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 San Miguel is Sensational!.
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 from the United States of America (aka “Murica”).
Originally I thought 12 months to start but I am thinking a shorter stint in a place initially may be best. As I always say “you are not a tree”, if a place doesn’t work for me I am pre-emptively giving myself the room and option to move to another destination.
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
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.
The cities/towns I have now visited in Mexico are:
Playa del Carmen
Ajijic, Lake Chapala
and Now – San Miguel de Allende
This is my last review of this series. In my next blog post I will share the city/town I have selected for relocation and why.
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:
Playa del Carmen 2
Puerto Vallarta 4
Ajijic, Lake Chapala 2
Oaxaca City 3
I remote worked 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.
I visited San Miguel de Allende (SMA or San Miguel – I will use both interchangeably) in the State of Guanajuato, Mexico from February 7, 2021 to February 15, 2021.
The closest airport to San Miguel de Allende is Querétaro (QRO) international airport. While there are no direct flights from Miami, Fort Lauderdale or the Washington, DC area, there are multiple direct flights between QRO and major US cities like Atlanta, Houston and Dallas. So flying through one of those cities I can get directly to QRO in 6-8 hours depending on the route. Upon arrival in QRO a shuttle is necessary to get to SMA and it will take between 48 minutes to 90 minutes depending on traffic. My transfers were 48 minutes (QRO to SMA) and 55 minutes (SMA to QRO). Yes I timed them using a stopwatch.
For more on the history of San Miguel de Allende, check out this link.
During my stay in SMA, I was a five-minute walk to El Centro at an Airbnb. You can check out a brief video Airbnb tour by visiting my Youtube Channel. Don’t forget to Like and Subscribe!
What I loved
SMA El Centro is like walking through a Postcard everyday
With its beautiful colored buildings, manicured garden rooftops, cobblestoned streets, and an amazing skyline reminiscent of an old European city, SMA is like walking through a postcard every single day. But at the same time it has a western catered vibe. For example, I had my first meal at Hank’s Oyster bar and guess what? It was great. I wanted a hamburger and fries and they delivered and it was perfect, and I think the fries may have crack in them – I went back the next day just to be sure they didn’t (smile).
San Miguel is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and why is pretty obvious. From the magnificent and majestic Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel to wandering through the grounds of the Fabrica de Aurora, there is just amazing and beautiful sites and architecture all around you all the time. As I walked the streets I stopped and stared many, many, many times. I have not had a feeling like that since I visited Firenze, Italia (Florence, Italy) for the first time back in 2012. There are several breathtaking cathedrals. Not just the Parroquia but also the Templo del Oratorio de San Felipe Neri and the Templo de San Francisco. Then there are the Gardens – the Jardin de Allende to be exact and the breathtaking views of El Mirador an overlook of the entire El Centro. And here’s the thing, there were several historical buildings closed due to COVID so I barely scratched the surface of places to see and things to do. I didn’t get to the Toy Museum or The Bibilioteca or any of the multiple walking tours offered everyday, or The Rosewood for Brunch. I am remote working and I had to well – work all day most days. I did make it to Fabrica de Aurora and popped into several art galleries. I also just walked around A LOT on my own and checked out several landmarks. The neighborhood streets themselves are just so beautiful. Many homeowners have rooftop gardens with flowers growing on the top of their homes and on the windowsills. Just walking and house watching was one of my favorite things while I was in SMA. Oh by the way SMA has Hots Springs at La Gruta and Escondido – yes they fancy (smile). You can also take a hot air balloon ride over the city if you like heights (I do not) but seeing the balloons rise over the city from a rooftop early in the morning is something I hope to do on a return visit.
I wandered about every day with awe and wonder at the beauty and magnificence of the place. I also was struck by how CLEAN El Centro in San Miguel is. Every morning as I walked early to get coffee, I saw shop keepers cleaning their front steps and windows. I rarely if at all saw trash in or on the street. The pride the people of the city take in their city made me smile every single day.
