Approx. Time Difference
Add 2 hours
This guide was created to help you navigate the different aspects of travelling abroad as a UCEAP student. All important aspects of attending university in your host country are addressed here, including academic information, extension of UCEAP participation, cultural awareness, orientation, transportation, health and safety, finances and much more.
Remember to also visit the Participants
section of the UCEAP website for important information and deadlines.
"Being able to study and do field research in Mexico adds depth to my minor and major. I’ve learned to effectively communicate with the Latino community, particularly on topics related to my research. EAP opened the door to more career paths than I could have imagined."
-Kim Lo, UCLA
While UCEAP endeavors to keep the information updated and accurate, all program information should be considered in conjunction with program-specific operational correspondence which may contain the most up to date information. There may be times where UCEAP will need to change this information and it will often be updated online. Student is responsible for reviewing all information shared through the program guides and by UCEAP staff in California and abroad, and partners abroad. UCEAP reserves the right to make changes to its programs, whenever, in our sole judgment local conditions so warrant, in response to local circumstances that could substantially change some parts of the program, or if we deem it necessary for the comfort, convenience, or safety of our program participants.
Click a heading below to see section content.
Local UCEAP Support
Campus EAP Office
The Campus EAP Office coordinates recruitment, student selection, orientations, and academic advising; and serves as your primary contact during the application process.
UCEAP Systemwide Office
The UCEAP Systemwide Office establishes and operates programs and coordinates UCEAP administration for all UC campuses from its headquarters in Goleta, California. You will work closely with the following Systemwide Office staff:
Program Advisors provide academic and operational program information to you and your campus as well as administrative support for all aspects of your participation.
Program Specialists manage the logistics of the program. They coordinate document requirements, visa application instructions, health and safety precautions, acceptance and placement by host institutions, arrival and onsite orientation, and housing arrangements.
Academic Staff advise on academic policies, review courses taken abroad for UC credit, and document your registration, grades, petitions and academic records.
Student Finance Accountants assist primarily with UCEAP statements, program fee collection, and financial aid disbursements (in conjunction with your campus Financial Aid Office).
Phone: (805) 893-4138
Phone: (805) 893-4138
Student Finance Accountant
Phone: (805) 893-4023
UCEAP Systemwide Office
6950 Hollister Avenue, Suite 200
Goleta, CA 93117-5823
Phone: (805) 893-4762; Fax: (805) 893-2583
Bookmark your Participants
program page. This resource lists requirements and policies you need to know before you go abroad, including your Predeparture Checklist, UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, Program Calendar, UCEAP Student Budgets, and payment instructions.
Study Center Abroad
UCEAP Mexico programs are administered from Mexico City by Veronica Tellez, Program Coordinator and a UC faculty member, who serves as Visiting Professor. The Program Coordinator and Visiting Professor will provide you with advice on academic matters, housing, health, safety, and cultural activities.
Mexico City Study Center
Universidad de California
Casa de California
Calle Carmen # 1
C.P. 01070 México, D.F.
Del. Alvaro Obregon
Phone (calling from Mexico): (55) 5662-9511
Fax: (011-52-55) 5622-9510
Study Center Staff
Lisbeth Haas, Visiting Professor
Verónica Tellez, Program Coordinator
Phone Number Codes
U.S. international code .........011
(dial this to call from the U.S.)
Mexico country code ...........52
Mexico City code ................55
Approximate Time Difference
Add two hours
The Contemporary Mexico program offers students five weeks in Mexico City to examine relevant historical and issues through in-class activities, field-trips and excursions, as well as language instruction.
Together with other participants of the summer program, you will also spend a time with other UC students who will either be participating in the fall Field Research Program, or continue their studies at the National Autonomous University of Mexico during the regular term. Those programs also start in the summer with intensive language courses (which you may share), plus other classes to prepare them for a semester or year abroad.
In addition to a Spanish language course, you will take a multi-disciplinary course on contemporary Mexican history and society taught in English. This course takes an innovative approach to current socio-political questions by taking advantage of Mexico City to explore historically rooted social dynamics. The class will be accompanied by community members on these expedition lectures to add yet another level of involvement and discussion to the topics and themes examined each week.
Finally, the cross-cultural engagement course links together knowledge gained inside and outside of the classroom. Led by the Visiting Professor, this interactive class helps you identify and reflect on your experiences over the five-week program, through group discussion and a final video journal project.
The program is designed for students who may not have the time or the language skills to spend a full semester or year in Mexico and as such, aims to provide a brief but demanding introduction to Mexico and Mexico City in particular.
While it is not possible to cover all of Mexican history in five weeks, the courses and interaction with other UC students will open a series of questions and discussion that will open new perspectives to the cultural and social diversity Mexico has to offer.
Registration and Requirements
The Study Center staff will provide you with instructions on registering courses in your MyEAP Study List during orientation. You are required to take a full-time course of study while abroad. All students take three courses to meet the program requirement of 10.5 UC quarter units for the summer:
- Spanish language course
various levels, 4 UC quarter units
- Issues in Contemporary Mexican History
upper division, cross listed under History and Political Science, 5.0 UC quarter units
- Cross-cultural Engagement
upper division, 2.0 UC quarter units, taken for pass/no pass credit
The variable units option is not available on this program. Attendance at all classes is mandatory. Poor attendance and/or lack of participation in all required activities will have a negative impact on your final grade.
For general information about grades, see the Academic Information
chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad.
Extending UCEAP Participation
Planning for Back-to-Back Programs
Although extension options are not built into this program, you do have several options when considering the length of time you want to spend abroad; however, you must plan in advance.
It may be possible for you to participate in two different UCEAP programs consecutively. If you would like to participate in two programs, you must submit an application for each program by the campus deadline (before you leave the U.S.). You will go through the regular UCEAP selection process for each program, which may include an interview. You must meet all selection criteria for both programs and your UC campus must select you to participate. The Campus EAP Office may have other requirements as well. You must keep in mind that there may be visa restrictions that will prevent you from being able to do certain programs back to back.
Get acquainted with your new host city, country, and culture before you leave California. The Inside Mexico
website provides information regarding current events, arts and culture, and other practical information for English-speakers traveling or living in Mexico. Travel guides and travel-related websites, such as Lonely Planet
, are also helpful resources.
Keep up with current events by reading articles in newspapers, magazines, and journals. Before departure, review these sources to prepare for the program and gain insight on the local culture and history.
Official Start Date & Mandatory Orientation
You will attend a required orientation administered through the UCEAP Study Center. During orientation, you will participate in lectures and activities designed to help you acclimate to Mexico City and the country as a whole, and become familiar with the Study Center. The Study Center organizes a number of excursions and activities, including weekend day trips to such locations as Cacaxtla, Palacio de Bellas Artes, Teotihuacán, Puebla-Tonantzintla, or Xochicalco.
You will meet the Study Center staff on arrival day. During a group dinner that evening, the staff will provide you with a welcome package that includes metro, city, and campus maps; a schedule for the term; phone cards; and emergency phone numbers.
In addition, the Study Center staff will review all practical components of the program, including the program calendar, academics, housing, student services, computer access, money and banking, phones, mail, public transportation, health, safety, and emergencies.
Travel to Your Host Country
The UCEAP program budget does not include funds for recreational travel abroad.
UCEAP strongly recommends purchasing changeable round trip tickets, which will allow you to make changes to your return flight for a fee. UCEAP discourages purchasing one way tickets, as your Program Budget is based on a changeable round trip student fare, which is generally less expensive. Carefully research airfare rules prior to purchasing a flight. Standby and courier fares are not appropriate. Plan for this expense. Neither UCEAP nor the Financial Aid office will reserve or pay for your ticket. If you are on financial aid, you will need to purchase a plane ticket before you receive a financial aid disbursement.
Most airline tickets are good for one year only. When buying round-trip tickets, purchase tickets that allow changes to the return date. If you do not make round-trip arrangements, be sure to book a return flight with plenty of lead time once abroad. Flights to the U.S. fill up fast and economy-fare seats are booked early.
You are responsible for reserving and purchasing your tickets (even if you are on full financial aid). Your Financial Aid Office is not responsible for purchasing tickets. You are strongly urged to purchase a changeable airline ticket. Standby tickets are not appropriate for UCEAP.
When traveling, always carry your passport, ticket, prescription medications, and money. Never put valuables in checked luggage. In addition, do not ask others to carry any items abroad for you (laptop, camera, extra bags, etc.) and do not volunteer to do so for others. Airlines will not allow you to take them and customs abroad may charge you a high duty. This is a concern particularly with electronic goods.
You must arrive in Mexico City by the Official UCEAP Start Date. The official date/time and meeting place is provided on the Arrival Instructions Sheet in the Predeparture Checklist—print this and take it with you. The program calendar is also frequently updated on the UCEAP website. You are strongly urged to purchase a changeable airline ticket. Standby tickets are not appropriate. Flights are routinely changed or canceled. Confirm your flight schedule before your departure date.
If you fail to appear on the Official UCEAP Start Date, you may be subject to dismissal from the program (see Student Agreement). If you arrive early, you are responsible for finding your own lodging until the program starts.
