Many people moving to Mexico ask the question “should I live in Merida or San Miguel de Allende?”
We have just arrived back to our home town of San Miguel De Allende after almost two months traveling around the three Yucatan states of Quintana Roo, Yucatan and Campeche. And, (drumroll please) our move to San Miguel as the perfect spot for us to live in Mexico has been reinforced.
We really enjoyed our vacation and seeing the sights of Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Valladolid, Merida, Izamal, Uxmal and Campache. But for us and for sheer comfort, convenience, culture, climate and cuisine San Miguel has them all beat hands down.
When we left San Miguel January 31st it was still rather cool during the day and cold once the sun started to go down. Me being a hot weather gal, well I needed a change. The Yucatan provided just that. It was HOT!!! And by the time we left at the end of March it was stifling. Now, returning to San Miguel the weather has started to warm up and the cool evenings are actually a welcome change and much more conducive to a good nights sleep without sweating off the sheets. Aside from a few cold months, San Miguel has an extremely agreeable temperate climate that we really enjoy.
Before we moved to SMA we believed it was the most expensive place to live after Mexico City. Not so now. The Yucatan, for us, was very expensive and the quality of things like choice of cuisine and shopping possibilities is not as good as we find at home (San Miguel). Was that because we indulged a bit too much, we don’t think so.
In the Yucatan restaurants are expensive and it is hard to get away from the Yucatan cuisine, which we loved at first, but at the end were finding a bit repetitious. You can find a lot of street stall selling things like Cochinita Pibil, tacos, esquites, etc. But go out of that zone and it will cost you. Our food budget really took a hit. The first month included the Riviera Maya, with Playa del Carmen and Tulum, and we spent nearly double our regular allowance for food. This was partly because we did not have an AirBnb for that time and had to rely on restaurant eating which was not cheap, even for something simple. We would say prices were close to the California Bay Area ones we left behind.
In Merida, where we did have a kitchen, we had to really plan our shopping time since there were no fruit, veggie, small goods tiendas on the street corners where we lived. We had to either go to the big mercado (Mercado Lucas de Galvez) or Soriana each about a 25 minute walk from our AirBnb or go to Walmart, also about 25 minutes away. And, a lot of the items we are used to getting in San Miguel were not readily available. Once again, we still went substantially over our food budget.
In San Miguel we feel that we have more options with regards to food value. Yes, there are plenty of expensive restaurants but we also have quite a few that are more reasonable, in a range of cuisines, while still being still cute and comfortable. There is no one, slightly overdone cuisine type.
There are a variety of small tiendas in our neighborhood and around town for daily shopping and the big supermarket La Comer is relatively close by. We also head down to the Mercado Ignacio Ramirez quite often, especially on Spanish school days, as it is just down the street from school. And there is an amazing, organic butcher in Centro.
This is a bit like apples and oranges since we did a short term AirBnb in Merida as opposed to a long term rental in San Miguel. So keep that in mind.
The Airbnb in Merida we rented for a month cost considerably more than what we pay for rent in San Miguel. Granted, it had a private pool, a necessity in sweltering Merida, but it left a bit to be desired with regards to comfort and charm. We are headed back to Merida for a month in December, once again to escape the cold, and are paying an outrageous amount for our 2 bedroom apartment AirBnb. We should have thought that out more carefully, but there were not a lot of options for the area we wanted to be in and we booked spur of the moment.
In San Miguel we lived in two houses last year and will be returning to both of them this year. We feel they are good value at $1250 and $1200 respectively. Both include maid, house manager, laundry machines, 2 or 3 bedrooms, 3.5 and 2.5 baths, agreeable living/dining areas, garden, terrace or rooftop and nicely stocked kitchens and are in exactly the Colonia we want to live in. A pleasant 20 minute walk through the neighborhoods to Centro.
