Does living in a charming colonial city with thriving art and food scenes, colorful festivals, and stunning architecture appeal to you? Welcome to San Miguel de Allende, a city in Mexico’s central highlands in Guanajuato state.
Why is San Miguel de Allende so popular with expats?
It is indeed a very popular destination with expats, especially writers, and artists.
The main appeal is the variety of activities and lots of striking vistas to enjoy. Plus, the undeniable artistic vibe that creative residents bring to the city.
If you love walking, hiking, exploring, and finding inspiration for your creativity, – this place is for you.
Lots of quirky local markets, art galleries, local performances, and courses from art to learning the Spanish language to literary classes – everything you need for an engaged and inspired lifestyle is here.
The Biblioteca Publica is the second-largest English language book library in Mexico and is a community center and meet-up location for expats and locals.
Foodies won’t be disappointed, either. There is a variety of cuisines and eateries here, from small street vendors to upscale restaurants where you can enjoy the most refined dishes.
An appealing climate
An agreeable temperate climate without extremes of humidity, as in other expat locations in Mexico, is also an attractive proposition for many people. The cooler months are January to February, when the temperature can dip to freezing; the rainy season is from June to September.
Hurricanes and extreme weather events are rare in this region, but torrential downpours and earthquakes can occur from time to time.
Safety and crime
As a popular hub for solo travelers and expats from all over the world, San Miguel is known for its low crime index and is considered to be safe. However, best not to be in isolated or poorly lit areas at night. If taking a taxi, book an Uber or hire a marked taxi.
There are some pickpocketing thefts, especially in the high season, so it’s best to keep valuable items out of sight. Notable areas to be wary of are San Rafael and Las Cuevitas. Just be sensible when out and about in San Miguel, and you will be all right.
Shopping and eating out
One of the hot spots for a great day out is the Fabrica La Aurora, a renovated textile mill with a variety of cafes, restaurants, and art galleries. It’s also a showcase location for local artists and artisan jewelry and clothing.
Doce 18 is a popular shopping mall with design, fashion, and hospitality outlets, as well as concept bars and restaurants.
Fancy spending a morning looking at the treasures of local markets? Try the Mercado de Artesanias and the ‘Tianguis de Los Martes’- the Tuesday market.
In and around San Miguel, there are lots of smaller ‘tiendas’ with supermarket products and fruit and vegetables.
Eateries vary from small local street stalls to local authentic cafes and upscale restaurants.
The cost of living in San Miguel
The good exchange rate of the US dollar/British Pound/Euro versus the Mexican peso allows for a high standard of living. If your income comes in these currencies, Mexico is one of the least expensive places in the world to live.
Cost of utilities
On a monthly basis, electricity costs on average $50, heating, water, and rubbish come to around $100.
Home broadband – about $26.
You can find a 1-bedroomed apartment for rent for a minimum of $600. If you need more space, a 3-bedroom can be rented for around $2,000.
The prices vary depending on location, the size of the property, and whether it is furnished or not.
Colonia Centro, for example, is one of the most expensive locations where a 3-bedroom casa can cost you $3,000 per month. However, you will be based in the very center of the city, which might be worth it. Take a 20-minute stroll away from the center to San Javier, and you can find a 3-bed casa for $800 per month.
A 1-bed apartment in San Antonio (very close to the center) can be found for as cheap as $400 per month.
During the high season between January and April, the rental prices may be slightly higher, but long-term leases are still available with a little negotiation.
Cost of eating out
Even upscale restaurants are inexpensive, and costs could range between $30-50 per couple for a full three-course meal.
Essential household items are, on average, around $400 a month. Local buses charge around 40c for a trip, and taxis are inexpensive also.
How much a couple needs to live comfortably in San Miguel
A couple could live comfortably on $2,000 a month. This includes the cost of a small house or apartment in a good but not central neighborhood, day-to-day expenses such as shopping and going out, essentials as well as utility bills.
Real estate in San Miguel
Just like with renting, the price is heavily dependent on the location. If you are considering buying right in the heart of San Miguel near El Jardin, the price can be much higher.
However, if you are prepared to venture further afield into the outskirts, prices drop dramatically, and you are still within walking distance of restaurants, entertainment options, and cultural activities.
Considering renting or buying a home in Mexico? Read our guide on How To Avoid Pitfalls When Renting Or Buying Property In Mexico.
The best areas to live in San Miguel de Allende
Centro and Centro Historico are in the heart of old San Miguel. Many of the buildings here originate from the 16th and 27th centuries, with thick walls, courtyards, and fountains. It’s a vibrant area with squares, markets, shopping malls, and markets and lots of historical value.
