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  • Michaela

18 Things You Should Know About Retiring In Lake Chapala

Updated: Apr 17, 2022

Chaotic motorcycle traffic in Ajijic

(that the other blogs are not telling you about)

(updated February 6, 2019)

There are so many blogs about retiring in Lake Chapala all saying the same thing. “Second best climate in the world”, Largest and oldest expat community in Mexico”, Close and easy access to a major international airport”, 'Low cost of living”, etc. Well, all of these things are true but after seeing so many new clients come down for the first time and speaking to so many people on a daily basis, I get a sense of what others see and I would like to share this information with the rest of you thinking about retiring in Lake Chapala. After all, I want your first experience to be great and for you to make the right decision in coming and retiring here.

Is the weather always perfect? Well, yes! Darn near anyway. Though there are some who find it too hot in April/May (even though the humidity is very low) and then there are others who claim it is too cold for them in Dec-Feb. Is anywhere perfect for everyone year around? If you find one please write and let me know.

Upset with local traffic. Recently, there has been much complaining about the traffic along the Carretera (highway along the lake). Is there more traffic? Undeniably, yes, but a lot of it is from Guadalajara and not just the gringos retiring here. So, at certain times of day and on certain days of the week it may take an extra 5-15 minutes to get to where you are going. If that bothers you then it is best to stay living in Tim Buck Too.

Motorcyclists in traffic. One of the dangers of driving down here. Lots of motorcyclists and mopeds weaving in and out of traffic, driving down the center and passing on the right. If you hit one of these guys you are in for a load of trouble.

You are guilty until proven innocent; You have no rights. Unlike north of the border, you are guilty until proven innocent. That means if you hit one of those bikers and there is blood, you are basically thrown in jail until your insurance agent comes to rescue you.

Police not helpful. Police here are not helpful and may even steal from you. I know of friends who had their house broken into and after the thieves left they called the police. The police then helped themselves to anything the thieves missed.

Traffic lights are always out of order. In all the years I have been here, I can't remember when all the traffic lights actually worked. This can be a bit concerning to us from north of the border. Adapt and drive defensively.

(Breaking news: As of June 15th,2018 all the traffic lights have been replaced with new ones all throughout Ajijic!!)

Update February 6, 2019 : Some lights work and some don't. Take it easy out there. After all, you're retired.

Red is only a suggestion. A common Mexican saying.

Ouch! Was that a mosquito or no see um? Some people are just loved by mosquitoes and no see ums. If you are one of those unfortunate few then you may have to think twice about Ajijic. While my husband from British Columbia says that there are very few mosquitoes here and he never gets bitten,

I beg to differ. So I made my own essential oil spray (which I now sell at a local natural food store) and I am bugged no more.

State of horses/dogs. I know some people who love animals are shocked and disgusted at the treatment of horses and dogs in Mexico. This is not something that you can change and you will need to turn a blind eye to this or else this country is not for you.

Lets go for a swim. There is much debate about the state of the lake and if it is safe to eat fish from the lake, swim in the lake, etc. I am not a scientist and cannot comment on this other than to say that there are studies and scientists who claim the lake is safe to drink from (after a shot of iodine or bleach) and others who say it is polluted. Both Mexican children and adults routinely swim and play in the lake and the local kayak club is on the lake 3 times a week. As far as I know there is no issues.

You cannot use your credit card. I recently had clients who had thought that they could buy all the furniture for their new home by credit card. They soon learned that credit cards are not widely accepted here and that this is still a cash society. Get used to it.

Think again. Automatic debit? Another one of my clients had hoped that they could set up automatic bill payments for their utilities. Good luck. While there are some ways you can pay some things on line, systems are frequently down, websites don't work and there is the constant concern of fraud. In reality, this method that we are used to in Canada and the U.S. through the bank is really not available.

Power out again? At times this can become a problem. It sort of reminds me of being in Canada in the 70's and 80's. Power outages are not uncommon but are generally short term.

Internet out? Slow? This, too, can be a problem at times. Again, for the most part, the internet is out for only short periods of times but I have heard of some areas being out for days at a time. NOTE: Internet has improved significantly in the past couple years and now includes 3 fiber optic providers. At only $20 per month, get two!

Security. Probably one of the most common questions is about security. Is is safe? Is any place really safe? While I don't consider Lake Chapala to be unsafe, it is important to take precautions and secure your home and belongings as best as possible. Theft is really your only issue. One of my clients recently returned from Vancouver, Canada and was telling me about the police response to the gunman that closed off their neighboring condo building for several hours in Vancouver. He mentioned that it was bad press for the sale of their condo which they have listed for 1.1 million dollars! Point? It happens everywhere! Even in the best of neighborhoods.

Rising real estate prices. Recently, I read an article reporting that the median pricing of real estate in Mexico is at 54,000 USD. Whereas, median real estate prices in Ajijic is at $250,000 USD. So this is 4X higher than the rest of the country? Is it worth it? Only you can decide. Is Ajijic special? Yes! It has so much to offer for year around living that I feel it is still worth it.

Rising rental costs. I don't have any facts to back me up when I say that rental cost have risen but, believe me, they are much higher than they were years ago. How much? If I had to guess, I would say that it would be equal to the 20% increase that the real estate market has seen.

Difficult to get some items. You want that latest bluetooth speaker from Apple? A special vitamin? Maybe a pickleball raquet and balls? Face the facts. You are living in a different country. It may be close to the U.S. but it is not the U.S. and there are a large number of Amazon sellers and other companies that do not ship to Mexico. And then there is the shipping companies and customs! Sure, many things are fine and get through, then there are other things that never show up or take 3 months to get here. So plan ahead and if possible have things shipped to a Canadian or U.S. address and have friends bring it down. NOTE: Amazon U.S & Amazon Mexico shipments have improved significantly in the past couple years.

So why I am telling you all this? Well, I want you to come in with your eyes wide open to the fact that this is a different country and that things are not like they were in Canada or the U.S.

Is Ajijic still for you? I hope so! After all, I am in the real estate business and hope to have you as a customer some day; but, having said that, I am always totally honest as to what it is like to live here and you deserve to know beforehand if this is the place you. Frankly, I still love it here even after 8 years (as do thousands of others) and I hope that you will also see the wonder and loveliness about the place.

If you have any questions about anything, then please contact me and if you loved the information in this blog, then please share with your friends.

For a counterpoint to this blog, please see my other post on What Makes Ajijic Special? Thanks for reading!

Michaela & Ricardo are your FULL SERVICE Real Estate Agents. Along with our Retirement Seminars, our over 20 years of combined experience Lakeside, and our network of area Professionals, we help guide you to from beginning to forever in your Retirement Journey to Lake Chapala, Mexico.

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