In November of 2015, we made the surprising and last minute decision to leave Rio de Janeiro and move to Puebla, Mexico as expats.
A week later, my now-husband had arrived for his first time ever in Mexico, and for his new job (and our new life) in Puebla.
After a LONG month apart, as I spent a few weeks finishing things up in Rio and then a few weeks in Costa Rica, I joined him in our new home for my first time in Mexico (outside the whole American spring break/Cancun area).
I wasn’t sure what to expect, and I was surprised at what I found.
My First Impressions of Puebla, Mexico
My First Impression of Puebla, Mexico: Is this… Arizona?
this feels Arizona-y to me (aside from the volcano smoke). what do you think?
Seriously, I felt like I landed in Phoenix or Scottsdale. The architecture, the colors, and the vibe of the city felt very Southwestern to me. The wide open roads, the flat landscape with the mountains (er, volcano) in the background, all reminded me of Arizona. Even restaurant interiors – modern yet earthy – sometimes make me forget I’m in Mexico and not AZ.
My First Impression of Puebla, Mexico: It is COLD!
do you see these bundled up restaurant patrons? She’s wearing a thick scarf, and him a winter hat
Having spent 3 years out of the frigid north of Michigan, and 3 years in the tropical climates of Thailand and Brazil, the chilly cold temperatures of 50s and 60s (Fahrenheit) in Puebla shocked me.
“All of Mexico isn’t warm like Cancun?!”
It was fun to buy flannel PJs, slippers, cozy blankets, and knit sweaters, though!
My First Impression of Puebla, Mexico: V sounds like B
I studied Spanish in high school, and a bit in college, but as you probably know I suck at languages. That being said, I do know a bit of vocabulary and I can read Spanish quite well.
Listening though, WHOA!
My biggest surprise was that no one understood when I said “vegetariano” – only “begetariano”. All the words that have a “v” on paper actually sound like “b” to my American ears. I have to say “Begetariano”.
My First Impression of Puebla, Mexico: Just whoa. (That volcano view though!)
(also seen above where I feel like it looks like Arizona. It’s pretty enough to show you twice)
I loved my ocean view in Rio, my city view in Bangkok, and even my cozy Heritage Hill street view in Grand Rapids, but having a real, smoky volcano as part of your skyline is just otherworldly. At night, the sun sinks into the horizon, lighting up the sky in a romantic rainbow of warm colors, and the volcano provides a purplish black contrast… while the “Estrella de Puebla” lights up like a true star.
My First Impression of Puebla, Mexico: Avocados are errrrrywhere
In Brazil, avocados were super seasonal and sometimes I could only get the big, hard, flavorless ones (that Brazilians put in “vitamina” smoothies!), and don’t get me started on the avocado situation in Bangkok… or lack thereof. there was once a 2 month no-guacamole crisis throughout every Mexican restaurant in Thailand, I know because I tried them all and my guac cravings hit an all time high.
In Puebla, every super market has avocados. Every restaurant has avocados. Everywhere you turn – AVOCADOS! Guacamole heaven.
My First Impression of Puebla, Mexico: There’s All-American everything… EVERYTHING.
You can’t drive 5 minutes without seeing an American superstore or restaurant.
Want Walmart? Don’t worry, there’s 3!
IHOP, Subway, Pizza Hut, or Applebees strike your fancy? They’re all there, in multitude. (the only difference? the semi-automatic-weapon-armed guard standing outside to make sure you don’t try to grab a power tool and run in Home Depot)
This goes for American brands as well. Since leaving the US, I’ve been missing almond milk SO bad and just avoiding milk at all (no thank you, thick sugary soy milk in Thailand and in Brazil – YUCK)… but when I stumbled across Silk Almond Milk, my favorite milk, in my favorite brand, in my favorite number of calories (only 30 per cup, yes please) I literally danced with joy.
My First Impression of Puebla, Mexico: Food is cheap
3 curries, rice, naan, and a bunch of drinks at a fancy schmancy restaurant for under $30 – Adrak House!
Whether you’re having a nice dinner and drinks date out, or buying all the goodies your heart desires at the grocery store, food is ridiculously cheap. At a super lux Indian restaurant with flawless modern presentation, gorgeous decor, and a photo menu just for drinks [which has since closed as of December 2017], we stuffed ourselves silly with coconut rice, naan, and 3 main curries (seriously – they needed a wheelbarrow to roll us out) and more fancy schmancy drinks and beers than I could count. In the US, the meal would have easily been $150, and in Rio, $100. We paid $30. (all figures in USD)
Our weekly grocery/household bill for tons of fresh fruits and veggies, lots of “expensive” beloved American imports, and
more than a fair share of wine and beer always comes to wayyyyy less than $100 for 2 grub-loving foodies and a really particular pooch.
