Living in San Cristobal de Las Casas is something we never imagined we’d be doing. But this past year, like everyone else’s, our plans changed. And I can say for the better! As a digital nomad in Mexico, we’ve been able to live in various destinations across the country.
We’ve so far lived in the charming pueblo of San Pancho on the west coast of the Riviera Nayarit, in Tulum on the east coast of Quintana Roo in the Riviera Maya, in the colorful highlands town of San Cristobal de Las Casas in the southernmost state of Chiapas, and most recently in the digital nomad-friendly city of Oaxaca City in the state of Oaxaca.
So, having lived on both sunny, sultry coasts, moving to the chilly highlands was entirely new for us. But we are so glad we did.
Everything from San Cristobal’s colonial streets and colorful architecture to its bustling markets and inspiring cuisine make this city attractive for digital nomads and the expat community at large.
Many folks come to retire here and enjoy the cool air of the mountains while being just hours away from some of the most breathtaking places to visit and things to do in Chiapas.
If you are wondering if living in San Cristobal de Las Casas is a good decision to take as a digital nomad, then read on! In this guide, I will share all about what living in this charming city is really like plus spill the tea about the internet, weather, housing, activities, cost, lifestyle, and more.
Here is the ultimate digital nomad guide to San Cristóbal de Las Casas!
Living in San Cristobal de Las Casas as a Digital Nomad or Expat
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Cost of Living in San Cristobal as a Digital Nomad
Chiapas is one of the poorest states in Mexico (despite being one of the richest in natural resources and diversity). That said, you can expect to pay less on food, clothing, restaurants, drinks, etc than you would somewhere else like any of the coastal cities in the Riviera Maya or Riviera Nayarit.
Of course, your lifestyle will determine the final cost of living.
For Paul and I, we manage to live fairly well on a budget. That’s because we shop at local markets (most of the time) and choose our activities carefully.
During the three months that we lived in San Cristobal, we spent on average $1,500 USD per month as a couple. The breakdown of that works out to be approximately $450 USD on restaurants & entertainment, $575 USD on housing, $275 on supermarkets, and the remaining $200 or so dollars on ATM withdrawals and expenses that we spent in cash on food, cafes, etc.
Here are a few real examples of what it costs to live in San Cristobal:
Apartment Rental: $10,000 – $15,000 MXN / $500-700 USD per month for a nice, 1-2 bedroom apartment with good location and fast wifi. $5,000 – $8,000 MXN for more local housing.
Cup of Coffee: $30-40 MXN / $1.45-1.95 USD.
Restaurants: $60-120 MXN / $3-6 for a dish in cafes, $95 MXN / $5 USD for daily menus including an entree, meal, and juice + coffee/tea, $150-350 MXN / $7-17 USD for meals in fancier, 5* restaurants.
Bar Drinks: Beer $20-40 MXN / $1-2 USD, Cocktails $60-100 MXN / $3-5 USD.
Groceries: $1000-2000 MXN / $50-100 USD per couple, per week.
Local Markets: Artisanal textiles and clothing vary in price and you might negotiate, but it’s very affordable in general for handmade goods by the indigenous Tzotzil Maya. Examples: shawls, scarves, blankets $60-100 MXN, $80-150 MXN sweaters, $20-60 embroidered wallets, trinkets, etc.
Best Time to Move to San Cristobal
We moved to San Cristobal in the middle of the dry winter months in mid-December. I would say the best time to experience San Cristobal would be a little later, in February-May when the weather is a little more pleasant. January is the coldest month.
However, since San Cristobal is set in the highlands of Chiapas, it never really gets too hot, nor too cold. It doesn’t snow and the daily average temperature in the summer very rarely soars higher than 75°F or 24°C. The average yearly temperature hovers around 60°F or 15°C.
That said, I think any time of the year would be great to live in San Cristobal. We left before the summer, so we didn’t experience the rainfall of the summer months which is common throughout Mexico. Apparently, June is the rainiest.
Transportation – Getting Around San Cristobal
Walking: Getting around San Cristobal is easy on foot. We always walked everywhere. It takes around 20-25 minutes to cross the major sights of the town, from the Guadalupe Church all the way down to the La Merced neighborhood, just behind the central park or main square (Zocaló).
