What’s it like to live in Chelem? Retiring to Mexico & living in the Yucatan

What's it like to live in Chelem? Retiring to Mexico & living in the Yucatan

Chelem a happy Mexican retirement

Much has been written about retiring to Mexico but there is not much information on retiring to places in the Yucatan. Chelem is a small fishing village that we spent a year in when we retired to Mexico.

Chelem is a very small fishing village on the Gulf of Mexico, which makes a perfect retirement destination with lots of expats from N. America.

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What's it like to live in Chelem? Retiring to Mexico & living in the Yucatan

Chelem (Cheh-lem’) which means “under the magpie”. This is an older fishing village, with a range of services,  stores, shops, restaurants, collectivos (buses). The only ATM, however, is on the Navy Base and can a struggle to get to without a car, apart from that ATM the nearest ones are in Progreso. Chelem is literally cheek by jowl with Chuburna and is a favourite expat enclave with most of the restaurants and bars being run by expats who have retired here.

What's it like to live in Chelem? Retiring to Mexico & living in the Yucatan

The homes, that are pretty much wall to wall, are modest. Prices in this area for rent and purchase are cheaper than some other areas and range between $300 and $1500 USD a month for rentals. To get here you do not enter Progreso, but head west on the overpass before entering Progreso.

What's it like to live in Chelem? Retiring to Mexico & living in the Yucatan

In most small villages like Chelem and Chuburna, there are collectivos or small transit buses that will take you into larger centres such as Progreso from where you can grab a bigger bus to Merida.

From Merida, you can take all kinds of transport to other areas and cities or you can rent a car which is great value in the Yucatan. In Chelem the collectives pass by virtually all corners in the village and then end up back at the main square where you can catch one to Chuburna, Chixculub, Yuculpaten, or Progreso.  The collectivos cost around 9 pesos and you pay when you exit the bus.

What's it like to live in Chelem? Retiring to Mexico & living in the Yucatan

There are plenty of taxis in Progreso particularly around the main square in the centre of town or at stores like Bodega where many ex-pats shop.  Taxis are always plentiful here and the cost to Chelem is in 2015, $90 pesos. There are no taxis in Chelem itself but you can order a taxi and there are several that are English speaking, or some ex-pats offer shuttle services for shopping and other needs.

There are quite a few services in Chelem from the Rubber Ducky Lavanderia where you can have all your washing done at around $20 pesos a kilo, to Tochas’ Pool Supplies and a hardware store. 

What's it like to live in Chelem? Retiring to Mexico & living in the Yucatan

In fact, there are several Tlaperias in Chelem where you can find pretty much any hardware supply you may need. There is a Farmacia, bakeries, tortillerias, the SIX stores which are somewhat similar to a variety store, fruit and Veg stands, and a Thursday Market across from the main square near the church.

What's it like to live in Chelem? Retiring to Mexico & living in the Yucatan

Several restaurants and B&B’s operate in the Chelem area and ex-pats operate several restaurants where you can get your onion rings or hamburger fix when required.

Real Estate and Rentals in Chelem

Lots of options with Real Estate, but buyer beware there are some very trustworthy reputable brokers and dealers, but we suggest you ask around for references and check out Yucatan Beach Friends Facebook page for more information.  These are a few of the ones that we would heartily recommend:

Flamingo Coast Properties 

This is run by Ramona and Neil Robinson very dependable and have lived in the area for a long time they know all the ins and outs of buying and building in the area.

Homes for Sale in Yucatan:  Bobby and Christine are a lovely couple who sell properties and lots from the beach to Merida.  Great reputation and they speak Spanish and English

Yucatan Beach Friends Facebook page – again tons of folks on there who offer driving services from Merida to Chelem.

Finding a place to live in Chelem

If you are looking for a place to stay while checking out the area take a look at these private vacation rentals.

What's it like to live in Chelem? Retiring to Mexico & living in the Yucatan

Casa Pajaro is run by Julie Tinkey. You couldn’t ask for nicer hosts and the apartments are newly built and superb. Oh, and you can’t pass up Julie’s cooking if you get a chance she provides catering services and meals cooked daily in her beautiful outdoor kitchen.

What's it like to live in Chelem? Retiring to Mexico & living in the Yucatan

Casa Rosa

Right on the beach as you enter Chelem, Casa Rosa is owned and operated by a couple of British ex-pats, Tony and Karen. The apartments are really pretty and Tony and Karen live on the premises and can help with groceries, airport shuttles, and they are a true encyclopedia of knowledge about the area. Casa Rosa has now changed from a BnB to a longterm rental and the pricing is very affordable and the place is fabulous.

