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Discussion Starter #1
I think I should preface this by saying how helpful and beneficial I have found this forum to be. I should also mention that I have spent many, many hours poring over countless threads having anything to do with this topic. I believe in doing my homework and doing it thoroughly. I'll also apologize for the length of this post but hope that my explanation for its length will suffice.

One of the recurring themes in the threads on this subject is criticism from responding commenters saying that the OP didn't provide enough specifics regarding interests, preferences, desires, age and physical status, priorities, etc. So please forgive me if I put forward too much information in that regard but I hope that specifying these points will help any who are kind enough to offer advice.

My wife and I are both fully retired and in good health. I am 67 and she is 71. The only health issue for either of us is that she has a knee that can cause her some minor discomfort if she strenuously overworks it, We have lived in Ecuador for more than 5 years and love it so much that four years ago we bought about 5 hectareas of mountaintop land in el campo about 8 miles outside of and overlooking the city of Cuenca and built a house that we planned to remain in forever. Well, the best laid plans...

My wife now gets slightly winded with moderate exertion (our house is at an elevation of about 10,000 feet) and she would like to relocate to a lower elevation with slightly (emphasis on slightly) warmer weather. Additionally, she would like to live close enough to a populated area where she could more easily/conveniently be involved in volunteer activities. Our house is anywhere from 30-45 minutes outside town and she would like an easier commute for such activities and for socializing with expat friends. We have many Ecuadorian friends in the area where we live but she would like to be able to spend more time with expat friends than is convenient for her now.

Other motivating factors:

1. We have only been married 7 years. When we moved to Ecuador, I had one grandchild. I now have 7, all located in Texas. Traveling back to visit is very expensive and involves a grueling 24+ hour travel time that is becoming increasingly more frustrating and irritating.
2. We're not getting any younger and recognize that at some point in the future things will change. Being closer to the States probably makes sense, although at present neither of us has the slightest desire to return there to live and hope that we never need to!

So with that said, what are we looking for in particular?

1. A comfortable climate. What's a comfortable climate? A place where the need for air conditioners or heaters is non-existent or rare. This probably limits the choices to the central highlands and that's just fine with us.
2. Prefer not to live in a huge, crowded, smoggy metropolis. DF GDL and MTY are probably all therefore eliminated.
3. An active community of expats. I am fluent in Spanish but my wife still struggles somewhat.
4. An elevation of 7000 feet or less.
5. A relatively flat city without a lot of severe ups and downs. This probably eliminates Guanajuato and a lot of SMA.
6. Would prefer to be close to an international airport offering direct flights to IAH and/or DFW.
7. Would like to be within reasonably short distance/drive to everyday needs (grocery, farmacia, medical care, banking, shopping, etc.)
7. Prefer central or northern Mexico over southern Mexico, making it easier to drive to Texas if we opted to do that rather than fly. I anticipate--and fully expect--to own a car (and will be coming to Mexico under a Permanente visa).

With those preferences listed, I come up with a fairly short list: Ajijic/Lake Chapala, Morelia, Queretaro, Uruapan, Saltillo, Tequisquiapan, and possibly San Luis Potosi or San Juan del Rio. We have visited friends in SMA, Chapala and Queretaro.

Although SMA is incredibly beautiful, it's not for us.

Ajijic/Chapala would seem at first blush to be the best fit but I really don't like the gawdawful cobblestone streets, the abundant topes, the narrow, heavily-trafficked, solitary east-west artery paralleling the north shore, and the crazy seasonal tsunami of snowbirds for half the year that makes finding acceptable rentals extremely difficult.

I like Queretaro but traffic there can be an unholy nightmare too. And if my wife wants to be involved with volunteer work and socializing with other expats, fighting the traffic could get old very fast, especially since she has absolutely no sense of direction and therefore I would probably be tasked to drive her most places unless they were close by.

