Sunset near Ensenada

Living in Ensenada Mexico on a Budget

Mexico's allure is irresistible, drawing people from all corners of the globe to experience its rich culture, diverse landscapes, and warm hospitality.

As you take this journey with us, prepare to be enchanted by the myriad of opportunities Mexico has to offer for those of you who are seeking to live life to the fullest while managing your finances wisely.

Kevin and Sadie at the Ensenada sign
Kevin and Sadie at the Ensenada sign

Nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, Mexico beckons with its vibrant colors, bustling markets, and ancient ruins echoing tales of past civilizations. But beyond its postcard-perfect scenery lies a practical appeal, affordability. 

Mexico stands as a beacon for those looking to stretch their dollars without sacrificing quality of life. From the cobblestone streets of colonial towns to the sun-kissed shores of coastal retreats, Mexico boasts a lifestyle that is both accessible and enriching.

Join us as we take you into the heart of Ensenada’s budget-friendly living, exploring everything from housing and utilities to healthcare and leisure activities. Whether you're dreaming of retiring in paradise, seeking adventure as a digital nomad, or simply yearning for a change of pace, Ensenada offers a haven where dreams and budgets align.

Why Should You Consider Ensenada Mexico?

Kevin near an Ensenada sign
Kevin near an Ensenada sign

We are going to take you on a trip to Ensenada and show you why we think this is one of the best places for anyone to settle down and enjoy life. We specifically talk about Ensenada because that is where we currently live and the area we know the most about.

As we travel we will include more places and our thoughts on why you should consider living there or why you shouldn't.

Lower Cost of Living: Ensenada offers a significantly lower cost of living compared to the US and Canada. This makes it an attractive option if you are looking to stretch your budget while enjoying a comfortable lifestyle.

Warm Climate: With its temperate climate, Ensenada beckons with year-round sunshine and balmy temperatures, providing a paradise for those seeking to escape colder climates. 

The weather here is very similar to the weather in San Diego California but without the exorbitant expense. A win win if you ask me.

Rich Culture: Ensenada boasts a vibrant and diverse culture, deeply rooted in history and tradition. From colorful festivals and indigenous art to mouthwatering cuisine and ancient ruins, Ensenada offers an immersive cultural experience like no other.

Vibrant Communities: Throughout Ensenada, you'll find vibrant and welcoming communities, both local and expatriate. Whether you're drawn to the bustling energy of city life or the tranquil charm of coastal towns, Ensenada offers a diverse array of communities to suit every lifestyle.

Ease of Obtaining Residency: Obtaining residency in Mexico is relatively straightforward, with various visa options available to suit different circumstances. This streamlined process facilitates a smooth transition for expatriates, allowing you to settle into your new home with ease.

It is easy but will take you some time as of this writing you have to live in the country for 4-5 years to obtain residency status. There are other ways to go about it and you can read all about those on our, how to obtain residency post.

Benefits of Residency: Residency in Mexico comes with numerous benefits, including access to affordable healthcare, property ownership rights, and eligibility for local discounts and services. 

These advantages help to  enhance your quality of life, ensuring you have a fulfilling and comfortable experience while you are here in Mexico.

How much does it cost to live in ensenada?

United States passport and Mexican pesos
United States passport and Mexican pesos

Packing up your life and moving to a new place is an adventure like no other! Whether it's just you, or you're bringing the whole family along for the ride, the costs of setting up your new life can vary quite a bit. But, let's break it down so you know what to expect and can start planning your budget.

Rental Costs: Rent: Let's start with where you're going to hang your hat. For a cozy spot, you're looking at around $800 a month. It's your new home base, where all your adventures will begin and end. (1 bedroom apt.)

We have noticed the prices have gone up in the time we have been here. When we arrived in Ensenada we rented a 3 bedroom 2 bath house on AirBnB for USD$1,500.00 a month.

Looking on Airbnb now the prices in that area are $1800-$4000 a month. A significant increase but still lower than a comparable house and location in San Diego. 

