Living in Merida, Mexico
Merida is fast becoming one of the top destinations in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Visitors and ex-pats alike are flocking to Merida for its high quality of life and low cost of living. Merida is also becoming a favorite place for people looking to retire in Mexico.
The colorful, colonial city of Merida is considered the safest city in Mexico, and one of the safest cities in all of the Americas. It’s location, just a few hours west of Mexico’s top beach destination of Cancun, has put Merida on the map.
Before calling Merida home, I traveled to about half the states in Mexico. I have lived in Merida for 1.5 years now, and continue to be awed by the Mayan culture, beautiful colonial architecture, and a number of amazing day and overnight trips only a few hours from Merida.
Using Merida as a home base, you have easy access to drive or take a bus to places including Chichen Itza, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Cancun, Valladolid, and much more.
For those considering spending a month in Merida, let’s examine everything you need to know to make the most of your time.
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Traveling to Merida, Mexico
Merida is easy to access by flying directly into Merida International Airport (code: MID). The airport is only about 20-30 minutes by car from downtown Merida. Once you arrive, you just walk outside and call a cab or Uber to take you to your destinatination.
If you’re planning to explore the Yucatan Peninsula, you might want to consider a rental car, but if not, Merida is quite walkable. To those wanting a rental car, the airport is the best easiest place to rent from.
If you’re mostly staying local, I never recommend anyone rent a car. While Mexican car rental rates do seem inexpensive online, those quotes rarely include Mexican insurance, which can double the cost.
If you are planning to rent a car, double check with your accommodation to make sure they offer free, on-site parking.
Best Time to Visit Merida
This city is located in the tropics, which means tropical weather. In this case, tropical is a nice way of saying hot! Expect high temperatures year-round, day and night, of about 90°F/32°C and humid in the summer and 78°F/25°C in the winter months.
The winter months of November-March are really the best time to visit because there’s relatively little humidity. The summer months are very humid, and also very rainy, with June-October being the peak of Hurricane Season.
The winter months tend to be busier and have more visitors, though it’s still better to come when the weather’s the nicest.
Merida’s Best Areas to Stay In
For a short stay in Merida City, I recommend either Centro (downtown), or anywhere within a few blocks on either side of Paseo de Montejo, Merida’s nicest street.
These two areas aren’t far from one another, and between the two, you’ll never run out of historic sites to see, places to explore, restaurants, cafes and cantinas to try, local mercados (markets), parks to relax in, etc.
Merida’s Public Transportation
In-town public transportation isn’t so great; however, Merida City is small enough that if you’re staying in Centro or along Paseo de Montejo, anything you need is always within walking distance.
Besides walking, Uber is a great and inexpensive way to get around. Rates do of course vary, but figure about $4-5USD/€3-4 for a 30 minute Uber ride.
Though in-town public transportation is a bit lacking, Mexico’s overall public transportation is amazing. The two main bus terminals in Merida, Terminal de Autobuses de Merida (TAME or CAME) and Paseo 60, have daily trips on luxury buses to anywhere you’d want to go in the Yucatan Peninsula and really, all of Mexico!
Cost of Living for One Month in Merida, Mexico
For a short stay of just one month, the absolute easiest way is to book an Airbnb. For those who don’t want to use this service, the next best option is to join some Facebook groups for Merida expats of Merida housing and rent something there.
Personally, I prefer the Airbnb site or app for several reasons; the first and foremost is that it’s incredibly convenient because you just make one payment. You’d simply pay for the month of your stay and get a furnished place with all utilities included and ready to go.
To those unfamiliar with this service, you can narrow your search by area and price, which makes searching as easy as it could be. You can also narrow the search to only include Airbnbs “Super Hosts,” which are vetted hosts who consistently get high ratings from previous guests and renters.
Now, prices for a one-bedroom place can vary. As a gauge, plan to pay about $300USD/€250 a month for budget accommodation in the low season of about April-September, and about $800USD/€675 for a luxury home with a pool in November-March.
Looking to save some money? Airbnb and Facebook groups always have people looking to rent a room in their home. This is great because you have a local to ask for guidance about Merida, and no one knows better than a local.
Additional Costs of One Month in Merida
If your cell phone plan doesn’t include Mexico service, and many U.S. and Canadian company plans do, your best bet is to buy a Mexico SIM card and keep recharging it as you use your minutes and data. The company known for the best coverage in Merida is Telcel.
Once you arrive at MID airport, you have a number of kiosks and stores right there selling SIM cards. They are about the same price at the airport as outside of the airport, but if you want to purchase elsewhere, just head to any of the hundreds of OXXO convenience stores in Merida.
For someone who likes walking, you can honestly walk anywhere in town. Merida is beautiful, safe, and walkable. I mostly walk and take an occasional Uber if I buy a lot of groceries and don’t want to lug them home. In a typical month, I spend $25-35USD/€21-29 on Uber.
If you’re planning to eat out in local places on the street and in mercados (markets), you can keep your food costs quite low. On average, you can eat 5 tacos and an agua fresca (fruit water) for $5-7USD/€4-6. Merida also has higher and high-end restaurants where you can splurge.
There are both local mercados, like Lucas de Galvez, and grocery stores chains in Merida, including WalMart. The mercados mostly sell produce and proteins, but cost less than an indoor grocery story. For things like bread and baked goods, you can also shop locally at panaderias.
Depending on your eating habits, you can eat for as little as about $250USD/€210 per month with a nice mix of cooking at home and eating where the locals do.
Things to Do in and Around Merida, Mexico
One of my favorite things to do in town is wander around and take photos. Merida is a very photogenic city, full of colorful, colonial buildings. There are several parks in Centro (Downtown) that are nice for relaxing and people watching.
In both Centro and along Paseo de Montejo, there are always cultural festivals and events taking place on weekends with dancing and live music. The city does a video mapping show on weekend nights on the side of the cathedral in downtown, and you can catch a live Pok ta Pok Mayan ball game outside the cathedral as well.
Speaking of the Merida Cathedral, this is known as the oldest church on the Americas Continent. Merida has many other historic sites and buildings, like this one, and several theatres to see plays and concerts.
Venturing outside of the city, there’s Valladolid and Izamal, two of Mexico’s 120 pueblos magicos (magic towns). The Mexican Tourism Secretary awards this title to certain special towns in Mexico with natural beauty, historic relevance, unique folklore, etc.
The walled city of Campeche is also a few hours away, and one of several UNESCO World Heritage Sites near Merida. This city, located on the Gulf of Mexico, was once susceptible to pirate attacks, but nowadays, you can safely walk the old ramparts and see the cannons used in days past.
There’s also plenty of Mayan ruins nearby, like Chichen Itza, Uxmal and Dzibilchaltun, cenotes (natural sinkholes) to swim in and Mexican haciendas to explore. Head to the beautiful Hacienda Yaxcopoil to see how Merida’s wealthy aristocrats used to live.
The closest beach, Puerto Progreso, located 30 minutes from Merida is the perfect place for a swim during the day and a sunset dinner at night. A few hours away, the Ria Celestun Biosphere Reserve is home to about 35,000 wild flamingos, and located near the natural pink lakes of Las Coloradas.
As you can see, Merida has a great mix of things and really does offer a lot for all types of visitors. It is a wonderful place to spend a month because you’d never run out of adventures to have in this safe and beautiful, yet relatively inexpensive, city in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
Shelley is a former Miami travel magazine editor who ditched the office for the world! After traveling solo to 16 states in Mexico, she now calls Merida home. She created the Travel To Merida blog to help travelers plan their dream trip to Merida, Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula.