View Full Version : Dos cerveza por favor! Or: Fuego Frio goes to Mexico!
07-20-2000, 06:37 AM
Ola, amigos y amigas!
The last two weeks of August, Coldfire and miss Fiery will be touring the Yucathan peninsula in Mexico.
Teeming Millions: Yay! Woohoo! Etc.!
Of course, she wanted the sun, and I wanted to see kick-ass ruins. So this just might work out for the both of us! Now, I know a lot of Dopers have been to Mexico, and some of them even are from there. So I thought I'd post a list with questions here.
1) How much Spanish do I need? Will my English, my bar Spanish and my hands get me across the country?
2) How expensive is petrol in Mexico? I'm probably renting a Chevy Pop. Whatever the hell that is - I think it's an American Opel Corsa.
3) How are the roads and how well do people drive in Mexico? Should I get the extra insurance for the rental car?
4) All Mayan temples look cool to me. Which ones are most worthwile? Remember, we will only be doing the Yucathan peninsula.
5) What's to be expected in terms of your average meal and average hotel room prices? I know Cancun is quite pricy (we land and leave from there), but we'll be doing the entire area. Is it cheaper than Cancun?
6) Can you recommend other cool stuff to do out there? We're into historical sights as well as activities. Scuba diving might be nice - what are the best spots to do this? Any beaches in particular that are must-sees?
OK, that's a good start. I'll probably come up with more things along the way! Thanks for helping me out.
07-20-2000, 07:03 AM
Warning - the lengthy post below is a verbatim C&P from something I posted a several months ago regarding driving in Mexico. Most of it applies specifically to Cancun and some of what is in here does not apply to your question specifically. Ignore whatever seems pointless. Yeah, I know, the whole thing is pointless. Hah, hah. Bite me.)
I'm assuming from the OP that you are flying into Cancun and renting the car there, so I guess you can ignore all the posts about border crossings. I have been to Cancun several times; if you've never been there before, you're in for a real treat. I have never rented a car or driven in Mexico, so I can't address the OP specifically, but there seem to be many people who do rent cars and drive, so it can't be that big of a problem. Just use your common sense. I'd make sure you've got good maps before you leave The States and then ask the rental agent about any construction or road problems along the routes you'd like to drive.
Below is UncleBeer's standard Cancun advice, presented here free of charge. There are an awful lot of things to do in Cancun and plenty of regularly scheduled side trips available; you may find no need to drive once you get there.
You will need a valid U.S. driver's license and a certified copy of your birth certificate, however a passport is better. (This was told to a U.S. citizen, since you, Coldfire, are obviously Dutch, ignore it.) Some of the banks will accept only a passport when cashing traveler's checks. Don't let that worry you though.
Nearly all businesses will take your American dollars and there are plenty of currency exchange huts around. Keep looking until you find the best rate and then exchange a few hundred dollars at once. If you buy something with dollars, make sure you ask the exchange rate first; often this is negotiable, especially at private vendors. With the exception of bars and restaurants, almost all prices are negotiable; don't be afraid to haggle.
The public transportation (busses) run on no set schedule, but they go by, in the Zona Hotelera, about every two minutes, no joke. They'll stop almost anywhere; all you have to do is get near a designated bus stop, jump in the road and raise your hand. They will also let you off anywhere you want; just stand up and yell' "Alto, Senor." The busses are very cheap, I think they were 3 pesos last time I was there, or about 40 cents. Taxis abound, but tell the driver where you're going and get a price before you get in the cab, cab rides are also pretty reasonable.
There are over 300 restaurants within walking distance, if you are staying in the Zona Hotelera. All kind of price ranges. Not surprisingly, seafood is plentiful. Not to mention several beautiful shopping malls and a shitload of bars, nightclubs and not a few outdoor markets. There are also dozens, maybe hundreds of tours and sightseeing packages you may purchase. Shop around and compare; it really pays to be an informed consumer in Cancun.
Nearly every native you meet in Cancun speaks several languages. I have run into waiters and bartenders that speak Spanish, obviously, English, German, Japanese, French and Dutch. You will have no trouble making yourself understood, at least in the city. Out in the country, should you decide to drive you will find a different story.
