Nuevo Laredo, Mexico Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico

Nuevo Laredo, Mexico 06/15/18

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

We've lived in three other Latin American countries and also in Europe.

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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?

Virginia -- we can drive to San Antonio (2.5 hours) or Austin (3.5 hours) and catch a reasonably priced direct flight.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Nearly three years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

US Consulate.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing is generously sized and within 5 minutes' drive of the Consulate. Every house has some quirks, like occasional leaks/floods, weird layouts, etc., but generally they are quite comfortable. Most have walled-in back patios, nice for kids, dogs, barbecues, etc.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

It's easy to cross over to Laredo TX to stock up on supplies. Most of us also make regular runs to San Antonio for specialty items (Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Central Market). I buy most of my fruits and vegetables at the HEB supermarket on the Mexican side -- great prices for excellent Mexican produce, including avocados, tomatoes, peppers of all kinds, onions, pineapple, mangoes, and fresh cactus (!) (throw it on the grill with some olive oil, salt and pepper, it's delicious!)

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Nothing -- we can stock up in Texas.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There are excellent restaurants on both sides of the border with authentic tacos (e.g. shredded beef on a soft tortilla), delicious fresh salsas, and similar. The range includes a fantastic morning taco truck (Tacos La Mañana 2) where the tortillas are made right in front of you and you have a choice of 10 fillings, to a "fast food" type place, Taco Palenque, that has 6 fresh and delicious salsas in its salsa bar, as well as radishes, roasted jalapeños, and much more, to nicer restaurant/cantinas such as La Terraza. Other cuisines are harder to find, though. There is a Domino's Pizza and a Starbucks near the Consulate.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Honkin' big cockroaches. Sometimes mice. Tiny biting ants -- nothing I have tried seems to deter them. Fortunately they are just in my living room and not in my bed :)

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Mail service through the Consulate, and visiting the post office in Laredo TX (typically long lines, no self-service machines -- best to print postage online and just drop off packages).

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Most people have housekeepers and/or nannies a few days a week, and a gardener once a week. Very hard to find a reliable person who is willing to live in. There have been some issues with people's staff having personal problems and quitting suddenly.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

The most popular gym is Xperfit, about $50 a month for a short-term membership. It's air-conditioned and has many machines and also classes (TRX, yoga, Zumba, Bodycombat). The Consulate has a small gym and also a nice lap pool. The city also operates sports facilities that are free of charge -- a running track and a boxing gym with classes for men and women at all levels.

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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 accepted in medium- and larger-sized businesses, and they seem to be safe to use. For ATMs we use the one inside the Consulate to get Mexican cash, and ones in Laredo to get US cash.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Only in Laredo TX.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Spanish is dominant in Laredo TX as well as Nuevo Laredo. Skilled teachers/tutors are hard to find. I recommend learning as much Spanish as you can before arriving -- you'll feel more confident/secure and have a better time here.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

The city tries, with ramps and handicapped parking spaces, but the infrastructure is still poor in this regard in many places.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

No, we don't use public transportation in Nuevo Laredo.

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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?

Bring a sturdy vehicle with good ground clearance, because of potholes, speed bumps and occasional floods, and to sit up high so you can see what's ahead of you (like a cluster of military vehicles you should steer clear of). Don't bring a flashy car (luxury SUV in black would be the worst) that would attract carjackers or make people think you might be a cartel member as you drive around.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Internet service is mediocre -- we can't stream on two devices at once, for instance, and sometimes the service really slows down (especially on weekends). Some people have two providers so they can switch to the other when one is giving them trouble. Installation should be pretty quick, just a few days.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

I have the T-Mobile cross-border plan, but using our address in Texas, so I have to watch out for too much data roaming in Mexico (wifi at home is fine). It also provides free roaming in Europe, which has been great since we have traveled over there several times during our posting.

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Pets:

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?

We use a local vet (Supercan) for routine checkups and immunizations. Many people take their pets across to Texas, especially for more complicated issues.

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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?

Jobs in the Consulate have dwindled since the hiring freeze began. Some people work remotely. There are jobs in Laredo, but crossing the border every day makes it more complicated. Many end up volunteering, taking online classes, taking care of their kids, etc. I pay $20 for an hour of physical therapy at a private clinic here in Mexico, which will give you some idea of the salary scale here.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

A bit limited because we have to stay in our "green zone" and can't go to the poorer parts of the city. Check with the Women's Forum (a group of local women leaders, linked to the Consulate) for current volunteer opportunities. Some people volunteer on the Laredo side (animal shelter, network to support foster children).

