INTRODUCTION and INSTRUCTIONS
- After you arrive, you’ll learn that information changes frequently in Mérida. Therefore, the information will change here so that you are kept up-to-date at all times. You’ll find current contact information for vendors, service providers, and other helpful resources marked as RESOURCES. After you arrive, consider purchasing The All About Mérida Guide to help you through your first year and beyond to be more connected.
Chapter 1: CONSIDERING MÉRIDA? – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW FIRST
- From Forbes to Conde Nast to Travel+Leisure to bloggers worldwide, Mérida is touted as a destination for people looking to move to Mexico. Experience culture, history, music, gastronomy, and hospitality in the Yucatán Peninsula. This introductory chapter gives you a birds-eye view of what you need to know if Mérida is on your radar. I’ll go into more detail in the corresponding chapters.
Chapter 2: MOVING TO MÉRIDA – IS IT RIGHT FOR YOU?
- Many people become enamored with Mérida before they move. It’s easy to romanticize a location from photos and videos. However, using common sense and having a clear plan of action on the how, what, when, where, etc., to get you from where you are to here is critical. If you’ve never lived in another country or only visited resorts, you may need to plan a longer research trip or even live here for a few months to try it out. Nothing says you have to move permanently.
Chapter 3: EXPAT LIFE – 14 SIGNS YOU ARE READY
- Almost everything has the potential to change once you move to Mérida. Your commitment to wanting change is critical. Remember that old saying, “The only constant in life is change?” Well, get ready . . . Moving to a new country with a new culture and a new language can either be a source of frustration, or it can be an adventure. Everything is new – learning, exploring, and creating a new life with new friends. So, be honest with yourself before committing to moving to Mérida.
Chapter 4: ABOUT MÉRIDA – HISTORY, CULTURE, DEMOGRAPHICS, and MORE
- Considered one of the most conservative cities in Mexico, Mérida is the biggest city in the state of Yucatán and the capital. CEOWORLD reports Mérida as the second safest city in the American continent. Moreover, it ranked #21 as the safest city worldwide. Mérida has twice received the prestigious “Cultural Capital of the Americas” award, making it the only city to receive it twice. Rich in culture, history, and folklore, Mérida is called The White City.
Chapter 5: RESEARCH TRIP – BROADEN YOUR PERSPECTIVE
- Before you get on the super-excited emotional roller coaster, it’s best to be practical first. Being practical means coming to Mérida on a research trip armed with all the information you need beforehand for due diligence while you are here. I recommend keeping a journal, notebook, or notes on your phone for your research trip.
Chapter 6: CULTURAL SENSITIVITY – RESPECTING LOCAL ETIQUETTE
- Recognizing the distinction between different cultures is critical to being culturally sensitive. It’s essential to acknowledge that cultures differ in terms of the ways people communicate and interact with each other without placing any judgment. Being sensitive to a different culture means knowing not everyone is the same and recognizing your culture is not inherently superior.
Chapter 7: CITY LAYOUT – EXPLORE THE STREETS
- Whether you are a history buff, foodie, lover of the arts, hand-made crafts collector, or looking for a relaxing vacation experience, Mérida has it all. As the capital of the state of Yucatán, it serves as an important city attracting a wide variety of people from all walks of life. Yes, at first, Mérida will seem complicated to navigate. However, once you understand how the streets run and the layout of the diverse and different neighborhoods called colonias, you’ll gain more confidence over time.
Chapter 8: CENTRO – THE HEARTBEAT OF THE CITY
- Ultimately, neighborhoods in Mérida radiate from Plaza Grande in the center of the city. This historic center, with its UNESCO* makeover, features an elegant park and breathtaking Cathedral San Ildefonso. Plaza Grande is a beautiful place to experience the heartbeat of Mérida. Newsstands, coffee shops, restaurants, and various retail establishments exist. It’s a great place to people-watch and immerse yourself in the culture. *The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is a dedicated branch of the United Nations, with a focus on fostering global peace and security by promoting international collaboration in the realms of education, arts, science, and culture.
