Q&A with a Reader
Dear Billy and Akaisha,
We just wanted to thank you for your newsletter “Retire Early Lifestyle.” It is so wonderful to read and we can glean so much information from it. You travel to places my wife and I want to visit such as: San Cristobal, Panajachel, Guatemala and Comitan just to name three. We are retired (older than you guys) and are planning on coming down to Mexico or Guatemala to live. We have watched the Solola market youtube several times and it is so interesting. I love videos of this type showing you wandering around a market.
Just a couple of questions if you don’t mind. Between Comitan and San Cristobal, which is your favorite town? Is it possible to find a fairly inexpensive apartment to rent in Comitan or maybe stay at a hotel at good long term rates for six months? When you visit Comitan do you fly to Tuxtla and catch a bus to San Cristobal and another to Comitan? Have you been to Oaxaca and what do you think of it? Do you think one could find a place to live in Solola or would perhaps Panajachel would be a place to live?
We are retired and can pick somewhere in Mexico or Guatemala to live in the near future, perhaps the end of June, 2016. We have looked at Chapala but it seems so crowded with Americans and Canadians.
Once again, thank you for your informative newsletter. No hurry on answering these questions.
All the best to you,
Michael and Patty
Hi Michael and Patty,
Thank you for taking the time to write and thank you for your kind words regarding our newsletter. We appreciate it!
You asked us which, between Comitan and San Cristobal, is our favorite town? – They are different in several ways and let me explain.
Comitan is a very Mexican town, with Mexican tourists. It is safe and very family oriented in terms of restaurants, things to do, and attitudes. It is also very clean, the weather is moderate (chilly in the winters) and the town is nestled in the mountains of Chiapas, so you can see mountain views when you walk through the Old Town.
There is no indigenous population to speak of (there are the Tojolabal who are Mayan but not really many of them around) to give contrast, or to influence the souvenirs and markets. I don’t think you would find many Gringos there at all and you would need to speak some basic Spanish, I think, in order to feel comfortable and at least to make some sort of social contact. It’s an up and coming city, complete with a Wal*Mart, shopping malls and movie theaters. There is decent public transportation.
I’m sure you could find a reasonable rate for either an apartment or for a long hotel stay. You would just need to negotiate and work it out with the owners.
San Cristobal is far more touristy with new people coming and going constantly. It is much cooler than Comitan and they have a lively Mayan population whom you will see every day and integrated into the market scenes and tourists shops. In terms of apartments or hotels for long term stays, yes, I believe that would be easy enough to work out. You could get by with less Spanish, but knowing some would be useful.
San Cristobal is in the mountains of Chiapas also, but as I mentioned, it is much cooler.
We prefer Comitan over San Cristobal, mostly because we don’t really like the cold. We stay in the Old Colonial section of town which is far more “cutesy” than the regular parts of the city. San Cristobal is more international with the tourists coming in and going out and they are from all over the world. They have a spirited bar and restaurant scene.
In terms of how to get to Comitan or San Cristobal, you could fly into Tuxtla as it is the closest airport to these towns, and then take a shuttle, a combi or a bus to Comitan or San Cristobal. I believe most of these transport options go through Comitan before they get to San Cristobal. And of course, you can get to San Cristobal from Comitan if you decide to see them both.
Yes, we have been to Oaxaca and we have really enjoyed it. It has a energetic and beautiful Zocalo (Plaza) and nice restaurants, markets and bars. The Monte Alban ruins are very close by and are a must see. It’s a little more pricey in our experience, but really worth visiting, and I think you could find an apartment or hotel which would allow you to stay longer term.
As to whether or not you might like to live in Solola or Panajachel, I would definitely say to choose the Lake Atitlan Area over Solola. Panajachel and all the towns on the lake are much prettier, and have better weather than Solola. The way that Solola is situated, it tends to get (very cold) fog in the early afternoons and have a drizzle which takes the view away from the lake below. Pana and the towns on the Lake are warmer, sunnier and have more attractive personalities as villages than Solola. Most certainly, get to the Lake, find a hotel or apartment and then visit any of the other dozen villages around the lake. Go to Solola if you need certain kinds of medical care or perhaps some computer equipment, but otherwise, stay at the Lake.
If you are considering a visit to Guatemala, then take a look at our Guide to Guatemala.
I am hoping that you speak some Spanish, but if not, you can easily take lessons here at several towns on the Lake. I would also wait quite a while before purchasing property, and visit around to see which villages speak to you the most.
Hopefully this answers your questions and if you have more, feel free to write again.
Take care, and stay in touch.
All the best,