If you haven’t heard of San Cristobal de Las Casas, I want to introduce you to the small and mighty town that has started to become a popular ex-pat destination in the last few years and why you should consider it as a top retirement destination in Mexico!
And there’s a good reason. There are so many things to love about San Cris. I love the culture, the people, the low cost of living, natural beauty, fresh produce, and coffee, and of course, the safety I feel being alone as a woman.
That’s why I feel that if it isn’t on your radar, it should be! And here’s why:
Cost of Living
You’ve probably heard stories of people living on less than $1,000/month in Mexico and in some cities that seem almost impossible. However, in San Cris, it’s absolutely doable. I toured a few different houses this last weekend in San Cristobal and found them extremely affordable and comfortable.
Here are some examples:
3 Bed 2 Bath House in a gated community with 24/7 security, many green spaces, hiking trails, and 5 minutes away from the town’s center. The rent includes internet, water, gas, and electricity! And the rent is a mere $650 USD a month! Not to mention, the house is very comfortable, comes fully furnished, and allows pets. (which can be hard to find in most rentals in Mexico.)
For more rental examples in Mexico, visit my rentals page.
A 2 Bed 1 Bath house I toured is renting for only $400 USD a month and includes water, gas, and the internet. Electricity isn’t included in the rent, but most people I’ve talked with say their electricity runs about $15/Month. My only recommendation here is to find a furnished rental because from what I saw, furniture isn’t cheap in San Cristobal. A simple 2 person futon at Sams Club costs over $300 dollars. Rentals that come furnished will save you a substantial amount of money and give you the flexibility to leave if you don’t like the house.
I can honestly say that a single person can live very comfortably on $1,000 USD/Month, and a couple can live very well on less than $1,500 USD/Month in San Cristobal de Las Casas.
Not only are the people amicable and helpful, but most of them are so grateful to have you visit their magical land that they want to befriend you and show you everything there is to see in San Cris.
I can say that it’s effortless to make friends here if you want to. I walked down the Barrio de Guadalupe and was able to strike up a friendly conversation with a couple who seemed like ex-pats. Sure enough, they were from Canada and were still deciding if San Cristobal would be their forever home. They were beyond kind and offered to show me around town. Unfortunately, I had a limited trip, and they had plans to leave for the weekend, so it didn’t work out. But we keep in touch, and they always seem to have exciting plans on their calendar.
And what can I say about the locals? They are not only extremely nice and friendly but also very accomodating and courteous. I had a small problem getting my luggage to my rental car because of the lack of parking, and my hotel attendant quickly volunteered to drive with me to the nearest public parking station and show me how to get back. He was so helpful!
Not only did he make me feel safe, but he also took the time to explain the road rules in San Cris, which are not self-explanatory. This alone saved me a headache and possibly an accident.
And that wasn’t the only act of kindness that I encountered. I went to a furniture store to check out mattresses and talked to the salesman about my existing bed frame and how I had a bad box spring leg. He asked me to wait one minute and returned with a wooden leg for my box spring without asking me for a sale or anything in return! He wanted to help me solve my problem.
I mean c’mon. That’s generosity.
My Dentist Gave Me Her Personal Cellphone Number
I got my teeth whitened at a dental clinic named “Dental Arts,” and not only was the dentist professional and friendly, but she opened the clinic just for me after hours because she knew I was on a time constraint and couldn’t come any earlier.
After my procedure, she gave me her personal cell phone number and immediately sent me a message the following day to check up and make sure I was happy with my results.
The people in Mexico and specifically on this occasion, in San Cris, are one of the reasons you should really consider living here. There is a sense of welcoming and inclusivity that is hard to find these days.
Food and Coffee
If you are a foodie and/or coffee lover, you will love Chiapas!
Some of the best coffee I have ever tried is grown in the highlands of Chiapas. Its flavor is bold and the coffee is strong!
Chiapas is also known for its availability of fresh produce and grains. If you go to any restaurant, you’ll likely see tamales on the menu or a sopa de chipilin with some corn dough and cheese in the broth. The Chiapanecos are proud of their elote and their artisanal quesillo.
Trust me when I tell you, you have to try different food varieties here because it’s uniquely Chiapas.
And the cost of food is another reason you should really consider San Cristobal. I visited a few grocery stores and found that produce like avocados, chicken, beef, and such is more affordable than most grocery stores in the U.S.