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

At work, business casual up to a suit or dress. On the street, casual and often quite feminine for women and quite Texas-style for men.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

This border town is a key corridor for smuggling operations into the US. Cartels fight over it, and the Mexican military fights the cartels. (The local police are intimidated, rightly so, by the cartels that offer "plata or plomo" -- take the cash or get a bullet.) There are regular gunfights, chases, kidnappings, etc. However, the good news is that no one is targeting Consulate personnel, in fact they really do not want to make trouble for us. (Expat businesspeople known to be wealthy can be kidnapping targets, however.) The main risk to us is blundering into a bad situation. We alert each other via WhatsApp about developing situations ("I heard gunshots") and travel around the city in pairs or small groups if possible (upside: forces our small community to do things together!). Homes have alarms and roving patrols, but weird things happen in the neighborhoods, and there is a sense of tension and danger. Important to "escape" to the US regularly -- fortunately this is quite easy.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

This post is dusty, sometimes moldy, and VERY hot (regularly 107F or more in the afternoons, all summer). Medical care in Laredo can be frustrating, with long wait times and sometimes less than competent staff. Many go to San Antonio for the outstanding medical care there. The Consulate has a new relationship with a family doctor which seems promising. Medical care on the Mexican side can be excellent and affordable for many needs. Consulate women have had babies here and have been quite happy with the care.

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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?

Lots of dust and pollen. Many people have nagging sinus/respiratory issues. Also, housekeepers overdo it with the harsh, smelly cleaning products.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

There is less awareness of the need for labeling, for instance gluten or peanut ingredients.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

There's a sense of isolation and danger here that can weigh on people. I think it's important to speak some Spanish, to make local friends (either in Nuevo Laredo or Laredo), enjoy what this post has to offer (tacos, friendly people, the glass factory, exercise opportunities), and get away regularly. We don't currently have anyone staffing our health unit; we just get occasional visits from the regional doctor and psychiatrist.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

It gets into the 90s F in May and doesn't let up until October. High can be over 110F. Winter is cooler and pleasant. More rain and humidity than you might expect, including torrential rains and floods (and leaks and mold).

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Some families are happy with the United Day school in Laredo. Others are not, and even homeschool. The best option on the Mexican side is unfortunately not in our "green zone." The preschools on the Mexican side seem to be fine, though.

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2. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Mainly on the Laredo side, involving lots of driving across the border.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

The US Consulate is the only diplomatic mission here. Very few other expats (a priest here, a company manager there). Many Mexicans have dual citizenship. As a bit of a substitute for an expatriate community, I've made friends with the Mexican consul in Laredo and her husband, as well as many Mexican professionals who come from other parts of Mexico. The Consulate community is very small. Important to branch out and make local friends in Mexico and/or Texas. Otherwise the sense of isolation is strong.

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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?

People go to each other's homes, to restaurants, etc. On weekends most people are off doing their own thing, many of them in Texas. Single people tend to escape most weekends and go to San Antonio or elsewhere. There is a "Newcomer's Network" in Laredo but I have not attended any of their gatherings. No expat groups. Socializing in clubs and bars (except restaurants) is not recommended.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

I think it is best for couples and for families with young kids. Singles face a very small American community here, and concerns about security/corruption/visa questions when meeting local people. Most seem to escape to San Antonio regularly. Kids older than about third grade face issues with after-school activities in Texas (parents have to cross the border to get them), friends not wanting to come to their houses in Mexico, snobbery issues in Texas (prominent families who have known each other forever), and similar. However, I hear that the academic quality of the school in Laredo is very good.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

This has historically been an area with a very "macho," discriminatory culture, but the situation seems to be improving. The Pride March is in its sixth year and continues to expand and find greater public support. There are LGBT groups on both sides (the one in Laredo is new this year).

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Leadership is still very male here, but the situation seems to be changing gradually.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Free boxing class! Watching margarita glasses being hand-blown at the glass factory. Petting a tame baby jaguar at the zoo (she's too old for that now ): ) Working on civil society projects with the Women's Forum (like educating secondary students about relationship violence, promoting breastfeeding). Getting together with the EFMs for walks on the track, lunches, taco truck visits, pool parties, handicraft market visits, etc. Visiting Mexico City (museums, food, biking). Visiting San Antonio (biking the Mission Trail). Visiting Austin (paddleboarding on the river, shopping at the original Whole Foods Market).

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Glass factory, Mercadito, Guadalajara Pottery, boxing class at the Unidad Deportiva, the zoo (well-run and actually more of an animal rescue, featuring abandoned exotic pets!). Don't miss the huge George Washington's Birthday parade (!) in Laredo.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

The only thing made here is the glass from the Bejines glass factory (but it's amazing -- ranging from tequila glasses to artistic plates and wall hangings; they also take custom orders. Check it out on Facebook). But there are a few shops with handicrafts from all over Mexico at good prices.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Great new Consulate building. Being 20 minutes away from the US. Exploring Texas. Getting to know the Mexican people, food and culture (of course there are nicer places to do that, but we've appreciated the opportunity).