The sun is intense. Make sure you take plenty of sunscreen, in several different SPF's. If you have the white, flabby fishbelly like mine and want to spend any amount of time lounging on the beach or by the pool use a number 24 or higher for the first couple of days. Take along at least one good pair of sunglasses and a baseball cap or other head covering, too.
The island itself is absolutely gorgeous and completely spotless. In addition, it is extremely safe. The authorities and business owners have great incentive to keep that way; nearly 25% of Mexico's hard cash enters the country though Cancun. I won't say crime doesn't exist, but again, use your common sense, much like you would in any large crowd. The greatest annoyance you'll find will be the evil timeshare salesmen; these guys are ubiquitous and aggressive. If anyone offers you a free sightseeing tour or breakfast or something like that, just ignore them, or give them a quick, "No thanks," and keep moving. If you stop to talk to these guys, you'll have a hard time getting away from them.
The water and ice from nearly any place you'd eat or drink is probably safe, but I always drink bottled water. Obviously, stay away from the street taco vendors though. I would also stay away from leafy vegetables, any fruit that doesn't have a rind or skin you can peel off and anything that lays on the ground while growing. If you do head into the backcountry for any extended period, you're going to have to consider what food you'll be eating. You might want to consider getting a Lomotil prescription from your doctor before you leave The States. A good case of Montezuma's could ruin the whole trip.
Tipping practices are much like they are here in the states. 15% is considered standard, although the service and hospitality you will receive is exceptional. I have found very few restaurants in the U.S. where the service approaches anything like what you'll experience in Mexico. Even the smallest and cheapest places will do everything in their power to accommodate you. And once you receive a table, it's your's for the night, if you choose. When you are ready to leave you'll have to ask for the check; unlike here, where restaurants and bars try to turn over table quickly. It just seem to be a cultural thing; everyone refuses to be intimidated by time.
I highly recommend Cancun for anyone looking for a great and relatively cheap vacation. It's a hedonist's paradise. If you want some specific restaurant, bar or tour recommendations, I'd be happy to post them here. I will highly recommend one place now though, Iguana Wanna. It's great for breakfast, lunch, an afternoon alcoholic beverage or even as a nightspot.
07-20-2000, 07:21 AM
Thanks Unc! Some helpful info in there.
07-20-2000, 05:00 PM
Puta de Madre, there must be SOMETHING you well-spoken globetrotters can tell me?
I'm terribly disappointed in you! Letting Clog Boy down like that, after ALL I've done for y'all. *sob*
If you don't respond to this thread NOW, I'll post a dramatic martyr act thread about me leaving the boards because you are all heartless, indifferent bastards :D
07-20-2000, 05:07 PM
This means you can swing up to Las Vegas on your way home for Vegas Dopefest 2000.
It's only about a 5 hour flight -- first 4 days of Sept.
07-20-2000, 05:11 PM
Don't let the door hit ya in the ass on the way out, Coldy. Seriously though, if you need any specific info or recommendations on Cancun, Cozumel, or Isla Mejueres, just ask. I can't really tell you too much about the ruins since the only ones I've seen were on a day-trip to Chichen Itza. They were pretty spectacular though.
Below is what my encyclopedia says, so maybe Tikal, Uxmal, and Tulum might be worth a look, too. Have you asked your travel agent for literature?
The most impressive centers--such as Chichen Itza, Uxmal, and Tikal--were constructed between about AD 320 and 900. Chichen Itza--with its pyramids, observatory, and ball court--is the most visited and best known of the Mayan ruins, while Dzibilchaltun is one of the oldest in the Yucatan. The elaborately carved stone facades of Uxmal are exceptional examples of Mayan craftsmanship.
Most Mayan cities had religious temples, often pyramids, and the palaces of the elite built around a central square. The houses and fields of the peasantry extended outward and encircled these impressive structures. Nearly all Mayan cities were located at inland sites. Only Tulum is on the coast. Mayan ruins also extend south- and westward into the Mexican states of Tabasco and Chiapas as well as into the highlands of Guatemala and Honduras.
I don't think I can expand on Unc's advice, as I've only been Cabo, as well as some Northern border towns. I just wanted to say: You bastard! Not fair! I wanna go!!!! Waaahhh!
Have fun buddy. Drink bottled water. ;) Oh yes, and Dos Equis is way better than Corona!
Obviously, stay away from the street taco vendors though.
What, are you freaking insane Unc??? Those are the best! (Don't listen to him Coldy, you can get ya some tasty-good food from the street stands. As long as it's hot, and cooked, it's safe.) But, don't eat anything pickled...eeewwwww!
07-20-2000, 07:30 PM
Ah, Coldy, I am so envious! I've been to Cancun, Cozumel, and environs several times and adore it. The food, climate, sights, etc. are great, and the Mexican people are wihtout doubt the most gracious, friendly people to travellers.
Some quickie tips:
* Chichen Itza; fabulous ruins, just fabulous. (Though I understand they've had to close access to the Jaguar room in the interior of the main temple. Pity; claustrophobic but amazing.)
* Meridato Uxmal; another temple complex, more purely Mayan.
* Tulum; easy jaunt from Cancun; not much left in the way of spectacular ruins, but well the worth the trip for the amazing views and insight into the trading patterns. (On a seaside cliff; gorgeous!)
For the ruins, wear comfortable, non-skid shoes! You'll be climinging, walking and scrambling. Also, it'll be hotter than the hinges on the gates of Hell. Wear loose, light clothing, and take along powerful sunblock and bottles of water! I assure you, you will need both.
* Dzitnup cenote: yep, one of those blue, deep cavern pools, but this one you can swim in. (The "changing rooms" have stalactites!) Hey, feed your fantasy life! Toss Ms. Fiery into it--then swim after her.
* Xel-ha; a gorgeous (though sometimes crowded) inlet and lagoon, perfect for snorkeling. (It's where that dippy Blue Lagoon (?) movie w/ Brooke Shields was filmed. Just amazingly gorgeous. It's a controlled park, but quite well run; excellent faciliites. You'll be asked to shower before you snorkel, to protect the coral and fish, etc. But there are several casual restaurants, plenty of shade hammocks, etc. A great place to kick back for a day.
(BTW, both of these are an easy day's drive from Cancun.)
As far as Cancun proper, several things to keep in mind:
* all the beaches are open; that is, doesn't matter what hotel you stay at, you can use any beach you want. I've never stayed at hotel yet where you can't "check out" beach towels and go "beach hopping". And the hotel beaches all have bar service and lounge areas, open to anyone who can pay.
* when in the hotel zone, forget a car. There's a great little shuttle bus service that zips around, for just a few cents. (They are immaculate, btw.) You can get anywhere quickly and cheaply by shuttle bus or cab. Save the rental car for exploring outward.
* you can drink the water w/ full confidence in the hotel zone--but not outside it! Not even in "Cancun City". Outside that area, order beer, water, soft drinks, etc. in the bottle. NO ICE! Also limit yourself to fruit that you can peel.
* Cancun is immaculate, and they keep stray vendors/beggers firmly under control. But don't for one minute forget that the cops, federales, ain't "Officer Friendly". They cut tourists a lot of slack, but those guys are scary--and they don't "play".
* if you're beach-critters vs. pool animals, be aware that a hurricane a few years back stripped a lot of the ocean side hotels of sand on their beaches. On the lagoon side, you're assured of lots of beach; no surf, but plenty of beach. Just be aware that some of the major hotels, especially toward the tip, don't have beaches any more and the surf is so rough there are "black diamond" warnings against swimming in the sea.
Last rambling tips:
* pack lightly. You'll need one "good outfit" for dining, etc. because there's a marvelous, Latin grace and formality in some places. But otherwise pack swimsuits, shorts, Tshirts, etc and plenty of sunscreen.
It's a good idea to save the room to bring back some excellent Mexican tequila, the stuff you can't get by import. It's amazing.
Also, save a few bucks to buy silver. Your hotel or travel agent can tell you what to look for, but just about any silver you buy in shops is stamped and legit. You can buy gorgeous, gorgeous silver jewellery, etc. very cheaply.
* start now, NOW, with your shots and immunizations. You're both probably current and okay on most things, but there are diseases active outside of Cancun, etc. that you will want to be protected from. It's a gorgeous, gracious country, but it still have some Third World problems. And pack some sensible "quick remedy" stuff for diarrhea, etc.
