If you have not traveled abroad before, you may not be aware that going to a foreign country is not only being in a different physical location, but is also about experiencing an entirely different culture. Please keep in mind that "different" does NOT mean "wrong"! It is important to remain open minded, and know that you are probably going to experience culture shock which occurs in cycles. Bring pictures, comfortable clothing and anything else that may help you feel comfortable.
Before leaving for México, be sure that your health insurance provider will cover medical expenses incurred outside of your country. If not, you should buy short-term traveler's health and accident insurance, which is usually available through travel agencies. Most insurance companies expect you to pay at the time of treatment and then submit the receipts and claims for reimbursement once you are back in your home country.
Weather and packing
Cuernavaca is known as "the city of eternal spring" with a year-round average temperature of 70 degrees F and with sunshine almost every day. We recommend a variety of clothing since the temperature is cooler at night and early in the morning, often requiring a sweater or light jacket. During the rainy season, from June to September, you can expect rain in the late afternoons and evenings. A rain jacket and or umbrella are recommended. Expect the winter months to be cooler at night, often requiring long pants and a sweater or jacket. During the spring, in April and May, it tends to be very hot and dry. While informal attire is appropriate for school and recreational activities, Mexicans tend to be more formal in their dress. If you are planning on dining out or going out dancing in the evenings, formal attire is more appropriate. Shorts are generally only worn for athletic activities or excursions.
Necessary documents to enter México
Please consult the airline, travel agency, or the Mexican Consulate/Embassy regarding entry requirements for México. The following is the website address for the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs:
Government Regulations require that minors traveling alone must have notarized authorization from both parents. If traveling with one parent, notarized authorization from the other parent is necessary.
- Passport: Due to the new International Regulations, you must bring with you a passport issue by your home country in order to leave and enter back into your country. Please also be aware that in order to do any financial transaction, a passport is required.
- Mexican Tourist Card: To enter Mexico, you must have a valid Tourist Card that can be obtained from any Mexican Consulate, at the Immigration Office Port of Entry, or from the airline which will hand this out on the plane. You will present this completed form to the Immigration Officials (Migración) upon of the entry to Mexico. On this card, they will write the number of days you are permitted to stay in Mexico. Please verify that the number of days is sufficient for your planned stay. The maximum number of days they will grant at the airport in Mexico City is 90. Please keep a close track of your Tourist Card, as there is a replacement fee and sometimes a fine. You cannot exit Mexico without it.
- Mexican Customs Declaration: The airline hands this out on the plane as well. You will present this completed form to the Customs Officials (Aduana) after passing through immigration and having retrieved your luggage.
It is difficult to recommend a dollar amount that students should plan to bring for extra spending money, not knowing individual spending habits. Some of the excursions and activities after school, during the week and on weekends have an extra cost of between $18 and $150 USD. We do occasionally offer a weekend trips that can cost up to $250 (Acapulco/Oaxaca/Veracruz). Besides the excursions, you may want money to buy souvenirs or to go out to restaurants and dance clubs. It is best to bring Traveler's Checks. We cannot accept credit cards or personal checks for payment. If you prefer to pay in advance by personal check, please advise us and we can send you the information for our U.S. office.
As a service to the students, and at no extra cost, Cuauhnáhuac provides an "exchange bureau" to change dollars (cash or traveler's checks) to pesos. There are also ATM's throughout the city that students may use. Verify with your bank what the usage fee will be for international transactions. We recommend changing some money in the Mexico City airport or using an ATM machine.
*If you need to have money sent to you, it can be sent through Western Union or by "money gram" sent directly from your bank to any "Banamex" branch in Mexico.
Please be aware that in order to do any financial transactions, a passport is required.
Transportation from the México City international airport to Cuernavaca
You will fly into Mexico City's Benito Juarez International Airport (Distrito Federal), which is almost two hours driving time from Cuernavaca. Look for signs "Autobuses a Cuernavaca" and the bus company "Pullman de Morelos".
For approximately 100 pesos this bus transports you to "Pullman de Morelos, Casino de la Selva" in Cuernavaca. From the bus station in Cuernavaca, a Taxi to your host family's home should cost between $35-50 pesos depending on time of day, weather, and quantity of luggage. Buses depart from Mexico City airport throughout the day at varying intervals of between 40-60 minutes. Please note that the last bus departs at 11 PM. Please notify us of your approximate arrival time so that the family can anticipate your arrival.
If you prefer, Cuauhnáhuac can arrange to pick up students at the airport upon their arrival and then return them to the airport for the departure back to their home country. This service has an extra charge and the price is listed in the Cost Sheet.
