Setting Up Gas, Water, Heat and Internet in Your House in Guanajuato, Mexico

Beginning your new life in Guanajuato will be radically different from the life you had in the United States. I cannot get over how many tourist and potential expats come here thinking that 1) since Mexico is so close to the U.S. that this country will be like America. And 2) that everyone here is going to speak English. Neither is true and shockingly we keep running into Gringos who continue to think this.

This chapter will cover the domestic side of living in Guanajuato. In some respects living here will be similar to the other areas of the country where Gringos congregate. However, it will be in the Mexican neighborhoods only that are in these Gringo infected areas, that will share a common ground with Guanajuato. Beyond that the similarity ends.

Water in Guanajuato

Water, all over Mexico, gets blamed for an awful lot of illness. The truth of the matter is that the majority of tourist’s illness is not due to the water but to tainted food. Tourist routinely “eat off the street” from vendors selling everything from sandwiches to corn-on-the-cob. The tourist literally do not have the guts for it and get sick.

The truth about the water is that it is not safe to drink from the tap. The deal is that prolonged exposure to drinking the tap water will make you ill. An occasional emergency drink or even brushing your teeth in it will not kill you.

The way water works in Guanajuato is one of three methods. You can boil your water which will give it a vile taste. You can buy a water filtration system which will filter the water. (We did this but just to be sure we would add purification drops to the water-just to be safe.) Or you can do what most everyone does and that is to buy the bottled water.

Currently there are two bottled-water companies. The men who work for these companies walk through every neighborhood screaming, “Agua!”. You have to listen for them so that you can run outside screaming yourself, “Agua!”. They will then follow the sound of your screaming until they locate you and you tell them how many bottles you need. This may seem bizarre and barbaric but this is how it is done and probably still be done after you are dead and gone. They walk through the streets screaming their presence and you have to scream from a window or porch that you need water.

The pitfalls with this is that if you move into a place that has been vacant for a while the water guys may have stopped coming up your street or alley and do not know that you are there. In that event you have to call the company or go looking for the water guys. In our present apartment we had to go searching for these boys to tell them to haul some jugs up to our place. Also the people on your street may have water filtration systems and never have the need for the bottled water. So you have to make your presence known to the water guys and then they will start coming up your street screaming, “Agua!”.

Call the water company or go looking at the water trucks that will have the current price for the water. Never ask one of the guys. Call the company, look at their advertisements, or check out the signs on the sides of the trucks. The price is always fluctuating. Currently, in Guanajuato, we are paying less than $2.00 usd for a five gallon jug. We use two jug per week.

Gas in Guanajuato

Gas to run your hot-water heater and stove comes in a portable tank or you can occasionally find a house that has a static roof tank. The infrastructure in Guanajuato is primitive with regard to gas. There are no underground lines coming into your house to deliver the gas.

In the back of our apartment there are two large metal tanks connected to some copper tubing leading into the outside hot-water heater and into the house for the stove. These tanks are portable and are hauled on some guy’s back and connected to your house.

The same deal for water applies for the gas. The gas employee, the guy who will haul the tanks to your house and connect them, walks up and down the streets of Guanajuato screaming, “Gas!”. If you need gas you scream out the nearest window “Gas!” and you know the rest… You tell him how many tanks you need and he brings them, connects them, and then you pay him in cash!

You will know that you need gas because the stove nor the hot-water heater will light. Most places have two tanks. When one is empty you simply close the valve on the empty, switch the lever from the empty to the full, then open the valve to the full tank. Then relight the hot-water heater and the stove pilot-if there is one for the stove.

For the roof top static tanks, you really need to call the gas company that will send out a special truck with the longest hose you will have ever seen in your life. They will run this hose up to your house and fill up the static tank. If you are lucky to have the static tank there will be a gauge that will tell you the levels of gas in the tank. The portable tanks do not have this feature.

Hot-water Heaters in Guanajuato

The hot-water heaters here are always going out. In fact, it is our daily ritual each morning to go outside and check it. Why they put these things (which scare me to death) outside I will never know. But they do, in the majority of cases, put these outside. You will have to learn to deal with the pilot going out on a daily bases. I am always afraid that they will ignite like a rocket and incinerate me on the spot or shoot off into the air like a missile taking out most of the block. But I have learned to cope with them.

Telephones in Guanajuato

Americans think they cannot live with their cars and their phones. Well, we do not have a car and currently do not have phone. Now I have to admit that when you make your living as a writer that having a phone to use the Internet and fax is vital. When we moved to the new place we had the line but it is taking forever to get it connected.

