For the last few years, Mérida is grabbing a lot of headlines and media attention. But now, we are in the spotlight a lot. When I say a lot, I mean a lot. Our governor Mauricio Vila is intent on introducing our city of 1.3 million residents to the world. From Forbes to Conde Nast to Travel + Leisure to bloggers all over the world, Mérida is becoming a travel and tourist destination as well as on the shortlist for future expatriates. So now that you’ve landed on this article, are you planning a move to Mérida? If so, here are the top 9 things you need to know. (Be on the lookout for my upcoming series: Moving to Mérida – Step by Step Guidebooks. Due to release in the first quarter of 2022.)
First: Preliminary research from your home country
It should be noted, I make the assumption you’ve conducted your preliminary research. This includes the internet, Facebook groups, talking to friends, or maybe you know someone that knows about Mérida. Of course, take all of that information with a grain of salt as it is imperative for you to have your own experience. If you have not conducted your preliminary research, I highly suggest beginning as soon as possible. You’ll find many Facebook groups with as many opinions as grains of sand. Use your best intuition to find the right one(s) for you.
Second: Research trip for your move to Mérida
Undoubtedly, an actual research trip is the first priority. Please, please do not move directly to Mérida. Take some time for a research trip first. Why? Mérida is not like anywhere else in Mexico. Notably, people either love it or they don’t. It’s just that simple. I recommend at least one week to 10 days. Really, you don’t need any longer than that. This amount of time helps you get a really good feel for the energy, the people, the gastronomy, and all that Mérida has to offer. A shorter trip is also more budget-friendly But, keep in mind to be laser-focused while you are here. I provide an overview here with detailed information in my upcoming series: Moving to Mérida guidebooks.
Third: Top 9 things you need to know when planning a move to Mérida
With the first two points in mind, now we get started with the super important information. The point of this article is to provide resources, professional references, and the most up-to-date information about a move to Mérida. All along the way, you’ll hear things about Mérida. It’s natural that people love to give their thoughts and perspective.
But, my best advice is this – keep your mind open, listen to your gut, refrain from overthinking, and get into the flow of the magic of Mérida. Your instincts are the best guides!
#1 Immigration Basics for Mexico
I highly recommend starting the process of immigration first. Get in touch with Yucatan Expatriate Services, ask questions, and explore your options. You’ll have to start the immigration paperwork in your home country. Why not conduct your due diligence FIRST to know the requirements and financial limits.
Here’s why qualifying for residency is top of this list:
Each time you visit Mexico, you are required to fill out an FMM (Forma Migratoria Múltiple) form. This is a permit that allows tourists to enter and visit Mexico for a limited period of time up to 180 days. When you exit the country within the stated time frame, you surrender your FMM to the customs agent. Until recently, 180 days were automatically given to visitors to Mexico. However, this is not the standard at this time.
To clarify, it is up to each individual customs agent to determine the length of your stay in Mérida.
You may be given 7 days, 30 days, or up to 180 days.
Unfortunately, people have used the 180-day permit to enter and exit the country for years on end without applying for temporary or permanent residency. Not surprisingly, over time, this has created a strain on the local Mexican economy in locations such as. Then, add the COVID situation with a potential increase in medical needs.
Best online resource for information:
Expired FMM: a new way to apply for temporary residency
In 2021, the Mexican government instituted a tourism relief program. Briefly, this program was in response to the large amounts of tourists stuck in the country experiencing travel restrictions. With this new program, you can exchange your FMM for a temporary resident visa.
Applying for temporary residency through this program has a few simple requirements:
- Possess an expired FMM form with 180 days.
- A minimum 2 entries into Mexico in 2018, 2019 or 2020.
- Pay a fee. I highly recommend you hire a professional to help you with this. There will be a fee for the process and a small fee to the professional.
Insider Advice: Move to Mérida Immigration
Because 180-day permits are no longer the standard, you create unnecessary stress on yourself by not knowing how much time you’ll be allowed in the country. Mexican customs is becoming stricter with people entering and exiting the country when their FMM expires. Don’t plan your move to Mérida and assume you can work the details out later. Be informed before you arrive.
Do extensive due diligence on the professional or person, whether a company or a person, who you want to help you. Fully vet them both professionally and personally. Many individuals will say they can help you but only a few are qualified to do so. Additionally, while some may be qualified, they will have negative reviews from clients. Use caution and let me know if you have questions.
#2 Preparing for your research trip to Mérida
This is easily the second most important thing to do when planning your move to Mérida. Likewise, it can also be the hardest. Believe me, I got caught up in the excitement of my potential move. Butterflies in my stomach, feeling the joy of starting a new life, and the exhilaration of change were exciting. But, I still had to be practical.
