Daily Living in Lake Chapala Mexico
The Access Lake Chapala team and I want to share with you experiences of daily living and a taste of retirement near the largest lake in Mexico, Lake Chapala and its surrounding towns, Ajijic, San Antonio Tlayacapan, San Juan Cosala, La Floresta and Jocotepec. This is one of the most unique areas in the world because it has such a large population of Mexicans, Canadians and Americans. It is three worlds in one. You can combine these three into many interesting realities.
Are there activities, events or social groups in the area?
If you are an outgoing, social person, you could have your daily calendar packed to the minute with things to do. I have heard that about many people when they first started living here. They got so caught up in groups, clubs, and other social functions that for months they spent no time at home. This realization always came to them as a surprise. Maybe they had neglected their beautiful vines in their backyards until they were overgrowing everything else. Or the papayas from their trees were falling on the ground and rotting. That was the time when they had to take a serious look at their packed social calendars and start marking off a few things.
Here is an example of a few popular social groups and clubs:
- Lake Chapala Society
- The American Legion
- Bridge Club
- German Club
- The Canadian Club
Read more about the Expat Community in Lake Chapala and Ajijic here
When I first came here three years ago, I was the same way. I had all these plans of the groups I was going to join and performances I wanted to see but I ended up going in the opposite direction. I didn’t join any groups. I didn’t go many performances. I just spent my time without any structure except what occurred at the moment. Never in my life had I been able to live from day to day with no responsibilities pressing down on me. It was so freeing.
I took up photography. I spent my time walking around the village, taking photographs, listening to the strolling musicians and eating out with friends. There are ninety restaurants listed in the telephone book here and at least that many more that aren’t listed; little fast food places on the street where you can by tacos, roasted chicken, tamales, homemade ice cream, or other delicious desserts.
My moment of reckoning was not an overgrown yard, (I have a gardener) but the scale in a friend’s bathroom. It was when I stepped on the scale for the first time since arriving here and I saw an extra ten pounds register on it. I had to cut back on eating out all the time. I had to pass up those delicious desserts.
15 reasons to live in the area:
- International Airport 45 minutes away
- Great inexpensive medical & dental care
- 2nd best climate in the world!!!!
- Wonderful Mexican culture
- Fruits and Veggies fresh everyday at markets
- Very low cost of living
- Traditional fiestas and carnivals
- Inexpensive gardeners and house keeping
- International community
- Learning Spanish not obligatory
- Great restaurants
- Many local & expat friends
- Only a 3 month rainy season
- Many activities and events
Great Restaurants and Traditional Mariachi Music
It takes everyone awhile to get things in balance. It is easy to go to extremes because there is so much to do, see, eat, and hear. It is a feast for all the senses. I remember two nine-hour days that a friend and I spent listening to live music at various restaurants in town. I love the Mariachi music. For me, the Mariachis are the essence of the romance of Mexico.
What could be nicer than sitting at an outdoor restaurant, eating good food, watching the sunset over the lake and listening to romantic guitar music?
I love all the sounds, smells and colors of this lakeside area. The buildings are brightly painted and beautiful murals are on many of the walls.
See our complete restaurant guide to Ajijic here
The Lake Chapala Society
Although my routines have changed several times since I started living here, I still like to go to the Lake Chapala Society in the mornings. I like meeting with friends, having coffee and breakfast at the outdoor café there and walking in the gardens. I get new books several times a month in the library and sometimes I rent videos in their video library. I always take my dog so he can meet up with all his friends. Dogs need friends too.
Mid afternoon, I walk back to my casita by the lake and snooze in my garden. Sometimes friends stop by to visit or take me on an outing. I am always up for a walk on the malecon or a trip to Chapala malecon.
Sit back, relax and watch the Sunset
I usually eat my last meal in the late afternoon. This is the Mexican way of eating and it feels healthier than a big meal at night. Sometimes I just mix up a smoothie in my blender. There are many interesting and delicious fruits available here. My favorite smoothie is a mixture of raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, bananas, fresh yoghurt, milk and honey.
After I eat my last meal of the day, I walk to the lake to sit and watch the water as it laps on the shore and the various birds fly low overhead. This is a perfect time for taking photos. I have hundreds of pictures of birds and sunsets. I never tire of them. My dog loves the beach too. He can sit on my lap there for hours and be happy.
In the early evening, I might walk to one of the local restaurants for a glass of wine and more visiting with friends. Maybe I will take in a performance.
I always like to get back to the lake to watch the sunset. That is my favorite performance. No one can outdo nature. And it is free.
