Utility is a relative concept

I previously covered the ins and outs of electric power in Mexico. What about the other utilities? I’ll leave television, the internet, and phones for another day. Here are the other mainstays.

Let’s start with the postal system, or Correos de México. Getting mail directly from NOB to your home address is entirely a crap-shoot. It may disappear or it may show up months late. Based on some magazine subscriptions I transfered down as a test, you can anticipate a 3-4 month lag. However, there is a work-around: many expats sign up for local PO boxes in Texas and mail transfer services which (in effect) hand carry your snail mail down to lakeside. So if you have to have regular mail delivery, there is a way to get it. As to local mail, all I get are electric and telephone bills which always come on time. Regular mail is delivered to our development whenever the mailman has access to his bicycle. Package delivery varies: Amazon Mexico is pretty fast and consistent; some stateside ordering (including Amazon USA) can get hung up either because they don’t use international shipping services (think DHL for Mexico) or if there are customs issues with your order.

Roof top tinaco

Water varies in quality and type of service based on where you live.  Most municipal and well water is not potable, so folks have bottled water delivered in bulk for drinking and cooking. Most Mexican homes have a aljibe or cistern which gradually fills up from a low pressure municipal feed.  A pump moves the water from the cistern to a tinaco or water tank on the roof which provides a store of water under pressure, which is also heated by the sun (but that is as hot as it gets for those houses). Some expats add pumps and heaters to address the pressure and heat limitations. If you live in a more modern development, especially one built with expats in mind, you will probably have a community water system which is filtered and pressurized. We also have an infrared water purification filter for our house so whatever comes out of the faucet is as good as anywhere NOB. We have a propane water heater which provides ample hot water. Since the local water is very hard, we must use a water softener. Water costs us about $15 USD monthly, including our fountain and landscaping needs.

That mention of propane in the last paragraph was not a typo: propane is the fuel of choice in Mexico. We have a sizable propane tank in a bodega in front of our house, which a gas truck comes and tops off whenever we run low. We use propane for cooking, grilling, heating water and a single fireplace. A gas refill runs about $70 USD and lasts around five to six weeks. Gas trucks cruise the neighborhoods, playing unique company jingles over loudspeakers and always ready to refill a tank.

One of the smaller trash trucks

The trash team comes by on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday. They ride a huge truck with giant trash bags hanging off the sides. They leap off the truck, grab whatever they find in or near the trash can, and toss it to the top where the other team members sort/throw it into the appropriate bag, and away they go. Trash fees are built into our homeowners association, which is approximately $90 a month (covers outside maintenance, security, etc).

Sewage is also covered by the HOA fee, and just disappears down to drain (as it should be). However, our situation is unique as again we live in a development built for expats and Tapatios (the nickname for people from Guadalajara). In most of Mexico outside the big cities, tourist and expat zones, the waste system is not designed for paper products. You’ll see signs in Spanish and English reminding you to throw all toilet paper in the trash can in the bathroom. This is a hard habit for many visitors and expats to adopt; the alternative is a clogged toilet. You must determine, before you buy/rent/visit, what type of waste system is in the casa you are considering.

Sorry for all the nitty-gritty details, but that’s a part of expat life!

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