If you are considering retiring or just living in Mexico, or staying for all or part of the winters, here are some tips.
Most of the tourist areas (except isolated ones), have excellent shopping, and believe it or not, WalMart is the biggest retailer in Mexico. There are other department stores and major retailers in Mexico, both American and Mexican owned.
Prices vary depending on your life style. Fresh produce, meat, poultry and fish are relatively inexpensive, and if you adopt a Mexican approach to eating, the cost of living will be low. American canned goods, toiletries, supplements, etc. can be more expensive than in the USA. Pharmaceuticals vary widely in price. Some border areas sell prescription drugs at discount prices, but some other areas the costs are similar to the USA.
Medical care is generally very inexpensive, and most of the doctors are American trained. There are many fine hospitals in Mexico, particularly private ones. If you live in Mexico and can prove residency, you can purchase inexpensive medical insurance, both public, and in many areas, private policies. The private insurance companies are generally related to one or more private hospitals, and often the annual cost is about what you might pay for one month's coverage in the US. The public insurance is even cheaper, but the public hospitals are generally overcrowded and not to the same standards as the private hospitals.
Public and private services of all types vary widely. Most water, electrical, and telephone services are not to US or Canadian standards, but in some areas they are. Public utilities such as these, are generally owned by very wealthy Mexicans, and they have been granted monopolies, so prices are high. The prices might not seem too bad to Americans, but they are onerous for Mexicans. Roads and highways vary widely too. Many good privately owned toll highways join the major cities, and they are very good. Lots of other Mexican highways are good too, but many of the secondary roads are not to US or Canadian standards. One noticeable feature is the lack of shoulders on many of the roads. If you have a problem, there is often no place to pull over. Lighting and signage is poor on these roads too, and they are best avoided at night.
Real estate prices vary widely, as they do in most countries, and areas that cater to Americans and Canadians, price their real estate in US dollars. Coastal prices are high, inland prices are lower. Prices in small towns are very low, but the infrastructure is often problematical. If you can put up with some power outages, water outages, etc., the cost of living in small towns is very low. Property taxes are very low everywhere. Utilities are relatively cheap to Americans, particularly in inland areas where heating or air conditioning are not needed in many places. Coastal areas get hot and humid in the summer, and air conditioning is needed, so utilities are much higher there. Also there are lots of hotels and resorts available for long term stays if you choose not to purchase real estate.
MLS services are springing up in many areas of Mexico, but don't expect the same standards of training or ethics for most Mexican realtor's compared to the US or Canada. They are getting better trained in areas that do have MLS services, but they still have a long way to go. Lake Chapala and area have one of the highest standards for real estate training and ethics.
Most infrastructure is not built to American standards, but still acceptable to most people, particularly if you make a decision to take life a little easier and not let yourself get upset with little annoyances.
Most small towns in Mexico are very safe, and most tourist areas are fairly safe too. Just avoid areas and behavior that could get you into trouble.
Hundreds of thousands of Canadians and Americans have retired to Mexico, or live there half of the year, and most of them will tell you that they love it! If you are thinking of relocating to Mexico, seek these people out and ask them! That is the best way to learn about living in Mexico!