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Suze and other lovers of Mexico: questions about Mexico/the Yucatán

Suze and other lovers of Mexico: questions about Mexico/the Yucatán

Old Jan 14th, 2014, 01:35 PM
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Suze and other lovers of Mexico: questions about Mexico/the Yucatán

I've been reading a guidebook to the Yucatán (a 2005 edition) which seems to suggest that traveler's checks are useful in Mexico. I haven't traveled in Mexico before.

I've traveled a lot in Europe and would never bring traveler's checks there. I always get my euros from ATM's because the rates are better than cash. I get my daily maximum ($500 worth) and keep the large amounts in a money belt, which I wear under my clothes. I keep small money in a purse, securely zipped up.

I use my credit card for larger expenses, such as hotels, unless the hotel doesn't take credit cards.

So I'm wondering if traveler's checks are useful in Mexico and/or the Yucatán or whether I should plan on getting all my cash from ATM's and also whether I will be able to find cash machines easily when I land at the airport.

I'm also wondering where I should land. Cancún seems like the logical airport. I don't care about beaches, but I could spend a night or two in Cancún or nearby before I head off to explore the places I want to see.
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Old Jan 14th, 2014, 02:20 PM
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I cannot give you any info on Cancun, but we got to Cabo and PV and always use ATM and credit cards.
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Old Jan 14th, 2014, 02:54 PM
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Hi Peg,

Like MichelleY my experience is all Vallarta or the Baja, but I'm pretty sure it's true on the Caribbean side too. That guidebook is too old to be useful for this particular kind of answer.

Travelers checks rarely work these days in Mexico, unless you are at a hotel that is willing to cash them at their front desk.

Everyone I know uses ATM's to withdraw their peso directly now. I use my normal Bank of America debit card and go to a Mexican bank (like Sandanders, Scotia, etc.) and make a withdrawal from their ATM machine. There is a small fee (imposed by my own home bank).

Like anywhere, don't use the "stand alone" ATMs like you see in stores or restaurants, because they have rip-off rates.

I also carry USD in cash (maybe $300-worth). That I can change in smaller amounts at a "casa de cambio" (house of change) as needed, some require ID. In PV they are every where and daily rates are posted for USD and Canadian exchanges.

One last method, if you don't mind paying a fee, lesser exchange rate, and carrying cash is to order peso in advance from your own home bank. I know here in Seattle I can do it online, then go pick it up in a few days at the BoA branch of my choosing. While not the very best value, it means you're arriving with local currency in hand.

I'm pretty sure you'd want to fly into Cancun. You don't have to stay there at all. You can go directly from the airport down to Playa del Carmen (45 mins. by shuttle) or wherever it is you want to stay. Personally I wouldn't spend any time in Cancun myself.

Hopefully there are some posters here for "the other side" of Mexico who will chime in.

I know that www.locogringo.com is a well-respected website for the area.

Buena suerte, Suze
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Old Jan 14th, 2014, 02:56 PM
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Oops, one last comment, I do believe in Cancun you can directly spend USD since it is more "touristy" there. That USD is more commonly accepted on the Mayan Riviera than other parts of Mexico. but don't quote me on that -lol!
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Old Jan 14th, 2014, 03:08 PM
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USD is accepted in the Riviera Maya, but you're not going to get a very good rate--usually 11 pesos/dollar.

We bring USD and then hit the ATM, or pay USD and get pesos as change. Pay with credit card where possible.

Travelers' checks are useless there.
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Old Jan 14th, 2014, 03:36 PM
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We agree with the other posters - travelers checks aren't helpful. We used cash (there's an ATM right at the airport) and credit cards everywhere.
Also, regarding your hotel for the first night, we flew in late to Cancun, so wanted to find a hotel that was nearby and peaceful. This one was very simple but charming for an overnight stay and breakfast on the beach: www.ranchosakol.com
Have a great trip!
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Old Jan 14th, 2014, 07:13 PM
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I went to the Yucatan and Chiapas in 2008 and found no use whatsoever for travelers checks. I used ATMs and credit cards.
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Old Jan 14th, 2014, 07:37 PM
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I personally wouldn't spend any time right in/near Cancún but it's a logical place to fly in price-wise. My photos with blog and travelogue links on the main page of each collection are below in case you're interested - all my recommendations are embedded in the 2010 collections there.

