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Frequently Asked Questions

ICO PROGRAM QUESTIONS

What day of the week should I arrive in Oaxaca?
How should I pay?
What is the best way of handling money in Oaxaca?
Can I begin on any Monday or must I begin at the beginning of a session?
How many students are in a class?
What is the average age and demographics of ICO students?
Can I receive college credit for my study at the ICO?
Are the teachers at the ICO university graduates?
How do I register?

LODGING QUESTIONS

What are the different types of accommodations?
What should I bring to my homestay?

TRAVEL QUESTIONS

Should I enter the country on a tourist card or apply for a student visa?
How can I get from the airport to my homestay, posada or hotel?
How do I take the bus from Mexico City to Oaxaca?

FOOD AND HEALTH

I am a vegetarian. Will I be able to find food that I can eat in Oaxaca?
How can i avoid getting siick in Oaxaca?

COMMUNICATION

How can I check my e-mail while in Oaxaca?
How can I call home?
Can I receive mail and packages at the Institute?

QUESTIONS ABOUT OAXACA

What is there to do in Oaxaca?
How do I stay safe in Oaxaca?

ICO PROGRAM QUESTIONS

What day of the week should I arrive in Oaxaca?

It is usually best to arrive the Thursday or Friday before the Monday that you begin class.

We highly recommend that all students come to the Instituto Cultural Oaxaca at 9:00 am on the Saturday before the Monday that they are to begin study in order to pay the tuition, take a placement exam and attend an orientation session. Students have all morning to do these things and to ask any questions pertaining to their stay over a cup of tea or coffee without feeling rushed. Such an arrangement allows students to make the most of their first day of class the following Monday.

If a student is unable to attend orientation and testing on Saturday, we ask that he or she come a half an hour early (at 8:30 am) on Monday, unless advised otherwise. There are several things that we ask students who arrive on Monday to take into consideration:

1. The placement test may take more than a half an hour and therefore, they may arrive a little late to class, which starts at 9:00 am.

2. The Monday orientation will be from 1:00 pm until 2:00 pm, directly after the morning classes, which can make the first day seem quite long.

3. Fewer workshop options may be available due to the fact that students arriving on Monday sign up after current students and those that arrived on Saturday.

How should I pay?

There is a one-time US $55.00 registration fee that you will be invited to pay in advance through PayPal once you register. Tuition may be paid in pesos or US dollars upon arrival. We are unable to accept personal checks, travellers’ checks or credit cards. Please do not send international Postal Money Orders. Registration fees and tuition are both non-refundable and non-transferable. For that reason, we recommend that students wanting more flexibility in their travel plans should pay for one week at a time.

What is the best way of handling money in Oaxaca?

Many stores, restaurants and hotels in Oaxaca do not except credit cards, so be prepared to pay in cash. Considering that travellers checks are often difficult to exchange and do not receive a good exchange rate, we do not recommend them. Instead, we suggest using a bank card to withdraw money from an ATM. Please check with your bank regarding fraud protection and international usage fees before you travel.

Can I begin on any Monday or must I begin at the beginning of a session?

Students have the option to register for one or more weeks and may begin their classes on any Monday, although it is recommended to begin on the first Monday of a course, which typically last for 4 weeks.

How many students are in a class?

We strive to keep class sizes small so that the teacher is easily able to give individual attention to every student while still ensuring that students benefit from a group learning environment. There are many benefits of attending small group Spanish classes. Much knowledge and understanding is gained by students sharing experiences and questions in a group learning environment.

Typically, there are between 3 and 7 students in our Spanish classes. Furthermore, classes at the ICO rarely have more than 8 students and never have more than 10 students.

Several factors that influence class size include the number of students at a particular level and the number of students studying at the Institute at a given time. The summer months, June, July, and August, as well as January are our busiest months and the class size might be closer to 7. On the other hand, there are not as many students studying in the Fall and Spring, so class size may be closer to 3 people per class.

What is the average age and demographics of ICO students?

Our students range in age from children in elementary school to people in their 70's and 80's and every age in between. There are individuals, middle and high school groups, colleges and universities, groups of friends, and families that come to study with us. Though most of our students come from the US, we have had numerous students from many other countries as well.

Can I receive college credit for my study at the ICO?

The classes, plus conversation sessions, workshops, intercambios and cultural programs, represent a total of 128 contact hours per 4 week session and have been accepted for credit in numerous universities in the U.S. and Europe. Students should verify the requirements for credit from their respective universities prior to attending the Institute.

