A reader writes:
I am a 43 year old female from Canada and I am thinking of going to Puerto Vallarta to study Spanish for 6 weeks with Spanish Abroad.
I would be going by myself and living with a family while studying. Is this safe?
Also, I know there are Canadians and Americans that are retired and living in PVR, is there a network on how to meet some of these people and make some contacts?
Thanks so much for writing! Short answer: yes, it’s safe. Or as safe as anything in this mundo de locura. I have never personally used the Spanish Abroad program, but, as I’m sure you already know, it is very well rated. *For our other readers: The Better Business Bureau gives the company an A+ and they have been in business for awhile (since 1996), which is always a good sign.* Over the years, I have spoken with many people who have done home stays through various programs, and while I have heard many complaints, none of them have about safety! Common complaints include:
- My host mother thinks that because I am a gringa I will only want to eat “Western” food, and insists on feeding me pan bimbo instead of tortillas.
- My host parents are religious and lecture me if I come home late.
- My host family is so friendly that I can not get a moment of peace!
“The advantages of combining classroom Spanish study with living in a Spanish-speaking household are so obvious that I’ll concentrate instead on some of the possible drawbacks. The most successful homestays often result in genuine, long-term friendships between a student and her “adopted” family. For this reason alone, it is worth your time to make the best possible arrangements. If possible, visit the home and carefully look over your accommodations before making a commitment. As with cheap, one-on-one language instruction, some so-called homestays are nothing more than private homes operating as student boardinghouses. The meals, accommodations and atmosphere might be perfectly acceptable, but if you’re looking for a personal family atmosphere, you’ll be better off in a homestay situation as a family’s ‘only child'” (From The People’s Guide to Mexico)
As for safety in light of Mexico’s current situation, I wouldn’t lose too much sleep over it. Cartel members do not typically target tourists, and I imagine you are not in danger of discovering that your homestay parents are actually high level narcotraficantes! (Though I can imagine that the accommodations would be rather posh…) Just follow normal precautions you would take in any city–don’t lurk around in dark alleys by yourself etc.
As for meeting other gringos in Vallarta…I posed this question to our facebook friends, and got the following suggestions:
Check out Que Pasa Bar (http://quepasabar.com/index.html), a hub of the expat community, and visit vallartainfo.com. You were also invited to join “Yelapa Community” (https://www.facebook.com/groups/514591198570766/). Speaking of which, you may want to consider making friends with “People’s Guide to Mexico” on facebook–many of our friends are in the Vallarta area, and you will also find links to many Vallarta institutions and businesses. Another reader says, ” If she wants to learn Spanish, Id stay as far from the ex-pats as possible!” Definitely a good point, though I’ve never found that advice easy to follow…
You also might want to consider volunteering. There are a number of gringo-affiliated charities in the Vallarta area. (Check out: http://www.banderasnews.com/vallarta-living/community-charities.htm) I would love to hear from other readers who have recommendations in this area…
Please report back! We’d love to hear your experiences, suggestions, warnings etc.
Drop me a line at managing_editor at peoplesguide dot com.