You and Ms. Fiery will have a blast. In Cancun, your English will get you through with no problem. (Mexicans are so gracious! Even try to speak Spanish and they are delighted!) Prepare to have your collective nerves relax into a luxurious puddle of sun, blue water, fabulous food--seafood, mangos, papaya and fresh pineapple--great beer, rum; friendly people....bwwhaaa! I wanna go too!
P.S. Knowing you, you'll parasail, etc. We expect pictures!
07-20-2000, 07:34 PM
What always freaked me about Mexico, and maybe it's changed, I haven't been in a couple years, was the lack of brake lights. You're driving along, and all of a sudden the car that was waaaaaaaaaaaay ahead of you is right in front of you. I'm so used to using those bright red lights to gauge distance, when people didn't have them, which was alot, it was very unsettling.
07-20-2000, 07:56 PM
Vebbie, you're worth a million bucks. Or pesos, at least. A million pesos... will that buy me a beer???
Is it helpful to get dollars instead of pesos? In some countries, merchants prefer hard currencies over the local money.
I've got all the necessary shots for jungle stuff. But do I need to take malaria pills as well? How big are the risks?
I will spend as few time as possible in Cancun... we like to get away from the big touristy places. My Spanish is almost non-esistant... how will I cope in the backlands?
How are the roads in Mexico, besides the crap cars?
Just HOW hot will it get in late August?
07-20-2000, 08:45 PM
Hey, Coldy! I envy your trip. I haven't been to the Yucutan since I was a teen, but spent a great deal of time down there when my parents did fieldwork. The last time I was in Cancun, we were camping on the beach as the construction cranes loomed over the newly-built hotels!
But, I would imagine the ruins are about the same. Chichen Itza is a must. It's amazing, with the best intact city structure, down to an early "basketball" forum. From there, go to Merida, a beautiful city, and I'm guessing now, but probably still more laid back/less turista than Cancun. I'm not a seafood fan,(mainly as a result of said fieldwork) but I remember my marine biologist parents just loving Merida restaurants. From there, you can go to the Uxmal-Kabal ruins. Uxmal has a magnificent temple, a bit different in style than others in the area. Also, an interesting depiction of mushroom-worship on wall carvings.
Tulum is on the southern coast, and is beautiful. Again, a long ago memory, but there's a mighty fine bat cave there too! Sorry, that's the aspect I often saw, with my Dad trying to collect specimens. But, to see all the bats fly out at dusk is impressive!
A helpful hint for climbing the tiny steps of the ruins:
I've never seen this mentioned anywhere, but my brother and I discovered that you can traverse the steep upgrade better if you move at a back & forth diagonal climb rather than straight up. They have a chain along the side to aid you in a straight climb, but our method was much quicker. Of course, we were young and hopped up on Orange Crush in lieu of water, but give it a try.
Other Mexico hints: UncleBeer's food advice is excellent. A seasoned Mex traveller's remedy is to also carry plenty of fresh limes, raw garlic, and cayenne or other hot pepper. All have anti-bacterial activity, provided your stomach can handle it.
Bring as much of anything that's not readily available in poorer countries to give away. You can make a lot of good buddies this way, and the stuff we take for granted is much appreciated. T-shirts, especially sports, are always nice. Trading is great fun!
And, last but not least, the RED sauce is hot, but the GREEN sauce is hotter!
07-20-2000, 08:48 PM
I'll hold you to that beer, Coldy!
If you're immunized against the major jungle diseases, you should be okay. Does Holland have a website for health alerts for travellers? If not, I'll rustle around and see if I can give you a link to some of our State Dept. stuff.
Don't mean to spook you. If you've had the major immunizations, then you're probably okay. There are just some outbreaks sometimes of weird stuff. I'll see what I can find.
The roads vary. To be honest, the routes between tourist destinations and major cities are fine. A bit narrow, and surely not "highway", but fine. Get too far off that beaten path and they're a bit dicey.
The cars will depend on what you want to pay. Most will be pretty basic, unless you want to go up in price range. Several factors to keep in mind: airconditioning is wonderful, but it also sucks gas. And finding gas is sometimes a bit of a production, depending on how far off the beaten path you want to go.
