Using a Password Manager in Mexico

Using a Password Manager in Mexico

Not many people are diligent about their passwords.  Maybe you’re one of them.  Do you ever use the same password for two different sites?  Do you have your passwords written down somewhere in hard copy or in a cleverly named Word document?  Do you use “strong passwords” that would be impossible to guess (even more so than your date of birth, the date you were married or your dog’s name)?  Are you aware of “phishing”, whereby you think you’re on a legitimate company’s website like Amazon but you’re really not and you use your real password to try to enter the phony site, thereby handing over your password and all the information in your Amazon account to cybercriminals?  (That’s exactly what I did quite a while ago.)

For these and other reasons, you should get a password manager, especially now that you have pretty much everything online.  (See above.  You did put pretty much everything online, didn’t you?) The one I use is Dashlane, which I recommend highly.  It’s not expensive, it’s a great productivity tool, and it’s an excellent way to create and manage passwords.  I’m sure there are others that are very good as well.  You really should get one of them.

  • Do the research to decide which password manager you prefer.
  • Install your password manager on your computer.
  • Follow the directions to completely set up your password manager, including changing your weak passwords into strong passwords and never using the same password twice.

Be Prepared to Use Your Smartphone in Mexico

Be Prepared to Use Your Smartphone in Mexico

WhatsApp is an app for your smartphone that allows you to call anyone else with a WhatsApp account for free.  If your cell phone is connected to an Internet network and you configure it properly, WhatsApp will use your internet connection.  If you don’t have an internet connection (for example, while you’re driving), WhatsApp will use your cell service.

Why get WhatsApp for when you live in Mexico?  Three reasons:

  1. Using any cell or landline phone to call any other Mexican cell or landline phone in Mexico is horrid.
  1. Essentially everyone in Mexico has WhatsApp.  Your housekeeper will have it; your gardener will have it; your architect and lawyer will have it and all your friends will have it.  Why do they all have it?  Check out Reason 3.
  1. Its free and it works.

You may also want to get and / or practice more with Skype.  Like WhatsApp, on Skype you can call anyone else with their service at no charge, but on Skype, you can also share your screen and do video calls.  While many people NOB (“North of the Border”; the US and Canada) have Skype, not many Mexicans do, so you will wind up using Skype mainly to call non-Mexicans.  I’m told that Facetime is also good for that type of thing.

While you’re at it, you can also get the app for Facebook so that, if nothing else works, you can contact others using your smartphone who are also on Facebook through the app.  Backups to backups are important, especially in Mexico.

The other telecommunications issue in Mexico is which service provider to use.  If you don’t want to keep your US number any longer you can get a Mexican service provider like TelCel, and you can deal with that. (I chose not to.)

If you want to keep your US or Canadian number, you can look for a provider in the US or Canada that will allow you to make calls from and to Mexico / the US / Canada at no extra charge.  As of the time of this writing, I recommend Cricket.  Cricket is essentially the less expensive version of AT & T and they have a plan where I get unlimited calling, text and data to or from any of the three countries above at no extra charge.  And it really is no extra charge, as opposed to other carriers who argue with you ever few months about how much you’re using your phone in Mexico or just arbitrarily charge higher fees.  I set my Cricket plan to automatically charge my credit card every month well over a year ago and never heard from them again.  It just works.

One of the keys is to get your telecommunications issues done well in advance, so you can be comfortable with them and relax.  Like so many other recommendations in this guide, there is really no downside to doing it pretty much now.

  • Set up WhatsApp on your smartphone and practice using it. It’s free.  (You can also use it to text on your computer.)
  • Set up Skype on your computer and on your smartphone and practice using it.  (Skype to Skype calls are free and you can get a US or Canadian phone number.)
  • If you use Facebook, put it on your smartphone and practice calling someone using it.
  • If you would like to keep your US or Canadian phone number while in Mexico, ask your existing carrier what plans they offer.  If you’re not happy with what you hear, you may want to consider switching to Cricket.

Get Apps in Mexico for Your Favorite Media and Music

Get Apps for Your Favorite Media and Music

While I’m a big fan of immersing one’s self in the local culture for a richer and more meaningful experience, I also understand that, from time to time, you may like to listen to more familiar music, radio talk shows, etc.  Many apps do this and most (but not all) will work in Mexico.  