SMA has fantastic dining choices
While it is not a rival of Oaxaca by any means, SMA has some great dining choices and experiences. I had really great meals at places like Atria, La Unica, Bistro 300 and Garumbullo. There are also many many wonderful cafes and cheap eats options like Baja Fish Taquito, and the young lady with the yummy tacos that was down the street on Insurgentes Avenida. SMA is a first-class restaurant town. And as a foodie, that excites me.
SMA El Centro is easy to navigate and transportation is relatively affordable.
El Centro is very easy to navigate by foot but the streets are narrow. I found it easy to figure out where places were and how to find them most of the time using Google Maps. The city is in the mountains and is about 6200 feet above sea level so you have to pace yourself and give yourself time to get accustomed to walking there especially wearing a mask. It took me about 2-3 days and then I was ok.
I can imagine that in peak tourist season its much like Florence — not a joy to navigate on foot amidst the tourist crowds. I got a sample of that on Valentine’s Day when many people came to the city, despite COVID19, to take pictures and have romantic rooftop dinners. SMA is not just loved by people outside of Mexico, it is loved by Mexicans and they come there for weekend getaways and shopping and who can blame them, the city is something special.
SMA streets are cobblestone and the sidewalks are made of wide block pavers that are easier to walk on than some of the sidewalks in other parts of Mexico, once you get used to it. It helps that I have been to Florence five times and don’t mind walking there. It was a similar experience. However the cobblestone streets result in a lot of traffic backups especially on weekends.
Considering what I noted above about the availability of really good eats, SMA would be a great place to get in shape as there are plenty of hilly roads to really challenge a power walker and burn those calories! Interestingly despite my having a knee with issues, I really didn’t have many problems walking there in my Nike Air Max’s and my Crocs Flip Flops (My Crocs met their demise while I was walking in Puerto Vallarta after my visit to SMA – RIP favorite flip flops).
One of my favorite things about SMA is the WEATHER. If Lake Chapala has eternal Spring than SMA has eternal Fall and I am here for it!
Here’s a little secret about me: I HATE BEING HOT. Hate it!
The average temperature while I was in SMA was about 75 degrees during the day and 40-50 degrees at night. Over the course of the year the temperatures in SMA typically varies from 41°F to 85°F and is rarely below 36°F or above 91°F.
The warmest weather is from Late April to early June. It truly is eternally Fall there. It was sunny with almost clear blue skies every day that I was there. There was never a drop of rain and while on certain days it was warmer than others, it was never hot. I was told that in the summer months it is warmer but it is rare for the temperatures to go above 85 degree but temperatures can get colder at night usually in the 40’s to 60’s and sometimes it can even dip to the 30’s at night and be in the 60’s during the day. This means I can wear my boots and leather jackets, sweaters and leggings but will rarely need a coat if at all.
Affordable and easy access to fresh fruit and vegetables
There is easy food shopping in SMA You can buy fresh fruit, flowers and vegetables, and fresh juice at the local mercado, the Ignacio Ramirez Mercado which is right nearby the SMA Mercado de Artesanias, and there is also the Mercado de San Juan de Dios. The Ramirez Mercado is wonderful, I swear they have EVERYTHING in there! There is also a Natural Organic Market in El Centro where one can buy organic meats and other organic items. For some Western brand grocery items without going to the big supermarket there is the Super Bonanza also walkable from my Airbnb in Centro. SMA also has Soriano and La Comer a short Uber ride (10 minutes from El Centro).
Transportation was easily accessible
Uber is available in SMA and I found it easy to call and get a car when I needed to go somewhere outside of El Centro. When in El Centro, I walked everywhere.
Major comforts and conveniences are present
There is a Starbucks in SMA near the Parroquia. There is not a Walmart, Sams Club, Home Depot or Costco in San Miguel (see below under my What I don’t love list).
COVID-19 precautions in place
COVID-19 precautions are in place in Guanajuato State and San Miguel. But I did find that on the weekends when many visitors descended up on the town, there was less mask wearing taking place. Specifically among Mexican local visitors. Although much of the activities were outside, I was concerned to see some visitors being less than vigilant when inhabitants of the towns (local and ex-pats) are clearly trying to take all necessary precautions. It was a bit annoying.
Safety is not a Major Concern
SMA is considered a relatively safe city and I found that too be true. I never felt unsafe walking day or night. I walked several places alone at night in Centro and I never felt unsafe.
