Too often lumped in with North America, Mexico is a country that stands out on its own.

Decent Spanish classes around Playa del Carmen

Chebasaz

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  • Added on: December 20th, 2010
Hey folks,

My original plan was to kick off the RTW in April with some immersive Spanish classes in Sucre, Bolivia. However, I just learned that my family is going to spend some time in PdC around July and I'd like to meet up with them. Seeing how it makes more sense to start in Mexico and work my way south rather than travel back and forth, I'm now looking for a good place to chill for a few months and get some Spanish lessons in.

Ran a few searches but can't find anything specific to the area. I've seen Mexico suggested as a good place to learn Spanish (I'm a very rough beginner) so I'm hopeful it can work out.

Details:

Budget - up to $50-60 a day (though less is always nice)

Location - Anywhere within 6-8 hours of PdC. I'll be on my own from April to July so theoretically it could be anywhere, but I'd like to stay in the general area. PdC itself would work, but I'm afraid the number of English speakers there would handicap the Spanish lessons. Tulum may have the same problem?

Nit-picking desires - Somewhere that I can get good Spanish lessons and be immersed, but still have access to the occasional wi-fi spot. Surfing lessons and some good diving would rock, but not necessary. Inland suggestions are more than welcome, too.

Thanks in advance for any help!
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!

-Rudyard Kipling

Not the first Travis

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  • Added on: December 20th, 2010
I don't know why you're having trouble. I went to google and entered "playa del carmen language" and got many links to schools.

There is virtually no surfing on the Carib side. You want to be on the Pacific side for that. Daving is a lot better on the Carib side though. Also, maybe I'm misreading your post, but with almost 4 months to spend in Mexico before meeting your family in Playa del Carmen, I can't imagine any good reason why you'd want to sit in PdC the entire time.

Wi-Fi is widely available in Mexico.

Tortuga_traveller

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  • Added on: December 20th, 2010
I don't see a problem with classes there, but as someone else said, why stay in the area for four months? Unless you want to find a nice beach with surfing and keep on surfing.

I'd ditch that entire area and head for south Mexico, see Chiapas, See San Cristobal. See Palenque,

See Mexico City. Hey, you only get 3 months in Mexico, so pop over to Guatemala for a while. Tikal is spectactular.


Unless of course you have a loved one hanging around there.
Open your heart, and your dreams will follow

Chebasaz

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  • Added on: December 21st, 2010
Not the first Travis wrote:I don't know why you're having trouble. I went to google and entered "playa del carmen language" and got many links to schools.


Should have made myself more clear, I suppose. I ran the Google searches myself, but I'm always leery when picking a school (language/IT/whatever) off the internet. Often times it ends up being who has the better marketer/webmaster and some really great schools may not even have a web presence. I was more interested in personal recommendations from those that have been in the area. I know there are a few people on the forums who really enjoy Mexico. I was hoping for some hidden gems from those who may have tried a few of the schools themselves.

Thanks for the info on the diving/surfing. I've seen the posts that say the surfing is better on the Pacific side of Mexico, but wasn't sure if that meant the surfing on the Caribbean just kinda sucked, or just wasn't happening. Sounds from your post like it meant the latter.

Tortuga_traveller wrote:as someone else said, why stay in the area for four months? Unless you want to find a nice beach with surfing and keep on surfing.


There's really no time limit involved here since it's an open-ended RTW, and the only places I 'have' to be at this year is PdC in July and Anguilla in December. Besides that, I'm just looking for the most efficient way to wander around Central and South America.

Ideally, I'd like to find a good school and just concentrate on the Spanish without bouncing from spot to spot for at least a month or two. It really doesn't matter where that one location is though and you made a great point about the 3 month restriction. I had been scouting Xela as an earlier choice for schools, so I'll take another look at Guatemala as well.

Appreciate the replies from both of you.
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!

-Rudyard Kipling

Not the first Travis

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  • Added on: December 21st, 2010
Ahhh, I get it now. Okay, I don't have any personal recommendations for specific language schools in PdC, but I do have a general recommendation. Think about where you'd most enjoy spending an entire month or so to devote to language instruction. Personally, my choice wouldn't be PdC....I'd get bored with it. It's really a vacation spot. Besides, the weather sucks at that time of year, unless you don't mind tremendous heat and humidity.