Are the teachers university graduates?

All of our instructors are univeristy graduates and have prior teaching experience. Our core group of teachers who teach year round have at least 5 years teaching experience, other life and cultural experience that they bring into the classroom.

How do I register?

If you wish to register, please visit our website and fill out an online registration form for each person who will be attending.

LODGING QUESTIONS

What are the different types of accommodations?

HOMESTAY:
Living with a Oaxacan family grants students the opportunity to be in permanent contact with the Spanish language and culture and thus to further develop their comprehension and speaking abilities. Homestays cost US $16 per night with breakfast included. Students can choose to eat comida (US $5), which is the main meal of the day and cena (US $3), which is a light evening snack, with the family as well.

POSADA:
Furnished posadas, which range from US $13 to US $47 per night, offer students more independent living. The Institute works closely with two posadas:

1. La Posada del Fortin features private rooms and bathrooms and has a lovely central courtyard area and outdoor kitchen for use by guests.

2. La Posada de los Angeles, which is located just two blocks from the Institute, and is a short walk from the zócalo. It also features private rooms and bathrooms, a refrigerator and sink area in each room and a common terrace with a TV area and microwave.

APARTMENT:
The Instituto also offers the option of renting furnished apartments in different neighborhoods of the city, with a variety of capacities and services. This option allows the student to organize his or her life in Oaxaca more independently, with a partner, family or friends. The price range is from US $450 to US $1,000 per month and are rented on a monthly basis.

HOTEL:
The city of Oaxaca boasts a wide variety of one-star to five-star hotels, the prices for which range from US $35 to US $250 per night. It is our pleasure to help our students in making contact and reservations, though it is usually necessary for the student to cover a deposit for the first night.

What should I bring to my homestay?

The homestay will provide the students with towels and sheets, however, the students should bring their own toiletries. Although gifts are not necessary, it is often a nice gesture to bring something small, as a token of gratitude, for the family.

TRAVEL QUESTIONS

Should I enter the country on a tourist card or apply for a student visa?

We recommend that you enter Mexico as a tourist.

Tourists from the United States, Canada, Europe and many other countries* do not need any other paper or document beside their passport and the toursist card that they receive upon entering the country. You must fill out the tourist card completely and present it with your passport to the immigration officer. Please be sure that it gets stamped and also that you are given enough days to cover your stay in Mexico.

It is important to note that you will be entering as a tourist and not as a student and therefore you will not need a student visa. Obtaining a tourist visa, which is the tourist card, is easy and consists of filling out one paper upon entering the country. On the other hand, to apply for a student visa, which are designed for university students who are studying for an extended period of time, needs to be done through the Mexican consulant or immigration office and is a more time consuming and expensive option.

*Citizens of Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Island, Israel, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, United States of America, Uruguay or Venezuela, you don’t need a visa to enter Mexico, although you must present a valid passport and fill out an immigration form for tourists and business trips, which can be obtained in travel agencies, airlines or at the point where you enter Mexico. (Embassy of Mexico)

How can I get from the airport to my homestay, posada or hotel?

It is best to take a taxi colectivo from the airport to the city center. The name of the company is Transporte Terrestre and it can be found right outside of the baggage claim area within the Oaxacan airport. It is important to specifically request the COLECTIVO versus private service because the cost will be much lower, though just as safe and pleasant. The cost will depend on how many people the taxi is bringing into the city, but should cost between $40 and $100 pesos (US $4 and $10). After purchasing a ticket simply present your homestay, posada, apartment, or hotel address to the driver. It is a good idea to have some pesos on hand in order to purchase the ticket. Credit cards will not be accepted.

How do I take the bus from Mexico City to Oaxaca?

We suggest that you take the bus directly from the Mexico City airport to Puebla and change buses there for Oaxaca. The Puebla bus station is smaller, safer and easier to navigate than TAPO, Mexico City´s bus station from which buses depart for Oaxaca. First class buses direct to Puebla can be found at certain airport exits. Simply ask at an information desk inside the airport. You should only accept information from an official information desk.

If you do decide to go to Mexico City’s bus station, TAPO, to take a direct bus to Oaxaca, take a secure airport taxi to the TAPO bus station. It is likely that the ride will be $150 to $200 pesos (US $15 to $20). If you take a cab from the Airport, pay for an authorized taxi from the booth in the terminal building. In Mexico City, it is not safe to accept a taxi ride from someone who approaches you or by hailing a cab.