The weather in Saltillo looks nice but I understand the smog and pollution there is horrendous. I have fond memories of the last time I visited Saltillo, Garcia Cave and Horsetail Falls, but that was almost 60 years ago. I'm certain that things have changed quite dramatically since then.

We haven't been to any of the other possibilities so would love your input. Patzcuaro could also be a possibility but I suspect that it is too cold and probably a little too small--if I'm wrong please let me know! Also, I'm entirely open to other suggestions if you have any that you think might fit the bill.
 

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My input will be long, but it's from "boots on the ground" in two places you mentioned that you had considered.


My husband I moved to San Miguel Allende in 2004. Lived there until 2008, at which time the 7,000ft. elevation was giving me breathing difficulties. Took a trip to the beach and stayed overnight on the way in Ajijc, where its approx. 5000 ft. elevation made it easier to breathe. Stayed there again on the way home. I noticed the air was less polluted than SMA and the weather was "just right". Did some research, put the SMA house up for sale and moved to Ajijic near the lake. Lived here 10 years now and love it. Many reasons: lots of choices in expat interest groups; a nice morning walk to the nearby lake side Malecon; benign climate year around. Many top level medical facilities in nearby (hour or less drive) Guadalajara as well as a international airport serving many airlines. We don't go to visit the U.S., but if you do, it's convenient and even a reasonable driving distance for those who do. Some folks seem to "need" to shop yearly in Texas, and they don't mind the drive. We have found everything we need here with a little online shopping at Amazon, where delivery is to our doorstep.

We bought an ancient Mexican house in a quiet neighborhood near the lake and did the needed repair and remodeling over the years. The weather makes gardening easy and fruitful.

That's the good stuff. Now, about the cobblestone streets, the traffic and the Snowbird yearly influx:


Traffic: One gets canny and goes to the main thoroughfare where the shopping is during hours when the traffic is light: before 11 am and after 4 pm. No problema. Any other time requires great patience and forbearance.

Cobblestone streets: Yes, they are a royal pain in the backside. Many sensible people carry hiking sticks and walk with their eyes alert for pitfalls. No strolling with nose in the air and daydreaming. However, once on the sidewalks or on the lakeside Malecon, you're safely on concrete. Topes on the highways slow down the macho drivers who secretly want a little shrine by the road to mark their passing. In the lakeside towns, they keep the pedestrians alive who have the effrontery to cross the street.

Snowbirds who come down for the winter: Yes, rentals get tight from November till around April. So don't look for a rental at that time of year. I'd recommend finding a reliable rental agency where the landlord and conditions have been vetted first.
I'd rent for up to a year in whatever Lakeside village seems appealing before considering buying. Things are not always what they seem. People moving from the States seem to think (thanks to Facebook) that Ajijic is the place to be. That's nonsense, and has pushed prices there unjustifiably higher than the surrounding areas, where there are many other nice places to live.

My opinion is that you'd find most of what you say you want in the Lake Chapala area, but here's wishing you the best of luck in finding your best spot to settle.:plane:
 

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Discussion Starter #3
My input will be long, but it's from "boots on the ground" in two places you mentioned that you had considered.


My husband I moved to San Miguel Allende in 2004. Lived there until 2008, at which time the 7,000ft. elevation was giving me breathing difficulties. Took a trip to the beach and stayed overnight on the way in Ajijc, where its approx. 5000 ft. elevation made it easier to breathe. Stayed there again on the way home. I noticed the air was less polluted than SMA and the weather was "just right". Did some research, put the SMA house up for sale and moved to Ajijic near the lake. Lived here 10 years now and love it. Many reasons: lots of choices in expat interest groups; a nice morning walk to the nearby lake side Malecon; benign climate year around. Many top level medical facilities in nearby (hour or less drive) Guadalajara as well as a international airport serving many airlines. We don't go to visit the U.S., but if you do, it's convenient and even a reasonable driving distance for those who do. Some folks seem to "need" to shop yearly in Texas, and they don't mind the drive. We have found everything we need here with a little online shopping at Amazon, where delivery is to our doorstep.