Although late arrivals are generally unacceptable, certain unusual cases may warrant an exception. Late arrivals must obtain advance approval from UCEAP. Contact the Program Specialist at UCEAP well in advance of the Official UCEAP Start Date.
Update MyEAP with any changes to your address, phone number, and e-mail in order to be kept informed of program changes. Pre-departure updates will most likely be sent via e-mail.
Financial Aid Students
Your financial aid package is calculated using your specific UCEAP Program Budget. The estimated round-trip airfare amount is based on the cost of a changeable student ticket to your host country. If your independent travel costs are greater than the airfare estimate in the UCEAP Program Budget, notify your financial aid counselors. Neither UCEAP nor the Financial Aid Office can guarantee that the additional cost will be funded by financial aid.
If you are not a citizen of the U.S., contact the appropriate Mexican consulate immediately upon your acceptance into UCEAP to determine your specific visa/ entry requirements. Depending on your country of citizenship, requirements may differ and the process may take longer than it does for U.S. citizens.
Mexican Citizens and Dual Citizens
If you are a citizen of Mexico, or a dual citizen of Mexico and the U.S., you will not need to apply for a student visa. Make sure that your Mexican documents are updated prior to arriving in Mexico City.
Entry Requirements for U.S. Citizens
Obtain a passport immediately (if you do not have one already) or ensure that your current passport will be valid for one year past the duration of your stay.
You only need a Multiple Migratory Form (FMM), which is an immigration document issued by the National Immigration Institute that allows foreigners (Non-Mexican Citizens) to enter Mexico as a visitor, without permission to work, for up to 180 days. You may be asked the purpose of your visit by immigration officials at the airport. If that happens, say you are visiting Mexico to study Spanish and travel. It is important that you say you are doing language study, as other types of study require a student visa. YOU DO NOT NEED A VISA.
If you enter via Tijuana, please ask for the FMM at the Immigration Office. If you do not receive and complete an FMM this will cause issues.
Do not lose your FMM. You will be asked to present it at Immigrations (INM) upon leaving Mexico. If you have lost it, you may be subject to replacement fees, and you may need to file a report with INM in order to document that it has been lost/stolen.
Undocumented Students and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Students
Consult with an immigration attorney free of charge on your campus to determine if study abroad is right for you.
If you are currently enrolled as a student at UC Davis, UC Irvine, UCLA, UC Merced, UC Riverside, UC San Diego, UC San Francisco, UC Santa Barbara, or UC Santa Cruz, contact the UC Undocumented Legal Services Center at https://law.ucdavis.edu/uc-undocumented/
The UCEAP Program Budget does not include funds to purchase clothing abroad.
- Find out the luggage and weight restrictions imposed by your airline before you pack and select the luggage you will use.
- Clearly identify each item of luggage on the outside and inside with your name, home address, and Study Center address abroad.
- Never leave luggage unattended.
- UCEAP strongly recommends you insure personal property before departure.
- Do not pack too much. You will have to carry your own luggage, so make sure you can handle it. You will be glad that you decided to pack lightly, especially if you plan to travel while abroad. If you have excess luggage, you must find your own storage space. You cannot store luggage with a homestay host, apartment landlord, or the Study Center.
When selecting clothing to pack, keep Mexican cultural norms in mind. Shorts are rare and should be avoided. Avoid extremes in dress, such as miniskirts and halter tops. Women who wear skimpy clothing may attract crude and annoying comments and attention. In general, Mexican students dress similarly to UC students. Conservative and casual clothing (e.g., jeans and slacks) is common and acceptable for campus wear. The UCEAP Student Budget does not include funds for the purchase of clothing abroad, and large- or tall-sized clothing and shoes may be difficult to find in Mexico.
- Comfortable clothing for classes
- Sturdy walking shoes
- Warm clothes, including a sweater and jacket
- Raincoat or poncho
- Electrical adapter
- Spanish and Spanish-English dictionaries
- Spanish grammar book
- Sunglasses and sunscreen
- Extra contact lenses and contact lens solution
- Adhesive bandages
- Antidiarrheal pills
- 12-hour cold capsules
- Preferred pain relief medication
- Enough prescription medication to last the length of your stay (see the Health chapter of this guide for information on taking prescription medication abroad)
- Dressier outfits (for parties, nightclubs, dinner events, etc.)
- Lightweight clothing that is suitable for tropical weather (if planning a trip to Puerto Vallarta, Veracruz, or the Yucatán)
- Bathrobe and slippers
- Beach towel
- Equipment, shoes, and clothing for sports or recreational activities
- Small gifts for hosts and new friends (e.g., CDs; T-shirts; decals or mugs with city, state, or campus logos; Major League Baseball caps; California pistachios, almonds, or chocolates; California postcards; or scenic calendars)
- Pictures of family and friends
- Musical instruments
- Electric appliances (hair dryer, shaver, radio, etc.); if expensive, document with U.S. customs upon departure
- Travel-size sleeping bag
- Battery-operated alarm clock
- Corkscrew and can/bottle opener (pack only in checked luggage)
- Combination lock
- Safety pins
Do Not Pack
- Illegal narcotics or medications that are illegal in Mexico
Insurance for Personal Possessions
Consider having additional protection for your property. In spite of your best efforts, it is still possible to experience loss, theft, or accidents that will damage your belongings while traveling. Talk to your parents and analyze their family homeowners’ insurance to determine whether the items brought or bought while abroad are covered by their policy.
UCEAP Travel Insurance policy offers limited personal property coverage. UCEAP strongly recommends that you examine the details of the UCEAP Travel Insurance benefits and purchase additional property insurance coverage, especially to protect high cost items such as laptop computers, Smartphones, tablets, and other valuables. Review the policy carefully before departure and determine if it provides adequate coverage for your possessions before you experience a loss.
If you decide to purchase supplemental personal property coverage, do so before departure and make sure that the coverage extends while traveling because most theft occurs in the airport or while moving into housing. The host university does not protect student belongings—even in university accommodations.
You are responsible for your own personal property. Use logical precautions to safeguard valuables from damage or theft by locking your room and securing currency, jewelry, passport, and other possessions. Avoid wearing expensive clothing or jewelry and going to questionable parts of the city, especially at night or when alone. Minimize your vulnerability by staying in control of your drinking and your behavior. Do not invite casual acquaintances or strangers home.
Understanding Your Finances
It is important that you carefully read all of the information available in the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad and discuss it with the person who will assist you with your finances while you are abroad.
Understanding your finances before, during, and after your program is crucial to having a successful time abroad. The following list outlines just a few of the many things you will need to know before departure.
Detailed information on the following topics can be found in the Money Matters
chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
- Contact information for finance questions
- How to estimate the cost of your program
- Budget instructions and information
- Who Can and How to make payments to UCEAP
- UCEAP student account information(what fees do I pay to UCEAP and what fees do I pay out of pocket?)
- Banking before and after arrival
- Fees and penalties
- Loan information
- How financial aid works while abroad (how do I get my financial aid from my home campus and how are my fees paid?)
- Various forms (e.g., direct deposit, etc.)
Your MyEAP Account & Budget
Your MyEAP Student Account is similar to your UC campus financial account. It will be available as soon as you are selected for your program in MyEAP. You can make payments through this account using e-checks or credit cards (MasterCard, Visa, American Express, or Discover). The fees that you owe UCEAP will be applied to your account after your program pre-departure withdrawal date, which is listed in MyEAP. For the amount due to UCEAP prior to fees being posted on your account, refer to the UCEAP Program Budget and Payment Schedule located on the second page of your UCEAP Program Budget
. Program fees are subject to change.
Your UCEAP Program Budget lists the fees you will pay to UCEAP and an estimate of the personal expenses you will need to plan for. It does not include the cost of recreational travel or personal entertainment. Review your UCEAP Program Budget frequently. The Payment Schedule is on the second page of the UCEAP Program Budget.
- Download and print your UCEAP Program Budget and Payment Schedule.
- Note the deadlines on the Payment Schedule.
- Give the UCEAP Program Budget and Payment Schedule to the person responsible for paying your UCEAP bills. Sign this person up for Third Party Authorization on MyEAP so they can make payments online.
Refund of Credit balances and Financial Aid Disbursements:
If you are signed up for Direct Deposit on your UC campus, it is not linked to your MyEAP account. You must sign up for eRefund with UCEAP to receive direct deposits from your MyEAP account. For more information, see the UCEAP eRefund Instructions
Arrive in Mexico with access to a minimum of $700 to cover room, board, and incidental expenses for the first month. Access does not mean carrying $700 in cash with you to Mexico—this is discouraged for security reasons. Having access to this amount of money means having the ability to withdraw funds once you are in Mexico, since you will need to pay your rent in cash within the first few days. You will have to pay rent directly to the landlord in your home or apartment arrangement. Credit cards, travelers checks, and debit cards cannot be used for rent payments. Additional expenses include daily transportation, laundry, books and school supplies, computer usage, and personal items.
The official currency unit in Mexico is the peso (abbreviated MEX$ or MXN).
Contact Your Bank before Departure
Many banks and credit cards offer online services that will allow you to check account balances and pay bills quickly while abroad. Check with your bank and credit card providers before departure to make any necessary arrangements. Also, find out how to contact your bank and credit card companies from abroad.