Schools will be less expensive off the beach, in the interior of Mexico. The language instruction will be better. The experience will be richer in every way. And there'll be a lot more people in a city who are interested in doing things besides just hanging out at the beach, etc.

Language schools in Mexico are starved for students right now. Find the place you want to spend a good chunk of time....THEN scout around town for the best school for you once you're already there.

Cheers.

Tortuga_traveller

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  • Added on: December 23rd, 2010
Ok- lets get one thing clear. Getting extensions for your stay in Mexico isn't particularly difficult as long as you don't try for the extension in Chiapas, and even they they give it to you month by month, or did last time I was there.

Just don't do it in Mexico city, and it will be a pretty easy process. Everything is more bureacratic in Mexico city.

San Miguel de Allende was the easiest place for me to get things done, by the way.

2. If you aren't set on PLaya del Carmen, and you want to learn Spanish in Mexico, I have a few suggestions:

1. DF, mexico city. Very vibrant if you can take the pollution.

2. Guanajuato: A little more expensive than most places, definitely touristic, but I had no problems speaking Spanish wherever I wanted, and boy, you can't beat the nightly music and relatively inexpensive food in the town square. Its a pretty nice place to spend a few weeks if you like going up and down a mountainside. This very same mountain guarantees a more moderate summer climate and cooler nights, not to mention less humidity than P de Carmen. Ity has an active university there, and the activity of the youth definitely gives it a vibrant energy. You can take art course there too, if you want. It has an art school, and a section to teach Spanish to foriegners.

3. Oaxaca- also mountainous, busy city, plenty of Spanish to be spoken by necessity, interesting city. Right near Monte Alban, one of my favorite Mexican Pyramid sites, and pretty close to a pretty good beach as well.

4. San MIguel de Allende:
Chock full of expats, and a consonant level of cultural events and classes to keep the expats busy. It is by far the most touristic town I have been to, but quite pleasant for a longer stay. It has a language school, of course, or several, though whether you will have to use one bit of Spanish to survive is another question.


Theres a city in mexico known for Spanish schools, but I was not impressed by it. I came during a day where there was an inversion layer and terrible choking pollution. It literally left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

If it were me, I'd just do one or two weeks of Spanish in Mexico, and do the rest in Guatemala, where you get cheaper one on one instruction in either Xela, (Quetzaltenango), Antigua(very social, not recommended if you don't want to make lots of friends and leave the Spanish behind)
or perhaps San Pedro, Lago Atitlan. Theres a school in Todos Santos, too, but I've heard mixed reviews on that one.

I did like Todos Santos as a town, by the way.
Open your heart, and your dreams will follow

Not the first Travis

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  • Added on: December 23rd, 2010
I don't know what all the talk about extensions is about. Visitors on a tourist visa are granted 180 days almost automatically any more, at least those from the United States. Just ask for 180 days when you enter the country, though even that probably won't be necessary. Like I said, it's virtually automatic and has been for quite a while.

Felix the Hat

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  • Added on: December 25th, 2010
In Mexico, good surfing and diving are mutually exclusive. You won't do any surfing on the Caribbean or Gulf of Mexico, and visibility isn't very good on the Pacific. Do you diving out of Playa del Carmen. If you want to surf, try Puerto Escondido or Sayulita.

For Spanish schools, get out of PdC. Learning Spanish there would be like learning English in Calle Ocho, Miami. Popular spots to study are San Cristobal de las Casas, Guanajuato, and Antigua in Guatemala. Bear in mind that popular means those places are overrun with other non-Spanish speaking backpackers "studying" Spanish. From my experience bartending in Antigua, studying Spanish meant mostly trying to pick up (in English) backpackers from around the world over drinks at night.

If I had to learn Spanish again, I'd do it in Mexico City or Merida. Mexico City is a very cool city once you get past its reputation. Try neighborhoods like Condesa, Roma, Coyoacan, or Tlatelolco (a bit grittier) for immersion. Merida is smaller, but about five hours from Playa del Carmen, and one of the most charming cities in Mexico.

