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Oaxaca, Mexico Pre-Departure Handbook

Your Country Handbook is your key to preparing for your program and understanding what to expect onsite. This tool is a result of constant feedback from student and parent evaluations as well as from the onsite directors who review these each year.

INTRODUCTION

Greetings from Sol Education Abroad,

You are about to embark on a life-changing experience. While abroad you will cultivate relationships and memories that will last a lifetime. Our mission is to provide you with an enriching and rewarding educational experience. As part of this mission we want to make sure that you have information about your program site before you leave.

Sol Education Abroad was founded under the principles of promoting cultural understanding and the lifelong study of foreign languages. While on your program you will learn about the unique cultures and people of the country you are studying in.

Thanks for choosing Sol Education Abroad!

PREPARING FOR YOUR PROGRAM

Before you leave on your program we suggest you do some research about where you will be studying. It can make your experience that much more enjoyable and enriching!

SUGGESTIONS:

  • Read articles, books, and travel guides in order to familiarize yourself with the food, culture, and music. The Lonely Planet and Moon Guides are good handbooks for Oaxaca.
  • Study the maps of Mexico and Oaxaca at the end of this handbook.
  • Keep a journal and blog documenting your experience abroad!
  • Read the local newspapers!        
PASSPORTS

** PLEASE READ CAREFULLY BELOW **

Your passport must be valid at least six months or longer beyond the dates of your trip. Some immigration officers may not allow you to enter the country otherwise. 

TRAVEL VISAS & ENTRY FORM

VISA ENTRY FORM:

YOU MUST KEEP THE VISA ENTRY FORM GIVEN UPON ARRIVAL TO MEXICO. On your flight to Mexico you will be given a form called the "Forma Migratoria Multiple (FMM)". This is a small sheet of white paper that you will fill out on the plane (it will be passed out by a flight attendant). Upon arrival to Mexico, at your first point of entry (either the Mexico City or Oaxaca City airport), you will have to provide this form to the Immigration official when they are stamping your passport at Customs (Aduana / Migración). Immigration officials will keep one part of the document and the other part is handed back to you.

You MUST keep this small white paper slip (the FMM) at all times inside of your passport, otherwise you may not be allowed to leave Mexico on the day of your departure.

Your SOL director will remind you of this during orientation on the first day, but it is your responsibility to make sure that you keep this form after you arrive to Mexico and pass through Customs (Aduana / Migración).Please note that it is a difficult, lengthy process to get a replacement onsite, should you misplace this document. Any associated costs ($25 USD + cost of transportation) will be at your expense.

TRAVEL VISA:

For summer students no special visa is needed (such as a student visa).

For stays under 180 days, you will be given a free Tourist Visa upon arrival in Mexico, allowing you to stay for up to 180 days on this Tourist Visa. Some immigration officers may attempt to give you fewer days than your stay (for example 25 days if you are staying 30 days) forcing you to renew your Tourist Visa in Oaxaca, a procedure that is DIFFICULT AND TIME CONSUMING. It is your responsibility to make sure the immigration officer gives you enough days to cover your stay. If the immigration officer attempts to give you anything LESS THAN the days you are staying, you must ask for assistance from another immigration officer and demand enough days to cover your stay. Our onsite director cannot help you with this because you are still inside immigration. Therefore, if you have to later extend your Tourist Visa, you will be responsible for any fees incurred (of course, you will receive full director support).

KEEP YOUR VISA IN A SAFE PLACEit is a very important document and replacing it is very time consuming.

** SEMESTER STUDENTS ONLY: READ VISA INFORMATION BELOW **

For students staying for more than 180 days you will need to apply for a student visa at the Mexican Embassy before you leave the US. 

Sol Education Abroad will assist and support you with anything regarding your visa.

US DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Sol Education Abroad recommends that all students register with the US State Department (this is now known as Smart Traveler Enrollment Program "STEP") while overseas. This is very simple to do. Please visit the website to enter in the requested information. You will need an address and a telephone number to register. Please use the following info:

Universidad de Oaxaca Benito Júarez
Av. Universidad S/N,
Hacienda de 5 Señores
Oaxaca México
C.P. 68120
Telephone: +52-951-502-0700

COUNTRY OVERVIEW

Geographic Location Middle America, bordering the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, between Belize and the US and bordering the North Pacific Ocean, between Guatemala and the US.

Terrain High, rugged mountains; low coastal plains; high plateaus; desert.

Oaxaca State Much of the state is covered by mountainous terrain - including the Sierra Madre de Oaxaca and the Sierra Madre del Sur ranges, and is characterized by moderate temperatures and a mild climate. The mountains drop down to tropical and arid lowlands on the Isthmus, and hot and humid lowlands on the northern side of the state, bordering Veracruz. The eastern part of the state encloses about half of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, a narrow neck of land that connects central Mexico with the Yucatán Peninsula and Central America.

Highest Point Volcán Pico de Orizaba 5,700 meters (18,411 feet).

Population of Mexico 107,449,525 (July 2006 EST.)

Population of Oaxaca 255,000

People Mexico is the most populous Spanish-speaking country. 60% of the population is of mixed Amerindian-European ethnicity known as mestizos. 30% are Amerindian and 9% is of European descent (Spanish, Russian, German, Polish, Italian and French). Others include Turkish, Lebanese, Japanese and Chinese (1%). Oaxaca State has one of the highest indigenous populations in Mexico. There are 16 different indigenous groups and languages spoken in the state of Oaxaca.

