México 101: All of the essentials (that I can think of) for moving to this beautiful place.

VISA

Image result for mexico visa

• In the UK: You’ll need to organise this through the Mexican embassy (all information can be found online) and make a trip to London to bring all your documentation. There they will then take your passport and hold on to it for a few days to process all your documents and put a temporary student visa inside.

• On the flight: you will be handed a migration form so just follow the instructions and make sure you fill out the bottom part aswell (which is a repeat of the same information because one of them is your copy)

• Arrival in mexico city: in immigration just hand them the migration form and your passport, they will then give you back one part of it which you MUST KEEP SAFE and hand to UDLAP when required.

• In terms of getting your temporary residence card, udlap will then sort everything. In your induction you’ll be told at what point to bring your immigration form and then don’t worry about how close to the 30 day limit it appears, the student services will sort all the paperwork for you and even drive you to the embassy, just keep an eye on your student email for updates.

FLIGHTS

• Flying to mexico city is most likely much cheaper (and direct) than flying to the nearest airport, Puebla. You can then get a coach directly to Cholula (more on that in the transport section)

• Aeromexico (is usually the cheapest but skyscanner.com is a really good website to compare flights and is great for internal ones. (P.s. the baggage policy for Aeromexico is confusing but to make the most of it, take a big suitcase in the hold, but also a small one in the cabin as well as a backpack in the cabin).

MONEY

• The currency is mexican pesos (mxn) and for ease of conversion i always approximate $25 =£1, although obviously this may change

• I would recommend getting either a Monzo or Revolut card while you’re in the UK- they have lower charges for withdrawing cash then most major cards, and the apps are really useful for managing money or instantly seeing the conversion of what you’ve bought/ withdrawn. However, the fact is that for either of these cards you will go over your £200 limit/month of free withdrawals in another currency, however after that limit, the charges are not extortionate and I just consider it as a foreigners tax.

• Once you’re there: try to use BBVM and Santander cashpoints as they seem to charge the least to withdraw and you can also often select if you want to withdraw the pesos in terms of pounds from your account to avoid charges.

HOUSING

The majority of international students live in big shared houses. I would strongly recommend this as it’s super sociable, especially since houses are often linked, and its a great way to meet people from all over the world as well as Mexicans

If you choose to live in halls, you are much more likely to live with all Mexcian students (great for Spanish) however you will be subject to the strict rules such as in terms of having guests in your room, curfews, noise restrictions etc..

Good options for international houses include:

• Casa Roja: my home. Luis the landlord is super sweet amd the rent is really good value (i pay 3800 for a big double room en suite) you can enquire directly from their instagram (casaroja.housingcholula) page, and will most likely be speaking to someone living there currently who will then pass on the whatsapp of Luis.

• Casa Naranja: the landlord Ray is lots of fun and super friendly. He is also the boss of Cholula Capital, a student travel company, and runs a number of trips during the semester https://www.facebook.com/casanaranjahousing/

• Another housing company, which admittedly I am less familiar with, is ‘changapachanga’ and other houses such as casa condor, and casa olimpus, which can be found online. All residences thus far are part of an event called ‘Thirsty Thurs Preocupeo’: the houses take turns to host parties every Thursday which are really popular with international students and open to all students.

• Casa Real houses https://www.facebook.com/Casa-Real-587225684727415/: here you will find a number of houses run by the legendary Oswaldo, owner of a rival travel group, travels life. Most of these houses are all in a little community right by UDLAP. The Casas Reales also have their shares of events, ‘Peda Reales’: ticketed house parties with themed music rooms, organised every month or so, and of course which are free for residents to attend.

MOBILE/ INTERNET

I would recommend you buy a ‘Telcel’ pay as you go sim once you arrive (a quick search on google maps should show you where your nearest is, often inside corner shops – i would advise buying it once you reach Puebla as otherwise you will have a foreign state’s area code which may make it confusing for when you add Mexican contacts)

You can then choose how you want to top up your phone, and can do this in store but i find it much more convenient to do through this link: pqtmex.telcel.com. You can choose different packets including calls and texts if you wish, but i usually prefer to just pick the ‘internet amigo’ as almost all your communication in mexico will be through whatsapp (‘por whats’), and these packets also mostly include unlimited social medias -although beware this does not include online calls so i try and save these for wifi. I usually by the £300 of 3.5MB for 33 days top up and the internet usually lasts me, as long as i’m careful.

WATER

In short, don’t drink it – from the tap. I’ve had absolutely no problems using it to brush my teeth, wash dishes, and for hot drinks or cooking food when fully boiled. For your drinking water, you’ll be buying large tanks of water. If you have a shop super close, as in Casa Roja where we have one downstairs, you can just go and get it as and when. Otherwise, it’s about equal price (35 pesos) to organise a drop off, whereby within a 2 hour selected time frame they will carry the water right to your room. You’ll also want to buy a pump (from Walmart or Bodega) to put in the top because pouring straight from that full bottle is nigh impossible. Whatever form you buy it, make sure to save your empty plastic tank and swap it for your new one with a big discount. You’ll be saving money and the planet.