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

How small the Consulate community really is. Once during summer turnover there were only two EFMs here. Also the fact that there are very few other foreigners and people from elsewhere. And the dominance of Spanish even in Laredo TX.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes. In fact, our time is nearly over and I wish we could stay longer, now that we have adapted!

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter sports equipment. Stereotypes about Texas. (The cities are diverse and fascinating -- Spanish colonial history in San Antonio, cutting-edge health and fitness culture in Austin, German immigrant culture in Fredericksburg, Laredo as the most Hispanic town in the US ...)

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4. But don't forget your:

Nice hot-weather clothes. Appetite for tacos. Spanish skills. Patience with border crossings. Global Entry/SENTRI card. Comfortable car with excellent air conditioning for frequent trips to other Texas cities. Willingness to participate in the small Consulate community with people who may not match your demographics (age, interests, ages of kids, etc.) -- but I hope you will find as I did that they are terrific and fun people.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Be brave and read some books about the smuggling and crime in the border area, such as "Wolf Boys: Two American Teenagers and Mexico's Most Dangerous Drug Cartel." Don't let it scare you too much, because their world is not our world, but you will better understand what some of the local people are facing (corruption, intimidation, young people being seduced into joining the drug gangs).

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6. Do you have any other comments?

It's been frustrating not being able to explore Mexico from here because of the security restrictions. But Laredo, Texas, is culturally strongly Mexican, and "los dos Laredos" have their own unique border blend, which has been very interesting.

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Nuevo Laredo, Mexico 04/13/17

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Moscow, Lima, Río.

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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?

An hour-long flight.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Six months.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Work.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Big house, security is OK but no electric fencing, alarm system is not as good as other places.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Tacos, tacos, tacos.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

There is a season for the flying roaches that come out of the sewers.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

We cross the border or send it through our office outbox.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Maid, gardener, nanny etc. many available but hard to find someone trustworthy. The cost cost per day is approximately $300 MNX.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There is a private gym with an OK reputation and a "centro deportivo" a government community sports center which is also decent.

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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?

Yes, always in the safe areas: the upper class neighborhoods and around the commercial areas, grocery stores etc.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Yes, classes available. I think you need it.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Oh yes!

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

NO, not safe. There are not trams or trains and I would never take a bus here and I have just never experienced taxis.

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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?

You need good clearance to deal with floods, and with constant speed bumps.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, but it doesn't always work quickly, should take a day to install.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

T-Mobile border plan.

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Pets:

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, no good vet, I have had two bad experiences locally, it is probably better to go to Laredo, you will find a kennel there.

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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?

Decent pay for a local job would range around 15,000 MNX monthly. Volunteer work is available with NGOs and jobs are available in Laredo, TX.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

The women's forum has all the connections to NGOs to do volunteer work.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

No formal dress. Work attire is business casual.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

I think you know the answer to that. Constant shootings that you can hear from home of drug gangs fighting military. I wouldn't get out of my area, not even by mistake....

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

The local medical care is OK. I like our local Mexican pediatrician. It is hard to find specialists here but you can be treated in Laredo, TX. I haven't heard of any medical evacuations.

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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?

Not any obvious concerns, I have lots of allergies but that is throughout Texas, as well. You can't see the pollution in the air so that is a good sign.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Yes, there is something here that has had me sneezing since we got here it goes and comes..

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

No, you will probably have an excess of vitamin D! This place is hot!

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Yes, extremely hot during summer.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Ok this is probably the main reason why I am posting a review. I am simply unhappy. The schools here are just not for us. I have two kids one in Laredo and one in a local Nuevo Laredo, preschool. Both schools are just too far out of the norm.



My 4-year old has 6+ pages of homework every day. He is being forced to read and write in cursive and print, he learned Spanish but he dislikes school and begs every day to stay home.



My 6-year old has an endless list of complaints. The school is very "elite." Parents do professional handcraft work for the 6 year olds. You have to be constantly donating money for anything that can occur to them. You have to do some hours of service or pay 50 dollars per hour you didn't do. The kids seem spoiled, and they have attitudes. My kid comes home talking that way and it bothers me. It seems as if everything there revolves around money.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. 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?

Yes, the locals are good just know your kid will be doing work at an early age.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

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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?

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

It is just OK. You can cross the border anytime, you get to eat lots of Mexican food. The school situation makes it harder for us but another couple accepts the school and seems to have no stress about any of the issues that I see. I would say it is good for families with babies.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

The usual "machismo" but never towards foreigners. Other than that, I haven't noticed.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

We can't travel south by car so probably South Padre Island.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Eat! I like Mijitos, Tacos el sobrino and there are plenty more...