We bought an ancient Mexican house in a quiet neighborhood near the lake and did the needed repair and remodeling over the years. The weather makes gardening easy and fruitful.

That's the good stuff. Now, about the cobblestone streets, the traffic and the Snowbird yearly influx:


Traffic: One gets canny and goes to the main thoroughfare where the shopping is during hours when the traffic is light: before 11 am and after 4 pm. No problema. Any other time requires great patience and forbearance.

Cobblestone streets: Yes, they are a royal pain in the backside. Many sensible people carry hiking sticks and walk with their eyes alert for pitfalls. No strolling with nose in the air and daydreaming. However, once on the sidewalks or on the lakeside Malecon, you're safely on concrete. Topes on the highways slow down the macho drivers who secretly want a little shrine by the road to mark their passing. In the lakeside towns, they keep the pedestrians alive who have the effrontery to cross the street.

Snowbirds who come down for the winter: Yes, rentals get tight from November till around April. So don't look for a rental at that time of year. I'd recommend finding a reliable rental agency where the landlord and conditions have been vetted first.
I'd rent for up to a year in whatever Lakeside village seems appealing before considering buying. Things are not always what they seem. People moving from the States seem to think (thanks to Facebook) that Ajijic is the place to be. That's nonsense, and has pushed prices there unjustifiably higher than the surrounding areas, where there are many other nice places to live.

My opinion is that you'd find most of what you say you want in the Lake Chapala area, but here's wishing you the best of luck in finding your best spot to settle.:plane:
Thanks for a very informative, thoughtful and helpful response. My guess at this point is that--just as you said--the Lake Chapala area is more than likely where we will end up. As you could probably surmise from my original post, my wife is a little conflicted in her wants/desires vis-a-vis location. She wants clean air, would like adequate green space for flowers/shrubs and maybe a small vegetable garden ("dirt" as she calls it), English speaking expats close by with whom to socialize and volunteer, and city conveniences without having to live in a crowded/heavily trafficked/smoggy metropolis. Essentially, she wants to live in the city without living in the city if you understand what I'm saying.

I just want a comfortable climate and a place where she will be happy and healthy. And I'd prefer not to have to pay some of the (IMHO) outrageous prices for rental or purchase of properties that currently seem de riguer in Lakeside, especially Ajijic. Property prices in virtually every other locale I mentioned as possibilities are often at least 50% less than what I've been able to find in Lakeside. I know prices are more reasonable away from town, e.g., Jocotepec or the other side of the lake, but that creates a situation like we have now in which we're a 30-45 commute into town for everything. I guess I'm hoping that one of the other possibilities offers the pluses of Lakeside with fewer of the minuses (but I'm not holding my breath expecting that to be the case).

Sorry for the long-winded reply but hope maybe it will help other respondents to better understand our goals. Would love to meet you on our next exploratory visit and thanks again for your help!
 

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Prices in Chapala, the more rural areas near there and west to Jocotepec are much lower than in Ajijic, but none of these places are more than 30 minutes from Ajijic. There is a major shopping center at the East end of Ajijic and several stores including Walmart in that area, but there is good shopping in Chapala, too. There is a delivery service that has a website to order from Costco in Guadalajara and a few days later, the items you chose are delivered to your door. In other words, the living is easy. Lots of restaurants; many quite reasonable, are moving into the area.

Feel free to ask me questions by PM...and by all means, if you move to the Lakeside area..let's have coffee in the Lake Chapala Society's patio !
 