TRAVEL

Coaches: for long distances, i.e. from the airport at cdmx to cholula, i would recommend Estrella Roja or ADO coaches. You can book both of them from your phone or at the desks in airports and bus stations and they will take you safely and comfortably. The only issue mind is that they have a great habit of not shouting out the stops, so its good to keep an eye on google maps if you’re not sure, or as we did in on our coach from the airport to cholula, get off when you realise you’re the only ones still sat on the coach.

Taxis: i would highly recommend uber. It’a super cheap, you have an online trace of where you are and is really convenient. However, as with any countries, you hear one or two stories of people having strange drivers, so best not to travel alone if it can be avoided (although i have always felt super comfortable when alone in ubers here). Didi is a Chinese version of uber which often works out cheaper but requires you to pay in cash, and is useful for areas such as Yucatan (i.e. cancun) where they don’t have uber. Avoid hailing taxis on the street, as a foreigner you will most likely be ripped off and its less secure. If you have to take a taxi from the street, in mexico city only take the official pink taxis, and in other areas try and book a taxi from inside a bus or coach station where you can prepay.

Blahblah: this is an app for sharing a person’s car who is already taking the journey you wish to make. I have had a good experience with it so far, and the driver has to present valid documentation. You can also personalise your profile to include things such as whether you’re comfortable with pets or how talkative you are during journeys – although it appears that our ‘rarely speak’ election was largely ignored by our very talkative driver.

Hire cars: can be very convenient and cost effective when travelling with a group. Just keep in mind that there will be additional charges per day for any driver under 25, and also that the deposit is required on the credit card of a driver, although we have found on one occasion that Monzo, although a debit card, has worked for this purpose.

BUYING THE ESSENTIALS

For fruit and veg there are lots of independent fruterias where you pay based on weight. Then most other essentials bread, milk, simple toiletries etc can be found in little independent corner shops or in oxxo and superroler (small chain stores). For everything and anything else there’s always a walmart, bodega or a soriana not too far away.

Cholula: a new chapter

To begin, a few photos of the place I can now call home: Cholula. It is truly a beautiful place to live. On every turn there is street-art, brightly coloured buildings and taquerias. However; don’t be fooled by the weather in the photos. It’ll be cool when you wake up, boiling by midday, ominously cloudy late afternoon, stormy in the evening and then the skies may clear by the time you go to bed. What to wear: everything.

Casa Roja: My new home

1. The terrace at night. 2. My 14 housemates and I with our landlord, Luis, at his birthday meal.

I am living in a 15- person student house about a half hour walk from uni, and I am so lucky to have such a big ‘mexican’ family here. Although we are actually very international: French, German, Mexican, English and Spanish, so communication can sometimes be a challenge. But it’s nothing that a bit of translating, googling or if it comes to it, mime, can’t solve. We’ve already been on a trip away together to Oaxaca, as we’d had a whole 3 days of uni so we definitely needed a holiday…

1. Hierve el Agua (boiling water). 2. A bumpy ride down from the former

A few bumps in the road:

As expected, I experienced some anxiety and homesickness coming up to and during the first few days of living here. Although you could feel very overwhelmed in the first couple of days, it helps to remind yourself that you will settle in, in time, and that everyone feels the same way.

An emotional goodbye: I promise that my parents weren’t actually that pleased to be rid of me for the year.

Despite now feeling very settled and content with my life here, I have had other small hurdles to overcome also. Firstly, it takes a few days to not jump out of your skin every time cannons are fired from the churches on the hilltops the multiple times at any hour day or night. But soon that just becomes part of the soundscape of life here, along with the barking of stray dogs and the ‘do you want the gas’ song. Moreover, the fixtures in my bathroom have had to be repaired 4 times. Luckily my landlord has been really prompt, responding instantly and getting my fixtures fixed the same day on every occasion: we love Luis. Also, on our trip to Oaxaca, the bottled water provided in our AirBnB turned out to be contaminated with mosquito larvae, meaning we then had to take medication. But at least I’m trying new things…

There are also some cultural differences to be aware of, for instance tipping in restaurants and toilets seems to be the norm here, student or not. Moreover, I would advise any Spain-Spanish speakers coming to Mexico to look up some of the words and phrases that aren’t the same here, for instance if you ask someone if you could have intimate relations with the bus it might raise a few eyebrows (‘coger’ does not mean ‘to take’ here..).

Overall, I’ve loved my time here so far and am really excited for the year ahead.