Is Playa Del Carmen a Good Place to Live?

Is Playa Del Carmen a nice place to live?
This is the sunrise in Playa Del Carmen taken on the Constituyentes Pier.

Is Playa Del Carmen a nice place to live?

If you are reading this, you must be thinking about a move, and Playa Del Carmen might just be on your list. As residents of Playa Del Carmen, you might think we are going to tell you all the wonderful things about Playa Del Carmen and how it is a great place to live, but we are going to be very honest and mention the good, the bad and the ugly. Every place has its pros and cons and often you don’t find about all of them until you make the move. Well, we want people to be prepared and make a good decision based on your likes and needs. 

Is it expensive to live in Playa Del Carmen?

For most, they think Mexico is a cheaper country to live in. In general, most people do enjoy a lower cost of living in Mexico. But Mexico is a large country. It has rural parts, touristy parts, and big cities. All of these areas have different cost of living expenses. So where does Playa Del Carmen fit in? Playa Del Carmen is newer and touristy with all levels of service. We would say it is about 87 out of 100 when compared to other parts of Mexico. This means that Playa is one of the more expensive parts of Mexico to live in. If you have traveled in Mexico and are used to prices, Playa might seem pretty expensive in comparison. If you are only looking at Playa compared to where you live now, it might seem reasonable. 

Don’t compare apples to oranges for cost of living

When people compare cost of living to one place to another people often compare the same things to see costs. This is not the best option because some things are more, and some are less in Mexico. Here are some things that cost more in general and cost less in general. 

Things that cost less in Playa (in general)

  • Food, especially local produce and products made in Mexico. 
  • Property taxes. Taxes on your property are very low in Mexico. You can account for about 1% the value of your property. Most people pay less than 100 USD a year for property taxes. 
  • Rent. If you do go to rent, most pay between 10,000-30,000 pesos or about 600-1700 USD a month. This might not be the savings you were expecting, but it will depend on your comfort levels and where you rent in Playa Del Carmen. 
  • Water and wastewater. You will find that many of the basics in Mexico are somewhat subsidized and are affordable if you don’t use too much. 
  • Eating out. You can find local restaurants with meals for under 200 pesos. However, some of the nicer restaurants are inching up in prices similar to other countries. 
  • Dental work and basic medical care.  
  • Labor, like a housekeeper or having work done on your house. One day of labor in Mexico if often what you would pay one hour in other places. 
  • Transportation. You can find combis, colectivos and buses to get around all at local prices. 

Things that cost more in Playa (in general) 

  • Imported food. You can find some brands from back home. There are some specialty stores and even in the grocery stores you can find imported cheeses and things, but often more expensive. 
  • If you own a property and have a fideicomiso, this is an added expense. It is offset by the low property taxes though. 
  • Electricity can be expensive. Many of the condos are designed to have ac on most of the time. You might also rent out your property, and guests can use a lot of energy. If you run a lot of air conditioning, you can rack up a bill over 300 USD a month. 
  • Health insurance. While healthcare is less expensive, some might not be used to paying out of pocket or buying insurance. 
Soriana, grocery store, playa del carmen
One of the grocery stores in Playa Del Carmen. 

How is the quality of life in Playa Del Carmen?

This depends on you and your budget. Do you like to live within your means or are you tempted to overspend? Many that are on a budget might feel a little more middle class Mexican because some of the things are not accessible on a daily basis. It also depends on your perspective. 

For the budget minded 

For those that are still working or retired, and, on a budget, it might feel a little limiting living in Playa. Playa Del Carmen is a commercial place, almost all aspects of Playa Del Carmen are monetized. Want to go to the beach, you pay for a beach club, want to go out, pay for a club cover and drinks etc. The point is everything cost money in Playa. You can live on a budget and certainly it is possible because thousands of locals do it, but that does not mean you will want to live like a local though. The life on a budget means thinking about transportation and limited going out and visiting shows, eco parks and dinning in higher end restaurants with frequency. This might hamper your expectations of the life in Playa and how you view the quality of life. 

Important note: Many people think about moving to Playa and want to continue to work. If you can legally work or start your own business, remember that wages are much lower even if you are a skilled professional. Wages are higher in the Riviera Maya than most of Mexico, but still are much lower than the same job payment in other countries. 

For the wealthier expats

Playa Del Carmen appeals to some wealthier expats because there are more services, and it is one of the beach locations that offers this in Mexico. Playa offers private neighborhoods, condos close to one million dollars, high-end car dealerships, and things that one might look for if you have the means. If you have enough money, you can have a pretty good quality of life because things do costs less, and you can find some quality things. 

Things that make it nice to live in Playa Del Carmen without cost

Then there are the things you cannot put a price on like these which affect your quality of life in Playa Del Carmen.

  • Being able to walk to the beach daily. 
  • Sunny warm weather year-round.  
  • Friendly locals. Mexicans are some of the most welcoming people to foreigners that we have seen. 
  • Access to many local parks and natural areas. Playa Del Carmen is centrally located in the Riviera Maya which makes it easy to get around. 

What about the weather in Playa Del Carmen?

Tropical weather, year-round warm weather, beaches, and sun, that is how you might describe the weather in Playa at first glance. If you live in Playa Del Carmen, you see the weather a little differently. Most locals don’t check the weather unless there is a big storm or hurricane approaching. 

How the weather affects your daily life in Playa Del Carmen

Living in a tropical climate makes you think about the weather and how you plan your day. Most people know that from 10am-4pm it is hot. This means that you plan your shopping and errands for early in the day or you plan on driving with the ac on during the day. Without a car, it is hard to go shopping, walking or taking taxis means sweating and dealing with the heat. 

