Expats FAQ in Mexico

Bank

Q: What documents are required for expats to open a bank account in Mexico?

A: Expats have to present an FM2 or FM3 visa, a valid ID and proof of local address. An initial deposit is usually required, as well as two references who can vouch for them financially.

Q: Can expats open a dollar bank account in Mexico?

A: Only US and Canadian citizens are allowed to open a US dollar account in Mexico. Other nationalities are not, but they can access their overseas accounts through local ATMs.

Q: Are there banks with English-speaking staff in Mexico?

A: Many tellers do speak English, but it's always best to have all Spanish documents translated. Overconfidence can be a liability.

Business

Q: Is it easy to set up a business in Mexico in terms of government policies and requirements?

A: It depends on the business and whether or not the sector is doing well for the Mexican economy. Generally though, Mexico is the 53rd (out of 189) most efficient country in the world in terms of resolving insolvency as well as processing construction permits. This is according to the World Bank Ease of Doing Survey for 2014.

Q: Should expats hire an accountant when doing business in Mexico?

A: Absolutely. Hiring an accountant when doing business in Mexico is essential for any expat mainly because the government imposes different rules of documentation for foreigners, and there are extra forms that have to be filled out. Not to mention that immigration laws affecting documentation requirements change every year.

Q: What types of businesses do expats usually have in Mexico?

A: Expats can open practically any business in Mexico, but most of them cater to other expats to help them cut through the red tape of relocation. These include service-oriented trades like providing assistance for securing/renewing visas, buying properties, managing properties (for absentee owners), and tax advice.

Children

Q: What are some of the best attractions in Mexico for kids?

A: Mexico has a lot to offer kids - expats, tourists or locals - but one of the best standouts is the Chapultepec Park or more commonly called the "Bosque de Chapultepec." It is the biggest city park in Latin America and one of the biggest around the globe. Chapultepec is located in Mexico City and features the Mexico City Zoo, the marine life park known as Atlantis, the La Feria amusement park and the Museum of Anthropology. Kids who like to combine enjoyment with learning will never forget a day in this amazing compound.

Q: What are some popular after-school activities for children in Mexico?

A: After school, most children in Mexico are either attending sports (soccer especially), music (guitar and violin are the most popular instruments learned) or dance lessons. Tutoring in English, math or science is also part of many kids' after-school routines.

Q: Are there kid summer camps in Mexico and what are they like?

A: Yes, and they are plenty. Highlights of summer camps in Mexico include ecotourism activities, beach adventures, hiking, release of turtles and even encounters with the indigenous Mexican tribes in cities like Aguascalientes, San Luis Potosi, Veracruz and Queretaro. Mexican kids are as much into summer camps as Western kids.

Cost of living

Q: Is it expensive to live in a house by the beach in Mexico?

A: The usually surprising answer is no. That's why more and more foreigners have been retiring in these areas of Mexico in recent years. There are very attractive property values in coastal areas close to resort towns, not to mention the excellent lifestyle. These properties are less expensive than similar-sized counterparts in city centers.

Q: How much is a typical restaurant bill in Mexico?

A: For an average three-course meal, the bill will probably be around 250 MXN per head - add a bottle of wine for around 380 MXN total. Of course, this can also depend on where the restaurant is located. Mexico City and Guadalajara seem to be the most expensive places in terms of fine dining.

Q: How much does an apartment cost in Mexico?

A: Monthly rent in Mexico is around MXN 7,000 for a two-bedroom property within the city center. Outside, it's usually around MXN 5,000 or less. Properties along the coast are more expensive than non-coastal properties in rural areas but still expensive than similar properties in central areas.

Health

Q: How easy is it to buy medicines in Mexico?

A: Very easy. There are many pharmacies all over Mexico and access to medicines is never a problem, especially in terms of cost. In fact, many Americans travel to this part of the world to buy cheap yet quality prescription medications. Since healthcare standards in Mexico are comparable to those of the US, Americans also come to seek cheaper medical services.

Q: Do Mexican hospitals honor international health insurance?

A: Some private hospitals in Mexico don't accept international health insurance, which means expats will have to pay for their medical treatments out-of-pocket, at least initially. However, these hospitals are always willing to provide documentation when expats file for reimbursement from their insurance companies.

Q: Do doctors in Mexico speak English?

A: Since a lot of Mexican doctors studied or trained in the US or Europe, they are usually fluent in English. However, expats should not think it's the same case with nurses.

Housing

Q: Are Mexican landlords easy to deal with?

A: Not all the time, especially considering the language barrier. Landlords in this country are known to take advantage of foreigners who don't speak Spanish, so it's important for expats to bright along a trusted Spanish friend to act as interpreter. Note that even dealings with real estate agents, along with all property-related documents, are in Spanish. Expats should have all contracts translated before signing any.

Q: What are the requirements for renting apartments in Mexico?

A: Aside from the usual documents, such as reference letters and proof of employment, landlords usually demand a guarantor supervise the signing of any rental documents. This guarantor should be a Mexican citizen and a property owner who agrees to be financially liable for damages to the property caused by the tenant.

Q: Are there month-to-month lease agreements in Mexico?

A: Most lease agreements in Mexico are signed on an annual basis, but there are less fussy arrangements for monthly rentals, usually in touristy areas of the country.

Leisure

Q: What are some unique Mexican dining customs?

A: There's nothing all that unique about Mexican dining that most of the world doesn't know of yet. But expats eating in restaurants in Mexico should be prepared to hear a lot of "provecho’s" from locals. This means "enjoy your meal," and even strangers say this as they leave the restaurant. This is a very common friendly gesture among Mexicans, and expats should respond by saying, "gracias."

Q: Does Mexico have any great spots for scuba diving?

A: Yes, it does. The country's surrounding seas are great diving spots with an abundance of marine life, including the second biggest coral reef in the world, the Great Maya Barrier Reef, and other reefs. Not to mention perfect visibility. Aside from diving, Mexico's waters are also a hit with sports fishermen, snorkelers and practically all other marine sports aficionados.

Q: Where are the best tequilas in Mexico?

A: When it comes to tequilas, the province of Jalisco is number one on everyone's list in Mexico. What's great is that Jalisco is not just about tequilas, but also mariachis and tortas ahogadas. Combining these three is usually a perfect recipe for a night to remember.

Looking for a job

Q: What types of jobs are available for expats in Mexico?

A: Because of the lower costs of labor and manufacturing processes in Mexico, a lot of US-based companies have relocated here. These businesses usually hire top-level employees from overseas, especially manufacturing plant and IT managers. English teachers with TEFL certification also make up a good chunk of the country’s workforce, along with tourism and hospitality workers.

Q: Which parts of Mexico are in need of English teachers?

A: There could be jobs for English teachers practically everywhere in Mexico, but the biggest concentration of potential employers is found in Mexico City and Guadalajara.

Q: How long is a typical workday in Mexico?

A: People in Mexico are usually at work from 8am to 6pm, with a two-hour "siesta" from 2-4pm, Mondays thru Fridays. Only tourism offices are open on Saturdays.

Money

Q: When is an expat considered a resident of Mexico for tax purposes?

A: Taxes for expats in Mexico are determined mainly by whether or not they are residents or non-residents. Residents pay taxes on their international income, but non-residents are taxed only for their income derived locally. Under Mexican tax laws, expats are considered residents if their primary residence is in Mexico. However, this doesn't mean they do not need to pay taxes in their home countries unless they have existing tax agreements with the Mexican government covering the issue of double taxation.

Q: What are the requirements for expats applying for a Mexican credit card?

A: Mexican credit cards tend to charge high interest rates, around 30-40%. To apply, expats should have an existing Mexican bank account and proof of good credit history. Otherwise, a deposit may be made to secure credit card payments.

Q: What's the official currency of Mexico?

A: Mexico's official currency is the Mexican Peso or just the peso, for which the ISO's code is MXN. A peso is divisible into 100 centavos.

Moving

Q: What is the predominant religion in Mexico?

A: Mexicans are generally tolerant of any religion and it's not surprising for them to have more than one church affiliation. Nonetheless, Catholicism remains to be the most widely practiced as shown by the number of fiestas, nativity scenes and other Catholic-inspired events, artworks and special occasions patronized by locals.

Q: What is the Mexicans’ attitude towards time?

A: With Mexicans' laidback lifestyle, it's not surprising for them to be overly lax when it comes to time (which can be infuriating for some expats). Locals are usually late for appointments (though it's no big deal for them) and errands can take forever to complete. Sticking to a strict schedule is also quite difficult to expect from a local.

Q: How is the weather in Mexico?

A: Mexico generally has a warm temperate climate, but in places with higher altitudes (for example, Mexico City), temperatures can swing from extremely hot at daytime to chilly at nighttime. Expats who are moving to these high-altitude areas should not be surprised to experience shortness of breath for a while until they get used to the change in pressure. Tropical storms, which usually come with very heavy rains, are expected from August to September. Showers are common around the country from June to November, while the rest of year is mostly dry.

Pets

Q: Is there a limit on the number of pets expats can bring with them to Mexico?

A: Yes. People can only enter with up to two pets (dogs or cats). Those who are traveling to Mexico with more animals should get in touch with the Mexican consulate or embassy for instructions.

Q: What are the documents required for taking a pet to Mexico?

A: Required documents include a certificate of good health issued by a vet no earlier than ten days before arrival, and proof of rabies and distemper vaccines given no earlier than 15 days before arrival. Sometimes, Mexican authorities do not ask for these documents, but sometimes they do. It's best to be prepared.

Q: Does Mexico accept any other pet microchip ID standard aside from ISO?

A: Mexico also presently accepts microchips that comply with AVID 9 and AVID 10 standards, provided they are implanted prior to rabies vaccination.

Schools

Q: When does an academic year begin and end in Mexico?

A: For elementary and secondary schools, the academic year begins in September and ends in June. For higher institutions, the timing of an academic year varies. For example, universities offer courses that may run an entire year, while most other institutions have begun to use a semester system.

Q: What academic options await students who have graduated from secondary schools in Mexico?

