but if you save on a car payment, gas, maintenance and insurance, it may be worth it.
  5. Ask your landlord about throwing in appliances and/or furniture. Mine was able to lend me a gas stove and propane tank so I didn’t have to purchase one myself.

Do you have questions?

I hope that this has been helpful to you if you are considering moving abroad. If I have forgotten anything or if you have a question, please comment below.

If you are considering moving to Latin America, I provide online Spanish lessons. You can find more information about them here.

Note: Prices are in USD and have been calculated at a 20 pesos to 1 dollar exchange rate. The actual rate at the time of this post was 19 to 1. In recent months the peso has fluctuated between 18 and 22 to a dollar.