As many of you my followers and subscribers may know, I am undertaking a series of trips to and around Mexico to determine the best location for my #BLAXIT. I am traveling all around this incredibly beautiful country to find a relocation home as I pursue an authentic, unapologetic, and free existence in this world. I will chronicle all my stops here in this blog.
I am evaluating each place I visit to determine whether it is somewhere I can settle for at least 6 to 18 months after my BLAXIT. I will be evaluating places on the following 10 factors.
- Short distance to the nearest International Airport; and direct flight to Washington, DC area or South Florida airport in the US available.
- The temperature and climate is stable. It is not excessively hot or cold majority of months of the year. Low to No Hurricanes or earthquakes risk
- Fresh Fruit and vegetables are easy to access and find.
- Cost of Living is low. Average 1-2 BR Rent falls between $400 -$1000 per month in secure building, 5–10-minute walk to the beach, downtown, gym, pool, ocean view (if in beach town), A/C, very hot bath water (smile), washer/dryer/dishwasher in unit)
- Stable Wi-Fi and cell phone reception
- Creature comforts like Walmart, Costco, Starbucks present or nearby
- Uber is an option
- Neighborhoods are walkable and safe for walking alone
- There is a black expat community accessible to me
- It Feels Like Home
The cities/towns I have or will visit in Mexico are:
Playa del Carmen
Ajijic, Lake Chapala
San Miguel de Allende
Some of these factors I have noted may be of zero importance to many but they are of critical importance to me so as I travel this is the lens I will apply to each town or city.
In future blog posts I will share my impressions of the following cities:
Ajijic, Lake Chapala
San Miguel de Allende
After my visits are complete, I will share which town, if any, I selected as my relocation destination.
I have devised a Five Point Rating scale that I will apply to the towns I visit going forward.
5 – Perfect (all of the factors are present)
4 – Damn Near Perfect (8 or more factors are present)
3 – Almost Perfect (7 or more factors are present)
2 – Probably Not (6 factors or less are present)
1 – Hell No (3 factors or less are present)
Here are my ratings of the Mexican cities I have already visited based on this rating scale:
I will be remote working throughout, I mean somebody’s got to pay for this stuff, right? I am visiting these towns and cities to get a sense of the feel and rhythm of each place. Along the way, I will collect information about each city, what makes each place interesting and unique. But most importantly I will be allowing myself to absorb how each place makes me feel.
If you have been following me you know that I am in relentless pursuit of my personal freedom. I have explained all the reasons why in prior post but if you are new (welcome) please check out my first post “America: I am breaking up with you” and “America is a Gilded Cage.”
I want to preface my comments by stating that these are my opinion and views. Other bloggers and residents of a town or city, may differ from me on many things so keep in mind that these are just my views. My trips are being financed by me. I am not being sponsored by any person or entity and therefore there is no one or entity influencing the views shared here.
This blog post summarizes my visit to Merida, Mexico and Progreso Beach, Mexico.
The city of Merida is located in the northwest of the State of Yucatan in Mexico. It is the largest city in Yucatan and the largest city of the Yucatan Peninsula. It is about 22 miles off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico so it is not a coastal city it sits inland. Merida is the 14th most populous city in Mexico according to the 2015 census. There is a United States consulate located in the city and it has an international airport with nonstop flights from Atlanta and Miami though not from the DC metropolitan area. To get there I flew from DC National airport through Miami international airport.
An important thing to know: Merida is considered the second safest city in the Americas only behind Quebec City.
To learn more about the history of Merida, check out this link.
I visited Merida from November 1 to November 6 and from November 14 to November 22. I spent November 6-9 in the beach town of Progreso which is about a 20-minute drive from Merida.
From November 1-6 I stayed at the Hotel Boutique Casa Flor de Mayo located in Colonia Centro (aka Colonial Central) Merida City Center. From November 14 to 22 I stayed in Norte Merida (North Merida) in a neighborhood called Nueva Revolucion. The importance of the differences between these two neighborhoods will become apparent soon.
Prior to visiting Merida I heard over and over from YouTube personalities and folks in various Facebook groups what a desirable destination the city is. I heard about great restaurants, affordable living, walkability and access to many American creature comforts. But I have to tell you that when I was dropped off by taxi in front of my hotel I was unsure whether I was in the place that everyone had told me was so wonderful.
