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. There is part one, part two, and part three broken down by city/town. I will chronicle them all here in my blog.
I am evaluating each place I visit to determine whether it is somewhere I can settle for at least 12-18 months after my Blaxit. I will be evaluating places on the following factors.
1. Access and distance to nearest International Airport – How far is it to fly to/from the US?
2. Stability of Temperature and Climate – Is it hot all year round. Are there Hurricanes or Earthquakes Regularly?
3. Access to fresh fruits and vegetables
4. Cost of Living – what does the average rent cost with my must-haves
5. Stability of Wi-Fi and cell phone reception
6. Access to creature comforts like Walmart, Costco
7. Is there a reliable means of transportation besides Taxis and the Bus i.e. – does it have Uber or something similar?
8. Walkability and safety – are the neighborhoods walkable and do I feel safe walking alone?
9. Community – Is there a black ex-pat community accessible to me?
10. How does it feel to me – a hard thing to measure but I know it when I feel it.
Some of these things may be of zero importance to many but they are of critical importance to me so as I travel this is the aforementioned is the lens I will apply to each town or city.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.
Part 1 was my visit to Tulum and Part 1.2 summarized my short visit to Playa del Carmen (PDC). This is Part 2.1 and it summarizes my visit to Campeche, Mexico.
From November 9-14, 2020 I visited the lovely coastal city of San Francisco de Campeche or Campeche City or “Campeche” in the State of Campeche Mexico.
San Francisco de Campeche is the capital city of the state of Campeche in Mexico. The state of Campeche is located in southeast Mexico, it is bordered by the state of Yucatan to the northeast, where Merida Mexico is located, and the state of Quintana Roo to its east where Tulum, Playa del Carmen, and other tourist vacation towns are located.
Campeche, it’s the capital city where I visited was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999 and now that I have visited I can see why!
To learn more about the state of Campeche and its history, you can read this Wikipedia post.
Here is a Wikipedia post about Campeche City.
I was captivated by Campeche City at hello. I arrived by car from a weekend in the beach town of Progreso. For convenience and my desire not to be on a bus with multiple people during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, I hired a private car to transport me from Progreso to Campeche City. I hired my private car thru Yucatan Tours and Travel you can find them on Facebook. As we entered the city, I noticed the beautiful mountains and I thought to myself “put down your phone and start paying attention” and I did. The entrance to the city is magnificent I noted a sparkling white statue on the roundabout entering the city and I also noted the walls that still surround the city. The walls were built by the Spanish to fortify the city and protect it against pirates and other enemies. You can do a tour of the Walls and also visit San Jose Alto Fortress in the city.
As we drove into the city my driver, Fernando, who was just wonderful and was born in Campeche, pointed to the long promenade called the “Malecon” that runs for miles and serves as a seawall and place for walking, socializing, and dining. It was just stunning and beautiful.
I stayed in an Airbnb hosted by a local family. The house was about a 20-minute walk to the “Centro Historico” or the central historical district of Campeche and about a 30-35-minute walk to the Malecon. The Plaza Galerias, the main shopping center in the city was a 15-minute drive by taxi ($35 MXN pesos each way). It has a movie theater (Spanish language obviously), Starbucks, and clothing and electronics stores. No pharmacy in the mall but several around the city.
There are so many things to see and do in Campeche and I only got to do a fraction of them as I was remote working and had to put out a major work-related fire during my stay (drat). But thankfully I met a wonderful lady named Cynthia in a Facebook group who is an ex-pat who now lives in Campeche. She took me around when I wasn’t working and showed me the beautiful downtown area and the colonial streets, houses, and buildings and some historical churches that make Campeche one of the most vibrant and beautiful cities I’ve visited in Mexico so far.
