Moving to Mexico: A 10-step guide
Mexico is a great place to live and work, with its rich history and culture and its beautiful landscapes. It is a popular destination not only for travellers and tourists but also for people looking to settle there permanently. There are several different types of visa you could apply for, depending on where you are from. This step – by – step guide will provide you with all the information you need from arriving at your destination to getting your first job.
Step 1: Research the country and your visa options
Our short introduction to Mexico (LINK) has a lot of information about everything from the weather and the different regions to the culture and the food. If all that makes you want to go, then carry on reading!
The very first thing you need to research is the visa requirements for your country and which type of visa best suits your needs. In Mexico some countries may not need a temporary visa for a shorter shay of up to 180 days, while others may need either a visa from Mexico or to hold a permanent visa from one of the countries that do not require a visa. To find out which Mexican visa is right for you use this (http://www.inm.gob.mx/index.php/page/Paises_Visa/en.html) informative website or the Mexican Embassy website for your country.
Please be aware that while you may not require a tourist visa for Mexico you will need a working visa if you plan to do any type of work there, including voluntary work, and only the Mexican Embassy in your country can grant you a visa. For more information on the visa requirements for Mexico you can have a look at these official websites.
Step 2: Find Accommodation
Whatever your destination or budget is in Mexico, Room in the Moon can help you find a place to live. Please visit our room listings on the website (LINK: link to accommodation page when it’s up) to find the perfect place for you to stay. Once you have found a place for you to stay and you have an address you can use it to organise steps 3, 4 and 5.
Step 3: Get Moving
Now that you have a place to stay, it’s time to explore! It is best if you plan your trip beforehand or decide which city you want to settle in and fly straight there. You can find out more about each city with our city guides (LINK: link to city guides on regional pages).
Travel between Cities:
While getting into Mexico might require several stops and multiple checks at immigration and customs points, travelling in the country is relatively easy. The most practical ways of travelling between cities in Mexico are by bus, plane or car as the rail system is not very big.
Flights: If you are travelling a long distance between different regions flying is often the quickest way to travel. Mexico’s main hub is Mexico City from where you can get connecting flights to other parts of the country. Due to the recent recession flight prices have gone up considerably from what they were before, however if you plan your trip in advance you can still find cheap flights. It is worthwhile to compare prices from different providers and check that they fly to the region you want to go to.
Domestic flights are served by a wide range of different carriers which include:
The Main full-service airlines:
- Aeromar (http://www.aeromar.com.mx/)
- AeroMexico (http://www.aeromexico.uk.com/)
- Magnicharters (http://www.magnicharters.com/)
- Interjet (http://www.interjet.com.mx/home.aspx?Culture=es-MX&Currency=MXN)
- Volaris (http://volaris.com/)
- VivaAerobus (https://www.vivaaerobus.com/)
Coach: Depending on the distance you intend to travel a bus might be a cheaper alternative to flying. Local bus companies will usually stop at many stations along the route, however, you can always ask if there is a direct (directo) service. As Mexico is a big country coach companies cover specific areas instead of providing nationwide service. Be aware that prices vary from day to day and weekends and holidays are always more expensive, so search around for the best price.
The service can also vary a lot, from a bus with a bed (cama), one with reclining seats (semi-cama), or slightly reclining seats (ejecutivo). Toilets are not always available and not always working, especially by the end of the journey.
The main Coach lines include:
- ETN – Enlaces Terrestres Nacionales (http://www.etn.com.mx/), serving central and northern Mexico
- Estrella de Oro (http://www.estrelladeoro.com.mx/), connecting Mexico City with the Pacific coast (Ixtapa, Acapulco) and also Cuernavaca and Taxco
- Omnibuses de Mexico (http://www.odm.com.mx/), serving northern and central Mexico
- ADO (http://www.ticketbus.com.mx/wtbkd/index.jsp), serving central and southern Mexico
Cars: Be aware that all traffic signs are in Spanish and their shapes and colours can be very different from Western standards, therefore, it may be worthwhile to take the driving test when you get there to be sure.
The best roads are usually toll roads and they can be relatively costly (400-800 pesos for longer trips) but they are also much faster and better maintained. It is also highly recommended to get Mexican auto insurance as even a minor accident could mean jail if you do not have one. it is also important to be cautious when driving at night in more rural areas as cattle or other animals can appear on the road unexpectedly.