As are as heat...it's hot, really, honestly hot. It's summer in the Yucatan. If you stay by the coast, it's very comfortable. The sea breezes keep it comfy and keep the insects down. But get inland and it's HOT. Depends on how much heat and humidity bother you.
One thing...you might want to plan your itinerary zigging and zagging back to the coast. The distances are a factor, especially w/ decidedly "non-autobahn" driving conditions. (We New Worlders tend to be blase about distances, the way you Old Worlders are about time depth.) So it's a trade off. Driving times, and choices of destinations and plain comfort level. Bland modern hotels are pretty soulless, but call me a wimp--cool, dry air can be a creature-comfort blessing.
About the language...in the backcountry, you'll find fewer non-Spanish speaking folks. Just buy a basic phrase book and dictionary. Honestly, the people of Mexico are the most patient, gracious people on earth. (It was amazing how much I could stumble through w/ a rudimentary knowledge of French.) With your linguistic abilities, a few basic tools and the friendly folks, you'll do fine.
Hope this helps!
07-20-2000, 09:02 PM
Dammit, Coldfire, if you were stupid enough to fly all the way from The Netherlands to visit Nogales (as opposed to Yucatan), I'd come down to meet you in person and introduce you to color photography. Then again, your girlfriend may not be too excited about being introduced to riff-raff such as myself. Have a fun and safe trip!
07-20-2000, 09:21 PM
According to my friend who honeymooned in (I know I'm going to murder the spelling of this)Puerto Vallerta????, all you need to know is cerveza. Nothing more is needed. Cerveza and a beach.
07-20-2000, 10:00 PM
What happened to Tanzania? I loved it there; much more than I liked Mexico. Then again, I've only been to border towns down there. The best thing I can tell you is to get a Lonely Planet guidebook for the area - I've found them invaluable on several trips. I think they have one for Belize, Guatamala and the Yucatan Peninsula, but I'm not sure.
And try to get to Tanzania next year - I can help more there. I promise you won't be dissappointed.
Fairy Princess Kitty
07-20-2000, 11:37 PM
Well, I'm still just a little girl but I have a lot of experience with Mexico, you see my parents were born and raised there before coming to the states to have kids and the like. In fact, I'm going to central Mexico in a few weeks.
Coldfire, if you're used to nice legal, semi-polite driving you're in for a big surprise in mexico. My sister learned to drive a stick shift there last year. Good Luck. The drivers are aggresive and right of way means nothing to them, at least once you get out of all the big tourist-y places. Just wach out, drive carefully and you'll be alright.
Well you might want to brush up on your spanish if you'r leaving the touristy places. Much of the younger generation has a rudimentary grasp of english because of taking it in school but don't expect them to be too much help, most places don't have many fluent english speakers around so be sure you know at least basic spanish, hopefully more.
But I think I've rambled long enough, just wanted to give you a few friendly warnings.
Love ya all, buh-bye
Coldy, very cool! I might be the only one here who *isn't* jealous, as I have been to the Yucatán four or five times. (My parents' favorite - and ONLY - vacation spot. I want to go somewhere else next time!)
You must go to Tulúm. The ruinas aren't that spectacular, but they are quite nice, and it is located on what is possible the best spot in the universe. Bring your swimsuit, the beach there is perfect. Absolutely perfect.
I am assuming you are staying in Cancún? There is nothing to do there. I can't stand that place. The beaches are nice, but the city - especially the zona hoteleria - is hideous. This is just my opinion, maybe you like spending your vacations wasted at discos. But I hate it, it's just plastic, like Disneyland Mexico. If you want to see how Mexicans actually live, drive down the coast a little to Puerto Morelos, which is a little fishing village where my family stayed last time we were down there, in 1998. Or better yet, when you make the loooong trek to Chichén Itzá (you must go there! It is spectacular) pass through Valladolid. Dusty, people walking goats through the streets barefoot. That's what Mexico is really like, not some flashy Las Vegasy place with no history that didn't even exist until the Mexican government decided to build in, in the '70s.
Um, sorry about that. Can you tell I don't particularly like Cancún?