Black Expat Community
There are a lot of American ex-pats in SMA, many are retirement age (60 plus) but many are of varying ages and demographics. There is also a small Black Expat community in SMA. They are closer to the size of the community in GDL. They are small but incredibly tight knit and super kind and helpful and welcoming. I also interacted with some of the non-black expat community and I was also impressed with how helpful and kind they were as well. People smiled at me on the street not just the locals but the (Ex-pats) as well. It had a definite different vibe from what I experienced in Ajijic.
Spanish Fluency Not Required
Spanish fluency was not required. While it would help tremendously to have Spanish fluency of at least an intermediate level. I was able to get by for the most part with my beginner Spanish. I found that many of the locals in SMA that I encountered understood English very well and many speak English quite well.
Wi-Fi Reception was Good as was my Cell Phone Service
WIFI was good at the Airbnb where I stayed in SMA It was not as good as Puerto Vallarta but it was close. My cell phone service also worked well in SMA.
What I don’t love
The nearest airports are in Querétaro and Leon
I do not like that SMA does not have its own regional airport. One must travel 55 minutes or more (depending on traffic) to get to the Querétaro (QRO) airport or the Leon airport. While QRO has connecting flights to most places I need to get to, I don’t like that it takes 55 minutes to get there. It would be like if I had to drive to Dulles International Airport every single time I need to travel from Washington, DC. Not the end of the world but inconvenient.
Gift Shops are Expensive in SMA
Gift shops and Boutiques in SMA are Expensive. It is definitely not a place where I would do much shopping, which is probably a very good thing because I don’t need to be shopping! The Gringo Tax is clearly a thing in SMA, some of the prices of things really made me raise my eyebrows at the shop keepers. Even items I had seen in places like Oaxaca and Guadalajara were clearly significantly marked up in SMA. Basically, my advice is don’t buy artisan items in gift shops or boutiques. Buy them in the Mercado de Artesanias where you can haggle. If you want artisan items and objects indigenous to Oaxaca, Michoacán, or other regions in Mexico, go visit those places and buy at the source.
There are creature comforts that are not readily accessible without a hike to Querétaro or Guanajuato
I do not like that Costco, Sam’s Club, Home Depot and Walmart are not in SMA. One must drive to Querétaro 50-60 minutes or Guanajuato City 60 minutes away. Considering the demographics of SMA, I think they should seek to get at least a Walmart inside the city limits. With all the development happening there I am surprised it hasn’t happened already.
The toilet paper thing
At my Airbnb I saw a sign over the toilet that ask that guests not flush toilet paper down the toilet and instead deposit it in a trash can. I have seen this before in Tulum. I have heard it is an issue in Merida and other places though I was not asked not flush toilet paper in any other place I have been besides Tulum. But I am a Team player so I didn’t flush. It still feels odd not to flush toilet paper and it would be something to get used to if I lived in a place where this was required but it I important in places where the plumbing is very old as apparently it is in parts of El Centro.
Rating Score: 4
There are so many things I love about San Miguel de Allende besides how beautiful it is.
I love that I can snuggle up in blankets at night without turning on the heat. I love that I don’t need air-conditioning there. I love that I can actually sit in front of a fire if I want to and read a book because pretty much every home there has a fireplace. And then in the morning I could sit on a rooftop and warm under the rays of the sun while I drink my coffee.
I love the choices and food options. Fantastic Mexican food and top-notch international choices. I ate really good in San Miguel.
Despite the 55-minute ride to QRO, I love that I can fly nonstop to some places like Puerto Vallarta and GDL from there without going through Mexico City. I love that QRO has connecting flights (through Houston, Dallas and Atlanta) to DCA and BWI airports.
SMA, like Puerto Vallarta is one of the more expensive places to live in Mexico. It is considered Medium on the cost of living scale. I researched the cost of living in and SMA’s rent is 65.13% 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.
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 could have a pretty popping social life in SMA. The hits on the dating apps were very good and the options were right up my alley (smile).
This is the final installment in my research and reconnaissance series. My next blog post will share the city/town I have selected for relocation and why I chose it.