Taxis: in San Cristobal are cheaper than anywhere else we’ve lived in Mexico. To hitch a ride anywhere in town costs only $35 MXN pesos. The most we’ve paid to cross town, even when traffic was busy and delayed us, was $50 pesos. That includes 15-minute trips back home at night from Chedraui or Wal-Mart after stocking up on groceries. Taxis to the nearby indigenous villages of Chamula and Zinacantán cost around $100 MXN.
Bike: San Cristobal is one of the only cities in Mexico we’ve lived in where we didn’t own a bike. Not saying you couldn’t, though! The streets of San Cristobal are just busy with cars and some are paved with cobblestones so it’s not as biker-friendly as we hoped. There are several bike rentals and tours you can take while in San Cris. We didn’t get to do it, but it looks fun!
Bus: You can grab local buses to go from city to city or to nearby towns. The bus from San Cristobal to Tuxtla Gutiérrez, for example, only costs around $60 MXN and takes about 1 hour to get there.
San Cristobal de Las Casas Neighborhoods
There are a few neighborhoods to take note of. Knowing them will make your time living in San Cristobal de Las Casas much easier because you will always be able to reorient yourself no matter where you are in town.
- Barrio del Cerrillo
- Downtown near the Zocaló and Plaza de la Paz
- Barrio de La Merced
- Barrio de Guadalupe
Barrio del Cerrillo is one of the most charming and colorful neighborhoods. It is here where you will find a unique viewpoint of the city above a cobbled set of stairs, local plazas, street art, and the nearby artisanal market and Iglesia de Santo Domingo. You can walk from here all the way down Calle Tapachula or Calle Comítan to rejoin the Barrio de Guadelupe nearby which houses the marvelous Casa Na Bolom Museum & Hotel.
Downtown is the area around the two squares in San Cristobal – the central park or Zocaló and the large Plaza de la Paz on which sits the yellow and red San Cristobal Cathedral just opposite the wooden Mayan cross. It’s around here that you will do most of your exploring. Don’t forget to stroll down the connecting pedestrian-friendly streets “Andadors” – the Andador Guadelupe and Andador Eclesiástico.
Barrio de La Merced is a cute, local neighborhood further west of the Zocaló. If you keep walking down past the governor’s palace, you will find a large park and the Ex-Convento de La Merced (church) inside which you can tour the impressive Amber Museum. If you skirt the neighborhood and follow the pine-tree-covered hill back to your left, you will reach the bottom of the stairs that lead you up to San Cristobalito Temple atop the hill.
Barrio de Guadelupe is my favorite neighborhood if anything but for its iconic yellow and white church that looks over the city. From here, you can take the Real de Guadelupe street and walk all the way east-west across the city. There is a cool restaurant called La Maldita right beside the church on the hill that offers a stunning panoramic view of San Cris and the surrounding mountains.
Finding Apartment Rentals in San Cristobal
Our apartment in San Cristobal, Mexico (ft. Yoda)
There are lots of places to find housing in San Cristobal, but we are fairly picky about where we live as digital nomads. So, after scouring the Facebook group and local listings, we ended up finding the perfect place on Airbnb.
The trick with finding long-term housing on Airbnb is to reach out to the host and ask about a monthly stay. In most cases, if they accept longer stays, you will be able to get a decent reduced price that is actually affordable. We have found that reaching out on Airbnb is one of the best ways to find housing.
That said, don’t overlook listings on Airbnb because they’re outside of your budget. It never hurts to ask!
Also, if you are a solo digital nomad then you might consider checking out our friend’s sparkly new coworking and coliving space called Co.404 Coliving.
Internet Speed + SIM Cards
Internet in San Cristobal can be iffy, at times. However, we have found amazing places to work that have quality wifi which I’ll tell you about below.
Luckily, our Airbnb had awesome wifi (I’m talking 80mbps upload/download) and we had zero problems during our time there. Our friends didn’t get so lucky with their housing so they opted for a monthly pass at the coworking spaces.
To back up your internet, I always recommend getting a Mexican SIM card for data. That way, if your internet cuts out you can use your phone as a hot spot and at least have a connection to keep working (although you won’t be able to do heavy video/photo editing or loading).
