Mexico City, the capital of Mexico, is one of Latin America's most important international business centers and financial hubs. According to the most recent data, the city and its surrounding metropolitan area are home to about 21 million people, making it the largest urban agglomeration in Latin America. Mexico City has ranked as the eighth-largest urban economy in the world and was responsible for more than $410 billion in GDP. It also serves as Mexico's education capital with dozens of universities and colleges across the city, headlined by one of the top Spanish-language universities in the world, the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
This is all to say that Mexico City is a dynamic place to live, with all kinds of opportunities for work, study and play. Whether you are considering a move to Mexico City for business, school or retirement, the city almost certainly has a place for you. From low-cost living to urban luxury, Mexico City delivers all the options you need to maintain a comfortable life with any type of budget.
Typical Living Costs
The cost of living in the Mexican capital is higher than the national average but still much lower than in the United States. Numbeo.com, the international price comparison website, reports that the average price for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center is $563 per month, while a condominium with three bedrooms costs more than $1,100. In an outlying neighborhood, a one-bedroom unit costs much less at around $331 per month on average, while a three-bedroom apartment is under $676.
Utilities are inexpensive in Mexico. With moderate electricity use, you can expect to pay about $43 for power, water, and garbage service. Unlimited broadband Internet service is only about $28. Prepaid cell phone service costs about 6 cents per minute. Service plans are also available from local mobile carriers. If you are a T-Mobile customer in the U.S., the Mobile Without Borders program allows you to use your phone in Mexico at no additional cost.
Eating in Mexico City
Grocery stores, bakeries and markets are located everywhere in Mexico City, making it easy to keep your pantry stocked and your refrigerator full. Prices are low for most food products in most neighborhoods. The expatriate magazine International Living suggests that most people who regularly cook their meals at home should have no trouble meeting a $200 grocery budget per person. Frugal shoppers can eat well on much less.
Mexico City offers dining options for virtually any taste and any budget. At the low end, a simple but hearty meal at a busy neighborhood restaurant or food court costs about $5. You can pay even less for fast, delicious food once you know where the best street-side food carts are located around your neighborhood. Mexico City is well-known as a must-visit location for international street food aficionados. At a mid-range restaurant, a three-course dinner for two people costs about $30, excluding beverages. Beyond the middle range, the sky is the limit. Mexico City boasts world-renowned restaurants serving traditional and modern Mexican cuisine. Italian, Japanese, French and other national cuisines are also well represented in the city.
Public transportation options in Mexico City include a rail transit system known as the metro, city buses and minibuses known as peseros. Most fares for local transport are less than 40 cents. Taxis ply the streets continuously. Fares start at about 50 cents plus 50 cents per mile. Other regular living expenses include personal hygiene products, household cleaning products, home decorating items and clothing. If you opt for international brands, prices are likely to be in line with prices in the U.S. You can save quite a lot of money if you are willing to buy local-brand products instead. A frugal shopper should be able to manage on $100 per month in this category.
Mexico City is packed with entertainment options, including movie theaters, museums and other cultural attractions, as well as nightclubs and the like. Most prices in this category are not substantially lower than prices in the U.S.
Monthly Budget for a Student
A student living in an affordable one-bedroom apartment can live comfortably on a budget of $900 per month, not including school books, tuition or other related expenses. By joining two other students in an affordable three-bedroom apartment and sharing rent and utility expenses, a student can cut her budget down to at least $750 per month.
This budget includes about $100 for basic utilities, internet service and cell phone service; $200 for groceries; $90 for personal expenses and $30 for public transportation. The remaining $170 is available for healthcare expenses, dining out and weekend entertainment. Any leftover money can go into an emergency fund for unexpected expenses.
Monthly Budget for a Job Hunter
Someone who has come to Mexico City to find a job probably needs at least $800 per month while looking for work. This is based on a cost of $310 for a one-bedroom apartment in an outlying area of town. This is an average price, so it should be possible to find a cheaper apartment. If accommodation near the city center is necessary, several secure hostels with dormitory-style rooms for budget travelers are located in the downtown area for around $10 per night.
This budget also includes about $100 for utilities, internet service and cellphone service; $200 for groceries; $120 for personal expenses and incidental costs associated with job hunting; and $70 for transportation, including regular taxi rides for job-hunting purposes.
Monthly Budget for a Professional
A middle-income professional can live a very comfortable life for $2,000 per month, not including transportation to work or other work expenses. This budget includes $1,100 for a centrally located three-bedroom apartment. Accommodations in a high-demand neighborhood or a luxury residential building, for example, could add substantially to this budget line. Utilities are included at $125; groceries at $200; personal and incidental expenses at $150; and semi-regular taxi travel at $50. The remaining $375 is available for health insurance and other health care expenses, as well as some regular dining out at nicer restaurants.
Monthly Budget for a Retiree
While Mexico City is not often mentioned among the top retirement destinations in Mexico, it is a good, affordable option. A retiree in Mexico City should be able to live very comfortably for under $1,000. This budget includes $310 for a nice one-bedroom apartment outside the city center; $200 for groceries; $100 for utilities, Internet and cell phone service; $100 for personal expenses; and $30 for public transportation. The remaining $260 is available for health insurance, dining out and entertainment.