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

The glass factory, the market en el centro.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

You can be in the USA in just a few minutes.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

The school situation.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

That depends, I will search for a new school if I find one that we are comfortable with, then maybe.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Motorcycle.

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Nuevo Laredo, Mexico 02/23/16

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No; numerous other expat experiences

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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?

20 minutes to the U.S.

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3. How long have you lived here?

More than one year

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

All houses are unique, nice, and fairly large. Commute time to the Consulate is less than five minutes.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Most people shop for groceries in Laredo - both due to pricing and to the security situation. Grocery prices are significantly lower than in the DC area.

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3. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

If you like barbecue and carne asada, you'll be very happy in Nuevo Laredo. If you like tacos, you'll be ecstatic.

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4. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Cockroaches. Mosquitoes. Some dengue fever.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

The Consulate has addresses in Laredo for letters and packages; they are picked up for you and brought to the Consulate.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Many Consulate members have domestic help and it is inexpensive.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

In both Laredo and Nuevo Laredo. The CG's residence has a swimming pool open to consulate personnel. There are Gold's Gyms in Laredo. There are several fitness facilities in Nuevo Laredo.

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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?

The Consulate has an ATM. I would recommend using cash primarily when going to restaurants in Nuevo Laredo.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Numerous churches of various denominations in Laredo

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Very few people in Nuevo Laredo speak English. Many people in Laredo speak Spanish.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

The consulate has two buildings, each with two floors. There are no elevators. Presumably the new consulate (opening late 2017) will have elevators.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

In Nuevo Laredo you probably don't want to take public transportation. Nuevo Laredo has an airport with several flights daily to Mexico City. Laredo has an airport with several flights daily to Dallas and Houston, and several flights weekly to Las Vegas and Orlando.

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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?

I would recommend that you avoid bringing anything that might be of value to a drug gang. I would recommend an older model car, but less than 10 years old. It should have a good suspension system. All makes and models can be serviced in Laredo.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Internet access is available. High-speed? Not so much. Cost? Acceptable.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Some people prefer AT&T, some prefer T-Mobile. Go for a plan that will work along the border.

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Pets:

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. Vets, kennels, animal shelters, and large pet stores available in Laredo.

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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?

There are job opportunities in the Consulate, and in Laredo. Speaking Spanish is a plus.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Animal shelters on both sides of the border. Orphanage in Nuevo Laredo. Youth group in Nuevo Laredo.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Some men wear ties every day at the Consulate. Some men wear ties a few days a year (distinguished visitors, etc.). Women rarely wear ties. Jeans are acceptable during consular development days. You will be able to buy a cowboy hat in Laredo. And Wrangler jeans.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Yes. There is a drug war going on.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

The Consulate will provide you with bottled water - there are reports that the tap water is not safe to drink, but it is safe for bathing and hygiene. There are few if any reports of sickness due to eating the local food. Some people prefer to use hospitals in Nuevo Laredo, some prefer Laredo. If you need particular medical specialties, you might need to go to San Antonio (2.5-3 hours away).

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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?

Surprisingly humid. Interesting odors throughout the city at different times.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Some people will suffer from allergies in Nuevo Laredo

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

At times, it is mild - 40s or 50s F. 80s and 90s F not unusual at any time of the year. Triple digits to be expected from around April through October. Occasional flash floods.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Most Consulate children of school age go to a private school in Laredo, TX. The school has a fairly good reputation. Parents are apparently asked for additional fundraising support on a regular basis.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

This could be a challenging area

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3. 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?

Some parents send their children to pre-schools in Nuevo Laredo, and have indicated they are happy with these experiences.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

This could be a challenging area

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

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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?

Refer to the comment above about San Antonio and Corpus Christi. Party/relax with your colleagues. Karaoke.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

As much as any other city along the U.S.-Mexico border

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

As much as any other city along the U.S.-Mexico border. Consulate members participate in an annual gay pride parade.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

No. Expect to speak Spanish virtually everywhere you go, including Laredo. A lot of people in stores and restaurants in Laredo speak primarily Spanish.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Phenomenal people. Good food.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Corpus Christi and San Antonio are great cities to visit.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Hand-made glass products. You can go to the factory and watch them being made.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Phenomenal people. 20 minutes to the U.S. Good food.

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10. Can you save money?

No, because you will probably spend it all getting away.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

It gets very humid in Nuevo Laredo. The local employees are phenomenal. You cannot drive further into Mexico from Nuevo Laredo.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

I am very glad to have served

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Parkas and snowmobiles.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sense of humor. You will not survive if you forget your sense of humor. You must remember that your colleagues are your social outlet and your friends. Make friends with your colleagues. You must also remember to not take yourself too seriously.