We always use Movistar while in Mexico. You can get a SIM for $200 pesos at Wal-Mart and then recharge online for $200 pesos to get 3GB of data and unlimited social. Note, however, that our connection with it in San Cris wasn’t as good as we’ve had in other places in Mexico.
Coworking Spaces in San Cristobal
To remedy your wifi worries, there are two lovely coworking spaces where you can get a fast internet connection as well as connect with a cool community of fellow like-minded digital nomads.
Co404 is the newest addition to San Cristobal’s digital nomad scene. It was created and designed by our friends (the same people we rented our Airbnb from actually!). Just before we left San Cris we were able to see this space come together. And the result is AMAZING!
The atmosphere is natural, minimal, and inspiring. The perfect place to work or live. The bedrooms are also sweetly designed with boho-style decorations and colors. There is a communal kitchen, spacious jungly garden, and a private living space for residents only. What’s more, the coworking area has stand-up tables, comfy booths with cushions, high tables, and large 2-person desks — all with their own outlets.
They are also working on building a palapa terrace where you can hang out and watch the sunset!
You can find Co404 on Calle Argentina, just a short 5-10 minute walk from the bustling artisanal market and Iglesia Santo Domingo and a 10-15 minute trot from there to the main squares downtown.
Centralita is perhaps the most popular of the coworking spaces, as others have either closed down permanently or just aren’t as reputable as this one. Droves of digital nomads come here to work and the wifi is pretty decent, but a bit slow at times!
The atmosphere is great for nomads and both its two locations — on Calle Paniagua and the other in the Cerrillo neighborhood on Calle Comítan — offer plenty of desks, outlets, complimentary coffee/tea, and plenty of space.
Best Cafés in San Cristobal for Digital Nomads
As digital nomads, we enjoy changing our “office space” while pairing it with a cup of coffee. Luckily, San Cristobal has some amazing cafes where you can do both.
La Frontera Cafe is one of our go-to spots for working on our laptops. The wifi is decent for basic work but it can really slow down at times when a lot of people get on it. La Frontera is the place to go as well for good coffee and brunch food. You will see many fellow digital nomads working on their laptops in the mornings and afternoons.
Sarajevo Garden Cafe is our favorite brunch spot, as they have incredible food and an inspiring work atmosphere all at an unbeatable cost. If you go during the weekday, they offer their menu del día which costs only $95 MXN and includes the juice of the day, choice of soup, choice of entree, and coffee/tea. They also have little round tables and outlets with booth/chair seating, perfect for digital nomads.
Cafeologia is one of our favorite places for coffee and treats and it’s located right in the middle of the bustling Real de Guadelupe. These guys know the art of coffee making and it shows! Plus, their wifi is fairly decent and so is their atmosphere. You can work inside and get lots of natural light while smelling delicious fresh-baked sweets and roasted coffee.
Libre Cafe is perhaps the best place to taste organic coffee in San Cris. They have a small covered terrace for outdoor seating and it’s a great place to work for a few hours.
Amor Negro Cafe is a pretty sweet spot for working as it’s housed on the second floor of the modern and trendy San Agustin Plaza on Andador Eclesiástico. However, they are more strict when it comes to digital nomads. Unlike the other places mentioned above, you can’t just order a drink and plop down to work for a bit. There is a minimum charge of $150 MXN per person to sit and work on your laptop (meaning, you need to order at least a full breakfast + drink).
Grocery Shopping & Local Markets
There are several supermarkets where you can find anything and everything you may need. There is Wal-Mart, Chedraui, SAM’s Club, and Bodega Aurrera. We often went here to stock up on groceries once a week when we first moved to San Cris.
However, after we discovered the local shops on Calle Diego Dugelay nearby the Andador Guadelupe, then we started doing all of our produce shopping there. Here is what you can find on this street.
Roots Panaderia Artesanal (Raices): For all your French bread and pastry needs, head to Roots! The shop is a tiny hole in the wall so be sure not to miss it. Location: Av Diego Dugelay 8 | Closes at 9 pm.