While in Mexico City
Mexico City is a major international center and, as such, costs are high even by U.S. standards. Many past UCEAP participants found that their living costs in Mexico City were greater than expected. Plan on using a combination of methods to handle money in case one does not work (e.g., a local ATM is temporarily out of service). Do not rely solely on one method of accessing money. You cannot open a bank account in Mexico.
- Have more than one way to access money while abroad.
- Use a money belt.
- Arrive in Mexico City with at least $50 or $100 exchanged into Mexican pesos. You can obtain pesos from a U.S. bank. Some banks require at least two weeks to obtain foreign currency.
- Avoid carrying large amounts of cash.
- Take at least two international credit cards (in your name) and two ATM cards (if possible). The ATM card must have an international (four-digit) PIN in order to work in Mexico.
- Do not plan to have checks (financial aid, money from family, etc.) sent to Mexico; you will be unable to cash them. Have checks deposited into your U.S. account via Electronic Funds Transfer (when possible) or have them sent to a trusted friend or relative who can deposit the funds into your U.S. bank account.
- Assign your Power of Attorney to someone you absolutely trust.
ATMs, Debit Cards, and Cash
Using an ATM card is by far the easiest way to access your money abroad, and the exchange rate is the most favorable. You can withdraw funds directly from your U.S. account from an ATM in Mexico. ATMs are widely available in Mexico (although they do not always function) and you will receive cash in local currency (pesos).
Some U.S. banks issuing credit cards or ATM cards do not have agreements with Mexican banks. Inquire with your U.S. bank before departure. Before you use your ATM or credit card in a Mexican ATM, ask the cashier if the bank will accept it. If the bank does not accept that type of card, the ATM will keep the card.
Cirrus, Star, or Plus systems can be used in Mexico. There may be a transaction fee involved (inquire with your home bank before departure). ATMs in Mexico frequently require persistence. Having a backup source of funds is strongly advised (e.g., credit card) in case a functioning ATM cannot be located.
Avoid carrying large amounts of cash and withdrawing money from an ATM at night, as robberies near ATMs are common.
UCEAP participants note that having some cash in U.S. currency is convenient for exchanging smaller amounts, and it comes in handy for tips, airport purchases, and airport transfers. Take caution, however, as cash is not a secure way to transport funds.
Credit cards are useful for emergencies, medical or travel expenses, and everyday purchases. Most large stores and restaurants in Mexico honor major credit cards. Visa is the most widely accepted credit card followed by MasterCard. American Express is not widely accepted, but can be used to purchase travelers checks abroad. The Discover card is not widely accepted outside the U.S. and is not worth taking to Mexico.
Some U.S. banks that issue Visa, MasterCard, or American Express cards do not have agreements with Mexican banks. Before you use your Visa or MasterCard as a debit card in an ATM, ask the cashier at the bank if the bank will accept it (non-compatible credit cards can get jammed in ATMs).
Take at least two international credit cards (always leave one at home while in Mexico; if one is lost or stolen, you will have an immediate backup). These credit cards must be in your name, not a parent’s.
Before departure, write down contact numbers you can call while abroad to report a lost or stolen credit card and obtain a replacement. If you lose a credit card or need a card mailed to Mexico, it is best if the credit card company mails the card to your family in the U.S. who can then send it via FedEx or DHL to the Study Center. This way you can track the shipment. In addition, you may want to notify your bank and credit card companies that you will be traveling abroad. This will prevent them from questioning unusual activity.
You may obtain a cash advance with your Visa or MasterCard from a bank offering this service, though this can be an expensive way to access cash. Before departure, find out what fees apply for cash advances. Obtain an international PIN for your credit card in case you need a cash advance after hours. Your PIN is not usually required if the transaction is conducted inside the bank, but you must show your passport.
Landlords do not accept credit card payments.
Although travelers checks are a safe way to handle money and are easily exchangeable in most banks in Mexico City, UCEAP does not recommend using travelers checks for everyday expenses. They are a good source of backup funds, but for regular purchases it is more convenient to rely on ATM cards and credit cards.
Parents, friends, or relatives can send you money in Mexico in several ways. The most convenient and inexpensive way is to deposit money in your U.S. bank account so you can withdraw the funds via an ATM. Online banking also makes transfers from one account to another very convenient. Another option is to cable money through a service such as Western Union
, but this is more expensive. Western Union sends money orders but they can be cashed only in a few places (you cannot cash them at an American Express office). In an emergency, money can be wired bank-to-bank or via American Express. Another alternative is to send travelers checks. Past students recommend sending travelers checks via FedEx.
The most easily accessible American Express offices in Mexico City are:
Av. Patriotismo 635
Col. Cd. de los Deportes
Phone: (55) 5598-79-66
Cent. Comerc. Perisur (close to the UNAM campus)
Perif. sur 4690, Local 231
Phone: (55) 5606-1073 or 5606-9621
The Study Center in Mexico City has four computers with Internet access, which are available for exclusive use by UCEAP students. There is also a printer available for academic papers.
You are encouraged to take a laptop to Mexico to prepare academic papers, analyze research data, and use the Internet frequently.
If you plan to take a laptop:
- Be certain your laptop is fully insured in case of damage, loss, or theft.
- Carry your proof of purchase with you.
- Do not ship your laptop abroad. The laptop may be held for inspection by customs officials and customs fees are quite costly, even for older laptops.
- Be sure to keep your laptop within reach at all times. Laptops are among the most frequently stolen items from travelers.
- Make sure your computer is equipped for wireless network access.
- Ensure that your laptop is equipped with a built-in voltage transformer that enables it to operate on the voltage used in Mexico (this is a fairly common feature), take adapter plugs, and install the latest antivirus software to minimize hassle.
- You can choose to take your laptop to an Internet café to print papers and download e-mail (then read and compose messages offline). Many students also utilize Internet cafés (which are common in Mexico City). The cost is about 10 to 25 pesos an hour.
Approximate time difference: add 2 hours
Buy a cell phone in Mexico. Costs vary according to the model, but decent phones range from about 400 to 1,500 pesos. Prepaid phone cards are available at the airport, local markets, and corner stores. Local calls cost about five pesos per minute but incoming calls from within Mexico are free. Incoming calls from the U.S. cost about six pesos per minute. You can usually place long-distance calls on cell phones; however, there are fees involved. Most students use Skype
from their apartments to call home.
When used moderately, cell phones can be less expensive than regular phones. It is expensive and complicated to switch a U.S. cell phone over for use in Mexico. UCEAP does not recommend this.
Smart Phone Call/Texting Apps
For free or low cost communication with friends and family in the U.S. as well as amongst your contacts abroad, consider downloading an app such as Whatsapp
on your smartphone. These apps are commonly used by locals and are a cost effective way to communicate over a WiFi connection.
Pay phones in Mexico City are accessible, although calling costs may be higher than if you use a cell phone. Almost all public phones in Mexico City no longer accept coins. To make local or long-distance calls, it is best to buy a phone card once in Mexico City. Tarjetas Ladatel phone cards are sold at lottery ticket booths, newsstands, and small shops at the airport for 30, 50, or 100 pesos. Upon arrival, the Study Center will provide you with a phone card loaded with minutes.
Many U.S.-based long-distance phone companies provide special services that make it easy to make international calls. Some companies provide a toll-free access number that connects with an operator in the U.S., and others provide the means to charge long-distance calls either to a credit card or to a third party. Investigate the possibilities before departure and shop around for the best services and rates.
Be sure to confirm the card you purchase will work for calls originating outside of the U.S. Many students find that some prepaid phone cards purchased in the U.S. do not work abroad. Long-distance phone cards are sold in Mexico City at lottery ticket booths and newsstands.
Phone Use in Pre-Arranged Housing
The use of the phone in your pre-arranged housing is not allowed. Past tenants who abused phone privileges have caused many landlords to cancel this service. Long distance calls are absolutely prohibited.
Postcards should be sent in envelopes. Regular mail can be unreliable. It is best to send dated or important materials to the Study Center via FedEx.
Regardless of your accommodations, your mail and packages will be received at the Study Center. You will have a mailbox at the Study Center, and the UCEAP staff will forward your mail. (Send all international mail by FedEx only.)
Mexico City Study Center
Universidad de California
Casa de California
Calle Carmen # 1
C.P. 01070 México, D.F.
Del. Alvaro Obregon
Phone: (011-52-55) 5662-9511
Send regular mail within Mexico to:
University of California, México
Aptdo. Postal 70-586
04510 México, DF, MEXICO
(Your name should be written at the bottom of the envelope)
For more information, refer to the following Shipping section.
Do not have clothing, food shipments, or toiletries sent to you in Mexico. It is often much less expensive to purchase the items in Mexico than it is to pay mailing and customs fees. Advise relatives and friends against sending packages; they are heavily taxed, take a long time to arrive, and may get lost in the mail. Keep in mind that anything you send abroad must later be brought or sent back home.