When you reach Oaxaca by bus, you will need to take a taxi from the bus terminal to your homestay, posada, apartment, or hotel. The taxis can be found immediately outside of the bus terminal and are safe and inexpensive. The ride should cost you $35 to $40 pesos. Simply present your the address to the driver. It is a good idea to agree on a price beforehand and do not get into a cab with a stranger nor allow a stranger to get into the cab once underway.

FOOD AND HEALTH

I am a vegetarian. Will I be able to find food that I can eat in Oaxaca?

Absolutely! Fresh and delicious fruits and vegetables are everywhere in Oaxaca and other vegetarian foods like cheese, eggs, beans (be aware that they may contain lard or chicken stock), oats, corn, etc. are easy to find. Additionally, your homestay family will be very happy to cook vegetarian food for you. There are oodles of restaurants that offer vegetarian selections and quite a few stores that sell "health food." Many of our students are vegetarian and find that, with a little research, eating vegetarian in Oaxaca is very doable. Ask the personnel in the office of the ICO for more information when you arrive.

How can I avoid getting sick?

There are several factors that contribute to some visitors feeling ill when visiting Oaxaca. Bacteria found in food and drink can cause nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea. Furthermore, Oaxacan culture and climate will probably be different from where you are coming, which may leave you feeling tired. Finally, please keep in mind that the city of Oaxaca is about 5000 feet above sea level. While this is not in the “high altitude” category, some visitors from lower altitudes may experience some discomfort. Some feel no effects whatsoever, some experience a general tiredness, “hurting all over”, sore throat, vague pains in different areas, and/or the most common, which is digestive problems with or without diarrhea.

To avoid these complaints, we suggest the following simple guidelines.
1. Eat and drink lightly the first few days, especially alcohol and foods to which you are not accustomed. Oaxaca is justly famous for its rich and varied gastronomy, but you do not have to try everything at once. Little by little, your system will accept different foods, different eating and drinking customs, and you will be able to savour your experience.
2. Please refrain from eating food sold on the streets as they can lack proper facilities to maintain hygiene.
3. Take it easy at first and make sure that you get enough rest.
4. In addition, to maintain your best health please review the following dietary suggestions:

AVOID: Unboiled or untreated water or ice, food and beverages from street vendors, raw or undercooked fish and shellfish, uncooked and untreated vegetables

ENJOY: Cooked foods that are still hot, fruits peeled or washed by the traveller (use Microdyn, iodine or a similar disinfectant), bottled or canned drinks, bottled water, food and drink in your host family’s house and in restaurants that cater to tourists, breads and baked goods

5. Before your trip to Oaxaca, you may wish to talk with your doctor regarding medications, vaccines and any other concern that you might have.

6. By expecting that people and customs will be different, you will be more likely to accept and enjoy them.

COMMUNICATION

How can I check my e-mail while in Oaxaca?

The Institute provides free wireless, but students must bring their own computers. If you do not wish to bring a computer to Oaxaca, you will have no problem finding an internet cafe. They are not only easy to find, but also fairly cheap, they only cost about 8-10 pesos per hour.

How can I call home?

AREA CODES AND PHONE NUMBERS
To call the US from Mexico dial 00 + 1 + area code + phone number.
To call Oaxaca from the US or Canada dial 011 + 52 (Mexican country code) + 951 (Oaxacan area code) + phone number.
To call long distance within Mexico dial 01 + area code + phone number.

LADATEL / TELMEX CARD FOR PAYPHONES
One way to make phone calls in Oaxaca to buy a phone card, such as a LADATEL or TELMEX card, that you can purchase at pharmacies, newstands as well as many other stores. This type of phone card is called a "tarjeta LADA" and is inserted into the pay phone. Pay phones in Oaxaca do not accept coins. International calls to the US and Canada cost about MX $20 per minute and local calls cost about MX $ ? per minute.

CALLING CARD
The connecting numbers for American calling cards are: ATT 01-800-288-2872; MCI 01-800-021-8000 or 001-800-674-7000. For “Canada Direct” dial 01-800-123-0200.

CASETA TELEFONICA
This is a business that has private phone booths that you can use to make local or long distance phone calls.