Factors Affecting Prices: Housing prices are influenced by location, proximity to the beach, type of property, and demand. You may find higher prices in touristy areas compared to residential neighborhoods.

Buying vs. Renting: Pros of buying include building equity and stability, while renting offers flexibility and fewer responsibilities. Consider factors like long-term plans, financial readiness, and market trends when deciding between buying and renting.

Cost of Utilies in Ensenada

Our electric bill for 2 months while living in Mexico
Our electric bill for 2 months while living in Mexico the amount is in Pesos

Electricity Costs: Keeping the lights on and your devices charged will set you back about $30 a month. But, if you're dreaming of living near the beach (and who isn't?), prepare for a bit of sticker shock, electricity can jump to about 4 times that cost. It's the price of paradise!

Our monthly bill is higher but we are in a huge home 3600 sq ft. approx. Factoring in that we have alexa devices and computers that are always on, as well as the normal stuff fridge, microwave and stove etc. and we lve near the beach! We still have a bill that is lower than our electric bill was when we lived in Arizona.

Our water bill for the year
Our water bill for the year this is plus 2 months because it goes from Feb-Feb.

Water Delivery Cost: Water delivery services are common in Mexico, with costs depending on the amount and frequency of delivery. Alternatively, some areas have access to municipal water systems. 

We spent around 1500 pesos a month on water when we had it delivered to the house we lived in that was on the beach. The exchange rate at that time was $20 pesos to the dollar. So that's about $100 a month. 

It was actually less than that because we would call the water truck about every 6 weeks but I did it this way to make the math easier.

Now that we live in an Ejido that provides water to us we pay 2,750 pesos for the year. 

Internet Cost:  Staying connected is crucial, especially when you're in a new place. For around $25 a month, you'll have all the internet you need to blog, stream, and keep in touch with friends and family.

Internet packages from different providers offer varying speeds and prices. Monthly costs range from $20 to $50 for basic plans, while faster and more reliable connections may cost up to $70 or more per month.

This range depends on which company you decide to go with. We have used local companies and paid more, as well as the more well known ones, and we have been happier with the bigger companies. 

We currently use Telnor and pay 27.50 a month for fiber internet service. We have 100mb up and down which is amazing and the cost is way less than what we paid for Cox internet in Arizona for similar speeds down. Our upload speeds in AZ were significantly less. 

Transportation in Ensenada

horse and buggy ride in Ensenada.
horse and buggy ride in Ensenada

If you're not driving, you'll be happy to know that getting around will only cost you about $30 a month. It's an affordable and eco-friendly way to explore every corner of your new city.

Cost of Owning a Car: Purchasing a car in Mexico can range from affordable to expensive, depending on the make and model. Maintenance costs are generally lower compared to the United States. But this also depends on what car you have.

The labor costs here to get your vehicle fixed are significantly lower than anywhere in the US. The parts may cost a little more but overall you will save a ton by getting the repair done here.

We chose to bring our own vehicle because we live in a free zone. This means we do not have to import our car. Repairing a vehicle here truly depends on what part you need.  I recommend always shopping around to get the best price.

I have gone back to the US to get a part that was cheaper there (the computer for our van). The computer is actually made here in Tijuana. and then shipped to the US for sale. I could not buy it here. I thought this was crazy but it is what it is.

I bought tires here in Mexico because I wanted to keep my old ones as spares. But it is cheaper to get tires in the US than in Mexico. You have to do your research so that you are getting the best deal.

Gas costs vary but are often cheaper than in other countries, making driving here an economical choice. We have found that the gas prices here in Ensenada are on par with the prices in AZ, But much cheaper than the gas prices in California. 

Public Transportation: Mexico has an extensive public transportation system, including buses, and taxis. Tickets for public transportation are relatively inexpensive, with fares starting at around 5 pesos. Taxis here are cheaper than in other countries as well.

