Living in Playa Del Carmen – Expat Life

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This winter we will be living in Playa del Carmen, Mexico! We chose to live in Playa del Carmen Mexico for a number of reasons, most importantly the beach! However, there’s a lot more to Playa del Carmen than just the beach.

It also has a fun up and coming ex-pat community, tons of great food, and fun bars. The whole area around Playa del Carmen is full of cool and interesting things to do. There are tons of day trips from Playa del Carmen to keep us busy while we are living in Playa del Carmen!

Jump to Information on Playa del Carmen

Our apartment where we will be living in Playa del Carmen:

  • Apartment Cost: 17,000 pesos per month (peak season – 4 month rental)
  • 2 Bedroom, 1 Bath, 495 sqft (46 sqm)

Take a video tour of our apartment in Playa del Carmen and a little bit of info on the city and the rental market in Playa del Carmen.


What’s It Like Living In Playa del Carmen

The first thought that comes to everyone’s mind when talking about living in Playa del Carmen, or Mexico in general, is safety. I can say with confidence Playa del Carmen is safer than a lot of U.S. cities.

Hannah walks around the town by herself and we walk late at night without worry. I am sure you could get yourself into trouble if you are looking for it, but I think that would be true anywhere in the world.

We lived in Playa del Carmen for five months and settled into the lifestyle. We have found our favorite taco place, the best cafe, and our place on the beach.

Ex-pats In Playa del Carmen Groups

There is a community of a couple of hundred people from around the world that are now living in Playa del Carmen either long-term or permanently. There are long-term groups for ex-pats in Playa del Carmen and there are a few meet-ups every month.

For info on ex-pats living in Playa del Carmen check out these  groups:


Finding An Apartment In Playa Del Carmen

One of the most difficult things about living in Playa del Carmen is actually finding a place to live. Playa del Carmen is growing very quickly and the rental market is a bit difficult to navigate. There has been a recent trend to rent apartments on Airbnb, putting a big strain on monthly or long-term rentals. This is especially the case in the peak months of December-April.

We began our search by hitting the streets and calling the numbers listed on an apartment building for rent signs. We quickly came to learn that most of these signs are just always up and don’t necessarily correspond with an apartment that is actually for rent. Some do, but the majority of the 50+ we called had apartments but were not that specific apartments. Another issue is that about half the numbers we called were Spanish speaking only and our Spanish is ok, but not great. This made some of the finer points of the apartment details tricky.

On top of some of these issues, we had rental agents try to change prices on us, change contract lengths, and just about everything else. The best advice I could give to someone trying to find an apartment in Playa del Carmen is to arrive before the high season and plan to take it immediately. Just about everyone wants at least a 6-month lease and even more, want a year. Also, no one will rent to you more than 15 days before the move-in date.

Living in Playa del Carmen - best area to live

Best Areas For Living In Playa Del Carmen

As a general guide, most ex-pats in Playa del Carmen look for apartments in the main area of Playa Centro. This is the main part of town with lots of restaurants, shops, and nightlife. The best area to live in Playa del Carmen is between Juarez Ave on the south, up to calle 46th (CTM) on the north, and from the beach back to the highway. This square is the main area of Playa del Carmen, and where you want to be when living in Playa del Carmen.

Related Article: Ultimate Playa del Carmen Guide

There are other areas of town, but most choose to live in this area. Playacar is another popular area of Playa del Carmen. This is where the resorts typically are.

Playacar is also where you will find some nice apartments and luxury private homes/condos. Playacar is a fully gated community with guards at every entrance. This is a nice area, the only problem is that you are further removed from the main Playa Centro and it would be hard to live here without a bike, or car.

Related Article: The Best Restaurants in Playa del Carmen

We suggest coming to Playa del Carmen for a few days and staying in a vacation rental like our favorite Elements Playa del Carmen. Wander around the city and get a feel for the different parts of the city and decide what fits your lifestyle the best.

That is exactly what we did. We came in October and January and made the final move a week after our January visit with our “stuff.”


Rental Agents In Playa del Carmen

One of the easiest ways to find a place if you are planning on living in Playa del Carmen is to use a rental agent. The rental agent will get a commission from the property owner (usually, sometimes the renter) to find renters for apartments or apartments for renters. They basically broker the lease for clients who may be out of the country or the city.

There are many rental agents in the city and they all seem to have only a limited supply of properties. This is much different than other cities we have used agents. Two agents, we have worked with and can recommend:

  • Chris
  • Natalia

Facebook groups to find apartments in Playa del Carmen:

Cost Of Apartments In Playa del Carmen

The cost of the apartment largely depends on the time of year and how long the lease will be for. Many people will only rent 6 months – a year. Others will only do nightly and weekly rentals.

  • Studio in Playa Centro – 5,000-10,000
  • 1 Bedroom in Playa Centro – 7,500-12,000
  • 2 Bedroom in Playa Centro: 9,000-16,000

Note: When signing a lease there will almost always be a contract fee. It’s claimed that it’s a lawyer fee, but it just seems like a scam. Unfortunately, every apartment seems to have this and it costs between 1500-2500 pesos to sign your lease.


Cost Of Living In Playa del Carmen 2020

Playa del Carmen has several major shopping centers including a Walmart, Sam’s Club, and other major Mexican grocery chains. There isn’t much you can’t find in town while living in Playa del Carmen. Below is a list of current prices for common items. Below is a list of common items to judge what the cost of living is like in Playa del Carmen.

Prices in Mexican Pesos. Current exchange rates are between 18.5-19.0 pesos per $1 USD.

