Overview and guide for spending the semester abroad in Monterrey, Mexico
My semester abroad is almost over now and I’m spending my last days in Monterrey to summarize my semester abroad in a short guide, which is supposed to give an overview about important informations and some helpful tips and advices for the next exchange students in order to prepare their stay in Monterrey, and make the best out of the whole semester!
How to get to Monterrey: From Germany flying to Monterrey takes about 17 to 20 hours, depending on the stopovers. I flew 17 hours, from Berlin to Frankfurt, then further to Houston and last to Monterrey. It is possible to stop in Mexico City or Cancún. If you have a stopover in the United States it is important to have an ESTA, even if the US is only a transit land for travelling to Mexico.
Accommodations: Monterrey offers many options for accommodation. It is possible to rent a flat on your own or to stay in an AirBnb, but there are also very good residences surrounding the TEC, which offer 24/7 safety service:
First, there is the Residencias TEC, which is connected to the campus and offered by TEC (mostly first semesters and Mexican students live there). You can find more information about them on the Website of the University.
About a 15 min walk from the campus, Villas TEC and Torres TEC offer apartments in a flat sharing style, both have a pool and flats with 3 to 4 rooms. Many internationals live here, and there is also a bus which shuttles the students to and from TEC. Both are offered by RentaTEC.
The next recommendable accommodation is ALCE plaza. It is a very modern, private residence, but only space for few people, compared to the others. It is possible to rent an apartment on your own there or to share it with more people.
The last Residencial I can suggest is Garza Sada 1892 (15 mins walk to TEC, bus transfer possible – I lived there) or La Capital (in the center of Monterrey, with bus transfer to TEC). Both offer a pool and a barbeque, Garza Sada also has its own Gym and study areas.
Food: Everybody knows the Mexican highlights – Tacos, Guacamole, Quesadillas… – but where to find the best? Monterrey is not a city which symbolizes the Mexican culture and therefore, traditional Mexican food is best found in Veracruz, Mexico City and Oaxaca, but Monterrey has also some highlights for foodies (and of course McDonalds, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Dominos and KFC in the near of the TEC)
For regional dishes: Taqueria Juarez, La Felix, Botanero Moritas, Taqueria la Mexicana, La mulata, Mochomos
Another recommendable Restaurant is Mr. Pampas, which is a Brazilian styled all you can eat restaurant with its focus on very good and different meats.
For home delivery (exam period) there are many different providers: UberEats, Rappi (also for supermarket delivery), Sin Delantal and DidiFood. Best pizza: Romeo’s Pizzeria / Best sushi: Nikkori
Drinks: Near the TEC, at Paseo TEC, which is an entertainment center offering many bars and restaurants, it is always possible to find a place to drink. My favorite bar was La Santa, where you can get fancy cocktails for $50 MXN, which is less than 3€. Sr. Mostacho is also located there. A dance bar where typical Latin American music is played the whole night. The most bars are located in the centrum, a 15 mins drive from TEC. Recommendable bars there are Maverick, Rio Mississippi 105 and Pepper Rooftop bar.
Nightlife: Besides Bars, Monterrey offers also many opportunities for clubbing and dancing. Most of the clubs are located in San Pedro, which is the wealthiest district of Latin America. Clubs there attach great value to appearance. Cosmo only allows women in dresses, high heels and men in a genteel trousers and shirt enter. The other clubs like The City, Strana and Toto are not as strict as cosmo, but it is recommendable to bring a fancy outfit and clubbing shoes if you plan on experiencing the nightlife of Monterrey. The mentioned clubs play music out of the Mexican carts (reggaetón and pop), mixed with electronic mash-ups of popular songs and are mostly very crowded. For the techno fans I can recommend Casa Morelos, TOPAZdeluxe and the pepper kitchen bar which has a dancefloor under its rooftop bar.
Activities: Monterrey is an industrial city which is not really a touristic destination. Therefore, not much attractions, but it is surrounded by a beautiful nature with many activities possible.
Santiago pueblo Magico: a small town in the south of Monterrey which is magical according to its prettiness.
La Huasteca: a parquet which has a pretty nature. La Huasteca is the name of the cave in the mountains of the ecological parc.
Chipinque: another ecological park which is a great place for hiking.
Cola de caballo: a waterfall close to Santiago which should be visited. It`s possible to swim in the water near the waterfall.
Matacanes: national park in Monterrey which offers hiking and climbing tours and canyoning.