Hints for your host family stay
To benefit from the total immersion experience, it is recommended that students live with local families. The families have been carefully screened and have worked with Cuauhnáhuac for many years. Most of them are within walking distance or a short bus ride from the school and are comfortable middle class families who live in clean and well-maintained houses. While some of them speak a little English, we encourage you to use as much Spanish as possible. Some of them have children and/or pets, while others don't. The families spend time with students, while still giving students their privacy. The Señoras are excellent cooks are sure to prepare all of their food with purified water and disinfected fruit and vegetables. If you have dietary restrictions, allergies, or other preferences, please indicate the specifics on your application so that we can do our best to match you with a family that most closely fits your preferences. Your family's information will be forwarded to you so that your loved ones can contact you during your stay in Cuernavaca.
Please be considerate and limit your phone calls to 10 minutes or fewer. If for any reason you are not comfortable with your family situation, we will make arrangements for you with another family.
While we consider integration into a Mexican Host family a necessary part of our program, some participants may opt to rent a bungalow, apartment or hotel. *Please remember that in all of Mexico, the piping is smaller and cannot handle toilet paper. Please deposit toilet paper in the trash can (there is always one in each bathroom). This is true at the school, restaurants and even hotels.
If you are careful about what you eat and drink you probably won't get sick. It is normal for most stomachs to undergo "food culture shock" as the food may be spicier, heavier or just plain different from what you are used to. Changes in altitude, climate and routine/time zone also affect your system.
There are certain precautions that should be taken to avoid any serious problems. You should not drink water from the tap. In places that do not look very clean, watch out for anything made or washed with unpurified water: ice, raw vegetables, salads, popsicles, etc. Be wary of food sold out of carts on the street, as well as taco stands. Do not panic unless diarrhea persists or is accompanied by a fever. EVERYTHING YOUR FAMILY GIVES YOU TO EAT AND EVERYTHING YOU EAT AT THE INSTITUTE IS PURIFIED.
If you should get sick, the medical community in Cuernavaca is quite good and used to treating tourists. There is a visiting Doctor at Cuauhnáhuac every day, Monday to Friday. This is a free service for students during the Doctor's office hours and is on a first-come priority basis. Students need to sign up in the main office. There is a consultation fee for home visits or visits that occur outside the designated hours. If something more serious arises, there are a number of hospitals with extensive emergency medical treatment facilities. Any medical bills incurred in Mexico must be paid immediately and then processed through your insurance company once you return. Please be sure your insurance plan covers expenses incurred in foreign countries.
The Institute's main office is open from 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., Monday to Friday (CST). Telephone numbers are (52-777) 312-3673 and 318-9275. It is a good idea to leave these numbers with friends and family so they may call you here during office hours. In the event of an emergency, use 318-9275 for after-hour calls. We ask that long distance calls not be made from the Mexican family phones, but you can call from the pay phone installed at the Institute using a LADATEL phone card, by dialing 090 to make an international collect call, or by using your calling card and dialing the access code: ATT (001-800-462-4240), MCI (001-800-674-7000) and SPRINT (001)-800-877-8000.
Safety in Cuernavaca
Cuernavaca is, first and foremost, a tourist town and, as such, needs to maintain a reputation of safety. However, as in virtually any large city, in any country, a certain amount of crime exists and it is always important to be "street-wise". Here are a few safety tips:
- 1. Make a copy of your passport and carry it rather than the original with you when walking around town. Leave your valuable items (including money) and important documents in your room.
- 2. Don't bring expensive jewelry and other valuables with you.
- 3. Keep an eye on your purse, wallet or backpack in crowded areas.
- 4.At night, avoid walking alone, especially in unknown areas.
- 5.Taxi drivers are trustworthy, but be careful not to leave any belongings in the taxi as you leave. Also, agree on the fare before you enter the cab. Have small enough change to pay that exact amount. Taxi drivers include their tip in their normal service. You can tip if you receive extra help with luggage. There are radio taxis that are in communication with a dispatch, which cost slightly more but are considered safer.
- 6.Most importantly: SAY "NO" TO DRUGS!! If caught with drugs, you are subject to local laws (guilty until proven innocent) and your government cannot interfere.
As an extra precaution, all MINORS and their parents must sign our Rules for Minors Agreement specifying expectations and rules.
This should answer most questions that you may have. You will be given an orientation upon your arrival to the school which covers more details. We are looking forward to your visit with us!! Please let us know if there is anything we can answer.