How are the beaches?
Lake Chapala is swimable and usable, but not know for its beaches. A number of water sports are available near the restaurants just east of San Juan Cosalá, including paddle boats, jet skies, sail boards, etc. Most true beach enthusiasts (and avid sports fishermen) travel to the pacific coast. Manzanillo and Barra de Navidad are about four hours away by car and Puerto Vallarta is approximately six hours.

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Can I drink the water? Can I have a drink with ice in it?  How about a salad in the café?
Rest assured that the restaurants, bars and hotels at Lakeside survive on the trade of healthy tourists and residents, and will always serve pure water. Any formed cube, cylinder or half moon of ice is safe and is manufactured in the same plants that produce bottled water. Stay away from huge blocks of ice. While in Mexico, drink bottled water. Salads in good restaurants and hotels are always carefully washed and prepared. The Lake Chapala Society has begun sponsorship of educational classes in food preparation for local restaurant personnel.

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How do I handle fruits and vegetables in my own kitchen?
All raw non-peelable fruits and vegetables (i.e. lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, and apples) should be soaked in a disinfectant solution—such as Microdyne. If you will peel the fruit (i.e. bananas, oranges, avocados) or if you are going to boil the food for at least 15 minutes (i.e. beets, potatoes, squash) it is safe to eat it without this treatment. Follow the same common sense rules you do back home. The disinfectant drops are available in local grocery stores and may also be used to purify water.

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Do you like living here?
Yes, we do like it here. Remember most of us are not here out of habit, or because we were transferred here with our company, or because our parents happened to be born here. Each of the expatriates living here has made a conscious decision to come here and continually decides to stay.

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What do you do all week? Aren't you bored?
In return we ask, "What do you do all week at home?" Chances are you will do the same things here. You'll cook, shop, read, listen to music, watch TV, study, go to dinner, help with charity events, go to the theater, garden and visit with friends ... all at your own pace.

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Can you list some of the activities  I might want to enjoy at Lakeside?
Sports and Recreation: Golf, tennis, swimming, basketball, soccer, walking, hiking, horseback riding, bull fights, rodeos, dancing, aerobics, workout gyms, exercise classes, Hash House Harriers, line dancing, Tai Chi, bridge, chess, cribbage, bingo, gardening, Tai Kwan Do, volleyball, etc.
Cultural: Little theater productions, concerts, jazz groups, piano lessons, art groups, painting lessons, art exhibits, guitar lessons, Spanish classes, quilting and needlework groups, French club, Music Appreciation Society, choral groups, tours to galleries and museums, movies, writer's group, book club, Culinary Arts Society, live entertainment, folkloric dancers, travel, British Citizens Club, etc.
Charity/Volunteer work: Handicapped Equestrian Learning Program, School for the Deaf; volunteer librarians and art class teachers, humane society, Red Cross, and the numerous cocktail parties, house tours, fashion shows, luncheons, theater night dinners, art exhibits and craft shows sponsored by the various charity groups.
Spiritual and Fraternal: Church Services --Catholic, Episcopal/Anglican, Baptist and several Non-denominational congregations, Masonic Lodge, Royal Arch Masons, American Legion, AA, Al-Anon, yoga, meditation, horoscope classes, New Age discussion groups, DAR, Rotary, Bible study, study groups, Navy League, etc.

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Can I own a house as a Visitor? Will I own the land?
Yes, you can own your home and the land it is built on, all of the land specified in your deed or trust. Here at Lake Chapala you may choose to own it by Escritura (direct deed) or in a Fideicomiso (bank trust). There are specific advantages to each. Ask your Absolut Fenix Team professional for more details for your specific needs.

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Is my house purchase secure in Mexico?
Absolutely. The Revolution in Mexico at the turn of the century (~1910) was fought to ensure the rights of the individual to own property.

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Is it difficult to find a maid and a gardener for my home?
It is best to ask a friend to speak with their good maid or gardener about a referral. Most rental homes will have a maid and/or a gardener associated with the property. The average salary for a maid is approximately $2.00 US per hour and a gardener is $2.50 US per hour.