Horno 3: a sience museum in parquet fundidora. It exhibits the industrial history of the region. From the top of the museum it is possible to have a great view over the city center.
Parque fundidora: a big parc in the center of Monterrey where festivals and different events take place.
Hellow festival: festival with international well-known artists.
Oktoberfest: offers german beers.
Luztopia: Christmas festival.
Cerro de la silla: the most known mountain in Monterrey which can be hiked in order to get a great view over the city.
Barrio antiguo: an area in the center of Monterrey were no cars are allowed. It has many great restaurants, bars and clubs.
Bustamante: municipality and old town in Nuevo Leon.
Shopping: Malls: pueblo serena, fashion drive, galerias oriente / Supermarket: Costco, H.E.B. (American), Soriana (Mexican) / Pharmacies and Convenience Stores (OXXO)
Phone service: It is recommendable to buy a Mexican sim for your phone for the duration of the semester abroad. There are some providers like Movistar, At&T and Telcel. Telcel is the most recommendable due to its cheap charge and good function. It offers the amigo sin limite prepaid card for about 7€, which can be recharged unlimited with different tariffs according to the internet volume and duration. I took the rate for $200 MXN (10€ ca.) every time, which last 30 days and offers 3.000 MB internet, free calls and SMS in Mexico, USA and Canada and unlimited social media. The 3.000 MB internet can also be used in Canada and the US, but the option of unlimited social media is just available in Mexico.
Destinations and means of transportation: Travelling through the country of Mexico is possible in many options. The safest way is to travel by plane, because nearly every Mexican city there is an airport and there are cheap airlines like vivaaerobus and interjet, which offer cheap national flights. In Mexico train infrastructure is really bad, but therefore, the bus network is very advanced and expanded. There are many buses with which it is easy to reach the most destinations. There are cheaper bus lines like ADO and Aguila, but also Premium bus lines like Futura Select, which are safer to choose if the bus trip is in the night or for a longer destination, because they have much less stops than the cheap bus lines. The third recommendable opportunity to experience Mexico is to rent a car. This is also very cheap, especially when you’re 5 persons for the rent. At many car rentals it is not necessary to have an international driver’s license, but it is very recommendable to bring one anyways, especially if you plan on visiting the US. In Mexico, the minimum age for car rentals is 18.
The most recommendable and famous places to visit are: Beach and Coast: Cancún (I would recommend a trip across the whole Yucatán Peninsula) / Tulum / Oaxaca / Baja California (La Paz, Los Cabos) / Puerto Vallarta
City: Mexico City / Guanajuato / San Miguel de Allende / Puebla / San Luis Potosi / Zacatecas / Guadalajara
University: TEC is a very big university and well-known in whole Mexico, according to its many campus in the country. The biggest campus is the one in Monterrey. There are about 8 Buildings with classrooms, labs, studios and many other rooms which will be needed. There are 4 Copy centers, a gym, a stadium, an indoor pool, a running track, bicycles for the use on campus and many different options for food and drink (healthy ones like Super salads, Nectarworks, Olipoke – 3 starbucks, Tim Hortons, 2 Oxxos which is a small supermarket, Subway, Papa Johns, Foodbox and many other…). The university offers many activities like sports (football, soccer, tennis, swimming, fitness) and creative things like art and different kinds of dancing. The campus is very big so it is recommendable to get a tour on the welcome day or by a Mexican student. In general, the TEC campus seems more like an American high-school campus than like a university.
Good to know:
Mexican people are friendly, open, talk and laugh much. They also have a favor for Europeans due to their appearance (light hair, skin).
Monterrey is not a typical Mexican city. Because of its near to the American Border it is very American.
In the supermarket there are volunteers helping the customers to pack their groceries in bags. They don’t get paid from the supermarket so they expect a tip from the customers.
In Mexico, higher education (university) is not free. Also, the study system is very different. Going to the university in Mexico is similar to a school in Germany. Every homework, assignment in Class and every task is graded. There are also partial exams (2 to 3). In some subjects the attendance will be graded.
Mexican students have a bad time management. They start with their projects and group works on the day before it is due.
Today is the last day I’m spending here in Monterrey. If I look back to my arrival here in August, I can say the time was running so fast, it seems like I stayed some days, but not 4 whole months! I hope my Blog can help you to get interested in Monterrey and of course Mexico, to plan your semester abroad and to have the nicest stay as possible!
Blog III by Annabelle Lehnert