My First Impression of Puebla, Mexico: The apartments are unreal for the value
I have a chandelier and a Beauty-and-the-Beast bookcase. In my living room.
Compared to what we got for $1000 a month in Rio (hint – not a lot)… the apartments in Puebla are positively PALATIAL.
For just a bit less than what we paid in Rio, we got a gorgeous loft style apartment, fully furnished in gorgeous modern furniture… and the balcony of my dreams. Along with that volcano view I so love.
After a brief jaunt living in Mexico City, I’m now back in Puebla, and again struck by the same (still true) first impressions that hit me over a year ago.
“Cold” is a relative concept. I’ll take 40s and 50s F weather for two-three months a year over “feel like” 100 F and up on the Mexican coast for six months.
Agreed, “cold” is a relative concept, and also quite subjective along with most of this post, as I intended it to be. Travel and lifestyle preferences are quite subjective in general.
You make Puebla look very appealing, Steph! Hopefully I’ll get to see for myself – I’m also an avocado addict 🙂 Thanks again for sharing!!
Especially in Mexico, it’s hard NOT to be an avocado addict, they are SO delicious!!
Yes, please, you’ll have to come visit us one day soon! <3
I am in Puebla now 6/25/22.. I’m from houston heat and I love it hear. I haven’t made the move yet, but being retired and living on Social Security Pueblo is a place for me
That’s great you found your place 🙂 I love the weather (and the prices) in Puebla.
I already told my husband I think I’m more excited about the avocado situation than anything (I eat my weight in avocados every week lol)!! And you have a Beauty and the Beast bookcase! That’s like the dream, you know! I can reach all my shelves myself and that’s saying something haha.
OMG THE AVOCADOES ARE SO GOOD!! Haha this is our first apartment but our home now is way better! Less Beauty and the Beast, but bigger and with a little pool!
I LOVE it i have never been there but my mom is from there.
I wish I have been there 🙂
It is an awesome city (and state!) 🙂
I live in Atlanta by way of New Jersey and as much as I love a beach (I grew up one mile from the beach), I hate the heat. I want a cooler climate. Many people have suggested Puebla to me and I think you’ve just sold me. A scarf in Mexico…oh joy!
Puebla has the PERFECT weather, in my opinion. It seems like almost every day has at least a bit of sun (even during the rainy season), and very little humidity. I’m a big fan!
Me encanta la forma que tienes de ver la ciudad, la descripción de el estado es fabulosa !! Amé tu redacción !
¡Muchas gracias! 🙂
Are you still there?
We were in Puebla last year and lived it.
We are planning to move there once we sell our house in the Hudson Valley, NY
Is there are expat group?
We need help and would appreciate any names of people, realtors, etc.
Thank you very much
Yes, I still live in Puebla. I’ve been here for a bit over a year now and don’t have any plans on leaving for a while 🙂
I would recommend this Facebook group for expats. In my experience, each neighborhood/area has different agents. If you’re looking for rentals in Lomas de Angelopolis (where I live), I’d be happy to pass along the name of the agent I used most recently (before that, we went direct with the owner). Best of luck!
Can you give us any help?
My wife, Alice and I are considering a move to Puebla later this year. We spent 4 days a year ago in Puebla but could not find a reliable lawyer or group of experts, ex-pats etc to get information
Hi Jim – it looks like you’re with Alice with the same questions, so please see those answers and let me know if you have any other questions. In regards to a lawyer, I don’t have one nor do I know any personal lawyers in Puebla, I’m sorry!: the legal services we’ve used in Mexico have been provided by my husband’s employer. Best of luck!
http://colegiodenotariospuebla.org.mx/index.php/circulares-intranet/item/151-notaria-publica-no-16 This is a great notario who handled my buy. He speaks fluent English. Jose German Soto Adams.
This is so helpful! I’m going to Puebla in May to “check it out”, with the goal of moving there early nxt year!
That’s awesome! I hope you enjoy it! Please let me know if you have any questions!
We just got in Puebla 2 days ago and the “wow” factor is definitly there!
Didn’t expect that view of the volcano!!!
Having been in Mexico for 4 months……we will definitly head over that indian restaurant soon!
Been craving indian for so long.
Thanks for sharing!
Karine! I’m so sorry – the Indian restaurant closed!!! We tried to go for my birthday, and it’s been replaced by a fish restaurant! 🙁 I’ve just updated the post to include the sad news.
