By Carmen Noriega - Mérida Resident
Retiring in Mérida is a great option for those looking to retire in a city that is affordable, safe and historic. Mérida has a population of approximately 1,181,000 as of 2021 and a rich Mayan and colonial heritage.
The colorful and traditional city of Merida, located in the southern state of Yucatan, Mexico is not only the safest city in Mexico, but it is also the second safest city in the entire continent right after Quebec City, Canada. Merida is one of the top Mexican destinations for expatriates and retirees due to the delicious gastronomy, its mix of the modern and old world and the possibility of getting around speaking English.
So, what is it that makes this city such a paradise for expatriates? Mérida is the perfect base point to move around the Yucatán Peninsula by car or other means of transport. Besides the plethora of transport options, the Yucatan government ensures that the roads and highways are in great condition, providing annual maintenance.
From Merida, you can easily reach some of the most beautiful ecotourism sites in the world and enjoy activities such as kayaking, camping, hiking, swimming in the cenotes, biking and scuba diving.
How Do You Get Around Mérida?
For retirees not wanting to own a car, Mérida is an outstanding city when it comes to transportation. Not only does the city have many bus routes in and out of the city at affordable prices, but you can also consult the official bus stops online so that you can easily plan your trip and locate the right bus stop for you. Alternatively, you can use an app called Moovit, which helps you identify other alternatives for transport according to your starting point and destination.
If buses are not your thing, you can also easily catch a cab on the street. Taxis in Merida don't have distance meters, so the cost will depend upon how far your destiny is from your location or the goodness of your driver, as this can also be easily bargained at times. Taxi fares run from $35 pesos ($1.50 USD) to $150 pesos ($6.50 USD) within the city, but if you´d like an even more affordable option, you can also use Uber, DiDi and Cabify.
In downtown Mérida, there is even the possibility of renting a bicycle so you can enjoy a ride through the city. Every Sunday, as in most large metropolis of Mexico, some streets in downtown Mérida are closed from vehicle transit between 8 am and 2 pm, so that people can go ride their bike through the city and jog without worrying about cars and traffic. Although to be fair, there is never too much traffic in Mérida either.
Is Mérida Walkable?
If you prefer to walk, the whole city has wide sidewalks so that you can enjoy walking through this pastel-colored city. It is part of the culture in Mérida to go out for an afternoon stroll and buy some fresh fruit, a liter of fruit-flavored water with ice to cool down or a marquesita for a snack, all of which you can get for less than $50 pesos or $2.15 dollars.
All public areas and most parks allow you to walk with your dog, so you will frequently see people walking with their pets early in the morning of late in the evening when it is cooler and more comfortable for your pet to walk on the hot sidewalks. To avoid getting lost, streets in Mérida are numbered in order so you know if you are getting closer or further away from the center of the city. Even the street corners in the main streets have names, so once you understand the street number system, it will be impossible to get lost.
What is the Local Cuisine Like in Mérida?
The typical dishes in Mérida are considered to be some of the richest culinary delicacies in the world. The cuisine found in the Yucatan Peninsula is astonishingly different to that found in the rest of Mexico. The most famous dish of the region is cochinita pibil, which is a shredded pork in a runny sauce accompanied by warm tortillas, pickled red onion and salsa.
Unlike any other city in the world, Mérida actually has a dish for every day of the week. So if you plan on retiring in Mérida, here's your weekly menu:
If you're a chocolate lover, Mérida is the best place to be as the Yucatán Peninsula is the birthplace of chocolate. The chocolate made in Mérida is made with a combination of European techniques and Mayan traditions. To taste some of the best chocolate in the world, you have to head over to Ki’ Xocolatl, which is one of the few factories in the entire world that still makes chocolate directly from the cacao grains. These chocolates are made as an homage to Mayan culture and are elaborated only with the finest ingredients.
How is the Weather in Mérida?
This coastal city enjoys warm weather throughout the year, with the best weather being during the cool season, which lasts from November to March, when the average daily temperature is 30°C (86°F). The hot season ranges from April to September, with May and June normally being the hottest months of the year, reaching temperatures up to 39°C (103°F).
