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Cost of moving: Retiring in Mexico

Many Americans are choosing to retire to Mexico.

Many Americans are choosing to retire to Mexico.

While Arizona and Florida have long been retirement destinations of choice for millions of older Americans, some are finding a new home south of the border. But moving to a new country can raise a lot of questions about cost of living, safety and finances, not to mention how to get all your stuff there in the first place.

One of the easiest options for people looking to move to Mexico might be to hire a portable storage container. Some moving companies offer customers the option of packing the containers themselves and then shipping the containers to the new destination. This could make getting across the border that much easier. Letting a registered moving company deal with border officials is a sure-fire way to cut down on moving hassles.

If you plan to enjoy your golden years in Mexico, you may need to apply for a visa. There are three primary types of visas you could get when heading south of the border: the FMM tourist visa, the FM-2 immigrant visa and the MF-3 non-immigrant visa. The tourist visa is available on flights to Mexico and at the border if you are traveling by car. With this visa, you will be allowed to stay in the country for 180 days before you have to return to the United States. Not an ideal choice for retired homeowners in Mexico.

The other two visas are slightly harder to come by. The FM-3 is essentially a work visa, available to those who wish to live in the country for primarily business reasons. The FM-2, known in its native country as the inmigranterentista visa, is the more appropriate option for American ex-pats seeking a new home. Applicants must be able to show a monthly income of at least $1,500, though for property owners, the figure could be cut in half, according to InternationalLiving.com.

Cost of living in Mexico is typically lower than in the United States, but that all depends on your style of living, according to MexicoOnMyMind.com. The site, geared toward Mexico-bound retirees, breaks down the cost of different types of apartments in the country. For a really low cost of living, retirees might expect to pay between $390 and $450 per month for a two- or three-bedroom home. Be prepared, though. Homes at this level aren't likely to have air conditioning, and kitchen and bathroom facilities could be generously described as austere.

On the higher end of Mexican home rentals, $1,250 per month will get you a house with air conditioning, modern amenities, more than one bathroom and, if you're lucky, a pool, according to MexicoOnMyMind.com.