LIVING IN COZUMEL
Living in Cozumel – Top 10 Insights
Adam Serrano, Cozumel, Mexico
3 April 2017
Moving to another country requires having to make adjustments to the life you once considered normal. Living in Cozumel, we have experienced a great deal of changes in our regular way of living, thinking, eating, and of course speaking.
Living in Cozumel we have immersed ourselves into an entirely different culture than the one we were used to in Idaho. We have had to adjust many aspects of our daily lives, some large and some small, and go with the flow with positive and humble attitudes. While it could be easy for us to react to such different ways of living with grumblings and complaints, we have found that keeping good attitudes and respecting the people and processes here that are different from what we are used to, allows us to be happy and always in good spirits no matter what we face. Submitting our kids to so many life changes and watching them learn, adapt and grow with positive attitudes is one of our primary goals we had for them through this experience in Mexico. And they have done well while living in Cozumel…Very well.
Okay, maybe we aren’t having to do Mayan prayers and sacrifices, but we are adjusting to living in Cozumel.
Photographed at Kun Che park just east of the town of El Cedral
Most have heard the warning that you don’t drink the water (tap water) in Mexico. This is true for living in Cozumel. All drinking water comes in bottles or large five gallon jugs (shown below), unless you happen to be at a place that filters/purifies the tap water. We consistently keep around 4-5 of the five gallon jugs on hand at a time in our home for our family needs. We get our jugs from the Crystal water truck that frequently drives around in our neighborhood. In fact when I hear him, I simply go out our gate and yell how many we need and he carries them in and takes our empty jugs. Each delivered jug costs us 26 pesos, which is around $1.30. Everyone, including locals, uses bottled purified water and restaurants use it to cook your food, serve your water and make their ice as well. We only use tap water for washing dishes, brushing our teeth, and bathing.
“Most have heard the warning that you don’t drink the water (tap water) in Mexico. This is true for living in Cozumel.”
Cozumel is home to MANY fantastic restaurants and great chefs. The food and ingredients you find at these local restaurants are almost always fresh and often organic. Places that serve fish, which are many, will actually bring an actual fish that was caught that morning, right to your table if you would like to see if before they cook it up. Restaurants that are found right in the tourist area of the island along the ocean are priced for tourists, whereas the further inland you travel, the cheaper the restaurants are. We rarely eat at restaurants in the tourist locations. We eat where you don’t see many tourists and the staff don’t speak much english. The food at these places are great and the prices are even better. In fact, we have found we rarely visit the touristy areas in the city. There are fantastic places to buy fresh fish and produce. Cozumel also has large grocery stores such as Chedraui, Mega, SuperAki, and even Sam’s Club.
3. Living in Cozumel
There are quite a few options in Cozumel for rent or for sale, especially if you are looking for a 1-2 bedroom. Our family needs at least a 3 bedroom, which you won’t find as many options as the smaller places, but there are still always quite a few decent options. There are many great online websites and Facebook groups where you can find available listings for living in Cozumel. You can also just drive up and down all of the streets and look for signs or knock on doors to inquire like we have done. You can find smaller places for as low as $200-350 a month to rent. We have found our target market for larger homes (preferably with a pool) start around $1,000 a month and go up from there. And then places right along the beach/ocean will be quite a bit higher. Living in Cozumel, you really won’t find major crimes, however you will experience, or at least hear of, theft and this includes home robberies. This is something to keep in mind before signing a long term rental agreement. You will want to make sure the home isn’t an easy target and has at least some type of safeguards in place to keep people out. In fact, it is VERY common to see either barbed wire, shards of glass, or electric wiring running along the tops of property walls. This is one way of life here that is a polar opposite to what we are used to in Idaho. I’ll discuss a little more about safety further down the list.
Mister Taco. One of our favorite local taquerias. They served a large and in charge Gringa!
Photographed at Mister Taco restaurant on Av Juarez
4. Utilities While Living in Cozumel
Utilities for the most part are fairly inexpensive in comparison to the US. The big utility here to watch out for is the power bill. When you use quite a bit of electricity, usually from running your air conditioning units often, you will pay a hefty price. And if you consistently use too much electricity living here in Cozumel, you get penalized for it and get bumped into a higher paying bracket where you are charged more until you can prove over a number of months that you have brought your usage down under the red line. We really only regularly pay two utility bills, which are the electricity and our water bill. The water bill is pretty cheap and nothing to complain about. We don’t pay anything to the city for garbage collection, which comes three times a week. As far is gas is concerned, we use tall skinny gas tanks that sit outside and are usually piped through the wall into your stove. You just get refills whenever you run out or run low by the gas truck that constantly drives around with his loudspeaker. We don’t subscribe to TV even though it is really cheap, but we do pay about $50 for internet through Cable de Cozumel. It is supposedly the fastest company out of the three main options on the island. We could pay less with the other two companies, but our speed and consistency wouldn’t be as good.