While the hotel is charming and the owner and staff were just wonderful, the street where the hotel is located took me aback for a moment or so. It is not the most esthetically attractive block. Cracks in the sidewalk, trash on the street, it was not particularly charming. But the hotel itself was lovely and the staff was so kind and helpful. I had to use a lot of my Spanish with the local staff which was nice and they were very patient with my mistakes. The hotel also provided a fantastic cooked to order breakfast each morning that hit the spot and started off my day really well. I walked down the street to a corner market to buy some bottles of water and while it was not super fancy, they owner was friendly and the prices were reasonable and I got to use my Spanish which for me is always a plus as I am seeking to become fluent in 12-24 months.
There were some Wi-Fi challenges at the hotel but the owner kindly moved me the room closest to the Wi-Fi router and that cleared up my problems. I had no further reception issues during my stay. The owner of my hotel also gave me some restaurant and activity recommendations and he advised that Paseo de Montejo avenue was just a block or two away from our location. I woke up on my third day and took a walk to the avenue and that’s when I started to “get it.” Paseo de Montejo avenue is the primary avenue that runs through Centro Historico Merida. It is named after Francisco de Montejo the Spanish conquistador who founded the city in 1542. Along that thoroughfare are historical buildings, museums, monuments, boutiques and fantastic restaurants. It is reminiscent of the French boulevards and avenues in Paris and has several roundabouts or circles. There are many old historic mansions along the street that were built in the 19th century. It is just positively charming. As I walked the streets the charm and history of the city was quite apparent. As you near the center of Centro you will find shopping, restaurants, hotels and beautiful colored colonial houses
On Thursday of my first week I went on a walking tour of Centro Historico Merida that was so interesting. The tour was booked through Airbnb experiences it’s called Discover Merida’s Heart. I highly recommend it. My tour guides name is Eduardo and he taught me so much in a short time about the history of Merida. I learned about the history of the city and had authentic Yucatecan breakfast. I visited the Montejo House, San Idelfonso’s Cathedral, Miguel Hidalgo’s Park, Great Hotel, Church of the 3rd order, José Peón Contreras Theater and Santa Lucia’s Park. Eduardo also provided suggestions for other places to see and things to do.
Centro Merida feels authentically Mexican with modern charm. You can also find great Yucatecan food at restaurants like Micaela, and Chaya Maya. But also I ate great meals at Hennessy Pub (great cocktails – best cosmo in Merida!) and Amaro (Mediterranean), Korean Grill and wonderful Italian pizza at Trattoria La Pasta Montejo. Oh and you can find Krispy Kreme and Starbucks along Paseo de Montejo as well.
There was also a Walmart and multiple grocery stores (I love Super Aki) in walking distance or a short Uber ride from my hotel. And yes Merida has Uber and I didn’t pay more than $2 USD per ride to anywhere I had to go.
Centro is very walkable if you don’t mind the blistering heat. Walking in Centro Merida can also feel like a bloodsport at times as the sidewalks are high, uneven and filed with cracks, holes and other ankle breaking issues. But walking there is filled with so many points of interest, it’s worth the adventure, just don’t try to look at your phone and walk at the same time. Just don’t do it!
I took a day trip to the beautiful colonial town of Izamal. It was about a 40-minute drive from Centro Merida. My hotel arranged transportation and I think I paid about $1000 pesos roundtrip. Izamal is just beyond charming. A beautiful small town of yellow colored building. It is called the “Yellow City” and the “City of Hills” that are remains of ancient Mayan temple pyramids. I also had one of the best meals during my stay at a restaurant called Kinich. Do not hesitate to visit if you are in Izamal. Many people in Izamal still speak Mayan as well as Spanish and it is a place many visit for Roman Catholic saint pilgrimages. I am not a religious person but I enjoyed the town. It is quaint, clean and pretty. It was named a Pueblo Magico or Magic Town by the Mexican tourism board in 2002. When you visit you will understand why. Definitely worth an afternoon trip.
Because Merida is inland, if you want a beach day, the closest beach is Progreso about a 20-minute drive away. I spent a weekend in Progreso after my first week in Merida and on my way to a week’s stay in Campeche. Please read my post about Captivating Campeche.