It is also humid, and this affects your home. If your place does not have a lot of natural light or airflow, mold and humidity can be something you have to deal with. See our guide on how to deal with mildew, humidity and mold here

The dunny weather can also have an unexpected influence on new residents. When it is sunny, and you are in “paradise” many people want a drink to celebrate. This can be fun, but often the weather is like this, and bad habits can form if you are not working and start drinking cocktails daily. 

Nice weather in Playa Del Carmen for living.
The weather certainly makes living in Playa Del Carmen a nice place to live.

Does everyone go to the beach while living in Playa Del Carmen?

One might dream of living in Playa Del Carmen and imagine going to the beach each day. This is about as far from reality as possible. most people living in Playa have routine and daily chores take up a lot of time. Even though the beach is close by, residents might walk to the beach for sunrise or visit on the weekends when they are free. That is just the reality, living in Playa is not about going to the beach every day. 

How is safety for living in Playa Del Carmen?

In general Playa Del Carmen is a safe city to live in. See our guide on safety for residents of Playa Del Carmen. The things you need to be alerted to is petty crime and break-ins. Most crime is that of opportunity. People see a bike on your porch or a quick and easy break-in to steal smaller items. Almost all residents know someone that has experienced a break-in. 

Is this enough to warrant not moving to Playa Del Carmen? No, it is the one thing that is not the best, but something many live with. We have never had a break-in, but twice caught someone trying to. This can be minimalized; we have a lot of details in our article mentioned above for residents and crime. 

A street in Playa Del Carmen that is popular for living.
A street scene in Playa Del Carmen where you can see a restaurant and condo building for living in the back. 

Is Playa Del Carmen a good place to retire?

Many of the expats that live in Playa, either year-round or part of the year, are retired. This dynamic has been changing as more families, younger expats and digital nomads move to the area. What do most retirees find good about Playa Del Carmen? Here are some of them:

  • Playa Del Carmen is accessible to the Cancun Airport, and now Tulum Airport. Most of the east coast of Canada and the US is a 3- or 4-hour flight. This makes visits back home easy and it makes it easy for friends and family to come visit. This gives Playa an advantage over some locations that are harder to get to or more expensive flights. 
  • Medical care. Hospitals and doctors are decent in Playa Del Carmen. Still most do go “home” for surgeries, but for dermatologist, dentist, minor breaks and bruises, there is decent care. Health insurance for expats is available and not that expensive. Dentist and other services are often half the price of what people are accustomed to. 
  • Warm weather. No shoveling snow or falling on ice. For most this is an advantage. Of course, there are the really hot months, but the warm weather appeals to a lot of people looking to retire from cold weather. 
  • Lower cost of living. Playa is not the cheapest place in Mexico, but it can save you about 25-35% off your current budgets. 
  • Playa Del Carmen is more modern than other parts of Mexico. You can find Costco, Home Depot, and a lot of products that you cannot find in all of Mexico. This gives you more familiar options for purchases and finding things you are used to. 
  • Mexico in general has an easy immigration standard to apply for residency. 
  • Playa Del Carmen is a lot easier than most of Mexico for those that do not speak Spanish. There are a lot of locals that work in tourism, and this has resulted in many people speaking some English.
  • Opportunity to have some income with rentals. If you decide to buy a rental property or perhaps just rent out your condo when you travel, this is a benefit of Playa Del Carmen. There is a robust tourist market, and many rent out units to cover costs or make some extra income. 

What makes Playa Del Carmen not so good place to retire?

Now for some of the things that might be on the negative side of living in Playa as a retiree. 

  • Playa is a young place. Not only the city but population. This is compounded by the fact that Playa Del Carmen is a tourist town and attracts a young crowd. This means parties, loud bars, and businesses that cater to that crowd. Noise pollution can be a problem and if you have problems with your neighbors where you live over sound, you will probably have a problem in Playa as well. 
  • The months of April and May are hot and dry. The summer is hot as well but can have cooling rains to break the heat. Some retirees can hack it all year, others all year and others not at all. This is one of the main reasons people choose other parts of Mexico outside the peninsula to retire. 
  • Playa Del Carmen is not as cheap as other places in Mexico. Overall compared to popular places in Mexico where expats choose to retire, Playa is about 87 out of 100 on the cost-of-living scale in Mexico. It is not the most expensive zone in Mexico but close to the top. It certainly is not the cheapest because of the amenities and tourist prices in the area. See our article on local discounts for residents
  • Are you a culture lover? You might be disappointed over the lack of authentic and older culture. Quintana Roo state is mostly new since the 1970’s. Most of the expats that want more culture move to Merida, Oaxaca or other parts of Mexico. There are no museums in Playa for example.
  • Sense of community. Making new friends is part of adjusting to a new place. In tourist towns where it is very transient, it can be hard to meet people and establish connections. Many expats that move to Playa have some kind of routine and travel in different circles. Often, we hear from new residents that they are looking to meet and connect with others but find it hard. See our article about meeting people in Playa here. Not only are a lot of tourists passing through, expats also and even some just spend a few months a year in Playa. 

Conclusion

We hope we have given you an honest look at what living in Playa Del Carmen is like. Playa appeals to a wide range of people and has a lot to offer. That does not mean it is for everyone though. If you think Playa Del Carmen might be a good place for you to live, you might want to check out these articles as well. 

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