Mexico, before the Wall

Let’s talk about money

Total costs (in CHF): 7,123. Pretty high for our standards. We’ve been 3 weeks in Japan in 2015 for more or less the same amount and 2 weeks in California in 2013 for less than 5K.

  • 2,185 – flight tickets. Very expensive. We could have cut it down by a lot following classic advices: (1) Never flight from Switzerland – prefer flying from Italy, (2) Never flight on weekends, (3) Purchase tickets more in advance, (4) accept a longer journey.
  • 2,296 – first week tour. As said, a DIY solution would have costed half the price.
  • 1,609 – Isla Mujeres hotel. We picked one of the most expensive hotels on the isle. I don’t know why. I let Mr. VCF take too many decisions. At booking time we both agreed that 100 USD per room more to upgrade our standard room into a Honeymoon suite (with a Jacuzzi on the balcony) was worth the deal. We booked on the Hotel website and we got a discount: 7 nights at the price of 6. Needless to say there are a lot of cheaper hotels on the isle. Be careful about the cleanness. We are picky on that (all four of us are Italians) and discarded options with less than excellent feedback on cleanness.
  • 1,033 – various expenses. Eating, gifts, tips, fees, theft… We’ve eaten out every day and never went to a fast food or a cheap alternative. We’ve had few luxury dinners with lobsters and other amazing food. Never spent more than 20 USD per person. Mexico in very cheap when it comes to eating. We could have saved something here but given the high value per dollar spent, saving money here was not worth. Well, theft apart… more on this later 😉
image: www.mexperience.com

Local currency is Mexican Pesos or MXN. The currency is not publicly traded, i.e. you can’t buy it on your brokerage account or on the internet. I heard it’s illegal to exchange it outside the country.

How to handle expenses then?

You can choose to pay with credit cards wherever possible, but I’d avoid (and I so did). I heard that cloning cards is a national sport.

You can choose to use USD almost everywhere in Q.Roo, Yucatan and Campeche, but exchange rates offered by business owners and hotels are close to theft. The exchange rate during our stay was roughly 20.5 to 1 but I’ve seen no shop offering more than 18 Pesos for a Dollar. The more you go far from touristic places, the more rates go down. We’ve seen 15 and even 10 somewhere. Crazy. Just don’t do that with your Dollars.

You usually can’t use EUR or other currencies (CHF? Lol) almost anywhere.

The only good option left is to “get some Pesos“. Here you have few alternatives:

  • Withdraw from “strange looking” ATMs on the street or at your hotel. No. Just don’t.
  • Withdraw from a bank ATMs. It’s OK, it’s what I did twice. Just be sure to understand fees on both sides. I’ve withdrawn 10K Pesos the first time for less than 500 CHF + 20 CHF fee and 5K pesos the second time for roughly 250 CHF + 15 CHF fee. Acceptable but… you can do better.
  • Exchange currencies at money exchange shops. It’s the most efficient solution but:
    • If you want to survive 2 weeks you need to bring with you lot of cash (at least a thousand USD).
    • Avoid airports. They apply the worst rate ever.
    • Prefer banks. They have little margin, you can get almost the market price.
    • Prefer touristic locations. Less spread since they can buy and sell, while far from crowded areas they have hard time buying back Pesos.

Let’s move to the actual detailed trip report, go to next page 🙂

3 comments

  1. Hi RIP,
    did a similar trip 12 years ago (the first part, no island).
    At the time tourist were allowed to climb the temple at Chichen Itza (little bit scary – and dangerous – to climb down, though…).
    Drove a rented car without problems (in Chiapas too, where you’ll be a little scared the first time you see these chains strained in front of you, then you get used to…). Only problem we had driving up to San Cristobal, the car overheated and wasn’t able to climb anymore…luckily we were pulled along by a truck full loaded with water carboys… 🙂

    1. You brave for driving in Chiapas!
      And lucky too, I know til few years ago (in the order of… 2-3) you could climb the ruins 🙁

      Personal curiosity: how was the interaction with the Truck driver who escorted you to San Cristobal? Did he try to sell all his water reserve to you? 😀

      1. No problem at all with the truck driver ! At the beginning we were a little bit scared cause the car was connected to the truck with an old rope and we were concerned about safety…
        Generally we have had a really good experience with the people and didn’t get bothered at all (perhaps only some tenacious sellers in the 2 pueblos S. Juan Chamula and Zinacantan). From this point of view I think we had a better experience than you (I also don’t like being bothered too much while hanging around), maybe less tourists around ? We were there in February 2005.

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