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5. Do you have any other comments?

Be prepared - life is dangerous in Nuevo Laredo. Not as dangerous as it was in 2012. Some suggest it will get dangerous again.

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Nuevo Laredo, Mexico 12/07/15

Background:

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.

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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.

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3. How long have you lived here?

A bit over a year now.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government - US Consulate

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Ants and incessant mosquitos!

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Daily Life:

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There are some in Laredo, but not in NLD.

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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.

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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.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Nope.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Pets:

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.

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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?

No

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are orphanages, animal shelters, churches and womens shelters that welcome volunteers.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Expat Life:

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Not that I've experienced or heard of.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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10. Can you save money?

Sure you can.

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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.

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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.

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3. But don't forget your:

Karaoke Machine! :P

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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!

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Nuevo Laredo, Mexico 06/07/14

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, several other cities around the world in the U.S., Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

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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?

Washington, DC. About 5 hours of flying and a couple hours of waiting around for connections in Dallas or Houston

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3. How long have you lived here?

About a year.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Consulate.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Since most officers are first tour, we are all amazed at our housing, barring the few super rich who are used to having 3-4 bedroom houses with multiple bathrooms and maid's quarters as a single young adult or new young family. They are set up like mini fortresses. Commute time is about 10 minutes. Every house has unique features. So you'll most likely be jealous of one feature in someone's house and they'll be jealous of one feature in your house.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

U.S. prices, some things are cheaper on this side and others are cheaper in Laredo. Most of us shop on the U.S. side and supplement with some Mexican groceries as well.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Houses are furnished well. You have full access to most U.S. retail stores and Mexican ones. You really don't need much. Nothing you're going to want for really with the U.S. so close. It's actually a great tour for first tour officers to get their housewares and housing essentials bought while they have a car and access to easy shopping in the U.S. Especially those transitioning from roommate living to becoming a young professional.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Great little taco stands of varying quality are easy to come by. Everyone has their favorite. And also the U.S. chains are all in Laredo. U.S. prices for restaurants, cheap for taco stands.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Ants mainly. You need to keep your ant drawing items stored properly or else they'll find a why in. They are very industrious.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

We have a PO BOX in Laredo TX so add one day to traditional U.S. shipping. It's great.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Available and reasonable.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, many people have memberships on both sides of the border. Although, you could not hire a housekeeper and clean your own house for exercise. Just saying...

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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?

Widely available and accepted.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

It is a heavily Catholic area. But some other services are available. Some people are willing to drive far for church. I imagine everything would be available in San Antonio. I haven't found any English language services in Nuevo Laredo for church. If you are Catholic, this is a great area for you. The church is one of the more vibrant areas of the community.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Surprisingly, a lot. Despite the proximity to the U.S., most speak only Spanish. And you will be left out of the jokes and other insider talk in Laredo, TX as well if you don't speak Spanish. There's no real push to learn English since every aspect of civil life in Laredo can be conducted in Spanish. Most of the staff speak fluent (at times Native-level) English.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Not really. You drive everywhere. Although the Consulate is two stories and doesn't have an elevator.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

I wish.

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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?

Small SUV or a sedan is fine. People drive whatever they want from big SUVS to Toyota Corrollas. The roads are somewhat beat up on both sides. When it rains, it floods the streets. That's just what you get with pop up thunderstorms in this area. I think you can now bring a car up to 10 years old. New isn't important but well maintained is very important. You don't want to break down on the side of the highway here frequently.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

I pay 800 pesos for Cable and high speed internet. It's worth it to me. Of course we have some U.S. programming on the Mexican cable.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

I used T-Mobile and it sometimes works from my house in Mexico. I recently bought a TelCel (Mexican) SIM card for 3G access when out and about the Consulate gives you a phone. I would suggest bringing an unlocked phone so you can just get a U.S. sim and a Mexican Sim and switch them. out.

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Pets:

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, I don't think so.

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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?

Not really.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Yes, there are with orphanages, animal shelters and the like. You should speak Spanish though. Some people have found all kinds of things to do. On the surface these things are hard to find because there isn't really a driving force behind things to do.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Work is business casual. Khakis and button down shirt. Suits and ties for public appearances outside of the consulate.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

It can be a very dangerous place. You have be street smart around here. You know, doors locked, alert at all times and don't talk to strangers. We stick together when we go out; it's not recommended to go out alone. The violence is random and unpredictable and normally not targeted at the USG directly.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Health care is available on both sides. Care is adequate but expect to wait a long time at the doctors' offices.

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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?

It's not too polluted. It's hot and dusty.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hot and dry. With the occasional drop in temperature during the winter months. Winter is like early spring in DC. The rest of the year it's hot and you'll spend most of your time running from your air conditioned house to your air conditioned car to your air conditioned office.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Kids go to school in Laredo,TX; a couple of different options.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Limited but available.