This is the common thing regarding phones. If you are lucky your landlord will have a phone account already connected and active when you move in. If not you have to go through the nightmare of getting one yourself. If you are a writer then you need a land-line phone for your work and not the popular alternative-cell phones.

Everyone in Guanajuato seems to have a cell phone. They are easier to get than is landline phone. We have been waiting two months and will probably have to wait even longer. If you do not have a line installed then it could take up to two years in some cases even longer.

Phone service here is different! You get 100 “free” calls a month and then there is charge for each additional call. What I mean is that each time you pick up the handset to dial out for pizza or call a pal, you get only 100 of those each month and then you are charged for each one over 100. If you have dial-up Internet then you have to be very careful in how many times you connect to the Internet.

Internet in Guanajuato

There is Internet in Guanajuato. And I mean, it is big here! There is an Internet Café almost on every corner and they do a brisk business. Because home ownership of computers is still cost prohibitive the Internet Cafes have sprung up.

You can get Internet service in your home. The two biggest companies seem to be Prodigy, offered through the national phone company Telmex, and Toditocard. Toditocard offers unlimited access (no high speed) or a debit card system where you pay just for what you use. Both of these companies seem to have the best reputations.

Prodigy offers DSL for you high-speed internet users. It is truly amazing here since there are so few people using this there is virtually no demand on the servers making it truly high-speed. We had DSL with the phone company in Kansas and this Mexican Prodigy DSL leaves the other in the dust.

The current price for DSL here is about $40.00 a month. This was comparable to what we were paying for DSL in America. You have to go through the Telmex phone company to get it and I recommend that you go down to the phone company to get it and not try to do it online or by phone.

Trash in Guanajuato

Some friends from Maryland recently moved to Guanajuato. One of their first questions was, “When does the trash get picked up?” The answer to that is, “It does not!”-sort of.

When we first began visiting Mexico and moved to Guanajuato the way trash was handled was that the trash truck pulled up into a neighborhood and the trash guy rang this “town-crier” hand bell. You then had to haul your “you-know-what” out the door with trash in hand and hoped you reached the truck in time. Well, of all things for Mexicans recognize as inefficient, this method was one of them. What they then began doing is simply dumping the trash into a heap, on the street, for the trash guys to pick up.

Such a hue and cry rose from this. It attracted street dogs and rats. The mess and smell was incredible! So, the complaints poured in and there are now nice new trash dumpsters. You still have to haul your trash to the dumpsters but this has alleviated the hideousness of having a gigantic mountain of trash to stare at from your living room window.

Scorpions, Bugs, and Creepy Things in Guanajuato

When you take up residence in Guanajuato you will have the distinct pleasure of sharing your home with creatures of unimaginable creepiness. Some you will have heard of and some you will have never seen in your life.

Scorpions are plentiful here in Guanajuato. For those of you from the desert southwest in America this will not cause you to even flinch. I know some Arizonians who think nothing of flicking a scorpion off their arm like shooing away a fly. They are a rugged lot. However, for you weak-hearted, girlie-men-like me-you have to figure out a strategy for dealing with insects that are armed with a vicious stinger ready to give you a nasty poke!

Scorpions love to come into your house and take up space. There is nothing you can do about this. You cannot talk them out of it. They will come. Do or die, hell or high-water, they will come into your house. They are not particularly evil little critters clacking their tiny pinchers in anticipation of doing you in or at least giving you a heart attack. Oh no. They will come into your house looking for a sweet morsel of sow bug or something else equally appealing. They are hunters and your house will provide a nice warm and dry place to do this.

Rainy season will drive them indoors since they are unable to swim and apparently despise getting wet. They will come in seeking shelter from the storm and a chance to dare you to try and kill them.

Before telling you how to deal with these little monsters from the dark, I want to tell you this bit of trivia. The fifth most deadliest scorpion IN THE WORLD lives right here in Guanajuato. The most deadliest is the fat-tailed scorpion of the middle east and number five on the hit parade of deadliest scorpions is right here where you have decided to expatriate. Now that I have given you this most inviting news let’s move on…

The way you deal with this problem is to try and keep your house as free as possible of the things scorpions eat. Scorpions are hunters of bugs. If your house is buggy then the scorpions will come into your house to eat them. Fumigate, fumigate, and then fumigate again to create a scorpion food-free zone. Fumigation will do little to actually kill the scorpions but it will help immensely to rid your house of that which attracts them-their food!

Also plug all the holes around windows. They will want to come in to visit to escape the elements.