Think about these key items:
- Do you know your must-haves? (The things you absolutely, under any circumstance will you leave behind.)
- Have you identified things that could be a possibility to take/not take? (These are things like sheets, towels, kitchen appliances – things you need to source when you are in Mérida.)
- Make an inventory of all your prescription drugs and over the counter remedies. (I recommend visiting a pharmacy while here to know what meds are available, prices, and if a prescription is needed.)
Insider Advice: Move to Mérida Research Trip Preparation
There will be things you just can’t prepare for or know until you get here. Subsequently, creating this list of items above gets your brain in gear, your juices flowing and helps you stay focused on the task at hand. I highly recommend starting a spiral notebook dedicated to your research trip. Then, you keep notes and valuable insights all in one place. Keep the notebook with you at all times. You may also want to keep notes on your phone, which can be more convenient. But, physically writing something down creates a different impression on your brain and assists with memory recall.
#3 Choosing a location for your research trip
No doubt, you know about Centro, the hustling, bustling city center. It’s a pretty amazing part of Mérida that stretches over numerous streets, blocks and neighborhoods to the north, south, east, and west of Plaza Grande, the city square. The heart of Mérida is here; where you’ll get the true vibe and heartbeat of the city, the culture, the gastronomy, and a feel for the expat culture. But, Centro is not the “end all be all” of locations.
While it is a great option, it’s not the only option. However, I recommend staying in Centro for your research trip. There are Airbnb options, many hotels in all price ranges, and even some great hostels.
Insider Advice: Move to Mérida Research Trip Location
Undoubtedly, staying in Centro is more expensive. It should be noted, you’ll experience considerable savings on transportation costs such as Uber or rental cars if you decide to stay outside the city center. You’ll also save waiting and transportation times which, subsequently, causes stress and frustration.
On the other hand, you can also save money by traveling during low season from April to October. Due to high season, prices tend to increase substantially. Sometimes, fees double or even triple during high season. During high season, transportation platforms experience a high level of activity and an increase in prices as well.
Recommended hotel list close to Santa Lucia Park – Centro
This is my list of perfectly located hotels in Centro, all located within 1 block of Santa Lucia park:
We have a great rate here. Contact Jeanette Maria via email at: [email protected] Be sure to tell her you want the Life in Mérida rate with Amy Jones. I’ve stayed here several times and it’s my first choice of affordable hotels in Centro. The rate includes breakfast and a discount at Soberana Restaurant – highly recommend!
Located just down the street from Hotel Casa Lucia. Casa Balam features an interior courtyard and a beautiful fountain with a slight Lebanese influence. Even though I have not stayed here, it is highly rated. Bistrola 57 is a restaurant that features live music weekly.
Even though this hotel is a block from Santa Lucia park, it is a great option. I stayed here recently (December 2021) and found it very budget-friendly and clean but basic. The restaurant, Cartas a Frida, is closed at this time.
Another hotel on the highly recommended list from locals. This hotel tends to sell out quickly so if this is an option, book well in advance. You’ll find a great restaurant right next door, La Bianca with live music every night.
Insider Advice: Move to Mérida Hotel Options
I love Santa Lucia park. The activity, the people, the selection of restaurants, and the great vibe gives an exceptional insight into the heart of Mérida. You’ll have a great perspective of the culture, gastronomy, and shopping all within blocks of this centrally located park. It’s also just north of Plaza Grande and Park Hidalgo, two other locations with lots of activity and artisanal products.
#4 Airbnb Tips, Tricks, Advice, & Current Updates
I’ve been a big fan of Airbnb for many years. Notably, I’ve used it 80% of the time when I travel.
But, I’m seeing these general trends after COVID:
- Rental prices have increased substantially
- Properties lack basic and necessary items that you would expect in an Airbnb rental
- Many people see an opportunity to make money but don’t have the skills to be a property manager
- Attention to details is lacking such as proper cleaning
- Airbnb fees are causing many travelers to look elsewhere for their rentals
Keeping all of this in mind, I recommend reading 5 Secrets to the Best Airbnb Stay in Mérida.
Now, some additional information that can help save you frustration, time, and money:
- Is a pool really necessary? Yes, but only in the hot months from May through October.
- What is a fully equipped kitchen? This can be a hotplate and a microwave. Be sure to ask your host about what kitchen equipment is included.
- Review who is responsible for electricity charges. There are some rentals where the charges for electricity are paid above and beyond the rental fees.
- One thing people look for here is walking distance to markets and/or grocery stores. Santiago Market, Slow Food Market, San Benito, and Lucas de Galvez are the most popular large markets here. You’ll also find neighborhood fruterias/vedurias (fruit/vegetable stands).