If shipping luggage, you must be present when it arrives in Mexico. The Study Center is not responsible for collecting luggage shipped in advance, and staff will not pick up luggage that must be claimed at a customs office or dock. Do not send luggage to in-transit locations. Packages sent by FedEx, DHL, UPS, etc., should be clearly marked “No Commercial Value—Gift” on the package. If the sender declares a value, you will have to pay customs.
Never send medication or have medication sent to you in Mexico. Customs will not accept it. See the Staying Healthy chapter in this guide for more information on prescription medication.
Mexico City Housing
Housing is arranged by UCEAP in private homes located throughout Mexico City. The UCEAP Systemwide Office will ask you to complete a housing questionnaire indicating your preferences. Every effort will be made to provide you with your first housing choice, but this is not always possible. In general, the accommodations are about a 5–10 minute walk or a 20–25 minute bus ride from the Casa de California, where your classes will be held. Most students take the microbus for 2.50 pesos or more (depending on the distance) and some take the metro for 5 pesos.
If the Study Center arranges your housing, you can expect to be provided with all bed linens and pillows, but not towels (these are considered personal items). You can bring towels and all other personal items from home or purchase them once you are in Mexico.
You can also make your own housing arrangements. However, finding housing in Mexico City for only a short period of time can be difficult. UCEAP recommends that you secure a place to stay before you go abroad. If you make your own arrangements, you must note this in the UCEAP housing questionnaire and include your address abroad. If you plan on living with a relative or friend in Mexico City, make sure you know which part of the city they live in, as commutes from some parts of the city to campus can take several hours.
How to Prepare
Rent & Payments
All students, including those on financial aid, must make their housing payments in cash directly to the landlord. The costs to rent an apartment or room in a homestay are approximately US$275 per month per person. Costs will vary with regard to room size, furnishings, location, family unit, house rules, cooking privileges, available services, etc. The cost of food and personal items is not included in the rent (unless you live in a homestay and work out some arrangements regarding your meals with the host). Internet is available in all apartments.
IMPORTANT: You should plan on arriving in Mexico with access to at least US$700 in the bank. Do not carry cash, you will withdraw money once you are in Mexico. In the first three days, you will be required to pay your first month’s rent and a housing deposit. Please factor this carefully into your financial planning. Financial aid students should be sure to sign up for eRefund Direct Deposit early on to ensure access to aid disbursements.
Housing Address & Information
You will not receive apartment or homestay information prior to departure. You will meet your host or receive your apartment assignment once you arrive in Mexico City.
Renting an apartment usually means renting a single room in a three- or four-bedroom furnished apartment that is shared with other international students. A landlord administers the apartment and collects monthly rent. In Mexico City, landlords rent only rooms, not the whole apartment (as is common in the U.S.). Landlords usually have strict rules about parties, overnight guests, noise, etc.
You must ask landlords for permission to have any visitors, especially those of the opposite sex.
Unlike the U.S., landlords can (and often do) enter apartments without notice. Past students have commented about their nosy and meddling landlords. Landlords are strict in terms of cleanliness; you will be expected to clean up after yourself on a daily basis, especially in the common areas.
It is common for university students, both Mexican and American, to live in rooms in the homes of others (casa de familia). For UC students, such living arrangements are known as “homestays.” Although every situation is different, most homestays are not with typical Mexican families, but rather with a host who rents out an extra room to earn additional income. The host may be an elderly couple with grown children and an extra room, a widow with financial need, or perhaps a single parent.
Whatever the case, the homestay will help you with language acquisition, as English usually isn’t spoken in the homes, and provide insight into the Mexican lifestyle. There is possibly no better way for you to be immersed in Mexican culture than to share everyday life with someone from that culture. However, conforming to someone else’s rules, especially if they appear strict, may be a strain if you have lived on your own for a few years, and differing cultural norms may make some rules seem arbitrary.
Prepare yourself for the fact that homes and rooms in Mexico tend to be small with limited storage space, and amenities may not be what you are accustomed to in the U.S. (many rooms are without heaters). Conveniences are defined differently in Mexico than in the U.S.; for example, you may encounter restrictions on the use of hot water and electricity and charges for the use of the telephone. You will also need to be aware of certain expectations and customs the host may have. Ask permission before bringing guests home and inform them when you will miss a meal, arrive home late, or go away for the weekend. Both parties are asked to be flexible, but special responsibility is expected of you as a guest in someone else’s home. Dialogue and consideration are usually the best vehicles for good results.
The Study Center will inform you of any pre-negotiated homestay terms. Your host will also receive a written copy of these terms so that all are equally informed. Communicate any problem or misunderstanding that may arise between you and the host family immediately to the Study Center.
Important Questions to Ask Your Host
To avoid any confusion, communicate with your host family about the following when you arrive:
- Keys: Will you be issued keys to the house? Does the host expect you to be home at a certain time?
- Bathroom: What are your rights and responsibilities concerning the bathroom facilities?
- Meals: How many meals per day will you receive? What should you do if you know you will miss a meal? What should you do if you miss a meal unintentionally? Do you have access to the kitchen or to any household food? Discuss your special dietary needs and scheduled meal times. If you are a vegetarian, plan to be flexible.
- Bedroom: Who is to clean the room? Make the bed? Change the linens?
- Laundry: Who is responsible for doing the laundry and what laundry will be done? In some situations the host will do all laundry except underwear. Ask where and how they would like you to give them your laundry.
- Guests: Are you allowed to have guests? Are you allowed to have overnight guests? What about parties and social gatherings at your home?
- Telephone: The use of the host's phone is not allowed. When you arrive in Mexico City, buy a local cell phone. Past tenants who abused phone privileges have caused many landlords to cancel this service. Long distance calls are absolutely prohibited.
The cost of food is not included in the rent (unless you live in a homestay and work out some arrangements regarding your meals with the host). You are responsible for buying food and preparing your own meals.
Supermarkets in Mexico are clean and orderly. Some markets are small, while others are large like those in the U.S. Food and prices are comparable to those in the U.S.
Always follow safe food preparation procedures as described in international health guides, such as the CDC Yellow Book
. You are advised against eating prepared foods or fruits from street vendors. Food from street vendors often sits out for long periods of time at extreme temperatures. When eating out, drink only bottled water and beverages (without ice) or tea and coffee. Do not drink tap water unless it has been boiled for 15 to 20 minutes. Bottled water is readily available and your host family will supply you with bottled or filtered drinking water at home.
If you live in a homestay where you have a meal arrangement included, you will be expected to eat your meals with your host family. If you are going to miss a meal, discuss this as soon as possible with your host family. The midday meal (from about 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.) is the main meal of the day in Mexico. After this meal, the family generally has what is referred to as la sobre mesa, which is a time for talking and sharing.
Past vegetarians report that their hosts were extremely accommodating to their needs as long as the family knew their preferences before they arrived. It is more complicated to find suitable food if you are a vegan. Cheese, eggs, cream, etc., are in the majority of foods.
If you are a vegetarian, clearly note this on your UCEAP housing questionnaire. Be specific. You may want to take supplements along, as the Mexican diet is different.
The UCEAP program budget does not include funds for recreational travel abroad.
Study Center staff will provide more information on local transportation during the initial orientation period.
Transportation in Mexico City and Travel within Mexico
See the Staying Safe chapter of this guide for further safety precautions related to public transportation.
Public transportation generally is adequate to meet student needs, both within Mexico City and in the country at large. Mexico City has an excellent subway system (metro), with eight or nine lines traversing the city. It costs about 5 pesos to travel throughout the city on the subway system. The municipal transit system also includes an extensive bus and streetcar service, which connects to the subway. There is also a widespread system of inexpensive colectivos and peseros, which are taxi-vans that run along fixed routes. Fares are low by U.S. standards. Bus and subway service is suspended just after midnight. You are advised to call sitio taxis for transportation at night.
The U.S. embassy in Mexico strongly urges U.S. citizens arriving at the international airport in Mexico City to take only “airport” taxis, which are white with a yellow band, after purchasing a ticket in the airport arrival hall. You should always call for a sitio taxi in Mexico City rather than taking a free-ranging green Volkswagen taxi. Sitio taxis are operated centrally and connected via radio by Servi-Taxis. Tourist taxis are available from larger hotels, but these are expensive.
Do not take a car to Mexico. Permits to operate cars are difficult to obtain, insurance is expensive, and parking and security are serious problems. Renting automobiles in Mexico is also expensive, and you may do so only if you are over 25 and have an internationally recognized credit card. Again, security is a concern. With all the other means of transportation available, driving in Mexico is not advised.
Buses are the most common form of intercity transportation and service is excellent throughout Mexico. Most major lines offer a new first-class service (Plus Service) that is comfortable and reliable. ETN is a reliable service provider with low rates for first-class routes. Routes extend to some of the smallest communities in the most remote places, and fares are relatively low. Purchase tickets online at the Ticket Bus
Air travel is reliable within Mexico, with modern equipment on most routes. Fares are cheaper than in California, but considerably higher than either bus or train fare.
Train travel is not recommended. Fares are low, but equipment is out of date and sometimes in poor repair. When traveling by train, allow for delays since schedules are seldom met.
Participating in extracurricular cultural and social activities while on UCEAP is an excellent way to meet people, improve your language skills, and integrate more fully into the Mexican community.