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I think you have narrowed it down to Chapala centro. Maybe our old house, with some 1200 square meters, but no much to look at from the street; just a wal & doors. Those places are hard to find, but we were 2.5 blocks from the malecon, parque Cristiania, and the mercado publico. The American Legion was 1.5 blocks away and walking was on decent sidewalks. Expats are scattered and not objectionable in Chapala, while shopping is very convenient; much more so than in Ajijic, where we lived for a few years before moving to Chapala centro in 2004. Unfortunately, in 2014, the elevation and my COPD eventually forced us to Tucson's lower elevation, where we now live with AC and a furnace, but no color, music or 'life'. Take a deep breath, rent somewhere, and explore Chapala until your house finds you. Most RE agencies in the area will not be interested in helping you there; it is boots on the ground time & chatting in the tiendas.
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
Other alternatives?

I think you have narrowed it down to Chapala centro. Maybe our old house, with some 1200 square meters, but no much to look at from the street; just a wal & doors. Those places are hard to find, but we were 2.5 blocks from the malecon, parque Cristiania, and the mercado publico. The American Legion was 1.5 blocks away and walking was on decent sidewalks. Expats are scattered and not objectionable in Chapala, while shopping is very convenient; much more so than in Ajijic, where we lived for a few years before moving to Chapala centro in 2004. Unfortunately, in 2014, the elevation and my COPD eventually forced us to Tucson's lower elevation, where we now live with AC and a furnace, but no color, music or 'life'. Take a deep breath, rent somewhere, and explore Chapala until your house finds you. Most RE agencies in the area will not be interested in helping you there; it is boots on the ground time & chatting in the tiendas.
Thanks RV. I realize that rarely do we ever get everything we want and that's certainly not what I am expecting. However, I would like to gather as much information about all our other alternatives as possible in order to do an objective comparison and--obviously--that will ultimately have to be done with "boots on the ground" as lagoloo put it.

That said, it would be most helpful to gather as much information ahead of time as possible. This forum is great but I'm sure there are others out there specific to individual areas that I am missing. For example, there is an excellent web-based board for Morelia area expats called Michoacan_net that discusses a wide range of topics applicable to residents in that area. If anyone can point me to similar forums/boards for the other locations I'm researching [Queretaro, Uruapan, Tequisquiapan, San Juan del Rio, Saltillo, San Luis Potosi or other possibilities] I would be very grateful.

I realize this is probably a completely foolish request, but if there is any way possible I prefer to avoid Facebook. I have successfully managed to stay away from it ever since its inception but accept that I might have to--at least temporarily--join the insanity to get the information I'm seeking. That's the beauty of the Morelia site (it's non-Facebook)--maybe others have seen the light as well. Hope so.

Any tips are gratefully appreciated!
 

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RV right. Parts of Chapala are great...IMO, near the big park and the Malecon.
Just another thought: There's a real estate advert magazine that's distributed all over every month. From this, you can get a feel of which agency MIGHT be helpful in your househunt, based on the $$ of their listings.

You're not alone in avoiding Facebook. I call it "Sarin for the soul" and have never joined. Never will.
 

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We are also not on Facebook. There are webboards for Chapala, just add a dot com, and it is hosted by the only RE firm that might be useful to you in Chapala centro.
You now sound like it is time to make that exploratory trip, with a room in one of Chapala's hotels, B&Bs or with a friend. They are easy to find online, but with your wife's desire for easy walking, I would suggest the Lake Chapala Inn, which is right downtown, and on the malecon; handy to everything without need for a taxi or bus.
 

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We are also not on Facebook. There are webboards for Chapala, just add a dot com, and it is hosted by the only RE firm that might be useful to you in Chapala centro.
You now sound like it is time to make that exploratory trip, with a room in one of Chapala's hotels, B&Bs or with a friend. They are easy to find online, but with your wife's desire for easy walking, I would suggest the Lake Chapala Inn, which is right downtown, and on the malecon; handy to everything without need for a taxi or bus.
More great advice. Thanks!

We would have been there two months ago if our house and property had sold as planned. Fell through at the last moment so waiting patiently for the right buyer to come along. We hope that will be very soon. Wife is exploring a different part of Mexico as I write this--she took off for a Caribbean cruise with her daughter and a sister and they are in Cozumel today--hot, humid, touristy and overpriced--definitely NOT a place of interest for us.

