Travel Tip: Things To Know Before You Go To Mexico

by - June 08, 2018




Two years ago my cousin got engaged. Not long after came the "Save The Date" with just the news I needed to hear: It would be a destination wedding, all white, beachfront on the pristine sands of Playa del Carmen, Mexico! Cue incessant outfit planning, ridiculous amounts of IG inspo bookmarks and constant reminders to everyone with ears, "Oh, I'm going to Mexico." I daydreamed for weeks about eating tacos while wearing a sombrero, throwing back tequila shots, shaking my culo to Duro by Daddy Yankee while wearing a striped poncho and juggling margaritas in both hands, that and all the other cliche shit one imagines would happen in Meh-he-co. I know this isn't exactly a fair portrayal of what life in Mexico actually looks like, but its a reality I wasn't opposed to.

Finally, I got a real taste of Mexico last week. I spent 5 days roaming the country's Caribbean coastline of Riviera Maya where I lodged between Playa del Carmen, Tulum and Cancun.  Although the trip wasn't exactly as I had fantasized (refer to above depiction), I can say for sure that Mexico was absolutely lovely.  I fell especially in love with Tulum and I will definitely find my way back, sooner than later. Beyond the great tequila, bottomless margaritas and unlimited tacos, here are a few things everyone travelling to Mexico should know:

1.  It's hot as hell. Now, for context, I grew up and still live in Jamaica so I am pretty seasoned when it comes to tropical climates. But this Mexican heat is NEXT LEVEL. Sunscreen and water by the gallon are not optional- issa MUST. My makeup pretty much melted when I attempted to make my way along 5th Avenue in Playa Del Carmen. We ended up seeking refuge in a few stores solely for the A/C and after stopping for water and then ice cream just a few meters away we decided to head back to our Airbnb until later in the afternoon because unlike the little steam engine, we simply COULD NOT anymore. Our AirBnb host told us that the May heat was a joke in comparison to August. So, let it be known if you see me in Mexico during that month, I'm having some sort of existential crisis and I'm actually crying out for help. I wish I was exaggerating but I'm not. It's sweltering heat.



2. This is widely known but in case you weren't aware, the water is undrinkable. This is not a good combination when you're dealing with the type of heat that makes you thirsty by the second. The bright side is that just about every Airbnb/ hotel or other accommodation comes with gallons of filtered water. Water from the supermarket is also very cheap which is a plus so you won't have to feel too guilty brushing your teeth with bottled water (#ThatLuxeLife). On a serious note though, please please please, stay hydrated. There is so much to see and do and since passing out from dehydration isn't quite likely on your list of "to-dos"- drinking lots of BOTTLED water during your stay should be a priority.

3. On the subject of spending on essentials, here's my recommendation: Buy Pesos! Generally, you lose when you spend USD. Just about everywhere has its own exchange rate and on top of that, there are certain places that do not accept "big notes" ($20, $50 and don't even bother trying to pay for your food with a $100US bill). I struggled the last two days when I only had "big notes" left and since everyone refused it, I had to either pay with my card or borrow from a friend to catch a cab or grab a light lunch. If you're into saving then secure some Pesos! PLUS, you'll dig the idea that converting your money will also make you feel "real" rich and since you're on vacation, you deserve to live your best life and that includes surrounding yourself with wealth. #DatDinero! 

4. Since you're going to spend like a local, it will be useful to communicate (even the very basics) like one too.  English is not as widely spoken as you imagine, so knowing the basics or always have your google translator at hand will save you a headache. Download Duolingo or one of those easy to use language apps and get a little practice in before you go. It will make life so much easier and they will appreciate your effort (:

5. When I had to accompany one of my travel buddies to the hospital, I sure wish I didn't fall out of practice with my Español! Trying to explain your condition to a doctor who has an elementary understanding of your language is less than ideal. Even more so, is charging your credit card for a hefty $350US to see the said doctor and then an additional $100US for a specialist! Bruh.  Don't sleep on traveller's insurance. It's better to have it and not need it than to not have it and get stuck paying a FAT ass bill. Health care is expensive in Mexico - well at Galenia anyways but I should have known as soon as I connected to the hospital's FREE and OPEN high-speed wifi that there was a catch. 


6. The only thing more terrifying than an insane medical bill is riding after sundown in Tulum Beach area where there are no street lights and few sidewalks. Mexican drivers are actually nutcases, like indicators optional and "move outta the way I'm in a hurry" kinda nuts. If you must cycle, do not be my kind of foolish and stick to day riding. Also, as a pedestrian be very careful when crossing because they will continue full speed ahead even after seeing you on those zebra stripes. Being Jamaican makes me very familiar with this form of road etiquette but it doesn't make it any less terrifying sitting in the passenger seat and having full access to stroke the driver's head in the car next to you because the vehicles are pretty much meters away from caressing.

7. I like to avoid making generalizations so I will say that not all Mexicans are bad drives especially since my good fortune presented me with the best (and safest) drivers during my trip. One, in particular, Eric, in Tulum helped me to have one of the absolute best days of the trip. We were warned to avoid the packaged excursions and so arranged for a private outing for which Eric pretty much ended up being our guide for the day. We got to the Tulum Ruins super early so we didn't have to deal with the long lines and overcrowding we witnessed on our way out. After carrying us to Don Cafeto, a local favourite in Tulum, for lunch (Highly recommended especially those heavenly pancakes they make!) he later took us to Cenote Casa Tortuga even though I insisted that I wanted to do the Grand Cenote (as seen on Instagram) instead. I'm happy we listened to him as there were three different cenotes on the property and there were very few persons there so we had lots of free range to swim and truly enjoy the experience without feeling the need to rush. Locals always know best!

Overall, Mexico was really good to me and even though I went for all of 5 days, I felt it was too short a trip. Not to be greedy but I think I'd need 5 days per town/city. If you've been considering a trip to Tulum, Playa del Carmen or Cancun, pack your things! With these 7 tips on hand, you're bound to have an awesome time! 


until next time......
Do Good, Dress Well
xTAR 

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