Chebasaz

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  • Added on: December 26th, 2010
That's the kind of information I was after. Thanks all. I'll take a look at some of the other locations mentioned in Mexico and revisit my Guatemala notes.

Originally I had looked at Xela, but wanted a decent starting foundation before going there to learn. It looks like that plan may work after all. A few weeks in an off the trail spot in Mexico and then head down to Xela until July. I can't find anything about 90-day revisit limits etc, prohibiting a return to Mexico after a month or two (someone please correct me if I'm wrong) so that should work out.

Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and thanks again!
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!

-Rudyard Kipling

Not the first Travis

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  • Added on: December 26th, 2010
Chebasaz wrote: I can't find anything about 90-day revisit limits etc, prohibiting a return to Mexico

Again, there is no 90-day limit. When you enter Mexico it is up to the discretion of the Immigration Officer to fill in how many days the tourist visa will be valid. For well over a year, they have almost always entered 180 days automatically. If you want to make sure, just ask them for the full 180 days.

If for some reason they only enter 90 days, or 30 or 17, yes, you can easily leave the country (even for an afternoon) and return on a new visa. Some people effectively LIVE in Mexico year-round on a tourist visa.... they just make a trip across the border once every 180 days.

Tortuga_traveller

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  • Added on: December 27th, 2010
Yep- sounds like Guanajuato or San Cristobal, then.

Oaxaca isn't out of the way, but.. it is full of Spanish Speakers, and it makes you learn to use your Spanish.

There seems to be mor than a few schools in Oaxaca.

Thing is, they charge the same price for a group lesson that one pays for individual lessons in Guatemala. More bang for the buck in guatemala.
Open your heart, and your dreams will follow

Felix the Hat

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  • Added on: December 27th, 2010
Tortuga_traveller wrote:Thing is, they charge the same price for a group lesson that one pays for individual lessons in Guatemala. More bang for the buck in guatemala.


I don't know if I agree with this. I enjoy Guatemala, but the standard of living - even for tourists - is better in Mexico. Better food, more diversity, better transport, better accommodations. Naturally it is somewhat more expensive.

Tortuga_traveller

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  • Added on: December 28th, 2010
I'm talking about the price of language lessons. Same price for group lessons in Oaxaca in what seems to be a quality school as for individual lessons in Xela with a better school. Is life richer in Mexico? You betcha, at least in terms of creature comforts in many places. I was quite happy on Lago Atitlan, I must say. I had a whole trailer to myself, really hot showers, and a great host in Camping Campana(IF ITS STILL AROUND). Also a great outdoors kitchen with all the accoutrements necessary to cook just about anything. For restaurant fare, couldn't beat the argentinian grill restaurant with great and inexpensive meat sandwiches and... the best coffee I ever got in Guatemala. That's not saying a lot, so I'll say it another way. Fresh roasted Guatemalan bean, some of the best I had anywhere and never an empty cup.



No question that guatemala can be a bit sketchy in terms of accomodations, at times. The place I was home-based in Xela was no winner, so.... I moved to a hostel where I got a single room sans bath with a study desk and plenty of expats to pal around with. Since I was already a bit fluent, it didn't hurt my Spanish a bit, and I sure enjoyed those real hot showers.

Other place put me in a bedroom with a crucifix over my head, and 'hosts' that fed me hot dogs and noodles every night. Yeah. When I made Macaroni and cheese for a break, they ate it. They also had the habit of spelling every item I used or sat on, but didn't help me a bit with advanced Spanish grammar. It annoyed me enough that I asked to be let out of a homestay.

The one in Antiqua was different. It was on top of a middle class home in Antigua, and the facilities were excellent, the hosts wife was charming and amicable.

Rule one with language schools. Pay week by week. That way if you don't like your host family, you can negotiate for a new one, or just plain opt out. Also, if you don't like the quality of instruction, you're not committed.
Open your heart, and your dreams will follow

MissMyth

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  • Added on: January 7th, 2013
There is a school in Tulum called Instituto Chac-Mool Spanish School.



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