Welcome to San Miguel de Allende! After some surprises in Mexico City we made our way to one of Mexico’s most popular expat destinations. It does indeed have many attractive qualities. But like every city in the world, it has some negatives as well. This article will be a discussion of the pros and cons of living in San Miguel de Allende based on our personal experience.
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The thing that stood out the most when we first arrived was the beauty of the city. This place has so much color. Many of the buildings have the mixture of orange, red, and brown colonial colors. But then there are beautiful colors from the murals and paintings on the walls all around the city. Something else that makes this city beautiful is the churches. There are several of them, but the one that dominates over the city is the Parroquia San Miguel Arcangel. It is basically the icon of this city. And we’re not the only ones who love the beauty here, UNESCO made the historic area a world heritage site in 2008.
The Small Size
The second thing we really like about San Miguel is the small size of the city. It is small enough so that you don’t need a car to live here. Here’s just an example: Our apartment was in the northern part of the city, and it was a 45 minute walk to get to La Comer (the big grocery store here) in the south part of the city. We would walk about 45 minutes to get across town to the grocery store. If you don’t want to walk you can take a bus. The bus system is actually quite extensive for such a small city. The buses are slow due to the hills and cobblestone streets. (And it’s not just the buses that are slow, everything is nice and at a slow pace here. People here are relaxed and aren’t generally in a hurry to get somewhere quickly).
The Neighborhood Markets
We mentioned in the previous section that it was a 45 minute walk for us to get to the big grocery store. But we didn’t need to go there too often. And that’s because of the great small neighborhood markets. Each little neighborhood has it’s own small family run stores that usually specialize in something. In less than a five minute walk we could get to a butcher shop, produce market, tortilla factory, pharmacy, several bakeries (that make the whole neighborhood smell like a giant delicious donut), and even a few flower shops.
The Spanish Schools
This is one of the reasons we chose San Miguel de Allende as one of our first destinations in Mexico. There are a variety of Spanish schools available here (we recommend Liceo de la Lengua). When we travel we like to be able to communicate and interact with the local people as much as possible. Emily is new to Spanish and has enjoyed the Spanish classes here. Ryan minored in Spanish in college, but that was 30 years ago. The language is coming back quickly though.
It is perfect. The summers where we are from in North Carolina are disgusting. San Miguel de Allende is very pleasant all year, with temperatures in the 70’s and 80’s Fahrenheit or in the 20’s Celsius. There is no need for heating or air conditioning here.
The food here is terrific. There’s a wide variety of international food. We saw an Irish restaurant, an Italian restaurant, a Peruvian restaurant, and even a Lebanese restaurant among others. But we decided to stick to the delicious Mexican food. Our favorite restaurant was Tacos Los Felix. This restaurant seems to cater to both expats and the local people as well. My favorite thing here was the taco plate. It comes with 7 types of tacos: beef, chorizo, el pastor, chicken, pork, shrimp, and huitlacoche. The huitlacoche is a type of corn fungus. Yes, that sounds gross. But it’s a delicacy here, and I think it tastes quite good.
San Miguel de Allende can get a bit crowded on the weekends. A lot of tourists come from other parts of Mexico, and this can create some traffic jams. We found this to be just a minor inconvenience.
One other thing to know is that San Miguel does have some steep hills to climb depending on where you are going in the city. This can be a negative if you have mobility issues. But this can be a positive if you want to improve your health and fitness!
The Cost Of Living
There was only one thing we didn’t like about San Miguel de Allende, and that is the cost of things. The prices for housing and restaurants were quite high when compared to other parts of Mexico. Here is a breakdown of how much money we spent (this is for one month, for two people, in US dollars, US$1 = 20 Pesos).
- $719 Housing ($549 for rent and $170 for Airbnb fees and taxes)
- $490 Food ($289 for groceries, $201 eating out)
- $4 Transportation (We walked a lot!)
- $74 Miscellaneous (Toiletries, cell phone SIM card, etc.)
- $385 Spanish School (2 hours per day, 5 days per week)
- $204 Health Insurance
- $160 Travel Insurance
- $45 Activities (We’ll discuss San Miguel’s Activities and Entertainment in a future article).
When you add up all of the categories is comes to US$2081 for one month for the two of us. It is cheaper to live in San Miguel de Allende than it is to live in the United States, but more expensive than living in other Mexican cities.
Our Final Conclusion About San Miguel de Allende
If you can afford San Miguel de Allende’s higher price tag, it has a lot to offer. It might just be worth the few extra pesos to make one of Mexico’s most beautiful and vibrant cities your home.