For music, you may want to try Surfr, which allows you to choose a genre, and then it plays songs from radio stations around the world that play that genre.  No charge.  You can also listen to Spotify, which allows you to specify music groups you like, for no charge.

Stitcher (free) is good for talk shows, as is Talk Stream (also free).

There’s a pretty good chance that whatever you like to listen to NOB (“North of the Border”; the US and Canada) can be accessed through an app; even your favorite NOB stations.  You may want to start experimenting with them now, before you move.

  • See if any of the radio programs you listen to have an app for your smartphone.  If they do, download it and try it out.
  • Consider downloading Surfr, Stitcher and Talk Stream.

Books, Magazines and Other Things to Read in Mexico

Books, Magazines and Other Things to Read in Mexico

Even though there are lots of English-speaking people in Mexico, there are extremely few English-language bookstores.

Some of the magazines, such as the fashion and cooking ones my wife Jet likes to read, can be read at your leisure many months after their publication date, perhaps with your feet propped up on your mirador while enjoying the sunset and sipping a margarita at your new home.  If you have the room, you can take them or, if they are six months old or more, even have them shipped as part of your household goods.

Of course, you can also have used books shipped as part of your household goods, so you can catch up or re-read some of your favorites in your new home in Mexico.

However, if you will ever want something new to read in English, it can be a challenge. will ship some English titles, but the selection as of now is not great.  If you can’t find it elsewhere, you would want another way.  Luckily, the Internet solves this problem.  Consider buying a Kindle or other reader well before you leave for Mexico and practice with it.  You’ll see that you can download English-language books, magazines and newspapers in seconds, and of course, it will work the same way in Mexico.

  • Consider buying a Kindle or other reader.  If you do, try it out while NOB (“North of the Border”; the US and Canada).

Programs and Apps That Help You Communicate and / or Learn Spanish and the Metric System

Programs and Apps That Help You Communicate and / or Learn Spanish and the Metric System

Google translate is pretty good, especially in a pinch.  One of its problems (and this seems to be the case with many of the other translation programs as well) is that the Spanish it translates into many times is the Spanish they speak in Spain, which, if you didn’t already know, you will discover can be different than the Spanish spoken in Mexico.  That said, Google Translate is much, much better than nothing so it’s very much worth having.

I highly recommend learning as much Spanish as possible.  You’ll feel much more competent and confident, you’ll make many more friends, and your life will be infinitely richer.  If you don’t already know Spanish, you may want to try an Internet website and app that teaches it to you.  One of the more popular ones now is Duolingo, which you can access through your computer or your smartphone.  Just 10 minutes a day over a sustained period of time will get you a long way.  If you don’t mind the advertisements, it’s free.

For getting around in Mexico, Google Maps works remarkably well, and in English.

In Mexico, when you go to the hardware store, they don’t use inches and feet; they use meters.  When you talk about how hot it is, your Mexican friends won’t use Fahrenheit, they use centigrade.  The traffic signs are in kilometers; not miles, and when you go to buy that well-priced T-bone, you’ll pay for it in pesos per kilo; not dollars per pound.  When Jet bakes Mexican recipes in Spanish, she has to convert to kilograms.  Until such time as you’ve gotten all this mastered, there’s Globe Convert, another free app for your smartphone.  You can also check the exchange rate on it.  Why not install it now and practice with it?

  • Download to your smartphone and your computer and practice with Google Translate.
  • Download to your smartphone and computer and practice with Duolingo.
  • Download to your smartphone and computer and practice with Google Maps.
  • Download to your smartphone and computer and practice with Globe Convert.

Before You Move to Mexico, Get or Prepare to Get Your Residency Visa

Before You Move to Mexico, Get or Prepare to Get Your Residency Visa

Everyone entering Mexico should do so legally.

In order to enter Mexico legally, you will need a visa.

For our purposes, there are three different types of visas:

  • Tourist.  A Tourist Visa is the kind they give you at the airport or at the border when you go on vacation in Mexico.  Generally, they are valid for 180 days, after which you either have to renew your visa or no longer be in Mexico.
  • Temporal or Permanente.  In order to be granted a Temporal or Permanente visa, you must begin your process at a Mexican consulate outside of Mexico (for our purposes, generally in the US or Canada).  As with so many other issues in Mexico, there are laws about who can and cannot qualify, and each consulate and even each employee at each consulate may do it slightly differently.  In general, you must provide enough documentation to prove that you have a good reason to be in Mexico for an extended period of time, you’re not a criminal, and that are able to support yourself financially.

