A recurring question I receive from people who know about my travels is, “What’s your favorite city in the world?” My go to clarifying question is, “Short-term or long-term?” Anytime you consider a location, you have to take many factors into account. The weight of those factors varies significantly depending on the length of stay in question. For instance, staying in NYC for one week is way different than staying in NYC for 3 months (assuming you don’t have a local job that compensates for the cost of living). Therefore, the cost factor has more weight for the longer time period than the shorter time period. The same principle applies to factors like pollution and climate. High levels of pollution and an undesirable climate might be bearable for a week, but those factors are going to have much more weight if you’re thinking about staying in a place for multiple months or years. For these types of factors, the principle is that more time is directly proportional to more factor weight. Of course, being a digital nomad has its pros and cons, but one of the best benefits of being a digital nomad is that I can choose to live in a place with the best factors for my personal situation. No place is perfect, but I have the opportunity to live somewhere that is as close to my personal paradise as possible. Better yet, I can come and go as I please. That’s why I like to think of my personal paradise as a hub as opposed to a permanent residence. A hub is where you spend most of your time; whereas, a permanent residence is where you spend the vast majority of your time. You might be thinking, “Well, if you have found your paradise, then why would you ever want to leave?” Personally, I really enjoy location variety. I simply like to mix things up every now and again. Also, I might want to go spend some time in one of my short-term paradises. Depending on the factors, some places are better suited for long-term stays, and others are better suited for short-term stays. Just to be clear, long-term paradises and short-term paradises are not necessarily mutually exclusive. About 3 weeks ago, I came back home from an intense 4 month trip. During that trip, I visited Mexico, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, France, Morocco, Czechia, and Belgium. I spent roughly 2.5 of those 4 months in Mexico. While I was in Mexico, I visited the states of Tamaulipas, Nuevo León, Jalisco, Guanajuato, Oaxaca, Quintana Roo, Yucatán, and Campeche. I also visited Mexico’s Federal District (Distrito Federal in Spanish). Out of my travels from this trip, one place I visited really stood out to me: Guadalajara. I spent just over a week there, and I can’t wait to go back. I want to make Guadalajara my digital nomad hub. Let me break down my reasoning for you.
Cost of Living & Economy
Guadalajara has a very low cost of living. You can get filling and delicious meals for a few bucks. The metro and local buses are super cheap. The hostel I stayed at charged roughly $6.50 per night. Renting a basic apartment long-term would be even cheaper than that. While not specific to Guadalajara, you can get a rechargeable Mexican cell service plan with some data and unlimited calls/messages to Mexico, the US and Canada for approximately $7 per month. For more detailed cost of living information, I highly recommend following this link to a website called numbeo which has cost of living data for many cities all over the world. While the cost of living is low for now, the economy of Guadalajara is booming. Commerce, tourism, and industry employ the vast majority of Guadalajara’s population. Guadalajara also has a burgeoning tech industry, so it has been dubbed the “Silicon Valley of Mexico.” Of course, economic growth tends to be associated with price increases. Forecasted economic growth in Guadalajara over the long term leads me to believe that I should start investing in Guadalajara sooner rather than later.
