Friday, June 21, 2024

Life in Mexico seems normal until you consider how little it costs

I’ve lived full-time in Mexico for more than a decade and so my life just seems, well, “normal.”

Then I’ll have a conversation with a tourist or go to the States for a visit and realize, once again, how good we have it here. Everything – and I mean everything – costs so much less that it’s kind of unbelievable.

One of the things people always want to know about is medical and dental care. I just finished having two crowns put in, work I’d put off for too many years because of how much it would have cost in California, where I’m from. My dentists, two sisters with multiple university degrees and a sparkling modern office, have changed my “delayed maintenance” into a new shiny smile.

Those basic crowns cost about US $140, with an extra charge for the one post. Now I’m thinking about replacing my amalgam fillings with porcelain ones, which would set me back about $35 each (barring complications). All paid for with an easy, interest-free payment plan.

There are reasons why medical tourism has become such a fast-growing industry in Mexico. In terms of medical care, a basic office visit for most doctors, even specialists, costs between $25 and $35. Appointments are usually available the same week. Or you can go to the emergency room at any of the many private or Red Cross clinics and be seen by a doctor for under $20.

In Mazatlán, beer is cheaper than water.
In Mazatlán, beer is cheaper than water.

And it doesn’t have to be for a real emergency: if you need a prescription for flu symptoms, relief from “Montezuma’s revenge,” or treatment  for twisting your ankle, they’ll gladly assist.

Mexico also has several big reputable laboratory chains with clinics throughout the country. These offer all kinds of blood tests, vision exams and glasses, imaging (like bone density scans) and more at unbelievable prices, in spotless, professional, well-run centers with the newest equipment and highly trained personnel. You can make an appointment by phone or online for the next day or just walk in and wait in line.

Here’s an example: At Salud Digna – one of the biggest clinics, with more than 100 locations all over Mexico – the “Women’s Package” includes a mammogram with ultrasound, Pap smear, EKG and bone density scan, for about $25. A complete adult package, which checks 30 parameters, including a general urine exam, iron, glucose, total proteins, sugars, cholesterol and triglycerides, is only $12.

A basic blood test for cholesterol, glucose and triglyceride levels costs – are you ready? — $4.50. You pick up the results the next day and then meet with your regular doctor, or one of theirs, to go over them.

Another area where costs are unbelievably low is basic utilities. While these can vary widely depending on where you live in Mexico, the bottom line is still much, much less than in the U.S.A. Water – which in California 15 years ago cost me about $75 a month – has never been more than $6 a month here. My monthly electric bill hovers at about $10, and might increase to $30 in the summer when I’m running the a/c a lot.

I used to think my cell phone and internet bills were high until my grown kids set me straight. Whereas they pay anywhere from $60-$80 or more per month, I pay $20 a month for 10 megas. My cell phone plan costs about the same, and includes unlimited calls anywhere in the world and free Facebook and WhatsApp. I’ve had arguments with people who don’t believe that’s what I pay, but I’m telling you – it’s true!

Let’s see, what else. My cat needed a check-up (she frequently comes home with assorted cuts and scrapes) so I called Dr. César, the mobile vet I’ve used for years. Yep, that’s right, he comes to your house with a big tackle box full of supplies, and for about $15 he takes care of simple injections, routine vaccinations and exams.

If it’s something more complicated – say surgery — of course he recommends another local vet with an office (where a basic visit costs $30). I can call or message him via WhatsApp, and he always comes within a day or two or right away if it’s an emergency.

The list really could go on and on. Going out to eat – breakfast, lunch, dinner or everyone’s favorite, Happy Hour – is laughingly low-cost when compared to the U.S. Again, while these costs will vary in different cities and at different restaurants, I can tell you definitively that a nice breakfast or lunch in Mazatlán will not even cost you $10.

A “fancy” dinner? Expect to spend a maximum of $15-$25 each, for steak, salmon, fresh tuna or shrimp, etc. plus drinks. Oh – and Happy Hour? In Mazatlán, beer really is cheaper than water, because of Pacifico’s long-time presence here.

My tastes run toward a cold Chardonnay at the end of the day, and at barely $5 a glass, my Happy Hour runs through sunset and into the early evening.

What’s not to love?!   

Janet Blaser has been a writer, editor and storyteller her entire life, writing about great food, amazing places, fascinating people and unique events. Her work has appeared in numerous travel and expat publications as well as newspapers and magazines. Her first book, Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expats, is available on Amazon. Contact Janet or read her blog at

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