Mexico

Building Floor Confusion

Building Floor Confusion 480 640 Greg Ellifritz

Just a quick note to remind you that in some foreign countries, the floor numbering of multi-story public buildings (like hotels and offices) may not be the same as it is in the USA.

When I was in Mexico last week, I checked into my hotel.  The desk clerk explained (in perfect English) that my room was on the first floor and pointed me towards the building where the room was located.

 

I wandered all around the first floor and couldn’t find my room number.  Then I saw this sign,

 

 

My room was on the first floor…the first floor up from the “ground floor.”  In America, we would have said that my room was on the “second floor.”  I’ve experienced this in several South American and European countries as well.

Drinking Tips from Uncle Greg- Part Two

Drinking Tips from Uncle Greg- Part Two 1024 684 Greg Ellifritz

I’m honestly shocked.  When I looked at my website analytics page, I saw that my article  Drinking Tips from Uncle Greg garnered the most pageviews of any of the articles I’ve written here in the last nine months.

It’s not the vital safety information I convey that brings people to my site.  Posts about day drinking at an all-inclusive resort spark the interests of far more readers.  Noted!

 

To capitalize on what my audience desires, I’m going to add yet another drinking tip for holiday vacations.

 

All inclusive resorts generally serve their guests unlimited alcoholic beverages at their bars.  It’s kind of rare for a guest in one of these resorts to bring their own alcohol since they drink for free at the hotel bars.

 

Consequently, it’s sometimes hard to find a bottle opener if you choose to drink anything but the house draft beer and well drinks.

 

Last week, the free beer started getting old.  Mexican draft Tecate light isn’t a particularly tasty beer.  I soon grew tired of drinking it and wandered down the street to one of Mexico’s ubiquitous OXXO convenience stores.  They had a nice selection of Mexican craft beers.  I bought a few to try them out.

 

My favorite of the Mexican craft beers I tried.

 

I got back to my room and realized even though I had a partial kitchen, there were no bottle openers anywhere in the room. The lack of bottle openers is common at all-exclusives.  Who needs a bottle opener when everyone is drinking free alcohol from the bar?

 

Fortunately, I planned ahead for such contingencies.  I had a bottle opener in the multi-tool I carry whenever I’m in a foreign country, but it was buried in my locked suitcase.  Always have a backup plan, especially when drinking.

 

The bottle opening backup plan I’ve used for the last 15 years ago is utilizing the brilliant Reef Fanning flip-flop.  I took off my flip-flop and used it to open my beer.

 

I’m not normally a flip-flop guy.  I can’t run well in them.  I can’t kick well in them.  It’s far easier to damage your foot or lose your balance and fall in a fight while wearing them.  I reserve flip-flops for the beach, the pool, or communal showers.  As I was staying at a beach resort, I brought my Reef flip-flops.

 

Why are the Reef Fanning flip-flops germane to this conversation?  Because they have bottle openers built into their soles.  Look at the photo below.

 

Reef flip-fops with integrated bottle opener

 

These sandals are exceptionally well padded and quite comfortable to wear.  The bottle opener comes in handy far more than you might think it would.  They are the only flip-flops I’ve traveled with since I bought my first pair in 2007.

 

If you are a serious drinker, you will embrace the concept of tactical redundancy.  You can never have too many bottle openers.  This style of footwear exemplifies the multiple use capability of the gear that makes travelers’ lives easier.
Buy a pair of these.  Take them on your next holiday and you’ll never have to worry about packing a bottle opener in your luggage.

 

 

 

 

 

Some of the above links (from Amazon.com and others) are affiliate links.   As an Amazon associate I earn a small percentage of the sale price from qualifying purchases.

If you would like to further support my work, head over to my Patreon page.

Drinking Tips from Uncle Greg

Drinking Tips from Uncle Greg 480 640 Greg Ellifritz

I don’t often stay in all inclusive resorts, but I wanted an easy travel experience in Mexico so I’m enjoying one right now.

 

One of the things that I hate about all-inclusives that serve free alcohol is that the cups in which they serve the drinks are universally tiny.

Here is the tiny cup containing the margarita I ordered poolside.  It’s difficult to see the scale, but it’s only slightly larger than a urine sample cup you’d get at the doctor’s office.  Suboptimal for a professional drinker like me.

 

Here’s a secret I learned more than a decade ago.  Whenever I go to an all-inclusive, I always bring my own large cup.  I use a large plastic cup I got at a local festival years ago.  Some folks use insulated Yeti-style cups, but I don’t like packing the extra weight in my bag.  The big plastic cup I use weighs next to nothing.

 

 

Much better.  I can get about four of the tiny margaritas into a cup this size.  It makes it easy to stay hydrated (or intoxicated if you prefer) and limits your waiter’s trips to the bar.

 

Speaking of waiters, tip your waiter well and he or she will treat you right.  I find in the developing world $10 a day per person to be a decent tip.  You’ll get your money back with your drinks being constantly refreshed and usually heavier pours.  It’s money well spent and it helps change the perspective of the “Ugly American” who doesn’t tip at all inclusives.

 

As to my drink of choice, I prefer a frozen margarita with extra tequila and a salted rim.  The crushed ice and salt help counteract some of the dehydrating effects of the alcohol.  It’s cool and refreshing in the hot sun as well.

