7 Essentials for Foreigners Buying a Property in Mexico

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Sadly many foreigners arrive in Mexico and leave their business brains back at home.

Maybe it’s the warm air, tasty tequila and friendly atmosphere? Too, the language barrier and cultural differences can be daunting.

As an agent in Vallarta for the last ten years I try to emphasize logical and smart decision making with my clients. Here are seven steps that I recommend that they follow when buying a property in Mexico.

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Retiree Mecca: Los Cabos

los cabos los arcos

At the tip of Baja California Sur is a place of dualities. Tranquility and rambunctiousness. San Jose del Cabo which retains the look and vibe of an authentic Mexican town. Cobblestone streets, intimate restaurants and boutiques radiate from the central main square and mission church. Rambunctious Cabo San Lucas, on the other end of the highway (called the Corridor), is party central with funky bars and the slick Luxury Avenue Mall centered around the marina.

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The choice is yours at Ventanas

BALCON CON PAREJA1

Vacation and retirement in Mexico is made simple with Ventanas.

This isn’t the first time we have written about the ultra-successful Ventanas Residences in Cabo San Lucas, an excellent product deserves a return visit. The Ventanas Cabo master-planned community combines single-family homes and condominiums, set on the hill above Cabo San Lucas, with the best views on the peninsula. The centerpiece of each is an amenities-packed clubhouse. The Club at Ventanas del Mar includes two pools, hot tubs, fire pits, a fitness center, a full-service spa, a multimedia lounge, an on-site furniture shop, a market offering freshly baked breads, three restaurants, access to a private yacht, a kids’ club, and a nondenominational chapel. If you don’t feel like making dinner or heading out, don’t worry, the restaurants and market will deliver right to your home.

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Mexican firefighters arrived in Edmonton to help battle wildfires in Alberta

By Caley Ramsay

EDMONTON — Dozens of firefighters have arrived in Edmonton from Mexico to help battle wildfires in northern Alberta.

Sixty-two Mexican firefighters arrived at Edmonton International Airport from from Jalisco, Mexico Wednesday evening. After being briefed on the current wildfire situation, they will head up to help the 1,700 firefighers who have been working tirelessly for weeks to douse the blazes.

“The guys are good to go,” said firefighter Hector Trejo. “Our season just ended a couple weeks ago so we’re happy to help up here.

“Most of the guys, this is their passion—fight fires, get to know the forest—and what better way to do it than come to another country and help others.”

Fire crews from Jalisco have been helping battle fires in Alberta for the past 10 years; they’ve been called in to assist several times.

“We’ve been working with them on training and a number of different things,” said Geoffrey Driscoll, a wildfire information officer with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. “What we did was we have brought their training standards up to our own, so that’s why we can have these firefighters here.”

As of Thursday morning, there were 95 wildfires burning in Alberta, 30 of which were listed as out of control.

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“The fire season in Alberta has been particularly busy. We’ll take the help that we can get,” said Driscoll. “Every little bit helps and we’re certainly happy that our partners in Jalisco were able to give us some firefighters.”

“But they’ve got a big job ahead of them.”

While conditions have improved over the past few days, on the weekend there were upwards of 120 wildfires burning in Alberta, Driscoll says cooler temperatures and rain would be welcomed by fire crews.

“The situation is starting to look up; however, there is still a lot of work to be done, probably weeks or months,” said Driscoll.

Trejo says his crews are ready for the challenge and eager to get to work.

“It’s exciting. The guys know they’re coming to fight fires, they’re anxious to do it and they like coming up here. It’s a good feeling for them.”

The wildfire season in Jalisco ended in late June.

Source: www.globalnews.ca

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Five Mexican Spirits to Lift the Spirits

by Diana Osuna

Additional reporting by Joel Hansen

Similar in origin but produced using different methods, the subtle flavors of these Mexican spirits speak to a long tradition of distilling alcoholic beverages.

Their common denominator is the maguey or agave plant, whose juices, transformed into mezcal, tequila, raicilla, sotol and bacanora, are synonymous with Mexico, where those plants grow from the deserts in the north to the jungles of the south.

The five spirits are similar but definitely not the same. Their unique aroma, flavor and color depend on the type of maguey they are made from, which in turn depends on the soil and weather conditions in that particular region and the distilling process used, among other factors.

