Mexico has become the place to be since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic at the beginning of the year. Thousands of North Americans move every month to their Southern neighbor, either temporally or for good. Casually, one of the most popular destinations is Playa del Carmen, so we wanted to know more. Thus, we have spoken to expats and city officials to find out why Playa del Carmen is increasingly turning tourists into ex-pats.
To start, the US is leaving much to be desired in how they manage the pandemic situation. At the time we are writing this article, they already have 8 million confirmed cases (World Health Organization).
Meanwhile, Mexico is offering much better prospects. First of all, their cases per million are a fourth of their neighbor. But, what is more, the situation is stable, and their public health protocols have effectively contained the spread of the virus. A gradual return to New Normalcy is in place.
Many Americans have seen the contrast and are moving to Mexico as a result. Luckily for them, Mexico has remained open to Americans the whole year, unlike the European Union, Japan, China, the UK, Argentina, Australia or New Zealand, which have implemented travel bans at some point in the year.
In Playa del Carmen, the crown jewel of the Mexican Caribbean, the arrival of American expatriates is constant. Put it on its paradise-like beaches, the cost of living, the short distance to the US or that many were already in love with the place, Playa del Carmen is a very popular choice.
Playa del Carmen in the time of COVID
Ellie and Jamar is a Dallas couple who moved to Playa this summer, and they are definitely glad they did. “I love that everyone is required to wear masks. This helps greatly in preventing transmission and people keep their distance, usually, from others. The fact that all the stores take temperatures of patrons makes it feel much safer. You can tell that the government takes it seriously here” – Ellie remarks.
As I spoke with Victor Hugo Acevedo, the spokesman of the City Council, he pointed out why the city was being successful in handling the contingency. Since the beginning, “the Mayor decided to reallocate a big portion of the government’s budget of other areas into Healthcare”. WIth this plan, they created hospitals specialized in coronavirus, bringing immediate and free treatment to locals, nationals, tourists, and expats.
Why Playa del Carmen is increasingly turning tourists into expats
However, there are many more reasons why Americans are coming. Expats here also benefit from living by the sea, a kind climate, a slower pace of living, and a friendly environment. “Everyone is so nice! And very patient as well. My Spanish is rusty, so they have to take some extra time with me, but it doesn’t seem to bother them” – Ellie recalls.
Cost of living in Playa del Carmen
An important factor weighing in the decision to move is its cost of living. Life in Playa del Carmen is considerably more affordable than in the US. For instance, the cost of living is 61% less than Chicago and L.A., 58% less than Miami, 51% less than Atlanta, 49% less than Dallas, and 69% New York .
That is why many look for the magic formula: a job that pays in dollars while living at the Riviera Maya. The sure result: a fantastic quality of life. That is the case of Ellie and Jamar: he works remotely in IT while she will be finishing her BA online. Therefore, the location is not an issue but rather an advantage.
Close to home
The last factor worth mentioning is that Cancun International Airport is not really far from any part of the US… except Alaska or Hawaii. From Cancún, you can be in Boston in 4 hours and a half, in Chicago in 3 hours 45 minutes, in Atlanta in less than 3 hours… We can go on: in San Francisco in a little more than 5 hours, and in Miami in 1 hour and 45 minutes! The flight times are definitely similar to any national flight, and the reason Jamar’s mom is coming to visit for Christmas.
All in all, Playa del Carmen is not only the “refuge from 2020” for many. It is also becoming the new home of more and more Americans. People who are putting their passport to use to achieve a new lifestyle, without having to give up the comforts of the US.
 World Health Organization Health Emergency Dashboard. Available at https://covid19.who.int/region/amro/country/us .
 Meghan O’Dea. ‘These countries are imposing restrictions for US travelers’. Lonely Planet. 30 July 2020. https://www.lonelyplanet.com/articles/countries-closed-to-us-travelers.
 Online surveys of cost of living by Expatistan.com. Example: Playa del Carmen vs. New York, at https://www.expatistan.com/cost-of-living/comparison/new-york-city/playa-del-carmen [accessed 20 Oct 2020]
Celeste M. is a graduate in International Relations with a Master’s degree in Latin American and Caribbean Studies from the University of Chicago. As a marketer from Monterrey Institute of Technology, she currently works as a Public Relations officer at Caribbean Living and American Development.