Is Lake Chapala One Of The Best Places to Retire in Mexico?

Mexican cities are fast becoming expat hotspots. But not everyone moving to Mexico wants a city life. 

Many foreigners leaving the busyness in their home countries look for quiet living with good weather and facilities at affordable prices. 

If that sounds familiar, living in Ajijic (Jalisco), by the beautiful lake Chapala, might be for you:

Population in Ajijic

Ajijic is home to around 11,500 people. Expats are thought to make up about 20-40% of the population. 

The town was once known as a destination for retirees moving to Mexico from USA. But that’s no longer the case. It is increasingly becoming diverse, with many expats and Mexicans of all ages, including young families, moving here. 

Read also Is Ajijic Only For Retirees?

Ajijic also attracts snowbirds during the winter months. And many visit for leisure, especially from the nearby city of Guadalajara.  

Climate in Ajijic

The warm months are from March to June, with temperatures topping 80F during the day. 

December and January are relatively cold, with average temperatures hovering slightly below 60F. But with daytime highs in the mid-70s, you can comfortably engage in outdoor activities.

June to October is the rainy season. But the rainfall is much lower than in some other regions.  

Cost of living in Ajijic

Ajijic is not one of the cheapest places to live. But it is much more affordable compared to the U.S. and Canada.  

Let’s look at some numbers:

(Sources: NumbeoVivanuncios, and local Facebook groups)

Rent

Monthly rates:

  • 1-bedroom apartment in the city center – MXN14,000 or USD700
  • 3-bedroom house in the city center – MXN25,000 or USD1,250 
  • 2-bed, 2-bath house – MXN20,000 or USD1,000

There’s a strong demand for rentals in Ajijic. So, your best bet is to work with a local real estate agent who can help you find the right home. 

2 bed 1 bath rental example in Ajijic- $8000 Pesos a month. Has a large backyard!

Check out our COMPLETE Mexico Relocation Guide for a list of reliable real estate agent contacts and private relocation tour guides. 

Utilities

A couple can expect to pay the following amounts per month on average: 

  • Water – MXN300 or USD15 
  • Gas – MXN300 or USD15
  • Electricity – MXN300 or USD15
  • Internet – MXN500 or USD25

Electricity is a fairly significant expense for some expats in Mexico. 

But you can save on electricity in Ajijic because you rarely need an AC. 

Groceries and eating out
  • 3-course dinner at a mid-range restaurant (for two) – MXN600 or USD30
  • Budget meal at a cheap restaurant (for two) – MXN200 or USD10
  • Pint of domestic beer – MXN30 or USD1.50

There are is no shortage of restaurants in Lake Chapala. And you can have everything from an inexpensive meal for $100 pesos and up to $4,000 pesos a person. There is so much to chose from in Ajijic and Chapala that if you love eating, you’ll love exploring.

Monthly groceries can cost around MXN7,000 or USD350 for a couple if you shop at Walmart and local shops and markets. Remember that imported food, including pet food, is expensive in Mexico. 

There are no large shopping malls or a Costco in Ajijic. But they’re available in Guadalajara (about an hour away). In Guadalajara you have everything from Bed Bath and Beyond, City Market, Soriana, Chedraui, Costco, and everything in between. In fact, there are even tour companies that will take you shpping for the day and bring you back to Ajijic.

Transport

If you live in the center of Ajijic, you can walk to all the amenities. 

There’s also public transport and taxis:

  • Local bus fare: MXN8 or USD0.40 each way
  • Bus to Chapala: MXN12 or USD0.60 each way
  • Taxi: About MXN20 or USD1 per kilometer. 

While a car is not a must to live in Ajijic, it is handy if you want to visit Guadalajara and other areas often. It’s also handy considering that the local taxis tend to be inconsistent and Uber is virtually non-existent.

Total cost of living in Ajijic

A couple can live comfortably for around MXN 40,000 or USD 2,000 a month. 

But as with anywhere in the world, your cost of living will depend on your lifestyle.  

How Can You Find Rentals in Lake Chapala?

Finding the best rentals in Lake Chapala and all of Mexico is mostly about looking where the locals look. If you only search the english speaking groups or english websites, you’ll only find things posted in USD. And when things are posted in USD they might not be the be the best deal!

But if you search for keywords like “renta de casa en ajijic” or “renta de casa en lago de Chapala” your search resdults will give you what the locals post.
Another pro tip is that in Mexico, Mexicans tend to find rentals by word of mouth. So you will usually find the some of the best rentals for the best prices by asking around when you first land. Or you’ll find the best rentals by finding signs on windows or walls saying ”se renta” with a phone number next to it.

It’s important to ask everyone you meet if they know of any rentals. And when you do find one that is a good deal, make sure you ask the landlord or broker for verification to ensure you don’t fall victim of a real estate scam. Ask them for proof that they have permission to rent the home. This can be by asking for an ID and a utullity bill and making sure the names match. Or asking to speak to the owner directly to ensure they are renting the house.

And never ever rent a house without seeing it first!

But if you don’t really speak Spanish, and you don’t know the area, we highly recommend working with a reputable realtor. They can do the house hunting for you, negiotaite the terms on your lease, and act as your advocate in the transaction. There are usually more protections when you hire a well known realtor.

Healthcare in Ajijic

The thing about Lake Chapala and specificially Ajijic is that even though it is a small community, there is no shortage of great healthcare!
There are many general physicians and specialists in the area, and good healthcare facilities, including Hospital Ajijic, Ribera Medical Center, and Chapala Med. 

Head to Chapala, just 7 miles away, for even more options. 

And if you need any advanced treatments like heart surgeons or oncologists, you can easily visit Guadalajara. As Mexico’s second-largest city, it has top-notch healthcare facilities. In fact, Guadalajara is known as Mexico’s best healthcare destination.

Watch my interview with Dr. Hernandez to learn more about medical care in Mexico.  

You can find nurses and caregivers if you’re an older adult retiring in Ajijic or moving with others who need assistance. The town also has nursing homes and assisted living facilities.  

Things to do in Ajijic

Most foreigners move to Mexico in good health and want to stay active. Don’t worry! You won’t be bored in Ajijic. Here are some things to do while living in the area:

Enjoy lake-side living

Lake Chapala is Mexico’s largest lake. While it’s not ideal for swimming, there’s still much to do. 

The Malecon (pathway by the lake) is great for long walks, whether you want to have a relaxed stroll or get some exercise. The area is vibrant. Don’t forget to stop by some of the many vendors for a snack.  

You can go kayaking on the lake. Or take boat tours to the nearby islands.

Discover the art scene

Ajijic is well-known for its art (and artists). There’re art galleries, art shows, and street art to enjoy.

If you want to pick up a creative hobby, you’re in the right place. Join workshops and classes to learn artistic skills and have fun. 

Volunteering and community events

Many expats in Mexico want to give back to society. You’ll have several options to volunteer in the area, including helping children and animals. 

The town is community-focused, meaning you can make friends. Don’t forget to check out the Lake Chapala Society. They have many programs and fun events to help you integrate into your new life. You can also enjoy their facilities which include a library and a pottery studio.  

See my interview with expat Anette from BoneVoyage, to learn more about volunteering to foster stray dogs.

Other Towns in Lake Chapala

Despite Ajijic being the most popular town in Lake Chapala with expats in Mexico, there are other notable towns you should visit.

These include Chapala, San Antonio Tlayacapan, Atotonilquillo, and Jocotepec.

In the Chapala municipality (which is the equivalent of a county in the US), Chapala is the main town. It has a population of about 25,000 people as of 2020. Followed by Ajijic with about 12,000 people, and then Atotonilquillo with about 7,000.

Many people looking to live in Lake Chapala are quickly turning to Chapala as their favorite town. Mostly because of the lower cost of living, better infrastructure, wider streets, and no cobblestones.

Check out this video I did comparing Chapala and Ajijic

Living in Lake Chapala

Getting around

There are convenient flight options between Guadalajara and many other North American cities. You can get direct flights to Houston, Dallas, Chicago, LA, Las Vegas, Seattle, Phoenix, Atlanta, and many more places. 

Safety

The state of Jalisco has been in the news for increasing crime. 

But many expats feel completely safe in Ajijic and the Chapala area.

It’s important to exercise general precautions as you would anywhere. Because petty crime can happen.  

Plan your move to Ajijic

Now you know Ajijic is one of the best places to retire. But packing up and moving countries is a big decision. So, I always ask my clients to make a scouting trip first. 

Alternatively, 

Check out our PRIVATE Mexico Relocation Tours with local expert guides. You can learn about living in Ajijic and Chapala and clarify all your questions. The tours happen at your own pace, so you can spend as much (or as little) time as you want. 

Mariana Lange

Mariana Lima-Lange was born in Mexico and immigrated to the U.S. when she was a child. She spent every summer visiting family throughout Mexico and is very knowledgeable about Mexican culture, lifestyle, and traditions. She is fluent in both Spanish and English.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Cristie Sanford says

    Thank you, Mariana for this article. The Lake Chapala region is strumming my heart strings. I rely on the information you give, even though my move is a few years away. God bless you for what you’re doing.

  2. Bob says

    Are there any city tours held for Ajijic and Chapala, and perhaps the other less well known communities?

    • Mariana Lange says

      Hi Bob
      yes we have several recommendations for private relocation tour guides that cover Ajijic, Jocotepec, Tlaquepaque, and Chapala
      check them out
      mexicorelocatonguide.com/tours

  3. Fred McNeill says

    I am considering buying the Relocation Guide and am wondering about accessability.

    Our daughter lives with us but has her own email address.Will she be able to access the guide as well
    as we are all considering moving to Mexico.

    Regards
    Fred McNeill

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