Many roads lead to the fruits of the agave plant. Sometimes it’s best to sample them in the towns where they are produced; other times they’re best accompanied with a traditional dish in a fine Mexican restaurant. It all depends on your mood, curiosity and how much time you have on your hands. But there is no doubt that these spirits will delight even the most discerning of palates.

 

Mezcal

They say the best mezcals are produced in Oaxaca, where an age-old tradition of distilling the beverage and the type of maguey it is made from have earned the region appellation of origin. Some brands have a maguey worm suspended in the liquid at the bottom of the bottle, which is supposed to go down with the last swig.

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Needless to say, Oaxaca is the best place to sample mezcal, although it’s also produced in Guerrero, Durango, San Luis

Potosí, Zacatecas, Guanajuato and Tamaulipas.

A trip includes numerous attractions.

One option is to book a room at the Azul Oaxaca boutique hotel in the city center and order a shot of the king of mezcals: Casco Legendario. If a trip to Oaxaca is out of the question, there are some great establishments in Puerto Vallarta that can serve you a top-notch mezcal. Head to Solar, the bar side of Barracuda on Playa Cameron. Ask to talk to Puin, the owner. He will act like he doesn’t speak much English but once you start talking mezcal he will open right up. Try the house special cocktails made with Union Mezcal. The one with pineapple, tajin and smoky mezcal will give you the energy you need for an all-nighter. They also have an excellent selection of racilla and tequila.

 

Tequila

By far the most popular spirit in Mexico, its appellation of origin demands compliance with strict standards: if it wasn’t produced in Jalisco or certain municipalities of Nayarit, Guanajuato, Tamaulipas and Michoacán and doesn’t contain at least 51% blue agave, it isn’t tequila.

jimador tequila

iIf you really want to get to the roots of this particular spirit, a visit to Casa Cuervo in the town of Tequila, Jalisco, is a must. Here you’ll also find La Capilla, where Javier Delgado converts his visitors into tequila disciples with concoctions like “La Batanga”.

For one of the best selection of Tequilas, Mezcals and Racillas in the region pull up a stool at El Mezcalito in Sayulita. The owner Arturo Gangoiti provides a friendly atmosphere and is passionate about the traditions of Mexico and his love of all things agave. He will walk you through all the great options and as a bonus they have some of the best tamales. But just make sure you are up for it. Many have slipped into this little hole in the wall a few times with the idea of just having one…

 

Raicilla

There are records going as far back as the 16th Century of raicilla being made by indigenous communities, which equated its consumption with mystical experiences.

The method for distilling raicilla is similar to that used for mezcal and tequila, the only difference being the type of plant and its age. The agave it is made from is known as lechuguilla and must be at least six years old before it is cut.

Lechuguilla is native to Jalisco, which explains why raicilla is produced exclusively in that state.

lechuguilla raicilla

Raicilla is a popular beverage in Puerto Vallarta, especially among foreign visitors to this tourism destination of breathtaking scenery that lies within the beverage’s appellation of origin.

The best Raicillas are found off the beaten path. You can find some great Raicilla at side of the road distilleries on the way to San Sebastian and El Tuito. But the best Raicilla I have ever had is at the Rinconcito Hotel in Mayto Beach in Cabo Coriententes. Fernando, the owner of the hotel, gets it from a friend who makes it in a small town close to Mayto called Chacala (not the one in Nayarit). It is smoky and smooth with that slightly wild taste that makes Racialla so enjoyable.

Head to Mayto for the day to enjoy the secluded beaches and if you  talk sweet enough, Fernando might be willing to sell you a jug from his personal stash.

 

Sotol

This spirit is obtained from a maguey known as sereque, a desert variety of the plant that is so fragile it was classed as an endangered species just over a decade ago.

sotol

In 2002, the states of Chihuahua, Coahuila and Durango were granted appellation of origin, resulting in a considerable increase in its consumption and distribution.

Sotol is an organic beverage and has an alcohol content of between 38 and 45%. Made using traditional methods, it has a strong smoky flavor. There are several brands on the market and its varieties include young, aged and rested sotol. You can also find cured varieties made with damiana, wereke, golden shower tree flowers and green apple.

The perfect accompaniment to fresh foods, its aged version is an excellent digestive, especially after eating red meat.

One of the more traditional, well known brands is El Excéntrico, produced by a distillery located between Coahuila and Durango. Tours of the facilities are available and you get to sample the end product.