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Do you feel safe living in Mexico?
Most foreign residents you meet will tell you that they feel safer here, than they do in any town or city north of the border. When there is crime, it is nearly always theft—and even then, thieves might take the electronics from an empty home, but you will learn that the thieves do not totally empty the house. We do not see frequent occurrences of random violent crime. When a crime is violent, long time residents look for "the rest of the story."

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Can I bring my car into Mexico?
Yes, however there are a few procedures to follow. When you enter Mexico you must document your vehicle at the border showing proof of ownership, verifying your identity with a passport, your valid driver's license and your credit card. If you are making payments on the vehicle, you will need a release letter from the lien holder.
You should always also have Mexican car insurance, which can be obtained through a number of sources at the border or obtained in advance via fax from one of several lakeside agents. You will be asked to sign a statement swearing you will not sell your car in Mexico. For more details on these procedures, we recommend picking up a brochure at your nearby Mexican Consulate. Remember procedures can change rapidly.

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Do I need a visa to enter Mexico?
The basic entrance visa is a FM-T (turista) tourist visa, which is issued at your point of entry into Mexico. There is a $15 US charge for this visa and it will permit you to be in Mexico for up to six months. The next level of visa is a FM-3 (visitante rentista) which can be applied for outside of Mexico and registered once you arrive, or you may apply for this document in Mexico. Renters or property owners who wish to reside in Mexico generally use this visa. Applicants must show they have a sufficient monthly income from a source outside of Mexico. This visa is the minimum requirement for those wishing to apply for permission to work in Mexico. The visa has application, registration and annual renewal fees and allows the visa holder to enter and exit Mexico as often as they wish during five-year term of the visa. A foreign plated car owned by a FM-3 holder may be kept in Mexico for the full five-year term of the document, without being returned to the border.
The FM-2 (inmigrante) visa is the next level visa, which has most of the same requirements as the FM-3 but a higher monthly income requirement and restricts the number of times the holder can enter and exit Mexico. This visa is for people who are permanent residents and want to take the next step to becoming a legal immigrant.

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Can I bring my pets to Mexico?
Typically, dogs and cats are not a problem. Official international shipping forms are generally available from your local vet. Exotic and restricted pets may not be permitted entry into the country and may be extremely difficult to return to the U.S. Veterinarian care is excellent and loving here at Lake Chapala, as is dog grooming. Some rental homes and most hotels do not accept certain pets.

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Do I need to know Spanish to live at Lake Chapala?
We recommend that you make an effort to begin learning Spanish with simple words and basic phrases, as this will make your life easier. It certainly is a courtesy to learn Spanish--just as you may expect newcomers to the United States or Canada to learn English. Becoming acquainted with the Mexican people will be easier if you know even a few words of their language. Most of the persons in the restaurants, shops and services speak some English, and if you need help, there is usually someone nearby who can translate.

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What about medical and dental care, in Mexico?
The doctors and dentists trained in Guadalajara receive some of the finest instruction in the world. Top notch English speaking medical and dental care is available at extremely reasonable prices. Your insurance may cover your medical care in Mexico but check before you arrive. Many of your prescription drugs will be available here without prescription and at much lower prices.
The Mexican national social medical system (IMSS) is available to legal foreign residents. Applications are now received all year, but once the application is approved, there is a six-month waiting period before final acceptance into the program. You will need a translator to see most IMSS doctors. The Lake Chapala Society also offers a group medical policy through AETNA. In addition, The American Legion has a plan for former military personnel and dependents.

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What about the weather?  What is the climate at Lake Chapala really like.  When is the worst time?
The National Geographic describes this area as having one of the best climates in the world. The daily high temperatures are usually in the low 80’s (about 25ºC), the night time lows in the upper 60's (about 19ºC), all year round. Generally, we have a four to six weeks of hot, dry and windy days with our hottest days ranging near 90ºF (32ºC). This hot and windy season precedes the rainy season, which begins about mid-June.
The beginning of the rains starts the most beautiful time of the year. Each morning is crystal clear and everything is washed clean by the rainfall of the previous night, but there is little humidity, due to the altitude. The rains continue almost daily, raining generally at night, until September or October. During this season the mountains are richly green and all the trees and plants grow rapidly.

