I’ve spent a lot of time in multiple states in Mexico, lived there for a year, and have a house in Guanajuato I’ll return to for two years as of next summer. Here are the two books I’d recommend the strongest for anyone interested in lowering their expenses and dialing back the stress level by moving south. Both are new editions released this year.

Living Abroad in Mexico

This is a great nuts-and-bolts guide to what you need to know about moving to Mexico. It’s heavy on the kind of practical information any future expat is clamoring for: visas, housing, health care, shipping, telecom, transportation, and language. It’s written by Julie Doherty Meade, an American who spent nearly a decade living in Mexico and traveling around the country (she’s now in NYC).

Even though I lived in Mexico and own real estate there, I learned some things from this book I didn’t know for the next time around. It’s a thorough guide that does what any good moving abroad book should: answer the questions you do have and then answer the ones you hadn’t even thought of yet.

There’s a good array of history and cultural information that will help you understand how the country works, which is essential with a neighbor that’s so close, yet so different. Some will probably complain that the section on where to live leaves out a lot of great areas for expats, but look at a map of Mexico and you’ll understand why. This is a big country with 30-some states, not a small dot like Costa Rica or Belize. So naturally the million or so expatriates have spread out far and wide. She highlights where the majority of them are concentrated. Go there for more people like you, go elsewhere for fewer of them.

After all the info presented, there’s a good resources section at the end for more. This book comes in at 488 pages, including some photos, and it’s a great reference for both dreamers and doers. I’ll be pulling it out a few times before I move back and will definitely bring it down across the border for my Mexican home. Follow these links to buy it from Amazon U.S., Amazon Canada, or Amazon UK.

People’s Guide to Mexico

The first book listed here is objective, efficient, and to the point. The People’s Guide to Mexico, however, is none of that—and is far more fun to read as a result. I’ve said before that this is my favorite guidebook of all time and this new edition has only reinforced that view. This is a book so filled with a love for Mexico in all its quirks and annoyances that every page sparkles with enjoyable prose. It’s the only guidebook I can think of where I’ve read 50 pages in a stretch because I was enjoying it so much, not because I had any questions I needed answering or had nothing else to read on a bus.

The authors, who have lived and traveled in Mexico since the 1970s, don’t just give you dry facts about the 2nd-class bus system. They give you nuggets like this:

The only time I’ve driven a fast car in Mexico, I was passed by a second-class bus traveling at over 80 miles per hour. This wasn’t unusual, nor were the three young men on the rear bumper. The one reading a comic book, however, without holding on, seemed abnormally blasé.

You get opinionated, experience-filled lines like that over and over on pulque bars, roadside cantinas, haggling in vegetable markets, and finding a house to rent.

Carl Franz and Lorena Hayens put the first one of these out 35 years ago and if they had stopped along the way, we’d say, “They don’t write them like that anymore.” Thankfully we don’t have to because they didn’t stop. This is the 14th edition, with 768 pages of hard-learned lessons and the kind of insight you only get from someone who can speak fluent Spanish in a way that includes all the idioms and street slang unique to Mexico.

If you have any interest at all in spending real time in Mexico, living there or just getting away from the sheltering resort areas, spend some quality time with this gem of a book. Read it through and you’ll know more about the country than half the people in Ajijic. Get it at Amazon, Amazon Canada, or Amazon UK.