Geographically speaking, Guadalajara is in a great spot. Since Guadalajara is the second largest city in Mexico by population, I can easily fly nonstop to any major city in Texas from Guadalajara in less than 3 hours. I can typically find flights to Texas for $150-$200 one way. In fact, I recently purchased a one way plane ticket from DFW to GDL in September for $153 on Volaris, and that price included an annual subscription to v.club (a premium membership that gives me access to exclusive promos and regular discounts on flights). The v.club discount on this one particular flight was so significant that it actually payed for the entire subscription and then some. The subscription cost me 499 MXN, but the discount was 578 MXN. In other words, this membership has already saved me $4. Since I’m probably going to be flying on Volaris frequently for domestic and international flights going forward, joining v.club was a no-brainer. This leads me to my next point: Guadalajara is an excellent hub for domestic travel in Mexico. Between the airport and the two main bus stations, it’s really easy and cheap to travel to other destinations within Mexico from Guadalajara. Domestic flights in Mexico can be absurdly cheap especially if you’re just going on a brief trip that doesn’t require a checked bag. There’s one low-cost airline called VivaAerobús because it literally competes with the bus companies. I have seen cross-country one way fares for as little as $17 (excluding bag fees). Let’s say that you’re in Guadalajara and you want to go to the beach. That’s easy. Just catch a bus (5 hours) or flight (45 mins) to Puerto Vallarta, catch a flight to Los Cabos, or catch a flight to Cancún. Prefer the lake? Lake Chapala, Mexico’s largest freshwater lake, is about an hour away. What if you would rather go hiking in a canyon? Go check out the Barranca de Huentitán National Park which is just northeast of Guadalajara. Let’s say that you want to go to central Mexico to visit some of the most beautiful colonial towns in Mexico. Just catch a bus to be there in about 3.5 hours. What if Guadalajara, with its metro population of 4.4 million, just isn’t big enough for all of your needs. Occasionally, you could need the amenities of an even larger city. For instance, you might need to fly to Europe, Asia, or South America, and the biggest cities in the world tend to have the lowest prices for long-haul flights due to high supply and fierce competition. Fortunately, Guadalajara is fairly close to Mexico City, one of the largest cities in the Americas with a metro population of 21 million. A flight to Mexico City would take about 1.25 hours, and a bus would take about 6.5 hours. Finally, Guadalajara is in the central time zone. This is really important for anyone that has an online business with US clients. When you’re in the central time zone, it’s easy to communicate and do business with US clients from the West Coast to the East Coast.
Since Guadalajara has an elevation of 1,566 m (5,138 ft), it has a pretty mild climate despite having a latitude of 20° 40′ N. My ideal climate is a place that is warm, dry, and sunny. Guadalajara’s climate really fits the bill. The climate data truly speaks for itself, so I don’t have to keep rambling about how amazing the climate is in Guadalajara.
Guadalajara is the cultural capital of Western Mexico. In fact, Guadalajara was named the American Capital of Culture in 2005. Many things that people associate with Mexico originated in Guadalajara or the greater state of Jalisco. Two prominent examples are tequila production and mariachi music. Additionally, the food in Guadalajara is absolutely amazing. One of the signature dishes of the city is called torta ahogada (Spanish for ‘drowned sandwich’). They take an oblong bun and stuff it with pork and other ingredients; next, they drown it in a red tomato/chili pepper sauce. I had one in the Mercado Libertad, and it was incredible. Guadalajara is also home to six universities, so it’s definitely a center of learning within Mexico. In terms of entertainment, Guadalajara has diverse theatrical performances, fútbol matches, lucha libre (freestyle wrestling), and much more. Finally, Guadalajara has excellent nightlife. There are many interesting and lively bars along Chapultepec Avenue, and there are many other great bars scattered throughout the city.
Staying in Mexico Long Term Is Easy
As a US citizen, I can stay in Mexico for almost half a year by simply going through a Mexican immigration checkpoint with my US passport. They give me a stamp and a tourist card that enables me to legally stay in the country for up to 180 days. Technically, there is a fee for this tourist card, but it is generally included in the cost of a plane ticket. When I entered Mexico by land at Nuevo Laredo, I had to pay about $25 for the tourist card. Before my 180 days are up, I simply need to leave Mexico. I could go back home to Texas or I could go on a vacation to some other foreign country. Whenever I’m ready to come back, I just go through immigration again and get another 180 days. You could say that this approach is in a legal gray area, but Mexico’s government doesn’t seem to care. So far, I have been to Mexico twice this year. I spent 6 weeks in Mexico from late January to early March, and I spent 5 weeks in Mexico from mid April to mid May. When I reentered the country in April, they gave me a fresh start with 180 days. The generous time allotment that Mexico gives US citizens is a huge plus because doing visa runs frequently can be a huge hassle. In some other countries that are really popular with digital nomads like Thailand, people have to pay for a tourist visa, pay for visa extensions, and do frequent border runs. No thanks, I’d rather not spend a lot of money to enter a country, and then spend even more money to just extend my stay for a month. Also, I might not want to leave my hub every 2-3 months because I could be slammed with work. With Mexico, staying long term is easy and cheap.
By this point, you’re probably eager to visit Guadalajara and check it out for yourself. If that’s the case, then just let me know by filling out the contact form on this page. I’ll probably be there from mid September until the end of the year. If you’re going to be in Guadalajara during that timeframe, then I’d love to meet up with you. At the very least, I hope that you now understand why Guadalajara is such an alluring location for me. I hope this article has piqued your interest in a city that you might not have known much about until now. ¡Hasta la próxima vez!