ELECTRICITY A fundamental shift has taken place in Mexico’s electricity sector in recent years. Although the constitution guarantees a monopoly for the state in the sale of electricity to consumers, a number of exceptions exist. Due to rulings during the 1990s, private companies and individuals can generate power that is then sold to the CFE, the state monopoly, and then onto private customers. Also, private companies can generate electricity for their own use without having to deal with the CFE (except in terms of transmission and regulation). An example of this is Walmart of Mexico who announced in May of 2010 that power for 348 of its stores and restaurants in Mexico City, State of Mexico, and Morelos, would now be provided by a wind farm located in the state of Oaxaca.
Comisión Federal de Electricidad, CFE is the power company that supplies Mérida with electricity. Locals refer to the power company as La Comisión. CFE provides 3 types of electrical service, 1 wire [hilo], 2 wire and 3 wire. Most domestic appliances and lighting are 110 volts/60 cycle using the same plugs as North American homes. Air conditioners, pumps, water heaters and stoves run more efficiently with 220 volts, which is now widely available in Mérida. If you don’t have it, call CFE by dialing 071 and request the service.
Electric rates To understand the electric rate [tarifa] for Merida, it would help to have an advanced degree in mathematics. México takes electrical energy conservation very seriously in its rate [tarifa] structure. According to their cooling degree days, all Mexican cities are assigned one of seven consumption categories. If you surpass the average Kwh per month consumption of your category, a high consumption rate known as DAC rate applies. CFE gives great incentive to stay away from the DAC rate. Should consumption take you into the DAC zone, you will lose the government subsidy [aportación gubernamental]. This subsidy typically takes care of three quarters of the bill! You will want to conserve.
The city of Mérida is categorized as a 1C [tarifa 1C] city. CFE determines your rate by averaging the last 6 billing periods, or 12 months. There is not one set price per kilowatt hour. The class you are put into depends on the amount of electricity you use. The 1C class of usage (tarifa 1C) is charged a certain amount, and when you use more than 850 Kwh a month with a two wire service for 12 months, you are put into the DAC class, and have a higher rate and you lose your subsidy which has been taking care of about three-quarters of your bill. Your price per Kwh will go from about 62 centavos a Kwh to approximately 2.60 pesos per Kwh. Once you are at the DAC rate, you will stay there until your 12 month average usage goes down under 850 Kwh a month. When this happens the CFE should automatically reduce you to the lower rate. Most of the beach communities near Mérida are on a 1B rate which means electric users there must keep their Kwh usage below 400 kwh a month or they will lose their subsidy and be kicked up to the DAC rate. Having the most efficient appliances is the biggest help in keeping your rate in the lower class, and not running the AC when you don’t need it, is very cost efficient as well. Mini splits are more energy efficient than wall or window units.
Your CFE bi-monthly bill is delivered by courier and may be slid under your door, left in your mailbox or even stuffed behind the meter or through your wall. Not receiving your statement is no excuse for nonpayment. In case of nonpayment, electricity is usually cut off immediately after the due date. You can view your electricity bill online. Go to the CFE website: http://www.cfe.gob.mx, and set up a login. After you login is set up, login and you will have an option to switch to English. Paying the bill The easiest way to pay your electric bill is to go into one of CFE offices with a printed bill and use one of the machines. There is usually an employee to assist you if you are unfamiliar with the use of the machine. You also can deposit money for advance payment [pago por adelantado] with CFE by either using one of the machines or at the windows in one of their offices. Offices: CFE office downtown at Calle 59, 56 x 68 Reforma office on the NW corner of Avenida Colón and Reforma Inside Gran Plaza office
WATER JAPAY [Junta de Agua Potable y Alcantarillado de Yucatán] supplies Mérida’s water. Water is very inexpensive and for household use only. Irrigation with city water isn’t allowed. Water bills are delivered by courier every other month. Pay these bills at any one of the seven JAPAY offices listed on the back of the bill. The Centro locations are Calle 60 # 256, 65x67 and Avenida Colón and Reforma # 503. You can also pay at a number of banks and supermarkets. You can also make advance payments on your water service but these payments must be made in a JAPAY office. You can have your water bill delivered to you by email. Register at: www.japay.yucatan.gob.mx
LP GAS Virtually all hot water heaters and kitchen stoves run on LP Gas, in Mérida. Your home will have either a stationary 300 liter roof tank or refillable/exchangeable cylinders of various sizes. To refill a roof tank or exchange your cylinders, you need to call one of the gas services below. In some neighborhoods, gas trucks that exchange the gas cylinders have regular routes and days when they service the neighborhood. The drivers give a “beep” “beep” on their horn to signal that they are on your street. A 20 kilo cylinder costs $208 pesos, 30 kilos is $311 pesos and 40 kilos is $467 pesos. Gas per liter to fill a stationary tank is $5.60 pesos. Gas Suppliers Gas de Yucatán Tel. 999-983-4232 Gas Tomza de Yucatán Tel. 999-946-1646 Gas Imperial Tel. 999-982-2222 Delta Gas Tel. 999-943-5050 Zeta Gas Tel. 999-941-0100
GARBAGE COLLECTION Mérida’s garbage pick-up frequency varies. In some areas of Centro garbage collection is six days per week while a nearby street may have service three times per week. The suburbs of Mérida all have collection three times a week. The rates for private homes vary, depending on where you live. Garbage collection fees are collected at your door in Centro if you are serviced by Pamplona. If the City of Merida is your provider you can pay by the year at Ventanilla Unica Plaza Mexico Calle 20 por 25 Col. Mexico. The present rate for collection 3 times a week is $22.00 pesos a month. When you pay by the year, you will receive a discount.