It is easy to keep in touch with Family
I go back to my casita and send e-mails to friends or call them on Skype. It is easy to keep in touch with my family in the States because the communication system here is excellent. I can even get Netflix for movies.
If it is in the winter and a little chilly in the evening, I build a fire in my fireplace. I like the simple life, close to nature—earth, air, fire, and water. I love to have a fire crackling in my room when I go to sleep. It feels like I have company in room, another life form. I bought a cord of Manzanita wood and it gives off a good smell. Sometimes I light candles and just use the candlelight and firelight. I put on my favorite music while I drift off to sleep.
Lake Chapala has the 2nd Best Climate in the World!
As I said at the beginning of this article, you have many different lifestyle choices here. You can combine them to fit your heart’s desire. Ajijic and Lake Chapala Mexico is considered to have the 2nd best climate in the world. You can pretty much count on sunshine every day. If you are an outdoor person, there are many trails up the mountain to explore, day trips around the lake or boating on the lake, tennis, golfing, kayaking, swimming, or just walking in the park. We are nestled in between the mountains and the lake. It is all here to enjoy.
If you prefer to sleep in a hammock all-day and go out at night, there is always a place to socialize. There are restaurants and bars with live music, symphonies, chamber music, jazz performances and dance classes.
Mexico’s second largest city only 45 minutes away.
Guadalajara is just forty-five minutes away by bus if you prefer the nightlife of a big city. For less than eight dollars, you can go round trip on a comfortable bus into the heart of Guadalajara and back. Or you may prefer to go into Guadalajara for an afternoon of shopping in their unique stores. There are also many museums, art galleries, and beautiful churches to explore.
How about a tour bus of the Guadalajara area for ten dollars? Or would you rather take a horse and buggy ride around the main plaza. Guadalajara is Mexico’s second largest city. It is vibrant and one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Be back in the States or Canada within a few hours!
I prefer the small towns around the lake, but to each his own. I am glad to be able to get into Guadalajara quickly. I appreciate the international airport which is a 20 minute drive from Lake Chapala. I can be in the States within a few hours and visit with my grown son and his wife in Portland, Oregon.
It is all waiting for you to discover, whether you are looking for a simple life on a limited budget or you want to spend with no limits. There are mansions here and high class, expensive restaurants to suit your heart’s desires. Again, it is a matter of your preferences and your budget.
Can I afford to live in Mexico?
The average salary for a Mexican here is 700 to 800 pesos a week. That is for five days of working four hours a day. It comes to around four to five dollars an hour. That gives you an idea of the low end of the cost of living. But you can spend as much as you want here. There are many extremely wealthy people living in this area. Think about it. They can afford to live anywhere in the world and they have chosen Lake Chapala Mexico. Many of these wealthy people are world travelers and they know what it is like to live in other countries. They prefer to be here.
On the other end of the scale, would you like to go out to at a fine restaurant with live guitar music for less than twenty dollars?
How about an afternoon boat trip on the lake for less than thirty dollars?
Or would you prefer to see a first run movie in a nice movie theater for less three dollars a ticket?
How about a filet mignon steak dinner for under five dollars?
Living in the Lake Chapala Area is magical
You have so many choices. Do you want to learn Spanish and socialize with the Mexicans? I have been invited to many of their parties and events. They are friendly and open to the foreigners here. The choices are yours. You can mix and match all the available options here to create the perfect lifestyle for yourself.
Many people come here in the anticipation of when they can no longer care for themselves. The average wage for a maid or caregiver here is less than five dollars an hour. There are beautiful board and care homes with 24-hour help for less than 1400 dollars a month.
Healthcare is Excellent and Inexpensive
Doctor visits can be as low as fifteen dollars. For less than four hundred dollars a year you can be fully covered with the Mexican Health Insurance.
Or if you prefer, you can use private hospitals in Guadalajara that are like luxury hotels. Operations there can be less than the cost of the co-pay in the States. I had knee surgery in a beautiful hospital in Guadalajara for 2000 dollars. My friend had the same surgery in the States and it cost 45000 dollars. I had excellent care. The doctor met me out in front of the hospital and stayed with me after the surgery. He spoke excellent English. My knee is back to normal now. It was the best two thousand dollars I have ever spent.
Many people come here for cosmetic surgery. My friend needs dental work done and for the cost of the dental work in the States, she can come here and have a two-week vacation plus have excellent dental care.
Life is good here at the Lake Chapala.
I have never felt unsafe. I love the people, the weather and all the social activities. I would not want to live anywhere else in the world. I hope you will give this area a chance. You will not be disappointed. In the future, I will write more specifically about the various things I have touched on in this article.
By, Evelyn Walker