Mexico's Summer Heat Can Bite in More Ways Than One
I choose to live part-time in Mexico in the summer, off-season, temporada baja, the hot months. Housing is less expensive but I have many other reasons too. I prefer to get on buses occupied primarily by Mexicans when I am in Mexico. Restaurants appreciate you. The plazas are peaceful, manageable, and authentic. The heat is actually the only downside to low season, while there are numerous downsides to living here during snowbird season
Mexico’s tropical areas re-define the concept of heat and humidity. I have lived in humid areas in the United States - New Orleans, Richmond, Virginia, Washington, DC, and even a short stint in coastal Florida. In none of those cities have I torn open a damp box of pasta to find the fettuccine noodles melted together inside.
For several years in Mexico, I have rented large apartments in a building I am fond of in north Mazatlán. I love the subterfuge of its slightly crumbling exterior that masks the true nature of many of the units, in which the interiors have been beautifully renovated and boast stunning views. Like the French Quarter in New Orleans, you never know what you will find behind the different doors.
This year, the apartment I had rented for the last few years was taken. I instead rented another in the same building on a lower floor. It offers an equally spectacular view, a closer perspective of the Pacific waves, and palm tree leaves that practically brush my windows. Life is good.
Recently, I strolled over to business office to pay the electric bill. The accountant gave me the monthly factura. My jaw dropped - it read 5,400 pesos, about $350 dollars!
Before I had the chance to scream, the clerk grabbed the bill back and apologized. She forgot that I had moved to a different unit this year and had given me the bill belonging to the person who had taken the unit where I formerly lived. After a bit of shuffling (and recovery on my part), she found my bill, one for 699 pesos ($40 dollars). The two units, his and mine, are identical in size and floor plan.
Fortunately, one of my first lessons about living Mexico drilled into me by my housemate, The Intrepid Elise, while living in the big beachfront house we shared was about electricity conservation in Mexico. Being familiar with American ways, she followed me around for five months reminding me to shut doors, turn of air conditioners in unoccupied rooms, even to not leave a refrigerator door open a few seconds when unpacking groceries. We hung our laundry on a line. We took several cool showers a day, including after cooking, rather than trying to cool the big kitchen. That way of life grew to be second nature, the occasional sweatfest even granting me a kind of perverse pleasure.
Electricity is very expensive by Mexican standards. The country takes a reasonable approach to guarding resources while still providing a level of comfort when the temperature soars. In the summer months, the government subsidizes consumers for their usage. Electricity is still expensive, as illustrated by the $350 electric bill mentioned above, but by being conservative and aware, anyone can keep the cost reasonable, as I do.
By taking care to turn off the air conditioning when not at home, shutting off unoccupied rooms and noticing when the breeze coming off the ocean is enough to keep cool, there remains enough wiggle room to cool all the rooms if guests come to visit me on a hot day.
Once November rolls around however, that government subsidy goes away, even though all the hot days may not. To give you an idea of how much the normal rate is, I only turned the air conditioner on three days in November last year. My bill was slightly higher than August’s bill when I had used the air conditioning most days a majority of the day. Had I used over a certain amount (called the alto consumo level) during these unsubsidized months, I (or an owner) would have been slapped with a much higher rate for perhaps a year or more, not just pay the month of the high usage.
Expats get spanked regularly due to our habit of leaving air conditioning on throughout the house and our penchant for features like swimming pools, fountains, dish washing machines and clothes dryers, all big electricity users.
You can live in luxury in Mexico, not exactly the same style of luxury. There’s no bigger example of that than trying to stay warm or cool in Mexico. You should dress for 10 degrees hotter than you expect the temperature to be in the summer, and 10 degrees cooler than you expect it to feel in the winter. Even in coastal areas, the humidity at night in the winter months can call for sweaters and light jackets. Windows are often not as sealed. Rooms are not as climate-controlled.
Keep this important rule in mind as you pack, and you will be comfortable anywhere you are in Mexico, no matter when you choose to go.
Heat Stroke in Mexico? How to hydrate like a native - Ventanas Mexico
It’s not the heat - it’s knowing what to do with it. - Ventanas Mexico
Airline baggage theft - review what “valuable” means to you before you pack.
Cooking in Mexico as addressed by food blogger Fabiola Rodriguez Licona and me.
About the author:
Kerry Baker is the author of three books. The Interactive Guide to Learning Spanish Free Online gives you the best free tools on the web, organized into lesson plans and containing interactive links. If Only I Had a Place is your guide to renting long-term in Mexico - with the information realtors will not tell you. The Mexico Solution - Saving Your Money, Sanity, and Quality of Life Through Part-Time Life in Mexico, gives you a step-by-step guide to making the transition, along with a bit of wry humor and a few of my more enlightening (at least for me) personal experiences.