Ride-sharing Services: Ride-sharing services like Uber and DiDi are popular in Ensenada, (We have not seen Lyft here yet), providing convenient and affordable transportation options in urban areas. They are starting to go further south now that the road conditions are improving.

 Other elite ride-hailing apps also offer luxurious transportation experiences for those willing to pay a premium. We have hired a driver and a bus for a day for a wine tasting tour. The driver spoke english and was very kind and reliable.

Overall, the choice of transportation in Ensenada depends on your individual preferences, budget, and travel needs. We have used Uber and have hailed Taxis. Personally Uber is the better choice because the taxis are not metered and the price may vary based on how much Spanish you can speak. 

Food and Groceries

Kirkland Toilet Paper price at Costco in Ensenada
Kirkland Toilet Paper a Costco in Ensenada

 Now, on to the important stuff, food! You'll need about $200 a month to keep your kitchen stocked. Whether you're whipping up a family feast or grabbing a quick snack before exploring your new surroundings, this should have you covered.

Cost of Groceries: Local markets offer fresh produce and ingredients at lower prices compared to supermarkets. 

For instance, 1 kg (2.2lbs) of apples may cost around Mex$35 pesos at a market. And $50 pesos or more at a supermarket. Supermarkets provide convenience but may have slightly higher prices. 

Price comparison at a store in Ensenada

In Ensenada we have noticed that the fruits and vegetables are fresher if you buy them from the market rather than going to the store. Again you have to be careful and do your research. 

Some of the street markets are better than others. A good rule is to watch and see where the locals are going and frequent those places. This applies to street vendors as well. We say if you don’t see any locals eating there then you shouldn't either. 

La Casita Rstaurant in Ensenada
La Casita Rstaurant in Ensenada

Eating Out: Ensenada offers a diverse culinary scene, including budget-friendly options like street food stalls and local eateries. Enjoying tacos, tamales, or tortas from street vendors can be affordable and delicious.

I love trying new foods and new places. The cost of a taco can range from 20-50 pesos ($1.22-$3.06) depending on where you are and what you get. Many places offer a bogo option on some of their tacos. See the above warning for how to pick which vendor to eat from.

You will find a wide array of food near the center of town from pulpo (octopus) tacos to carne asada and everything in between. I recommend taking your time and enjoying the variety.

Household Help/Cooking Services: Hiring household help, such as maids or cooks, is common in Mexico. The rates vary depending on the region and the services provided, ranging from MXN $300-1500 per day for basic services.

Silvia in front of the grill at a party.
Silvia in front of the grill at a party.

We pay $1500 pesos a day for our housekeeper and she also cooks for us so we have 2 in one. You will find this common here in Ensenada where the housekeeper will also be your cook. This can save you money and time because you only have to deal with one person instead of 2. She also lets us know the best places to buy fresh fruits and veggies at a lower cost. Bonus!!

Understanding these options will allow you to balance convenience, taste, and budget when it comes to food and groceries in Mexico.

Healthcare in ensenada

Sadie and Kevin at hospital Velmar
Sadie and Kevin at hospital Velmar

Understanding healthcare options in Ensenada is crucial:

Public and Private Healthcare Systems: Mexico offers both public and private healthcare. The public system, Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social (IMSS) and Seguro Popular, provides basic coverage, while the private system offers higher quality services for a fee.

Health Insurance Costs and Coverage: For foreigners living in Ensenada, comprehensive health insurance averages $5,900 dollars per year. Most people opt for additional private insurance for better coverage.

Costs for Common Medical Procedures/Services: Medical procedures and services in Mexico are generally more affordable than in other countries. For example, the cost of treatment can vary significantly, with prices for common procedures being lower compared to the US and Europe.

Understanding the healthcare landscape will allow you to make informed decisions about your medical needs.

Entertainment and Leisure

History museum in Ensenada
History museum in Ensenada

Exploring your new home isn't just about seeing the sights, it's also about tasting them! Set aside around $50 a month to discover new restaurants and entertainment options. It's a great way to feel like a local.

