With its proximity to the US and Canada, Mexico has long been a destination for travellers and retirees. And in recent years, the digital nomad population has exploded, as remote freelancers and employees flocked to Mexico’s beaches and cities.
This is due in part to its economical cost of living and warm climate, as well as similar time zones to the US. Remote workers had found their new home with Latin culture, cuisine and vibrant social life.
You can have a high quality lifestyle in Mexico for a fraction of the cost in the northern neighbours, while working remotely for your foreign clients. No wonder Mexico is becoming the digital nomad capital of Latin America.
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Digital Nomad Mexico Expat Profile: Donald from the UK
Donald is a long time nomad from the UK, having lived and worked in Greece, South Africa and Barbados. A few years ago Donald was drawn to vacation on the beaches of Baja California, known for its surfing and laidback lifestyle. He ended up in the small coastal village of Sayulita, which is becoming a digital nomad hotspot like Tulum in the Yucatan.
At one point he decided to stay and make it his digital nomad work (and surfing) base. His first task was to secure a long term visa, as he had arrived on a tourist visa as many travellers do.
Mexico’s tourist visas are good for up to six months, but this has led to some abuse by remote workers. As a result, Mexican authorities have begun to limit the length of tourist visas issued at the border.
Donald was familiar with Digital Nomad Visas (DNV) from his time in Barbados, and started to look into that option in Mexico for digital nomads.
Digital Nomad Mexico Visa Options
Donald discovered that Mexico does not have a DNV per se, but does have an alternative in the Temporary Residence visa. This visa does resemble many DNVs around the world with similar eligibility requirements.
Mexico digital nomad visa requirements:
- You must have a monthly income of around $2500 for the past six months
- Or, a bank balance of $43,000
- Must be applied for outside of Mexico at a consulate
- Valid for 6 months up to 4 years
- Mexican companies cannot be included in your client list or income
Donald was also wondering about Mexican income tax for digital nomads. He was happy to find out that as long as his income was from non-Mexican sources, he won’t pay any tax. This is actually the normal tax residency rule for Mexico. Residency is only triggered if more than 50% of income is from Mexican sources.
Digital Nomad Mexico: Best Places to Live
Mexico offers a lot to choose from when it comes to where you live. But how to find the best places in Mexico for digital nomads?
Many digital nomads will pick a spot for a short workation, and then fall in love with it. Donald had become familiar with Baja from his surf adventures, and then wanted to settle there without really looking at other locations.
He did mention that there could be issues with power outages during hurricanes, but that there were plenty of co-working spaces with steady internet.
Donald had some general advice for new Mexico digital nomads
“In terms of travelling around Mexico, always do your research on Wi-Fi on short or long term rentals. Make sure you are in a reasonably safe area especially in the large cities of Mexico City or Guadalajara.
In smaller isolated places perhaps avoid wearing fancy watches or accessories but most coworking towns are relatively safe for everyone, including families. It all depends on where you go or which part of the city you are in.”
This is all good advice to consider while you are looking for the best cities in Mexico for digital nomads. If you are doing some advance planning from home, here are some of the more popular Mexico digital nomad destinations:
If you want to be close to the famed ruins of Chichen Itza and the beaches of Cancun, Merida is for you. It’s far enough away to avoid the tourist crowds, and has a historic Mexican ambience. It might be too quiet for young social nomads, but those who enjoy peace for some serious work in a small charming city will feel right at home.
Playa del Carmen
Once a sleepy village in the Yucatan south of Cancun, Playa del Carmen has come into its own. There are beaches, co-working spaces, great food and a bustling expat community. Due to the fact that it’s the number one digital nomad location in Mexico, Playa del Carmen is not the cheapest destination but has everything you will need.
If you are looking for a spot that has the traditional feel and flavour of Mexico, you might enjoy Oaxaca City. There is excellent cuisine, an aesthetic historic centre, and none of the beach tourist activity to distract you. There are several co-working spaces, but be aware that the internet speed/reliability may be an issue at times.
Digital nomads under 30 looking for a dynamic social life set among Mayan ruins will love Tulum. It’s a small town, so making friends with other expats is easy, and you will find plenty of hard-working nomads in the crowd. Tulum is located south of Playa del Carmen, so you are truly a ‘remote’ worker in this party-oriented location.
Baja has captured the imagination and adventures of travellers for decades, and there are numerous spots for any taste. From the capital La Paz on the Gulf of California to the luxury resorts, nightlife and beaches of Cabo san Lucas, you won’t be disappointed.
Puerto Escondido on the Pacific coast is a short bus ride from the US border. This offers Amercians an easy entry to the digital nomad Mexico lifestyle.
Mexico City has become such a cosmopolitan destination for digital nomads working in Mexico that we have dedicated an entire article to its attractions. But in general, it is one of the best digital nomad cities in the world. Mexico City offers all types of amenities, accommodations, social life and modern comforts in the heart of a historic Latin city.
Digital Nomad Mexico: How Can Contractor Taxation Help
Digital nomads in Mexico typically work for remote clients in other countries. But, if you are looking to work in Mexico for local clients (more than 50% of revenue), this makes your visa and tax situation much more complicated. You would become a tax resident, and would likely need a traditional sponsored work permit.
Fortunately, Contractor Taxation has verified umbrella companies that can handle these problems for you. The umbrella company is a Mexican entity that can sponsor work permits, calculate and withhold income tax and act as an intermediary. This reduces any friction with your clients when it comes to invoicing and payments.
Other benefits of umbrella companies include:
- Manages all client payments, tax withholding and any social contributions
- Issues you a payslip each month, to a local or foreign account
- Sponsors work permits
- Helps set up the contract with the client
- Moderates any disputes with your client
- Advises on access to totalization and double taxation treaties
If you have questions about how an umbrella company can help you as an international contractor, please contact us at Contractor Taxation.
What Are Our Digital Nomads Asking About Mexico
Mexico does not have an ‘official’ DNV, but the temporary residence visa is very similar in requirements. Most nomads with a steady income will be able to qualify, but it cannot be applied for inside of Mexico.
Mexico is a welcoming country in general, and has a wide choice of digital nomad locations to suit anyone. It is close to its North American neighbours and very economical in comparison. The diverse expat community is also a draw for solo nomads seeking friends and companions.
Norma was an American IT worker who moved to Mexico to try out the digital nomad lifestyle. She shared that her preparation included researching the safest location and how to ensure stable internet connectivity.
She spent some time brushing up on her Spanish, even though many Mexicans do speak some English. Finally, she made sure that she had health coverage that was valid in Mexico, and knew where the nearest medical facilities would be to her location. She obtained her temporary residence visa at a consulate in the US, and was on her way!
Being an expat remote worker of any type, anywhere can affect your family relationships back home. A self-employed digital nomad also has to make sure that they have an active roster of clients and steady income. There are many digital nomads in Mexico, so you won’t be lonely if you make an effort to reach out and socialise. And don’t forget that Mexico is a very friendly country, where a little Spanish will make you many instant friends.