Head for Mexico: The Renegade Guide by Don Adams
A regular feature of our e-mail are the letters we get from people all over North America seeking information about various aspects of life and travel in Mexico. This is because of articles and reviews I've written over the years. I'm sure the other MexConnect writers also get similar queries. I'm rather fortunate, too - my wife, Cecilia, likes answering them. And with the appearance of Don Adams' book we now have the perfect answer to give to most of those enquirers - buy a copy of "Head for Mexico".
Don Adams and his collaborators have produced a guide that's aimed directly at those people up north who are contemplating coming here, either permanently or for lengthy annual visits. The resulting volume is, in my opinion, a real winner.
The various chapters are divided into topics such as putting your financial affairs in order and arranging for transfers of money here as the Mexican rules require. Also, you are reminded to register with your local consulate and all the relevant addresses, e-mail and otherwise, are provided for both U.S. and Canadian citizens. Indeed, Americans and Canadians are treated equally and comprehensively throughout.
On the subject of money you are given complete detailed information and advice on Mexican money, how to transfer money, staying in contact with your home bank, using ATMs, paying bills on line, using credit cards, opening a Mexican bank account, using checks, etc.
Another chapter looks at housing in Mexico. Should you rent or buy? What sort of prices are you likely to be looking at? What will you get for your money? How do the prices vary in different parts of the country? What sort of questions should you ask a potential landlord? How much improvement should you make to a rental property? How do you deal with Mexican real estate agents?
Yet another section covers moving your belongings from north of the border. What can you bring? What can't you bring? Should you try moving things yourself or settle for using a mover? The pros and cons are all carefully weighed. And, once again, you are given a host of relevant web-sites and e-mail addresses.
Driving in Mexico is yet another topic that comes up for detailed discussion. What do you do if you have problems with your auto? There's even a list of prices for typical repair and maintenance jobs. Who do you call if you have an accident far from home? And should you use the toll roads or the regular highways? And the various road signs you'll see are even translated for you.
Crossing the border is yet another topic that's covered. Some people manage it with no hassle. Others seem to have nothing but bad experiences. In our own case, we've never had a problem - even when we drove across with a brand new computer sitting in full view on the back seat. I guess there is no end of "war stories" on that topic - however, it is always a relief when you get the green light at a crossing.
There's also a useful section on food. In choosing a restaurant what do you look for? What do you avoid? How do you read a menu that's totally in Spanish? What do you do if you eat the wrong thing and have upsets later? When you go grocery shopping can you expect to find the products you are most familiar with back home? What are typical food costs? It's all here.
There's lots more - such as how to hire a maid or a gardener and what you can expect to pay. Also, what about shopping for products from TVs to toiletry items? And, on the medical scene, how good are Mexican clinics and doctors? What medical insurance should you have? Learning Spanish and teaching English also comes up for discussion. So, too, there's information on keeping pets in Mexico.
There's a heckuva lot more to be found in this useful book. And there are hundreds of web-sites and e-mail addresses given throughout where you can go for further information.
I'm making it sound like a book of lists or like some kind of instruction manual. But I must emphasize that the approach is light and entertaining and humorous throughout and very easy to take. And the various "war stories" and personal experiences of the author and his collaborators, help keep the narrative lively. The content is well organized, too, so that it's easy to find the specific answer to any question you may have.
I do have one mild quibble with "Head for Mexico." I wonder if it just offers too much information. Whatever happened to the old sense of adventure? I remember when Cecilia and I headed down this way ten years ago I don't think we had one per cent of the info that's to be found here. And thousands more of us came the same way. And yet we managed quite successfully, although there may have been a tense moment or two.
However, I may be over-stating my concern. As Teresa Kendrick points out in her excellent introduction, Mexico is still very much its own place with its own culture, mores, customs, attitudes, beliefs and ceremonies. All of these are not necessarily better or worse than in the U.S. and Canada. They're simply different. Mexicans aren't trying to be like us northerners. They seem to be perfectly comfortable in their own skins. And it's up to us to learn about them - however we do it - if we're going to live successfully amongst them.
So I guess, despite my quibble, I'm really on the side of more information and Don Adams and his collaborators have certainly provided it. The research job must have been quite horrendous. We've already started answering those queries from up there in the frozen north, telling them - Get yourself a copy of "Head for Mexico." The info on how to buy it is available in Amazon.com.
As an added source of yet more information Don Adams even provides his e-mail address and a website - http://www.headformexico.com. You can't get much more generous or cooperative than that. It's an excellent website that gives you a good idea of how the book is put together.
In my humble O: If you have thoughts of coming this way for a look-see don't leave home without a copy.
Head for Mexico. The Renegade Guide
By Don Adams
Trafford Publishing Company, 2003.
Available from Amazon Books: Paperback