How many times have you been on vacation and thought to yourself, I wish I could live here? For me, it’s happened virtually every time I’ve travelled. I’ve suffered from the wanderlust bug for quite some time. One of my greatest trips was backpacking Central America solo for four weeks in 2013. This year I decided to indulge in relaxation at an all inclusive resort in the Riviera Maya, Mexico for a week to take a break from work. Again this was a solo trip. While I was on vacation I ended up ditching my luxury resort and hanging out with locals in Playa del Carmen. I got to see what life is really like here in Playa, and during that trip I decided I was going to move here. I didn’t quite expect the logistical nightmare that ensued, but it was all worth it!
Arriving back in Vancouver, one of the first things I had to do was give one month’s notice to vacate my apartment. I found myself purchasing the biggest suitcase I could find and figuring out how to pare down my life to fit into it. In the end, I kept about ten boxes in storage, sold all my furniture, and gave away or donated the rest. Fortunately, my roommate was able to do the final inspection and wait for the damage deposit to be returned to us. Before leaving for Mexico I had to prepare my dog for travel. Luckily they have pretty lax animal import laws down here. All you need to have is an International Health Certificate filled out by your vet and your dog has to have a recent rabies shot. Unfortunately, a bunch of health issues were discovered in my dog causing multiple vet visits and even seeing a specialist before we could go. My dog is small enough that he got to fly in the cabin with me, ready for a new adventure, for only an additional $50 on my airfare.
Finding a home was next on the list. I was put into contact with a local real estate agent in Playa who helped me find a place to rent. Luckily she spoke English really well, because we communicated entirely through WhatsApp (This texting app is the main form of communication in a lot of places in Mexico). The agent sent me photos and descriptions of rental properties and eventually I was able to get her to negotiate a place for me that fit with my new lifestyle. I had my fair share of concerns around money transfers as I had to pay the damage deposit (equivalent to one month’s rent) upfront. I then had to pay an additional pet deposit, and a commission to the real estate agent. I sent my first deposit via PayPal and it became even more complicated when I wasn’t aware of the exchange rate to convert my Canadian Dollars to Mexican Pesos as well as the 4% commission fee. It ended up being short.
When I bought my airline ticket, I only bought it one way. My travel agent drew up a fake return ticket home dated six months after arrival. This is very important when you go through Mexican customs. I can only legally stay in the country for six months at a time without a working visa. I was hassled for quite some time when I arrived. The border guard wanted to know why I was staying in the country for six months, how much money I had in the bank, what I do for a living, where I will be living etc. They even called my friend who was picking me up at the airport and asked him a bunch of questions including how we knew each other. This was especially stressful because my dog had just endured an international flight and really wanted out of his carrier. After the border guards finally let me through, I then had to go to another office where they could process my dog’s paperwork.
Tired and feeling unsettled, I was finally able to leave the airport and head to Playa. The next day I was able to pay the remaining deposits I still owed in cash for my new place. With everything being paid for in cash, you won’t always get receipts. I had to sign a one year lease, despite the fact that I can only stay in the country for six months at a time (My plan is to leave after six months and come back after a few days and start a new six months). Once I did a final inspection of the house, the landlord left me to my own devices. My place is fully furnished and equipped with linens, and kitchen wares such as plates, cups, bowls etc. This is important because you don’t want to have to go out and buy a ton of stuff right off the bat. If you plan to move here remember to make sure you have air conditioning, but try not to run it 24/7 because it’s expensive. All utilities are included in my rent except electricity. My rent for a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom condo with a private rooftop patio, and a shared pool, right downtown on 5th avenue is 15,000 pesos (Approximately $1070 Canadian) per month. Monthly rents change with high/low season, so it’s a good idea to lock in a price for a full year. Compared to Vancouver, my home is pure luxury for a great deal.
About two weeks after moving in, I haven’t had any major issues arise. However, I’ve had the challenge of adjusting my mentality to things not being done as quickly as I am used to back home. When I moved in, my internet did not work. I waited 11 long days before they finally sent a technician to my house to fix the wiring. This was a painful waiting game considering I did not yet have a working cell phone. The next struggle was getting a new sim card for my phone. Before I left Canada, I went to my phone provider and asked them to unlock it. I paid a fee and the agent stated that it was unlocked. However, my phone was not actually unlocked. You can imagine my frustration when I went to put a local sim card into my phone and it wouldn’t work. Going through the process of getting my phone unlocked in Mexico has been the most stressful event so far. The cost was 700 pesos. When I handed my phone over, it rendered my warranty void. And of course, the technician at the cell phone store badly damaged my phone. My phone is my lifeline and I have hundreds of pictures on it. I will be eternally grateful to my friend who talked the store manager out of making me pay for the parts that they broke!
But it’s all worth it, when you look around at the stunning beauty of this town. Whether it’s hanging out at the beach at Mamita’s, eating some delicious (veggie) tacos, partying on 12th street, visiting a cenote (cave with water running through it), visiting the Portal Maya statue, taking in a beautiful sunset, checking out the amazing street art, or just casually strolling down 5th avenue, there is something here for everyone.
See you at the beach, I’m the one without a tan.
Chelsea Hartman, from Follow Your Hart…Man is a pediatric nurse that is passionate about life. When she is not working, she is exploring this beautiful world. When she can’t jump on a plane to the other side of the world, she stays close to home, taking a look back at all the great adventures she feels she has been fortunate enough to have. Be sure to check out this upcoming travel blogger!
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