Chapter 9: THE NORTH and SUBURBS – LOCAL CHARM and LUXURY LIVING
- North Mérida is a vibrant and dynamic area with many distinct neighborhoods offering various lifestyle options. These neighborhoods have something for everyone, from bustling plazas to quiet residential streets. Because most people moving to Mérida are interested in Centro, there’s little information about the northern part of the city. So, let’s look at The North, as locals call it, with its unique qualities and a different look and feel. While you’ll find some areas modern and sleek, others feel more local, characteristic of what comes to mind when people think about Mérida.
Chapter 10: TRANSPORTATION – PUBLIC and PRIVATE
- Mérida offers many ways to get from here to there: ride platforms, public transportation, and private drivers, to name a few. However, the public transportation system can be confusing. It can be frustrating when trying to find routes, fares, and times. Don’t worry! It takes time to learn to navigate in and around the neighborhoods. But it’s well worth your time, energy, and effort for budgeting purposes.
Chapter 11: RENT A CAR or HIRE A DRIVER – WHICH IS BETTER?
- Renting a car is an excellent way to see the sights and experience the city’s unique culture. It also allows you to explore independently, navigate the streets, and learn the layout of Mérida and the surrounding areas. Renting a car is helpful for exploring areas outside the city center or venture into neighboring states. However, it is essential to carefully consider the details of the rental process, rules, and guidelines.
- If you are new to Mérida, you may not be familiar with the roads, traffic rules, and driving conditions. Hiring a private driver is better if driving around the city feels stressful. They know how to navigate the city’s streets, have knowledge of traffic patterns, and are familiar with the laws. This a very popular choice with numerous private driving services available.
Chapter 12: GASTRONOMY – RESTAURANTS, GROCERY STORES, and MORE
- Mérida is one of the most gastronomically diverse cities you will ever visit. Limitless variety can be found, from traditional Yucatecan dishes to ancient Mayan recipes and from regional to cosmopolitan cuisine. Therefore, it’s beneficial to experience all the distinct kinds of food in Mérida. Wikipedia states: “The food of the Yucatán peninsula is distinct from the rest of the country. It is based primarily on Mayan food with influences from the Caribbean, Central Mexican, European (especially French), and Middle Eastern cultures.”
Chapter 13: MARKETS – A LIST OF FAVORITES
- There’s no doubt about it. Local markets are part of the charm of Mérida. Notably, they offer a unique perspective and an authentic experience of this enchanting city. Markets and tianguis, open-air flea markets or bazaars, offer a variety of handmade items, food, flowers, artisanal products, and more. They are also a place to socialize, integrate, and experience culture.
Chapter 14: TIPPING CULTURE – HOW? WHERE? WHAT? WHEN?
- How, where, what, and when to tip is such a confusing subject that it gets a whole chapter. The task of tipping in Mérida is complicated, at best. Ask ten people about tipping, and you’ll get ten different answers. This is another situation where understanding cultural differences and economic aspects provides insight and respect for hard-working locals.
Chapter 15: NEWS – INFORMATION SOURCES
- Excellent sources of information for both locals and visitors are found in Mérida. The Yucatán Peninsula is rich in history and tradition. Learning about this beautiful culture is just part of the wonder of discovering Mérida.
Chapter 16: COST OF LIVING – UNDERSTANDING BUDGETS
- Budgets are VERY difficult to calculate until you live here. Your particular lifestyle dictates expenses, fixed costs, and flexible costs. Does affordability for you depend upon a good exchange rate? When it takes a nose dive, can you bridge the gap? Run through different scenarios to determine the cost of living in Mérida. Yes, there is something for everyone. But the question is, “How do YOU want to live?” Most people are hard-pressed to change their lifestyle and living preferences.
Chapter 17: MEDICINE and SUPPLEMENTS – PHARMACIES and NUTRITIONAL STORES
- While the FDA oversees the U.S. drug industry, prescription drugs in Mexico are not as heavily regulated. Only purchase medication from a legitimate pharmacy. Be sure to inspect the packaging thoroughly. Don’t accept it if you have second thoughts. You may also wonder if supplement and vitamin stores are in Mérida. Yes, they are, but you’ll have to research if they carry what you are looking for.