Anyway, Playa del Carmen is another very nice city to visit, it is getting more and more touristy, but it still has a nice beach, and at least when I was last there, had not yet reached the nastiness of Cancún. Also, Playa is where you take the ferry to Cozumel, which isn't all that exciting, but it does have nice beaches, with lots of brightly colored fish and stuff.
Mmmmm...what else? I'd recommend going to Merida if you have time, but that's pretty far from Cancún. Of course, I don't know how much time you have or whatever or where you're going.
Don't bother with Xcaret (Nature's Secret Paradise! according to all the billboards - not really all that secret) or Xel Ha, which used to be nice, but is now nasty from too many tourists getting sunblock in the water. If you have a spare couple hours and want to do something bizarre, head to Crococun. It's this odd little petting zoo by Puerto Morelos where you can play with crocodiles and other animals that look like something only the Crocodile Hunter would touch.
Bring a LOT of mosquito repellent. I counted my bites on the way home last time, I think I had 79. And that was wearing repellent. Don't be afraid to go out during the afternoon rainstorms. I promise, the rain will go away after a couple hours and everything will be just as beautiful as before.
Roads are bad. Mexican drivers are lousy - they drive with either their brights on or no lights at all. Drive very, very carefully. There are many stretches of road with no lights, no reflectors, etc., and the Mexican night is extremely dark. The sky seems lower there, and you can feel smothered in the heat.
Oh, and don't forget that it's "Dos cervezas, por favor." Have a wonderful time, Coldy!
07-21-2000, 03:56 AM
Originally posted by Enginerd
The best thing I can tell you is to get a Lonely Planet guidebook for the area - I've found them invaluable on several trips. I think they have one for Belize, Guatamala and the Yucatan Peninsula, but I'm not sure.
Yes, there is just that guide, and yes, I've already bought it ;)
I'm a big Lonely Planet fan. BTW, we're not going to Tanzania because we couldn't get a plane ticket there for under USD 2000 :(
Thanks for the excellent advise, all! Keep it coming.
07-21-2000, 05:56 AM
Um, you might want to learn some basic Spanish, especially after that horrid mistake in the title ;).
07-21-2000, 06:00 AM
and Coldy, here's another tip-
DO NOT say "puta de madre" while you are down in Mexico, ok?
07-21-2000, 06:08 AM
Don't worry Sea, I won't. Hmmm I guess I'll pick up one of those "How do you say it in Spanish" books. Seems only wise, incase my coche has a breakdown or something ;)
07-21-2000, 09:28 PM
Sorry for the delay, Coldy; took me a bit to get back on the board. I'm sure I'll mess up the link thingys, but here are a coupla useful sites for you.
The first is from the State Dept.; Consular reports. The second is from the CDC; Center for Disease Control. Both of them will scare the bejaysus outta ya, but hey--they're bureaucrats doing what they do best.
The CDC stuff is the more valuable of the two, IMO. At least it'll give you a heads-up on what health precautions to take.
Hope they help!
07-21-2000, 10:35 PM
[i]Originally posted by Kyla Don't bother with Xcaret (Nature's Secret Paradise! according to all the billboards - not really all that secret)
I went to Xcaret (pronounced "Eesh-ka-rate") a couple of years ago. It was mildly amusing. You can swim with dolphins there if you want to...for about $50 US, each.
Tulum is the must-see.
I had five years of Spanish in high school and college. The only time I needed it was with a couple of cab drivers. Everyone else understands English.
The submarine in Cancun is sorta neat for non-divers. They get to see what it's like to spend some extended time underwater. (Side note: At the end of the trip, the sub captain and a crew member got into a full-blown fist fight right on deck - no extra charge.)
If you want, you can find many kindred spirits if you're looking to get goggle-eyed drunk. Senor Frog's is good for that. Many, if not most, of the night spots play a combination of ear-splitting rap, hard rock, and blaring Euro-techno-funk. I hated that.
Have fun, Clogster, and provide us a travelogue when you get home.
PS- I rented a Volkswagen beetle when I was there. It was pretty cheap.
07-21-2000, 10:36 PM
Dontcha just hate it when someone forgets to take out the damn italics thingies when they quote something?
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