Flank Steak (cleaned) $3.27/Lb
Fresh Organic Chicken Thighs $2.93/Lb
Avocados $54cents/ Lb
And if you shop at the local mercado, the prices are generally lower and the produce is fresher!
I met with a few ex-pats who cooked a lot at home and mentioned that their grocery bill for two is usually under $60/week! If you’re anything like my family, we were used to paying $170/week in groceries in the states.
Eating out is also very affordable. I dined at both high-end and mid-end restaurants and never did I spend more than $25 on my total tab including two glasses of very nice tequila. My meal tabs could have very easily been less than $15, but I splurged and had a drink with every meal plus dessert.
To give you an idea, I ate at a high-end restaurant and had a very nice salmon dish, a quesadilla appetizer, two glasses of Dobel tequila, and my total bill was $24. Not only was I stuffed, but the quality of food was amazing!
Breakfast was included in my hotel rate of $40/night, and let me tell you this was an excellent breakfast! It included coffee, a fruit plate, and eggs with 2 sides, plus a breadbasket. I never went hungry.
If you have a much lower budget you can also eat at one of the many taco restaurants like the one I went to called “El Meson del Taco” where my entire bill was $7 and I had 4 tacos al pastor, a quesadilla, and an order of grilled onions plus a soda.
Eating out doesn’t have to be expensive, and the quality of food doesn’t have to be cheap when the cost is lower. At both high-end and lower-end restaurants I felt the quality was superb.
I mentioned earlier that I rented a car while I visited San Cris, but honestly, it wasn’t necessary and in some cases, it was a complete inconvenience.
Parking on the street is very hard to find so you have to park in one of the many private parking garages around town, which can add up pretty quickly. Unless you have a house with a parking space included, I would say owning a car in San Cris can be an inconvenience. Most of the time, I walked.
I walked a lot during the day, and I walked a lot at night. I never felt unsafe.
Sure, I was aware of my surroundings and didn’t leave my bag unattended or my cellphone within arm’s reach if I got distracted. And not once did I feel like I was being watched or followed.
I got adventurous one night and walked alone to a taco restaurant that looked like it had the best crowd and therefore the best tacos. The street I walked on wasn’t fully lit, and a few passerby’s walked right by me. We all greeted one another, and I never felt like I wasn’t safe.
There is also a visible presence of cops around town, which made me feel a bit more at ease.
The beauty of San Cristobal is that it’s nestled in a valley so any way you look there are hills and mountains surrounding you.
For some reason this gives me a sense of calm and peace.
I visited a few houses that were built in a sort of forest but inside the city. There is a good balance of commerce and green spaces, so it always feels like the air is clean.
Besides the beautiful scenery that surrounds San Cristobal, the weather is also incredible! In the mornings it was around 65 degrees and cool but sunny. By 11am the weather was around 75, overcast, and fresh. And at night the weather dropped to 55-50 degrees with a clear sky and no wind. It was perfectly comfortable to walk around with a light sweater. And that’s coming from a girl that grew up in Texas where it hardly ever gets below 50.
To say that I love San Cristobal de Las Casas is an understatement. I thoroughly enjoy it! And I think you will too.
A Top Pick For Your Retirement
And if you haven’t considered it as a place for your retirement, you should!
It has a lot of wonderful amenities for retirees. There aren’t as many hills as other popular ex-pat cities like San Miguel de Allende. The cost of living is low and very comfortable. It is safe and very walkable. There is a modern and fully equipped hospital with English-speaking doctors. The airport is only an hour away and has various connections. Public transportation is easily accessible. And so many other reasons.
But perhaps one of my tops ones is that the people are amazing!
I highly encourage you to do some research and consider San Cristobal de Las Casas as a place for you to call home in your retirement in Mexico.
And in case you haven’t already read it, check out my Ultimate Guide to Living in Mexico- 2021 Edition.
Roxanne Spencer says
Thank you for this overview of San Cristobal de las Casas. It sounds intriguing! I hope it doesn’t get overrun with expats–then the prices, crime, and traffic and everything else goes up!
Mariana Lange says
Glad it was helpful Roxanne!
Check out my full “living in Mexico” guide
John Gordon Williams says
San Chris is on my shortlist of cities I am considering retiring to in Mexico. My concern is the altitude. I am 70 years old but cannot move due to being the caregiver of my elderly mother. She refuses to leave her other eight children, 14 grandkids and 12 great-grandkids!!! I might be 80 years old before I get down there. Thanks for the info on San Chris.