We are going to Puebla in a couple months for IVF after my husband returns home from his deployment it looks beautiful there. Avocados everywhere?!?! Sign me up!!
The healthcare in Puebla is really good but I didn’t know it was a destination for IVF, good to know! A lot of the people I know go to Cancun (I used to work in international fertility/medical tourism).
Literally avocados everywhere 🙂 I haven’t had a bad one yet!
What about crime?
How safe do you feel living There?
I lived in Puerto Vallarta for a year and I’m moving to Puebla. PV is too tight touristy and expensive. Can you recommend an area yo live that is safe, yet cheap. I would love to stay under $300 for a studio apartment, but I’m not sure if that’s possible. All I really need is good internet service and a walkable area. I have no desire to drive down here and need to get groceries, etc by walking or a short bus trip. Thank you do much for your suggestions.
Hi Lee! Sorry, I don’t have any recommendations for that price range or a studio but I’m sure it’s possible especially if you’re flexible. The further out you go from central areas, the cheaper it gets. I would guess Cholula would be your best bet. If you’re looking for a furnished rental, that might be a bit tougher, but you could have some luck on Airbnb.
How safe is Puebla? My family is considering (seriously) digital nomading and Puebla is where we’ve decided to go first. AirBnB is very reasonable compared to the Dallas rental market. We want to give our kids experiences instead of stuff, and live life more than the rat race we’ve all decided is how it is.
As an American woman, I feel much safer in Mexico compared to the US. Random violent crime is pretty much nonexistent here (there’s no mass shootings by lone gunmen, like is so sadly and so frequently happening in the US), especially in the touristy states, and especially towards foreigners. Statistically, Puebla is one of the safest states in Mexico. Of course, every city has “unsafe” areas (this is true for Mexico, the US, an every other country in the world), but those are easily avoidable for visitors. In Puebla, I lived in Lomas de Angelopolis, which is by far the “safest” (in terms of crime) place I’ve ever lived, anywhere, and also one of the most affordable, by far. We chose Lomas because we wanted quiet at night (pretty much any centro in Mexico is going to have the standard cannons, parties, church bells, etc and no noise regulations).
Best of luck!
Let me know if you’re still considering moving to Puebla, or if you’ve relocated here.
We are from Charlotte, NC, and have lived here for one year, and are looking to connect with other Americans with kids (ours’ are 8 and 7).
This is so cool!
I am here in Puebla for 4 months as a missionary apprentice although I originally am from Holland Michigan, not far from GR.
It is so cool that others have had semi-similar experiences
I am from Royal Oak MI. Nice to hear so many Michiganders are flocking to the City I am moving to. I too want to give my son more experiences than the current rat race we have here in America.
Just traveling around on a few trips it seems like La Vista Country Club is one of the most upscale and desirable neighborhoods of Puebla. Is that correct? I also liked Lomas de Angelopolis.
I’d be curious to hear what others think are the most upscale neighborhoods of Puebla.
La Vista is definitely one of the most upscale private communities. Lomas de Angelopolis is more affordable but still nice and very secure (I lived in the Lomas de Angelopolis II neighborhood and very much enjoyed it).
Hey Steph, do you still live in Puebla?
My family and I have been here for a year now and do not plan on moving soon, We are going to the States this summer to visit, but returning in August. We live in Lomas de Agelopolis III
Hi Kevin! I used to live in Lomas II but I moved to Puerto Vallarta a little over a year ago.
Good to read your experience, Steph.
I am Brazilian. I already had lived in New Jersey for a couple of years. There is a chance now to work in Puebla or in San Diego.
We have no kids and a small home is good enough for us.
I would rather go for a house than an apartment. I have a hobby that makes noise (sculpturing). So, do you think the houses are secure when left alone for a vacations, for example?
Another question: due to the relative cold, have the house heating? We hate the cold inside home..
I use obvious security cameras and never had a problem with home security. Thieves don’t want to break into homes with security cameras, they tend to go for the “lowest hanging fruit” – avoiding the probably of getting caught.
Most houses in central Mexico do not have central heating (neither do apartments), but you can use a space heater.
For future retirement from the US we were looking into the area of Tlaxcalancingo, Puebla, Mexico, and wondered if you had visited this area and what your impression of the area.
Area to area (and even block to block) can be really different. Before deciding on a residence (whether a home or apartment), I really advise renting an airbnb for at least a week, so you can get an understanding of what it is like both during the day and at night, and during the week and on weekends.