Don’t throw batteries in your garbage. Merida has a battery recycling program with has 33 places where you can dispose of them. Places most convenient to Centro are listed below: Palacio Municipal Calle 62 between 61 and 63 Centro Mercado de San Benita Calle 54 and 56 Centro Biblioteca José Marti Calle 20 and Av. Colón Garcia Ginerés Café Orgánico Calle 33D Local 1 and Av. Reform Plaza Colón CAME ADO bus Calle 70 between 69 and 71 Centro Centenario Zoo Calle 59 and Av. Itzáes Ventanilla Unica, Plaza Mexico Calle 20 by 25 Col. Mexico
MAIL Do you need mail? A first step would be to decide if you need to get mail at all. Most bank accounts, credit cards, utility bills etc can now be accessed online (with paper mail turned off), and email has replaced most personal letters. So if you're a part time resident, or frequently visit your home country, it's quite possible to do without any form of mail delivery except perhaps for your Telmex bill (you check your Telmex bill online) and you might be able to live without Telmex. Mexican Mail [Correos de México] www.correosdemexico.com.mx/
Main Merida post office: Calle 53 X52 y 54 No. 469, Centro
The Mexican mail service is generally considered unreliable, but mail delivery does exist. Since there are few mailboxes here, mail is generally left jammed in the edge of a door or under a rock, so often blows away. Find out who your mailman [cartero] is and let him know who you are and you might get better service. And don’t forget to tip your mailman on Dia de Cartero on November 12 and on Christmas. It usually helps improve the service. Some expats opt for a post office box. It is advised that you check it frequently. Commonly, an envelope will arrive that does not fit into your box. If you take no action after the second written notice, your mail will be returned and it may be months before the sender receives it.
There is no “magic bullet” for mail service here in Mérida. Some expats use Mailboxes, Etc. Calle 60 No. 325 A locales 6 y 7 Av. Colón, Tel. 999-920-1920. Other use Mail Express in Col. México, Tel. 999-927-0872. Both these services give you a mailing address near the Mexican/U.S. border in Texas. The address is a street address and not a P.O. address. This is important as many companies will not mail to P.O. addresses.
Another option used by some expats is St. Brendan’s Mail Scan Pro, a mail forwarding service, where you can read and view your mail online. For more information: http://www. sbimailservice.com/
International Express Mail Services are the fastest, reliable, and expensive. Federal Express, DHL and UPS all service Mérida. Mex Post This is the Mexican equivalent of US Express Mail. This service is at a much lower cost than the services above. . From any official post office, you can mail a simple letter with a guaranteed delivery. This is many expats’ favorite mode of posting for the most important mail. Buzones Expresos These big red mailboxes sprinkled around the city do have regular pick-up and your mail delivery is expedited because of the separate slots for local and foráneo [outside of the city] mail.These mailboxes [buzones] are located throughout the center of Mérida. There is one in Santiago Park, one in front of Hotel Castellano on Calle 57, and at a minimum of 3 locations along Paseo de Montejo. However the most secure way to deposit your mail is to take it to a nearby post office. Friends and Family Many expats ask visiting friends and family to hand carry letters and packages for mailing in the US with US postage. These stamps can be purchased at the MELL, Mérida English Language Library.
