Moving to México, A Guide
January 1, 1970
Who Wants To Move To México?
This article is written for anyone thinking about moving to México for travel or work, or maybe just because they love beaches, tacos, and Tequila (who doesn´t!). I will tell you a little about me, but mainly I will share my hints and tips I pick up along the way, being as brutally honest as needed.
I have now lived in the wonderful country that is México for 6 whole weeks. In that time I have eaten around 50 tacos, and drunk probably at least 10 times my body weight in Cerveza (beer). But let me take you back to the day I left for México and give you some hints and tips on how I got here for anyone considering travelling or moving to this exciting North American country.
Picture the scene: I am at Heathrow airport (London) with my loving but slightly traumatised parents who are seeing me onto the plane to México City. I had booked a one way flight ticket at a cost of £480 British pounds (roughly 623 American Dollars) around 2 months previously. As I try to check in at the desk, I am asked by the tanned flight attendant with the cute Spanish accent on what date I am leaving México. I inform him that I have only got a one way ticket because I am planning on staying 3 months and don´t yet know my return date. It is also relevant to add that only having booked a one way ticket had been made me feel like quite the little adventurer, and I know that I said this with a very self-satisfied grin.
NB: I had told him “3 months” because I was aware that the standard tourist visa for Mexico is 90 days, although in reality I am hoping to stay in and around Central America for a year, but more on visas later.
So imagine my surprise when he informed me that I would not be able to check in to my flight without a return or onward flight out of México!
I am now stood at the front of a very long line of people trying to check in, with my 2 large rucksacks and my 2 average sized parents, in sheer panic about what to do. I can feel the people behind me eyeing the back of my head and cursing me for not being more efficient with my time at the desk. I have a sudden barrage of thoughts about all the smug looks on my friend´s and ex-co worker´s faces as I have to explain that a) no I didn´t move to México where I got an awesome tan and fell in love with someone called Juan and b) could I please have my old job back that I so happily left only 2 weeks ago.
Don’t Try And Check-in Without An Onward Flight
But all was not lost. Sexy probably-Méxican flight attendant informed me that all I had to do was get out of the line, book a flight out of México on my phone (what DID people do before smartphones!?), and then re-join the line. It sounded very simple, so I toddled off and booked a random flight from México City to Guatemala for about 2 months time. I then re-joined the queue and tried again to check-in.
I ended up being checked in by a different lady (although she was equally as tanned and gorgeous, that had better be me in a month!) who again asked me the same question: when was my flight out of México? This time I was prepared and I explained I would be flying out on a date in 2 months time to Guatemala. I basically shoved my iPhone into her face to show her the confirmation page of the flight she could clearly see had only been booked 6 minutes previously. She studied it closely and even wrote down my reference number of my flight onto her note pad.
But…. it worked!
This allowed me to check in, dump my bags and my devastated parents (sorry guys, but Skype is so easy, it will be like I never left) and board the flight, around 11 hours direct.
I have had many adventures since I got here, and they are for another time, but I cannot stress enough how much you need to check before you fly about what the rules are about entering a country. In my defence, I had double checked the small print of the confirmation email and it had not mentioned anything. Thankfully, I was allowed to fly and now I am the one able to smugly flaunt my travel adventures all over Facebook.
But what if I hadn´t brought my smart phone? Or they had not told me that all I had to do was book an onward flight?
I have travelled previously but always had bought either a round the world ticket, or a return, so for me this issue has never come up. Even when I had explained that I had no intention of overstaying in México, and that I was going to leave the country by bus, this was not good enough. He informed me that they had a policy that they could not allow anyone to check in without proof that they had an outgoing flight too.
If Possible Book a Flight That You Can Cancel of Change at a Later Date
After speaking to other travellers since I have arrived, apparently this is actually a fairly common rule that lots of countries have, and you need to be prepared for this to happen. I ended up wasting £80 of my hard-earned budget on that flight to Guatemala that I will never use, and in my sheer panic of the moment I didn´t even think to pay the extra few quid (sorry, pounds) to get the ticket type that would allow me to cancel or change the booking in the future, to one that I did actually want. Apparently some websites like Expedia have a 24 hour cancellation policy so that would also have been a good option.
Arriving in México – 90 or 180 Day Tourist Visas
After the panic at Heathrow airport, I will admit that going through Méxican customs made me really nervous. I was worried that they wouldn’t accept my story that I was flying out of México in two months to Guatemala (which I wasn’t, and I’m very bad at lying). Thankfully they didn’t ask me any questions and I sailed right through, but I DID have an address in México to write down on the visa form and I think without this they probably would have asked me a lot of questions. I also had with me a copy of my bank account showing that I had the funds (£1000) to travel in their country. They didn’t ask me to see that, but I have heard of other travellers in other countries where they needed to show this.
I can tell you I breathed a big sigh of relief as I got out the other end. When you enter into México they tear off part of your visa form which you have to keep until you leave. If you lose this it is not the end of the world but you have to pay a fine when you leave which I think is around 25 US Dollars. On the piece of paper it will tell you how long your visa is for, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the customs man had written 180 days on it, rather than 90.
I later asked a Méxican friend who worked for the British embassy in México why I had been given 180 days and not 90. He informed me that 180 days is the maximum for a British tourist visa, but that they also give 90 sometimes depending on the need of the tourist. I then told this story to a French lady who I met in México. She got out her tourist visa to complain about how unfair it was that she had only been given 90 days…..but then there it was the number 180 written on it just like mine! It turns out she had been given 180 days too but had never bothered to check and had assumed it was 90.
I´m sure that you are probably a far more prepared traveller than I am, and would have known that the world isn´t as free as it used to be; countries have these pesky rules now about visas and what you need to do to enter the country. But if you´re someone like me who wings it as you go, at least you can follow this advice and buy a cheaper onward flight, or better yet, maybe even one you want to use. And always read your visa card properly.