Car Rentals are widely available in the bigger cities and at airports. Some of the biggest car rental companies in Mexico are:
- Sixt rent a car (http://www.sixt.com/car-rental/mexico)
- Avis (http://www.avis.mx/)
- Hertz (http://www.avasa.com.mx/html/index.htm)
Travel within cities:
It is always a good idea to take some time and explore your city so that you can familiarise yourself with the surroundings. Visiting landmarks can not only help you learn your way around but also make you feel less like a tourist.
Every city in Mexico has its own travel network. The one in Mexico City is probably the most developed and has a wider range of transport options. To find out more about the travel systems in a particular city, check out our city guides.
Step 4: National Insurance and what you need to Work
The Mexican equivalent of an identity card is the CURP (Clave Única de Registro de Población), and while it is not mandatory it is necessary for almost all official documents. It is an 18 character identification key that can be printed on a card the size of a bank card.
This identification code will be necessary for everything from tax fillings and passport applications to applying for a job and getting health insurance.
To be issued a CURP you must provide a birth certificate as proof of the details you provide on the application form. Foreigners must also produce a certificate of legal residence in Mexico. You can apply for a CURP at CURP government offices or the Civil Registry.
Step 5: Look after your Health
In general, health care in Mexico is very good and in many places it is excellent. Most doctors and dentists in Mexico have also received part of their training in the United States or Europe. Furthermore, every large city in the country has at least one first-rate hospital.
While you have to pay for your healthcare, it is considerably less expensive than in other countries with a similar health care system. Of course prices may vary according to different doctors or hospitals, including specialists, however, an average visit to a doctor can cost around 350 to 500 pesos. In Mexico doctors also make house calls which cost about the same as a normal visit to a doctor’s office.
Mexico also provides universal health care which is available to everyone, though you might be required to pay for health insurance. The amount that you are covered for depends on your payment plan.
Step 6: Money and Utilities
It is always an exciting experience when you move to a new place, seeing all the sights and learning about the culture, however, there are some important things you need to know so that you can organise your stay in Mexico. Here is Room in the Moon’s quick guide to help you with all the less interesting parts of your stay like utilities….
Mexico’s currency is the Mexican peso (MXN), however the common symbol used for it is the $ sign. Coins currently in circulation come in 5, 10, 20 and 50 centavos and 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 pesos ($). However, the 20, 50 and 100 pesos coins are not widely used anymore as users prefer the banknotes instead. It is also popular for vendors to round up to the nearest 50 centavos. The bank notes come in 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000 pesos. Use this live currency converter (http://www.xe.com) to compare the Mexican peso to your own currency.
Mexico is one of the world’s largest economies and while it was significantly affected by the recent economic crisis, it has seen gradual improvement since. The standard of living there is cheaper than the one in Europe or the United States, but certain things are still expensive in contrast to the average income. You can find a general guide to living costs in Mexico on this website (http://www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org/countries/mexico/).
you will need to set up a Mexican bank account in order to be able to work and pay your utilities. The leading banks in Mexico include:
- Banco de Mexico (Banxico) – the central bank of Mexico (http://www.banxico.org.mx/)
- Banamex (http://www.banamex.com/)
- Banco Azteca (http://www.bancoazteca.com.mx)
- Banco Comportamos (http://www.compartamos.com.mx/wps/portal/Banco/Inicio)
- HSBC Mexico (http://www.hsbc.com.mx/1/2/en/investor-relations/investor)
Some banks may charge a monthly rate for using your account, so it is best to look around carefully for the best offer.
To set up an account you just need to visit your nearest high street branch during opening hours (8:30AM to 4PM). You will need proof of your address (for example your contract with a landlord) and proof of your identity such as your passport or ID card (Step 4). Some banks may require more so you need to check in advance.
Getting a working Mexican mobile phone number is essential when looking for work and for your social life in general. Many employers will contact you by phone after an interview or application process. You can either get a cheap handset with a pay-as-you-go SIM card, but you can also get a very affordable deal with most mobile network providers that will give you more texts, minutes and data.
The main mobile phone companies in Mexico are:
- Telmex (http://www.telmex.com/web/hogar/)
- Movistar (http://www.movistar.com.mx/)
- Telcel (http://www.telcel.com/portal/home.do)
Each of these companies provides for a major share of Mexico’s population, but there are other service providers as well.
If you are a student in Mexico you can apply for one of these international student cards that offer discounts at a wide range of places:
If you are studying at a local university you might also be eligible for various discounts you’re your university card so it is worth finding out.