I will be honest; I did not love Progreso. The Airbnb where I stayed was very nice and I loved that it had Uber, but the beach itself was not particularly beautiful and the food was nothing special. I had a long lunch at the Crabster on Saturday and dinner at the Maya Ka on Sunday . Nice location, with good views of the beach and the food was fine but nothing really stood out.
Progreso Beach has brown sand, a lot of seaweed and brownish, green water. There is a lot of trash and plastic on the beach. Frankly, you can find nicer beaches in Fort Lauderdale, or Miami. Progreso is home to one of the longest piers in the world if you are impressed by that kind of thing and many cruise ships stop there during high season. It’s fine for a day trip if you just want to be near the ocean but I had no desire to get into the water or to be there for very long.
Perhaps the sea was not particularly nice after weeks of tropical storms but I can only report on my experience and it was not impressive in anyway. It felt like a very nondescript beach town. It did not have the vibrance of Playa del Carmen or the beauty of Tulum. I was not enthused by the thought that this would be the closest beach I’d have access to if I move in Merida.
So from November 14 to 22 I returned to Merida but to Norte (North) Merida. North Merida was surreal in many ways. It frankly looks like a modern suburban city you might find in Maryland, or Florida. As we drove into the city I noted a massive shopping center called The Harbor. Further down the street was the Plaza Galerias which housed Costco, The Liverpool (similar to Macys) with a massive Sears nearby. The City Center housed stores like Autozone, TGI Fridays and a massive Walmart. Sams Club was not far away. The Texas Roadhouse restaurant could be seen from the window of my Airbnb in the neighborhood of Nueva Revolucion directly across the street from The Harbor.
One of my Uber drivers was supposed to take me to Centro Merida for a fix of Korean Grill but instead he accidentally dropped me off at La Isla Merida a beautiful Uber modern shopping center that housed Zara, Birkenstock (bought two pairs), H&M, the Mac Store and Starbucks among other of my favorite stores.
I share this all to say EVERYTHING I could possible want was accessible to me in North Merida. Because I was working and COVID-19, I didn’t get to check out many of the restaurant options in North Merida and opted to use Uber Eats mostly but there are many great options in North Merida.
There is also great housing options in the area. There are modern condos and high-rise apartments and single family home gated communities. The area was clearly developed with expat in mind. It feels very “gentrified” for lack of a better term and in a way it bothered me as it is clear that many locals likely can’t afford to live there.
I will share that there were issues with the hot water in my Airbnb for my entire stay. As in the water was never quite hot. So while the apartment had all the esthetic creature comforts, the hot water supply was inconsistent. Something to be aware of when renting or booking an Airbnb.
That being said, I LOVED the area from a living standpoint and I felt at home there. I felt like I could live there comfortably if I found the right apartment.
What I loved
Merida is walkable and easy to navigate
Merida is very big and I didn’t see a fraction of it. But from what I saw it I easy to navigate thanks to Uber and consistent Taxi service.
I also loved how friendly the people are. Everyone says “Buenos Dias” in the morning when they see you and they smile. I really liked that. Even though it is a modern city, I found its inhabitants kind and friendly and many spoke decent English or at least understand it.
Affordable food and transportation
I loved the easy and affordable access to fresh fruit, and vegetables. The Centro district has open-air markets where fresh fruits and vegetables can be bought. Merida has every type of shopping available and transportation is a breeze.
Great food and UberEATS
I loved that I could walk to Starbucks, or take a short ride to Super Aki, Walmart or Costco via Uber from both Centro and North Merida. And oh the shopping was pretty exciting as well, Sephora, Mac Store, H&M, Birkenstock and Zara (my favorite). All the creature comforts are here. All of them. In addition Merida is a first-class city with great restaurants and shopping. I visited a shopping center called Casa Tho, a collection of medium to high end boutiques. I purchased a beautiful dress from Carla Fernandez and gorgeous one-of-a kind jewelry from Daniela Busto Maya. This shopping experience is indicative of the kind of shopping options available in Merida if you like to shop as I do.
Thriving Black Expat Community
Merida has a thriving expat community but most importantly for me Merida has a thriving BLACK expat community. I was invited to a dinner put together by Brothas and Sistas of Merida, a Facebook group, at Amara restaurant. There were black folks representing every age group and demographic. From single women and men to Single Moms and couples with young kids and teenagers. As I sat and watched all the Black single women, some black single Moms, as well as Black couples with their children at that dinner I teared up a bit. It was so beautiful to see so many who have exited America and created lives for themselves in Merida Mexico. It was an ocular manifestation of my dreams for myself. It was beautiful.