 

Bacanora

Bacanora is produced in North Mexico from the vivipara agave. A colorless spirit, it is similar to mezcal –many consider the two distant cousins.

There is evidence to suggest bacanora was consumed as far back as the 16th Century by the indigenous communities of Sonora, the state that produces the greatest volume of the spirit. Like raicilla and sotol, bacanora was once prohibited and was also associated with otherworldly experiences.

In recent years, bacanora distilleries have sought tighter regulation in an attempt to reach a larger market.

Word has it the best bacanora is found at its source. We recommend you stay at Hacienda Los Magueyes in Bacanora, Sonora.

Here you can visit the nurseries where the vivipara agave is grown, the bottling factory and warehouses.

Containing up to 40% alcohol, bacanora is a spirit for seasoned throats only. The best brands include Puro Chuqui, produced by Hacienda Los Magueyes, and Bacanora Pascola.

Sotol and bacanora aren’t commonly found in restaurants and bars around the bay but they do sell both sotol and bacanora at Le Europa in the Marina so perhaps stick your head in there and see if you can find a bottle to try something new. You can tell your friends you drank the drink that was the tequila of 20 years ago!

Happy drinking!

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Cuisines of Jalisco, “Flavors of the Bay”

The bounty from the Pacific, a delight for the gods and those from Vallarta

By Hector Pérez García

Tourism and Gourmet Analyst, PV Tourism Board

 

Starting in Manzanillo and heading north, sailfish, abundant in these waters, is a popular fish. It is not common to the rest of the coast. It is prepared just as other large fish, as steaks. The texture is similar to tuna and it can be barbecued or grilled. Marlin, a similarly-sized relative is more popular in Banderas Bay and commonly eaten to the north in the state of Nayarit. Smoked, cut into pieces and in a stew with carrots and peas (that gives it a touch of sweetness) it is delicious in tacos with freshly-made tortillas.

The bounty of the ocean characterizes this coastal area of Jalisco.

Ceviche is typical all along the coast; fresh fish, chopped and marinated in lime juice combined with grated carrots, chopped onions and green chile. When it is prepared with fresh swordfish and shaved rather than chopped, it is extraordinary. Sometimes, a little bit of mayonnaise is added to bring all the ingredients together. It is served on crispy tortilla “tostadas” and is a favorite of both locals and visitors.

ceviche-mexicano

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Muchas gracias, Todos Santos

My Love Affair With Baja

fromTheAir

When I was a teenager in the 60’s in the beach town of Pacific Palisades, California, I had heard some pretty raunchy stories recanted by some of my adventurous fellow high school mates (guys) of their wild weekends in Tijuana.  I got the impression it was a dark, mysterious place where anything goes, and anything could happen, and did. There were plenty of tales of all the boozing without age restrictions, and going to bull fights and strip clubs. The shocking stories of strippers pole dancing with donkeys going at their private parts were enough to keep me and my girlfriends away.  I also knew, though, that there was another side to TJ too, since my parents enjoyed their excursions over the border to gamble at Jai Alai games and savor “real” Mexican food.

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Nature’s Wonderland: Tulum

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Where the white sand joins the jungle and sea, where the turquoise water melts into the turquoise sky, where the people smile and the energy is easy, this is Tulum.
This once-secret hideaway for soul seekers is now a prime Mexico-Caribbean beach destination as people discover its special energy and majestic beauty, and share the secret with others. Sun seekers flock to make it their new home, investment location, vacation mecca, dive spot, adventure land, and Mexico’s hippest new hot spot. There is no doubt about it, Tulum, Mexico is now the place to be. It is the place to see and be seen. To feel and learn and live in a way, never experienced before. It offers an escape from the ordinary, and a quest into the extraordinary.

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Using cell phones in Mexico

Side profile of a young woman using a laptop with a young man lying beside her looking at a cell phones in Mexico

One of the most common questions asked when people are coming down to Mexico is what to do about their cell phones. While each person’s situation will be a little different and there are hundreds of options to choose, here are some basic tips for cell phones in Mexico.

Did you know the richest man in the world is Mexican? Mr. Carlos Slim owns Telcel the largest cellular company in Mexico, among other things. The world of cell phone companies is complicated and rife with intrigue and drama, none of which I’m going to go into. What you need to know about Telcel is that it has the largest service area in Mexico. If you are traveling around the country, Telcel is the company to choose.

