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What is the difference in living 6 months in Mexico and year round?

Snowbirds vs. Residents

Sunrise in Playa Del Carmen Mexico A nice mid January morning sunrise in Playa Del Carmen.

It has been popular for some time now that people getting close to or passing the retirement age in the United States and Canada as well as a few other countries, will come to Mexico to escape the winters and enjoy the life south of the boarder. Some decide to spend a few months or half the year here soaking up the warmth and sun while some decide to make the leap and live year-round here. What are some of the challenges as well as advantages to each? We take a look at it here.

Snowbird vs Year Round Resident

Snowbird: Someone that comes for several months a year to escape winters up north. These people come to enjoy the warmth and then spend summers up north.

Are you trying to decide what is best for you? Are you on the fence about taking the jump to live year round or wonder what is the difference? Here are some pros and cons.

Snowbird Pros

  • You can enjoy the seasons, enjoying the slight changes but still escaping the major ones.
  • You still get to spend the holidays with friends and family and see everyone you know in person each year.
  • You can avoid having to get a residential visa for Mexico and enter just on a tourist visa (tourist visas allow you up to 180 days in Mexico, although technicaly this is up to the discretion of immigration at the airport. Most people do however get 180 days or six months to be in the country and if not there are ways to extend your tourist visa or renew it).
  • If you still choose to work in your home country you can still pad your budget with working while up north.
  • You don’t have to make a long term commitment to living in Mexico and you are flexible.

Living Year Round in Mexico Pros

  • You will most likely learn more the local routine and culture and be able to make a more educated investment decisions based on your knowledge of living year round and seeing the trends more closely.
  • You don’t have to pack up and move each year and can feel settled in one place.
  • Get discounts at local places. Many restaurants, entertainment parks, archeological ruins, busses and other services offer discounts to locals. Many people that live here six months a year think they are residents but there is often a fuzzy line between this and being a resident assures you these discounts. You will have a resident card visa most likely and other documentation necessary to prove you are a resident. These discounts can lower your cost of living in Mexico.
  • There is a difference when you live here year round in the way that you are treated at local businesses and by others living in Playa. It is as if you are a member of the club and you put in your time here so you are treated more like a local even though you moved here from another country. It might be as simple as getting better service at the laundry because they know you or your accent in Spanish is good and the taxi drivers charge you the correct fare. Many people that live here part of the year might argue that they are treated well and many people recognize them, but there are differences and you get treated even better when you live here year round and even more so when you live here for a couple of years.
  • You get to practice your Spanish and keep using it year round.
  • You have more time to explore the great backyard of the Yucatan. If you are just here for part of the year you hit up some of the more well know places and by the time you come back the next year it is almost time to go see them again. When you live here you get a chance to see some of the smaller places like Rio Lagartos, explore more around Valladolid, and Bacalar.
  • You can learn more the ins and outs of living here and learn more of why things are done the way they are. It gives you a chance to understand and do things more local and can save you money.
  • It can force you more to learn about the area and face problems you have because you know you are living here and you are not leaving in a few months.
  • You can have the opportunity to work here if you have a visa already and it makes for a smoother transition to working or opening a business here.
  • There are tax advantages usually from your home country. If you live outside your home country there are things to consider like paying less tax or not having to pay into a health care account.

These are just some of the pros for both and basically the cons would be the opposite for these. It is however becoming harder to afford the snowbird life in Playa Del Carmen. See below for why this transition is happening.

Funny picture Playa Del CarmenSnowbirds arrive in Playa Del Carmen!

Playa Del Carmen’s shrinking snowbird population

The popular idea for the past couple of decades was to buy or rent an affordable place in Mexico and fly back in forth for the winters in Mexico and summers up north. Most likely October through March would avoid the hassles of shoveling snow, cold days and staying indoors. This certainly sounds like an ideal way to live life and enjoy the best of both worlds. This however means that you do have to afford this option. Having a second home or condo or renting a place in Mexico is not in everyone’s budget and has become increasingly harder to do in Playa Del Carmen.

In the past decade Playa Del Carmen has transformed from small fishing village to an international destination for the beach, chic shopping and great restaurants. This has made it one of the fastest growing cities in Latin America and with that includes the prices of property and availability for cheaper rents (See our article on finding an apartment in Playa Del Carmen). Having a house in Playa Del Carmen has become out of the range of many with very limited supply of houses in the downtown or even semi close to the beach. From a basic house going for $300,000 USD in the downtown to $2,000,000 USD for a house in Playacar neighborhood, it is much more likely these houses will be vacation rentals for a week or month rather than a second home. Condos are more affordable and have less maintenance worries but also go from $100,000 USD to an average range of $350,000 USD. Again, these prices make it much more desirable to rent as a short term vacation rental rather that a crash pad for snowbirds.

Still, some people do make it work and renting further back from the beach can garnish you a place for $500 USD a month in rent or even a house for $80,000 USD. But the prices and availability of affordable rentals has made snowbirds land other places in the Rivera Maya and Yucatan Peninsula. Some have looked just south of Playa Del Carmen in Paamul while others look at the other side of the Peninsula at Progresso and the small communities along the beach there. (see our article “Where the expats live in Mexico.“)

The shrinking snowbird population is also seen in the shift from some of the old standby businesses that catered to expat crowd that spends the winters in Mexico. The inexpensive apartment rental buildings that cater to the snowbirds is being crunched out by hotels and Airbnb rentals.

We think this trend will continue and think that affordable places in the downtown will shrink and disappear. Options will be limited to a much further back location will be available but you will need a car to get around. And don’t think about looking in Tulum or most parts of the Rivera Maya, because prices have already jumped there.


We hope you have enjoyed reading the difference between living year round and coming as a snowbird. Do you have a personal experience? Let us know in the comments below. What works for you? What advantages have you found? We would love to hear from you.

If you want to know more about living in Playa Del Carmen and Mexico, see the menu above “Expats” tab.


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