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 12-18 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 are stable. It is not the 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 a 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 are present or nearby
- Uber is an option
- Neighborhoods are walkable and safe for walking alone
- There is a black ex-pat community accessible to me
- It Feels Like Home
The cities/towns I have or will visit in Mexico are:
Playa del Carmen
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:
· 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:
Playa del Carmen 2
Puerto Vallarta 4
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, and 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 a 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 Guadalajara (GDL) from January 17-24, 2021. GDL like its sunny beachside sister, Puerto Vallarta, is in the state of Jalisco. GDL is the capital city of the state of Jalisco and has a population of about 1.3 million people. It is the second-largest city in Mexico and has the second largest population in Mexico. GDL is an international center for art, culture, business, and a tech hub and is home to the University of Guadalajara. It is the 10th largest metro area in Latin America. Many major centers of learning in Mexico are in GDL. I say this all to say GDL is a proper city.
Major historical landmarks in GDL include the Guadalajara Cathedral, the Teatro Degollado, the Hospicio Cabanas, and the San Juana de Dios Market, the largest indoor market in Latin America. GDL is the cultural center that features popular Mexican mainstays like Mariachi, Tequila, and Birria (YUM). Adjacent to GDL in its suburbs is the very charming towns of Tlaquepaque, Chapalita and Zapopan and Flea Market heaven Tonala.
For more on the history of Guadalajara, check out this link.
Guadalajara has an international airport that allows for direct flights. While there are no direct flights from Miami, Fort Lauderdale, or the Washington, DC area, there are multiple direct flights between GDL and major US cities like Atlanta, Houston, and Dallas. So flying through one of those cities I can get directly to GDL in 6-8 hours depending on the route.
During my stay in GDL, I stayed about a 10-minute drive from its 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!
The average temperature, while I was in GDL, was about 77 degrees. Over the course of the year, the temperatures in GDL are usually from 41°F to 89°F and is rarely below 33°F or above 93°F. The warmest weather is from Late April to early June.
GDL is an urban city center. That means it has all the issues of a major city. It feels gritty in the Centro area. Lots of graffiti, and trash. I was also warned to be careful with my belongings due to street crimes like pickpocketing, petty theft, and late-night muggings.
My Airbnb host made a point of telling me not to wear any flashy jewelry on the street, and to make sure that entry points to the complex where I was staying were securely locked at all times. My situational awareness level was at medium to high throughout my stay as a result.
Major parks and museums were closed to slow the spread of COVID-19. Landmarks such as the Teatro Degollado, and the Hospicio Cabanas were closed so I was unable to visit them to my chagrin. While I did stop by the San Juana de Dios Market, I did not stay long because there were too many people in the area and the pandemic is still a thing.
What I loved
Shopping – Tlaquepaque
The downtown Centro Historico and Centro District in GDL are dense and are just bustling! I did a quick walk around but I did not linger as large crowds during this pandemic is not my jam. I satisfied my shopping Tabanca by checking out Tonala and Tlaquepaque. I was not disappointed by Tlaquepaque (pronounced “TEE-LAC-KEE-PAC-KEE”).
Tlaquepaque, historically known as San Pedro Tlaquepaque is a city adjacent to GDL, about a 15-minute Uber ride, in Jalisco. It is a designated Pueblos Mágicos (Magical Town).
Tlaquepaque is just delightful! It is an arts district, shopping, restaurant, bar, and nightclub district all wrapped up into one. I did a wonderfully informative walking tour via Airbnb Experiences (link here) that helped me appreciate the area even more. From checking Nuestros Dulces, rumored to have the largest selection of Tequila in the World to wandering through the beautiful Sergio Bustamante Gallery, to browsing the Mercado de Artesanías and furniture stores, to listening to live Mariachi bands, to tasting Tequila and lunching and people watching at the El Patio restaurant, Tlaquepaque has it all! Tlaquepaque is an “artesanías” or artisan center where you can buy paintings, handmade pottery, tiles, and furniture.
I enjoyed Tlaquepaque thoroughly and I plan to return to the shop for my new home in Mexico, once I select my city. My best advice is to GO if you are in GDL. I wish I had done more shopping there not less.
GDL is Easy to Navigate and Transportation Is Affordable
Guadalajara is one of the largest cities in Mexico but it was easy to navigate thanks to — UBER! Of course, I didn’t see a fraction of it in one week but Google Maps works great there, and thankfully so does Uber. I used Uber to go everywhere, it was easy and stress-free. Uber is less expensive in GDL than in Puerto Vallarta. It is a bit more than Merida but more on par with Merida. Average trips around GDL cost me about $45 to $50 pesos ($2.00 USD). To places like Chapalita, Tonala, and Tlaquepaque it was a bit higher and ranged from $79 to $100 pesos ($3-5 USD). I paid about $470 pesos for an Uber transfer from GDL to Lake Chapala (45-minute drive). I thought it was pretty reasonable considering the distance. A similar transfer to the DC area from DC to BWI costs on average $65-70 USD so much higher in comparison.
Affordable Food, and Good Restaurants
There was easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables in Centro at the open-air market. There was also easy access to supermarkets like La Comer, Super Aki, and Walmart.