Cynthia and I met up for breakfast one morning on the gastronomic paradise avenue of Calle 59 or 59th Street. The street and surrounding streets are lined with colored colonial buildings that house restaurants, stores, boutiques, and residences. We walked around the downtown area and I got to see the shops, Independence Plaza, and the beautiful San Francisco de Campeche Cathedral. But the old church that captivated me most was the Iglesias San Roman Santuario del Santo Cristo. Beautiful tile work combined with the stone façade. Just a beautiful building that reminded me of some of the beautiful old churches I have seen in Italy. I also love beautiful and ornate doors and if you do as well, Campeche is a great place to photograph them as there are so many!
And then let’s talk food! I had one of my best seafood meals in Campeche courtesy of my wonderful new friend Cynthia! She took me to the seafood restaurant row along the Malecon. There are several restaurants grouped together and we visited one she recommended called El Lagostino. We sat at a table facing the sea with the ocean breezes blowing it was lovely. I ordered a fried whole fish with grilled shrimp. Cynthia recommended having a garlic marinade on the fish after frying and on the shrimp. I complied and boy was she right. The fish was so good and looked so good that I dug in and forgot to take pictures! It is still one of the best meals I’ve had in Mexico and I’ve had many great meals in Mexico so far. We had such a good time and ate so well that lunch turned into dinner.
What I loved
Campeche is Walkable
What I loved most about Campeche is how walkable it is. Depending on where you are located you can walk a lot to many places in the city without a taxi.
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.
Affordable food and transportation
I loved the easy and affordable access to fresh fruit, vegetables, and seafood. The Centro district has an open-air market where fresh fruits and vegetables can be bought. There are also several supermarkets easily accessible as well. I loved that the taxi drivers in the city are honest and don’t try to take advantage by quoting higher fares just because. The fares my host quoted to me were exactly what I was charged consistently and I liked that. I liked that there is a mall with most things I might need and seeing a Starbucks, Sam’s Club, and Home Depot warmed my cockles.
Great food and UberEATS
I mentioned the great seafood lunch I had. I also had a great breakfast, Chilaquiles my favorite at a restaurant on 59th Avenue. I had a delicious dinner in the mall, Plaza Galerias. In America, you don’t always get great food in the Mall but in Campeche, I had some delicious tacos, Al Pastor, at Toks and it rivaled tacos I had in Tulum and was way better than anything I ate in PDC. Yes, at the mall. I also got great food delivered via UberEATS. Definitely try the wonderful Nachos Al Pastor and great tacos al pastor delivered from La Choperia 59 (check it out if you’re there).
The natural beauty of the city
As I said the city is clean and beautiful. From Independence Plaza to the restaurants and shops of 59th Avenue to walking along the Malecon, there is a charm and natural beauty to Campeche that you must visit and experience for yourself. Google maps also work there so I was able to find places easily using it and just walking. There are also trolley rides downtown that you can catch in Independence Plaza. I didn’t due to COVID19 but I would love to do it in the future.
Not many Expats
I actually like that pretty much everyone I saw or interacted with in Campeche, with one exception, was Mexican. I saw little to no Expats or their influence. And I liked that A LOT. While I would have appreciated having more black ex-pats to interact with, I appreciated that Campeche is a true Mexican city that felt to me untouched by Western ex-pat influence.
While Campeche is on the sea, there is not a beach within the city limits. But I hear there is a nice beach called Playa Bonita about 15 minutes away. I didn’t get to check it out so I cannot vouch for its quality.
I never felt unsafe in Campeche. Never worried about purse snatchings like in PDC, or petty crime of any kind. I walked the Malecon late in the evening with a friend nd never felt afraid or unsafe. Campeche has low crime and is considered one of the safest cities in Mexico.
COVID-19 measures in place
Campeche state is the only Green state relevant to COVID19 in Mexico at the time I am writing this post. Everyone was masked up. They were still only allowing outside dining of limited numbers with social distancing. Limited numbers in the Plaza Galerias as well. I felt much safer there than in Tulum and PDC where many places felt like a free for all. Masks are required in Campeche so act accordingly if you visit.
