Becoming An Immigrant To Mexico Was More Difficult Than I Thought

2013. It was the first year that I decided that I would want to live in Mexico one day after a few days of stay in the Cancun area.

Since then up until now, I have been to many places in Mexico discovering the country and finding out where I would really want to relocate there.

Some of the places I have researched are: Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Puerto Morelos, Valladolid, Tulum, Ria Lagartos, Acapulco, Mexico City and just recently, Puerto Vallarta.

Initially, my plan was to put up a sort of a small satellite office servicing the needs of our office in Canada. My job was as a technical & IT support to our travel agency in Canada.

Initially, I only wanted to stay as long as the winter months in Mexico – in one particular place and do not have plans of exploring the country.

But as the years pass and as I get to know the people and the different places in the country even more, my plan has changed. I do not want to just be a winter snowbirder in the country. I wanted to call the country as HOME for longer than 180 days.

The problem is, as I contemplate and research further about how to go about becoming a resident of Mexico with a permit to work, start a business or open a bank account – the more elusive it seemed to be, if I were to base it on my present financials.

Or maybe I was just overthinking and too afraid to initiate the process.

I think that if I were given the chance to live in Mexico, I will be able to make use of the skills that I acquired thru years of experience in different fields of practice. I maybe able to transfer knowledge to Mexican businesses that I notice have no international experience like I do.

As I explored further the country, the more I find opportunities that I see were available but were not being exploited by Mexicans I meet and got in touch with. What I commonly see as their shortcoming – their inability to express themselves in the English language.

But, on the other hand, I also get ideas from Mexicans I talk to but they do not see the potential – unless told to them. Again, the lack of competency in English comprehension was to blame. For, the best references to best practices in improving businesses were mostly written in English.

That is one reason I changed my plan of staying only in the winter months in Mexico. I was discovering many business opportunities that were existing there.

I want to start setting up at least one, so that whoever is interested among my kids in the future can take-over and enjoy the best of both worlds – Canada & Mexico.

For now, my concern was how to qualify as a resident of Mexico. Right now, I may stay there as a visitor for 180 days (approximately 6 months), but will not be able to put up a business, which is what I’m aiming at at present. But, I will find a way one day much like how I found a way when I decided to move to Canada. It will just take a little bit of time.

Exploring Cancun, Mexico For Long Stays And As A Remote Office

Let’s go to Cancun!

Was what I told my wife after I became tired of just researching where to work remotely as a location independent travel agent.

“We never had the vacation we wanted last Christmas holidays, so why not do it after, when the prices are more reasonable?”

That’s what I said after showing her that airfare to Cancun, Mexico from Toronto dropped to about $400 against more than $1,200 during the holiday seasons.

She finally relented and I booked our flights before she can even change her mind.

I am freakin’ desperate; desperate to get out of the winters of Canada and desperate to find out if Cancun can be a replacement to the Philippines to become my home – our home, to while the winter away as a location independent travel agent.

As I explained in my last post, I’m hoping to find a Filipino in the city to: (1) To make it a bit easier for me to adapt in the city and (2) To help me find some Filipino contacts in Cancun who I can hire as remote worker or freelancer so I don’t have to worry about employment visas.

But even if that issue will not satisfy my requirement, it’s still a go for me to Cancun!

budget Cancun bed and breakfastAnyway, after I have bought the airline tickets for our stay there, I also booked a reservation at a bed and breakfast in Cancun that I found on the internet – Los Caracoles B&B.

The lady who owns the place, Martha, asked for $50 reservation via Paypal as goodwill and the balance to be paid when in Cancun.

The rate she quoted me was $51/night for 3 persons and $28/night for solo person. Our booking was supposed to be 3 nights for 3 persons and then 10 nights for single occupancy because my family will be with me for the first 3 nights and I will be left behind on the remaining ten.

(Please note that the bed & breakfast have different rates for different season. Visit their rates info for more.)

But, three days before we left, a cousin of my wife who is working for Westin, got concerned about our safety and wanted us to stay in a Westin resort in Cancun instead. So instead of the original booking I negotiated with Martha, some days of our stay were at the Cancun Westin Regina.

I think they read too much and believe what the media in Canada report about Canadians getting hurt or killed in Mexico. I don’t blame them or the media for doing their job, but to me, they should have thought how we were pictured in the Philippines before. The media reports about trouble in the Philippines were always exaggerated and does not really affect the general population.

Anyway, since her cousin offered us a gift free accommodation at Westin in Cancun, I agreed although I told my wife that I’m not staying there when they leave me behind. I wanted to feel and experience a real Mexican environment and also practice my Spanish, so we agreed.

Setting foot in Mexico for the first time

living in Cancun as a local
Cancun hotel zone
The flight to Cancun took us more than 6 hours, including a layover in Miami. It could have been a shorter flight of less than 4 hours if I’ve booked it with Westjet or Air Canada but I feel so stupid not to have availed of the cheap flight to Cancun early in November, so.

As soon as we landed in Cancun, I had that wonderful feeling of relief that I’m seeing “green” and feeling the warm weather again. The city, even when you see it up in the air, is lush with plants and trees. That’s why even if it is over 27C that day, the breeze brought some freshness on the surroundings.