During the time that you are in Mexico City (D.F.), you will discover a wealth of cultural activity with its many museums, theaters, parks, monuments, and frequent special events. As one of the largest cosmopolitan cities in the world, D.F. will offer you a variety of modern experiences typical of any large urban center, in contrast with elements that are distinctly traditional. Many students find the blend of old and new worlds to be particularly interesting. Among other things, Mexico City is a center for international and national cinematography.
The following websites provide information on many cultural and current events in the Mexico City area:
Information about travel, including youth hostels, can be obtained from travel guides and from popular travel-related websites.
The UCEAP Student Budget does not include funds for recreational travel abroad
Students with Disabilities
While in Mexico, students with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what they find in the United States. Mexican law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, air travel and other transportation, access to health care, and the provision of other services. However, the law is not effectively enforced.
Public buildings and facilities continue to be in noncompliance with the law requiring access for persons with disabilities, as do most hotels and other tourist facilities.
For more information:
Leaving your host city for more than 24 hours?
You are required to complete the online sign out through your MyEAP account.
Click on Travel Signout and complete all required fields. During an emergency (abroad or in the U.S.), it is important for UCEAP officials to know how to reach you so we can help you.
The UCEAP program budget does not include funds for recreational travel abroad.
Legally, LGBT persons enjoy relatively strong protections in Mexico. In 2001, a constitutional amendment officially banned discrimination based on sexual orientation. Discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity remains, despite a growing public acceptance of LGBT individuals. Exercise discretion in identifying publicly as LGBT.
Many parts of Mexico offer a vibrant environment for LGBT individuals.
For more information,
Know Before you Go
While abroad you are automatically covered by the UCEAP Travel Insurance Policy
. Coverage begins 14 days before the official start date of your UCEAP program term. Coverage ends 31 days after the official end of the UCEAP program term.
The UCEAP travel insurance does not include coverage for preventative care, checkups, and vaccinations.
Read details in Benefits at a Glance
. Familiarize yourself with the coverage, exclusions, and eligibility criteria. Your travel insurance policy number is ADDN 04834823. It is underwritten by Chubb Insurance Company.
There is no deductible or co-insurance but the travel insurance works on a reimbursement basis.
You can submit a claim for a refund consideration of covered expenses. For more information about the medical claim proces
or about non-medical claims
Do not assume that if you seek medical care abroad for a covered illness or injury that the local hospital will bill your insurance. Generally, hospitals around the world, including the US, do not bill insurance companies (unless there is a special arrangement with a local hospital in your UCEAP country). It is your responsibility to inquire with the hospital, at the time of service, and make arrangements to pay any outstanding bills. Payment for medical services abroad is ultimately your responsibility.
For more information refer to your Pre-Departure Checklist, Insurance tab, or the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, Insurance chapter
For Questions about Coverage, Benefits and Claims Status
ACI at email@example.com.
Medical facilities in Mexico City can handle most medical problems. Upon arrival, the Study Center will provide you with a list of hospitals and clinics, doctors, psychologists, and psychiatric services in the area.
If you have any preexisting health issues, carry a signed, dated letter from your primary physician describing all medical conditions, treatment, and prescribed medications, including generic names.
Cash is especially important to have on hand for medical emergencies outside of Mexico City, as medical facilities in smaller communities may not accept credit cards.
Know Before you Go
Inform yourself before you travel. Just as language and currency vary around the world, so does medical care. Know what to do if you get sick.
Read the Health chapter
of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
and your Program Guide for important information to plan for a healthy stay abroad.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Traveler's Health
web page has important information about health risks present in the country where you will be studying.
If you are sick, injured, or have a medical emergency
Seek medical attention and contact the Study Center immediately. The Study Center can help you with the hospital, guide you through the UCEAP insurance claim process for services covered under the policy, and help make arrangements with your professors if extended absence from class is expected
Follow Basic Guidelines to Stay Healthy
- Food and beverage precautions are essential to reduce chance of illness.
- In many areas in Mexico, tap water is unsafe. Do not drink it. Mexican surface waters and aquifers are heavily contaminated by sewage runoff, volcanic ash, solid and hazardous waste, arsenic and heavy metals, salt water, industrial wastes, pesticides and fungicides, including many prohibited by other countries.
- Use only boiled, purified, or bottled water from a reputable distributor. Bottled water produced in Mexico may be as unsafe.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water (if soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand gel with at least 60% alcohol) and observe personal hygiene standards.
- Avoid raw or undercooked seafood or dairy products. Limit eating food from street food vendors.
Take over-the-counter diarrhea medication, such as Pepto-Bismol, etc., to Mexico. It is likely that you will get diarrhea at some point.
- Understand your UCEAP travel insurance terms of coverage.
- If you need a refill while abroad, you must see a local doctor. US prescriptions are not valid in other countries. Note: If the visit to the local doctor is considered preventive care, it will not be covered by the UCEAP travel insurance; your campus or private insurance plan may cover it. You must travel with a letter from your prescribing explaining your diagnosis, treatment, and medication regimen, including the generic name.
- If you need to find out if this appointment would be covered by the UCEAP travel insurance, contact ACI at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the UCEAP travel insurance, refer to your UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, or your pre-departure checklist, Insurance tab.
- Two classes of medicines – narcotics and psychotropics – are under the control of international law. This covers any medicine that can have an effect on the Central Nervous System (CNS) and the potential to be abused. The narcotic class mostly relates to analgesic opioids and their derivatives (e.g. morphine and codeine) which tend to be highly regulated. Psychotropics are all those medications likely to be used to treat mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, and psychotic conditions.
- If you plan to purchase medication using the UCEAP Travel Insurance coverage, you must fill and pay for medication when coverage is effective (14 days before the official start of the program). Do not assume that your local pharmacy knows about the UCEAP travel insurance policy. It is not the same as your campus health insurance coverage. You will need to pay for the medication and submit a claim to the UCEAP insurance.
- Find out whether your medication is legal in your UCEAP country.
- If traveling with a prescription containing controlled substances, review international agreements governing the transportation of medications across borders check the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) website. The INCB is responsible for international drug control. If traveling with controlled substances, you must have a letter from your doctor. Generally, amphetamines (e.g., Adderall, Vyvanse) are illegal in other countries. Talk with your doctor to switch you to another medication.
- Talk to your doctor to see whether he/she can prescribe an adequate supply of your prescription medication to last through the end of the program. Ask your doctor how to adjust your dosage depending on time zone changes.
- Get a letter from the prescribing physician, on letterhead, indicating your diagnosis, treatment, and medication regimen, including the generic name as brand names vary considerably around the world.
Traveling with prescription medications
- Keep the medication in its original packaging clearly labelled with your name, doctor’s name, generic and brand name, and exact dosage. Carry it in your carry-on luggage, provided it is in pill or solid form. For more information, particularly if your medication is in liquid form, consult the US Transportation Security Administration., Traveling with Medications.
- Carry copies of all original US prescriptions.
- Carry the letter on letterhead from the prescribing physician for all prescribed medications, indicating your diagnosis, treatment, and medication regimen, including the generic names. This is extremely important in case you need treatment or a medication refill abroad.
Why is a letter from your treating physician necessary?
If your particular medication cannot be taken into the country, talk to your doctor. If you need to switch prescriptions, your doctor may need to make changes to your medication at least 3-6 months before departure to monitor side effects and dosage. The letter from your doctor indicating condition, treatment and medication regimen, can help a local physician to assess you and to consider reissuing your prescription provided it is licensed in your UCEAP country. Note that the local doctor's appointment for medication refill may not be covered by the UCEAP travel insurance.
Consult with ACI, email@example.com. Read more in the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, Health section.
If you are currently in treatment in the U.S., discuss your UCEAP program details with your doctor so you can work on a plan in case you need to reach out for care. If you are taking a prescription medication, talk with your prescribing physician before departure about getting the supply you need for going abroad. For information about traveling with medications, refer to the Prescription Medications section in this guide.
Your mental health is important to us all. Create a plan with your treating doctor. Managing your mental health while studying abroad – whether or not you have a pre-existing condition – is something every person must think about when going abroad. Being away from usual stress at home can sometimes be a relief when abroad; experiencing new adventures can be a useful distraction. You will also have times when you feel confused, uncomfortable, annoyed, and many of the same emotions that you manage in your daily life at home.
Cultural adjustment and homesickness are normal. They are usually transitory—lasting a couple of weeks—and do not imply mental illness or an inability to cope. Most students who experience culture adjustment function reasonably well under the stress and are able to keep up with the responsibilities of school and everyday life.
You may feel homesick or sad. Feeling down, anxious, homesick, depressed or stressed might be your body’s reaction to the new environment and different life away from your usual support network. Don't cope alone. Reach out for help to the local UCEAP program staff and your friends. If you have been feeling unhappy for longer than a few days, or it is staring to affect your enjoyment of
life and/or your studies, then you should see a doctor immediately.
