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Living in Lake Chapala Mexico: 15 Things You Should Know

Mexico has become a hot spot for many retirees and digital nomads with good reason: the weather! If you’ve been thinking about living in Lake Chapala Mexico, another popular destination for retirees, this article will answer many questions you might have.

Many North Americans have been leaving their frigid cold towns from October-April and flocking to destinations with a better climate. Can ya blame them? That’s what I did almost 8 years ago.

My destination of choice was Guatemala but I did spend a year in Lake Chapala Mexico to check it out. Central America certainly does have some of the most amazing countries. Stay openminded.

Anyway grab your tequila and…oh wait. Save that for when you get there! Grab your coffee or favorite beverage and let’s get started.

Before I begin you should know I have first-hand experience with living in Lake Chapala Mexico and also traveling through Mexico. I did it for a little over a year so I come armed with lots of knowledge.

I share the good and the bad. It’s essential to know as much as you can before you move anywhere. Especially the bad.

Now please keep in mind these are my thoughts and experiences. You can check out this blog here for more info. While I find some information a little outdated, it gives you a good idea about Lake Chapala Mexico, geographically, demographically, and more.

Definitely do your research and then make a decision. Or, a better idea I think, go travel and visit a few places either in Mexico or Central America before you move.

A Bit About Lake Chapala Mexico

The population of Chapala, which is in the state of Jalisco, is approximately 50,000 (including the next town of Ajijic) and ex-pats make up about 20,000. The perfect size if big city living isn’t for you.

Lake Chapala is Mexico’s largest lake so if you like to catch sunrises or sunsets by the water, you’re in luck. It’s perfect for both.

If you want to head to the beach, Puerto Vallarta is a short 4-hour drive away. There are many beautiful towns and various villages close to Chapala for shopping, sightseeing, and immersing yourself in the wonderful, and colorful, Mexican culture.

The Lake Chapala Society is also a fantastic service that newbies can tap into for help on just about anything so you don’t need to feel lost and alone! From Spanish classes to organized bus tours, they have you covered.

If you like eating, and who doesn’t, there are amazing restaurants on the shores of Lake Chapala and some of the best street food ever. All really affordable.

If you like going to the movie theaters they have those here too!

Want to get your hair and nails done? Lots of salons and nail places around. Oh and let’s not forget the Thermal Spa. Mmmmm. Book a day trip there. You won’t be sorry.

If you aren’t fluent in Spanish yet or the only thing you know how to say is “donde esta la bano”, fear not. English is spoken just about everywhere.

I could go on and on but let’s just get right to the 15 things you really should know about living in Lake Chapala Mexico.

15 Things to Know About Living in Lake Chapala

Here I will share the good and the bad, all based on my own personal experience so please keep that in mind when reading this. Others may have a totally different experience than me. That’s why I always encourage people to do their own research and get lots of info.

I think people should check out other places too. Travel is amazing. Living in Lake Chapala Mexico, like any other place, has its pros and cons. I think you have to decide what you’re willing to put up with and what you absolutely won’t.

That will help in your decision-making of where to live.

Let’s get to this…enough babbling!

1 Low Cost of Living – While the cost of living in Lake Chapala Mexico has increased a bit, it’s still well below that of Canada or the United States (probably Europe too I’m guessing). I lived in 3 different houses while I was there (yes I move a lot) and they were all between $450 and $650 US.

These were decent houses in nice and safe areas. Honestly, safety shouldn’t be a concern at all but we’ll discuss that more later.

Everything is super affordable from rent to utilities, internet, and food. It’s safe to say that you can live quite comfortably here for around $1500 US depending on what you like to spend your money on of course.

Enjoying a lower cost of living is one of the main reasons many North Americans flock to Mexico. Your retirement/pension goes a long way down here.

2 Is Mexico safe? Yes or No?

This comes up a lot. People read the news too much. It’s ok to be up to date on current events and such but dig a little deeper. Most of the horrible things you hear with regard to murder, crimes, etc are usually gang or drug-related.

If you aren’t in a gang and you don’t rely on the Mexican cartel for your drugs, you should be fine. Honestly.