Chapter 18: DOCTORS and DENTISTS – TIPS and RECOMMENDATIONS
- Mérida boasts some of the finest medical services and physicians in the region. The city is home to an array of hospitals, clinics, and healthcare providers dedicated to delivering exceptional medical care to patients worldwide. With a wealth of experience and a commitment to excellence, Mérida’s doctors are renowned for their skills, compassion, and commitment to patient-centered care. Whether you’re looking for routine check-ups, specialist consultations, or emergency care, Mérida has a wealth of resources.
Chapter 19: HOSPITALS and CLINICS – TOP THINGS TO KNOW
- Mérida offers world-class medical services because of its superior infrastructure of facilities and professionals. Hospitals and clinics provide a range of specialties where you’ll find affordable doctors, consultants, highly trained staff, surgery facilities, recovery rooms, and clinical analysis laboratories. More and more people are finding it increasingly difficult to afford healthcare due to rising costs, decreased insurance coverage, and economic factors. Mexican Nationals and foreigners travel to Mérida for medical tourism due to the quality of service and state-of-the-art equipment to treat various health issues.
Chapter 20: SPANISH – KEY PHRASES and RESOURCES
- Learning a few words and phrases in countries where English is not the first language is respectful. Therefore, it’s essential to take the time to learn a few key terms in Spanish. Yes, learning a new language IS challenging. The good news is that you’ll find many people who want to help. When people speak Spanish around you, listen instead of tuning them out. Over time, words’ intonation, inflection, and flow help you understand better. It’s easier to learn once you’re here and immersed.
Chapter 21: KIDS and TEENS – SCHOOLS and FUN ACTIVITIES
- Both public and private schools are available in Mérida. However, public schools do not provide support for a non-native-speaking child. It’s essential to know between the ages of three and seven, language acquisition is more accessible with less academic stress. Children of this age seem to be quite adaptable. Middle school-aged children or teens may or may not be as flexible. From the feedback I’ve received, most teens adapt beautifully.
- While Mérida is a mecca of culture, arts, and history, there’s also a lot of fun and cool stuff to do for kids AND adults! This list scratches the surface of the exploration one can do around the city and nearby.
Chapter 22: SCAMS – SPOTTING & AVOIDING DECEIT
- It’s important to stay vigilant and aware of common scams. Unfortunately, foreigners unfamiliar with the area’s customs and practices can be exploited. Though it may be surprising, it’s not only tourists who experience scams. Visiting Mexican nationals and locals Mérida are just as susceptible. For this reason, it is vital to learn how to equip yourself with the necessary knowledge and skills to avoid being scammed.
Chapter 23: POST-RESEARCH TRIP DEBRIEF – REFLECTIONS and OBSERVATIONS
- Once the research trip is complete, it’s time for the debrief. This chapter focuses on disseminating the information gathered. Grab your journal or log, pencil, calculator, and other notes, and let’s go down the list item by item.
Chapter 24: RESIDENCY – BREAKING DOWN THE PROCESS
- Embarking on the residency process can be both exciting and overwhelming. Several residency options cater to different needs, each with its specific requirements. As a foreigner living in Mexico, acquiring residency is non-negotiable. It is something you MUST have to remain in the country legally. Not only is this entire process confusing, but rules and regulations change without notice.
Chapter 25: PETS – FURRY FAMILY POINTERS
- If you’re planning to move with your pet, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure a smooth and stress-free relocation. This comprehensive checklist will help you prepare for the move and ensure you have everything you need to keep your pet safe and comfortable during the journey. Like anything else, regulations and requirements change, sometimes without advance notice. Be sure to check frequently before finalizing travel plans.
Chapter 26: AUTOMOBILES – PROS and CONS OF BRINGING A CAR
- Before importing a foreign car into Mexico, it’s essential to understand the requirements and restrictions the Mexican government sets. Depending upon the age and type of vehicle, it may not be eligible for importation. Bringing your car may seem simple, but it can be more complicated and expensive than expected. While this chapter provides information and answers to frequently asked questions, it’s recommended, and in some cases mandatory, to hire a professional customs broker or import agency to assist with importing a car. One small mistake can jeopardize the entire application.
