How many days should we spend at Quest Mexico? Is there a better day to start and end a course?
We recommend at least ten days. Fourteen days is optimal, and allows for a flexible 'options' day in the middle of the program. Note that airlines often charge more for travel on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
Longer or shorter custom course can be arranged.
Is Mexico safe, and is there a lot of crime? Is the drinking water and food safe, and are there any Scorpions and other nasty animals?
Given sensible actions for any large metropolitan city, Cuernavaca is a safe place. The drinking water we provide is tested frequently, and food is prepared carefully. Scorpions are a menace, but are not common, and can be avoided if precautions are taken. Dogs and other street animals often have parasites and fleas, and should not be touched. This is not a malaria zone nor do we visit areas that are dangerous, or have been issued travel alerts.
What are the facilities at Quest like, and how far from town is Quest?
We are located on the hills of Cuernavaca. The Quest House is only a minute from a bus stop that runs to and from el centro (~30 minutes by bus). We will arrange accommodations in rural Guerrero, Mexico City, or Chiapas to meet specific group needs.
Do we have to be able to speak Spanish in order to visit Quest?
No, but it helps if you know a few words. All participants receive a list of simple phrases upon arrival. Skilled interpreters will also accompany you when presentations are made. For longer visits we can arrange language instruction.
What will the Mexican people be like? What can I expect to have happen during my visit?
Mexicans are generous, vocal, family oriented and sociable. They love to celebrate, and during your stay, there will likely be a festival, protest, or celebration of some sort. They will likely invite you into their lives, and we hope you accept the invitation.
Should we bring presents or supplies for people?
If your group wants to bring medical supplies like gauze, latex gloves, etc., we will make arrangements to distribute them. Vitamins (but not outdated) are always welcomed. Have the group distribute the material throughout their suitcases. Do not bring prescription medicines to leave here. You can e-mail the facilitator assigned to your group to inquire if any other supplies are appropriate.
Who decides the activities?
Although we have a recommended list and sequence, we are open to discussion if your group wishes to explore any particular area in depth.
Who are the facilitators and staff?
Please see our "Staff" page
Our facilitators have been chosen for their skills in translating, experience in international social justice education, and their ability to support Northern participants. All staff have direct and respectful relationships with the families and individuals encountered by participants throughout the program. They often will have lived with the people you will meet.
What role do I play as the Group Organizer while in Mexico?
Your work primarily is to get the group here, answer their prior questions about the experience, and participate in the program, as you are comfortable. We use a method of experiential education developed by Paulo Freire, noted Brazilian educator (cf "Pedagogy of the Oppressed"). We believe participants must take responsibility for their own education, including creating committees to monitor progress, making changes in schedule, conducting reflections on critical experiences, etc. You are invited to include additional reflections, prayers, etc. outside of the schedule. Our facilitators will appreciate your assistance, but clearly it is the people of Latin America who are the teachers.
What should I do to prepare the participants?
We recommend covering the material contained in this list and the FAQ for Participants. Give the group an opportunity to develop relationships with each other. Contact us if you would like some structured exercises that you can do with the participants prior to arrival.
Is there a minimum or maximum number that can be in a group?
10 people are the suggested minimum (but we are flexible). Most group leaders find 15-20 people to be the best size for group dynamics.
How much does it cost, and where does our money go?
Please contact us for the exact costs. Over 2/3 of the money goes to pay for your program costs, including a just wage for our speakers. We keep administration costs to a bare minimum, and all surpluses are returned to Mexican organizations for community development projects. No individual or organization makes a profit.
My group wants to support a particular project, family or individual, how do we accomplish this type of support?
If you want to help any of the organizations and groups we meet, that can be arranged through partner organizations that ensure that 100% of the money goes directly to the people.
How can I ensure the money gets to people who need it?
Our role is education while at the same time supporting Mexican community development. We have created a list of preferred local community development organizations. Should you wish to raise or donate money for them, we ensure that every single dollar goes for the purposes intended. All QUEST surpluses are returned to these local community development projects.
What should we pack?
Take a look at our packing list (below)
What kind of medical services are available in Cuernavaca? Should I buy travel or supplemental health insurance? Are additional medical precautions needed?