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3. 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?

Reasonable, most people with young families have a stay-at-home spouse and sometimes a nanny as well.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, there are a few. It requires a lot of commitment going back and forth over the border all the time.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

The Consulate is small. The ELOs tend to be close knit and on directed assignments here. And are mainly all first tour. The mid level officers are generally here because of family ties to the area and therefore happy with their assignment. It can be lonely but you make your own fun and make the most of it. Every tour has peaks and valleys.

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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?

We go to the movies, out to dinner at a few restaurants, go to a few bars. Lot's of hanging with co-workers, but also room to do your own thing if you want.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

In general, Nuevo Laredo is somewhat off limits to our social scene. When we go out, we normally hang out as a group from work, and some people find the occasional date, or date on the Laredo side. There aren't many outlets for young professionals in my opinion. We do a lot of things as a group. We make the most of it. Manage your expectations and you'll be fine.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

The consulate environment is diverse, more so than the surrounding areas but there is a scene for everyone.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Not really overtly obvious. Laredo, TX is more than 90% Latino. You won't find much diversity.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Mexico is a great country with great food and culture. The people are generally friendly. I've been able to learn tons about South Texas and feel like it's nice to be able to go home to the U.S. frequently.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

South Padre Island for beach weekends, Austin, San Antonio, a number of flea markets and Walmarts at your disposal. I have gotten involved in the arts scene in Laredo a bit. Nice to be able to have "time off" from being a diplomat and go back and just be a citizen for a while.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

There's a great glass factory here.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Proximity of the U.S. The Consulate is about a 10-15 minute drive to the U.S. Border. Wait times can be long during peak seasons but this is normally mitigated by having a Known Traveler Program ID like SENTRI or GLOBAL Entry. You cannot really save money, food/gas prices are not cheaper here and you'll most likely be crossing frequently into South Texas because of lack of activity within Nuevo Laredo.

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10. Can you save money?

Not really.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

I don't know. It's kind of how I expected.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Maybe. I know none of us signed up to be expats only to cross into the U.S. whenever we felt like it. It's not exotic or exciting really, but you are close to home. So if you need to be close to relatives in the U.S. or need a break from being too far away from home, then you can enjoy the option to travel without being jet lagged, etc. I really like that aspect of it. Not forever, but it's a nice break after being a lot further away from the U.S.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Diplomatic sash and ball gowns. We're the only diplomatic mission in town! Ski equipment and ice scraper. It snowed here once like 20 years ago and everyone still talks about it. Overseas survival kit. If Walmart doesn't have it, you don't need it!

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4. But don't forget your:

Grill for grilling your carne asadas, sun glasses and situational awareness. Cowboy hats and boots.

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Nuevo Laredo, Mexico 02/20/13

Background:

1. Your reason for living this city (e.g. corporate, government, military, student, educator, retiree, etc.):

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2. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

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3. 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?

Washington.

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4. How long have you lived here?

(The contributor is affiliated with the U.S. Consulate and has been living in Nuevo Laredo for two years, not a first expat experience.)

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Consulate housing is nice, scattered within a 10-minute drive of the consulate.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

I shopped on the Mexican side before the security deteriorated and then began shopping on the US side.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Tacos are plentiful.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Some ants, no big problems.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Yes.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Some have found gyms on the Mexican side; it depends on the security situation. Otherwise there are gyms in Laredo, TX.

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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?

Going to the ATM can be a jarring experience as many people get robbed there.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Definitely helpful, some shopkeepers speak English but not all.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

You need a car to get around everywhere here, regardless of disability status.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Not advisable given the security.

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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?

Most cars are fine, the roads are well paved.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, Hypercable and Telmex. Hypercable seems cheaper and comes with cable TV.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Some plans work across the border, but not all.

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Pets:

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?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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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?

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

It is very dangerous because of the drug-related violence: grenades explode routinely around the city, including near and at the grocery stores in town. Gunfights can happen anywhere, as can kidnappings, robberies, etc. While has nothing happened to me personally, it really wears on you -- always being worried about being carjacked or robbed at the store.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

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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?

Fine

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hot dry summers and mild winters. It is surprisingly humid most of the time.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. 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?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Small.

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2. Morale among expats:

Low - this is a very difficult place to live, with few outlets.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Families have it best because you end up spending most time at home, given the security restrictions and danger outside.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

There seems to be a scene on both sides of the border, but the security situation makes dating for all singles more difficult.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Don Rafael's furniture shop has great wood furniture and antiques and is a holdover from Nuevo Laredo's heyday.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Furniture and crafts.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Proximity to Texas.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes -- there is not much to spend money on here.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

No.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

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3. But don't forget your:

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

This place used to be a party town but is having some hard knocks right now. The drug violence affects every part of life in this town, sadly.