Due to the high COVID-19 numbers in GDL I did not dine out very much but I did have lunch at SAVE in Chapalita as well as El Patio in Tlaquepaque and both meals were very good. There is a chain of bars called Insurgentes on Avenida (Avenue) Chapultepec that is great for sitting and people watching. Good cocktails and good (not great) food. Chapultepec is a kinda bar and nightclub row for college students and others in GDL. It was quiet due to COVID-19 but I imagine it is jumping during normal times. You can also get food easily delivered via Ubereats and Rappi.
Major Comforts and Conveniences Are Present
Starbuck, Walmart, and Costco are available in the GDL area. There is also plenty of shopping in Centro and the suburbs of GDL. You will find places like H&M, Zara, and Liverpool (Mexico’s answer to Macys).
My cell phone reception (Verizonwireless) worked well in GDL and the WIFI in my Airbnb was excellent.
COVID-19 Measures in Place
GDL was not playing with COVID-19. There were many streets closed in downtown Centro to control traffic. Museums and major gathering spots were closed and face masks are mandatory but people were still out in major numbers on the weekends. As a result, I didn’t spend much time in Centro or downtown GDL considering the population density.
The temperatures in GDL are one of its best features. It felt like Spring every day. There was very low humidity and average temperatures in the 70’s were the norm for the entire week. It did not rain while I was there.
NO Mosquitoes and Other Biting Insects
That being said, I did not experience a SINGLE bite of any kind in GDL so there was no need for my arsenal of mosquito repellent. I still recommend bringing some if you are there during the rainy season.
What I Don’t Love
Shopping – Tonala
I was not impressed by Tonala’s market. While it has been touted on YouTube videos and blog posts, as being a great shopping zone, I found Tonala to be underwhelming in its quality but overwhelming in its scope and breadth. Tonala market is blocks and blocks and blocks (and blocks) of a Flea Market. It is open two days a week. I was underwhelmed by the items in the market as most felt cheap and mass-produced. There are finds but you have to dig amidst a lot of less than special items to uncover them.
Safety is a Concern
As I shared previously I was warned not only by my host, but in my research on GDL, and by Mexicans in other cities to consciously be aware of my personal safety in GDL. My security radar was high in GDL.
It is critical for visitors and specifically women, visiting GDL to exercise the situational awareness I mention in my blog post about my Top 5 Travel Security Tips for Female Solo Travelers. I take my personal security very seriously and as a single woman who travels and moves around the world solo most of the time, I don’t like feeling on guard when walking alone down the street.
That being said, GDL is an urban environment and it feels like a city. I currently live in a major city in the US and in many ways, GDL felt similar. This is not necessarily a good thing from my perspective. Honestly, nothing specific happened while I was there that made me feel that I was in danger at any time but my situational awareness radar was definitely up while I was there, especially when I was in the densely populated areas of Centro Historico and Downtown Centro.
Air Quality is Poor
One thing I really disliked was the air quality in GDL. It’s bad. Period. The pollution in the air made my eyes burn within 24 hours of arrival. I noticed that anytime I was out for a couple of hours, my eyes would start burning. Every day my weather app told me the AQI was poor. This is NOT a good thing.
Small Black Expat Community
There are black people in GDL but not many. I joined a Black Expat Facebook Group for GDL and discovered a friendly small but connected group. Due to COVID, many were opting to stay close to home (which makes sense and is smart IMHO).
Two of my favorite YouTube personalities “The Yarboroughs” live in the GDL area and they are Black. I also had the pleasure of having an outdoor socially distanced drink with another black Expat who lives in GDL. She was just wonderful and helpful. I also had drinks with a Black Expat who was also visiting the area and scoping it out for possible relocation. So we outchea ya’ll.
But do understand that the black ex-pat community in GDL is small and not as structured as in places like Merida, Playa del Carmen, or Puerto Vallarta. As I wandered about GDL for the week I did not see a single black face outside of the ones just mentioned.
Spanish Fluency is Required
In GDL intermediate to advanced Spanish fluency is very helpful. This is not a criticism but it is a fact. It is Mexico in its purest form when it comes to the language spoken. Even in restaurants and bars, you do need to have enough Spanish to communicate or you will become frustrated very quickly. I feel comfortable ordering food and saying basic things in Spanish so, for the most part, I was ok but when I got stuck I had to pull out my Google Translate because no one around me spoke any English. I also found that in GDL, fewer people understood me when I spoke English. I have found in many places that while people do not speak English, many do understand it quite well. That was not the case in many places in GDL.
Weather Is Generally Stable but Earthquakes Are a Concern
GDL is not known for having hurricanes. But earthquakes do occur but they are not as common as in Oaxaca and Mexico City.
Verdict: Yes with reservations
Rating Score: 3
The things I like about GDL I really like. But the things I dislike about GDL (safety issues and air quality) I REALLY dislike.
If I were going to move to GDL it would not be in Centro, or Downtown. I would consider a suburb like Tlaquepaque, Chapalita Providencia, or Zapopan. The air quality issues are major for me so I would have to spend time in those areas to determine whether the air quality was better than in central GDL.
GDL is on the average side for rent in Mexico. I researched the cost of living in Guadalajara and it is Medium. GDL rent is 82% 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 think I could enjoy being single in GDL. It’s a metropolitan area and based on my hits drinks and dates would not be an issue.
My Next Mexican City review will be about my visit to Ajijic Lake Chapala, an ex-pat retirement community that is a 45-minute drive from GDL. Stay Tuned!