Thinking about living in Merida?
Merida is the cultural capital of the Yucatan that is rich in history with an interesting mix of Mayan and Spanish influences. You can see hints of this all over the city which is what makes living in Merida such a unique experience.
There’s a lot to love about this beautiful, colonial city in the Yucatan peninsula. You’ve got the sunshine, the rich history, the colonial architecture and the level of safety. We spent almost a month living in Merida and we can see why it’s such a popular Mexican city for digital nomads, remote workers and expats.
In this blog post, I’m going to share the pros and cons of living in Merida and what it’s really like to live there in terms of simple things like groceries, transport, healthcare and more.
The Pros and Cons of Living in Merida Mexico
There’s no one perfect place in the world…right?
Merida is definitely one of the best places to live in Mexico. But as I said – it’s not perfect. There are lots of pros and cons to living in Merida – here’s the list:
Pros Of Living In Merida
Merida has a lot going for itself. It’s one of the most beautiful cities we’ve ever visited in Mexico. The cobblestones streets, the stunning architecture and the growing expat/digital nomad community.
Here are the pros of living in Merida:
- Safety: Did you know Merida is one of the safest places to live in Mexico? It’s been voted the #2 safest city in all of North America. Now that’s impressive. If you’re worried about walking around the streets, petty crime or anything worse – Merida is your safest option if you want to live in Mexico.
- Food Scene: Are you a foodie? You’re in luck because Merida is the most popular city to try Yucatecan food. Some of the best restaurants in Merida for any cuisine you could want – Japanese, Italian and so much more!
- Culture: If you want to live in Mexico and truly feel like you’re living in Mexico – then Merida is a great option. They have a strong Mayan and Spanish history which they have preserved and continue to share the stories to this day. TIP: There’s a cultural event almost every weeknight held in Plaza Grande.
- Cost of Living: Want to live in an affordable Mexican city? Merida is a great option whether you’re living the expat life or the digital nomad life. Your cost of living honestly depends on how you want to live. The average cost of living in Merida is around $800-$1500 USD per month per person.
- Health care:Is quick, fast and easy access to high-quality healthcare important to you? Merida has great healthcare – the doctors are knowledgeable and professional. You can easily book appointments and get them taken care of. We had our dental checkup (cleaning and filling) in Merida and the service was fantastic! We felt comfortable and now a couple of months later – their work still holds up!
Cons Of Living In Merida
Now you’ve heard the pros of living in Merida but it can’t all be rainbows and sunshine right? There are a couple of downsides and it’s important to consider these before you make the switch to Merida.
- Weather: Don’t get me wrong – the best time to visit Merida is from October to April. BUT the summer is excruciating! Even locals don’t like to stay in Merida because it’s too hot and humid. Going out walking around the town becomes difficult during May to September – most locals and expats tend to stay indoors with the air-conditioning on.
- Getting Around: Unless you live in the city center, you’re going to need a car or reside to the fact you’ll be using Ubers to get anywhere. We found it very difficult to get around and it’s actually a bigger city than we thought. There are public buses that are easy to ride, however, they are extremely inconsistent. Our friends waited 5 minutes, 30 minutes and up to 2 hours for a bus!
What’s It Like Living In Merida Mexico?
Has Merida, Mexico been on your radar?
But you might want to get a clearer picture of the day-to-day life of living in Merida. From simple things like where to get groceries, how to get a SIM card, the cost of living, getting a long-term rental and so much. Moving abroad whether you’re a digital nomad or expat takes a LOT of research before you even step foot in the country.
Getting From Merida International Airport To The City Center
We took a long flight from Athens all the way to Merida with 3 different connections. As painful as the trip was (actually not so bad thanks to our digital nomad apps), it was a pretty smooth trip into Merida International Airport.
The tricky thing? Getting from the airport to your Airbnb or hotel. We don’t recommend flagging a taxi down just because they will add a ‘gringo tax’ to your bill (especially if you don’t agree on a price before you get in).
One of the best things about living in Merida is that Uber is widely available. So we figured we would take an Uber to the Airbnb. Little did we know – they don’t have any jurisdiction at the airport which means they can’t drive straight up to the arrivals area. We had to walk 20 minutes from the airport to the main highway with all of our bags – it was honestly awful. We paid around $400 pesos ($20 USD) which isn’t cheap either!
Buying A SIM Card in Merida
You have several choices for a cell company in Mexico. While we were getting our SIM card in Playa del Carmen the first time we visited, we had good research on which one is the best. In the end, I just asked my Mexican friend, Abraham, and we went with the one he recommended.
There 3 telephone companies in Mexico:
- AT&T Unidos
If you want the best coverage with decent priced-plans, buy a Telcel SIM card. My friend said it has the best coverage all over Mexico (in case you travel around it’ll work best).