- If your rental doesn’t come with a washer and dryer, you’ll need to find a lavanderia. I recommend asking your Airbnb host if there is an extra change of sheets and extra towels if they don’t provide cleaning services.
- Be aware, you’ll be charged extra for electricity. 90% of the Airbnb hosts here charge electricity over and above the rental. While electricity can be expensive anywhere, in Mérida we have the DAC (Domestic Average Consumption). Read more in this article.
Insider Advice: Move to Mérida Airbnb Alternative Neighborhoods
Here are some additional neighborhoods where you may find more cost-effective fees:
- Chen Bech
- Garcia Gineres
#5 Current COVID Travel Information
This is current as of the publish date of this article.
For entry into Mexico, you do not need to be vaccinated or a negative antigen or PCR test. There is also no need to quarantine. Mexico is fully open with each state having its own requirements. You will, however, need to fill out a health questionnaire. This is available via QR code at the airport or you can do it here: https://embamex.sre.gob.mx/suiza/index.php/turismo/covid-19/english
Be sure to check here for the rules and regulations of the state you plan to visit:
While this information is in Spanish, you can translate it easily with Google Translate extension on your browser.
This article from CNN also provides a good overview:
The U.S. Embassy also recommends that you register with their Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). You can do that here:
Be aware, Mérida is the most conservative city in the most conservative state in Mexico.
When in Mérida, this is what you can expect:
- Masks are mandatory
- Temperatures are taken when entering any establishment
- For ride platforms (Uber, DiDi, InDriver), at times it is up to the discretion of the driver to turn on A/C
- Drivers also have the discretion to limit the number of passengers they will allow in the car
Insider Advice: Move to Mérida Travel Information
Naturally, I recommend flying directly into Mérida. While you can save a few dollars by flying into Cancun, you’ll add time to your trip taking the ADO to Mérida. During this time, it is worth the money to save the potential stress of another type of transportation. Depending upon the arrival time of your flight into Cancun, you may even need to stay overnight so that you don’t arrive in Mérida too late in the evening.
One important item to note, you’ll need a negative antigen to enter the U.S. and other countries. You can have this test done at the airport. However, you need to show the results to the airline to be checked into your flight. This article contains complete information about the Mérida airport including where the testing center is located.
#6 Communication Tips in Mérida
If you have an international plan, your phone works in Mérida with no problem. Upon arrival, usually your service connects to Movistar or Telcel. In order to dial local numbers, be sure to add +52 first. WhatsApp is the preferred form of communication, even over email. Email is not frequently used in Mérida. I highly recommend downloading the WhatsApp app and becoming familiar with it, in the event you are not.
Alternately, you might want to purchase a SIM card while you’re here. Telcel, Oxxo, and other establishments sell SIM cards.
You’ll have 2 different options:
- Purchase a more expensive card (approx $250 mx) for a new number
- Opt for a cheaper card (approx $150 mx) for a used number
I definitely recommend the more expensive card. It is worth the extra few dollars to receive a new number.
Additionally, you’ll also find that Facebook messenger is another way to communicate both with people and businesses. The majority of businesses here use Facebook pages for their professional information over having a website. You can make appointments, reservations, or ask questions over messenger with ease. One of the perks of this is that the message can translate easily.
If you need to go to the doctor, you can also make an appointment on their Facebook page or you can use an app called Doctoralia. Using this app, you can make an appointment and receive confirmations and updates via WhatsApp. The majority of doctors here use this app and I highly recommend using it.
Insider Advice: Move to Mérida Communication
I recommend purchasing a SIM card and trying it out while you are here. The cost savings I realized when discontinuing my service with Verizon was well worth it. Briefly, I paid $140 U.S. monthly with Verizon compared to paying $350 MX (roughly $17.50 US) with my TelCel plan. For me, this was a no-brainer. Furthermore, I needed a U.S. number as well. After my move to Mérida, I found Google Voice and signed up with a new phone number for a fresh start. You can also transfer your current number to a Google Voice number as well.
#7 Plan Your EDC (Every Day Carry)
No matter what month or time of year you visit Mérida, you’ll need to plan for an EDC or Everyday Carry. Surprises lurk around every corner. So, it’s best to be prepared as you start off on your Mérida adventure. Notably, you will want to bring these items when you come for your research trip. If you forget something or need something while you are here, there are many establishments where you can purchase these items. BUT, I like to be prepared in advance so I don’t have the added stress of trying to find something I forgot.
I love this definition of Every Day Carry from Wikipedia:
Everyday carry (EDC) or every-day carry is a collection of useful items that are consistently carried on person every day. The main reasons for having EDC are utility and preparedness; to help individuals overcome simple everyday problems, and to prepare someone for unexpected and possibly dangerous situations.