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Nuevo Laredo, Mexico 11/15/11

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. We previously lived in Jerusalem and London.

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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?

From Washington DC, the trip is about five hours with connections in Dallas or Houston.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Over two years

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Consulate staff are housed in two neighborhoods close to the Consulate. No one's commute is longer than 5-7 minutes. The housing is about 20 minutes from the International Bridge crossings into Laredo, TX.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Most of us shop at the grocery stores in Laredo. Standard U.S. prices. You can get good, cheap fruits and vegetables on the Mexican side.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Nothing. Everything is available in Laredo or two hours north in San Antonio.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Nuevo Laredo has good Mexican food and most major American fast food chains (McDonalds, Burger King, Dominos, KFC) some of which deliver. Laredo has fast food and Mexican food. That's pretty much it. There are some chain restuarants such as Olive Garden and Texas Roadhouse, but in a place where even the Chinese buffets serve enchiladas, do not expect the full range of options provided by most U.S. cities of Laredo's size. Laredoans really like Mexican food.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

The U.S. groceries stores would have a lot of these items available.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Ants seem to be the principal issue. They get into anything sweet (sugar, syrup etc.). GSO sprays twice a year, but we've found we need to spray at least quarterly to keep them at bay. There isn't the roach problem I thought there would be. You really only seem them when they come out to die.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

We have a PO Box in the U.S. Mail delivery is five days a week.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Very cheap. We pay $75 for five day a week part time domestic help.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

This is a big challenge. There are local gyums available, but the security situation means everyone needs to be time and place unpredictable, which effectively eliminates this option. However, several staff members have gym memberships in Laredo and seem to be happy with them. Outdoor exercise in Nuevo Laredo is effectively discouraged due to the violence.

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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?

We have a Banamex ATM on compound that most of us use. I don't use credit cards on this side. Cash only.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

All.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Many major papers are available in Laredo. The local press in Nuevo Laredo is muzzled by the Zetas. They only report on things the cartel allows them to report on.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You need to have a working level knowledge of Spanish both here and in Laredo. Very few people speak English on this side of the border and many in Laredo will refuse to speak English if they know you understand Spanish. It can be frustrating.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Like most countries around the world, Mexico does not make a U.S.-level effort to accomodate disabilities. It would be a challenge to serve here with physical disabilities.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

No local trains, buses and libre taxis are off limits. It's a car culture here. Everyone drives everywhere.

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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?

I'd recommend a small SUV with a decent ground clearance. The roads here are poor and when it does rain, it tends to flood. However, large pick ups and SUV's are targets of carjackings by the narcos. Nothing flashy, but something durable is recommended.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. It's cheap and reliable through TelMex or Hyercable.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Everyone uses Nextel Push to Talk. For some reason even Nextel can't explain, Mexican Nextels work on both sides of the border, but U.S. Nextels are spotty at best on the Mexican side. The Consulate provides all staff with a Nextel, but if you have a spouse or older child, I would wait until you get to Post to get them a local Nextel. U.S. AT&T phones get decent coverage here in town and some of the staff have U.S. phones with Verizon using the $12 a month Mexico Border Plan and seem to get good coverage.

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Pets:

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?

Are you kidding?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Decent U.S. care.

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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?

Post has several EFM positions. Beyond that, there are very few job opportunities for non-Spanish speakers. You can't get a job at McDonalds in Laredo unless you speak fluent Spanish.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual. Ties are rarely required. It's too hot.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

We are a danger pay post for a reason. The war between the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel continues to rage. The gunbattles can occur anywhere in the city at any time of the day or night. There are now about 1000 federal forces in the city and they keep things from getting too out of control, but security is the principal issue we all deal with.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Beyond gunshot wounds? Not really. They have dengue here, but we haven't had cases among the staff. Medical care in Laredo is adequate, but extremely slow. It is not uncommon to wait 3-4 hours to see a doctor, even when you have an appointment. No one is in a hurry here. Ever.

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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?

Normally the air quality is fine. We've been suffering through an 11-month drought which means there are a lot of dust and allergens in the area. It has been hard on the allergy sufferers.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Sunny, all the time. It's hot from about March until about November. It is extremely hot during the summer, to an extent that you really can't do anything outdoors (at least not comfortably). The winters are nice and mild.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

We had one of our children in a good local pre-school, but we moved him to the private school for kindergarten. Currently, all the kids at Post attend United Day School in Laredo, TX. They have a very good curriculum.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

A lot of the standard special needs requirements can be addressed in Laredo.

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3. 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?

