Lake Chapala, San Miguel de Allende or….?

July 6, 2013

I live at Lake Chapala. I work at Lake Chapala. Many years ago when checking out various countries I chose Mexico as a place to retire. The next task was to narrow my choice down within Mexico. There are many great places to retire in Mexico, but how do we decide?
The cost of living is a big factor. After all we still have to pay the bills where ever we live.
Under the new immigration law in Mexico basically you need an income of $1500 USD per month. I believe you can live well on that almost anywhere in Mexico, so no need to limit where you look to little known towns and villages in remote places.
There’s a friendly debate among the ExPat Communities in Mexico about which place is best. Each place has it’s supporters. How do you decide. Of course you should visit each place of interest like I did. One place may seem more beautiful, or more romantic than the other, but you should balance those things with the practical aspects of retirement.
I came across the below quoted response on the Expat Exchange site at It’s a free membership site like
I’ve quoted some recent posts from this site because taken together these posters may just help you to clarify your own thinking. Please read these 3 quoted posts and consider joining 
angie1945 posted: Hello anyone: We have just returned from Merida, Yucatan and Oaxaca, Mexico and are very excited about the country of Mexico. Both places are wonderful but we would like to know a little about San Miguel de Allende and perhaps pay a visit to learn some more before we decide where to plant our nest. If anyone has information on San Miguel we would be very appreciative of it. Angie & Kurt
Cetra posted: Dear Angie & Curt, Both places you mentioned are great, but in my opinion too hot to live in and the infrastructure for an expat will never compare to what you can get in San Miguel. SM might be more expensive that the other two, but Hospitals, shopping centers, restaurants, cinemas, etc. plus all the real Mexico you are looking for can only be obtained in SM. I do recommend to plan a trip in order to make sure what I am telling you about, you also have Golf Courses, and less than 45 min you have a wine region (not the best wine, but good to enjoy). Queretaro is the largest city close to San Miguel which is around 45 minutes in case you need something more specialized, and Mexico City is only 3 hrs away. I am a San Miguel lover, and that is the reason why I recommend you SM over the other two.
MsAlex posted: When I first moved to Mexico (after having traveled here many times over previous decades), I wanted to "feel the Mexican culture" and not live in a "bubble" of gringo culture. During our first 18 months, my husband and I lived in Patzcuaro, Michoacan and in SMA. While we appreciated both places, we found that our priorities shifted with time. While we appreciate the many qualities of both places, what we came to realize was that in choosing a place to live long-term we should be concerned with the following priorities: -Accessibility of world-class-quality health care -Comfortable climate year round -Having an airport less than an hour away which is a major hub for both international and intra-national flights -Having a variety of restaurants available that we would enjoy eating in (and priced so that we could eat out frequently) -Opportunities for socializing and friendship with fellow expats. Living in Ajijic, a village on Lake Chapala, just an hour away from Guadalajara (and just half an hour from the GDL airport) scores SUPER HIGH in all these categories. The weather is literally rated as the BEST in the WORLD. Absolutely T-O-P QUALITY health care and super modern hospitals are conveniently available in Guadalajara, with lots of local doctors in our immediate area. While restaurants often struggle economically, we still have great choices available to us. We enjoy a very busy social life. (There are enough expats in residence that whatever your background or preference, you can find "your people" somewhere here.) And for me, the "cherry on top" is the fabulous view of Lake Chapala we enjoy. The lake is over 60 miles long — so big that it looks like an ocean inlet. Walking on its malecon, with its fabulous view, in comfortable weather year round (no humidity!) is a joy. Lastly, as in SMA, I feel there is a very positive tone to our interactions with locals. We and our retirement funds are the economic engine of the community. Our philanthropic efforts have touched many, many lives here. Happily, we "get along" well. Admittedly I find it somewhat ironic that I, an "old hand" at loving the back roads of Mexico and someone who speaks Spanish well, should settle in an area where so many other gringos reside. While I would not have been comfortable here initially, time and experience have helped me re-set my priorities. We love living in Ajijic.”
So, there you have three points of view. We have a diverse group of members and regular visitors here at What’s your point of view or questions.
Please keep it civil, respectful and remember your manners, OK?
Tu amigo, Sid
  • Pearl P

    My experience has been first on a rental basis, then living part-time in Ajijic over the last 10 years. It is amazing how the area has progressed just in that short period in the way of improvements. There is a relatively new Walmart along with a new plaza and movie theater. I have been told that there is a new school being built and new condos under construction that overlook Lake Chapala. The Guadalajara airport is beautiful inside and out having new restaurants and stores open each time I go in and out of the country. The airport continues to improve its parking and all facilities. Taxi service is quickly available on your arrival and departures.

    I find that people are friendly and helpful both the Mexican and the Ex-Pats always have open arms to visiting or sharing.

    A person can be as involved as they want to be in organizations — or not –depending on your preference. I have found that there are many opportunities for volunteer work whether it be a few days a week or at an orphanage or helping serve food. I’m still exploring that avenue.

    For those artistically inclined or really enjoy the arts, there are many opportunities to show your work or just admire.

    There are close towns/cities for shopping with each one having their own “market day”. It is wonderful to be able to buy the fresh produce and seafood. There’s also a great new seafood/fish local market with lots of choices.
    The boardwalks and parks both in the city of Ajijic and in the city of Chapala which are on Lake Chapala are just wonderful with small restaurants popping up everywhere. It is a delightful day to walk along the Lake, then have a long lunch and listen to the music usually played by a small band walking by. A glass of wine is also nice.
    Your pace can be as fast or as slow as you’d like. When I arrive in Ajijic, I feel like “AHHHHHHH”, I can be still.

  • Sid Grosvenor

    Hi Pearl, Thanks for the great post. I can tell you love Lake Chapala as I do. Thanks again,

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