The UCEAP travel insurance policy
covers outpatient visits as any other illness up to $500,000; there is no co-pay or deductible, and you can make an appointment with any doctor. Budget for this expense as you must pay up front and submit a claim to the insurance company for a refund consideration. Doctors, hospitals, and clinics will require you to pay bills at the time of treatment. You must then submit a completed claim form and paid receipts to the UCEAP insurance company. For information about the claims process, access Insurance Claims Process
. If you have questions about your UCEAP travel insurance benefits contact ACI at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Air pollution is intensified by periodic thermal inversions from December to May, likely to exacerbate preexisting cardiopulmonary disease.
Read more in the Air Quality section of this guide.
In high-altitude areas such as Mexico City (elevation over 7,000 feet), most people need a short adjustment period. Symptoms of reaction to high altitude include a lack of energy, shortness of breath, occasional dizziness, headache, and insomnia. Those with heart problems should consult their doctor before traveling.
Students with severe food allergies should take precautions, as the cuisine may include ingredients that can cause anaphylaxis in those affected. A language barrier increases the risks associated with severe food allergies.
Precautions to take include:
For more information, read the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
, Health chapter
, Allergies section.
Part of the problem with air pollution in Mexico City has to do with its geography: wind circulation in the capital is very poor, as it sits in a basin ringed by mountains. Although the air pollution in Mexico has vastly decreased in the last two decades, levels of harmful pollutants such as particulate matter and ozone are still above the World Health Organization’s recommended levels in many Mexican cities. One of the main culprits is the transportation sector: the country’s fleet of inefficient trucks and cars consume dirty diesel fuels and emit high levels of black carbon (the second most powerful contributor to climate change behind carbon dioxide) and particulate matter. These contaminants not only impact the environment and worsen climate change, they also have grave effects on people.
Air pollution routinely exceeds recommended thresholds in urban areas. On days when air quality is particularly poor, take personal precautions to reduce respiratory stress.
Air pollution can make asthma symptoms worse and trigger attacks. Exposure to fine particle pollution (PM2.5) contributes to cardiovascular disease. In addition to talking to your doctor before departure from the U.S., refer to the following tips.
- If you have a chronic health condition that gets worse with air pollution, talk to your doctor about the risks before departure.
- Plan activities when and where pollution levels are lower.
- Change your activity level. When the air is polluted, try to take it easier if you are active outdoors. This will reduce how much pollution you breathe. Even if you can’t change your schedule, you might be able to change your activity so it is less intense.
- Listen to your body.
- Wear an N-95 respirator (approved by the United States National Institute of Safety and Health) and follow local public health messages.
Even if you are healthy, you may experience temporary symptoms, such as irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat; coughing; phlegm; chest tightness; and shortness of breath.
Travel Registration and UCEAP Travel Warning
The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City posts additional information about local safety and health issues for U.S. citizens on its website.
Review the Department of State’s Travel Advisory for Mexico
, which provides updated and detailed information about security issues affecting the country on a state-by-state basis.
Prepare for the program environment and listen to all information issued by UCEAP in California and in Mexico.
The UCEAP Travel Warning
restricts travel to specific regions in Mexico. Until further notice, students are prohibited from visiting or conducting research in several locations. Students found in violation of this prohibition will be dismissed. Read the UCEAP Travel Warning
and know which locations that you must avoid. Comply with this heightened state of alert, observe all safety measures implemented by the Study Center.
Know Before you Go: Safety Preparedness
UCEAP takes the safety and security of participants very seriously and provides credible and timely advice predeparture and while in Mexico. As in the U.S., you are ultimately responsible for your own personal safety. Before traveling, ensure that you are fully prepared, that you are aware of any risks, and that you have mitigated them.
While UCEAP provides resources aimed at facilitating a safe travel experience, the program cannot ensure that your travels and stay in Mexico will be problem-free or account for all the potential health and safety risks that you might experience.
To be able to identify risks at any of your destinations, you need to properly outline your UCEAP activities and your independent travel. Name the risk and rate it based on the severity and likelihood. Consider what measures you will be taking to reduce the severity and chance. If you will be traveling, how you can safely get to your destination and/or any travel inside a country. Pick your itinerary carefully, let your friends and relatives know where you will be, and research the safest way to tavel. As you travel by road, consider that road safety is often a high risk in developing countries.
Mexico City is the largest metropolitan area in the western hemisphere and the second largest in the world by population. You will encounter the challenges associated with dense urban living: increased crime, severe air pollution, and standards of living that are different from those in the U.S. Crime levels in Mexico City are high. When in Mexico City, take personal safety precautions.
Remain aware of your surroundings and to what is happening around you. Plan how you will respond to an emergency.
- cannot assume responsibility for actions or events that are beyond its control or for situations that may arise due to participants not disclosing pertinent information.
- makes reasonable efforts to promote a safe environment for students and to offer reliable information to UCEAP students and their parents regarding relevant precautions and potential risks.
- is in continual contact with local staff abroad and has 24/7 dedicated staff in Mexico City and in international emergency response team that monitors local and international conditions and threats that may affect the health and safety of students, staff, and faculty around the world.
Be Responsible About your own Safety
You and your family have a role to play in minimizing potential dangers and UCEAP expects you to participate actively in minimizing your risks while abroad. In addition to keeping all of the above in mind, you are responsible to:
- Read all available materials and talk to your Campus EAP Advisor and UCEAP staff about questions and concerns.
- Participate and pay attention in the required predeparture and onsite orientations.
- Be aware of local conditions and customs that may present health or safety risks when making daily choices and decisions.
- Promptly communicate any health or safety concerns to Study Center faculty and/or staff.
- Behave responsibly: Accept responsibility for your own decisions and actions. Obey host-country laws. Respect the rights and well-being of others, and encourage others to behave in a similar manner. Follow UCEAP policies for keeping Study Center staff informed of your whereabouts and well-being.
- Become familiar with the procedures for calling emergency services.
- Have a communication plan. Who will you call locally if you are facing an emergency? Do your friends and relatives know how to reach you when you are traveling?
Some Safety Precautions
- Avoid putting yourself in high-risk situations.
- Leave valuables in a safe place or do not travel with them. Laptops, and similar items are regularly stolen at Mexico City’s Benito Juarez International Airport. Watch your belongings.
- Avoid carrying a purse or wallet. You will often be in crowded areas that are prime hunting grounds for pickpockets and purse-snatchers. If you must carry a wallet, wrap it in a rubber band - this creates friction, making it harder to pickpocket - or use a chain to attach your wallet to a belt loop. If you must carry a purse, keep it closed, place the strap over one shoulder (not around your neck), keep the purse to your front and keep your hand on it. Use a travel security wallet or pouch, instead, for your passport, money, credit cards and other valuables.
- Metro robberies are frequent; be especially careful with valuables when riding the metro or bus; leave them at home, if possible.
- Avoid walking alone at all times, especially at night or in unfamiliar areas. Go out in groups. Use the buddy system at all times.
- Avoid wearing headphones, reading, or using your phone while walking. They are likely to cause inattentional blindness (distraction) and environmental isolation. The sounds coming through the headphones simply overpower those coming from the street.
- Avoid carrying large amounts of cash, and avoid exchanging money at Benito Juarez International Airport (Mexico City).
- The U.S. Embassy in Mexico recommends that all intercity bus travel be done during daylight hours and on first-class buses, which use the toll road system. Second- and third-class buses use the “free” highways, which have a higher rate of accidents and robberies (especially at night). Within Mexico City, avoid taking night buses if at all possible; they are subject to robberies.
- When taking taxis in Mexico City, follow all recommendations listed in the Traffic & Transportation Safety section of this guide.
- Do not travel by bike, hitchhike, or go camping. These activities are extremely dangerous in Mexico.
- If confronted by an assailant, surrender valuables without hesitation to avoid harm.
At the start of the semester, you will attend a safety orientation on campus. There are emergency phones located throughout the UNAM campus; know how to use them. Security cars patrol the area regularly. In addition, free buses called pumitas are available to transport you across campus.
You play an active role in protecting your personal health, safety, and well-being. Consider an action plan.
With the right information - and by thinking ahead - everyone can play a part in minimizing or preventing personal risks. Take time to assess the risks, plan ahead to reduce them, and think how you would lessen the consequences if things go wrong. Start by outlining activities you plan to engage in through your program and/or during independent travel; label the risk and rate it based on the likelihood of harm and the severity of consequences. Consider measures you can take to reduce the severity and chance. Plan your itinerary carefully, let your friends and relatives know where you will be, and research the safest way to travel.
The University of California Education Abroad Program (UCEAP) has established policies and procedures and has contracted with emergency assistance and security providers, to help you minimize your risk exposure and enhance your safety.
Be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate and unpredictable terrorist attacks, which make it impossible to protect yourself from. Remain vigilant in all public areas in your UCEAP city and country and wherever you travel. Many terrorist groups, seeking publicity for political causes within their own country or region, are not looking for student or higher education targets.
Terrorist attacks using vehicles are very hard to prevent and appear to be on the rise. If you are in a crowded public place, know how you can exit quickly, identify barriers or safe places where you can shelter-in-place, and watch out for any vehicles that appear to be going at very high speed.
