FAQ's About Visiting Lake Chapala
Since starting the web page “Retire In Lake Chapala”, I have received countless emails about topics related to visiting Lake Chapala for the first time. Here are just a sampling of some of the questions and the answers I gave.
Q. What do I need to bring on my trip to Lake Chapala?
A. Starting as early as September you might need a very light jacket, although this is completely dependent on the person. Comfortable, walking footwear is most important, as the cobble stone streets are not easy to walk on. I highly recommend that you bring a hat, sun glasses and put on sunscreen for walking during the day as the sun can be very strong. Most people dress very casually in comfortable clothes, except for the senoritas who go on a date dressed to the nines, in stiletto heel shoes no less!
Q. Are there Spiders and Roaches?
A. Yes, there are. In fact, there is every bug imaginable in Mexico but it's not as bad as it sounds. At our house we fumigate 2-3 times a year, outside only, and thus we are able to control the spiders, roaches, ants, etc. Inside I prefer to use natural, essential oil sprays that I create myself. It helps greatly but we still get some spiders around the sliding windows and doors, even though we have mosquito screens. I've become so very good at "hunting" spiders with a wet napkin.
Like many people, I didn't see roaches close and personal before I moved to Mexico and only heard about scorpions and poisonous spiders in books and thriller movies.
The first scorpion I killed nearly gave me a heart attack before I smashed it with my slipper and from that experience I learned that I'm best suited for a more "gringo-like" house than a Mexican house; meaning fine mesh screens and aluminum windows and doors verses the beautiful iron doors and windows that come with large cracks and with iron screens with large holes. Love them, but can't live with them. Ideally, I would like a screened terrace and someday soon I hope to have one so I can spend more time outdoors.
Q. How bad are the mosquitoes?
A. I place mosquitoes in a category of their own because they torment me from around end of April until December, or until we've had at least a week of 10-14 C temperatures at night. That seems to "freeze" them for a few months.
I bought "electric charge" raquets that are very effective in hunting the occasional one that slips in when I open/close doors. When I go out in the evening or morning, I wear pants that mostly cover my legs and are not penetrable. Also, I slather any exposed skin with a 9 essential oil anti-mosquito spray that I created, which smells beautifully and works. During the day they don't bother me so much, it's so nice to get a break!
Q. Do you have to look in shoes, and slippers before wearing them, or inspect your tub or shower before bathing?
A. At my house, I'm not concerned about scorpions in my slippers, the tub, or the shower.
Partly because I've become far more immune to them and the thought of them since my "first encounter".
I trust that fumigating diligently keeps these pests out for the most part. If one gets in, I reach for the slipper. That being said, I've seen them at other houses, especially the ones with really nice gardens where probably no one has fumigated in a while. If you don't want to deal with them, I'm pretty sure that you will find a friendly neighbor nearby who wants to help. I've also found out that drinking 1 gal+ of water immediately after a scorpion bite diminishes the poison and you may not even need to see a doctor. Thankfully I have not had to test this theory. Someone who was bitten by a poisonous spider told me that she went to a specific hospital in Guadalajara where they treated it for so little money ($40-50 USD I seem to remember) and released her healthy and well. So, life is good, when we are happy and prepared.
Q. Where do the gringos hang out in the Chapala and Ajijic area. I will visit there next month and would like to visit with some English speaking residents. I've read that the Lake Chapala Society is a good place to start but can someone give me some additional suggestions?
A. The Lake Chapala Society located at 16 de Septiembre #16A is a great place to start if you are staying in Ajijic. They have a Q&A booth, a great little cafe (an easy place to strike up conversations with local expats) and numerous daily and monthly activities. However, while the Lake Chapala Society is a great place to start, it doesn't sum up what it's like to live here. A subjective generalization might be to say that many of its services trend towards serving the older portion of gringo residents, especially with organized trips that provide transportation. If you are on the younger side of 65 then keep reading.
In Chapala, the American Legion always has something going on and is open to the public. Drop in at Calle Morelos # 114 and introduce yourself.
In addition, there are a group of expats called Los Amigos who meet at La Nueva Posada, a hotel and restaurant, on Wednesday evenings at 6:00 on the back patio area of the restaurant. They socialize and have a drink or two and then many head out to an area restaurant for dinner.
There's a dinner/dance restaurant in Ajijic called Adelita's... where the 60-something crowd hang out.
And a really cool bar called El Infierno in Ajijic where the younger set hang out.
Just wander about the plazas and malecons, striking up a conversation with folks. It's easy, folks are friendly and glad to chat. We've met some of our best friends that way.
Q. I hear that there are lots of artists and musicians in Ajijic. Is that true?
A. The arts are alive and flourishing in the Lake Chapala area. There is live music everywhere. There are also 3 theaters that put on plays and musicals. If you are a singer, there is a community choir called Los Cantantes or you can sing karaoke twice a week at Mama's bar in San Antonio.
In Chapala there is a place off the main drag, near the malecon (boardwalk) called El Patio that has aging wannabe American musicians playing 70s stuff.
There are painters, photographers, writers, quilters, jewelers, sculptors and other media artists. Those people who say there is nothing to do, haven't left their houses to see what there is out there.