Merida, Mexico is one of the fastest growing cities in the country and Latin America at large. People from all over Mexico and the world are flocking to this colonial city. Why? There are many factors, however the main reasons are that Merida is safe, cheap, and offers a high standard of living.
I get a lot of questions on Twitter on why I choose to live in Merida, so I've finally decided to write an article on why it's a great city to live!
High Standard of Living
I've been living in Merida for about 6 months now, and the number one factor I have stayed is the standard of living. I've spent time in other Latin American cities, most recently Queretaro and Guatemala City, and Merida is unmatched in terms of its amenities for a city of its size.
The center of the city is vary walkable and is a great place to stay for first timers as Centro is where most of the tourist attractions are located. Walkability is one of the most important factors for me when choosing a city. In Centro, you're about a 50 min bus ride or car ride to the beach. However, many locals opt to live in the newer northern section of the city. This puts them only 20-30 minutes from the beach.
If it's your first time in Merida, you should stay in Centro or near Paseo Montejo, however after you've been here awhile, you may find it more comfortable moving a bit further north. Some neighborhoods I recommend are:
These neighborhoods are a bit more local and it gets you away from the chaos that is Centro. These are still very walkable neighborhoods, however a little less so than Centro. Living here puts you about 10 minutes closer to beach and closer to the newer restaurants and malls in the north of the city, while still only being a 10 minute Uber to Centro. A car is more or less required if you decide to live any further north than these neighborhoods.
Merida offers a variety of restaurants ranging from local Yucatecan cuisine, cuisines from other parts of Mexico, and all around the world. This is one of Merida's biggest advantages over other cities of its size in Latin America. You may be coming to Merida for the world renowned Yucatecan food such as cochinita pibil, however the availability of great burgers and even more exotic items such as Vietnamese pho makes it a lot more comfortable to stay. You can find just about any type of food in Merida.
Additionally, many come to Merida for its high quality and affordable hospitals. I'm still fairly young and fortunately don't need to utilize the medical services here. That being said, the hospitals here are rated among the best in Mexico. A dental cleaning (something I do have direct experience with) costs about $20 in a modern facility.
As far as things to do, Merida has a variety of tourist attractions nearby that will keep you more than occupied. Within an hour of the city or less, you have the beach, Mayan ruins, cenotes (sink holes that are connected by underground rivers which are great for swimming), and much more!
Cost of Living
Again, Merida decimates its competition in this category when compared to cities of around 1 million people. Merida is cheap. You can find a one bedroom apartment for as low as $250 a month in Centro. This will get you a very livable place. It won't be luxurious, but it will clean and well equipped. Move up to $500 a month and your options are nearly endless. At this price point, you can get something very modern, centrally located, and a pool.
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Local food is extremely cheap, you could spend about $3 a meal if you only ate local Yucatecan food. In reality, you'll probably spend about $5-10 a meal assuming you want some variety. Even going to the best restaurants in the city, it will be difficult to surpass $30 a person.
If you're carless, Uber can get you anywhere in Centro for about $2. If you want to go to the beach in Uber, that runs about $15, or there is an air conditioned bus for $1 each way.
Merida has an international airport with direct flights to some US cities such as Houston or Miami. With connections, you can get anywhere in the world from the local airport, but it may cost you.
For cheaper flights, you are not far from two of the best connected airports in Mexico. Mexico City and Cancun.
Mexico City is about 1 hour 45 minute flight from Merida and a roundtrip flight can be easily purchased for $50 if planned ahead (closer to $100 if booked last minute.
Cancun is 4 hours away by bus and the ticket costs $20. The buses are first class, new, clean, and air conditioned.
Safety is a non-issue in Merida and that is one of the reasons the city is growing so quickly. There is hardly any crime here at all, petty or violent. For a city of 1 million people, it is safer than many cities of that size in the United States and it is the safest city in Mexico.
As you can see, Merida is a great place to live. Let me know in the comments if you have been to Merida and what you think of the city. If you haven't been to Merida, feel free to leave any questions you may have regarding the city!