A: After completing secondary education, students in Mexico have the option to further their studies for three more years in upper-secondary education. There are three paths to consider - general upper secondary, technical professional education and technological upper-secondary. There are different post-secondary schools in Mexico, including universities (offering four to five-year courses), which are called licenciatura, technical institutes (offering three-year engineering and management programmes), teacher-training colleges, and technological universities.

Q: Is the standard of private schools good enough for expats in Mexico?

A: It depends on the school. A good way of checking the standard of private schools in Mexico is by checking with the Ministry of Public Education (SEP), whether or not a prospective school is accredited. It's also a good idea to visit the school, talk to some teachers, and take a look at the curriculum to assess suitability. Expats who intend to send their kids to university later on should ensure that the Mexican school they choose has international accreditation.

Shopping

Q: What are considered high fashion districts in Mexico?

A: Mexico's high fashion districts are all found in Mexico City, including Polanco, Santa Fe, Condesa and Alta Vista. These are where people come to shop for international high fashion brands which are usually imported from the US or Europe.

Q: How are the food markets in Mexico?

A: They're great and practically everywhere in Mexico. The Central de Abastos in Mexico City's Iztapalapa area is the most popular food market in the country, and it also happens to be among the biggest in the world. It's where all of Mexico's top chefs to go to buy their fresh produce. Local shops normally get their stocks there too.

Q: What time do stores open and close in Mexico?

A: It really depends. Generally, the bigger stores are open from 9am to 8pm, including Sundays. Supermarkets and hypermarkets are usually open seven days a week, and some even for 24 hours a day, depending on the location. During Christmas, all supermarkets are open round the clock. Local shops, however, tend to open earlier - around 7am - and close a bit later than the big chains, but they're closed on Sundays, except in the big towns or cities.

Telecommunications

Q: Which Mexican telecom company offers bundled services?

A: Telmex offers bundled services all over the country, including landline, Internet, and cable; Telum and Axtel only do so in certain states or areas.

Q: Is there 3G coverage in Mexico?

A: Yes, there is. To get access, one needs a subscription along with a special access card that is plugged into a port on the computer. Expats who have a 3G plan with a network provider from back home can access a Mexican 3G network, if the overseas provider has an existing agreement with the local one. Note that roaming fees can be very high though.

Q: What are these "prodigy Wi-Fi hot spots" in Mexico and how can people access them?

A: Prodigy is actually a brand of Wi-Fi hotspots provided by Telmex, and is very popular all across Mexico. Telmex' ADSL subscribers can use these hotspots without cost, but those who aren't have to pay for access. As an alternative, eGo also provides Wi-Fi services for a subscription fee.

Transport

Q: How do motorists get roadside assistance in Mexico?

A: They call 078 for the Angeles Verdes (Green Angels) which go around town in green trucks offering services for free. Motorists do have to pay for gas and any replacement parts when needed.

Q: Are expats allowed to use an overseas-issued license when driving in Mexico?

A: Yes, they can use their old licenses in Mexico, but it's recommended they get an International Driver's Permit so it could be translated to Spanish. This permit should be obtained not later than six months after arriving in the country. Both the international permit and the old driving license are required for expats to be able to drive legally.

Q: Which transport option is the best for intercity travel in Mexico?

A: Mexico's regional train system is limited so most people use rail for intercity travel in Mexico. There are also lots of airports all around the country so air travel is perfect for long distances. The good news is there are many low-cost local airlines to choose from.

Travel

Q: Is it safe to hail a cab on the street in Mexico?

A: Not all the time. Look for Taxi Autorizados (official taxis) which are usually found in airports and bus stations. These are safe. Otherwise, it's best to ask the hotel staff to call a cab.

Q: When is the best time to travel to Mexico in terms of cost?

A: The off-season in Mexico is between late April and early December. This is the best time to get bargains on airfare, hotel rates and even food.

Q: What is one very useful safety tip for travelers in Mexico?

A: In Mexico, looking like a traveler can be a liability. Don't stand in the middle of the street looking at a map. Ask directions only from people at the hotel or other diners in a restaurant. If the directions are too long to memorize, write them down on a small piece of paper - anything that won't give others a clue. Female travelers should keep walking when men call out on the street. Eye contact should also be avoided as this could be viewed as an invitation.

Visa

Q: Which nationalities may enter Mexico without a visa?

A: In terms of who can and cannot enter Mexico without a visa, expats are divided into two groups based on nationality. The "free nationalities" are those who come from the US, Canada, UK, Japan, and any country within the Schengen area. These people can enter the country without a visa though they have to fill in a form to stay in the country for a maximum of 180 days. All other nationalities are required to get a visa.

Q: Which visa is meant for foreigners who plan to work and live in Mexico with their families?

A: The FM3 visa allows expats to remain in Mexico for a year and keep reapplying for annual extensions. Most expats who have relocated in the country with their families have this visa, which is created for foreign nationals who do not have plans of staying permanently in the country.

Q: What are the legal requirements for expats who want to marry a Mexican citizen in Mexico?

A: A marriage license must be obtained from the Mexican Immigration office at least one month ahead. Note that any wedding should first be held at the Mexican civil registry before elsewhere, unless it is a church wedding.