Listed here are some tips and advice for those who may be contemplating retiring here in Ensenada, which seems to be a frequent topic of discussion in the forums.

  • Pros: Cheaper cost of living, far enough away from the problems of Tijuana but close to San Diego to make an occasional day trip.
  • Con: You need to be aware that there are many Mexicans who make it a sport to take advantage of others (Mexicans also but especially Americans). You need to especially be on guard if you plan to buy a property.

Getting Oriented
You can pick up a good street map in a couple of the shops located on Lopez Mateoz. A basic online map is available at Ensenada City Map.

It is a good idea to rent for a while before purchasing a property to make sure you can adapt to life here. You will need to have a FM2 or FM3 visa in order to purchase property.

The online classifieds below should help give you an idea of price range to expect:

Rental agreements should be pretty standard, but in Spanish. It is not recommended to rent anything without seeing it first. In general, lawyers can not be trusted.   Look for something that doesn't require is strange, but the mentality of landlords here expects the renter to pay money to fix up their property.   One nice area that seems to be growing is just south of town where the new Costco, Home Depot, and Walmart are.

Mail Delivery
Because of the questionable reliability and security of the Mexican postal system, many prefer to use a private mail service which costs about $200/yr. P.O. Box International, located at the corner of Calle Sexta and Moctezuma in the downtown area of the city, will issue you a U.S. address (Personal Mail Box at Mr. Mail in San Ysidro), and the local mail service company picks up your mail at that address 5 days a week and brings it down to their office in Ensenada. They can also bring down certain packages (like books), but some items may incur an import tax, so they give you the choice to pick up the package and bring it down yourself to try to avoid being taxed. 

Telephone Service
Some Cell phones from the U.S. work here, but some require you to call to enable roaming in Mexico, which can be expensive. You can also get pre-paid cell phones for local use from Telcel, Movistar, and iUSAcell.

To save money on international calls from the cell phone, you can use a callback service, where you dial a number in the U.S., let ring once, hang up, then the service calls back your cell phone with a voice prompt for you to dial the number you want to call. This costs about 10-15 cents per min.   For receiving calls from family in the U.S., you may want to consider using the internet with Skype. You can make calls to regular phones, and optionally get a U.S. phone number for receiving calls. The only drawback is that the computer has to be on to receive calls. Another alternative is a broadband phone from or Vonage or rangatel that uses a free adapter to plug a regular phone into and is not dependent on a computer.

To have a guide on the many complicated ways to dial locally and internationally to land lines and cell phones here is a useful article: 

Internet and TV
The main internet providers are cable ( Cablemas), and DSL ( Telnor). There is also an internet via satellite service. Expect to pay more for less speed than you may be accustomed to in the states.

Satellite TV ( is available, and Cablemas ( also gives you some local San Diego stations. It is also possible to have satellite service like Direct TV installed (see adds for this in the Gringo Gazette).

English Newspaper 

Social Activities 

Food here is generally cheaper. There are large supermarkets like Soriana, Calimax, Ley, and the new Comercial Mexicana that recently opened.   Note that the quality of produce may be lower than in the states since the best items tend to be exported from Mexico. The quality of fruits and vegitables seems a little better at the Comercial Mexicana and Walmart.

Drinking Water
The water has a high mineral/salt content, so you would want to drink only bottled water. There are many places that offer 5 gal of bottled water for like 9 pesos (about 90 cents). You can either pick up or have them delivered.  

Medical Care
There are several hospitals here, and a doctor visit can be as low as $2. Hospitals are also much cheaper compared to the states. You can also purchase major medical insurance.  

There are many to choose from, including:

You will need to have a FM2 or FM3 visa to open a bank account. You shouldn't have a problem accessing cash in pesos from your U.S. bank via the ATMs here. Some ATMs give a choice to dispense pesos or dollars. You will get the most value for almost any transaction using pesos. It is recommended to only use ATMs located at banks, however you will also find these in supermarkets, both banks and ATMs. It is also convenient if your bank offers online access to your account. Checks are not used much. Most people pay their bills with cash (pay electric bill at electric company...just like it was a hundred years ago) Some things like cable TV can charge to a credit card each month.  

Furniture and Stuff
Clothes and small personal items are usually not a problem to bring down, however you need a FM2 or FM3 visa to be able to bring other household items and furnishings down. The customs hassle and expense may not be worth it. A good place to find cheap furniture and other stuff is at a large market area called Los Globos.  

Bringing your Car
You are not required to import your car if you live in Ensenada. Mexican Auto Liability Insurance is extremely important. If you have an accident, both parties, regardless of who caused the accident are "arrested" awaiting establishment of guilt. Having auto insurance will enable you to be released on "bail". Rather than having an auto insurance policy for each car, it is possible to to insure your driver's license which will cover you no matter which car you are driving. Basic liability insurance will cost about $170/yr.). If you are shopping around for a policy, you may want to contact Elena Bretts -- she speaks perfect English, and is very experienced and helpful at explaining how things work there. Telephone: (01152646) 178-5715 or email: .   


  • No visa is required if you do not travel south of Ensenada or plan to stay less than 72 hours.
  • A tourist visa (FM-T) is technically required for longer stays (up to 180 days) and can be purchased at the border for about $20.
  • The temporary FM3 is good for up to 1 year and is required to purchase property or open a bank account.

To get an FM3, you'll need:

  • 6 mts. of U.S. bank statements, and they have to be translated into Spanish. If you have a Mexican bank account, you need only one month, and it, of course, will be in Spanish--of course, you can't get a Mexican bank account without an FM3.
  • You'll also need your passport, and you have to pay the fee in cash, no checks or credit cards.
  • If you are married, you'll need a copy of your marriage license; it must be apostile and translated into Spanish.
  • You'll need a passport type photo.

There may be other requirements not listed here.  All those are required if you make the application locally, and the preparer will charge you $60.00 each for the first application--$40.00 for re-new. That's a lot, but you'll be glad you paid someone; the forms are many. (Those are the Rosarito Beach costs; other places may be less.) Then you wait approximately 6 weeks for the FM3 to arrive from Mexico City.

However, you can make the whole process much simpler by going to the consulate in San Diego. There the form is a very easy one page. There is no fee for the preparer. You get your picture taken right at the consulate. They keep copies of your bank statements, so make copies for yourself.  You can return the next day and pick up your FM3's.

The difference in the "local" FM3 and the consulate FM3 doesn't matter the first year. The "local" one is registered locally and in Mexico City. The consulate one isn't registered anywhere, but it's just as legal as the "local" one. You can get a new one at the consulate every year that way if you want to.

Why would you want the "local" variety? After you have had a local, registered one for 5 years, you can apply for an FM2. After you have had an FM2 for 5 years, you can apply for Immigration status and never have to pay or apply again. FM2's are considerably more expensive than FM3's, but the reward is never having to pay again after 5 years.

Anyway, the first year you can get it at the consulate. The second year, take your FM3 book to a local preparer and get it re-newed. It will cost the same as if it were the first time because it really is the first time: none of the paper work for registration has been done, but it will count toward your 5 year total if it is done that way.