SIM Card Data Plans
Their plans are a little different in Mexico. You’ll basically buy a monthly package that gives you an xyz amount of GB but social media is unlimited. We got around 3Gb of data that worked well since we mostly used it for Google Maps and Uber. This monthly data plan costs around $200 pesos ($9.69 UD).
Where To Buy Your SIM Card In Merida
You can buy a Telcel SIM card at any formal Telcel shop OR at a small Tienda that has a Telcel sign out front. You can also try and get it at the airport if that’s easier for you.
Merida is a pretty big and it’s important to understand the different ways you can get around. This has proven especially important as we lived in a further away suburb, Benito Juarez Norte. Here are some of the ways you can get around in Merida:
Public transport does exist in Merida! There are public buses that go through most areas of the city and stop at any point you need to get off. There’s also colectivos but we suggest being able to speak good Spanish if you choose to use colectivos. They are basically shared vans that you can just hop on and they are usually very cheap.
Do we recommend using it as your main mode of transport? No…not really. There’s only 1 reason why: the inconsistent schedule. Our friends have waited 5 minutes for a bus and they have waited 2 hours for a bus. I’m serious! We have also tried taking the bus several times and you just don’t know when they are going to show up.
Taxis / Ubers
Uber is a great way to get around Merida. They are priced pretty well – we paid around $55 pesos ($2.60 USD) on average for our rides. Our transport bill did rack up a lot so we wouldn’t live very far from the city center again. Just a thing to consider before you think “I’ll just take Ubers everywhere.”
Daily life in your new country abroad means not eating out every single meal of every single day! As Bali digital nomads, I have to confess – we rarely cooked a meal! After 3 years of full-time travel, we learned that’s probably not the best for us (health-wise) long-term. Now we usually try to find a place that’s got a kitchen and cook at least half of our meals.
Going to the grocery anywhere in Mexico is SUPER easy! There are so many different choices and they are huge. I mean there’s even a Walmart in most towns (we found one while living in San Cristobal de las Casas).
The best grocery stores in Merida are:
- Mega Soriana
It’s easy enough to take an Uber to any of those supermarkets, do your shopping and get an Uber back. We found it really convenient and cost-effective since we did NOT want to walk 20 minutes with all our groceries in hand.
If you want a big box/bulk store, they have Sam’s Club and Costco in Merida!
If you’re thinking about living in Merida, it’s important to think about renting a place long-term. Whether you’re a digital nomad staying 1-3 months or an expat staying 1+ more years, finding a great place to live in a country you’re not entirely familiar with can be a little intimidating at first. Thankfully, thanks to Airbnb it’s been made easier for everyone!
We suggest booking your first month on Airbnb. Why? This way, you can explore different areas of where to stay in Merida, see what kind of style you look and if for whatever you don’t love Merida…you’re not locked into a year-long contract! Afterward, if you feel comfortable you can start to check Facebook groups and/or enquire with real estate agents.
You can expect to pay anywhere $450 to $1,500 USD for an apartment close to the city center. If you are happy to Uber everywhere or plan on getting a car – you can get better value for your money further out in suburbs like Benito Juarez Norte.
Cost of Living
How much does it *really* cost to live in Merida? That’s a great question!
After living in Playa del Carmen for a couple of months, we felt like Merida was so much more affordable. You get a higher quality of life without spending tons more money. I guess the only downside about living in Merida is that you’re 30 minutes drive from the closest beach vs Playa del Carmen where you’re a 10-minute walk from the beach. I guess that is the premium you’re paying for if you rent an Airbnb in Playa del Carmen.
Our cost of living in Merida for one month was around $2,500 USD. It’s expensive – we know. We also know you can do it cheaper. Rent is very affordable but we ate out a lot, did lots of activities and took Ubers everywhere. Read our full cost of living in Merida Mexico guide to see why our for 2 people was that much!
Note: This was what we spent – obviously you can live cheaper or you can bougie it up – it’s up to you! We chose the convenience of getting a place via Airbnb (meaning we paid a premium vs renting locally).
What’s the weather like in Merida? It depends!
For half the year, it’s beautiful, warm and sunny! For the other half of the year, it is extremely humid, hot and unbearable. That’s just the truth!
A few locals told us they leave during the summer because it’s too hot and humid to do anything outdoors. Everyone usually stays indoors with the air-conditioning running 24/7!
The best time to visit Merida is from November to April. If you visit Merida during these months, you’ll get sunny weather (without it being too humid) and a great atmosphere. The busiest month is December so if you’re not too fond of crowds you might not enjoy Merida as much!
You might want to avoid living in Merida from May to October. The hottest month in Merida is May where the average temperature is 96℉ (36℃). If the heat gets that intense, it gets hard to do outdoor activities like walking around the city and day trips to nearby cities like Valladolid. The rainy season is usually between July to October but it’s not as bad in Merida as the Quintana Roo for hurricanes.