So to answer the question is Mexico safe, or is Lake Chapala safe, it’s yes. Yes, it is. Very safe. But it’s like any other place on the planet. Use your common sense, don’t get into cars with strangers (do I even have to tell you that?) don’t leave your purse unattended on your shopping cart at the store.

You get the idea.

3 It’s famous for its near perfect weather

Near perfect, I guess it depends on who you ask. I found it a little too warm on some days for my hot flashing blood while others say it’s perfect.

December and January are winter months so expect the temps to drop to around 50 F – 60 F in the morning and evenings. Temps during the day are mid to high 70s. Keep in mind Lake Chapala is at a high altitude. A little over 5000 feet.

April – May – June are hot months with temps reaching high 80s low 90s. Bearable.

The rainy season hits around the end of June to the end of October and it could get ugly here if you don’t like rain. I love it and love how it makes everything lush and green. When it rains it pours, a lot. Throw in some nasty thunder and lightning and you got rainy season.

Other than that, the weather is nothing to complain about. For real!

4 Decent Medical Care

I’ve noticed that not only here in Guatemala but also in Mexico, the health care is pretty decent with most medical services pretty affordable. You can also get just about any prescription you need (double-check to make sure yours is available here first!)

I got hit with covid in January 2020 (before they named it covid) and the doctor here texted me every 3 days to make sure I was still alive and if I needed anything.

I had dental work done, bought prescription glasses, was treated for covid, and much more.

There are great doctors here and if you need a specialized doctor Guadalajara is literally 30-45 minutes away. A quick bus trip or affordable taxi ride. So need to worry about medical care here. It’s great in my opinion.

5 Plastic surgery hot spot

I could never quite figure this one out but apparently, women flock to Mexico to get botox, fillers, and other cosmetic surgery procedures done. I guess it’s affordable and the doctors are well-trained.

I don’t really know to be honest. I tried it. It’s not for me. I prefer the natural way to anti-aging and aging gracefully.

But there is a fair share of plastic surgeons here to help you with all your needs. I should make a note here though, I promise I’m not judging.

There are a lot of benefits to botox, not just aesthetics. It helps with chronic migraines, incontinence, etc.

6 Friendly expat community but …

I do have to say this, the foreigners are pretty friendly. The locals are friendly people and helpful too though they don’t go out of their way to help I noticed that much.

So listen, here’s the thing, the ex-pats are friendly but it really does feel like the US just invaded a town in Mexico and took over. There’s a lot of politics, entitlement, greed, and selfishness. It makes it feel very first-world-ish if you will.

A lot of people complaining about dumb stuff (hello entitlement) and not respecting that they moved to someone else’s country. I don’t get it and it kinda makes me sad, to be honest.

But there are tons of great friendships to be made and had if that’s what you’re looking for.

7 Close proximity to Guadalajara International Airport

Yes, this makes the list for a few reasons.

Traveling to the airport usually sucks and the journey is long and arduous. You’re dying to get there, and dying to get home.

I loved that the airport was so close and easy to get to. One straight highway, there and back. Here where I live in Guatemala, road trips aren’t so exciting, and getting to and from the airport is a pain in the you know what.

But not only that, if you have visitors they can easily and affordably get a taxi from the airport. It really is just so easy for everyone!

8 The town is really pretty

Like, really pretty, I think. With its cobblestone streets and colorful houses and buildings, it has such a quaint charm to it.

The center plaza/square (every Spanish town has one I’m sure of it) usually has live music playing in the evenings/weekends, the streets are alive with people and vendors. It’s just really fun and the energy is great.

At Christmas, the main street is lit up so beautifully! I think you’ll easily fall in love with the town solely because of its beauty and charm.

9 There’s an American Legion

While I’m not American I know this is a great feature for many of you who are. The legion is open daily, if I’m not mistaken, and has amazing food, parties for the 4th of July, and all other special US holidays.

It’s a great way to meet other people, make friends, and find out what’s going on around town.

I think the comradery is great for those who are new to town. You’ll feel very welcomed here and easily make some great connections with like-minded folks.