What I didn’t love
I visited Campeche in what is considered its cool season. The average temperature was 82 degrees and, on some days, hotter and on some days warmer, and on some days, it was quite humid and I chose to stay indoors. I was told that temperatures start climbing into the ’90s around March and can increase into the 100s by May and remain there throughout the summer. Many opt to do their socializing in the evenings to avoid the heat during the day. Humidity is high and oppressive. I had an eczema flare while there which normally only happens to me during high humidity and heat during the summer in Washington, DC. The sun is HOT in this part of the world. It is HOT in a way I cannot describe like gates of Hell hot. Like you can feel the rays burning your pagan flesh hot. In Campeche, the ocean breezes along the Malecon helped to alleviate it somewhat but when walking in the open sun in Centro Historico district there were times where I couldn’t think straight due to the heat. I’m not exaggerating. To be outdoors even in 85 or so-degree weather, you need to have water with you at all times and you must keep yourself hydrated all the time by drinking water. All the time.
My cell phone reception (Verizonwireless) worked ok, not great and Wi-Fi was a challenge.
I liked my Airbnb very much and a link to it is here. The host, Yolanda was wonderful and just so kind, but I will be honest that Wi-Fi was decent but not great. And it was only decent because Yolanda was kind enough to give me her wi-fi box as the reception was so poor in my guest house, I couldn’t connect for work purposes without the Wi-Fi box being right next to me and even then, it was just decent. I am not sure whether fiber optic Wi-Fi is available in Campeche but if is, opt for accommodations that include it, otherwise, your Wi-Fi experience may not be stellar and if you need it to work that could be a serious challenge. Because I am working remotely and will always be working remotely while living in Mexico, Wi-Fi is always top of mind for me. If it is for you, keep this in mind.
Proximity to the United States
To fly to the United States from here I would have to fly through Mexico City. There are no direct flights into the United States at this time. To get to Campeche I would have to do at least 2 connections by plane. Not ideal for me. As I prefer direct flights or a one connection flight via the US the process required to get to Campeche from DC or South Florida is not ideal.
Proximity to Merida
Merida, which I will write about soon, has ALL the amenities. It has Costco, several Walmart’s, shopping at H&M, Zara, all of it and it has a vibrant Centro Historico district. I wish Campeche were a bit closer because it would make it easier to get to places like Costco when I need to. Campeche is a 2-hour drive by private car Merida so it’s not a short distance between the two cities when shopping at places like Costco might be necessary but it does have a Sam’s Club. I am not a fan of Walmart and Sam’s Club for many reasons so having to give them my money on a regular basis would not thrill me.
Spanish Fluency Required
This is not a criticism it is a simple statement of fact. You need to speak Spanish with at least intermediate fluency to navigate day to day in Campeche. It is a quintessential Mexican city which to me is a part of its charm, and everyone speaks Spanish cause duh – it’s Mexico yall. While there are some locals that speak English it is few and far between. I am working on my Spanish but I am nowhere near fluent or even beyond beginner conversational. Living in Campeche would likely accelerate my fluency but the process would be hard and challenging.
Hurricanes and Tropical Storms
Campeche is a part of the Yucatán peninsula and is bordered by the states of Yucatan to the northeast and it has a coastline to the west with the Gulf of Mexico.
I have the same concerns about Campeche that I do about Tulum and Playa Del Carmen. Because of its location, they 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 Campeche. 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: Solid Maybe
Honestly, the biggest drawbacks are the HEAT, the Wi-Fi issues I experienced, and the fact that I can’t fly direct home or to Florida. I also wish it were closer to Merida and therefore more accessible for things like Costco runs.
I loved how clean the city is, how safe I felt, and how walkable it is. I liked the availability of creature comforts like Starbucks, Subway, and Carl’s Jr in the mall and downtown. But that HEAT y’all. It gives me great pause.
So while it is not a solid Yes, it is not a solid no either. Campeche is still on my Maybe list along with PDC which is falling in stock in comparison. If I had to choose between Playa del Carmen and Campeche, I would easily choose Campeche.
But stay tuned for Merida y’all because she has truly impressed me. Blog post coming soon!