The hillsides that surround the Centro Historico towards Juarez Park and the Ignacio Ramirez Market are highly desirable areas with spectacular views. Juarez Park has the most luxurious and expensive homes in San Miguel de Allende. It’s a popular area to rent and buy, because if you live here, you do not need a car to explore downtown.
San Antonio is a large area popular with families. Many artists also choose to live in San Antonio, and there is an ‘art walk’ where artists display their work in their studios. The area has an authentic Mexican vibe to it.
Guadiana, adjacent to San Antonio, has a variety of shops, restaurants, and an organic market. It’s known as a peaceful area with a landscaped park and is close to downtown.
Ojo de Agua is a newer and exclusive location with stunning views of Parroquia and Centro. Homes here can be expensive and of high quality, with roof gardens or terraces to enjoy the views.
Guadalupe, north of Centro, is popular with artists and designers. It is known as the ‘Soho’ of San Miguel, and there are plenty of murals decorating the streets. The area has a well-known organic grocery store and is near the shopping mall Fabrica Aurora. There is a great mixture of locals and expats here.
Obraje is a new neighborhood with upscale homes which have a dramatic view of Centro. It has all the amenities, restaurants, a pool, and a fitness center, and it attracts both renters and buyers.
Atascadero is known as ‘Los Arcos’ as the entrance to the neighborhood is via the arched gate of the original Atascadero Ranch. Homes here have larger gardens and a variety of styles.
Balcones is a lovely peaceful area located on a steep hill. There is a botanical garden, a beautiful canyon with lakes, and hiking trails to enjoy. It’s a very residential area with a lack of local amenities, so a car is necessary.
Rinconada de Los Balcones is a newer area with wide streets and large homes with some bold architectural designs.
Independencia is a mix of small casitas and upscale houses with picturesque views of downtown and the Piccaccho mountains.
Vista Antigua has a mix of expats and locals and is part of a gated community near Malanquin with an 18-hole golf course and country club with a pool, tennis, and walking trails. Homes here are large and expensive.
El Paraiso is a new gated community with many vacant lots. Living here means being close to the shopping mall, movie theatre, and large grocery stores. However, a car is essential.
Transport and connectivity
San Miguel de Allende is a 4-hour drive from Mexico City and a 10-hour drive from the US border.
There is no airport in San Miguel de Allende, but the two closest ones are Aeropuerto Internacional de Bajio near Leon and Aeropuerto Internacional de Queretaro, both take around 90 minutes to travel by car.
Both have flights that operate within Mexico and to and from some cities in the US. Mexico City’s international airport is about 3.5 hours by car as an alternative.
Taxis are plentiful and will take you anywhere for twenty-five pesos. Uber is also present. Mixtos, large truck-type taxis, can be very useful if you have bulky items to carry. Local buses are frequent during the day and only cost five pesos.
Healthcare in San Miguel
There are three private hospitals – Hospital Joya, Unimed, and MAC.
Joya is the most recommended by expats as it provides a range of medical services and a pharmacy.
The Rehabilitation center for physical therapy is also popular, as the doctors here are mostly bilingual.
There is also a general hospital known as General Hospital Dr Felipe G Dobraganes. Other smaller medical centers that specialize in different fields are also available.
Dental services are plentiful and offer treatments and a wide range of procedures which, on average, are 50% cheaper than the same treatment in the US. The majority of the staff is bilingual.
You can find more information about the healthcare costs, services, and options in our guide on Healthcare Options & Health Insurance For US Retirees In Mexico.
If you are planning to have international health insurance, to make sure you get the best value for money, compare international health insurance options from various providers to find the best deal.
Expats in San Miguel
The expat community here is ever-expanding, and English is widely spoken.
The English language newspaper ‘Attencion’ provides a calendar of events. The San Miguel Events website lists a ‘What’s On’ guide for upcoming events, from festivals to workshops to various concerts.
There is also an expat group on Facebook, ‘San Miguel de Allende Newcomers, Expats, and Friends.’
Final thoughts on living in San Miguel de Allende
Living in San Miguel de Allende affords striking vistas of various colored roofs with cobblestone streets and hillsides, as well as a variety of lifestyles to suit all tastes.
This location offers something for everyone. Come and try San Miguel; you might find the perfect balance of life here.
Other popular locations in Mexico to consider:
- 9 Must-Knows For Living In Mazatlán, Mexico, As An Expat
- What It’s Like Living In Puerto Vallarta, Mexico As An Expat
- The Realities Of Living In The Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico
- All About Living In Baja California Sur And La Paz As An Expat
- What’s It Really Like Living In Puerto Escondido, Mexico As An Expat
You might find helpful:
- Living In Mexico As An Expat – a detailed relocation guide to Mexico: residency and paperwork, where to live, the costs, the pros and cons and how to settle down
- The Best Places To Live In Mexico For Expats – a detailed overview of the most popular expat locations in Mexico
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