Before we begin, I would like to offer a disclaimer for getting things done in Mexico during the pandemic. Mexico is not a COVID-free zone. While the rules can vary from state to state, they are generally less strict here. That said, it is important to remember that biology does not care about rules. Viruses are opportunistic and will take hold wherever they can, period.
Now that we got that out of the way, it is time to get started with some coping strategies for actually getting things done! All over the world, our ways of taking care of what needs taken care of have changed, and Mexico of course is no different.
The first thing to know is this: for better or for worse, there are not many restrictions. This may be good news to you personally, as you will not be expected to quarantine when you arrive. That said, no one else will have to quarantine when they arrive, either, so be sure to keep that in mind when assessing the risks to your health and the health of others.
If you are already in Mexico, you have surely noticed these changes in our ways of doing things. Though much of daily life is the same, many of the festivities have been cancelled. It is sad, but it is for all our safety. All I can say is what I say nearly every day to my daughter: things are hard now, but this will not last forever.
Anyway, let’s start with some reminders about how basic tasks are getting done these days.
If you have errands to run, try to do them by yourself.
Many banks, offices, and large chain grocery and department stores are only allowing one masked person (cubrebocas is the word for face mask in Spanish) per family to enter at a time, and no children. In some places, evidently-pregnant women are not allowed to enter, either. As you enter these types of places, there will likely be a strictly-applied assigned entrance and exit, and you will be turned away if you try to go in or out the wrong way. You will also be given a squirt of anti-bacterial gel as you enter (I haven’t tried to refuse this – nor would I – but I have a feeling they would not let me enter if I did). They also take your temperature before you can enter. They do this by using a scanning thermometer placed close to your forehead or wrist.
Wear a mask everywhere, especially when you are in an enclosed space.
As I said above, most large businesses and offices simply are not allowing anyone in if they are not wearing a mask. This is true for smaller places as well, though you might be able to get away with no mask at a small local store (tiendita) or market stands without one. Most small businesses have mask-wearing policies, but they will also likely not insist that you wear one, as they lack the resources and funds of large institutions and need your business. My recommendation, of course, is to not be a jerk about it. Wear your mask and keep it on when inside or closer to others.
If you need to go somewhere not in walking distance and do not have a car, call a taxi service.
While taxi services can be a tad more expensive, they are generally safer even in normal times and will up the likelihood that the drivers follow safety protocols. Asking friends and neighbors to recommend a service to you is a great way to find one that you like. The taxi service I currently use, for example, charges about 10 pesos more than a taxi “off the street” likely would, but in addition to them being consistently on time and sending me the driver’s information ahead of time so I know who to look for, the drivers always wear face masks, offer gel upon entry, and most have put up a plastic barrier between the front and back seats.
Want your groceries delivered? You can do that, too.
In my city of Xalapa, Veracruz, every grocery store provides free or nearly-free delivery. So, if you do not feel like going out yourself (or, heaven forbid, you feel too ill to go out), ordering what you need online is a great alternative. Keep in mind that many online payment systems in Mexico can be a bit tricky. They may require you to pay with a Mexican debit or credit card. If you have a PayPal account, whether it is based here or in another country, that will also give you a good option on Mexican sites. And of course, most grocery stores give you the option of paying in cash when they bring you the delivery, though it means you must go out to get money from an ATM.
Speaking of payment, try to keep cash at home.
The fact is that many very worthy vendors are individuals selling their wares, and that buying what you need from them rather than from a large chain that accepts payment with credit cards can make a big difference to those individuals and their families during a time in which there has been little government help for workers who suddenly lost their jobs because of the pandemic. Most ATMs have a limit of how much money you can take out, usually around 6,000 or 7,000 pesos at a time. The highest limit I have personally seen has been Banorte ATMs, which will allow you take out up to 9,000 pesos. Remember, Mexico is still a very cash-oriented country, and if you want to actively support the local economy, you will need to keep it on hand.
If you need to order something from someone who doesn’t have an online payment option, head to the nearest OXXO with some cash.
The OXXO convenience store chain is ubiquitous throughout Mexico. And one really good thing about them is that they allow you to make deposits to the accounts of others as long as you have their card number. This is how I pay rent, and it is how I have paid for a few local online classes, products from local entrepreneurs, and items I have ordered from catalogues. Just across the street is the Super Fasti, another convenience store chain, where I pay my water and electricity bills. As long as you pay before the cut-off date, they can accept payment.
Support the local economy.
Where can you find local products and services? One of the most reliable sources I have found for any number of things that I have wanted to buy is Facebook Marketplace. You can set it up so that you only see things within a certain radius of your city. You might also find out about people selling things from local WhatsApp groups, the most popular mobile communications app in Mexico. If you are not part of your neighborhood group, find out if there is one and join. Door-to-door vendors are also popular. I now have my own produce delivery man!
Use courier services.
One area of business that is currently booming is delivery services. Most sellers are willing to send products, food, or anything that will fit on a motorcycle or in a car for delivery. Usually, you pay whoever delivered it for what you ordered as well as the delivery fee. If you have a favorite taxi service, you might want to ask them if they also provide this service. If you do not, asking for recommendations from friends and neighbors or even businesses or vendors should help you compile a list of a few reliable services.
You can order from Amazon, too.
The U.S. Amazon site delivers many products to Mexico, and Amazon Mexico is growing rapidly. I personally have only been able to use my Mexican debit card to place orders at Amazon Mexico, but many expats use their U.S. credit cards for both. Either way, it is a great home delivery service for a very wide range of products.
Hopefully, this pandemic will have run its course by next summer and we can return to some semblance of normal, but until that time comes, I hope these coping strategies will help you make it through.