Report anything suspicious to local authorities. Read all security-related correspondence and advice from local staff. Schedule direct flights, if possible. Avoid stops in high-risk airports or areas. Minimize time spent in the public area of an airport, which is a less protected area. Keep a mental note of safe havens, such as police stations, hotels, and hospitals. Have a plan for what you will do in the case of an emergency. If you are ever caught in a situation where somebody starts shooting, follow the active shooter guidelines: drop to the floor, get down as low as possible, and hide if possible. Cover yourself behind a solid object. Silence your phone. Do not move until the danger has passed.
Steps to manage or minimize risk and enhance your personal safety
Register online with the U.S. embassy through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program
(STEP), a free service provided by the U.S. Government to U.S. citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country.
Crime in Mexico continues to occur at a high rate and can be violent. Street crime, ranging from pick-pocketing to armed robbery, is a serious problem in most major cities.
Drugs & Alcohol
The use of drugs is strictly forbidden by law. While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country’s laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.
Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Mexican laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking illegal drugs in Mexico are severe, and convicted offenders can expect heavy fines and long jail sentences of up to 25 years.
UCEAP will take disciplinary action for alcohol abuse or the use of illicit drugs. Never feel pressured to drink. Alcohol impairs judgment and reduces safety. It is recommended that you go out in groups and never walk home alone at night, especially if you are impaired by alcohol. If you choose to drink alcoholic beverages, do so responsibly. Your judgment and healthy decision-making will be impaired. Criminals are known to target vulnerable individuals whose judgment is impaired by intoxication. Always watch your beverage. Instances of drink spiking have been reported. Do not leave drinks unattended in bars and nightclubs. Drugs can easily be mixed into drinks when unattended. These drugs can disorient you, dramatically impair your judgment, or cause you to lose consciousness. Once you lose sight of your drink, do not continue drinking.
Be aware of how much you are drinking and how much alcohol is poured into your glass, and know the alcohol percentage in your drink (in some countries, drinks have a higher alcohol content and may be served in larger portions). If you are on medication, make sure to find out if it will become ineffective or if it could intensify the effect of alcohol.
Express kidnapping differs from conventional kidnapping in that the criminals do not intend to hold the victim until a large ransom can be paid; rather, they coerce victims into giving up personal identification numbers (PINs) or pass-codes to their debit and credit card accounts in order to extract as much money from the victims’ accounts as they can in a short amount of time. While conventional kidnapping victims can remain hostage for weeks, express kidnappings typically last only hours or days. This type of kidnapping is becoming especially common in major cities of Mexico, Brazil, and Venezuela.
Criminals are less discriminate in targeting victims for express kidnappings than they are for conventional kidnappings. There is no need to target an individual of great personal wealth; anyone with a decent-sized checking or savings account will do. Victims are generally targeted at random, and abductions can occur almost anywhere. Express kidnappings are less complicated than conventional kidnappings, which require safe houses, someone to stand guard, food supplies to last weeks, and a methodical negotiation strategy. Similarly, express kidnappers may be less sophisticated and more prone to panic and mistakes.
Vulnerable Situations for Express Kidnapping:
- Withdrawing cash from a street ATM (as opposed to an ATM in the lobby of a hotel, or inside of a bank).
- Hailing an unofficial or illegitimate taxi from the street.
To Reduce the Likelihood of Becoming A Victim:
- Withdraw cash from ATMs located in a hotel, bank, mall, or otherwise secure location.
- Only withdraw cash during the day and when there are other people in the area.
- Do not withdraw cash after consuming alcohol; inebriation tends to lower one’s ability to accurately assess the security of a situation.
- Only use taxis affiliated with, or arranged by, reputable companies or hotels.
- Travel with a debit card that is linked to an account with limited funds; this is likely to reduce the time a victim is held hostage, since the account will more rapidly reach a zero balance.
- Do not travel with multiple exclusive credit cards. If feasible, leave all such cards at home.
- If confronted, relinquish valuables at once; hesitation could cause the attacker to panic and lash out violently.
Phone Extortion (or Virtual Kidnapping)
Similar to express kidnapping, and also increasingly common, is a crime referred to as “phone extortion.” In these crimes, criminals call a victim and claim to have kidnapped a family member. Then they attempt to secure a quick, and generally small, ransom payment. In a typical scenario, criminals know in advance that a certain family member is away and out of immediate contact, perhaps in a movie theater or on a flight. This way, the person they call cannot quickly verify if the person in question has actually been kidnapped. Callers may also try to obtain information about a person’s relatives or associates in order to extort them as well.
In phone extortion, the caller is likely to press the victim to give over financial data such as bank account numbers, credit card numbers, or the caller may order the individual to wire funds into a stated account. Professional kidnappers, if they have a victim, typically understand that they will have to negotiate with a lawyer, law enforcement official, or professional K&R (kidnap & ransom) specialist. They will typically ask for exorbitant amounts, knowing that they will have to settle for a smaller negotiated amount. Phone extortionists will typically ask for $1,500 to $10,000 dollars.
Handling Phone Extortion
- Designate a secret code ahead of time; a code that you and your family would be the only ones to know. If you get a call, ask to speak to the family member who has been kidnapped—this can establish the reality of the claim. If the caller will not allow this, ask the caller for the code. If this is a real kidnapping case, the criminal will be able to produce the code.
- Immediately call the security hotline to seek advice.
- Do not give financial information to the caller.
- Do not transfer funds to an account given to you by the caller.
Mexico is well-known for its illegal drug trade and the violence and corruption the industry fosters. Mexico is the primary conduit for the transport of illegal drugs into the United States. Drug-related violence in Mexico City is, for the most part, confined to those involved in the drug trade. Along Mexico’s northern border cities with the U.S., the violence is far greater and has injured and killed innocent bystanders. Mexican security forces and police have not been effective in maintaining security in these cities along the U.S. Mexican border.
The Mexican Constitution prohibits political activities by foreigners. Such actions may result in detention and/or deportation. Avoid all demonstrations and other activities that might be deemed political by the Mexican authorities. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. Demonstrators in Mexico may block traffic on roads, including major arteries, or take control of toll booths on highways. Avoid areas of demonstrations, and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any protests. Seek shelter if you are caught in a large crowd.
Traffic & Transportation Safety
You will encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. Some roads can be poor in some areas of the country. Dangerous curves, reckless driving (ignoring speed limits, lane changes, and/or not stopping at red lights), poorly marked signs, slow-moving or abandoned vehicles, and other obstacles pose road hazards. Limit all road travel to daylight hours throughout the country. Availability of public transport is inadequate.
Never wear expensive jewelry or use electronic devices while using public transportation.
Sexual harassment is a significant problem on busses and other public transportation in Mexico City. To avoid being victims of sexual harassment, women should not travel alone during rush hour or at night. Women should take the women's only metro trains and buses.
If you plan to travel from the airport by taxi, it is important to use only an official airport taxi service. Not all individuals offering taxi services at the airport have an official license to operate, and there have been many cases of passengers being robbed by unlicensed taxis drivers.
- Use only official airport taxis.
Sitio taxis in Mexico City are most often metered and registered by the government. Sitio taxis from Benito Juarez International Airport are paid in advance at the terminal (at the Sitio stands) and are well regulated. Do not take any taxi not summoned by telephone or contacted in advance. When in need of a taxi, telephone a radio taxi or sitio (regulated taxi stand), and ask the dispatcher for the driver's name and the taxi's license plate number. See Taxi Safety below for more information.
Taxi Safety in Mexico City
The best crime defense for any visitor is to avoid the use of libre taxi cabs, which commonly pick up fares on the street after being hailed by customers. Libre taxis are poorly regulated and often linked to criminal enterprises. Radio-dispatched base station taxis, are safer, more reliable, and worth the added expense. The Mexico City taxis have changed color from white and green to read/burgundy and gold/brown. There are also white/pink taxis.
- Due to the danger involved in utilizing libre taxis and the increased difficulty in determining the difference between the different types of taxis, the best practice is to avoid hailing taxis on the street entirely. Instead, always telephone for a radio-dispatched sitio taxi rather than hailing a free-ranging green Volkswagen libre taxi.
- Ask the sitio dispatcher for the driver’s name and the cab’s license plate number.
- Before entering a cab, verify that the driver matches the photo ID posted on the taxi window and verify the name and license plate.
- Once in a taxi, remain alert, keeping all possessions close by and in sight. Taxi drivers have been known to take things from passengers’ bags if they are left unattended.
If you must use a street taxi, check to see that the license plate number is the same as the numbre on the side of the vehicle, that the driver's permit is in plain view and that the picture on the permit resembles the driver. Passengers who use libre taxis are often robbed by two or three armed individuals who enter the taxi a few minutes into the trip, having been called or signaled by the driver.
Also, libre taxis are often connected to express kidnappings, abductions where the victim is turned around in a matter of hours for a small ransom or shuttled to a series of ATMs and forced to withdraw funds. Because 24-hour withdrawal limits are now the industry standard on ATM cards, express kidnapping victims are typically held for 24 to 48 hours to maximize withdrawal amounts.
Mexico City has many public transportation options including the Metrobus, peseros buses (also called microbuses or combis), and the subway (metro). The cheapest and least safe are the peseros buses. They operate all over the city and often connect to Metrobus or Subway stations.
- Avoid the peseros buses unless you are very familiar with the specific route and are not carrying valuables.