CLIMATE

Climate in Mexico Temperate; clear, hot summers in interior, more moderate and cloudy along coast; cloudy, cold winters in interior, partly cloudy and cool along coast

Climate in Oaxaca The City of Oaxaca rests in a valley at 5,000 ft. This elevation provides Oaxaca City with Spring-like temperatures year-round. Midwinter days are mild usually averaging 70 – 75 F. There are cool but frost-free winter nights between 45 – 60 F. Oaxaca City summers are perfect, with afternoons in the mid to upper 80s and pleasant evenings in the mid 70s,  although the heat can get very intense at midday.  May is usually the warmest month, with June, July and August highs being moderated by afternoon showers. The “rainy” season is from July to October, in general it rains heavily for about an hour in the afternoons, occasionally it can last longer or it can stay dry for many days. The rain is very pleasant, as the city cools the city down!  

The climate in Oaxaca State is actually hugely varied. While the climate is pretty mild in Oaxaca City, it can be very cold in the Sierra Norte (the mountains just north of town), very humid at times on the coastal region, and very dry and arid in parts like the Mixteca (another mountainous area just northwest of town). One of the amazing things about Oaxaca is this huge diversity and the fact that you only need to travel for an hour for a totally different experience!

SPANISH IN MEXICO

The Spanish in Mexico is extremely useful as it is the Spanish we are most used to hearing in the United States and in Canada. Mexican Spanish can be described as colorful and often have a sing-song tone to it. Being such a large country, however, there are different variants amongst the regions of Mexico. Oaxaca is located in the zone called the Central Southern Variant.  In this variant, vowels tend to lose strength and consonants are fully pronounced. The musicality comes from influences of the indigenous languages in the region, with a flicker of the Nahuatl language. The common lisping associated with Castilian Spanish is almost nonexistent in Mexico, and many Indian words have been adopted. In Oaxaca, visitors should always use “usted” (the formal form of the pronoun “you”) instead of tú (the casual form) unless he already knows the person being addressed or unless that person begins to use the tú form with him. Usted is also common for conversations between persons of different social or professional hierarchies (ex. managers and secretaries and their employers) to convey distance but also show respect. One typically uses usted to address the older relatives of friends or associates, although these people will usually use the tú form to respond. In general, Oaxacans tend to speak more quietly than their North American neighbors, the U.S. and Canada, especially in public places such as restaurants and stores.

 

HOLIDAYS

Jan 1st 

Año Nuevo (New Year's Day)

Jan 6th 

Día de los Tres Reyes (12th night, the day when Mexicans exchange Christmas presents in accordance to the three wise men bearing gifts to Jesus).

Jan 17th

Feast of San Antonio de Abad. Religious holiday when the Catholic Church allows animals to enter the church for blessing.

Feb 2nd

Día de la Candelaria (Candlemas) Religious holiday that is celebrated with processions, dancing, bullfights in certain cities, and the blessing of the seeds and candles. The festivities are best seen in: San Juan de los Lagos, Jalapa; Talpa de Allende, Jalisco; and Santa Maria del Tuxla, Oaxaca.

Feb

Carnival (Dates change slightly each year). Official Mexican holiday that kicks off a five-day celebration of the libido before the Catholic lent. Beginning the weekend before Lent, Carnival is celebrated exuberantly with parades, floats and dancing in the streets.

Feb 5th

Día de la Constitución Official holiday commemorating Mexico's Constitution.

Feb 24

Día de la Bandera (Flag Day)

Mar 19th 

St. Joseph's Day (Father's Day)

Mar 21

Cumpleaños de Benito Júarez (Birthday of Benito Júarez) Famous Mexican president and national hero from Oaxaca, this is an official Mexican holiday.

Apr

Semana Santa y Pascúa (Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and Spring Break) Semana Santa is the holy week that ends the 40-day Lent period. This week includes Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It is Mexican custom to break confetti-filled eggs over the heads of friends and family.

May 1st   

Día del Trabajo (Labor Day) Primero de Mayo is the Mexican national holiday that is equivalent to the US Labor Day.

May 3st

Día de la Santa Cruz (Holy Cross Day) When construction workers decorate and mount crosses on unfinished buildings, followed by fireworks and picnics at the construction site.

May 5th 

Cinco de Mayo (5th of May) Mexican national holiday that honors the Mexican victory over the French army at Puebla in 1862, only celebrated in Puebla and a few towns.

May 10th 

Día de la Madre (Mother's Day) Due to the importance of the mother in Mexican culture, Mother's Day is an especially significant holiday.

Jun 1st

Día de la Marina (Navy Day) Official Mexican holiday.

Jun 24th

Día de San Juan (St. John's Day) Saint John the Baptist Day is celebrated with religious festivities, fairs & popular jokes connected to getting dunked in water.

Jun 29th

Fiesta de San Pedro y San Pablo (St. Peter & St. Paul) Notable celebrations in Mexcaltitán, Nayarit and Zaachila, Oaxaca.

Jul

Guelaguetza This may be Oaxaca's most famous festival with visitors attending from around the world. Also known as Lunes del Cerro, regional dancers from throughout the state express their culture on the last two Mondays of the month.

Sep 16th

Día de la Independencia (Mexican Independence Day) celebrates the day that Miguel Hidalgo delivered El Grito de Dolores, and announced the Mexican revolt against Spanish rule.

Oct 12th 

Día de la Raza (Columbus Day) This day celebrates Columbus' arrival to the Americas, and the historical origins of the Mexican race.

Oct 31st  - Nov 2nd

Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) Important Mexican holiday that merges Pre-Columbian beliefs and modern Catholicism. Europe's All Saints' Day and the Aztec worship of the dead contribute to these two days that honor Mexico's dead.

Dec 12st

Día de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe) Celebrated with a feast honoring Mexico's patron saint.

Dec 16th - Jan 6th

Las Posadas Celebrates Joseph and Mary's search for shelter in Bethlehem with candlelight processions that end at various nativity scenes. Las Posadas continues through January 6.