Getting around the island can be easy while living in Cozumel. The island is absolutely full of available taxis driving around at your disposal. These drivers also have Taxi Rate cards that display the general rates from one location to another should you wish to ask to see one. I have had mostly all great experiences using taxis, although it is an added benefit that I speak Spanish. Aside from the taxis, San Miguel (the actual name of the main city here on Cozumel where most live) also has colectivo mini vans shuttles that drive around on specific routes. You mostly only find locals on these and I’m sure that has to do with the fact that passengers must know the specific routes and they primarily drive inland off the tourist areas. Although, there is a really awesome app called Uniper you can download to your smart phone that provides pretty much all the information you’ll need to know about the colectivos and their different routes. Another form of popular transportation here are motos (motorcycles/scooters). We love driving around on scooters and we even bought a brand new Yamaha shortly after moving here for only just over $1,200. They are quick and easy to get around on, finding parking spots is way easier, they get around 90mpg, you can practically allowed to take your whole family on one, and of course, they allow you to feel the wind in your face on our warm island days. Of course, these come with a caution, just like any vehicle. There are many moto accidents on the island, including really bad ones with fatalities. Sometimes I hear people warning others to just stay away from riding them, however my advice is if you are known for being a good driver who uses good common sense and is always aware of your surroundings, you will be just fine. It is my opinion somewhere around 85% of moto accidents here are from irresponsible drivers who really shouldn’t be operating them in the first place. The streets here can be confusing at first while living in Cozumel and street signs are not consist as you would see in the States. Many streets are one-way streets, while others go both directions. It also doesn’t help that locals love to honk their horn immediately when they feel you aren’t driving properly, which can add stress to newbies trying to get the hand of things. Last, but not least, people also get around just fine on bicycles and even running or walking.
This one should be a bit of a no brainer. The official language in Cozumel is Spanish. I know…Crazy! Anyway, I would say the majority of locals speak only Spanish, however there are lot of Cozumeleños that speak good English. Any tourist area will be full of locals who speak fairly good to really good English. Once you start getting out of tourist areas, you start to find more and more locals who don’t speak much English. For anyone looking to move here or at least vacation long term, I would highly recommend enrolling in one of the many Spanish class options, if you don’t speak much Spanish. It will really pay off when trying to run errands, deal with utility companies, etc, etc.
7. Safety While Living in Cozumel
I have heard it said from multiple sources that Cozumel is one of the absolute safest places in all of latin America. No clue as to whether those sources are credible or verifiable, but I will just state from our experience here that Cozumel is a very safe place. You really don’t have to worry about major crimes here, but as I mentioned before, you do have to be very mindful about theft. We come from Rexburg, Idaho, which is arguably the absolute safest area on the entire planet. I would love to know of another city in the world where you can leave your garage door open and your front and back doors unlocked and go to bed and not worry about it like Rexburg. Or where you can park your car anywhere and leave the keys in the ignition with the doors unlocked and the windows down with your wallet on the seat, and feel fine about it. I acknowledge a majority of human being don’t come from places like Rexburg, but that was our reality and yes, we have to get used to living in a place where enough bad individuals slightly ruin it for everyone. The police ride around standing in the backs of their pickup trucks carrying their machine guns. They do seem to patrol around quite often. And I have also heard the many taxi drivers do a good job of assisting with keeping an eye on anything shady that could be going on. I don’t know that for sure, but it makes sense to me where most of their livelihood is relied on by tourists feeling safe and coming here to spend money. Plus, I know some of them and they are awesome people. The last thing I’ll say for now about safety, is there has never been a time where we have felt any potential physical danger whatsoever. Brianne even feels fine going around places at night.
8. Family Life
I have been soooo impressed with Cozumel’s focus on the family unit during our time living in Cozumel. There is a culture here that for the most part, or at least in all of our experiences, puts the family first. We have been to many family events and activities that have either been put on by the city or by citizens, schools, or neighbors. The school our kids go to constantly invites parents to join in-class activities and assemblies. We recently attended a big family sports day at the Bicentenario (a nice sports complex) and participated in teams as families against other families. No one really cared who won. It was more about getting exercise and having fun as a family. There are tons of sports, dancing, music, and other programs here available for kids of all ages and we always see parents and other family members heavily involved. In summary, Cozumel is very mindful of the family unit and this has been a breath of fresh air.
There are quite a few school options while living in Cozumel, both public and private. Before we moved here we did a lot of asking around and other research to figure what would be the best option for our English only speaking kiddos. We ended up choosing a private school and it has been a great experience so far. One of the primary reasons we chose this school was because much of the faculty speak English. We were hesitant about putting our kids in an all Spanish speaking environment and cause too much of a culture shock for them. However, the only major complaint we have about the school our kids go to is we feel they aren’t learning Spanish nearly as fast as we hoped or as fast as people told us they would be. Part of the problem, mainly for our three older kids, is all of their classmates speak pretty decent English which allows our kids to be lazy about learning Spanish and they just speak all day to their friends in English. Our older kids really have not had any basic Spanish speaking lessons in school, which also makes it hard. So if learning Spanish is your top priority, I might recommend an environment where there is more focus on learning and using the Spanish language.
10. Beach Life
What kind of blog article on living in Cozumel would be complete without talking about the amazing Cozumel waters and beach life. I’ll try to keep this short and will start with information I’m pretty sure isn’t well know or obvious to those not as familiar with the island. The whole west side of the island is where the calm and beautiful waters are. This is where the world famous coral reef runs and is where all the snorkeling and diving occurs. The entire east side of the island is where you will find the rough and windy waters, which makes for great waves for surfing or boogie boarding. These waters can also be dangerous and contain riptides. In fact, I had a close call once getting caught it one on a choppy day while trying to film my kids boogie boarding with our GoPro. Luckily my oldest daughter was able to get over to me just as I was almost out of energy in trying to stay afloat among the waves. The west side has some public areas you can jump in and enjoy the waters, but there are also a fair share of private beach club areas where anyone can enter and use. It is expected that you at least spend a little money ordering some food and/or drinks from these places. Feel free to message us for some of our favorite spots, or maybe we’ll do a future blog post deeper into this topic.
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