Personally, all the service providers suck. Cell phones in Mexico are expensive and until recently the only real option was Telcel. With the passing of anti-monopoly laws this is slowly changing.

There are other companies that may work well for your purposes including Nextel and iUSACell. Each has its own benefits and you can see their options online.

For our purposes we are going to focus on Telcel because it is the most accessible.

Cell phone options in Mexico

Depending on how long you are planning on being in Mexico you may have a few different options for cell phones in Mexico.

  1. Add-on. Get an appropriate international plan with your carrier before you leave your home country.

This is great if you’re here for a short time. Don’t want or need a local number and have access to free wifi (or a starbucks nearby).

  1. Purchase a phone in Mexico. For as little as $20 ($300 pesos) you can buy a ‘burner’ phone at most grocery stores or convenience stores. This phone will come with a chip, its own phone number and anywhere from $10-300 pesos credit. The first time you use it you will be asked to register via text message (in Spanish) your name and birthdate.

cell phones in MexicoThese burner phones are cheap and easy to use – great for calling taxis, making dinner reservations and staying in touch with your fellow travellers. For $20 you only get a phone (no whatsapp, no facebook, no translator app) and depending on your level of expertise, the frustration of trying to send a text message using T9 may be enough for you to drink (more margaritas.)

  1. Just the chip. You can also purchase only the chip for $150 pesos (with $50-100 pesos in credit) if you have an unlocked phone. This gives you a local phone number and you get to continue using your phone that you know and love.

telcel chipLikely you have a cell phone from the US or Canada that you want to bring with you. This phone needs to be unlocked which means that the phone company you purchased it from will allow you to change carriers. Usually this can only be done if you’ve finished the contract on your phone.

Depending on your phone it is possible to unlock most of the time and there are many places that offer this service. Expect to pay about $500 pesos for it to be done in Mexico. Or search Craigslist in your city for businesses that offer this service. Note: make sure the chip you buy is the correct size. Some phones use microchips. Both are available for purchase.

  1. Skip all the nonsense and buy one. You want a smartphone but you don’t want to or can’t unlock yours. You can buy a phone outright from all the various cell phone companies. You won’t have a contract and you’ll be able to buy as much cell service as you need, when you need it. While pricey upfront this is a great option if you travel in Mexico frequently or for long periods of time.

Again, I don’t love Telcel and they are not paying me to write this but for matter of convenience and demonstration purposes here are some tips that I enjoy.

Telcel has a number of promotions that are not always advertised. It is good to check out their website for offers and tips including:

  • When you buy cell phone credit of more than $100 pesos at a time you get bonus (regalo) credit. The amounts can change but currently if you pay for $500 pesos you get a regalo of $400 – this is good for calls and text messages and using the internet – and more than enough for a month of service.
  • If you put more than $200 pesos on the phone each month your cost for local calls drops from about $2 pesos to less than $1 peso per minute.
  • Free facebook and whatsapp. This promotion seems to come and go. You need to register your phone number online and this may be a bonus available. Another is 2 or 3 free phone numbers.
  • Free phone numbers are only good with other Telcel phone numbers and while you can make unlimited calls to those numbers they are limited to under 5 minutes. Consider adding a timer app to your smartphone to remind you when time is up.
  • Without a contract you can still buy monthly packages for internet, text messages and calls. This is called the Amigo plan and it is as easy as sending a text message each month. For example you can add 2gb of internet for $349 pesos. You send Medio 30 to the number 5050 and for the next 30 days you get 2gb of internet and the cost is deducted from your balance. (You can not use regalo credit for purchases.) There are bigger and smaller amounts as well as one day or week-long packages you can purchase.

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Have tips of your own? Leave them in the comments.

Calling in Mexico is a whole other can of worms. That’s for next week.

If you like this info – also follow our facebook page that is Mexico Travel specific at Life and Travel in Mexico and/or sign up for our twice monthly email newsletter.

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Expatriates living in Ajijic: Roger and Alison

Lake-Chapala

Roger and Alison, who retired young!  Roger’s career was in anesthesia, and Alison was an RN.  Alison’s parents had retired to Ajijic in 1983, and through them Alison became passionate about the Mexican people, their rich history, language, culture and architecture. Dividing their time between Canada and Mexico, Alison has developed a second career as a photographer, and has published two books featuring the vibrant colours and clever architecture of Mexico.

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