Commonly referred to as just Chapala or Lakeside, these quiet communities are in an area where you really can stretch your retirement income and find a comfortable lifestyle on about half of what it costs to live in the United States. You have probably heard about this place and wondered if it's somewhere you could live. Many gringos do. In fact, the largest contingent of expatriates in the world, roughly 40,000, lives in Lake Chapala, and the majority of these folks are originally from the U.S. and Canada. Life here is mellow, but there is plenty to do, and the coast (Puerto Vallarta) is only 4 hours away by car.
Yes, the climate is mild (summer may be the best time to visit when the rains come early in the day, clear out by noon and leave the area clean and green), and there are banks, restaurants, hotels, boating clubs and almost everything else you will find at home (almost). But this is Old Mexico. It is not the resorts, and that must be kept in mind. Intrigued? Consider these facts:
Lake Chapala offers:
* A lower cost-of-living (generally 1/2 of that in the U.S.)
* Cool lake breezes
* High quality medical care
* Plentiful recreation, from golf to book clubs
* Beautiful scenery, tropical vegetation and Lake views
* Easy air access to the United States
* English-speaking residents and a strong expatriate network
Lake Chapala, located 30 miles south of Guadalajara, is Mexico's largest lake, roughly 55 miles long and 15 miles wide. This area was settled by a Spanish priest in the early 1500s, and it became known as an expatriate retirement spot shortly after WWII. Today, Lake Chapala beckons to retirees, artists and craftsmen.
Several small towns make up the area surrounding the Lake. Ajijic, a town of about 5,000 people, is the area's centerpiece. Cobblestone streets and spectacular gardens hidden behind hand-carved wooden gates and colorful walls contribute to its charm. This is where most gringos choose to live and although it is a laid-back place, there's nightlife, lots of restaurants and adequate shopping (for serious shopping, Guadalajara is a short taxi or bus ride away). English is spoken, making adapting to this new home easier than in other parts of Mexico. Some books and guides will tell you that it's possible to live on $600 a month in Mexico, and we suppose that is true if corners are cut and sacrifices are made.
We have found, however, that $1,200 per couple is about the average cost for a comfortable (but not elaborate) lifestyle in Chapala. It is possible to spend much more! Some average prices of goods and services:
* Dental cleaning....$20 to $25
* Doctor's visit...$35 to $45
* Men's haircut....$5
* Drinking water...$10/month
* Maid for one day....$12
* Coca-Cola (1.5 lt.)....75c
Find out more about retirement in Mexico here, and please visit our San Miguel de Allende page to find out more about this colonial city retirement spot.