Cuernavaca has a wide range of doctors and hospitals. We have arrangements with an English speaking doctor if needed. Supplemental insurance is advised unless you clearly have adequate insurance coverage in a foreign country. Unless pre-arranged with our staff as an 'advanced trip', we do not go into areas of malaria or other diseases. No additional vaccinations are necessary other than Tetanus (which you should have anyway). There may be some intestinal upsets due to different diet (and fresh fruit), so you may want to bring pepto-bismal or eat acidophulus before the trip (either by capsule from a health food store or through yoghourt). We do not recommend either immodium or gravol. Washing your hands frequently is advised. Dehydration may be an issue, especially in the dry season (November - April), so be prepared to drink lots of water
How can I stay in touch with my families and friends?
There is a dedicated phone at QUEST to receive incoming calls. It is much cheaper to have families phone here at a specific time, rather than phoning home. Your Group Leader should give you a draft schedule before you leave home, so families will know when to call. There are three computers with Internet connection, and Wireless Internet available for participant use. Many participants bring a laptop that can be connected to the internet (skype, etc) through our wifi.
Phone cards, which allow international calls, can be purchased locally.
How much money should I bring? Should I bring cash or Traveler's Checks?
You only need "souvenir and social" money. American currency ($50) can be brought to change at the airport upon arrival. There are many ATM machines in Cuernavaca that accept bank cards and credit cards. Make sure the bank cards have "Interac, Cirrus, or Maestro" on the back. Do not bring Traveler's Checks.
If your commitment involves leaving a donation to assist people in poverty met on the visits, and in the streets, we will ensure it gets delivered to them. Letters of thanks will be issued to confirm the receipt of donations for projects.
Will there be time to relax, shop, and visit friends in Mexico?
You will have a very full schedule, which includes time for reflection and relaxation.
We help people from cooperatives to sell their crafts, clothes, hammocks, etc. They will come to QUEST one afternoon to sell their goods. There is no 'middleman', which allows for a fair price to be paid directly to the people. Other shopping opportunities will also occur, but you should avoid 'consumerism'. Depending on the length of the program, there may be one 'options' day that can be used to travel to nearby cities such as Taxco or Mexico City. Caution must be taken if a trip to Mexico City is planned due to areas of high crime. No beach resort can be reached in the time available, but there are several water parks for the options day
Can I leave the group to do 'my own thing'?
Although there are scheduled times for personal activities, we prefer you do not miss the group's scheduled activities. These are sequenced in order to build on each other - if you miss a part you will be out of step with your group. In addition, you will also find that you will be creating a supportive community that you can rely on.
What if I have health or physical limitations?
Cuernavaca is very hilly, roads are often rough cobblestone, sidewalks are often in disrepair, and wheelchair access is almost nonexistent. The elevation is around 5200 feet (1500 meters), and between November and April (the dry season) dust and asthma may be a problem. If you need prescription drugs, make sure you have adequate supplies, and are in original containers clearly marked with your name and the medication name.
What is the weather going to be like?
Cuernavaca is called the "City of Eternal Spring" and has a very comfortable temperature range. It will get pleasantly warm (28-31 C, 82-87 F) during the day, and cool (10-15 C, 50-59 F) enough in the evening to need a sweater or light jacket. If you come in the rainy season (June to October), bring an umbrella.
What kind of food will be available? Is it really spicy? Can we eat elsewhere?
We try to eat "low on the food chain" and serve mostly Mexican dishes with chili 'on the side' for those who want the extra spice. Every second day we have vegetarian, but vegetarian meals are available every day upon special request. We do not recommend eating anything from sidewalk vendors. Our staff can help advise on other restaurants.
What refreshments are available?
There is a lounge with fruit, purified water, coffee/tea and other beverages available.
Will I get some form of credit from a college or university? Are there assignments?
That is totally up to the college or university. For some groups, it is an entire undergraduate or graduate course, for others, it is purely experiential. In either case we recommend keeping a personal journal as a way of collecting and focusing your thoughts, and to keep the experience alive
What are the electrical outlets like? Can I bring a laptop, hairdryer, etc.?
