Whenever I'm in a new city in Latin America, there's only one thing on my mind:
Is this somewhere I would like to live?
You see, I have a somewhat odd life plan at the moment. I want to do extended stays (3 months or more) in the region for at least the next few years.
This makes me a bit different than the average backpacker who can gather all the information he needs from Lonely Planet.
I'm forced to dig deeper.
So, without further ado, it's time for another one of my Latin American city showdowns. In this post I will be comparing the "City of Palaces" (Mexico) with the "City of Kings" (Lima) to determine which is the better city for an expat to live in.
Let the showdown begin!
Mexico City vs Lima: Which City Is Better For Expats?
Cost of Living
Both Mexico City and Lima are extremely affordable. If you had to, you could live in either city for $1000 a month. Although, I would recommend a slightly larger budget than that. I was surprised to discover that almost everything is more expensive in Lima than in Mexico. I wasn't expecting this as Mexico is a larger city with better infrastructure. In Lima you will pay more for public transport, taxis, restaurants, cell phone coverage, Internet and rent than you will in Mexico City. That being said, keep in mind that these differences will be almost negligible, especially if you're earning American dollars - we're talking about an extra $200 or so a month maximum if you choose to live in Lima instead of Mexico City.
A note about renting an apartment: I believe part of the reason that Lima is more expensive to rent an apartment is simply because there are less desirable areas to live as an expat than there are in Mexico City. Ask a local in Lima and they will only ever suggest 4 neighbourhoods: Miraflores, Barranco, San Isidro or San Borja. Ask a local in Mexico City and they'll suggest Condesa, Polanco, Roma Sur, Roma Norte, Coyoacan, Narvarte, del Valle, Santa Fe, etc - lots of good options.
WINNER: MEXICO CITY
Coming from Canada, I can't complain about the weather in either Lima or Mexico City. I travelled to Lima in winter and, although they didn't have any rain, they did have horribly grey skies the entire time and it was colder than winters in Mexico City. And although Mexico City gets more sun during its winter months, it does rain more. The summer months are nice in both cities.
I'm going to call this one a tie.
Those unfamiliar with cuisine in Latin America often assume that Mexico has the best food in the region. I myself have claimed that in a recent blog post. However, after this most recent trip to Lima, I have to admit that I was wrong: Peru has the best food in Latin America. Although Mexico wins in the street food category - the quality, variety and price simply cannot be beat - Lima wins in every other category. Their family restaurants are better than Mexican fondas, their chifas are better than Mexican Chinese food, and their ceviche...well, I'll let the photo speak for itself.
When I told people from Lima that I was living in Mexico City they were shocked. Isn't it dangerous? Aren't you worried about safety? While it's true that Mexico City has a rather sordid reputation, the safety issues are largely overblown. I've been living in Mexico for nearly a year and a half and nothing has ever happened to me.
But I'll admit that some of my friends haven't been so lucky.
Interestingly though, the downtown core of Lima feels sketchier than downtown Mexico City. Perhaps only because the buildings are more rundown. After talking to some people in Lima, I get the impression that petty crime, kidnappings and assaults aren't as much of a concern as in Mexico City. Statistically, Peru also has a lower murder rate than Mexico and is one of the more secure countries in the region.
This one goes to Lima.
As massive cities, both Lima and Mexico City have respectable nightlife scenes. But in terms of variety and sheer quantity, Mexico City wins. That's not to say that nightlife in Lima is bad, it simply has fewer options. For instance, Barranco and Miraflores in Lima are simply no match for Condesa and Polanco in Mexico City in terms of density of bars and clubs. Same goes for centro. For me this isn't really a big issue, as there's often a paradox of choice effect when there's such a plethora of nightlife options in a city.
Nevertheless, this one goes to Mexico.
WINNER: MEXICO CITY
Let's be honest: this is probably one of the main reasons single men decide to move abroad. You might be surprised to find out that I believe that the quantity of good-looking women in any given city isn't that important.
Stay tuned because I'll be writing about that later this week.
But back to the topic at hand. Peru does not have a reputation for attractive women. While this stereotype is often exaggerated, it isn't entirely unfair. I immediately noticed the difference in quality between Mexico City and Lima upon arriving in the latter:
Luckily, I still managed to find a high quality girl in Lima to pass the days with. They do exist, they are just harder to encounter than they are in Mexico City. A good way to sum it up is this:
My response when I'm asked about girls in Mexico City: "There's a lot of hot women here."
My response when I'm asked about girls in Lima: "Well, they aren't quite as bad as everyone says."
In short, there is an acceptable level of beautiful women in Lima - that is to say, you won't go crazy - but Mexico City is decidedly the better option.
WINNER: MEXICO CITY
So, where does that leave us? Well, we have 3 wins for Mexico City, 1 tie, and 2 wins for Lima.
This title match goes to Mexico City.
But it was close.
If Lima was cheaper I may be inclined to call it a tie; the food alone is reason enough to check this city out for awhile. But I just can't get down with recommending a more expensive city that's uglier and with poorer infrastructure.
Mexico City is a better choice for expats than Lima.
OVERALL WINNER: MEXICO CITY
Until next time,