Keeping fingers crossed that we'll be in central Mexico soon for extended stays in several locations...
 

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Another forum you might check is expat dot com. They have sections for different areas of Mexico as well as a general Mexico forum. There are quite a few expats living in various parts of Mexico that post there. I'm with you, gather as much info as you can beforehand.

Best of luck to you and your wife in finding your perfect spot!
 

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There are a lot of Realty companies (19 now I think) and they all work at selling homes in Chapala not just Ajijic. There is a MLS in the area, Chapalamls.net which will be your most valuable resource. Then it's just a matter of finding a Realtor that you like to work with and view as many houses as possible. They have upgraded many of the roads in the SE quadrant of Chapala and those nasty cobblestones are all gone from that area.
Chapala doesn't have the number of expat and social things going on that Ajijic does but there are still some. You'll probably find that either you or your wife will have to go to Ajijic for many social/volunteer events anyway and have to deal with the traffic. (which really isn't so bad IMO compared to any large city in the U.S or Canada; what's the rush anyway, we're retired.)
 

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Discussion Starter #13
"What's the rush?"

(snipped)
Chapala doesn't have the number of expat and social things going on that Ajijic does but there are still some. You'll probably find that either you or your wife will have to go to Ajijic for many social/volunteer events anyway and have to deal with the traffic. (which really isn't so bad IMO compared to any large city in the U.S or Canada; what's the rush anyway, we're retired.)
Ja ja ja. That's true. :)

More good advice. Thank you!
 

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If you come to Central Mexico, please spend a couple of weeks in Guadalajara. The fair quality is not uniformly bad 365 days/year; search for "air quality Guadalajara" in Google and see for yourself. The farms around Lake Chapala have open burning several weeks a year, plus there's a lot of dust and dried horse manure to contend with.
The ZMG (Zona Metropolitana Guadalajara) sprawls like Los Angeles, but you only need to live in one small part of it. Perhaps the historic artisan town of Tlaquepaque, now a suburb of GDL, would work for you. There are many options here.
We spent two months at Lake Chapala and two months in Guadalajara in the past year, and moved permanently to GDL last month. Prices are more affordable & services are plentiful, compared to Lakeside. But to each his own -- just please don't rule it out until you've been here!
 

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Based on the OP list of desirables I would think the advice on this forum is worth considering - somewhere around Lake Chapala. That is the climate, elevation, and culture preferred.
 

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I agree that Guadalajara has many options, but the OP's wife has breathing problems. I do, as well, and when I go to Guadalajara (any part of town) the air quality bothers me seriously and I'm happy to get back to the south side of that mountain range again.

The other downside is the traffic; all day, every day. I learned to drive on the Los Angeles freeway system, so I know about living with bad traffic conditions. This is not the kind of thing people usually want to deal with in their senior years. Young people don't mind as much, and some of them relish it.
 

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I agree that Guadalajara has many options, but the OP's wife has breathing problems. I do, as well, and when I go to Guadalajara (any part of town) the air quality bothers me seriously and I'm happy to get back to the south side of that mountain range again.

The other downside is the traffic; all day, every day. I learned to drive on the Los Angeles freeway system, so I know about living with bad traffic conditions. This is not the kind of thing people usually want to deal with in their senior years. Young people don't mind as much, and some of them relish it.
I agree that the traffic in Guadalajara is terrible. However, I never have to deal with driving in it. I live right in the middle Guadalajara, a 15 minute walk from the Cathedral. I can walk to almost every place I go. There is a shared bicycle system for the places that are a little further away. And there are buses running in every direction every few minutes if I ever need to go to the more remote parts of the city. The only time I have to sit in traffic is on occasional road trips. Then, I have to deal with traffic to leave town on the first day and to return home on the last day.