  • $55 – 500g Chicken Breast (1.1 lbs)
  • $22 – 2lt of soft drink (coke/diet coke)
  • $9- chobani greek yogurt cup
  • $14- Kraft mac n cheese
  • $50- frozen pizza
  • $15- 1kg of fresh oranges (2.2lbs)
  • $32- Baby spinach ready to eat bag
  • $150 – Sim Card for smartphone
  • $300/350/400 – for 2gb/3gb/4gb of prepaid internet, voice can be added for $1mxp/min

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24 thoughts on “Living in Playa Del Carmen – Expat Life”

  1. I will be visiting Playa from Oct. 8th – Oct. 18th. Where is the best place to purchase pesos to get the best exchange rate. I will be leaving from San Antonio, Texas. My bank is Bank of America. Or should I use a website to get the best rate. Thank you

    • You may want to get some pesos from your bank at home before the trip, or you can use an ATM once in Mexico and withdraw pesos there. We would suggest avoiding the airport for exchanging if you are looking for the best rates, but it is more convenient. Banks are the best bet most times. There are money exchanges and banks right on 5th avenue in Playa del Carmen. Lastly, you can also use US cash in most places but you’ll pay more. Have a great trip to Playa del Carmen!

  2. I am a retired male and wondered if there are expat groups where I could meet and make new friends. I want to make both Mexican and American friends. Thanks

    • There is a good community in PDC, I would start with the Facebook groups listed in the article and from there I am sure finding more people will be pretty easy. Enjoy your time in Playa!

  3. Hi Hannah and Adam,
    I really enjoy reading your blog posts. I am heading to PDC in two weeks and I need a data sim when I arrive.
    I heard Telcel is most reliable. Could you let me know where I can get a Telcel data sim?
    I will be staying one block north of ADO bus terminal.
    Appreciate your help.

    • Not sure if there is a Telcel in the airport or not. We always just went to the Telcel on the first floor of Mega on 18th & 30th in PDC. There are 2 ADO bus terminals in PDC, so not sure which one. Mega is super central and right across from the best restaurant in Playa del Carmen, El Fogon. You’ll have no problem getting a SIM card in Mexico sorted very quickly.

  4. Need to find a house or condo.My son lives in Tulum i want to be near him .If any one knows anything please feel free to contact me .

  5. Are the rents quite a lot cheaper in other parts of town? We’re good with Mexican neighborhoods. I’d like to find a 2-3 bedroom house for under 8000 for a long term rent.

    • Yes they are cheaper in other parts of town. If you live in Centro or Playacar you pay for the location. You should reach out to a local realtor or post on the Facebook groups and someone can def help you out. Good luck!

  6. Where are best condos to buy in Playa – with many expats as permanent residents. Access to everything in the city, but a QUIET place to have your full-time home. Residents respect each other – not many kids, dogs – no constant noise. It’s your HOME and if you want the action – you can head to the beach/5th Avenue, etc. looking for best new build condos that meet this key criteria – a terrific place to make your full-time HOME – quiet, low=key, not people/kids/dogs running around making noise all hours of the day. Any thoughts/suggestions on such condo buildings to look to buy in?

  7. I will be in Playa del Carmen January 4 through June 20 2017. I was able to rent a two bedroom Apartment from March to June 20. I would have gotten it from January but waited two week before booking and lost two months. I was able to rent a studio for two month from the same person.. My suggestion is look at I was able to get these two one for around $655 US for studio a month in prime time January through February. The 2 bedroom apartment was a little over $700 a month. both includes TV, internet utilities but like said before book early for the month of January and February. Just a mention there is a big music event that goes from January 6 to the 16 10 days and they say it will increase Playa Del Carmen to 50K people.

    • Thanks for the suggestions. Yes, the music festival is in January but honestly, I didn’t notice that many more people or much difference in Playa. Things will be sold out during the two weeks of the festival. Tell me if you notice it when you are there. You can always wait to rent when you get to Playa. Our friend rented in January-April studio on 35 y 14 for $500 month. There are options but they are limited…

      Have fun in Playa and eat some tacos for us.

  8. Thanks for making such an extensive article with video on living in Playa del Carmen.
    It’s helping me out a lot for my planned move in October later this year.
    I hope I’m able to find a decent studio or apartment without too much difficulty!

    I’ve heard from a lot of people that Playa can be lived in for around $1000-1200/month (if you don’t go out all the time).

    Do you think it’s possible?

      • Depends on your lifestyle and the current exchange rate. I think $1,500 would be more comfortably yes. What do you estimate your monthly budget?

  9. Terrific, useful information, Seriously aiming for move to Playa spring ’17. ‘Would look forward to and appreciate a continuum of info from you all. A bonus for me would be information about any group(s) of active seniors in the area, Also, have you found the internet services to be reasonably reliable? Many thanks. Joel Fowler

    • We had internet through our landlord. The internet was our biggest issue with Playa del Carmen, when we were there the month of February was terrible for internet in the whole city. Prices are fine just not the best wifi.

        • Really! We do know when we were living in Playa the wifi could be down on one block and not the other. We would phone some of our friends who lived in different areas and they wouldn’t be out when we were and vice versa. Glad to hear it’s getting better.

  10. Great article. Playa is simply a great place – just love the vibrant colors there. I do agree that some might think it’s unsafe in Mexico, but staying in a place like Playa del Carmen and using common sense is the way to go. I’ve lived in Mexico (Acapulco) as a foreigner and don’t remember paying a fee to sign the lease – that just sounds like a way of getting more $ out of place.

  11. Great information, as we have been seriously looking at doing this 🙂 Heading down there March 1 to get a feel for things. Thanks for the post


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