Insider Advice: Move to Mérida EDC
Here’s my EDC list:
- Sunscreen (preferably waterproof with high SPF)
- Small umbrella
- Mosquito repellent (year-round must have)
- Sunhat, ballcap, etc
- Phone charger
- Small bills and coins for tipping
- Hand santizer and wipes
- Extra mask
#8 4 Things to Watch Out For
While Mérida is super safe, there are some dangerous things you need to look out for. The first is the heat. Heat, humidity, and the sun in Mérida can be very intense. Notably, many people come here from a hot and humid climate. Coupled with the large amounts of concrete in Centro, the heat is oppressive especially during hot season between April and October. Read this article about how you can protect yourself during the scorching summer months.
Both large and small biting creatures annoy from morning through evening. While they are more prevalent during rainy and hurricane season, you’ll find them all year long due to the tropical climate in Mérida. Dense vegetation in mangroves are havens for mosquitoes that carry Zika and Dengue Fever. For these areas, a high concentration of DEET is recommended. Be sure to carry a mosquito repellent with you at all times. If you forget it, many establishments have it on hand for their guests.
Unfortunately, I know more people who have sustained injuries from tripping or falling due to dangerous sidewalks than anything else.
What to do?
- Keep your head up at all times.
- Pay attention to where you are going.
- Don’t use your cell phone while walking.
- Be cautious of steep drop offs from sidewalks to streets.
- Wear comfortable footwear when walking through neighborhoods.
- Watch your steps carefully when walking after dark.
Please tip generously. No matter what anyone else says, the service industry is hurting in Mérida especially after COVID. For a waiter or waitress, the daily pay is $140 mx or $7 U.S. Many of the service industry live in a small city just outside of Mérida called Caucel. Average monthly expenses run approximately $4,000 mx before food, transportation, or other necessities. Waiters and waitresses depend on their tips to provide for their families. The elderly working as grocery store baggers only work for tips.
Understandably, you are in a country where everything is cheaper. But, please do not be cheap when tipping. The service industry has to tip out the hosts, cooks, bartenders, and other staff resulting in 4 – 6% less than what they receive from a customer. Consider a 15 – 20% tip so that everyone wins.
#9 Medical Information
One of the first things I do when arriving in a foreign city is to determine where the closest clinics, hospitals, and pharmacies are located. Whether you need them during your stay or not, knowing where they are and what hours they are open gives you peace of mind. You can also check to see what coverage you may have with your current insurance plan. AMEXCARE verifies benefits from your insurance company. Once you know what coverage you have, then you can determine if you’d like to purchase travel insurance.
You’ll also find that there are walk-in clinics with low fees. Even if you need to go to the hospital emergency room, the fee is less than $40 U.S. (most average $20 U.S.). Additionally, many medications don’t require a prescription. I recommend visiting a pharmacy while you are on your move to Mérida research trip to compare prices and availability.
Insider Advice: Move to Mérida Medical Information
If you find yourself in need of a doctor, get in touch with Dra. Fany Rubio via WhatsApp at +52 999.342.0036. You can find out more about her on Facebook at Mérida Health Travel. She makes house calls and charges approximately $500 MX or $25 U.S.
Additionally, most pharmacies have a consultation office attached to them. You’ll find specific hours at each one with some doctors speaking English (but most don’t). Use Google Translate if needed to help you. The cost for this service is approx $80 pesos (roughly $4 U.S.).
Final Thoughts on Planning a Move to Mérida
Whew! This article just seemed to grow longer and longer as I wrote it. Of course, it is my intention to help prepare you in any way that I can. I have a passion for what I do – helping people prepare for and move to Mérida – so, it’s natural to provide as many details as I can!
A few final pieces of advice (and remember, be on the lookout for my upcoming series: Moving to Mérida – Step by Step Guidebooks. Due to release in the first quarter of 2022.)
If you’d like to rent a car while you are here, read this article about driving. Then, get in touch with Mario Ortega and Arturo Yah of Mayan Drive Rental Car. Arturo can help you with your reservation AND if you are headed to the beach, they have some great customer perks they offer. Arturo Yah (via WhatsApp) +52 999.128.5438
When you need something or have questions, be very, very specific about what you need or want. Locals will not offer more information than what you ask for. Additionally, you may have to ask in a few different ways before you arrive at an answer.
Mañana. We’ve all heard that term – right? But, did you know there are many, many meanings to mañana? The most common definition is tomorrow.
However, here you will find that mañana means:
Locals are exceptionally polite and for them to tell someone “no” is a very rare occurrence. So, instead they will tell you mañana. If your service or other requested item doesn’t happen the next day, it is safe to assume that in this case mañana means never.
You’ll love having the most important numbers and contacts all in one place for your next trip to Mérida.