I never felt unsafe in Merida. I never worried about purse snatchings like in PDC, or petty crime of any kind. I walked the boulevards alone and with friends in the evening and never felt afraid or unsafe. Merida is considered one of the safest cities not just in Mexico but in the world and the reason why was apparent.
COVID-19 measures in place
Merida is practicing social distancing and COVID-19 protocols everywhere. There is social distancing in restaurants and shopping centers and limited numbers allowed in shopping centers and stores. I felt much safer there than in Tulum and PDC where many places felt like a free for all. Masks are required in Merida so act accordingly if you visit.
My cell phone reception (Verizonwireless) worked well in Centro and North Merida. Wi-Fi was decent at my hotel but superb at my Airbnb in North Merida.
Spanish Fluency Not Required
I could get by in Merida with minimal Spanish. Because of the number of Expats many people there speak English. While I would still learn Spanish, getting by day to day would be easier than say Campeche.
Proximity to the United States
There are both direct and connecting flights to United States from Merida. Although I would have to fly through Miami (MIA) international airport an airport that I HATE for many reasons. A big plus is that my Dad and sister live in South Florida so getting to them would be easy. There are also easy connections to DCA, BWI and IAD from Merida.
What I didn’t love
Merida is HOT ya’ll. I visited in what they call the “cool season” which is November to about March and average temperatures was 85-90 degrees daily and the humidity on some days was off the charts. The sun is extremely hot there and I can see why some opt to stay indoors during peak daytime hours in the summer months of May through September. The heat is the one thing that gives me significant pause. I tried walking from my Airbnb to Plaza Galerias which I could see from my apartment window. I couldn’t make it due to the heat. I had to call an Uber and this is during “cool season.” It is HOT HOT in Merida. I don’t know if I could make it in the summer.
As I shared while the beach town of Progreso is 20 minutes away, I did not like Progreso and would not really want to spend significant time there.
Hurricanes and Tropical Storms
Merida is a part of the Yucatán peninsula. As such I have the same concerns about Merida that I do about Campeche, Tulum and Playa Del Carmen. Because of its location, these cities experience many storm systems during hurricane season. Not full-on hurricanes per se, but definitely storm systems such as tropical storms, heavy and sustained rain, and winds. In October 2020, Hurricane Zeta passed thru Yucatan Quintana Roo and caused damage in several areas and flooding. It is definitely something to keep in mind if considering relocating to any Yucatan Peninsula adjacent cities.
Mosquitoes and other biting insects
The mosquitoes and other biting insects are alive and well in the Merida. But I have to say that I experienced fewer bites in this area than I did in Tulum and Playa del Carmen. But you must use repellent here. I recommend using very strong mosquito repellent. Here are links to the ones I like here, here, and here.
Verdict: Yes – with A MAJOR Reservation
Rating Score: 3
Merida is on the low side for rent in Mexico. I researched the cost of living in Merida and it is Low. Merida rent is 87% lower than the city I live in currently in the United States. You can review the cost of living by checking out Numbeo and Expatistan.
Honestly, the biggest drawback is – – you guessed it – THE HEAT.
I loved everything else about Merida. I love how safe I felt there. I loved how walkable and easy to navigate it is, I love that I can access pretty much anything I need there. But that HEAT y’all. It gives me great GREAT pause, I had a severe eczema flare there during “cool season.” I am not sure I want to live somewhere that is that hot all year round.
If you are considering Merida as a relocation destination, be sure to visit between May and September to experience its peak HEAT period. It will be an important factor, if like me you really, really, really do not like to be hot.
The Single Girl Factor. The Single Girl Factor is my evaluation of my dating prospects in a city based on my use of online dating apps while traveling. There is nothing scientific about it. I simply utilize dating apps in the area and see how many matches or hits or solicitations I receive.
Applying the Single Girl Factor, I think I could enjoy being single in Merida VERY Much. It’s a metropolitan area and based on my online app hits drinks and dates would not be an issue.
My Next Mexican City review will be about my return visit to Playa del Carmen. Stay Tuned!