SKYPE
Many of our students choose to use Skype, which is a service that you can download from the internet for free onto your computer. If you are online at the same time as someone else, you can talk to this person for free over the internet. You can also call landlines and payphones from Skype for very reasonable rates (only 2 cents per minute to call the US). If you are not planning to bring a laptop, many of the internet cafes already have skype downloaded onto their computers and have headsets that you can use free of charge. Go to www.skype.com for more information.

MEXICAN CELL PHONE
Another option is purchasing a Mexican cell phone, which can be relatively inexpensive to buy and use for local calls. There are numerous phones, plans and promotions that you can investigate once you are in Oaxaca.

YOUR CELL PHONE
Lastly, you can potentially use a cell phone that you bring with you, but you will need to check with your cell phone company on internation rates and to ensure that your phone will work in Oaxaca.

CALLING A MEXICAN CELL PHONE
To call a Mexican cell phone, you will first need to dial 044. Also, él que llama paga, which means that the one who makes the call pays, therefore calls to cell phones will cost more than phone calls to other numbers.

Can I receive mail and packages at the Institute?

Students are more than welcome to receive mail and packages at the Institute. Please use our mailing address to receive mail via the postal service, however this method can be slow and unreliable.

Mailing Address (postal service only)
Apartado Postal 340, Oaxaca de Juarez,
Oaxaca, C.P. 68000, Mexico

For important mail and packages, we recommend that you use DHL or Federal Express to our physical address.

Physical Address (for DHL or Federal Express)
Avenida Juarez #909
(esquina con Calzada Niños Héroes de Chapultepec)
Centro, Oaxaca de Juarez, Oaxaca, C.P. 68000, Mexico
Tel: 951-515-34-04 o 951-515-13-23

Please be aware that Mexican customs may search your packages and that you may be taxed for what you receive through the mail.

QUESTIONS ABOUT OAXACA

What is there to do in Oaxaca?

The Oaxaca area offers multiple opportunities for learning and exploration. Named by UNESCO as a Monument to the Heritage of Mankind, this state capital showcases a wide range of museums, cathedrals and exquisite Spanish-inspired 16th, 17th and 18th century architecture.

In the zócalo, the central plaza, one can enjoy special processions, concerts, or demonstrations from park benches or sidewalk cafes.

The state of Oaxaca is one of the most important archaeological zones in Mesoamerica. Not far from the city are magnificent archaeological sites that highlight the brilliant civilizations that have resided in the area for thousands of years. The 16 ethnic groups that make up the rich culture of the state continue to influence the language, art and music of the city and the many villages of the area. The artistic expression of this legacy results in some of the most beautiful and sought-after folk art in Mexico.

The Institute arranges tours on weekends to pre-Hispanic and colonial sites, artisan villages in the area as well as two-day ecotours to the Sierra Norte. These tours are optional and are available at an extra charge.

How do I stay safe in Oaxaca?

Oaxaca is a big city with a small town atmosphere. While you will find you are comfortable walking in the streets, it is important to be cautious as a visitor in a foreign country.

Advice for a safe stay in Oaxaca

1. Be cautious of your belongings that you carry, especially in crowded areas, such as buses and marketplaces, where you are vulnerable to pickpockets.
2. Look both ways before crossing any street. Pedestrians do not have the right-of-way and cars do not slow down for crosswalks.
3. In the evenings, stay on well-lit streets and walk in pairs whenever possible. Do not walk alone at night, instead take a taxi, which are available at all hours of the day and night.
4. Use ATMs located inside banks. The best banks are: Santander Serfín, HSBC and Bancomer.
5. Do not carry all of your credit and debit cards and cash with you at once. Take the amount of money you will need for your outing and leave the rest in your homestay, posada, hotel, where it is safe.
6. Photocopy your passport and tourist card and use the copies as identification. Keep the originals where you are staying.
7. If you are attacked, do not resist. Give the attacker what they ask for, your health and life are more valuable.
8. Do not take a taxi that has other passengers in it or someone else seated in the front passenger seat. If you would like to call a taxi, call 515-56-38 (Reforma) or 516-05-03 (A.D.O.)

WEBSITES ON MEXICO AND OAXACA

US State Department:
http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_970.html
http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/tips_1232.html

General Information about Oaxaca:
http://www.go-oaxaca.com/

Safety:
http://gomexico.about.com/od/planningandinformation/a/safety.htm
http://gomexico.about.com/od/planningandinformation/tp/women_tips.htm

People´s Guide to Mexico:
http://www.peoplesguide.com/index.html


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