Mariana Lange says
Glad this info was helpful. You know, I see a lot of elderly people in San Cristobal de Las Casas and I have to say that I never see any of them struggling to walk around in the city.
Sure, if you were going hiking that might be a different story. However, I feel that even though the elevation is high, the air is so clean that it doesn’t feel as thin as in other high-altitude places. If that make any sense?
You only get one life! Hope you get to make your dreams come true 🙂
Cheryl Sennet says
I love knowing about this option as I plan to do some research travel in Mexico. Regarding the airport, it would be helpful to know more about available connections. I’m guessing no direct flights to the US.
Tatiana Irvine says
Can you please share the resources you used to search for apartment rentals?
I am going to SC in one week (alone) to search for an apartment search and do not want to be confined to AirBnb, especially since it is so much re costly.
Mariana Lange says
Yes! You’ll love SCDC
I used mostly Facebook marketplace
WILBUR FUNDERBURG says
Hola Señora Lange,
For a single retiree, and comparing 4 Central Highlands (Ajijic, Cuernavaca, San Cristobal de Las Casa, San Miguel de Allende), would you think San Cristobal gives more bang for the buck, considering monthly cost of living expenses? ….
Mariana Lange says
Buenas tardes Señor Funderburg!
It’s all relative. You see, in most of these highland cities you can find affordable living if you’re okay with living further away from the city center or “centro”. However, I have found that in San Cristobal de Las Casas, you can find very affordable houses to rent even in the city center.
But at the same time, I have also seen some very affordable houses for rent in the city center of San Miguel de Allende. (which is considered to be the most expensive city of the ones you have mentioned). And by very affordable I mean like $500/month for a 2 bedroom casita with all bills paid.
The most common way to find the best deals in any Mexican city is to look for signs that say “se renta” in a neighborhood you like. Or, talking to anyone you meet and let them know you are looking for a long-term rental in the neighborhood you like. Almost always, someone knows someone who is renting a place.
Ceasar Tejada says
FYI the airport isn’t 40 minutes away – more like 1 hr, 40 min.
Also I can attest to everything about this review EXCEPT that the weather can be a challenge for retirees. I have met many people who while they love SC, can not withstand the cold nights here.
Mariana Lange says
Thanks for reading and for your comments.
We were there in March and it took me 45 minutes to get to the airport. Perhaps it’s a matter of how you drive- our driver was definitely a local who drove pretty good and pretty fast. But if you’re driving speed limit and staying in your own lane at all times, then yea, it’ll be more like an hour.
Yes- I agree San Cris is not for everyone. It can get chilly for sure, but I also know plenty of people who have moved there and LOVE IT.It’s a matter of personal preference
Thank you for the helpful info! Will have to visit here. Likely very soon on my next trip… arriving in about 11 days!!
For a short term stay, say one or two weeks would you say Airbnb is the best way to find a furnished place or just get a hotel?
I’m pretty well traveled and can converse in Spanish. 39.
Mariana Lange says
Airbnb is for sure the best way to find a furnished house in San Cris. However, if you are only staying for a few weeks then you might find a better deal with a hotel.
You’d just have to check both options out.
Muchas gracias! Will do! Very much looking forward to visiting in just 10 short Days!
William Cagliostro says
I find the Mexican people to be warm,friendly,kind and humble.They have little but always find reason to celebrate.They Mayans make colorful and beautiful products and are a delight to see in their colorful clothing.The old buildings have a rustic beauty.The children are adorable.It is especially beautiful to see the babies being carried on a Mayan mothers back all wrapped in a beautiful sling with their beautiful black hair flowing in a breeze.The fruits here are low in cost abundant and extremely healthy.Im sorry to say you must be careful to protect yourself from salmonella poisoning because the water is contaminated.Plenty of good bottled water is available.Be careful with raw salads.Raw plant foods are extremely healthy but not when contaminated.I eat mostly fruit that has a protective peal and l drink lots of herbal teas so life is wonderful for me in San Cristolbal.
Roger Pope 210-946-1776 says
I also enjoy the ocean. How far is that? I drove to Costa Rica 🇨🇷 many years ago and found Chiapas and El Salvador my favorite between spots. There is something mysterious and mystical about the people. They are very friendly and intelligent. Plan to visit soon.