- Sexual harassment is a significant problem. Women and men are separated into different Metrobus and subway cars during rush hour or at night.
Mexico City Metro
The metro and the Metrobus offer comparatively more secure means of transport during the day. Cars are typically overcrowded during rush hour, and the risk of pickpocketing increases. During peak hours, the Metro reserves some carriages for women and children only (once people are inside the metro car, this separation may not be strictly enforced). To avoid being victims of sexual harassment, women should not travel alone during rush hour or at night.
One of the easiest (and relatively secure) modes of transportation. It runs up and down Insurgentes Avenue and connects the Casa de California (Estacion La Bombilla) with UNAM and downtown Mexico City. Buy a bus card at machines located at the bus stations or near Metrobus stations. You can add to the money value on the card at any Metrobus stations.
Crosswalks, pedestrian lights, and pedestrian bridges are often lacking or inadequate. Many crossings are poorly placed, unsafe, or inaccessible. Be alert when walking, as drivers often fail to obey traffic regulations. Taxi and city bus drivers commonly ignore posted speed limits and fail to stop at traffic lights.
As a pedestrian, it is your responsibility to make yourself visible and avoid dangerous behavior and situations.
- When possible, utilize the sidewalk; if not available, you should walk against the flow of traffic.
- Always obey crossing signals, but make sure to look both ways before crossing into the street. Even if you have the right of way, it is important to realize that vehicles may not always stop.
- Make eye contact with drivers and pay attention to the environment around you.
- Do not wear headphones or talk on your cell phone while crossing the street.
- Pay attention to your surroundings and take extra care to avoid dangerous situations.
If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area or Los Angeles, you live in earthquake country.
Earthquakes present an uncontrollable and unpredictable risk hazard to life and property. Earthquakes may seem frightening, but you can do a lot to prepare yourself. Start by knowing what to expect: a major earthquake will have a huge impact. The power will go out as power stations are damaged, water may stop flowing as pipes break, some roads and bridges may be unusable, and phones will not function in your neighborhood.
During an earthquake: Drop to the ground, cover, and hold on. Take cover by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture; and hold on until the shaking stops. If there isn’t a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building. Minimize your movements to a few steps to a nearby safe place. Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures or furniture.
Earthquakes strike suddenly and without warning. Surviving an earthquake and reducing its impact requires preparation, planning, and practice. For more information, refer to FEMA’s earthquake preparedness
website. You can also access the U.S. CDC Earthquake Preparedness
Mexico City has a good early-warning system for earthquakes, the Sistema de Alerta Sísmica (SAS).
- Familiarize yourself with the earthquake alarm.
- Have a plan. Sketch a floor plan of your home, identifying exits and safe and dangerous areas of each room. Mark safe spots (under doorways, in an inside corner of room, etc.) and dangerous spots (next to large windows, tall furniture, etc.) in each room. The best places to be during an earthquake are beneath supported archways, against inside walls and corners, or in doorways. Stay away from windows, hanging objects, mirrors, fireplaces, bookshelves, or tall unsecured furniture. Do not crawl under desks or beds as they could crush you if a heavy load falls on top of them.
- Identify meeting places with the UCEAP Study Center staff.
- Stay informed.
- Refer to the U.S. Embassy, Preparing for Emergencies page.
- Access daily earthquake information within Mexico from the Mexican Servicio Sismologico Nacional or through their Facebook page.
Rape and sexual assault continue to be serious problems in resort areas. Many of these incidents occur at night or during the early morning hours, in hotel rooms, or on deserted beaches. Acquaintance rape is a serious problem.
Street Harassment (Acoso en las Calles)
Street harassment is an unfortunate reality in Mexico City as it is in many major cities around the world. While verbal harassment disguised as a compliment is not considered by many as sexual, there is a city law specifying that forms of sexual abuse in public places range from leering, comments, suggestive gestures, and touching. Even with this law in place, you may encounter street harassment. There is no overall “best” way to respond to every harasser in every circumstance, and you are the only one who can determine the best way to respond in any given situation. Consider all risks in confonting a harasser in the street. The more informed you are about options for responding, the better you can be at making that decision. Machismo remains at the cultural core of Mexico, and women are expected to submit to the everyday sexism they encounter on the streets.
If you encounter street harassment, talk to the Study Center staff for advice.
Suggestions for how to respond to a harasser:
- Use strong body language. Look the harasser in the eyes; speak in a strong, clear voice. Don’t give mixed signals, show assertiveness and strength.
- Project confidence and calm. Even if you do not feel that way, it is important to appear calm, serious, and confident.
- Do not apologize, make an excuse, or ask a question. Be firm.
- Repeat your statement or leave.
- Do not swear or lose your temper: This type of reaction is the most likely to make the harasser respond with anger and violence.
- Decide when you’re done. Success is how you define it. If you said what you needed to say and you’re ready to leave, do so.
- Don’t do anything if at any time you feel threatened. Walk away.
Exercise caution when using credit or debit cards. The U.S. Embassy reports instances in which U.S. citizens in Mexico have had their card numbers “skimmed” and the money in their debit accounts stolen or their credit cards fraudulently charged. Skimming is the theft of credit card information by an employee of a legitimate merchant or bank manually copying down numbers, using a magnetic stripe reader, or using a camera and skimmer installed in an ATM.
The risk of physical theft of credit or debit cards also exists. To prevent such theft, the U.S. Embassy recommends to keep close track of your personal belongings and that you only carry what you need. Most restaurants and other businesses will bring the credit card machine to your table so that you can keep the card in your possession at all times. If you choose to use credit cards, you should regularly check your account status to ensure there are no unauthorized transactions.
Follow these general fire safety tips. Most college-related fires in the U.S. are due to a general lack of knowledge about fire safety and prevention. Educate yourself about fire safety standards in your UCEAP country. Fire safety standards differ drastically around the world.
- Know where emergency exists are located and check whether exits are passable.
- Know how to call the local fire department.
Do not stay in housing above the sixth floor so you are within range of most fire department rescue ladders.
- Print and take with you the UCEAP brochure, Fire Safety 101 for Students.
- Purchase and use a smoke detector. Before departure contact the Fire Safety Foundation. Choose from a variety of battery-powered smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms, including models with sealed, 10-year batteries. Once purchased, the alarms and a multilingual installation manual – written in English and the host country’s native language - will be shipped to the address where you are residing.
- Have an escape plan and practice it.
- Treat every smoke alarm activation as a likely fire and react quickly and safely to the alarm.
- Check for fire hazards. Make sure exit routes are not blocked.
- If you have a disability, alert others of the type of assistance you need to leave the building.
- Refer to the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, Fire Safety section for life-saving information.
In case of fire: Dial 068.
UCEAP Contingency Planning
If a local situation requires increased caution or a program suspension and evacuation of participants, UCEAP will activate contingency plans. For security reasons, contingency plans are not public and cannot be shared with anyone except UCEAP officials.
Program Suspension Policy
If the U.S. Department of State or CDC issues a Travel Advisory after the start date of the program term, UCEAP may suspend the program. If time and local security conditions permit, UCEAP will consult with the UC Study Center Director, UC security provider, U.S. Embassy, U.S. Department of State regional and security analysts, other organizations that offer programs in the same country, and area experts to determine the appropriate timeframe for suspending the program and/or for the evacuation of the students from the host country.
The UCEAP required security evacuation will override any host institution, or local US Embassy evacuation on U.S. government-arranged flights, that require U.S. citizens to sign a promissory note with the government. The safe evacuation of UCEAP students, managed by UCEAP and its security providers, is covered by UCEAP itravel nsurance. UC students are required to follow UC safety directives in the event of an evacuation.
What Is an Emergency?
An emergency is a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action. The following are considered emergencies:
- Any life/death situation
- A traumatic event requiring immediate assistance
- An arrest
- Civil unrest or natural disaster in the host country
In an Emergency
Contact local emergency services first and then contact the following:
If you are in the U.S.
- During office hours (8 a.m.–5 p.m. Pacific Time): Contact your Program Specialist at the UCEAP Systemwide Office at (805) 893-4762.
- After office hours: Call the 24-hour emergency phone numbers at (805) 893-4762 or (805) 882-2086.
If you are Mexico and need immediate local emergency assistance:
Police ..............066, 060, or 080
If necessary, call the after-hours emergency number of the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City: 01-52-55-5080-2000, then press “0” and ask the switchboard operator to connect you to the duty officer.
American Embassy in Mexico City
Paseo de la Reforma 305
06500 Mexico, D.F.
Phone: (01-55 ) 5080-2000
Fax: (01-55 ) 5525-5040
The University of California, in accordance with applicable
Federal and State law and University policy, does not
discriminate on the basis of race, national origin, religion,
sex, gender identity, pregnancy,* disability, age, medical
condition (cancer-related), ancestry, marital status,
citizenship, sexual orientation, or status as a Vietnam-era
veteran or special disabled veteran. The University also
prohibits sexual harassment. This nondiscrimination policy
covers admission, access, and treatment in University programs
and activities. Inquiries regarding the University’s
student-related nondiscrimination policies may be directed to
the campus Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action
* Pregnancy includes pregnancy, childbirth, and medical
conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth.