Nuevo Laredo, Mexico Report of what it's like to live there - 12/07/15
Personal Experiences from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No - We've lived in many places in Europe, Middle East, Central/South America and throughout the U.S.
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?
California - when it comes to traveling out, this is a challenging place because of where we are situated. We either have to leave from Nuevo Laredo airport or Laredo airport - both tiny and usually expensive. Depending on where you live you could either drive or fly with a connection in Houston or Dallas (Laredo) or Mexico City if flying out of NLD.
3. How long have you lived here?
A bit over a year now.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Government - US Consulate
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Our houses are huge! My house has 3 bedrooms upstairs, a room downstairs for an office, two living rooms, a dining area, kitchen is huge with a breakfast area, laundry room, maids quarters and then outside front and back. The house has a total of 5 bathrooms with a shower in every one. A little much, but it's free! Commute time is great. It's only 3 minutes from my daughter's school and about 7 minutes to the Consulate. All of us live relatively close to each other.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Groceries are probably the same you will find in the U.S. Probably cheaper than DC. Anything is probably cheaper than DC.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Nothing. We all can still use Amazon, Zappos or drive to the Target or Walmart if you need anything.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Fast food everywhere. Taco Palenque is a fast food taco chain and they are pretty good and inexpensive. We sometimes order food while at the Consulate and they have a good variety. They even have a nice smoothie place you can drive through. It is not super cheap, but not expensive either.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Ants and incessant mosquitos!
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
We have a PO Box for letter mail and a warehouse address for boxes. Those are picked up in Laredo by Consulate personnel and brought back to the Consulate.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Affordable although some people here have had trouble finding a good nanny. I am one of them. Finally found a keeper, but she wasn't my first option. Availability is easy - they are usually recommended by consulate staff and most pay anywhere from 300-350 pesos for a full days work.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes, the local gym is surprisingly a bit pricey, but it is supposedly good. My husband goes to that gym and he likes it. Then there is Gold's Gym in Laredo. Do not know prices, but from what I've seen they are pretty good.
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?
Haven't had any issues with this. There is an ATM machine in the Consulate if you don't want to take cash out of the local ATMs.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
There are some in Laredo, but not in NLD.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
You should know Spanish. I don't think you would be able to get by here if you didn't know Spanish.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes, probably. The Consulate doesn't have an elevator and it is two floors.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
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 vehicle is fine, but you definitely need a vehicle.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes. We have HyperCable and pay about 300 pesos a month for internet.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
I have AT&T and only have service in some areas, but most people have switched to T-Mobile and haven't looked back.
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?
No quarantine. Laredo has good vets and so does NLD. Laredo also has a pet hotel, but we all volunteer to watch each others dogs when someone goes out of town.
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?
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
There are orphanages, animal shelters, churches and womens shelters that welcome volunteers.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Definitely - it's the border! We have curfew for a reason. Just stay alert, sharpen your situational awareness skills, don't be flashy, remember to lock your doors, etc. We are not targeted directly so the real issue would be being at the wrong place at the wrong time. There was a shooting not too long ago close to the Consulate between alcones (TCO spotters) and the federal police. Only the bad guys were killed and no innocent bystanders were hit, so it turned out okay.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Just those dang mosquitoes. I haven't had the best experience with medical in Laredo. Super long wait lines (especially from our pediatrician) and not the best care. Surprisingly, I've had good experiences here in NLD. I took my daughter once to a pediatrician here close to the Consulate and he was great. He was very caring and it didn't cost much. They have a hospital here called the Mexico Americano Hospital. It has only been around for 3 years, but me and several personnel from the Consulate went on an official visit and we were quite impressed with the quality of their services. They are very professional, the hospital is very nice and very clean and they offer a wide array of services. It is also very inexpensive (for us). Most people of Nuevo Laredo say it is an expensive hospital. For instance, a MRI in the U.S. can cost around US$1000, but only US$300 at the Mexico Americano Hospital.
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?
Normal - not too much pollution, but definitely a bit dusty.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
I have been to many places, but the weather here has got to have the craziest weather patterns I have ever experienced. We are in December and it has been cold and now tomorrow we will be back up to 92F! And then back cold again. Can't be healthy. Then there are days where it rains all of sudden (mostly at night which nobody has been able to explain) and not just rain, but crazy thunderstorms. Random!
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
All of the kids here go to the school in Laredo, TX and all go together in an armored vehicle. The school is United Day School and it's private and supposedly a very good school, but it only goes to 8th grade. High School is public, but we do not have anybody here that has their kid in high school. I've heard great things about United Day. My 3 year old goes to a local preschool here and I love it! If we were here longer I would even consider keeping her there even for elementary instead of enrolling her in United Day. Although I can see how it would be tough on non-Spanish speaking families. I'm a heritage Spanish speaker so communicating with teachers and other moms has not been a problem for me.
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?
The cost of my daughter's school is considered expensive and is also known as the "richy school" for the wealthy Nuevo Laredo residents, but after paying for childcare in DC, the tuition here is extremely affordable. We pay for the whole school year because there is a discount for doing that, but you can pay monthly and I believe it's around US$200/month. I'm not sure how much it would be in Laredo, but the younger babies here have nannies and they are affordable, but not easy to find good ones.
3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, but don't expect there to be a huge following of girl's soccer.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Small size, but morale is generally good. Some people have had a hard time adjusting and others have fit in quite well and are enjoying themselves quite a bit. It really is what you make of it.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Social gatherings at peoples houses mostly, but there are a few things in Laredo. It's just a matter of putting things together. Some people do a happy hour in Laredo and invite the Mexican Consulate or other contacts like CBP or Border Patrol.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
I think this is a great post for families and couples, but I can see how it can be a challenge for a single person. The houses are huge and the party scene here is not exactly vibrant. Most of the single officers just stuck together and hung out at the Consulate events. They did a lot of traveling around the U.S. and Mexico and TDYs to other posts so it was nice that they had those opportunities.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Surprisingly, since this is a very Catholic city, I have seen a large gay/lesbian scene in Nuevo Laredo/Laredo. I believe NLD even has a gay pride march every June with a large gathering.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Not that I've experienced or heard of.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
My daughter is the only American child at the moment attending a local preschool and it is the first time a diplomat enrolls a child there. It's called Colegio Irlandes and it's supposed to be the top school in Nuevo Laredo from preschool to high school. It has been amazing to see my daughter become bilingual. I have also seen so many positive changes in her because of the school that I am going to be very sad when she has to leave. She is loved there! The people in Nuevo Laredo are very nice. I've had nothing but good experiences with the locals, especially the locals at the Consulate - they are warm and welcoming and just so much fun. Working at the Consulate as an EFM has also been a highlight. I enjoy the work I do and the friends I've made. How about the biggest highlight of all - giving birth to my son in Laredo!
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
There is a nice glass factory that many of us frequently visit. Laredo also has some very nice pottery/mexican furniture shops. If you have kids, the mall has a place called Imaginarium of South Texas and it is a fun, enclosed area for your kids to run around. The majority of the "fun" we have here is in the form of parties at each other's houses. We currently have someone who really enjoys karaoke and brings along the microphone and speaker to most events. It always turns out to be a fun time.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Glass at the glass factory and pottery at the Alamo pottery in Laredo. Vega's also has some very nice Mexican clothes, furniture and pottery, but extremely overpriced.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Access to the U.S. You can just hop in your car and drive to San Antonio, Austin or even Miami if you're feeling ambitious. Want to get a way for a weekend? Easy. Get in your car and visit South Padre Island for a few days. Saving money is all about how you manage your income. We have been able to save money even with two small kids, but I am an EFM with a decent paying job at the Consulate so our two incomes allow us to save money, but things are not necessarily cheaper here.
10. Can you save money?
Sure you can.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, absolutely. We extended here 6 months so my daughter can get a full school year in. We have a good group at the moment and we all like each other so we have a great time no matter what. We've made friends with locals and local staff and have found our niche here.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Negative attitude. If you are a negative person, you will have a tough time here.
3. But don't forget your:
Karaoke Machine! :P
4. Do you have any other comments?
As I mentioned before, your experience here will depend on you. Some people have found running groups and are really enjoying themselves, while others hate it and want to curtail. Just be patient, find something you enjoy doing, participate in events and stay positive!