Quesos Chiapas is an artisanal cheese shop that sells all sorts of decadent cheese – aged blue, parmesan, and even red wine cheese! The owners are super friendly and will be happy to give you a tasting. Location: Av Diego Dugelay 4B
Lacteos Maya is our go-to place for homemade cheese, cream, and tamales. Plus, they sell vegan chorizo (yum) and a ton of internationally-imported conserves like olives and French Dijon mustard. They also sell oil, yogurt, ice cream, peanut butter, queso spreads, and a whole bunch of other stuff. Location: Av Diego Dugelay 4A
Fruit/Veggies are available in small locally-owned tiendas on this street. We have been able to find all of our desired fruits and veggies and they are way better in quality and price than in the big supermarkets.
There are so many good places to eat in San Cristobal, so I wanted to share some of my favorites with you!
- Xut – freaking delicious artisanal Mexican-inspired cuisine in a cozy outdoor setting (get the Reyes Chelada – a beer with Ancho Reyes chili poblano pepper liquor served with a bite of fried Chiapaneco cheese and jalapeño).
- Nostalgia – amazing Oaxacan food and drinks in a cozy, intimate courtyard.
- Sarajevo – delicious breakfast, brunch, and dinner! Not to miss!
- BangCook – street Thai food and upscale desserts (located inside San Agustin Food Court)
- Kulkulpan – vegan/vegetarian bakery and cafe serving up delicious dishes and treats
- Restaurant Lum by Hotel Bo – a most amazing restaurant serving up creative world cuisine and set inside the inner courtyard of the five-star Hotel Bo
- Frontera & La Espirituosa – Frontera is great for coffee, omelets, bagels, and treats while La Espirituosa is great for healthy food, like homemade plates of pasta, tacos, burgers, and alcoholic beverages. They are right beside each other and share the same tables outside.
Luckily, we never had to make use of San Cristobal’s doctors or clinics. If you need medical attention, you can go to the HOSCEM – San Cristobal Hospital and Medical Center located on Periférico Sur # 6, Barrio El Santuario. CP 29290. The phone number is (967) 631-58-51 and 631-65-13.
If you’re a globetrotting digital nomad, it’s important that you get travel medical insurance to cover your travels. I have been insured by SafetyWing since moving to Mexico three years ago. It’s super cheap with rates as low as $40/4 weeks. It’s honestly so easy to sign up too and maintain, which is why I’ve had it for so long.
The state of Chiapas has many diverse indigenous groups, of which most speak either Tzotzil or Tzetzal Mayan.
You will hear it being spoken by the indigenous communities in San Cristobal as it’s very different sounding from Spanish. Otherwise, you can get around just fine with a bit of Spanish and English.
I really appreciated living in San Cristobal de Las Casas because all the shopowners and vendors first spoke to me in Spanish, rather than defaulting to English which I found was more common while living in places like Tulum.
Whether you enjoy an active lifestyle or are into history and culture, you will love living here as there are many fun things to do in San Cristobal de Las Casas – both in the city and around.
You can go hiking and climbing at Cerro Don Lauro, a sacred mountain top with a mirador overlooking the valley and city. Or you could adventure in the three ecotourism parks around town, including Rancho Nuevo, Grutas del Mamut, and Arcotete.
Also, don’t forget there are indigenous villages just 15 minutes away from San Cris where you can witness syncretist culture inside the San Juan Chamula Church or visit and support a women’s weaving coop in San Lorenzo Zinacantán.
Then, if you’re really feeling up for an adventure you can always go on an epic Chiapas road trip.
There’s also the incredible Cañón del Sumidero nearby the 16th-century designated pueblo mágico of Chiapa de Corzo where you can take a boat tour through the majestic canyon on the river and get the chance to see wildlife.
Simply put, there is just SO much to do in and around San Cristobal and the state of Chiapas in general. Even though we had three months there, our weekends were packed full and we still didn’t get to see and do everything that was on our bucket list.
Is Living in San Cristobal de Las Casas Good for Digital Nomads?
So, have I convinced you yet that living in San Cristobal de Las Casas is ideal for digital nomads? I hope so! I believe this city — and state — is seriously underrated and is by far one of the best places to visit in Mexico.
Though the cold weather started to get to us after a few months, making us ready to move to tropical Guatemala, we would still go back to live and visit in a heartbeat!
If you have any questions about living in San Cristobal, Chiapas, or Mexico in general then please feel free to drop your questions in the comments below! Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy this lovely colorful city in the highlands!
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