How do so many people end up retiring in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico? The most common answer has become a cliché in this high desert colonial town in the center of Mexico. Visitors come for a few days or weeks’ vacation.
They stroll the narrow, cobbled streets, eat the world-class food, take in a lecture, or a film, or an art opening. Maybe they dip into some Spanish classes.
By the end of the first week, they notice themselves drooling before real estate office windows. They make an appointment with an agent.
The magic has caught them hard, and they’ve decided to retire in San Miguel de Allende. Happens all the time.
But there’s more in why you might want to retire in San Miguel than just the allure of the town, with its beauty and history and people.
There are concrete, explainable reasons to consider retiring in San Miguel de Allende.
Let’s look at a few to help you know if this artsy enclave is for you.
The Living is Easy in San Miguel
This large town/small city is an easy place for expatriates to live. A strong infrastructure means access, physical and virtual, is pretty-much problem free.
Decent internet draws those who want to continue working digitally. Excellent toll highways from Texas make driving down (~9 hours) a long but comfortable process.
Two international airports within an hour’s drive make trips back home and visits by family simple. For a big city fix, Querétaro and its giant shopping malls are only an hour away.
And just 3 ½ hours on a comfortable luxury bus gets you to Mexico City.
The expat population of 10-12,000 Americans, Canadians and Europeans that make up 9-11% of the local population, depending on the season, create a community where it’s easy to find your tribe. Making friends is almost. It also guarantees amenities and services seldom found in other Mexican towns of a similar size.
The Ideal Weather Beckons Retirees to San Miguel
At just over 6200’ (1900 meters) in the high desert altiplano, San Miguel de Allende has almost spring-like weather year-round.
Cold nights and cool, sunny mornings in winter usually warm up to shirtsleeve weather during the day. In the hottest month of May, the lack of humidity keeps it comfortable.
Summer is the rainy season, when a typical day dawns sunny. Clouds roll in by early afternoon to bring drenching but short thunderstorms, seldom lasting more than an hour.
The rains cool off the heat of May and turn the hillsides surrounding the town a brilliant green. In the fall, wildflowers cover whole fields.
Gardeners find a paradise in San Miguel where the motto seems to be “Stick a seed in the ground and jump out of the way.”
Higher-Quality Lifestyle but Lower Cost of Living is the Rule
A prime factor in the decision of many who retire to San Miguel is a far lower cost of living than the place they left behind.
Although it’s true San Miguel is one of the more expensive cities in Mexico, it still costs less than any place offering a similar lifestyle in the US, Canada or Europe.
Home costs can vary greatly, with some being close to what you’d pay for properties to the north, but the taxes on that home will be a small fraction.
Rental prices are significantly lower. If you opt to purchase a home, your best option for price and ease of living is to look outside the congested Centro.
There are new planned communities in several areas of town, such as TAO San Miguel at Los Senderos, that offer you peace and quiet, security, extreme comfort, community and accessibility to what you came to Mexico to find.
Unless you insist on buying a lot of pricy imported foods, your grocery bill will be far less than back home too, with access to a rich supply of healthy organic fruits and vegetables, artisan bakeries and cheesemakers, and local wines.
There are more than 300 restaurants in San Miguel, from top-of-the-line chef-centric spots featuring name chefs, to middle-range eateries where a good meal can be had for US$10-20, to market stalls and street food—found everywhere with good food and extremely low prices.
Finally, the availability of household help at reasonable prices is a luxury/not luxury in San Miguel. Even people who never though they could start a sentence with the words “my maid,” generally find themselves with one, plus maybe a gardener or two.
The Sense of Community in San Miguel is Extreme
Ask an expat in San Miguel de Allende what they love best about living here, and the answer will likely be “the sense of community.” Finding your tribe is simple and inevitable in San Miguel.
Do you love to play bridge? Or golf or tennis? You’ll find both here and like-minded friends to play with. Hang out in the sunny patio of the bilingual library, and you’ll find yourself in conversation within minutes. Sit on a bench in the Jardín—the central plaza—and you’ll discover others just like you doing the same.
Many retirees in San Miguel say they have far more friends and a more active social life here than they ever had “back home.”
Retire in San Miguel de Allende into a More Creative Life
Perhaps it’s the beauty of the town itself, or the special sparkly quality of the light that has drawn so many artists to San Miguel de Allende.
But it’s been a haven for artists, writers, craftspeople and other creative types since the 1940s at least. With more than 125 art galleries, there is something to appeal to most tastes.
In February, the San Miguel Writers Conference brings speakers, teachers and would-be writers from all over the world for a week of keynotes, classes, workshops, and parties.
Want to learn to paint in watercolors, throw clay pots, make silver jewelry, craft a hand-made journal? There are long lists of classes in every type of art form and craft, urban sketching groups, art openings galore—in short, San Miguel is paradise for artists and writers and for those who want to become one.
Or Maybe You Prefer to be a Spectator
Love theater? Music? Quality films? Theater groups stage live works in several performing spaces.
The International Chamber Music Festival in August is world class, featuring string quartets that perform at Carnegie Hall and other top venues.
The Pro Musica group brings in professional classical musicians. In November, the International Jazz Festival spreads out to several venues. Bars and cafes across town offer live music of every sort almost any night of the week.
The Guanajuato International Film Festival screens several of its film entries every summer in San Miguel, and they’re free. The only problem with the creative and cultural life in San Miguel de Allende is that you are spoiled for choice.
In the winter high season, you simply can’t fit in every class, lecture, screening, guided walk, concert, and play you want to attend.
So Many Opportunities for Retirees in San Miguel to Give Back
Many people who retire in San Miguel de Allende soon discover a desire to give something back to this generous, friendly and welcoming community, and there are dozens of opportunities to do so.
Would you like to work with a group that offers scholarships to girls? Or one that rescues street animals to rehome in forever homes?
Maybe you’d prefer spending time tutoring a high school kid or helping serve a hot meal to the elderly poor. Volunteer to help at a day-car center or a midwifery school.
Or help build a solid home, with electricity and plumbing, for a family that’s been living in a cardboard hut. Giving back is easy in San Miguel.
Excellent Healthcare Options Abound
The availability of quality healthcare is always a concern when choosing a place to retire, and San Miguel de Allende stands up well on that front too.
There is a small but good quality private hospital plus a public hospital in town. A top world-class health center, ready to handle any specialty, is just an hour away in Querétaro.
English-speaking doctors and dentists abound, many of them trained in the US and Canada, but with prices a fraction of their northern colleagues.
Most prescription drugs are freely available, and at much lower prices.
If you are considering retiring abroad, now or in the future, you should definitely schedule a visit to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
You may find yourself a part of that now-famous cliché—the visitor who starts gazing at real estate ads and looking up Spanish classes. Once bitten by the magic of San Miguel, it’s hard to leave. And you’ll always want to come back.
Why not come and make it home?