Dec 23rd 

La Noche Rábanos (Night of the Radishes) Featuring radish figurines and fried radish cakes covered in molasses. The cakes are served in a clay dish that must be broken after the cakes are finished. This unique tradition is found only in Oaxaca.

Dec 24th

Navidad (Christmas day) Mexican celebrate with a dinner in the evening.

Dec 25th 

Navidad (Christmas Day) Mexico celebrates the Christmas holiday.

 

TIME

Mexico uses 3 times zones, Central Standard Time (CST) Mountain Standard Time (MST), and Pacific Standard Time (PST). The majority of the country and Oaxaca uses (CST). The states of Chihuahua, Nayarit, Sonora, Sinaloa and Baja California Sur use Mountain Standard Time and Baja California Norte uses Pacific Standard Time. Daylight Saving Time begins at 2:00 AM local time on the 1st Sunday in April. On the last Sunday in October areas on DST fall back to Standard Time at 2:00 AM. The names in each time zone change along with DST. Central Standard Time becomes Central Daylight Time (CDT), and so forth. The state of Sonora does not observe Daylight Saving Time.

BUSINESS HOURS

Shops are generally open from 9 AM to 2 PM, closed for lunch, and then reopen from 4 to 7 PM, Monday through Saturday. Banking hours are 9:30 AM to 4 PM, Monday through Friday, and Saturday mornings.  In general everything closes on Sundays.

PACKING RECOMMENDATIONS

Generally, Mexicans dress very similarly to Americans, although in general a little more formally. We suggest you bring the clothes that you are normally used to wearing. Women will get a lot of attention on the streets if they wear revealing clothes such as short skirts and shorts. In indigenous villages dressing conservatively is always recommended, which means covering legs and shoulders.  It is great to have a few "nicer" outfits for a nice meal in a restaurant.

Although the days can be warm in Oaxaca, evenings can be cool so bring a light jacket or sweater for going out, even in the summer. The evenings can get very chilly during December and January, so you will need extra layers.  Don't forget to prepare for the afternoon rain during the rainy season.

CLOTHING

  • Pack light: leave a little room for the things you will buy while abroad!
  • Lightweight clothing (layering is good)
  • Bring at least one outfit for going out. Mexicans tend to dress up when going out. For the guys, please make sure you have dressier shoes for this!
  • Comfortable walking shoes. Make sure you break them in before your trip! We’ll be hiking and walking around pretty often so make sure you can use these shoes for that. Also, if you plan on jogging or doing any sports you’ll want to bring the appropriate footwear.
  • Sun hat, sun glasses, swimsuit
  • Light fleece or sweater (for the evenings in Oaxaca)
  • Jacket, fleece, warm sweater for the Sierra Norte trip, it can get very cold in the mountains and can be a lot cooler in the evenings during the winter
  • Rain jacket and umbrella
  • Flip flops; typically you have one pair for inside the home. House shoes are an important part of Hispanic cultures
  • Remember, while it is acceptable to wear revealing clothes in Oaxaca it WILL attract attention.

MISCELLANEOUS

  • Small duffel or backpack for weekend and afternoon trips
  • Small combination lock
  • Towel, toiletries, and sunblock. You should bring a towel for some excursions such as the beach trip
  • Camera and batteries/charger
  • Flashlight
  • School supplies: Notebook, pens, pencils, English-Spanish Dictionary, planner for homework
  • Compact umbrella
  • Insect repellent
  • Travel sickness pills, some of the excursions involve curved nountain roads (e.g. Hierve el Agua and the beach)

LAPTOPS

In general, we do not suggest students bring a laptop for short programs (1 month or less) if they are only studying Spanish because it is one more item that could be lost, stolen or damaged. There are computer labs at the school and Internet cafés all over town.  If you are taking non-language classes and staying for longer than a month a laptop will be helpful to write essays and research your homework.

PRINTING

Printing can be done at the university for a small fee.

CARRY-ON

Bring an extra pair of clothes & toothbrush in case your luggage gets lost or delayed by your airline.

MEDICAL/SAFETY ITEMS

Bring any prescription drugs that you may use. Make sure they are labeled and if possible, carry your doctor's prescription.

EXCURSIONS

Excursions are a fundamental part of the abroad experience and four are included in all summer and semester programs.

We carefully select weekend excursions that allow you to discover more about the country in which you are studying and are selected based on cultural and educational importance or sites of natural beauty. Entrance and transportation fees are always included. Before any excursion your director will go over the itinerary of the trip and what you should pack. If you have a guide book it can make it more interesting to read about the excursion before you leave, the Lonely Planet or similar guides are excellent options.

Please be aware that sometimes for Oaxaca certain excursions may be combined in different ways – i.e. El Tule and Hierve El Agua Mountain Springs instead of El Tule and Tlacolula Market. Your director will always go over the excursion itinerary with you beforehand.

Sierra Norte Mountain Hike

This expansive range of mountains, found just north of Oaxaca City, provides a stark contrast to the colonial city. Passing through dense cloud canopies and pine forests ideal for hiking, you will encounter ancient mountain villages. During the excursion, students will visit a remote Zapotec community and explore the area. Delicious meals feature the culinary cuisine of the area. A local indigenous Zapotec guide will make this trek one of the highlights of your stay in Oaxaca. (Remember, bring warm clothing for this excursion it gets very cold).

Tlacolula Pyramids, Teotitlán Artisan Village, and Ancient El Tule Tree

The central valleys of Oaxaca State are filled with the echoes of the past. Bustling Tlacolula Market is Oaxaca's most famous outdoor market where you can find anything from handicrafts to live turkeys! You will visit the classic Zapotec town of Teotitlán del Valle, famous for its time-honored tradition of hand-woven rugs. Finally before returning to Oaxaca City, the excursion will take you to the gargantuan El Tule tree. Calculated to be over 2,000 years old, this behemoth is considered to be the largest biomass on the planet.