Chapter 27: PERSONAL ITEMS – SHIP, FLY, DRIVE, or LEAVE BEHIND
- Many people want personal items and don’t want to replace them, no matter the cost. However, bringing too much stuff can be cost-prohibitive for those on a budget. Fortunately, many things can be replaced, some at a lower cost. On the positive side, most housing comes fully furnished and equipped.
Chapter 28: LEGAL DOCUMENTS – BIRTH CERTIFICATES, WILLS, and MORE
- As a foreigner living in Mexico, it is crucial to be aware of necessary legal documents to help ensure that your rights and possessions are safeguarded. Notably, having these documents provides peace of mind in unforeseen circumstances. It is equally important to have legal documents apostilled and translated, when applicable.
Chapter 29: BANKING – BENEFITS OF A LOCAL BANK ACCOUNT
- While having a local bank is more than important, it’s necessary. Everyone has their own needs and requirements, especially regarding banking. For me, the most important thing about a local bank is having a personal relationship with my banker. If ANYTHING goes wrong, then my banker can assist.
Chapter 30: ORGANIZING PLAN – FROM A TO Z
- Getting organized for your move is a process: physical, emotional, mental, and a vast array of logistics. Only YOU can make critical decisions about what to take, what to leave for a later decision, and things you can let go of. To begin taking steps to make your move, it’s better to start slowly with a plan and a system.
Chapter 31: MOVING TIMELINE – WHEN and HOW TO START
- In this chapter, I’ve provided all the logistics of what, when, and how to organize your timeline. With many years as a professional organizer and stager, I’ll share all my tips, tricks, and advice, and then you can adjust as needed. I promise things will take much longer than you anticipated, think double or triple the time.
Chapter 32: OVERCOMING OBSTACLES – MOVING DESPITE NEGATIVE FEEDBACK
- This PERSPECTIVE chapter covers all the comments and unsolicited feedback I received once I decided to move. Sharing this information provides some insight into what you may experience and how to handle delicate situations.
Chapter 33: INTEGRATION – WHAT TO DO and NOT DO AS AN EXPAT
- Both Angel and I gathered information for this chapter from news articles, client feedback, business professionals, and interviews with expats, locals, and service providers. The information is intended for people considering moving to Mérida because this city is very special, unique, and conservative. Like anything else, you can take it or leave it. However, it’s very valuable advice, in my opinion, and good to know upfront.
Chapter 34: FIRST MONTH – SETTLING INTO A NEW LIFE
- This chapter is all about little tips and tricks that I wish someone told me. While these may seem logical, I promise you’ll forget some of them due to the sheer excitement of being here. Allowing yourself time to process the huge step you’ve just made is beneficial. Take your first days in stride, enjoy, take it slow, and revel in the start of your new life.
Chapter 35: MISTAKES – HARD LESSONS I LEARNED AFTER MOVING
- Interestingly, as I wrote this chapter, I realized I was trying to prove something to myself. Hindsight is 20/20, and hopefully, I can help you make some good decisions by learning from my mistakes. As you know, this is not an easy process, and to be completely transparent . . . this is what really happened my first year in Mérida.
Chapter 36: SHORT-TERM RENTALS – AFTER THE MOVE
- You’ll find several choices of platforms for short-term rentals after you move. I highly recommend beginning in Centro to take full advantage of all the activities, culture, events, and meet others. You may be tempted to rent short-term through Facebook Marketplace or by finding a recommendation on one of the expat groups. Not knowing the language, the customs, and the process creates more headaches. It’s not worth saving a few dollars if there is a problem. Get a few months under your belt, then branch out
Chapter 37: AVOIDING BOREDOM – A LIST OF THINGS TO DO
- Once the initial excitement wears off, some expats struggle with boredom and loneliness. This is especially true for those who have moved alone. However, even couples experience a sense of isolation. The problem with boredom and loneliness is that it can lead to unhealthy habits and addictions. It’s not uncommon for people to turn to alcohol or social media to fill the void.
Chapter 38: SUMMING IT UP – FINAL INSTRUCTIONS and INFORMATION