Best way to take cash to Mexico?

Old May 23rd, 2002, 05:50 PM
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Best way to take cash to Mexico?

We'll going to Mexico for 2 weeks, and most of our expenses will be put on the Visa card. We usually carry US cash to exchange for the local currency, but I feel like Travellers checks may be safer for this trip. Do banks/cambios in Mexico /Oaxaca prefer US Dollar Traveller checks, Peso TCs or should we just stash $100 dollar bills in our underwear? Thanks!
Old May 23rd, 2002, 06:35 PM
d motl
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We like travelers checks but do take down some cash-- especially 50 one dollar bills for tips and small change . If you travel outside of Cancun you may find your credit card difficult to use.
Old May 23rd, 2002, 07:29 PM
Been there
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Be VERY careful using your credit card; NEVER let it out of your sight. There are many cases of people getting home to find fraudulent charges on their credit card account. Thieves use a small device about the size of a pager to swipe your card when you're not looking, the info is electronically stored and goes through a process whereby a brand new card looking exactly like yours is produced and can be used in a matter of a couple of days. The thieves run up some large bills, often in cities far away from where you've travelled and it's all done before it can be stopped. Even though you are usually not responsible for more than $50 from your credit card company, it's still some paperwork and a lot of hassle to get it corrected after the fact. It's known that these theft rings hire people to get jobs in places like restaurants, where tourists use credit cards often and when the waiter (whether he's the thief or not) takes your card to the cashier, the thief is able to take it just quick enough to swipe it. If you use your credit card in a restaurant, follow the waiter up to the cashier and be sure you never lose sight of it. I've heard of this happening to people predominantly after they've used the credit card in a restaurant or hotel.

The best thing to do is notify your bank ahead of time exactly what dates you'll be there and the towns you'll be in and your hotel name (if that's where most of your expense is going to be) and instruct your bank that if any charge goes through not matching that info, to block it. This is an increasing problem, not only in Mexico, but any country that has tourism.

Old May 24th, 2002, 03:25 AM
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Repeat after me: A T M
Old May 24th, 2002, 07:53 AM
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I usually take some travelers checks, an atm card and cash. If you are comfortable with carrying cash you will get the best exchange rate by far. As far as the credit card most of my trips have been to Oaxaca. In 10 years of trips I have never been scamed with ficticious charges as the other writer mentioned. I don't know if I am lucky or that it is not that great a concern. For info. I was in Oaxaca last Jan. and for some reason my ATM card would not work anywhere. It always has in the past. Anyway by taking sveral sources of money you'll be covered for all contingencies.
Old May 24th, 2002, 08:13 AM
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Hi Icuy,
Hiho gave you some very good advice. Our experience in traveling mostly to Cozumel and up and down the Mayan Riviera has been the same. No scams, but having several different payment options is best. We do, however, always have panicked messages from the bank on our answering machine when we return because we usually buy art and jewelry when we travel. been there's tip to notify your bank of your travel dates and locales and the types of purchases you may be making so they will at least be on notice if there are problems is a good suggestion (that we also decided to do before next trip).
Also, d motl's advice about the many $1.00 bills is very good. They don't last long - especially for 2 weeks
Have a great time!
Old May 24th, 2002, 08:23 AM
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Went to Playa Del Carmn two weeks ago - had some problems with local merchants accepting Travlers Cheques - one would absolutly not accept TC as I had filled in the name of the shop (the clerk said it would make her boss mad if it was filled in). We also ran into several shops and restaurants that would not accept credit cards. My suggestions is the ATM and cash if you are traveling in the Playa Del Carmen area.

Have a great trip!!
Old May 24th, 2002, 09:04 AM
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We use ATM machines for cash. Knock on wood, we've never had a problem with our credit cards in Mexico and we also use them whenever possible. We do notify our bank before we leave - like others, we've also had those calls from the bank to verify charges. (That even happens at home.) We never take $1 bills - being Canadians, our $1 is a coin (a loonie) and I know that Mexicans wouldn't want them! (I actually had a bartender at the airport in Mexico ask me if I would exchange some loonies for him that someone had given him as a tip!)
Old May 24th, 2002, 09:54 AM
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Don't count on always being able to use your credit cards (many smaller hotels, restaurants, etc. don't accept them). Travelers checks are OK but you might need to go to into a regular bank (or maybe your hotel, again not small businesses) to cash them.

For 2 weeks in Puerto Vallarta, I take US cash to change at the cambio windows & ATM card to withdraw in peso, with Visa card only for emergencies or maybe an expensive dinner out. I've only bothered w/ travelers checks one time when my hotel only accepted them or cash.

Concerning the suggestion to use US $1 bills for tipping -- I strongly disagree. It seems rude to me somehow. You are in Mexico, so use pesos. Spend in peso, tip in peso. (The only thing I hang onto small US bills for is drinks on the plane ;-)
Old May 25th, 2002, 05:39 PM
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ATM + Always There Money--in Mexico, Ecuador,all over Europe, China, Hong Kong, Africa, Australia and all over the world (so far) and even in Russia the ATM is the way to go
Old May 27th, 2002, 03:26 PM
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Hi again Icuy,
I must disagree with susan on not tipping with US dollars.
We've traveled all over Mexico for 10+ years, and have been told many times that dollars are preferred to pesos.
I also don't feel a tip of any currency - as long as it's easily negotiable - which US dollars are - to be rude!
Old May 28th, 2002, 11:03 AM
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Per Nancy's comments, I'm curious why Mexicans would prefer American dollars? Don't they just have to go change them into pesos?