The Rio Mare apartments are run by Jill and Martin and they are located directly above the Bull Pen restaurant, they are lovely little one-bedrooms and some single hotel-style rooms. There is a lovely little swimming pool and there is no worries about noises from the bar but there are tons of events to take part in and get to know the local ex-pats.

There are a number of private rentals available in Chelem and Chuburna check on the Yucatan Beach Friends Facebook page for recommendations and lots of information about the area.

Restaurants in Chelem

These restaurants are all run by ex-pats in the Chelem area and are great for good food and even better company. There are several smaller local restaurants in the Chelem area.  Check with any of the ex-pats here for their favourite local places.

The Bull Pen

American and Mexican food, from fish tacos to BBQ’d ribs, Calle 19, across from the ball field, Chelem, Tuesdays through to Fridays from 5 pm. From January to April open Saturday nights from 5 pm to 8 pm

What's it like to live in Chelem? Retiring to Mexico & living in the Yucatan

Serving a variety of dishes from home-cooked meatloaf, Tuesday Rib Specials, specialty wine tasting evenings, and lots of refreshments. Great hosts Jill and Martin originally from Colorado and Mexico City very family-friendly and good home cooking. Wonderful wine tasting nights held alongside an Artists showcase where you can see local artists selling their work. A great place to meet ex-pats and chat with residents.

What's it like to live in Chelem? Retiring to Mexico & living in the Yucatan


Mexican/American Eatery serving breakfast and lunch. Open Wed-Sat 9am -2 pm – Sun 9am – 1 pm.. Located in Chelem, Calle19 directly behind the ball field. Great food prepared and cooked by Trevor from fish & chips to tortilla salads.  Trevor and Belinda are originally from Saskatchewan.  No liquor license as they only serve lunch and breakfast.

What's it like to live in Chelem? Retiring to Mexico & living in the Yucatan

Top 10 Tips for Living as an Expat in the Yucatan


Calle 13 (the main road near the large tope almost in the centre of Chelem)  Open Friday, Sat, Sun, Mon, and Tuesday from 8:30 to 2:30

What's it like to live in Chelem? Retiring to Mexico & living in the Yucatan

A fun little place for a good breakfast, lots of conversation and owned by Sarge and Star who are US ex-pats. English is spoken and another great place to meet local residents.

Chelem Curry Club

Fresh delicious authentic Indian cuisine lovingly prepared each Monday for take out only. British owned and operated. Located between Chelem and Chuburna.

Chelem Creme

If you love fresh yogurt and Kombucha check out Chelem Creme who has a table at the Natural Thangs farmers market. Providing fresh Greek yogurt and ricotta to the beach community.

Thai Bistro technically this is in Chuburna but it does amazing Thai food and you can hop over and pick it up you won’t regret it. 


Traditional Tex-Mex preparation. Made with fluffy yellow corn masa and filled with freshly prepared meats and vegetables. Steamed in a corn husk. Empanadas, Hard Shell Tacos, Gringas, Hamburgers, Hotdogs, Nachos, Quesadillas, Soft Tacos, Tamales, Tortas and more

Another fabulous place in Chuburna is the Maasai Maya Bistro and Pizzeria the best pizza ever. 

Rosy’s a little fruit and veg stand is the perfect place to pick up your daily ration of fresh fruit and vegetables.

What's it like to live in Chelem? Retiring to Mexico & living in the Yucatan

The Rubber Ducky on Calle 23 headed towards Chuburna, the best place for all your laundry needs, much cheaper to have the lovely ladies here take care of that so you can spend time on the beach.

If you need some help with a car there’s Marina in Progreso you can contact her  Progreso Autocare 999-233-5853 calle 94x35y37, don’t forget to get to the Market at Natural Thangs they have a great plant nursery and an awesome market you just can’t miss. Must not forget the best Cenote Tours ever with Yucatan Cenote Eco-Adventures.

I also recommend getting involved with Yucatan Giving which helps out the local folks with all kinds of things like food in the times of hardship, school supplies and much more. 

How do I get to Chelem?

To get to Chelem you can either fly into Cancun and take the ADO bus to Merida or better yet fly into Merida. To get to Chelem itself which is around 40 minutes or so outside Merida on the coast you have a couple of options.