I know what you are thinking at this point. What happens if I get nailed by the fifth most deadliest scorpion in the world?
The thing NOT to do, which will be thing you are most tempted to do, is to run through the house screaming at the top of your lungs. Nor should you run out the door in a panic while screaming down the street, “Oh my God, I am going to die!”

I asked my landlady what to do. She claims she is stung six times a year. She told us to suck out the poison and spit it out on the floor. (She actually demonstrated this in our living room.) Then, she says to apply some garlic while taking massive dosages of antihistamines. That is advice that I can assure you that I will not be doing now or ever. Why would I want to suck into my mouth some venom that a scorpion just injected into some part of my body? And what if it stung me in my fundament? How will I suck that?

Anyway…according to the yearly scorpion news story that the local paper prints, you should apply ice, take several antihistamines, and go to the nearest emergency clinic. That is my plan of action which sounds more reasonable than sucking out the poison and spitting it out on the floor!

Buying Furniture in Guanajuato

The last time I heard of furnished housing was in the 70’s when I attended The University of Kansas. All the student apartments came furnished with couches and beds that looked like college students had been killed on them-probably freshmen!

Guanajuato has furnished apartments and houses with equally foul smelling and looking furniture. In fact, most of the places for rent will come with everything provided down to the towels in the bathroom and silverware in the kitchen. This is great when you are looking for a place to land when first expatriating to Guanajuato.

Many of us make due with this until we figure out our more permanent status and then start buying our own things little by little. However, be forewarned that what you find in most of the furnished housing here will not be on par with that to which are accustomed.

When and if you are ever ready to buy your own things you should look to the various furniture makers in Deloris Hidalgo and Zacatecas. These are the artisans of old who will make you what you want from scratch. Check them out!

Security in Guanajuato

You will notice that every house in Guanajuato has bars on their windows. I use to really balk at this and take this as a sign that there must be a high crime rate to warrant homeowners putting up bars. However, this, I found is not true.
Guanajuato has one of the lowest crime rates in Mexico. I think it is more that the Guanajuantenses rely on themselves to guard themselves and their property. They proactively protect themselves by putting the bars on the windows thus reducing the chance and temptation to steal.

I have this abogado friend who told me, “never trust the police.” Now, here was an “officer of the Mexican court system” telling me never to trust the police. It took a while for me to understand that for centuries Mexicans have not been able to trust the government to protect them. In fact, the government has a long history of taking from the people instead of giving. So they have had to learn to depend upon themselves for protection.

Once I caught a rather drunk Mexican trying to squeeze between the bars of our kitchen window. There was no way that he could get in and when he saw me he backed out and split. I called the cops and they showed up but nothing happened. No one was caught though they made an appearance of “looking into things”. It was the bars that protected me, not the police.
Look for housing with bars on each window and check all the locks on the doors.

Noise in Guanajuato

Unlike in America where neighborhoods are relatively quiet and when they are not the cops come out to enforce the noise ordinance, nothing like that exists here. If Mexico is not the nosiest place on the earth it has to be at least in the top ten!
I am convinced this has to be a “deal breaker” for most potential expatriates. Guanajuato is noisy almost beyond my ability to express it. When a Mexican in his or her home decides to play their stereo they do so at a level so that someone 10 miles away can hear it clearly.

Without the fear of exaggeration let me assure you that the Mexican’s tolerance of noise borders on the supernatural. It is something with which I still struggle and so will you.

It would not be so bad if the noise was limited to holidays and parties. I get that and I can tolerate that fairly well. I do not like it, but I endure it. However, it is not relegated to holidays and parties. You go into the supermarket or a restaurant and the music is so loud that you cannot talk to one other and be heard. I do not get this.

I swear this story is true: My wife and I went into the Supermarket and immediately noticed the music was sky high. There was also a beer display by national beer company that had music too. The louder the beer display people played their music the louder the store employees played theirs. I was standing by the display which triggered one of the employees to come over to try and sell me some of their beer. The girl’s mouth moved but I could hear nothing come out of it. I simply had to walk away because I could not hear her and she certainly couldn’t hear me screaming, “I cannot hear you!”

Another thing that happened to us just this morning to us: Our usual custom on most Saturday mornings is to go do this little area called Embajadoras. We get something for the weekend to eat. We went into a little bakery called La Luna. The baker had his music cranked up sky high and the clerk, so she could hear the television she was watching had it’s volume on equal par with the baker’s radio. We literally could not hear her tell us how much our purchase was. This is the norm in Mexico!
Be warned that this could happen in the house next to you where you end up living in Guanajuato. All you can do is leave the house because earplugs nor will calling the police do any good. The earplugs won’t work and the police won’t care!

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