LOCAL TELEPHONES (To make calls, see the Appendix, How to Dial Phone Numbers from Mérida)
Until recently Telmex was the only option for a telephone in Mérida. Now there are several operators to choose from at competitive prices.
TELMEX Telmex is the former state monopoly and by far the largest phone company in Mexico. It offers a wide range of services bundled into packages that includes Internet, telephone and numerous calling plans starting at $389 pesos. www.telmex.com. Tel. 800-123-0000 To report a problem, dial 050. Telmex makes it easy to pay your telephone bill. You can pay your telephone bill at any of the numerous locations listed at the bottom of page 2 of your bill. You can also prepay your bill at any of the Telmex offices. If you have a Mexican bank account, they offer a service to automatically pay your telephone bill each month. Telephone bills can also be paid online with a Mexican credit card. In order to pay with US or Canadian credit cards you must register on www.telmexusa.com. When you register be sure to have your Telmex bill handy. The following companies also offer telephone and Internet service in packages that can also include cable TV.
CABLEMÁS Tel. 999-942-7900 www.cablemas.com Their bundled plan of telephone, Internet and cable TV is about $664 pesos a month with unlimited local calls. You can make your payments online.
AXTEL Paseo de Montejo No. 473 Centro www.axtel.com.mx Axtel offers telephone and bundling. Their basic plan of telephone and Internet is $299 pesos a month.
CELLULAR PHONES Most expats start off with the prepaid cell phones that use the Telcel Amigo plan. These are available at any Telcel office or store that sells cellular phones. The basic phone costs around 350 pesos and come preloaded with calling time and an expiration date for using those pesos. When you purchase a phone, the clerk will activate your phone, at no charge, in a matter of minutes. The phones are reloaded with scratch off cards valued at 100 or 200 pesos purchased Telmex stores, Oxxo stores and most pharmacies and supermarkets, and from vendors working major intersections. The purchased pesos are uploaded into your phone by scratching off the secret code, dialing *333 on your cell and entering in the code. As an alternative to buying a card, you can now add minutes to your phone for amounts as low as $20 pesos at most pharmacies and supermarkets. They enter your cell number on their electronic cash register, enter their purchase code and the minutes are loaded instantly. If you run out of pesos, you can still receive calls. You can check the balance by marking *333, which costs 1.14 pesos a minute. You can also get a balance, and expiration date, by dialing *133#, the reply will come back as an information message on the phone's screen. This costs the same as sending a text message, 0.85 pesos. To access your voice mails, dial *86. Telcel has recently doubled the download data allowances on the Amigo (prepaid) 3G tariff, and introduced the "microchip" smaller SIM card needed by the iPad. More information on iPad: www.telcel. com/ipad/
Cellular phone repairs Behind the Pemex Station off of Calle Itzáes on the opposite side of Dondé Factory, in the Hidalgo Rotary. Tel.999-925-3046 They repair all cell phones including Blackberries and iPad. Service and parts for all kinds of cell phones
INTERNET VOICE COMMUNICATION
SKYPE For expats who are happy to talk over their computer this is an excellent way to go. The only hardware you need you probably already have, if your laptop has a built-in microphone. The Skype program is free and downloads very quickly. Skype is easy to use. Talking computer to computer is free anywhere in the world. Both computers must have the Skype program Skype also has a plan where you can call to a landline or cell. www.skype.com
VONAGE Vonage is the premier provider of VOIP (voice over internet protocol) service if you want to use a telephone for international voice communications. The set-up charge is is often waived during promotions and the monthly charge is $30US for unlimited calls. You will need a Vonage phone adapter. www.vonage.com
Cablemás, referenced above, is a popular cable TV provider. Their basic cable is $99 pesos a month. Tel. 999-942-7900 www.cablemas.com Satellite TV Sky TV is the only satellite TV in Mérida at this time. www.sky.com.mx
INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDERS Telmex provides broadband internet service over their telephone lines. You must have telephone service before you can get their residential internet service, called Infinitum. They have many bundled packages. Tel. 800-123-0000 www.telmex.com Axtel, referenced above under telephones, is a new player in town and they’re giving Telmex a run for their money with their cable broadband offerings. www.axtel.com.mx Cablemás, referenced above under telephone and TV options, is a popular ISP among expats. They offer many packages. Tel. 999-942-7900 www.cablemas.com
FREE WIRELESS INTERNET Mérida is fortunate to have, at this time, 51 Wi-fi parks with very strong routers and an area where you can recharge your netbook or laptop. For a list of the parks where open wireless is available, click here.