As I said, our son spent two years at an excellent little pre-school here in town. He picked up Spanish and really enjoyed it. They are a soft target school so they have had all the security upgrades.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Laredo has an active baseball/t-ball program as well as youth football. Soccer, is almost non-existent surprisingly enough. Other than that, the full range of sports options is available privately or through school in Laredo.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Small. We're the only game in town.

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2. Morale among expats:

Surprisingly good. As danger pay posts go, having full access to U.S. goods and services eases the burden. It is a small post, but everyone seems committed to making it work and we spend a lot of our off time at each other's houses. There is a strong interest in college football, so Saturdays in Fall are always a community event. People frequently host parties and get togethers. When the violence isn't spiking, it can be a fun place to be. However, we also have to weather the bad times too. There are periods where we are severely restricted in our movements and the lack of outdoor activities can give you cabin fever at times.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Lots of at home entertaining. However, Laredo has a minor league hockey team and is adding an arena football team. They also have movie theaters, bars and restaurants. However, to be safe, you need to be back across the border and home by around ten at night due to the risk of violence.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

The security situation makes this a "create your own fun" post. Many of the local attractions: El Mercado, the Cadillac Bar, the Bullfights have either closed or are operating only sporadically. We mostly spend time at each other's houses. Travel to Texas on weekends is popular with a lot of the staff.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

From what I've heard there is a small, but vibrant local gay community. However, Mexican machismo means the community has to keep a low profile and the security situation limits late night travel to bars and clubs.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Not that I have seen.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

My family has enjoyed it here. The kids go to school at a good non-denominational private school in Laredo and have made some good friends.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Bull fights (when they are available), travel to Texas. That's about it.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Santa Muerta statues and knock off Big Pony polos.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

The cost of living is cheap and people seem to enjoy the constant sunny weather. However the current travel restrictions make traveling into the interior of Mexico difficult. You can't drive overland from Post. You can fly, but there are increasingly more restrictions on many other areas of Mexico and you have to register all travel in advance (personal and official).

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11. Can you save money?

Absolutley. It's cheap living (if you don't spend it traveling) and the allowances are high.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Hard to say. This has been a rewarding Post professionally, but it has taken years off my life.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Cold weather clothes and your mostly wildly pessimistic estimate of how longs things should take. Rest assured, they will take even longer here. Mexico: Where 'good enough' is always good enough.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunglasses and your horse tranquilizers (you'll need to take them in order to fit in with local driving patterns).

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Down by the River by Mark Bowden, Opening Mexico, The Bear and the Porcupine, Border Games.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Traffic, Saving Private Perez.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Nuevo Laredo, Mexico 02/22/09

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No.

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2. How long have you lived here?

6 months.

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3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Work.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

Nuevo Laredo is across the border from Laredo, Texas. There are good air connections with Houston and DFW from Laredo's airport.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

View All Answers


2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

View All Answers


3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

View All Answers


4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

View All Answers


5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

View All Answers


Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

View All Answers


2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

View All Answers


3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

View All Answers


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?

View All Answers


5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

View All Answers


6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

View All Answers


7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

View All Answers


8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

View All Answers


Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

View All Answers


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?

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

View All Answers


2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

View All Answers


Pets:

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?

View All Answers


2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

View All Answers


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?

View All Answers


2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Air quality seems good to me.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

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3. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

This topic is my main reason for sending in this mini-report. It's been nearly three years since someone posted the last report on Nuevo Laredo. Comments in the last report such as "Welcome to Baghdad of the Border" are perhaps witty but are grossly, absurdly inaccurate. Please actually talk with someone here and get information that's not years old if you're considering coming here. Everybody will be happy to speak with you and give personal impressions of the place. And don't make the mistake of generalizing all of Mexico. Security varies from one city to another, just as it does in the U.S. Please just call someone here and get up-to-date opinions and information on security and every other topic.

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4. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

View All Answers


2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

View All Answers


3. 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?

View All Answers


4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

View All Answers


Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

View All Answers


2. Morale among expats:

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

View All Answers


4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

View All Answers


5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

View All Answers


6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

View All Answers


7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

View All Answers


8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

View All Answers


9. Can you save money?

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

View All Answers


2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

View All Answers


3. But don't forget your:

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

View All Answers


5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

The SENTRI lane, a special lane for "trusted travelers" approved by DHS, is now up and running. It's great. Time to cross the bridge to the U.S. using the SENTRI lane is now perhaps five minutes max. (There's never much of a line to get back into Mexico.) So you can see a semi-pro ice hockey game or hit a restaurant or shopping in Texas without travel being a big deal. Call someone living in Nuevo Laredo to see how the SENTRI system works before you get here, apply for your SENTRI card before you get here, and start using it immediately when you're here. Sweet!

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