Besides the temperature, it should also be considered that Merida is a zone at high risk of being hit by hurricanes. Hurricane season begins in June and lasts through the end of November. The highest risk period is from August to October.
Mérida's oldest building is Casa de Montejo. It was built between 1542 and 1549 to house soldiers. Today it's home to a bank and museum.
What Language is spoken in Mérida?
Spanish the the official language but many people speak at least some English. It is very possible to get around with English only. But why not learn some Spanish? The locals are friendly and helpful if you're a beginner with the language.
How Far is Mérida from the Beach?
You'd think Mérida is a beach town. Every time House Hunters International is in Mérida, they show the house hunters walking on the beach. It's in the Yucatán Peninsula along with famous beach towns like Cancun and Playa del Carmen.
But, Mérida isn't close to the beach. It's about a 30 mile drive away. The closest beach is in Progreso. Many think this beach isn't ideal for swimming because of the water being quite shallow. But if you just want to splash around and eat & drink by the beach, Progreso is fine.
If you don't have a car in Mérida, you can take a public bus to Progreso which takes about an hour. Weekends and days the cruise ships are in town are more challenging.
You can also take a taxi or Uber which will cost you about $15-$20 each way but it will cut your travel time in half to about 32 minutes.
If being by the beach is important to you maybe retiring in Puerto Vallarta may be a better match.
Is Mérida Dog Friendly?
If you have a pet that you will be bringing with you to Mérida, you will find it a very accessible city for dogs and pets in general. Renting a flat that is dog-friendly will not be a problem, however you will find that dogs are not openly allowed in shops, restaurants and some forms of public transportation.
Becoming a Local in Mérida
Besides its safety statistics, Mérida is a great place to live due to its wide array of activities and incredible cuisine. The people in Merida are warm and cheerful, always inviting foreigners to submerge into their daily lifestyle and customs.
And although Mérida is a quiet city, you will never be short on activities to do like taking a stroll through Paseo de Montejo, which is one of the best kept areas of Mexico and the commonly known as the fanciest street in Mérida, with beautiful colonial mansions and astonishing modern businesses found in old architecture. In Paseo de Montejo, you can find free high-speed WiFi access as well as in all of the parks and some public areas.
Many people in the region sleep in a hammock as its much cooler than a mattress.
How Many Days Can You Live in Mexico without a Visa?
U.S. residents along with residents from 68 other countries can stay in Mexico for 180 days per year. This opens up the possibility of living in Mexico part time without the hassle of obtaining a visa.
Snowbirds from the United States and Canada can easily spend visa-free winters in Mérida to escape the bitter cold. But if you want to live in Mexico full time, you'll need a visa.
Mexico does offer a long-term visa for those who are retired. Retirees must show proof of a monthly, tax-free income from pensions of at least $2820 or must show investment receipts or bank account statements of an average monthly balance of about $113,000.
Retiring in Mérida Cost of Living Chart - 2023
Wow...we can clearly see inflation's nasty hand in play for cost of living numbers for Mérida. The average rental for a 1bdr apartment in the city center went up a whopping 54% since 2020! Here are the updated numbers for 2023:
1 Bdr Apartment in City Rental
$462 per month
1 Bdr Apartment Outside City Rental
$350 per month
Average Utilities: 1 Bdr Apt
$70 per month
Median Apartment Price in City
Meal for Two, Mid-Range
Retiring in Mérida Bottom Line
Overall, Mérida is a wonderful peaceful city with hidden gems and lovely people that will steal your heart. Once you learn why the city's motto is – estar pateando la pared – which means, “to kick the wall [to rock the hammock]”, you will surely never want to leave. And for retirees, add that to the ultra affordability of the area and Mérida is a winner!
Quick Facts about Retiring in Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico
Summers are very hot and humid and winters are warm, muggy and mostly clear. Average temps are from 65°F and 97°F
Flight time to U.S.
7 hours by plane to Dallas; 8.5 hours to Chicago
Yes. Mexico offers INAPAM cards to residents who are 60+ which offers discounts on things like healthcare, publich transportation, groceries and more.
Yes, must have proven income of $2820 per month or a savings of $113K. More info
Buses and vans.