As to 'rude' I guess I could have better phrased it - more smooth and descrete traveler who fits in where they go, rather than calling attention to their country of origin in interactions with local people.
Old May 28th, 2002, 11:33 AM
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Maybe it's just me, but one of the joys of travelling and meeting people where I travel is sharing each others lives and experiences from our home countries. As for being descrete, fitting in and not calling attention to my country of origin, I'm afraid I lose that battle in Mexico with my blonde hair, fair skin, freckles and limited Spanish. Some of the best interactions I've had with local people in Mexico was because of our obvious different origins and natural curiosity about each other and the lives that we lead.

I too take a good number of $1 bills to have if needed, especially for luggage handlers, extra tips for maids or other hotel personnel, or misc. tips. I do try to obtain pesos as soon as I can when I arrive, but never once have I had US money refused or even received any negative reaction from using it. I try to use up my pesos before the end of the trip, but when it comes time for last minute tips, those $1 bills come in handy. Yes, sometimes, they may have to go to the bank to exchange, but more often than not, I've seen taxi drivers, vendors, etc. give US$ to supplement change given. Either way, it works for everyone involved.
Old May 29th, 2002, 06:14 AM
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Foreigner, Thank you for the common-sense response you made to a valid question.
I too, am blonde (and blue-eyed) with "limited" (at best!) Spanish skills. I find it a lot more important to be friendly and open with people than to try to fit in and pretend I'm a local. Of course, you also won't find me wearing a Disney World t-shirt or a windsuit and tennis shoes.
As you mentioned, traveling is supposed to be fun. btw, Susan, I consider myself to be a sophisticated traveler who can fit in socially most places from Abaco to Zaire if that is what you were getting at...US dollars are easily spent and/or exchanged in Mexico and some individuals/businesses prefer them.
Old May 29th, 2002, 10:51 AM
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Well, I guess I've got to let this one go with a "to each his/her own"! I go to Mexico 1 - 2 times a year and always use pesos while in the country. I don't see the big deal. I bring home "leftover" pesos and save them for the next trip. I am not trying to "pretend" to be anything I'm not, I just feel it is easy, proper, respectful to all to deal in pesos.

When I go to Switzerland, I use Swiss Franc. England, pound notes. France, the new Euro.
Old May 29th, 2002, 12:54 PM
another view
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(Following post copied from To Do Puerto Vallarta Bulletin Board comments offered by JR in PV):

Seen many threads on this.
"The folks down there really appreciate US dollars"
Wrong! they appreciate money in whatever form.
Once upon a time, when the peso was far less stable than it is now, people would rather have dollars.
Insert image = tourist throwing dollar bills to the impoverished natives.
Now it is not that way. They will accept dollars but really only as a courtesy to you. The $1 bills you leave for your maid may make you fell good (I will avoid "high and mighty"), but she won't have a bank account and many banks will have limited hours to foriegn exchange, if you don't have an account. So she must go elsewhere. Plus, if that bill is not in perfect condition, no one will accept it.
True the dollar is gaining on the peso a bit (.03%?) but it no longer rules, it's still down from last year.
Stick to the local currency.
Old May 31st, 2002, 05:58 AM
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Hello all,
I wanted to respond to the last post and clear up a couple of things I must have mistakenly conveyed.
In my first post, I said "having several different payment options is best."
Hopefully, without trying to sound like Mother Teresa, I feel what we try to do when we travel is be thoughtful and not "throw dollar bills to the impoverished natives."
Obviously, $50.00 US in ones is not going to last for 2 weeks in Mexico when used for tips. We take it so that when we pay cash for something - whether it's a tip or a purchase - my husband asks whether the person would prefer pesos or dollars.
When we don't know what they would prefer - in the case of leaving cash for the ladies who clean the room - we always leave pesos.
Again, in Cozumel, Cancun and parts of the Mayan Riviera, they request US dollars in some - not all - cases.

Old Jun 3rd, 2002, 10:35 AM
east vs. west?
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Just an observation~~ Maybe it is different east coast to west coast. I couldn't help but notice the "$1 US bills" crowd travel Cancun, Playa, etc. And the "pesos only when in Mexico" folks are traveling the Pacific coast.
Old Jun 3rd, 2002, 12:20 PM
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I am interested in honeymooning in the Riviera Maya and you guys have me freaked out about offending the "natives" I have never been out of the country. Is it easy to obtain pesos?
Old Jun 3rd, 2002, 03:21 PM
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FOR STEPH, This thread has made a huge deal out of nothing (in my humble opinion)!!

You can get peso by: 1) using an ATM machine attached to your checking account back home, 2) taking cash and changing it at "casa de cambio", THE change windows you will see around town with their daily rates posted, your hotel front desk or a bank, 3) travelers checks but you may have to go to a regular bank for these.

If you are in an upscale resort or restaurant you can often use a charge card i.e., Visa or Mastercard (but sometimes not accepted in smaller places).

It is incredibly easy to obtain and use pesos. I'm not sure what country you're coming from, but current exchange is approximately 9.5 peso to the US dollar (so just think 10 = 1).

Tip as you normally would (unless you are in an All-Inclusive, which I have no experience with). 20 pesos to the room maid every day or two, 15% to a waiter, 5-10% to a taxi cab driver.
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