Ah, The Good Old Days!

Ah, The Good Old Days!

Courtesy of Barbara Clippinger
(From Coronet Magazine  1960)

“Bargain-Basement” Utopias
By Norman D. Ford


chapala 1969 caseinYou can live a caviar life on a sardine budget in these off-the-trail spots ranging from Mexico to the Indian Ocean. Looking for a haven where you can enjoy tranquility without pills for as little as $2.00 a day per person?  It seems incredible but there are still idyllic spots where prices look like they did back in the 1930’s and nobody worries about ulcers, summit conferences or juvenile delinquency.

In Mexico not long ago, I sat on the patio of my villa sipping an 8-cent bottle of excellent beer and smoking a 7-cent pack of cigarettes while the local barber cut my hair for 32-cents, tip included. I watched my gardener busily tending orchids for a wage of under 15 cents an hour, my 40-cents -a-day-maid ushered in a friend who poured himself a jigger of Barcardi from a gallon jug which retails at $3.60 and announced that he had just built a two-bedroom, two-bath home for his family, including a 20-foot living room, patio and fireplace for less than $4,700.

These and similar soothing prices still apply in many places Mexico.  Here, Americans-in-the-know have discovered gracious old world living on a budget that would mean a bare existence at home.  Younger couples and even families with a few thousand dollars saved up, are also heading for a year or more of rest and relaxation in these fabulously inexpensive places. However, don’t expect enormous savings on shelter and food. In the most attractive spots the average 2-bedroom furnished villa rents for $65 a month and you’ll probably only save 20% on groceries,  but from there on, the bargains come thick and fast.  

#1 On The List…….  Lake Chapala (Ajijic)

This is no longer the cheapest place in Mexico.  Since 1950, about 1,500 American couples have moved into its two dreamy villages of Chapala and Ajijic. Prices have inevitably risen. But building costs still average only $4 per square foot, and you can hire a maid for $12 or a cook for $16 a month. Rents are still half those charged in American resorts. The climate all year is like a fine June day and the social life is gay, with the shops and theaters of Guadalajara — Mexico’s second largest city–just 40 minutes away.

On arrival most couples head for the Posada Ajijic, where the one term rate for a bungalow with all meals and maid service for two is still under $10 a day. There are few real estate brokers in the Lake Chapala area and no telephones or local newspapers. But, as in other out-of-the-way places, most vacation rentals are advertised by word of mouth.  Within a week, you’ll discover scores of unsuspected apartments and homes tucked away behind a labyrinth of ancient adobe walls.  After the peak winter tourist season, you should have your pick of several at around $75 a month; or if you prefer, you can have a modern home built for under $5,000.

For two, you can budget about $70 for food and $30 for utilities and your maid per month. The rest is for high living–golf, riding or swimming by day, followed by some of the most fabulous parties on this continent. A typical party features a table groaning with a bathtub full of punch and overflowing with bottles of gin, rum, tequila and vermouth, plus a mariachi orchestra–and the entire tab seldom exceeds $30.

(Ed. Note: Over the years, we have occasionally run articles like this, and to take the sting out of them we remind our readers that many years from now, people will look back and absolutely marvel at the cost of living that existed here in 2016!)

For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com

Ojo Del Lago
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