Although the voltage is similar to North America, outlets are often ungrounded (two prongs). Current fluctuations are common, and a spike protector for a laptop is strongly recommended.
Do you supply towels, sheets, soap, etc?
We provide all of the above, but if you want to bring your own and leave them with us, the donation would be appreciated. We will get them to families in need.
Is it true that Mexican men harass women?
As you will discover, Latin America is a very machismo society. This is part of the discovery of a different culture. Participants can lessen the impact by dressing conservatively (no tank tops or shorts in town or when visiting). Participants of both genders should always dress respectfully and tastefully. Remember, we go where there are no tourists, and we try to blend in.
What is the risk of natural disasters like earthquakes and volcanos?
You can see an active volcano (Popocatepetyl) on the horizon on clear days, but we are well away from any danger zone. Earth tremors are rare and minor.
What if I am underage?
Minors (under 18) must have notarized permission of any parent not accompanying them in order to have permission to travel to Mexico. The permission must name an accompanying adult (e.g. college faculty or teacher).
What travel documentation is required?
For citizens of Canada and the United States, a Passport is required for entrance into Mexico. Make a copy of your Passport to keep in a separate location. Your identification pieces must exactly match your airline ticket. If you have changed your name due to marriage, you must bring a valid marriage certificate. Showing proof of citizenship entitles you to a Tourist Card which will be issued to you with your airline ticket or on the plane. This card must be filled in and then stamped by authorities at the airport. It must be returned to them upon leaving the country. You will be traveling here legally as tourists, not on business or as students - both of which require visas.
Citizens of other countries should consult http://www.mexonline.com/consulate.html to see what requirements they must meet US Department of State and Canadian.
Recommendations for Packing
In a 'carry-on' type bag put a days' change of clothing, medications, and any valuable objects such as cameras. Make sure there are no sharp objects such as scissors, nail clippers, needles, liquids, etc. They will not pass airport security. In a large suitcase with wheels, put everything else. Pack lightly! Leave room for supplies that the group may decide to bring, such as medical supplies, vitamins, school supplies, etc. We recommend that the group 'color code' the luggage with a distinctive ribbon on the handle so you can identify and monitor luggage of fellow travelers. Take all previous travel tags off, but make sure each piece clearly has your name on a firmly attached tag. Put your name on a tag inside each piece of luggage.
There is a Laundromat nearby, or you can wash clothes by hand. They will dry very quickly. On occasion we can make arrangements for someone to come in and do hand laundry for you. It is important to note that neatness, cleanliness, and modesty are valued standards in Mexican culture. Such things as shorts, tattered clothes, unkempt hair, revealing clothes, and other such trademarks of tourists give some Mexicans the impression that we are culturally insensitive, dirty, and/or "loose". Since we will be spending most of our time among people living in strained economic circumstances, we will all feel more comfortable living and dressing simply and respectfully. You can bring shorts to wear on the QUEST property. It can get cool at night, so bring along a sweater or light jacket.
- 3 pairs of jeans/pants
- 1-2 pairs shorts
- 3-4 short sleeved shirts/tops/t-shirts
- 1 long sleeved shirt/top
- 1 skirt or dress
- 1 sweater or light jacket
- Comfortable walking shoes (at least one pair closed toe)
- Swimsuit and towel for swimming and sunning, sunscreen/hat
- Needed medications in labeled prescription container
- Personal toiletries
- Personal water bottle
- Camera and film
- If you are coming in the rainy season, bring an umbrella or rain jacket
- If you are planning to engage in a work project, protective gloves
- The Quest House is located in the hills above Cuernavaca, and on a clear morning, you might get a glimpse of the volcano Popocatepetl.
- All food is prepared by the Quest House Staff in the Quest kitchen. Fresh vegetables, fruit, and water are clean, disinfected, and free of infectious bacteria.
- Every room is equipped with an individual full bathroom.
- The Quest property offers seemingly endless little corners for retreat, reflection, and conversation.
- Your can enhance the experience of your participatory-learning experience in our facilities equipped with TV, library, computers, and Wireless Internet access.