Gym Memberships: Gym memberships typically range from $10 to $100 per month, depending on the gym's location, amenities, and services offered.

Movie Tickets: The cost of movie tickets varies, but on average, tickets range from $5 to $15 per person, depending on factors like location, theater type, and whether it's a regular or premium screening.

At the Macroplaza in Ensenada it costs MXN $85 pesos or $5.20 to see a movie.

Netflix: After a day of adventures or setting up your new space, you might want to unwind with some good TV. Netflix will cost you around $10 a month. Perfect for those chill nights in.

Other Recreational Costs: Additional recreational activities such as attending concerts or cultural events, and participating in outdoor adventures like zip-lining or snorkeling will vary in cost depending on the activity and location.

Kevin in fornt of fish with Vonny's Fishing Charter
Kevin in fornt of fish with Vonny's Fishing Charter

For example a fishing charter in Ensenada will cost $275 or more depending on how many people are going. If you get out of the touristy area you can charter a boat to take you fishing for about $100 + gear and license, now this also depends on the type of fishing you are doing. Take your time and compare prices, get to know some locals and enjoy your life here in Ensenada.

Remember, these are just the basics to get you started on your budgeting journey. Your actual costs will depend on your lifestyle and the choices you make. But isn't that the exciting part?

Customizing your life in a new place, discovering what makes you happy, and figuring it all out one day at a time. Happy relocating!

Comparing Cost of Living: Ensenada, Mexico vs. San Diego, California

The cost of living in San Diego is higher than in Ensenada, Mexico. According to, consumer prices in San Diego are 132% higher than in Ensenada without rent, and 221.7% higher including rent.

Food and Grocery Prices:

The cost of groceries and dining out tends to be lower in Ensenada compared to San Diego, reflecting a more affordable lifestyle.

Entertainment and Leisure:

Prices for recreational activities, dining, and entertainment are typically lower in Ensenada compared to San Diego.

Overall Cost of Living:

While San Diego offers a higher standard of living, it comes with significantly higher costs, especially in terms of housing. Ensenada provides a more affordable alternative with a lower overall cost of living.


1. How much money do I need to live comfortably in Mexico?

Living comfortably in Mexico depends on various factors such as your lifestyle, location, and accommodation preferences. However, a general estimate suggests that a couple can live comfortably on around $1,500 to $3,000 per month, including rent, groceries, utilities, and entertainment.

2. Can I live in Mexico on a fixed income or retirement savings?

Yes, many people choose to retire in Mexico due to its affordable cost of living. With a fixed income or retirement savings, it's possible to maintain a comfortable lifestyle in Mexico, especially in cities or areas with lower living costs.

3. What are the visa requirements and costs for long-term stays?

Visa requirements for long-term stays vary depending on your nationality and the purpose of your visit. Common options include temporary resident visas, which require proof of income or savings, and permanent resident visas. Costs for visas and processing fees also vary. 

4. Is it safe to live in Mexico as an expat?

Safety in Mexico varies by location, just like with any other city or country, and while certain areas may have higher crime rates, many people feel safe living in Ensenada and the surrounding area. 

It's essential to research your chosen area, take necessary precautions, and stay informed about local safety conditions.

5. How difficult is it to learn Spanish and integrate into the culture?

Learning Spanish can enhance your experience living in Mexico, but it's not a requirement. Many people find it relatively easy to learn basic Spanish, especially with immersion opportunities. 

Integrating into Mexican culture can vary depending on personal openness and willingness to engage with locals and customs so the more you get out and explore the more you will learn.

Begin Your Journey

Living in Mexico as an expat offers a unique blend of affordability, cultural richness, and diverse experiences. We hope this helps you make informed decisions about taking the plunge to begin your fulfilling journey of living in Ensenada.

More Of Our Life in Mexico

Mexico Week 1
Mexico Week 2
Quirky Things About Driving in Mexico
Medical Care in Mexico: Our Family's Experience

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