ENTERTAINMENT AND WHAT TO DO
One of the best things we did in Merida was attend two symphony concerts which were amazing!! The first was $21 and the second $12.50 per person so quite a good value and they were at noon so a good escape from the heat. We also went to a piano concert in a private home that was a fund raiser for the Merida English Library and was a treat as only 50 tickets were sold. Keeping in the musical vein were our visits to Dzalbay where bands played just about every night, everything from golden oldies to jazz and more. They were finished by 9pm which worked out fine for us. There are a number of other music venues in Centro which are worth checking out.
We also visited a few of the museums, many are free especially to INAPAM holders or residents. And, there are several nice galleries near the Santa Ana Park that we enjoyed. We believe many of them have artist openings and other events but we didn’t find any to attend while we were in town and didn’t know where to look for information.
On the weekends people in Merida come out to play. Some of the streets close down to traffic as bikes rule the road for a few hours and around the Cathedral street vendors are in full force. And, Merida likes to dance. We were happy to see a few reoccurring events around the Grand Plaza and Parque Santa Lucia. But after a month in town all of this got a bit repetitious and we only went to check it out a few times. We do need to investigate the restaurants along Calle 60 who bring their tables out onto the street weekend nights, but usually we were hot and off to take a swim back home before this happened.
Merida for us was rather mellow and once we had seen some of the must do’s we felt we had accomplished them and didn’t need to revisit all the time.
In Merida a car would be handy although you can use Uber like we did and it was very reasonable. But the city is big and it takes awhile to get around.
On the flip side, San Miguel for us leads the way in entertainment options and value. It is a quaint town, and a relatively small place where your feet are used extensively. There is always a party going on in San Miguel!! You can see this in a few of our previous posts. There Is Always A Party Going On and La Alborada 2018 And The Blessing Of The Horses.
Mariachis stroll through Centro, weddings weave around the streets with huge Mojigangas leading the way, children run after each other in the plazas and parques, concerts happen multiple times a week, and so many restaurants have entertainers, you can see plays, hear lectures, shop in tiendas and the weekly markets, wander through the parks, visit the rooftop bars and restaurants to watch the sunsets, there are celebrations and festivals culminating in fireworks all the time, a monthly art walk, and there are always people to meet up with as it is a very friendly town.
A meandering walk through the cobbled streets is a great pastime in its own and artists and photographers can delight in capturing the changing colors of the day.
Just living in San Miguel de Allende is entertainment. We are never bored as something new opens just about every week and every walk brings a fresh look at the town we live in.
In closing, we enjoyed our time in Merida, especially getting a bit of heat in while San Miguel goes through its cold spell but San Miguel de Allende is where are souls are happy and our hearts are full. Living in a town rather than a big city is hitting the right buttons for us. And it is nice to know that we can venture off and do the travels we so enjoy while having a home base that we love to return to.
Thanks so much for this post as I try to decide my next. I absolutely ADORE SMA but have have always lived near water and unsure if I would miss the water while in SMA.
The Leon and Queretaro airports are just a shuttle away from San Miguel and you can fly to any number of great water spots from there. We are right now spending 3 months in Southern Mexico on its beaches, islands, and lakes. We however love having all the access to the great cultural events and restaurants etc. we have in San Miguel and then just going on vacays to the beaches rather than the other way around. Mexico as a whole is brilliant and I would visit many areas before finding your perfect spot.
Wonderful recap of a interesting vacation ?
Thanks Ronnie! We had a great time but it is so good to be back home.
Thank you for writing this post. Very helpful. These are just the questions we have been asking ourselves as we decide between the 2 cities. Seems that although both places are drawing the interest of newcomers, they are very different in many ways. Boils down to what you’re looking for. We lean toward quaint & charming! Thanks again for the info.
Thanks Devon. Glad the post helped a bit. We too love the quaint and charming. And it is amazing how much time we spend just absorbing it. SMA is a magical town. We look forward to seeing you in June.
Welcome back. 8^)
Thanks JC we are thrilled to be back home in SMA!!!