Wherever you have chosen to live, you will have to pay for your utilities. The main bills you will have to pay are for the electricity, gas, water and internet. Sometimes, depending on your landlord, your rent will include all of your utilities in the price, sometimes it might include some of them and your landlord will pay them for you and other times you will have to pay for them yourself so make sure to check this before you move in.
Electricity and gas: In most cases you will pay for these utilities with the same provider, at the same time. They run the appliances in your house, such as air conditioning (which you will use almost all year round in most parts of Mexico so make sure you consider it in your budget!), your boiler, etc. You can find out how much electricity and gas you are using by checking your meters, which your landlord can show you when you move in. It is important that you monitor your gas and electricity consumption because it determines the tariff that you pay. If you exceed 850 kWh of electricity per month your bill will triple as various charges are added and the usual government subsidy will also not apply, make sure you are on a “1C” tarifa and not a “DAC” tarifa.
Water: You will also be charged for the water you use, which is also measured by a meter.
Internet: There is an ever growing demand for broadband internet in Mexico and various companies have started to provide it even though connection speeds are still not as good as in western countries. The main service provider is Telmex, however Terra, Maxcom and Alestra also provide internet packages. Other companies such as Cablevisión Digital offer packages that include TV, Telephone and Internet services so it is a good idea to shop around for the best offer. These bills will also be paid monthly.
Step 7: Buy some supplies
Once you have found a place to live and have moved in, you will probably also be very hungry! Here is where you can buy yourself some food….
While it is usually cheaper and better to buy fruit and vegetables from a street farmer’s market, other groceries are best bought in supermarkets. While national brands and products are relatively cheap, products imported from other countries will always cost more. Depending on the size of the city, big supermarkets and shopping malls are usually open extended hours from 11am to 8pm or 9pm seven days a week and during the Christmas period some stay open 24 hours a day to cope with the additional demand. There are many different supermarket chains in Mexico which are widely spread. Some of the biggest ones include Wal-Mart, Comercial Mexicana and Soriana.
Local markets are usually the cheapest place to buy fresh fruit and vegetables in Mexico. Most markets open around 10am and start to pack their stalls around 4pm and it is best to arrive early for the best selection. Some markets might stay open later but they will be those who sell more durable goods and already prepared food.
Step 8: Entertainment
In most parts of Mexico the sun is very strong so it is very important to protect your skin. Sun care is widely available in any supermarket or pharmacy in Mexico.
If you want to relax at home, Mexico has a wide variety of TV channels to choose from. The main TV networks are Televisa (channels 2, 4, 5 and 9) and TV Azteca (channels 7 and 13). There are also some government run channels as well that provide more cultural content. Sky also provides a prepaid service and is also the only satellite TV service in Mexico. You can find more information on Mexican TV channels here (http://wwitv.com/television/136.htm).
Mexican radio offers a wide range of programmes from news and talk shows to all types of music both in English and Spanish. The main radio stations include Radio Centro, Radio Acir, Radio Formula and Televisa Radio.
Also, with a Smartphone app like TuneIn Radio (www.tunein.com) you can listen to stations from all over the world, so you can listen to your favourite station wherever you are!
Step 9: Register for Language classes
If you are not already a Spanish-speaker it is a good idea to start learning the language as not everyone can speak English in Mexico. It will also be essential if you are planning to work or study there and will help you to integrate into the culture much more easily. The amount of places that provide Spanish lessons can be daunting, but when choosing which one is best suited for your needs you should consider those that also include an immersion programme which teaches you about Mexico’s culture as well as learning the language itself. Two examples of courses like this are Solexico Language and Cultural Centres (http://www.solexico.com) and Language Studies International (http://www.lsi.edu/en/spanish/mexico/country).
While it is essential for you to learn Spanish while living and working in Mexico, your additional language skills will also be very useful in finding yourself a job.
Step 10: Find yourself a job
Congratulations! If you have completed this list you have everything you need to start looking for a job in Mexico.
The current economic conditions in the country mean that it is a difficult job to find work in Mexico as there are thousands of foreigners coming into the country to seek work at all levels of the job market. Your qualifications and any language skills will be a plus in securing yourself a job. Big corporations like Televisa would often hire professionals whose first language is English as they do a lot of business with North American companies. Teaching English is another option and while salaries are generally low, native English speakers are sought after as this will force the students to learn the language.
However to be able to do any type of work in Mexico it is essential for you to obtain a work visa first, it is therefore best to research you job opportunities before you make the final move. Once you have a job and a work visa you can begin the whole process!