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It is recommended that, if you plan to live in or travel in Mexico for any length of time, you should try and learn some Spanish.
I made my way from Puerto Vallarta to Tlaquepaque to attend Spanish Immersion Classes.
I took the middle-priced Tlaquepaque option for US$650. You are, usually, quoted in US$s – but can pay either in US$s or in MXP (at the conversion rate on the day of payment).
Other schools only had 2 hours of group classes and 2 hours of private … I needed to learn Spanish fast … I thought that private classes would be better.
I booked with Culturlingua who had a Homestay just a 10 minute walk from the school and from the central plaza.
The Homestay was US$145 / week and included Breakfast (8am) and Lunch (2pm) Monday to Saturday. You did your ‘own thing’ for Dinner and all day Sunday. Water is provided by the Homestay free of charge. My total accommodation cost for a full 2 weeks was US$290.
The remaining US$360 was for 9 days of private classes – 4 hours of classes each day split across 2 tutors: Tania & Carlos. The normal price for 10 days was US$450 but I reduced this to 9 days and negotiated a 10% discount.
I was starting from nothing! The only Spanish that I knew was what I had picked up watching Western movies.
I had French lessons in School when I was 12-16 … but that was over 40 years ago and I have never used any of it. Surprisingly, it came in handy.
My first class of the day started at 9am. I had a 30 minute break before starting my second class at 11:30am.
After 4 hours of intensive, 1-on-1 Spanish, I was tired. 4 hours a day was sufficient for an old fart like me. I would NOT have wanted any more.
After Lunch, I usually had 2-3 hours more work: tidying up & summarising my notes and, then, doing homework.
I, also, worked over the weekend re-summarising all of the important notes into a small notebook that I could carry around with me.
The Homestay was very comfortable.
Each room had a double bed, a wardrobe, ensuite, hot water shower, and table & chair. No TV.
The in-room wifi was good.
The courtyard had a table and chairs (where I did most of my work) … and, was where the students gathered for a chat and a beer in the evenings.
The Breakfast and Lunch were Mexican food … lots of tacos.
Both meals included a fruit juice. Breakfast included a coffee or tea.
Tlaqepaque proved to be a pleasant place to learn Spanish.
The old, central plaza with its cathedral added ambiance and somewhere to go for drinks and / or a meal in the evening.
Xavier and Teresa are wonderful hosts. They really do make you feel that you are ‘home’.
Xavier speaks good English and helps you practice your Spanish and helps you to get it right.
Teresa speaks no English but she is more than happy to talk with you in Spanish and let you practice what you have learnt.
The trip takes about 20 minutes.
The centre of Guadalajara has many historical places of interest surrounded by interesting streets.
July is in rainy season. It rained every day … mostly in the late afternoon or evening … and, almost always at night.
The rain is heavy. Bring an umbrella. You may find yourself walking through 4-5cms of water on your way home from Dinner.
July may have been rainy … but it was not cold. I wore T-Shirts, shorts and flip-flops.
There are plenty of ATMs and banks around the Tlaquepaque town centre.
I found that most ATMs had an MXP5,000 withdrawal limit.
I found 1 exception: HSBC. HSBC had a transaction limit of MXP7,000. To keep your costs of money down, you want to go to the ATM with the highest withdrawal amount.
WHAT IT SHOULD COST 2 GRANDPAckers:
Taking on Spanish classes for 2 weeks in addition to normal living costs is always going to blow your budget … but, what can you reasonably expect to spend?
COST OF EXISTENCE (COE):
Almost all Spanish Learning schools offer a Homestay option that includes meals. I would suggest that this is your best option … and a good way to better practice your Spanish.
Most Homestays offer rooms for 2 people.
I have budgeted for you to stay where I stayed: 275 Rosales Street, Tlaquepaque at a total cost of US$290 for 2 weeks / 14 nights.
I have included a return trip for 2 people to Guadalajara each week.
You can walk to the Spanish School and Tlaquepaque town centre from the Homestay (10-15 minutes each way).
I have included a prepaid 1 Month TELCEL 2GB Data Only package (with no texts and no talk time). This package costs MXP300.
I have NOT included the extra one-off MXP150 charge that you have to pay for the SIMcard.
If you don’t use the internet much, you can easily survive on the free wifi in the Homestay, Culturlingua, and restaurants / bars around town.
Fees & Visa:
- Most passport holders (at least the ones interested in my blog) will get a 180 day free tourist visa on entry into Mexico
- Your main fees will be your Spanish classes which I have budgeted at Culturlingua’s full price of US$450 (10 days of 4 hours of private classes per day)
Food & Beverages:
You will only need to buy Breakfast on Sundays. There are plenty of local cafes or street carts where you can pick up something decent for MXP40 each with a coffee.
Likewise, you will only need to buy Lunch on Sundays. There are plenty of places where you can pick up something decent for MXP50 each with a fruit drink.
You will have to buy your own Dinner each night. Don’t look at my costs … after my Homestay’s Breakfast and Lunch, I only ‘nibbled’ at Dinner time. You will find plenty of options around town at MXP70 each with a fruit juice … but you get plenty of fruit juice at the Homestay anyway.
The ‘Cost Of Existence’ of 2 GRANDPAckers is about PHP1,604 / NZ$127 / US$89 / €84 / £71 per day. This is 159% of your daily budget.
Try and improve on this by going to school in low season and negotiating a discount.
COST OF LIVING (COL):
You will have to dig deeper into your pockets for any LIVING expenses.
IS IT WORTH IT?
I don’t know yet … ‘the proof will be in the pudding’.
One thing that I do know, is that I am now ‘armed and dangerous’!
I am an ‘A Grade’ mathematician and scientist … I am not a linguist … I got a ‘D’ for ‘Dunce’ in my ‘O’ Level French at school.
However, I was amazed to find that many words in Spanish are similar to English.
This helped me a lot and, with my ‘D’ grade French behind me, I was able to pick up Spanish quite quickly … at least I already new about masculine / feminine nouns and that you had to conjugate I / he / she / you / we / you / they differently.
If you go to ‘generic’ classes, you will learn ‘generic’ Spanish.
I found that I would learn some grammar and then, during the exercises for that grammar, I would find new words and verbs that we hadn’t learnt yet. To do the exercises, I had to ask what these new words and verbs meant … many of them were of no use to me (as a Traveller) and my head became full of ‘useless information’.
If I had the choice again, I would probably look for a school that did ‘Spanish Immersion Classes for Travellers’. I saw one in Guanajuato … it was more expensive, but it may have proven to be a better.
I haven’t been in Mexico very long, but I already get the feeling that (with decent hotel rooms starting at MXP500 / night and eating up 50% of your daily GRANDPAcking Budget) it will take you a while to recover the MXP10,000 overspend incurred doing these Spanish classes.
If you have the option, look to take Spanish Immersion Classes in Guatamala – where you can get the same thing for under US$150 / week … i.e. at half the price.
With the higher costs of classes in Mexico, consider going to a school that offers ‘Spanish for Travellers’.
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