graphic Best places to retire
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
An expatriate enclave in central Mexico has Latin American warmth and the familiar comforts of home.
May 5, 2003: 11:44 AM EDT

What if you went on vacation and never came back? Sound nice? Well, that's more or less what's happened to thousands of Americans who have stumbled on the Mexican town of San Miguel de Allende in recent years.

Norman and Miriam Meyer, 76 and 72, of Bowling Green, Ohio, bought a vacation home here nine years ago and made the full-time plunge in February. Norman, a retired chemistry professor, didn't speak a word of Spanish when they bought the house and hasn't picked up more than a few phrases since. But with more than 5,000 Americans in this town of about 80,000, it's pretty much all he needs.

Located in central Mexico, a few hours north of Mexico City, San Miguel is popular with expatriates because of its rich culture, slow pace, beauty, proximity to the States and, of course, weather. "It's essentially always early or late spring here," says Meyer. The average temperature year round is 71F.

While it's easy to immerse yourself in Mexican culture, American comforts are never far away. Cable TV gives you access to most American cable stations, and it's easy to connect to the Internet. San Miguel has one of the largest bilingual libraries in the country. There's even a Wal-Mart and Costco 45 minutes away. The nearest international airport is 90 minutes west in Leon. Mexico City's airport is about four hours away by car. If you prefer to drive, hitting the Texas border takes 10 hours or so.

Shopping is a local sport

But it's the local flavor that draws Americans. Cobblestone streets and centuries-old cathedrals color the landscape. A thriving art community boasts many galleries, classes and performances. The popular Instituto Allende offers lectures, field trips, concerts and all manner of art courses.

Alice and Floyd Edwards, 54 and 59, who retired to San Miguel last year, find the expatriate retirees "more traveled, more artsy, more open," says Alice. "From the first day we came, we met fascinating people."

Given the climate, outdoor activities are always an attraction. Floyd Edwards plays the local golf courses, and Miriam Meyer loves the year-round tennis only three blocks from her house.

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Population: about 80,000
Nearest big city: Leon

Home prices have been on the rise -- the Meyers, who paid $160,000 for their 2,500-square-foot home nine years ago, figure it's worth $250,000 today. Their property taxes? A paltry $130 a year. And while American food products can run 50% more here, staples and eating out can be a bargain. "I just walked up to the market," says Norman Meyer, "and I bought a week's worth of oranges and a dozen eggs for less than $2."  Top of page

How can I protect my investments from inflation?
How to catch up on retirement savings in your 50s
How do you know you're really ready to retire early?
7 things to know before the bell
SoftBank and Toyota want driverless cars to change the world
Aston Martin falls 5% in its London IPO

graphic graphic