I think ATMs are the way to go. Last year I set up a travel account at a different bank from where I normally do my banking; ATM card use is free and I use it while traveling, then change my password and empty it so I don't have worries about subsequent removal of the funds if the ATMs are buggy. I have it set up with daily emailed balance notices so I can keep an eye on my balance without having to use my bank password in questionable wifi environments.

I have a new travel credit card from Bank of America, too - no foreign transaction or ATM fees; incidentally it works in Europe, too, because it has the chip places there expect.

I only go out with the amount of money I need, sometimes in a 'throw down' wallet with a few expired cards and the day's cash. If I am transitioning from 1 place to another I keep my passport, cash, cards, etc. under my clothes.

Remember to notify your bank and card company you'll be using the cards on foreign shores - where and when - and also find out before you hand over your card if there will be an additional fee for charge card use - sometimes 5% or more. I email myself a scan of the travelers check numbers and our main passport pages and pack a copy of them with me, too. I also go to http://www.oanda.com/currency/travel-exchange-rates and make tiny cheat sheets with the conversion rates for each country to keep handy. Happy trails!
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Old Jan 15th, 2014, 09:53 AM
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We go to the Riviera Maya area of Mexico about once per year since 2000. We only use USD. We also have been to PV and Cabo. Same there. Typcially $1 and $5. They are accepted everywhere. I have never used a credit card on vacation anywhere. Too many stories of people's card being compromised. Plus, check with your bank to see if they charge a fee for the conversation rate. We book all outside excursions and activities on-line with a credit card and then use cash for everything else. Traveler's Checks have gone the way of the dinosaur. Hardly any establishment in the US will even take them. We tried to use them in the early 2000's in Las Vegas and New Orleans and no one would touch them.

Get a current Mexico guide book for better more updated information.

Flying into Cancun is the logical airport for the Riviera Maya area. Playa del Carmen is about a hour away and easy to get to.
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Old Jan 15th, 2014, 09:57 AM
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KVR,
If you are spending USD directly in Puerto Vallarta you are likely overpaying for everything. Because businesses typically give a 10/1 rate of exchange, when at a cambio, ATM or bank, changing the money yourself you can get 12/1 or even 13/1.
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Old Jan 15th, 2014, 11:16 AM
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We saw people having trouble with cards that had chips in them. Not sure what the deal was, but it was a problem for them.
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Old Jan 15th, 2014, 02:55 PM
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But, if your bank is charging for the conversation, then you are not really saving anything anyway. Sometimes, convenience and safety of your card over rides that small of a difference. Doesn't look like the OP is going to PV anyway. So, too each their own.
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Old Jan 15th, 2014, 03:07 PM
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KVR- I'm not talking about my bank. I am saying when you take USD to a 'cambio' and change it for peso in Mexico you will get somewhere close to the bank rate, which recently has been around 11.5 to 12.5 even 13.1. When you spend USD directly most often they still use the old 10/1 conversion.

Therefore your money goes further by changing it to peso, than if you spend it directly as USD at a lesser rate of exchange.
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Old Jan 15th, 2014, 06:33 PM
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suze is right -- paying in USD will be more costly than other options. Use and ATM or credit card that doesn't charge conversion rates. And if using a credit card, pay in pesos, not US$.
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Old Jan 15th, 2014, 08:52 PM
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I just did a trip to Tulum and Merida, with side trips to Muyil, the Tulum ruins, the Tulum beaches, Uxmal, Kabah, a chocolate ecoplantation/museum, Celestun, Chichen Itza, and through various Mayan villages.

Anyway, I can't remember a single instance where travelers cheques would have been a good idea. ATMs win here.

I decided to try one night in Cancun (at the end of my trip) at an all-inclusive. I chose the cheapest one that had a nice beach, and it was wonderful for the view and beach access, but the food was horrible.

You could fly to either Cancun or Merida (or into one and out the other), but Cancun was so much cheaper in my case that it was the only one that made sense. I think from the Cancun airport to Merida will probably take about 4 hours total by bus.

I would not bother with Cancun except for your last night. Land in Cancun, and take a prebooked shuttle (I took SuperShuttle) to Tulum. Tulum to Merida is an easy bus ride (maybe 3 hours).
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Old Jan 15th, 2014, 08:58 PM
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I also saw the 10/1 conversion in place all the time, and the current interbank rate is 13.22 MXN to the USD. So I can't see much point in wanting to use USD.
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