What an adventure! I’m gonna live in Mexico for over half a year! But as soon as I finally started to get it, I already thought about all the things that needed to be done before I start a new part of my life so far away from my home country. To help you organize a trip to a far away country, no matter for how long, I gathered a few tips and personal experiences here to either prevent you from the mistakes I made or to help you get settled once you’re there!
When it comes to vaccinations I guess everyone has to decide on their own whether they wanna do it or not. As long as there are no mandatory vaccinations (which there aren’t in Mexico) you are free to choose. I know that vaccinations don’t pass quietly through the body and they are influincing it but however I always think that a vaccination can save a life, so I like to be on the safe side. Me personally I got almost all the vaccinations: rabies, hepatitis A and B, typhoid and meningococci and I got tetanus and diphteria refreshed. I also bought a cholera vaccination that you can take at home ’cause it’s something you have to drink, but in the end I decided against it as cholera is not really a thing in Mexico and I didn’t want my stomach to go through this if it’s not necessary. And last, I got a malaria standby medication so in case I’d feel the first symptoms of it, it works like an antidote. Be aware of the fact that it might cost you a lot if your health insurance doesn’t pay everything (which was the case with mine). However, as this was the first time I’m going abroad that far away and in a different climate zone, I felt safer taking them even though some of them might not have been super necessary (which I know now).
Update: after having lived in and travelled through Mexico for quite some time, I would actually say that despite the standard vaccinations you get in Germany, nothing more would have been really necessary.
You never know if you’re lucky with the person putting a stamp in your passport or not, so I recommend to really read all the information about visas when you’re going abroad and what conditions you have to fulfill (for Germans, go check the advice given by the Auswärtigen Amt). As a German citizen you are only allowed to stay 180 days in Mexico as a tourist and you have to prove that you’re flying back or somewhere else. In my case it was hard to decide whether I’m a tourist or not because technically you can make an (unpaid) internship when your employer is based in Germany. That would be my university but on the other hand I’m having a direct contract with the theater I’m working in and they’re Mexican. Alright, no problem, Jess, just call the embassy and ask them. Said, done, nobody’s picking up, only voice mail. Alright, no problem, Jess, leave a message. Five minutes later someone’s calling back and when I explained the situation to him, all he said was: „Just don’t mention the internship and say that you’re travelling.“ Well. Okay! Said, done. I had a reservation for a hostel in Belize just in case they wanted a prove of my travel but the lady on the counter just asked me where I wanna travel to and then gave me my 180 days. Whoop!
Flights and Accomodation
When travelling to Mexico I wouldn’t recommend you to look for flights from exactly this ariport to exactly that airport unless you want to spend a fortune. When I was looking for flights from Berlin to Xalapa, I found prices from 1.800€ upwards. One way. However from Cologne to Cancún you pay around 450€ per flight. A lot cheaper! That’s why I’d always look for flights on websites that compare prices and let you insert a country rather than just a city (e.g. Skyscanner). Plus the busses in Mexico work incredibly well! When I got off my flight from Cancún to Veracruz, I could buy a ticket for an ADO bus directly on the airport and the bus left just in front of it. They have an online webpage on which you find the dates, places and time where the busses are leaving and going to and technically you can also buy tickets online. It didn’t quite work when I tried it because they need some information that I didn’t have, for example a Mexican phone number. This is why you can either book it via the ADO app or directly in Mexico on an ADO cash desk.
As I didn’t know anything about Xalapa’s infrastructure and its places, I decided to stay in a place for one and a half month and then have a look myself where best to stay. I looked for a place very near the theatre I’m working in and found one on AirBnB. Once I arrived, I started looking for flats and found some webpages that offered rooms (see links down below). I know found a super nice room directly in the center and even though I really enjoy being with my current flatmates, I am happy that I found something so fast. By the way it’s also pretty common to hang up signs in front of a house saying „Renting Room. Information contact this number …“ Yes, little information but when you got time I’d say go for it and give it a try. Maybe you’ll find something inexpectably great!
When I went to Madrid for my Erasmus semester, I got there with two suitcases and came back with three. I didn’t want that for my Mexico trip. So I already sorted out a lot of things from my room, e.g. clothes, books, random stuff, decoration and also furniture. I wanted to take as less as possible with me. Check out my post about Giving away your Belongings to see where I got rid of all the stuff I didn’t need anymore. I finally reduced everything to one suitcase and one backpack but I must admit I packed not entirely perfect. For my time on the Riviera Maya it was great because it was hot and sunny all the time and I brought a lot of clothes suiting that weather. However I didn’t expect that Xalapa would be that different. One hint: trust Mexican people when they tell you something about the weather in their country. When I was thinking „Come on, it’s Mexico, how cold can it be?!“ I definitely underestimated the pouring rain that’s flooding this city almost everyday and the thunder that appears to be directly above you. So be prepared for your travel and check the climate and daily weather in advance and yes, maybe even take a jacket with you when you’re going to Xalapa. (I know, Grandma, I learnt my lesson …)