Live and Retire in Oaxaca Mexico

Rich in history and culture, Oaxaca is a fascinating destination where you can appreciate ancient civilizations, colonial art and architecture and vibrant cultural traditions.

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 Cheryl, Hubby and Grandson

Cheryl, Retirebook Editor. She retired several years ago and loves to travel, knit, and plan the next trip.

We recently met a guy who was visiting Washington State from Oaxaca, Mexico and we just had to start up a conversation. “Why retire in Oaxaca, of all places?” Well that opened the door and he spent the next hour telling us why he moved there 11 years ago and why he stays. “The climate is perfect! The winters run between 45 and 50 degrees (F) and the summers see 75 to 80. We get about 30 inches of rain a year. The town is full of artists, festivals, galleries, crafts and fabulous food.” So we did some research and here’s what we found.

Oaxaca is nestled in the mountains of southwest Mexico at 5,000 feet, about 300 miles south of Mexico City. It is an easy commute from Houston, Texas. The historical old town has tree lined streets, museums, churches with amazing artwork, and 5-star restaurants with outdoor seating. Even in January, you will find flowers in bloom and blasts of color from the bougainvillea. A meal in a moderately priced café will run you $6-8.

Here are some things to consider about retiring in Oaxaca. First of all, it is one of the safest places in Mexico for violent and non-violent crimes. One report said that 94% of the people felt safe wandering around during the day and 71% at night. Renting a 3 bedroom apartment in the city center runs under $500 a month. Gas is $2.65 a US gallon (in 2017).

Photo By vladimix via

The region is known for tourism and the main draw is the archeological ruins of Monte Alban, a pre-Columbian site thought to have been built around 500 BC. This is one of those places where you want to go with a guide who knows the history and stories of the site – and 1/2 day is not enough. Guides are also available to take you to various villages known for their arts: the pottery village, the weaving village, and the woodworking village. The carpets are sold world-wide, so this is your chance to meet the weavers and see them in action.

Oaxaca is famous for using a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in their cuisine.

You will also find several different kinds of ‘mole’ – a sauce made with chilies and chocolate.  It is often paired with chicken and a favorite local beer.

There are four public hospitals in Oaxaca and several clinics including one run by the Red Cross.   If you are vacationing or an Ex-pat with a residency Visa using the Red Cross clinic is a good choice.  There is also a federal insurance policy available to Ex-pats (and locals) called IMSS (approximately $400 per year for a couple) with an extensive network of physicians and a large hospital.   If you plan to wing-it, pay cash as needed, and make a claim to your insurance company at home, make sure you keep all your receipts and ask for copies of your medical records that fully describe your illness/injury including any prescriptions you have been given.   These will need to be translated at some point when you return.   We were told that many tourists come down for medi-cations – cosmetic surgery not covered by insurance at home – at a greatly reduced cash price.  Buyer beware!

Map of Oaxaca Mexico

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