If you are accepted for the first phase of obtaining your Temporal or Permanente visa at the Mexican consulate in your home country, they will place a stamp in your passport.  From this time, you will have six months in order to start the second phase of obtaining your Temporal or Permanente, which will take place in Mexico at an immigration office (IMN).   Once you receive your stamp and you cross into Mexico, immediately go to Immigration in Mexico at the border or airport (not your final home) and tell them you have the stamp.  When you do this, they will have you fill out some forms, which will put you into the system. If you don’t do this at the border or at the airport, you’ll have to go back later and do it, so please don’t forget, even if they don’t ask you or remind you, because there’s a 90%+ chance they won’t.

Once you receive your stamp, cross into Mexico and you’re put into the system in Mexico, you then have 30 days in which to begin the second part of receiving your Temporal or Permanente, which will take place at the immigration office near your new home in Mexico.  And, once you have your stamp and cross into Mexico, you are not supposed to leave Mexico until the second part of your process is complete. Some immigration offices make exceptions, but these exceptions must be in writing and you can’t ask for an exception after the fact.

Once you begin the second part of the process at IMN near your home in Mexico, it usually takes from three to six weeks to receive your light green plastic card, which will signify that your process of obtaining your residency visa is complete, will make you very happy and relieve you from the requirement of having to carry your passport everywhere.  At a high level, it’s really that simple.

For our purposes, there are few differences between the Temporal and Permanente visa:

  • The Temporal is good for one year and then renewed in Mexico for three more years, after which you need to get a Permanente or start over, while the Permanente is… well… permanent.
  • There are slightly more stringent financial and other requirements for the Permanente as opposed to the Temporal.
  • If you have a Temporal, you can drive a foreign-plated car in Mexico, whereas if you have a Permanente, in most places in Mexico, you cannot.  (If you’re thinking of driving your US- or Canadian-plated car in Mexico, please read that again.)
  • When you sell real estate in Mexico, there are certain tax advantages to be a Permanente.

Regarding moving your household items to Mexico on a Menaje de Casa (which is pretty much how everyone moves their household goods to Mexico and is described later), you will have to have at least started your Temporal or Permanente.  If you started your visa process and then voided it by going in and out of Mexico, then you can’t use the Menaje de Casa.

  • Determine if you would prefer a Temporal or Permanente visa.
  • Find out from the consulate nearest your home NOB (“North of the Border”; the US and Canada) what are the requirements and what you need to bring to get a Temporal or Permanente visa.  (Sometimes, it’s on their website, but most of the time, it’s not accurate or up to date.)
  • Make your appointment well in advance of you needing your visa.  (You will probably have to come back more than once.)
  • During your appointment, if you will need to get your Menaje de Casa certified, talk with the person who does it, make sure you understand his or her exact requirements, and make an appointment with that person to present your inventory for certification well in advance of you needing it to be completed.  (Reason: you may not have done it right.)
  • Get your stamp in your passport.
  • When you enter Mexico at the border or at the airport with your stamp, notify the immigration officer so they can put you in the system.
  • Within six months of getting your stamp or thirty days after crossing the border (whichever is less), begin the second part of getting your visa in Mexico by visiting the immigration office near your home in Mexico.
  • Do not leave Mexico without permission until the process of getting your Temporal or Permanente visa is complete which you will know has happened when you get your light green plastic card.

How to Drive Your US or Canadian-Plated Car in Mexico

How to Drive Your US or Canadian-Plated Car in Mexico

  • For most areas in Mexico, if you plan on driving your foreign-plated car in Mexico, you must be a Temporal or married to a Temporal who owns the car.

In order to have your foreign-plated car legally in Mexico, you will need to have it be legal in every way in your country of origin (i.e., the US or Canada), and receive a permiso, or TIP.  You can get your permiso on-line; at some limited places in the US and Canada (usually across the hall from the Mexican consulate); or you can get one immediately upon crossing the border into Mexico.

The permiso will cost you several hundred dollars, which is used as a deposit against you selling your foreign-plated car in Mexico, which is not legal to do.  If you follow all the rules, you can get your deposit back upon driving your car out of Mexico, but this can sometimes be a bit problematic.