10 Plenty of art galleries close by

If art is your thing, you’ll appreciate the art galleries in town and the ones very close by, like in Guadalajara!

There is so much color and life to the art and local culture, you can’t help but stop and buy at least one thing! Mexican people, well actually, Spanish people, love colors and flowers and painting everything it’s beyond beautiful.

11 Golf Clubs with stunning views

Golfing anyone? You can def do that here. There are 3 golf clubs in the Lake Chapala region that offer stunning views of the lake and mountains.

Oh, I forgot to mention how beautiful the mountains in Mexico are.

Chula Vista golf course is the closest to the lake and has the best views I think. I gotta be honest here, I’m no golfer so I’m Googling this info as I type. As always, do your research or ask around when you get down here.

12 Enjoy a simple life

So simple. I can’t say that enough. Even here in Guatemala, life is just so simple and easy. There’s little to nothing to stress about.

There are no traffic jams, no road rage, no checking the clock every hour, nothing. It’s just so easy and such a simple life. The only stress that may arise is the stress you caused. haha!

No one is in a hurry here. If the water boy tells you he’ll be there at 1 expect him sometime before 2. He won’t be there at one. Chill out. Your water is coming. I promise.

13 Waiting can get irritating

Now with that said, if you are working on your patience like Iva is, then waiting for anything can sometimes be super annoying. But they don’t care how annoyed you are.

It won’t make them hurry for next time. And don’t try and find ‘better service’. It doesn’t exist.

No one is ever on time for anything. Not even the doctors. If you have a doctor’s appointment for 2:30 chances are, they are still on lunch and not even in the office yet.

Practice patience, like right now.

14 Internet is not the greatest

I mean, it’s not bad but don’t expect the same amazing lightning speeds you got in your country down here. Not gonna happen.

And remember what I said earlier about service? If you call the internet company and complain they will tell you someone is coming right away and give you the run around for weeks until someone finally does show up.

They aren’t in a hurry either. So if you work online still, be patient, again. You won’t work without glitches. Unfortunately, many of them.

15 Bugs bugs bugs…ew

So listen, I get there are bugs all around the world, all different kinds and sizes. I get it. Some bite some sting some don’t.

but.i.hate.bugs

So here there is definitely a cockroach problem. I’ve had them in every single house I lived in and they are basically flying around all over the place.

EW!!!!!

And in the early evenings, there are swarms of these white flies that don’t bite or anything but are super annoying. Especially when you are trying to have a leisurely stroll down to the lake.

Be prepared to swallow many. Yuck.

And one last thing I should mention is the noise. Mexico and most of the cities in Central America are loud. They love to celebrate just about everything and they do so with fireworks, firecrackers, bombas (they sound just like a bomb going off), and loud music, including trucks with tons of speakers in the back, blaring music.

So just know that there’s noise and sometimes lots of it for long periods of time. Like Semana Santa, Christmas, and Independence Day. Be prepared.

In Summary

So you can see, living in Lake Chapala Mexico has its fair share of pros and cons, the good and the bad but to be honest, if you’re looking for a place with:

  • a great climate
  • lots of things to do
  • beautiful scenery
  • friendly people
  • close to shopping and major cities
  • great food and tequila!
  • affordable and great health care, and
  • so much more

you can’t go wrong with living in Lake Chapala. Before you decide to settle anywhere permanently, stay for a few months and see how you like it.

Remember you’re not stuck anywhere, you’re not a tree.

I hope you enjoyed this post and it answered a lot of your questions. I definitely do recommend living in Lake Chapala Mexico, even if only for a short time, to see if it’s right for you.

ox iva xo

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2 Comments

  1. Hi Iva I loved your article sounds like a beautiful place to make home. It sounds safer than Sudbury or Toronto etc.with all the crime going on. Thank you for sharing I love travelling around the world through others eyes.

    1. When I was back in Sudbury in August I couldn’t believe the state of the downtown core!! So sad to see drug addicts everywhere strung out and harassing people walking by… it wasnt’ like that when I left 8 years ago.