Living in Mexico City

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 is ranked as the 6th largest metropolitan region in the world and was responsible for more than $411 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.

Key Takeaways

  • While the cost of living in Mexico City is higher than the cost of living elsewhere in Mexico, it is still lower than the average U.S. cost of living. 
  • Even average shoppers that prioritize eating at home can budget less than $200 a month for groceries.
  • If you're moving to Mexico City to look for work, budget around $800 per month for expenses while seeking a job. 
  • A student who is willing to share an apartment with other students can live comfortably for $750 per month.
  • Public transportation, including rail and taxis, are inexpensive and plentiful in Mexico City.

Typical Living Costs

The cost of living in the Mexican capital is higher than the national average, but still much lower than in the U.S., the international price comparison website, reports that the average price for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center is $510 per month in April 2020, while a condominium with three bedrooms costs just over $1,000. In an outlying neighborhood, a one-bedroom unit costs much less at around $300 per month on average, while a three-bedroom apartment is under $650 in April 2020.

Utilities are inexpensive in Mexico. With moderate electricity use, you can expect to pay about $30 for power, water, and garbage service in 2020. Unlimited broadband Internet service is only about $23. Prepaid cell phone service costs about $0.06 per minute. Service plans are also available from local mobile carriers.

While English is widely used in professional circles in Mexico City, your experience living there will be greatly enhanced by learning at least some Spanish. However, take note that the city does have its own variant of Spanish. 

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 a couple would need approximately $350 per month for groceries. 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 $25, excluding beverages in April 2020. Beyond the middle range, the sky's 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.

Mexico City Transportation

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 $0.25. Taxis ply the streets continuously. Fares start at about $0.50 plus $0.40 per mile in 2020.

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 Student Budget Needs

A student staying 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 their 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 Job Hunter Budget Needs

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 cell phone 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 Professional Worker Needs

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 healthcare expenses, as well as some regular dining out at nicer restaurants.

Monthly Retiree Budget Needs

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.