Your permiso is tied to your visa, so when your Temporal expires, so does your permiso.  If you drive your foreign-plated car in Mexico without a permiso, your car is in Mexico illegally, and can be confiscated.  In other words, don’t do it.

  • Make sure your car is completely legal in the US, including being up to date on paying your registration.
  • Run a CARFAX and see what comes up.  The reason you want to do this is because it is very likely that Banjercito will.  That’s how they will find out if you are paid up on your registration and if there is anything even remotely unusual about your title.
  • After getting your visa started in the US or Canada, if you can, get the TIP for your vehicle at a Banjercito in the US or online.
  • If you don’t get your TIP for your vehicle prior to crossing the border, that’s OK.  Just go to the proper Banjercito at the border.  (There is a list of them online.)

An Insider’s Tip on US Car Registration When Living in Mexico

An Insider’s Tip on US Car Registration When Living in Mexico

After you’ve been in Mexico for a while, you’ll notice that a lot of foreign-plated cars are from South Dakota.  For those not “in the know”, this can be a bit puzzling, because with a ranking of 47 out of 50 US states in population, it does seem a bit odd that so many people from South Dakota have moved to Mexico.

The answer, of course, is that they have not.  I would doubt that even a small percentage of those driving with South Dakota plates have ever even been to South Dakota.

Then what’s the reason for all those South Dakota license plates?  There are three of them:

  1. The cost of car registration in South Dakota is less expensive than most other states.
  1. South Dakota does not require emissions testing.  This would be important to you if your car’s existing license plates were from a state or area that required emissions testing on some time-based interval.  If this applies to you, then in order to comply with your state’s requirements to license your car, you would have to drive back every so often and get it tested.  Registering your car in South Dakota avoids that.
  1. The government of South Dakota is happy to do it, knowing full well your situation.  Just call the Clay Country Treasurer.

If, after checking with your insurance agent to see how or if your coverage would be impacted, you would rather have your car registration be from South Dakota, contact the South Dakota Clay County Treasurer in more than enough time to have them ship you your new plates while you’re NOB. (“North of the Border”; the US and Canada).  They won’t ship your plates or stickers to Mexico.

Car Insurance and Health Insurance When Living in Mexico

Car Insurance and Health Insurance When Living in Mexico

Your NOB (“North of the Border”; the US and Canada) car insurance will not cover you in Mexico, so if you drive in anything other than a rental car in Mexico, you will need to get Mexican car insurance.  (When you rent a car in Mexico, typically insurance is included, but make sure to ask.

Contact an agent for Mexican automobile insurance well in advance of your need, so you can feel comfortable with your agent and your policy.  Whether or not you will need US car insurance when driving in the US or Canadian car insurance when driving in Canada is a complicated question, so please make sure you understand all implications before you cancel any NOB car insurance.

I’m not aware how health insurance works in the different provinces in Canada, so I won’t comment on health insurance coverage for Canadians in Mexico.  However, if you’re a US citizen and come to live in Mexico, you should have Mexican health care coverage.  There are some very good policies at much lower rates than in the US (huge understatement) that will cover you in very good hospitals in Mexico and, if you travel to the US, will cover you in very good hospitals in the US until you are stable enough to be transferred to Mexico.

Whether or not you should cancel your US health insurance, especially if you have Medicare, is a very tricky and complicated question, so please make sure you understand all the implications of your actions well before you take them.

  • If you will drive a US- or Canadian-plated car in Mexico, get Mexican car insurance from a reputable agent.
  • Get some form of Mexican health insurance, whether full coverage, medical evacuation or something else you’re comfortable with.

Why You Need a Legal / Mailing Address in the US or Canada When Living in Mexico

Why You Need a Legal / Mailing Address in the US or Canada When Living in Mexico

There is a very good chance that you will need to maintain a “legal address” in the US or Canada for all sorts of things, including for credit cards, ATM cards, and banking institutions.  You could use your sister-in-law’s, or your good friend’s, or one of the mail forwarding companies.

Please be aware that there are many US financial and other institutions that will not accept a permanent address outside the US and if they find that you do live outside the US, may even cancel your account.  (Most people just give them another US address.)

  • Decide what will be your legal US or Canadian address.
  • If you need to, choose a service that will accept your mail NOB(“North of the Border”; the US and Canada), scan it, and hold or forward whatever you need.

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