Compared to when I land in Manila, the airport of Cancun looks more organized even if its obviously a high traffic gateway. It was lean season when we arrived but still you will notice a lot of visitors arriving.

We didn’t have any trouble at all passing through immigration and customs. It’s just kinda new to me that upon exiting the customs area (which is the last step before being officially in Mexican land) that we have to go through another baggage xray screening again and we have to press a button at the final exit. I learned later from Martha that the button was for the random check of luggages kind of thing.

public beach Playa Delfines in Cancun, Mexico
Playa Delfines Cancun
When you press the button and the light turns red, the customs officer will have to check your luggages. And if the light turns green but there is something suspicious on the luggage when xrayed, the customs officer have the option to check your luggages also.

Afterwhich, we walked to the exit. As instructed by Martha, who will pick us up, we went to the left side of the airport exit where residents of Cancun are picked-up.

This is also the drop-off for departing passengers. It is also here that the free shuttle to other terminals is located.

If you go straight upon exit, all that will greet you are hotel representatives, car rental representatives and so forth – all offering you their services.

Anyway. So, Martha drove us to her Cancun bed and breakfast accomodation, because we will stay there for the night. It is located in a nice Cancun neighborhood which, for me, looks upscale – surrounded by a couple of small but beautiful parks.

The inside of the house is nicely kept and there are 3 bedroom upstairs, one of which will be where we will sleep.

iguanas are very common in cancun, mexico
Cancun Iguana
We arrived very tired that afternoon and although it is just only a couple of hours flight, we were not able to get a good sleep the night prior. It’s a good thing Martha and David (her husband) is so accommodating that they drove us to a nice eatery before we went to bed.

Next day, David and Martha drove us to Westin Cancun Spa Regina for our reservation. And this hotel will be our home for the next 3 nights in Cancun.

Westin Regina Cancun Resort and Spa is a nice hotel, located along the Zona Hotelera but almost at the end of Blvd. Kukulkan, the way to the airport. We were given a beachfront room but not beach level. Nothing fancy, just like any other regular hotel room we’ve tried but this is the first time we wake up to see and hear the ocean lapping on the beach.

The Caribbean Sea fronting us has been very rough since we arrived, with waves sometimes as high as 3 feet – so everytime we go for a swim, we’d always walk Southwards where there is a barrier to break the waves a bit.

I feel really glad that we took a vacation as a family, although I intentionally want us to stay in a Mexican bed and breakfast, being close to the ocean for a change is also a great experience.

Is it safe to go around in Cancun, Mexico?

One of the things that is really annoying are cautionary words from people who had been to Cancun but only stayed in their all-inclusive resorts the whole time.

They kept telling my wife not to go to such and such places because it’s dangerous, which confused her to the point of almost backing-out from our trip.

turquoise green waters of the caribbean in cancun, mexico
Caribbean Mexico beach
Sure there are dangers in Cancun, but what city in the world doesn’t? How is Cancun’s environment of safety different from that in Manila where we grew up and lived half of our lives?

For me, as long as you stay away from criminal characters and away from problem areas, everything will be fine. For example, if you like to party and are a night person, go out with someone familiar of the place (preferably a street smart person) or just don’t drink too much or stay too late in bars. Coming out too drunk from a bar or staying too late might spell trouble if you are not very familiar with a place.

It only takes common sense to be able to do those. Why let perceived safety issues stop you from enjoying?

To sample how the reality of interacting with locals in Mexico is, I ask my wife to go around the main city, away from her “perceived” safety of the Zona Hotelera. What I did was, I dragged them to Mercado 28 to take a look at what the flea market has to offer.

We just went around the market to look at products, without any real intention to buy, but I was just watching my wife’s reaction whenever a storekeeper ask us to look inside their store. “Mira” or look inside was the usual invite. “No, gracias” was our usual response. No one was really forcing us to go inside. It was just a typical market that we’re used to in the old days of our Hong Kong trips back then. We even had lunch at a local restaurant in the market.

It just goes to show that this is the best gauge of showing how the locals will treat us. We don’t speak Spanish, so they know that we’re not from Cancun or from Mexico.

But, Mercado 28 is also frequented by adventurist tourists coming from the Hotel Zone and some young backpackers living around the Centro. The real test, though, was when my family went back to Toronto and I was left behind. I took the path less traveled by foreigners and frequented the places where average Mexicans go – their parks, markets and hangout places.

And I would say, I don’t felt at all threatened. In fact, I made friends with others outside of the Cancun bed and breakfast already – like those guys offering cheap hostel stays at Cancun Centro.

And so, now, I am still exploring Cancun, specially during the daylight going about farther West. I am presently searching for the best spot to locate for my future long-stays in Cancun and I feel that I will find it soon. If not, when I come back, I would either stay a few days at the Los Caracoles bed and breakfast or crash at the place of my new found friend, while continuing searching for my own in Cancun, Mexico.

I think I just found my other tropical home and office besides the Philippines and I like it here as well. It’s a lot closer to my home in Canada and I plan to winter here until such time my wife is ready to retire in the Philippines.

In the following posts, I’m going to write about the places I visited around Cancun and how to get there for cheap if you’re on a travel budget.