If you are staying in Merida for a night or so you can get from Merida airport to your hotel by taxi as it will only cost you around $30 Canadian to the centre of the City. It’s a very hassle-free process at the airport. When you exit the terminal and cross the laneway, there will be kiosks, one to your left and the other to your right. Two different companies, same fare, similar service. You buy a ticket from the kiosk and you will be directed toward a car. There will be guys there shouting taxi, taxi, anyway. Super easy and safe.

As for Chelem do you have a place to stay there? If you have rented a place (hotels are virtually non-existent) the rental agent should be able to assist you in getting to your destination. There are no direct buses to Chelem from Merida as it is very small. The Autoprogresso bus runs every fifteen to twenty minutes from their bus terminal in Merida to Progreso something like twenty-five pesos round trip.

From there, you either take a taxi or take a collectivo to Chelem. That will only cost you around $10-15 at the most – be sure you ask before getting in the Taxi for the exact cost. Sometimes they try and charge you extra for air con…lol.

I know there are several folks in Chelem who do pickups to bring people in and out of Merida and there is a network of folks that will help out with shopping trips and rides. I strongly recommend that once you get to Chelem chat with Jill at the Bullpen who knows everyone or David at El Martinis who also knows everyone and these two places are the best locations to meet other ex-pats and friends.

These days Chelem has an English speaking Doctor – Dra Esparza whose office is right beside the Bullpen

Here are my Top 10 tips for living as an expat in Mexico.

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What's it like to live in Chelem? Retiring to Mexico & living in the Yucatan

10 thoughts on “What’s it like to live in Chelem? Retiring to Mexico & living in the Yucatan”

  1. Bob Escudero

    For any longtime…15 years or more on the east Yucatan beach communities, have you noticed a regression in the beaches? Its been about that long since I’ve been in the area and when I look at Google Earth maps it looks like the ocean is encroaching on more seaside buildings and homes than I remember. Thanks.

    1. Yes there has been a lot of beach erosion particularly to the beaches south of the new Progreso pier. Chelem specifically has had a few issues along that stretch of the coast. Many people have lost a lot of frontage. Our neighbours have said that around 8 years ago they could walk out around 22 yards and still only be ankle deep but these days it is right at their front walls. Now most folks have the seawalls deep in front of their properties but they are working on solutions. I would suggest the best places to live are second row from the beach – I don’t think I would buy beachfront these days just in case, until a solution is found. There have been issues with folks building piers into the water and filling them with rocks which simply adjusts the water flow and wipes out their neighbours frontage and I know of one couple who have lost their swimming pool which is beachfront due to the loss of the beaches.

  2. Thank you for all of you information! Our daughter will be studying in Merida January-March, 2020. We are planning to visit her during this time and then rent a home on the beach for 7-10 days. My husband and I plus 2 other couples ~ newly empty-nesters ~ are looking for a nice home near Chelem or Chuburna. We would also like to hire a cook or someone to cater our meals for the week.
    We are looking on Airbnb, but wondering if you have any recommendations. Thank you!

    1. I highly recommend getting in touch with Ben and Julie Tinkey of Flamingo Coast properties they are from California originally and have settled in Chelem for several years. I think they are some of the most honest and trustworthy folks for rentals and property on the beach that there is. I would also highly recommend checking out a website called Mexico Cassie.

  3. Anna Klingfus

    Can a person drive all the way from U.S. to Chelem? Is there an RV park in the town? We are planning retiring to a small fishing village in Mexico, the west is more touristy than we like.

    1. Hi Anna

      Yes you could absolutely drive to Chelem and the area around there I know many folks who did. There is no RV park though that I’m aware of in that area although I believe there are some close to Merida. I would suggest you contact Cassie a friend of mine who lives in Merida and writes about moving to Mexico. You can see her blog at https://mexicocassie.com/ and I know if anyone can find out for you Cassie can.

      I hope this helps.

  4. Firelei Edmonds

    Love the information! We were looking at Puerto Morales but Chelem sounds even better! we would like to retired within 3 to 4 years. We live in a small town and want to keep it that way! Thanks for the info, we will make sure we will visit and check it out!

  5. are there any children in chelem? i would be moving with my two kids, they don‘t need school but some socializing would be nice

    1. Hi Olga, yes there are quite a few kids in Chelem and Chuburna both English speaking and of course the Mexican kids themselves. The best way for kids to socialize here though is school although there are activities for them in Chelem itself like baseball and soccer teams. If you join some of the Yucatan or Chelem facebook groups you can also ask the question there. I also know quite a few English speaking families in Merida that arrange outings and events for kids as well and it’s an easy drive from Chelem.

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