Restaurants / Food Scene
If you’re a foodie – you’re going to love living in Merida! There are so many different flavors, cuisines and types of food you won’t get bored. The most exciting cuisine in Merida is the Yucatecan cuisine! Obviously as the capital city of the Yucatan, you will find a lot of authentic Yucatecan food.
You must try these two dishes if you find yourself in Merida:
- Sopa de Lima: A light, zesty and comforting soup is a staple dish.
- Cochinita Pibil: This is a flavor unique to the Yucatan region. You can have it on chicken or beef and most people eat cochinita pibil with tacos, tortas or gorditas. So good!
The most popular place to try Yucatecan food is La Chaya Maya. It is a great place to go if it’s your first time and you can find other locals sitting with you!
Looking for some of the best restaurants in Merida? There are plenty of options and we honestly feel like we just touched the tip of the list and there’s so much more to discover.
One of the things you need to consider when living in a new destination is if there are enough things to do. While Merida definitely has a slower pace of life compared to say Mexico City doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do!
Here are some of the best things to do in Merida:
- Visit any of the cenotes nearby
- Day trip to towns like Valladolid and Izamal
- Beach day in Progreso
- Witness flamingoes in Celestun
- Take a boat tour of the mangroves in Celestun
- Tour the beautiful haciendas
- Eat all the yummy Yucatecan food
- Tick New 7 Wonder of the World, Chichen Itza, off your bucket list
See – there’s so much! We spent almost a month living in Merida and didn’t even get close to every single thing you can do. If you ever do feel landlocked or just get itchy feet (like we do), Mexico is so vast and beautiful there’s so many trips you can take from Merida Airport!
Is connecting with locals, expats and digital nomads easy in Merida?
That depends! We’ve been digital nomads since 2018 and we have learned that it’s important to put yourself out there. People won’t just come to you and you’ll gain friends automatically. It honestly takes a lot of work and a lot of courage…but it’s worth it!
There IS a growing digital nomad community and a vibrant expat community. There are so many great reasons to live in Merida and that’s why it’s become a destination that many expats want to retire in. Most of these retired expats are between the age of 60s or 70s while the digital nomads visiting Merida are between the ages of 25 to 40 years old. If you want to meet some people, we recommend going to the Merida English Library or the popular bar that expats like to go, Hennessys Irish Pub.
Note: There’s definitely a larger retiree community versus younger people which is important to consider.
It’s also a very family-friendly city! On Sundays, they block off Paseo de Montejo for people to walk, run and even bike up and down the beautiful avenue.
If you need medical help, Merida’s got very high-quality healthcare. If you’ve heard of medical tourism, it’s when someone travels abroad to get their medical/dental help for a cheaper price without sacrificing the quality of care. Some popular cities for medical tourism are Las Vegas, Merida, Bangkok, Istanbul and so much more.
Merida is a great place to spend a couple of weeks if you need to get some healthcare done. It’s very affordable and if you choose wisely – the doctors are very well trained (some even studied in the US). This is another reason Merida is such a popular place amongst retirees – affordable high-quality healthcare? Of course!
Going To The Dentist In Merida
Our experience with healthcare in Merida is going to the dentist. We needed to get a checkup, cleaning and I had a filling I needed to get done. I researched like crazy to get an affordable price while having a very well-trained doctor and a good overall experience.
We booked with White Line Dental and we were so grateful they spoke English (very well I might add). A dental cleaning costs $935 pesos ($45 USD) and $935 pesos ($45 USD) for a regular filling. We honestly believe they are the best dentist in Merida Mexico and highly recommend them after the experience we had!
How Safe Is Merida For Digital Nomads & Expats?
Nervous about moving to Mexico? I get it. We all have those family and friends who are scared of these places with dark traits. I mean – which place doesn’t right?
While there are some dangerous places, there’s also a long list of the safest places to live in Mexico. And the best part?
Merida is the #1 safest place to live in Mexico. Yes, you read that right – it’s also been named #2 safest city in North America!
We spent nearly a month living in Merida and we felt SUPER safe. We lived in a great neighborhood where we felt safe walking around even at night. People are pretty friendly and honestly – you’ll understand it better once you arrive in Merida and experience it for yourself.
Is Living in Merida Right For You?
Rich culture. Sunny weather. Good healthcare. Safe city. Affordable cost of living.
Those are only a couple of reasons people love living in Merida, Mexico. It’s a beautiful city for anyone looking to move abroad or the next digital nomad destination.
It’s a truly unique part of Mexico to live in. The slow pace of life might not suit everyone but we felt Merida has a great balance. There are so many free cultural events, welcoming people and just a gorgeous city walk around. We spent nearly a month living in Merida and we were so happy we chose to go there.