A Vibrant Expat Community: San Miguel de Allende
By Gwen Hyatt
If you are considering becoming an expat, San Miguel de Allende in Mexico might be a great fit for you. Art, food, architecture–it has it all and more.
There is a reason 300,000 readers of Condé Nast Traveler rated San Miguel de Allende, Mexico as their favorite small city in the world (outside the U.S.) in their Readers Choice Award.
Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city is noted for its well-preserved Colonial and Spanish architecture, cobbled streets and alleyways, and abundant artisans.
Painting, weaving, photography, and sculpture are a few of the media that adorn the studios and galleries.
An international writers conference is held every February. San Miguel is also a popular place for foreigners to come and learn Spanish, and it boasts several well-established schools.
San Miguel de Allende is in central Mexico at an elevation of 6,200 ft. (1900m) and an hour and a half from Queretaro, a larger city with excellent shopping, medical facilities, and a growing economy.
The area boasts a desirable climate with warm, dry, spring-like weather most of the year. Winter mornings and evenings can be chilly and summer daytime temps only reach the high 70s to low 80s.
With a population of approximately 160,000, San Miguel is home to over 10,000 full- and part-time expats, many from the U.S. and Canada.
I have met many repeaters here—individuals who come for repeat visits or extended stays and eventually permanently move to San Miguel.
Unique features of this charming city include:
- Developed infrastructure
- Buses that go everywhere
- Excellent fitness, yoga, meditation, and tai chi classes
- Great food and restaurants from small local cafes to world-class cuisine
- A large and active English speaking population of expats
- Comprehensive social and cultural calendar
- Diverse cinema and theater
- Quaint, charming, and colorful ambiance
- Plentiful volunteer opportunities
- Eclectic shops and mercados of every size and shape
- The cultural mix of people – artists, writers, tourists, and a colorful street scene
- A large biblioteca (library) offering tours, activities, free WiFi, Spanish exchange conversations, a small theater and so much more.
However, San Miguel is a tourist destination and over the holidays the city can be mobbed with Mexican tourists flocking from Mexico City.
I like that San Miguel is a walkable city. El Centro covers 24 blocks of narrow streets and colorful alleyways with no traffic lights.
One block in each direction from the main jardin (garden) is blocked off for pedestrians only. Wearing the right shoes is a necessity as the walking is all on cobblestones, uneven and sometimes dangerously narrow walkways.
It is easy to meet people in this city. Asking, “Are you living in San Miguel or just visiting?” is a great introduction to a conversation.
An English paper, the Attencion—Que Pasa prints weekly articles and daily happenings, including many expat activities. And there are walking, historical, architectural, and home tours in English.
Opportunities to rent or buy are ample, however, real estate is pricey in San Miguel compared to other areas in Mexico
Although you can still buy more house for the buck than in many areas of the U.S. Short-term or long-term rentals are abundant even though the cost of living has risen considerably over the last decade.
With direct flights from the U.S. and Canada to Queretaro (QRO) or Leon-Guanajuato (BJX, Del Bajio Airport) San Miguel is easy to get to compared to other destinations in Central America. Shuttles transport you directly from the airport to your accommodations or residence.
If you are looking for a smaller city with the charm and convenience of the U.S., catch a flight down and check out San Miguel de Allende.
Have you spent time in San Miguel de Allende? We want to hear from you. Please add your thoughts and comments below.
Editor’s Note: – TCI is a full-service provider of expat education and transition services. Our private platform allows our global expat community and our Expat Alliance of in-country expats and experts to interact so that all can successfully embrace the expat experience. Learn More…