Mitla Village & Ruins

Mitla was known by the Zapotec people as “The Place of the Dead” and was believed to be the entrance to the underworld. At Mitla,you will find the most well-preserved mosaic designs in all of Mexico. Walking amongst the ruins, you can feel the incredible energy of the place. There will be time to explore the adjacent market.

Mountain Springs (Hierve el Agua)

Hierve el Agua (or Boiling Water) is an impressive natural wonder located west of Oaxaca City. The name is derived from the abundant mineral springs that seethe from the ground, giving the appearance of boiling water. These extraordinary springs have been visited for over 2,500 years, with pre-Hispanic cultures revering their natural beauty and therapeutic properties. On this excursion, you will travel down beautiful mountain roads and experience the awe-inspiring views of the canyons and hillsides.  After your hike you will have the opportunity to soak in the relaxing springs.

Monte Alban Pre-Hispanic Ruins

While in Oaxaca, you will visit the pre-Hispanic ruins of Monte Alban. This former Zapotec capital city is considered one of the most impressive archeological sites in Mexico. The well-preserved ruins sit atop a hill outside of Oaxaca City, which allows for amazing views of the surrounding valley. The numerous pyramids and ancient buildings found at Monte Alban fill the site with an air of awe and mystery.

Saint James Monastery

Travel back in time to the ancient monastery of Saint James built in 1535 and explore its elaborate Gothic cloister and splendid frescoes. The Saint James Convent is rich in history and is the site where Vicente Guerrero, father of the Mexican Republic, was infamously executed in 1831. Step onto the floor of the unfinished church (its massive roof was destroyed during an earthquake 200 years ago!) and search for the tomb of Princess Donají, a Zapotec princess and early convert to Christianity. Legends claims she fell in love with a Mixtec King, the Lord of Tilantongo. It is one of the most ornate yet hidden sites in the entire valley and is now considered a national treasure!

Pacific Beach Trip

The Oaxacan coast provides you with stunning cliffside views of thousands of small bays that dot its coastline. Unlike other coastal areas of Mexico, the Oaxacan coast remains largely untouched and mainly plays host to local tourism. On this trip students will visit several beautiful beaches, have the opportunity to snorkel, take a boat trip to see dolphins and turtles or have a surf class. This is the perfect opportunity to witness the vast biodiversity the Oaxacan coast has to offer.

CULTURAL ACTIVITIES

Cultural activities are an important part of your experience. You will learn so much by going to classes but you’ll learn just as much, if not more, outside of the classroom. These activities are designed to enhance your experience and show you more of what the site has to offer! For summer programs there are 3 cultural activities a week. During semester programs they are more spread out and there are 1 to 2 cultural activities included a week.  Cultural activities include:

  • Santo Domingo Church and Museum
  • Art Galleries
  • Dance Classes
  • Street Art Workshop (stencils)
  • Yoga Classes
  • Traditional Cooking Classes
  • Oaxaca City Tour
  • Skull Making Workshop
  • Day of the Dead Festival
  • Guelaguetza Folk Dance Celebration
  • Movie Nights
  • Museum Visits
  • Alebrije Art Making Tour, the Unique Oaxacan Craft
  • Organic Food Market
  • Theater Night
AIRPORT INFORMATION

Please make sure when you check-in your baggage that it arrives directly to your destination, if this is not the case it will be necessary to pick it up and re-document it (this is sometimes necessary when you have a change in Mexico City).  Arriving to an airport overseas is arriving into the unknown but do not worry, one of your program directors will be there waiting for you when you arrive! When you fly into Oaxaca there are two options:

  1. Direct flight from the US to Oaxaca City airport
  2. Indirect flight via Mexico City and then a flight to Oaxaca.

The Oaxaca City airport is very small and very easy to get around. Here is what to expect upon touchdown at the airport in Oaxaca City.

  • All planes land on the tarmac and from the tarmac you will walk into the small airport.
  • Once you walk into the airport you'll pass through immigration. This is a small room with usually 1 or 2 lines, just choose one.
  • Your passport will be reviewed and stamped with a Tourist Visa, make sure you are given enough days to cover your stay. Please read the section "Passport & Travel Visas" above.
  • Once you pass through this small line you'll be in the small baggage claim area.
  • The exit and baggage claim are essentially the same space, just divided by a rope division.
  • Once you get your luggage you will exit baggage claim by crossing to the other side of the space.
  • Look for your director, holding a Sol Education Abroad sign!
  • If you do not see the sign right away just walk into the waiting area and look for the sign. Do not leave until we find you!

The Mexico City airport is very modern and easy to get around! Terminal 1 even has an art museum now! There are two terminals to the airport. To learn more about the airport and to see photos of what to expect, simply visit the airport website.

Terminal 1 is divided into two: one part of the terminal is for Domestic flights and the other part is for International flights.

Domestic (Gates A1-E19)

International Building (Gates F20-H36-A)

Terminal 2 is for all Aeroméxico flights out of the airport.

All terminals have wireless Internet and a plethora of stores and places to eat. The Mexico City airport is very clean and you can expect the same security you'll find in an airport in the US.

  • You will fly into the international terminal and you will have to go down some stairs to the immigration area.
  • You may want to ask the information booth about where to go just to make sure you find it. Do not expect anyone to tell you directly to go there. You may need to be proactive.
  • Your passport will be reviewed and stamped with a Tourist Visa, make sure you are given enough days to cover your stay. Please read the section "Passport & Travel Visas" above.
  • After you've finished with immigration you must find the domestic terminal. It is at one of the far ends of the airport. You should ask to make sure you go the right way.
  • You will pass through sliding doors and have your passport and ticket checked by an agent.
  • Once you are in the domestic terminal, there are many monitors to check your flight departure and gate. Always ask the airline agents if you have any questions.

Despite everyone’s best planning, flight delays, bad weather, and other unforeseen circumstances can impact your meeting with your director at the Oaxaca City airport. PLEASE LET YOUR DIRECTOR KNOW IF YOU WILL NOT BE ARRIVING ON TIME.  If for whatever reason, you do not meet your director, just use the phone numbers given to you to contact them. Stay at the airport until we find you! If you are delayed please make every effort to either inform Sol Education Abroad, your director, or the host family! Good communication is the best practice!

MONEY

Mexico's currency is the peso ($). To find the most up-to-date conversion please visit www.xe.com. We suggest that you travel with a credit or debit card. You could also bring some cash that you can exchange at the airport. Whenever you exchange money you will need your passport.

ATMs

This is the easiest way to get local currency. ATMs are very common. Check with your bank beforehand to see if there are any international charges for extracting cash overseas, some banks may charge up to $5 USD every time you extract money. Although this may seem expensive, it is worth the convenience. We recommend taking large sums out when you use the ATM and storing the extra cash in a safe place at your home, this will ensure that you do not get charged more often than is necessary for using a cash point.

CREDIT CARDS

Credit cards are fairly accepted in Mexico. Most stores and restaurants can take credit cards. Check with your credit card company beforehand to see if there are any extra international charges and to let them know that you are traveling overseas. There is a foreign currency conversion fee and it is usually from 1% to 3%. Capital One is the only credit card at the moment that charges no foreign currency conversion fee.

TRAVELER’S CHECKS

Not recommended because they can be difficult to cash. You can bring these only for emergency uses. If for some reason your debit card is not working or is lost or stolen you can still use the Traveler’s checks. You will need your passport to exchange Traveler’s Checks.

SPENDING MONEY

You will want to bring some extra spending money with you. We suggest about $25-$75 per week. This money is for souvenirs, meals that aren’t included or extra activities that you may do during excursions.

LOST OR STOLEN CASH OR CREDIT CARDS

If you were ever in an emergency situation that you needed money (such as if you lost your wallet) just let your onsite director know! We will definitely assist you financially until your situation can be resolved.

ELECTRICITY

Electrical current in Mexico is the same as the US: 110 V, 60 cycles. Mexico uses three different types of sockets. If your plug does not fit you will need to purchase an adapter, which are very easy to find in Oaxaca.

COMMUNICATION

EMAIL

Internet cafés and wireless access at cafes are very common in Oaxaca City, there are several computer labs in the university (although connections can be slow), and a few host families have Internet access in their homes. Keeping in contact with friends and family is a great way to share your experience. Just remember through, that it can take away from your Spanish learning! Attempt to write as little as possible in English while you are there.

You will be expected to have your own device for accessing the Internet at your host family homes as they will not provide a computer (e.g. a smartphone or laptop).

MAIL

Mail in Mexico can sometimes be slow and when packages contain something of value it can be unreliable unless certified. Letters and packages take 10-14 days to arrive from the US to Oaxaca. For summer or intensive month programs we recommend that friends and family do not send mail because it might not arrive on time.

PHONES

LAND LINES

You can make local calls and receive phone calls from your host family’s home phone. Out of courtesy please let your family know when you use the phone. When you make international calls or any calls from outside of Oaxaca, you will have to use a calling card. For local calls, you do not need to use a calling card. Major calling cards (such as AT&T and MCI) can be used in Mexico. You can also purchase calling cards in Mexico as you need them. When talking with friends and family in the States, we suggest they call you (send your family a text or email with a time they can call you). Rates are cheaper this way. You can also purchase a phone card that you can use on your host family’s land line to call your family in the US.

VOIP

Another option is VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). Skype is a great system and one you can use in Internet cafés. Skype.

CELL PHONES

Most students use WhatsApp and Facebook on their US smart phones as a way to communicate and make plans. If you want to use WhatsApp while in Costa Rica to communicate with WIFI remember to make your account with your US cell phone number before you leave!

US CELL PHONES

US cell phones work in Mexico. However, you must call your cell phone company beforehand to see what options are available. It is typical that calls made or received with your phone will cost 50 cents to $1 per minute, or maybe more. Also, it is expensive for locals to call you on your US cell.

PURCHASING A CELL PHONE

You can also purchase a cell phone in Mexico which is easy and convenient. You purchase the phone (which can cost $40 - $50 USD) and then you purchase minutes as you need them. Using cell phones in Mexico is slightly more expensive than in the US. If you purchase a cell phone you will want to ask about the specifics of cell phone use in Mexico. People in Mexico use text messaging often because it costs much less than phone calls. 

MEXICAN SIM CARD

Depending on the type of phone you have it may be possible to just buy a Mexican SIM card in Oaxaca to use your phone as a local phone while you are on the program.

CELLHIRE (cellphone rental service)

Sol Education Abroad provides our students with a local cell phone rental option that will be delivered to your home before you travel. The cell phones are rented through Cellhire, based in Dallas, TX. SOL covers the rental fee for the basic Nokia pay-as-you-go phone and all you have to do is decide if you want to sign up for the phone or not!

If you sign up for the local phone, you will only be responsible for any of the usage charges (rate details located on the SOL-Cellhire webpage).  If you sign up for anything besides the Nokia option it is at your expense.

This option will be 30%-65% more cost effective than roaming with your domestic provider. Along with the local phone, Cellhire also has additional voice and data or data only options (iPhone SIM cards and mobile hotspots) that you can rent at your own expense.

INSTRUCTIONS:
1) Simply register online via this website: www.cellhire.com/sol
2) Select your program, and enter your corresponding promo code:
- SUMMER: summer18univ
- FALL: fall18univ
- SPRING: spring18univ
- WINTER: winter18univ

The phone will be mailed to your home address prior to departure so please make sure to allow yourself time to get the cell phone before you leave. For free shipping, you must register at least 3 weeks prior to your program start date. Any questions regarding the phones please contact Cellhire at:877 244 7242 OR email education@cellhire.com

HOST FAMILIES

The host family is one of the best parts of your experience in Oaxaca! This will be your greatest and most intimate contact with the culture and people of Mexico. Families in Oaxaca are middle-class by Mexican standards. Remember, you may not be the only foreign student in the home. Sometimes families work with other programs and if they have multiple rooms, they may have someone else living there. Talk to you director onsite if you have any problems with the housing.

Some suggestions when living with your family:

  • Bring photos of your family/friends/hometown to share.
  • Make sure you let your host family know if you won’t be home for a meal.
  • Spend time with your family. If they invite you to do something take advantage of this. The more time you spend with your family the better your Spanish will get.
  • Be respectful. You are a guest in their home.
  • Utilities are expensive in Mexico! Turn off lights when you are not in a room; please be conservative of your water use when taking a shower.

Your director will go over host family rules and regulations more extensively onsite.

HOST FAMILY GIFT

We encourage you to bring a small gift for your host family to present to them when you arrive. A present is a nice way to break the ice and share some of your local US culture with your Tico family. Some examples of gifts students have given in the past are family-style board games (that don’t require a language), local treats like preserves, candies, or maple syrup, a coffee-table photo book of their hometown, or a dry baking mix like blueberry muffins, biscuits, or scones.

For some student feedback & examples of Host Family Gifts from alumni, check out this article: Un Regalo For Your Host Family!

MEALS

You will share all of your meals with your host family. You will eat what they eat!  Families cannot be expected to have experience with different dietary needs, many of which are unheard of in Mexico.  However, they will try to accommodate any reasonable needs or preferences you may have.  Please remember that the food will be different to what you are used to eating in the US and that Oaxacans are very proud of their cuisne. Families do not eat much red meat or seafood as in the US.  Although they are middle class, they have a more restricted household budget. Also, many Mexican are not accustomed to eating a lot of vegetables. Lunch is the main meal, not all families eat dinner but in general they eat a lighter meal or will serve you one on request.

LAUNDRY

Your host family will wash your sheets and towels at least every two weeks. Host families are not responsible for your laundry.  There are plenty of local laundromats, which generally charge about $1 USD per kilo of laundry.  Ask you family to tell you what your best option is.

CULTURAL DO’S AND DON’TS

DO´S

  • Say hello to locals. Mexicans are very friendly and this is part of their culture.
  • Talk with older people. Older people are respected in Mexico and have lots to share.
  • You will be expected to tip 10-15% in a restaurant.  You do not need to tip taxi drivers or in cafes, although tips are always welcome.
  • Say “yes” if people offer you food in their home, unless you really, really don’t want it.
  • Share your experiences in conversation.
  • When greeting women give a kiss on one check (their right cheek).
  • Make an effort to speak Spanish.
  • Interact with your host family (for example, hang out with them on a Sunday afternoon).
  • Try the foods your host family gives you before deciding if it's something you don’t like.
  • Ask to use the phone first.

DON’TS

  • Do not slam doors (especially car doors!).
  • Do not feel completely safe when on the streets. Do not assume things since you are a traveler in a foreign country.
  • Do not say that you are American (Americano); you are from the United States (Estados Unidos).
  • If you are female do not go out alone at night
  • Do not pet street dogs or family dogs before asking first. Even house dogs are not necessarily kept as pets—they are more for protection.
  • Be aware of Mexican driving habits. Let the cars go first, Mexicans do not stop for pedestrians.
  • Do not trust strangers or walk home alone at night. It’s best to take a cab.
  • Do not walk in the house barefoot. Make sure you have a pair of flip flops for wearing inside.
  • Make sure to wear clean clothes and shower frequently. Mexicans are very much about cleanliness and a nice appearance.
TOILETS

Mexican plumbing often has very low pressure and small pipes. Because of this you might not be able to put toilet paper in the toilet as it can easily clog! If this is the case, a trash can is found next to the toilet for you to dispose of toilet paper. Normally, there is also a sign indicating this.

TYPICAL DAY

This is an EXAMPLE of a typical weekday. Some classes start earlier or later than listed below.

8:00 AM        Wakeup and have breakfast

8:45 AM        Walk to school

9:00 AM        Classes begin

10:45 AM         Mid-morning break

11:15 AM        Return to class.

1:00 PM        Classes end. Meet with your local exchange student, check email, visit shops, write in your journal, hang out with friends

2:30 PM         Lunch with your host family

3:30-4:30 PM        Siesta

5:00 PM         Meet for a cultural activity

ACADEMICS

All classes are taught at the University of Oaxaca and the Meso-American University. You will find that the teaching style in other countries is different than what you are used to in the US. If you have any concerns or questions about this when you are in Oaxaca, please ask your director. Our directors are always available for tutoring and any other assistance you may need concerning the academic component of the program.

ACADEMIC SETTING

Classes are held in the UABJO (University of Benito Juarez) at 'Centro de Idiomas' (Language Center).  The classes are held in general from 9.00 am - 1.00 pm.  Each class is approximately 1.45hrs (there will be breaks). The classes are in the UABJO they are exclusively held for students from abroad, this is because in the US the term/semester dates are different to Mexico. It is also so that we can accommodate our students when they are able to come and for the amount of time they will stay.  Depending on the class, groups can be very small (some students will have private classes).  Students from our program may share classes with students from other programs.

Classes with locals are held at the Meso-American University.  These classes run to different timetables and can start at 8:00 AM and finish at 8:00 PM, some classes are held on Saturday mornings.  The classes usually have about 30 students.  You will generally have about five hours of classes for each subject a week.

Any problems or questions about your classes please talk to your director.  

EXCHANGES (“intercambios”)

The university will organize exchanges (“intercambios”) with Mexican students who are taking classes at the Language Department and are studying English.  Intercambios are a great opportunity to practice your Spanish, to help students improve their English and to make local friends.  You can have as many intercambios as you can make time for and you can meet them inside or outside the university, often you'll have the opportunity to do activities with them and visit their homes.

SOL DIRECTOR

Your director is there to help you with many aspects of the program! Their main duties include:

  • Orientate and guide the students in Oaxaca
  • Airport transfers
  • Making sure that your accommodations are suitable and that you are happy with your family
  • Make sure that your classes are appropriate
  • Organize cultural activities
  • Organize excursions
  • Support students in finding volunteer work
  • Support students in finding activities and events that interest them
  • Accompany students to the doctor
  • Your director is available to listen to any comments, suggestions and complaints about the program
  • Director availability: Your onsite director will be available at your school before & after classes every single day of the first week. After that, your director will normally be available every other day at school and during activities and excursions.  Your onsite director will always be available via an appointment.  Your director is available from 8.30am – 8.30pm, you may contact them outside these hours but only in emergencies.
HELPFUL WORDS & PHRASES

GREETINGS:

Hello Hola
Good Morning ¡Buenos días!
Good Day ¡Buen día!
Good Evening Buenas tardes
Good Night Buenas noches
How are you ¿Cómo estás?
Fine Bien
Very well Muy bien

So-So Más o menos
What’s your name? ¿Cómo te llamas? (Como se llama usted?)
My name is Me llamo
I live in Vivo en

I am from Soy de
This is my Este es mi _______.

Nice to meet you Mucho gusto/Encantada/o
Thank You Gracias
You’re Welcome De nada
Excuse me (usted) perdone/disculpe

Friend amigo/a                        
Mother madre/mamá                                
Father padre/papá        
Sister hermana                
Roommate compañero/a de piso
Teacher maestro/a
Aunt tia
Uncle tio
Grandmother abuela
Grandfather abuelo

THE QUESTION WORDS (INTERROGATIVES):

Who  ¿Quién?
What ¿Qué?
When ¿Cuándo?
Where ¿Dónde?
How?  ¿Cómo?
How much? ¿Cuánto/a? 
How much does it cost? ¿Cuánto cuesta?
How many? ¿Cuántos/as?
Which ones? ¿Cuáles?

DIRECTIONS:

Where is?  ¿Dónde está?
Excuse me, where is the_____? Disculpe, dónde está el/la_____________?
Where are the taxis? ¿Dónde están los taxis?
Where is the bus? ¿Dónde está el autobus?
Where is the subway/metro? ¿Dónde está el metro?
Is it near? ¿Está cerca?
Is it far? ¿Está lejos?
Go straight ahead Siga recto.
Go that way Vaya en aquella dirección.
Go back/return Vuelva
Turn right Gire a la derecha
Turn left Gire a la izquierda
Take me to this address, please Lléveme a esta dirección, por favor
What is the fare?  ¿Cuánto es la tarifa?
Stop here, please Deténgase aquí, por favor.
Does this bus go to Los Osos Street? ¿Pasa este autobús por la calle de los Osos?
A map of the city, please Un plano (una mapa) de la ciudad, por favor.
A subwaymap, please Un plano (una mapa) del metro, por favor.

SHOPPING:

How much does it cost?  ¿Cuánto cuesta?
What time does the store open? ¿A qué hora abre la tienda?
At what time does the store close? ¿A qué hora cierra la tienda?
What would you like? ¿Qué está buscando?
Can I help you? ¿Necesita alguna ayuda?
I would like this Me gustaría esto.
Here it is Aquí lo tiene.
Is that all? ¿Es todo?
I'd like to pay in cash Me gustaría pagar en efectivo.
I'd like to pay by credit card Me gustaría pagar con tarjeta de crédito.
Women's clothes ropa para mujeres/damas
Men's clothes ropa para hombres
blouse, skirt, dress blusa, falda, vestido
pants, shirt, tie pantalones, camisa, corbata
shoes and socks zapatos y calcentines
jeans vaqueros/Blue Jeans
bookstore librería
bakery panadería
market mercado
supermarket supermercado

NUMBERS

 

1

Uno

30

Treinta

2

Dos

40

Cuarenta

3

Tres

50

Cincuenta

4

Cuatro

60

Sesenta        

5

Cinco

70

Setenta

6

Seis

80

Ochenta

7

Siete

90

Noventa

8

Ocho

100

Cien

9

Nueve

Ordinal Numbers

 

10

Diez

first

primero

11

Once

second

Segundo

12

Doce

third

Tercero

13

Trece

fourth

Cuarto

14

Cuatorce

fifth

Quinto

15

Quince

sixth

Sexto

16

Dieciséis

seventh

Septimo

17

Diecsiete

Eighth

Ocho

18

dieciocho

Ninth

Noveno

19

Diecinueve

Tenth

Decimo

20

Viente

 

 

 

Can you recommend a good restaurant? ¿Me recomienda algún restaurante?
A table for two, please Una mesa para dos, por favor.
The menu, please La carta, por favor.
appetizers primer plato
main course plato principal
dessert postre
I would like something to drink Me gustaría algo para beber/tomar.
A glass of water, please Un vaso de agua, por favor.
A cup of tea, please Un té, por favor.
A coffee with milk Un café con leche.
I am a vegetarian Soy un/a vegetariano/a.
Do you have a vegetarian dish? ¿Tiene algún plato vegetariano?
That's all Eso es todo.
The check, please la cuenta, por favor.
Is the tip included? ¿Incluye la propina?
Breakfast desayuno
Lunch almuerzo
Dinner cena
Snack merienda
Enjoy the meal ¡Buen provecho!
To your health ¡Salud!
It's delicious! ¡Está riquísima!
It tastes good es muy rico
Plate plato
Fork tenedor
Knife cuchillo
Spoon cuchara
Napkin servilleta
Cup/mug taza
Glass vaso
Bottle botella
Ice hielo
Salt sal
Pepper pimienta
Sugar azúcar
Soup sopa
Salad ensalada
Bread pan
Butter mantequilla
Noodles fideos
Rice arroz
Cheese queso
Vegetables verduras
Chicken pollo
Pork cerdo
Meat carne
Beef carne
I like my steak rare. Me gusta la carne poco cocida.
I like my steak medium Me gusta la carne a mediococer.
I like my steak well done Me gusta la carne bien coci da.
Juice zumo (Spain), jugo (South America)
Pie tarta
Ice cream helado
Another, please Otro, por favor.
More, please Más, por favor.
Pass the… please Por favor, páseme la…
Spicy picante
Sweet dulce
Sour amargo

BASIC PHRASES:

Thank you Gracias
Thank you very much Muchas gracias
You’re Welcome De Nada
Please Por Favor
Yes Sí
No No
Excuse Me Con Permiso
Pardon Me Perdone (usted)
I’m sorry Lo siento        
I don’t understand No entiendo
I don’t speak Spanish  No habloespañol
I speak Spanish rather well Hablo español bastante bien
Do you speak English? ¿Habla inglés
Speak slowly, please Habledespaciopor favor
Repeat, please Repita, por favor
What's your name? ¿Cómo se llama?
How are you? ¿Cómo está?
Do you speak English? ¿Habla inglés?
Where is the subway? ¿Dónde está el metro?
Is the tip included? ¿Incluye la propina?
How much does that cost?  ¿Cuánto cuesta?
Is there a public phone here? ¿Hay algún teléfono público aquí?
Can I get on the internet? ¿Puedo conectarme con el internet?
Can you help me? ¿Me podría ayudar?
Where is the bathroom? ¿Dónde está el baño?

HEALTH AND SAFETY

HOSPITAL

The closest hospital to our students is: Hospital Reforma

REFORMA 613
COL: CENTRO
C.O.: 68000 OAXACA
Phone: 951-516-0989, 951-516-6090 or 951-516-6100

PICKPOCKETS

You should never carry around large amounts of cash, your passport, or credit cards unless you have to and whenever you travel, you should be wary of pickpockets. Despite our warnings, every summer students get pick pocketed.  Guys, NEVER keep money in your back pocket.

THEFT

Never leave things unlocked and try to keep valuable items out of sight when walking around town or if you leave them at your home. Never be too trusting!

UNWANTED ATTENTION

Foreign women receive a lot of attention from local men because they look so different to Oaxacans.  You can try to avoid unwanted attention by not wearing revealing clothing, Mexican women dress more conservatively in general.  It is not customary in Mexico to smile at people you do not know. Mexican men could interpret this the wrong way. Never walk home alone at night. Cabs are very inexpensive in Oaxaca, whenever in doubt always take a cab. Use the buddy system especially at night!

TRAVEL HEALTH INSURANCE

While with Sol Education Abroad you have the option of using your own health insurance or using the Sol Education Abroad policy (included in your program price). If your insurance provider DOES cover you internationally, make sure to only use your policy and not ours (insurance companies do not allow you to have two policies). If your insurance provider DOES NOT cover you internationally, make sure you specify this in the form called "Insurance Verification". Sol Education Abroad’s insurance policy will cover absolutely any medical expenses internationally up to USD $50,000 with MultiNational Underwriters. To verify your coverage, simply call your US insurance provider and tell them that you will be overseas and they will let you know whether or not you are covered internationally and the amount of coverage. Provide your insurance company the exact dates of the program in which you are enrolled. Get the details from them in the event you need to go to the doctor while abroad. If you do use the Sol Education Abroad insurance please note that pre-existing conditions are not covered, so check with your domestic provider about this before leaving. If you take prescription medication with you make sure that you have a doctor’s prescription in the event that customs officials question you about it. This is rare, but it’s always a good idea to be prepared.

Health points to keep in mind while in Mexico:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water.
  • Water from the faucet in Mexico is not safe to drink! Everyone drinks bottled water. Your host family only uses bottled water and all fruits and vegetables are disinfected before consuming.
  • If you buy fruits or vegetables off the street make sure that you wash them thoroughly.

If you decide to travel during your stay in Mexico to any areas that may have malaria (i.e. lowland areas of Chiapas State) we recommend that you bring your own malaria medicine. The only one that can be found in Oaxaca is Aralen (chloroquine). Please consult the Center for Disease Control before departure.

Your main health concerns while in Oaxaca are possible stomach problems. Usually, it takes a few days to adjust to the new diet. It is not uncommon to experience minor problems. However, if anything persists please let your onsite director know!

MAPS OF OAXACA AND MEXICO

"Mexico Map" City: Oaxaca, Country: Mexico, Author: Sol Education Abroad.

 

"Map of Mexico" City: Oaxaca, Country: Mexico, Author: GEOATLAS.com

 

"Oaxaca City Map" City: Oaxaca, Country: Mexico, Author: www.allaboutoaxaca.com.

 

Safe travels! And see you soon in Mexico!

the Sol Education Abroad team