Within 15 minutes on foot or on a bicycle are three different mercados selling fruits and vegetables (and meat, if I were so inclined). There are hundreds of small pharmacies, papelerias, hardware stores, esteticas, music stores, furniture stores, major department stores (Sears, Liverpool), movie complexes, independent movie houses, and of course, bars and restaurants. Even for the odd things you only want once in a blue moon, it will turn out that there is a small shop nearby that makes them. I once wanted a pair of US and Mexican flags. There is a little hole in the wall 5 minutes away that sells nothing but flags. Costco and Home Depot and big box stores require a bus ride (cost 3.5 pesos for seniors). But I can read or people watch while the driver deals with the traffic.

I will get off my soap box with a final comment. It amazes me that so many people organize their life in a way that requires a car for every day needs. If I still had kids to ferry to all their activities it might be different, but that is no longer the case.
 

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I think it's a good thing to be able to walk for all your needs; however, if you also like to get out and about and into some rural scenery frequently, the car comes into play. As it happens, I do live within walking distance of whatever I would need, but my husband and I deliberately patronize some places for lunch which require a fairly long drive though some uncrowded rural country.

It's a matter of getting the most of what you need the most. :juggle:
 

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My input will be long, but it's from "boots on the ground" in two places you mentioned that you had considered.


My husband I moved to San Miguel Allende in 2004. Lived there until 2008, at which time the 7,000ft. elevation was giving me breathing difficulties. Took a trip to the beach and stayed overnight on the way in Ajijc, where its approx. 5000 ft. elevation made it easier to breathe. Stayed there again on the way home. I noticed the air was less polluted than SMA and the weather was "just right". Did some research, put the SMA house up for sale and moved to Ajijic near the lake. Lived here 10 years now and love it. Many reasons: lots of choices in expat interest groups; a nice morning walk to the nearby lake side Malecon; benign climate year around. Many top level medical facilities in nearby (hour or less drive) Guadalajara as well as a international airport serving many airlines. We don't go to visit the U.S., but if you do, it's convenient and even a reasonable driving distance for those who do. Some folks seem to "need" to shop yearly in Texas, and they don't mind the drive. We have found everything we need here with a little online shopping at Amazon, where delivery is to our doorstep.

We bought an ancient Mexican house in a quiet neighborhood near the lake and did the needed repair and remodeling over the years. The weather makes gardening easy and fruitful.

That's the good stuff. Now, about the cobblestone streets, the traffic and the Snowbird yearly influx:


Traffic: One gets canny and goes to the main thoroughfare where the shopping is during hours when the traffic is light: before 11 am and after 4 pm. No problema. Any other time requires great patience and forbearance.

Cobblestone streets: Yes, they are a royal pain in the backside. Many sensible people carry hiking sticks and walk with their eyes alert for pitfalls. No strolling with nose in the air and daydreaming. However, once on the sidewalks or on the lakeside Malecon, you're safely on concrete. Topes on the highways slow down the macho drivers who secretly want a little shrine by the road to mark their passing. In the lakeside towns, they keep the pedestrians alive who have the effrontery to cross the street.

Snowbirds who come down for the winter: Yes, rentals get tight from November till around April. So don't look for a rental at that time of year. I'd recommend finding a reliable rental agency where the landlord and conditions have been vetted first.
I'd rent for up to a year in whatever Lakeside village seems appealing before considering buying. Things are not always what they seem. People moving from the States seem to think (thanks to Facebook) that Ajijic is the place to be. That's nonsense, and has pushed prices there unjustifiably higher than the surrounding areas, where there are many other nice places to live.

My opinion is that you'd find most of what you say you want in the Lake Chapala area, but here's wishing you the best of luck in finding your best spot to settle.:plane:
Lake Chapala sounds wonderful. We are excited to visit and meet all the friendly people.
 

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We offer a free tour of all the communities. Takes about 2 hours and you can see all the different housing options in the different areas whether you are interested in renting or buying down the road. Send me a PM
 
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