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What is the condition of Lake Chapala? Is it drying up?  What about pollution? What is that green stuff on the water?
Lake Chapala is a huge shallow basin, which has gone through a number of periods of high and low water levels. Over the years, the lake has accumulated silt on the bottom, due to the soil mixed in the rainwater as it flows down the mountains into the lake. The lake is fed by the River Lerma, which enters the east end of the lake, after flowing through six Mexican states from the source, near Mexico City. Unfortunately, in each of those states, water is removed from the river for irrigation and industrial use, so most years, the amount of water received from the river is not enough to counteract the effects of evaporation. The city of Guadalajara draws a small portion of the water needed for the city from the lake. Thankfully the watershed that feeds the lake is enormous, and significant rainfall can make a big difference in the water level in a relatively short time. In the mid 50’s the lake was low enough that the prisoners walked into Chapala from the Island prison. In the early 90’s new sewage treatment plants opened around the lake, the government exercised more control on the industrial waste returned to the River Lerma.. The Mexican government declared the lake had reached acceptable levels for usability in the mid 90’s. Water hyacinths, which are known to remove heavy metal from water, covered a large portion of the lake for several years, then were eradicated. A relatively small amount of the water hyacinth (Lirio) has come down the River Lerma this summer and are the plants floating on the lake.

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What are the best ways to stay in touch  with our friends and family back home?
There are many choices readily available. Telephones are in service in most homes now or may be installed with just a short delay. AT&T, MCI and Bell Canada have "800" services that connect to the U.S. and Canada. Many residents communicate with family members via fax or email. Outgoing letters and documents may be sent in the Mexican mail service, or for more rapid delivery, many local organizations have a U.S. mail drop off box in the office for their members. The next member leaving for the border then delivers all of the mail (with U.S. stamps affixed) into the U.S. Postal system. Mail Boxes, Etc. has expedited delivery by developing links between their local office and San Diego, CA and Laredo, TX. Federal Express, UPS and DHL all pick up and deliver overnight packages daily at Lakeside.

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What about TV?  Can I watch my favorite programs, news and sports?
Satellite TV service has been the standard for many years using 12-foot dishes, with most programming received by satellite in the U.S. available here at Lake Chapala. Canadian programming is not generally available as Mexico is too far south for acceptable reception. Cable TV is now available here at Lake Chapala in most neighborhoods at approximately $18 U. S. per month with a wide selection of U.S. and Mexican programming. Digital satellite systems have been introduced in to Mexico but the U.S. satellites are difficult to receive properly, and the reception is unsatisfactory especially on cloudy days, due to our location. Local video rental stores have newly released U.S. movies shortly after their release in the U.S. in English with Spanish subtitles. A three-plex movie theater is now open in Ajijic.

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Are there any English language publications?
The Local Lake Chapala Society has the largest English language lending library in all of Mexico. There are two local English language newspapers and two popular Mexican daily newspapers are printed in English in Mexico City. Many popular U.S. national newspapers (USA Today, Wall Street Journal, etc.), a few regional U.S. papers and a weekly edition of the Canadian national (Globe & Mail) are available locally.

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What about the banking system or investments?
There are many Mexican national banks that provide services locally. Most of these have automatic teller services and most can provide access to the Plus® and Cirrus® international network of banking services. The electronic tellers can provide the best peso exchange rate for your national currency. Several investment companies and brokers provide personal service locally, look for Lloyd's and MultiValores.

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Is there any good shopping?
Locally there are many basic and specialty stores and shops. If you would like to go to a large mall or department store, Guadalajara has many modern shopping malls that rival those in the US and Canada. Large discount chain stores--Wal-Mart, Price Club/Costco and Sam's are conveniently located together in Guadalajara. In the Guadalajara suburbs of Tonala and Tlaquepaque shops feature the finest handicrafts (i.e. furniture, ceramics, glassware, and silver) in all of Mexico.

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Can I bring my computer to Mexico?  Is there any local service or assistance?
You can easily bring your lap top computer into Mexico for your personal use. Sometimes the Mexican Customs officers will require payment of duty on a desktop computer. There is a local Computer Club in Ajijic and good technical service is available. There are two local Internet servers for short term or year round service. An excellent source of information on the Lake Chapala area is the locally produced on-site magazine: http://www.mexconnect.com or http://www.mexico-insights.com

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