Guadalajara, Mexico Report of what it's like to live there - 01/19/23
Personal Experiences from Guadalajara, Mexico
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
Previously lived in Riyadh, Frankfurt, and Belmopan (all with State) and Italy, Ireland and Spain (before State).
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Home country is US and there are tons of direct flights. US carriers fly to southern hubs (Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, and Atlanta) and Mexican carriers (primarily low cost Volaris) fly direct to probably two dozen cities. Many flights leave early am from GDL - especially the US carriers. Getting to/from Washington DC is more difficult than many other places in the US, often taking a full day of travel.
3. What years did you live here?
4. How long have you lived here?
5. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Work for the US Consulate.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Housing for diplomats is usually either apartments in high rises in the Providencia neighborhood or town houses in "cotos" - gated neighborhoods. In general, housing is good, relatively new with nice finishes. Our house is the best housing I have had in four tours in the FS. Most apartments and cotos have some sort of club house with gym and pool, though not guaranteed for all housing and quality may vary. Primary downside for all the housing is lack of green space as most houses have limited back yards which are small and frequently tiled or covered with astroturf. Apartments may or may not have common use green space.
Commutes are 15-30 minutes to the old consulate and will be 5-20 minutes when we move into the new consulate. Traffic is minimal during our drive times, but can be heavy during Mexican rush hour.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Grocery stores are plentiful and American-style. There is Costco and Sams Club. Prices are comparable to USA with some imported items more expensive and local products cheaper. Amazon is available for US consulate officers and it usually arrives 6-10 days after ordering. Delivery services are plentiful and much cheaper than US.
Some produce expires more quickly than in the States and there is less variety in things like lettuce.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Some non-Mexican ethnic food items can be challenging to find, but with Amazon, you can still get most everything.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
The tacos are amazing, plentiful and cheap. Lots of food delivery services like Uber Eats or Rappi are cheap. Many American fast food brands are here (McDonalds, Burger King, Popeyes, Little Caesers, Pizza Hut, Dominoes, etc.)
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Some issues with cockroaches, especially during dry season, but nothing too awful.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
We use DPO and Mexican posts have mail services through Brownsville, Texas. Much faster than typical DPO in other posts. Because mail is delivered via truck instead of air, some slightly more liberal rules on getting items here.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Household help is available and fairly cheap. We pay $125/week for full-time (40 hours) staff. We have both a nanny and a housekeeper.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Most cotos and apartments have gyms. New consulate will also have gym equipment. Commercial gyms widely available, but I haven't used so I don't know costs.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Credit cards are widely accepted at larger stores and restaurants, but cash often required for smaller shops. ATMs are common and easy to use. One note: every ATM will offer to convert your withdrawal to US dollars, but the mark-up is horrendous, so you should decline the conversion. ATMs are a little less safe than the US as there can be some robberies or express kidnappings, but I have not heard any direct stories of these.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Limited: we found a protestant English-language church, but it was too small for our liking. There may be others.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
You need a decent amount of Spanish for daily living. Most personnel in stores/restaurants don't speak English. Most meetings and school stuff conducted in Spanish.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Someone with physical disabilities would have more trouble navigating GDL than comparable US cities, but it is significantly more friendly for disabilities than most of the world.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Taxis and Ubers are safe and plentiful. We are not supposed to take local public buses or metro, but it doesn't appear to dangerous.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
Any car sufficient for the US will work here.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Internet available and decently-priced. Installation is relatively quick at around 2 weeks to a month. Your sponsor may be able to jump start the process.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Many US carriers offer free coverage in Mexico, but may boot you off your plan if you use it too much. We had to switch our US numbers from T-Mobile to Google Fi (Google Fi offers an exception for FSOs in Mexico). I have a work cell phone with a local plan, but primarily use my US phone and number.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
Vets and kennels are available and much cheaper than in the US. Many do house calls. Only challenge was actually getting our dog to post as we ran into weather issues and third party pet-shippers are prohibitively expensive.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
Significant number of spouses working on DETOs for their federal jobs. Jobs in the consulate have generally been available. No known spouses working on local economy.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Dress at work is professional and/or business casual. Formal dress only required for Marine Ball.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
There have been several security incidents in Guadalajara including several shootings in public places in the last year. It has not impacted our daily lives, but it does give us pause on occasion.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Health is generally good. Dry season can be rough on people with breathing problems as there is more dust and smoke in the air, but nothing horrible.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Dry season can be rough on people with breathing problems as there is more dust and smoke in the air, but nothing horrible.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
There are no restrictions on food at school, so kids with nut allergies may have some issues.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Warm and pleasant most of the year. Gets HOT in late spring early summer during the dry season. During the wet season (typically June to October), it rains almost every day, but usually in the evening. Daytimes during rainy season are still dry and kids can play outside.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Three international schools: American school, Canadian school, Instituto Thomas Jefferson. Our children go to Canadian and it has been a mixed bag. Overall, it has been fine and the teachers care for our children, but, in my opinion, there have been some problems with the administration. Our first year had significant COVID restrictions that made school life worse, but those have gone away. ITJ has recently become the most popular with new families.
2. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
There are some pre-schools, but we haven't used yet, so I don't have details.
3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, schools offer extracurriculars in a variety of sports and activities. There are also club sports available (for soccer at least). Almost all is in Spanish.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
The expat community is not really a community, but rather expats who each have their own community. The community is probably less cohesive than I have had at other posts. Not sure if that is due to personalities, availability of other outside opportunities, or lingering COVID fallout.
2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Great for all types of families.
3. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
We have made some friends in the local community, though no close friends.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Yes, GDL has a strong LGBT community.
5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Tacos, tacos, tacos.