 

I find that when I’m sipping on the beach, I can finish one of these about every 45 minutes.  Out of curiosity, I brought my portable blood alcohol breath tester with me on this trip.  At the one drink every 45 minute pace yesterday afternoon I ended with a blood alcohol concentration of .062.  Perfect.  A pleasant mellow mood without any danger of becoming too intoxicated in a foreign country.

 

Stay hydrated folks.

 

 

Breaking All the Food Rules

Breaking All the Food Rules 640 480 Greg Ellifritz

I get a lot of questions from first time travelers about what foods to avoid when traveling in foreign countries.  I would love to be able to provide an all inclusive list, but, like many things “it depends.”

 

It took a whole chapter in my book Choose Adventure to adequately cover the basics.  If you want my best advice, see the chapter “Eating and Drinking (Without Dying).”

 

Until then, let me stress that in many places you can break all of the “food rules” for international travel and still be safe.  Here was my lunch yesterday.  It was a big dish of ceviche and a Caesar salad with shrimp.

 

The food Nazis would be very unhappy with this meal.  It breaks a lot of “The Rules.”

 

Lets start with the salad.  Everyone knows that it’s unsafe to eat salads in foreign countries.  The cooks wash the lettuce with local water which may be contaminated with bacteria and viruses.  Except in the high end restaurants that cater to tourists.  Those folks know to wash the produce with purified water instead of tap water so that all their guests don’t get sick.

 

Would I eat raw unwashed produce straight from a market in Bolivia?  Probably not.  But at the high end Mexican resort where I’m staying this week, it’s likely fine.  If you have any doubts, ask your waiter.

 

The next taboo is eating any dairy or cheese.  My salad had both cheese and a creamy dressing.  That’s supposed to be bad.  It is bad if it is stored un-refrigerated on an island without electricity in Nicaragua.  At a nice restaurant?  You are going to be fine.

 

Finally, we get to the ceviche.  It’s uncooked (but essentially “cooked” in citrus juice) fish, shrimp, and octopus.  Raw meat and seafood breaks all the rules.  Again, context matters.  I’ve eaten raw sushi all over the world.  I wouldn’t choose the sushi in a land-locked country without reliable electricity, but in a coastal town, that fish is far more fresh than most of the fish in your home supermarket.

 

Take a look at the photo above.  That’s kudu carpaccio that I ate in Zimbabwe.  Yes, it’s raw antelope meat.  Yes, I’m in a country that has been undergoing a complete financial and societal collapse for the last 20 years.  The hamburgers on the street there are cut with sawdust to make the patties bulkier.  I wouldn’t eat those.

 

Why did I eat the raw antelope?  Because it was in the country’s best restaurant and it likely had good safety practices.  Kudu in Zimbabwe is like fish in coastal Mexico.  It’s likely to be very extremely fresh and some of the safest food I could eat.

 

Sometimes you can relax the commonly touted “food rules” for international travel.  Sometimes doing that can cause horrible issues.  You have to be smart enough to know the difference.

 

Excuse me, it’s time for me to get a second helping of that ceviche.

Driving in Central America

Driving in Central America 637 418 Greg Ellifritz

Good information from a guy who spent six months driving with his wife through eight Central American countries.  Unsurprisingly, the two had no issues.  Following some very simple safety rules (listed in the article) kept them from having any problems at all on their journey.

 

I’ve now been to every country in Central America, even spending a week in El Salvador (the most dangerous country in the world that isn’t in the midst of a civil war) and spending a couple nights in the city with the highest murder rate in the world (La Cieba, Honduras).  I am also still alive.

 

Break out of your shell.  Live a little.  The world isn’t nearly as dangerous as the media wants us to think it is.

 

Don’t Drive through Mexico or Central America: You Will Be Kidnapped, Killed, or Worse!

 

Is Mexico Safe for Tourists?

Is Mexico Safe for Tourists? 399 297 Greg Ellifritz

I really like Mexico.  I’ve visited more than 20 times and lived there for a couple months last year.  One of the most common questions I get from my readers is about the tourist safety amid cartel shootouts and hits.

My general assertion has always been that tourists are quite safe in Mexico as long as they stay away from drugs and hookers.

 

Last week two Canadian tourists were killed near Playa del Carmen. It made me question my advice.

 

Nope. These weren’t tourists. They were drug dealers and the cartel put a hit out on them.  Read the link below.

 

 

You are likely in less danger as a tourist in Mexico than you are walking around your own home town.

 

Latin American ATM Scams/Thefts

Latin American ATM Scams/Thefts 1920 2560 Greg Ellifritz

In my book Choose Adventure: Safe Travels in Dangerous Places, I cautioned tourists to avoid “helpful” locals at the ATM machine and to shield the keypad from view while you are entering your PIN number.  Watch this short video to see real-life examples of ATM scams and thefts.  It’s very well done and you can see how smooth many of these criminals are.

 

Watch Out for Scammers at the ATMs in Mexico

 

Mexico Compendium

Mexico Compendium 480 640 Greg Ellifritz

Now that we are outside of hurricane season for Mexico’s Caribbean coast, it’s time to post some travel guides to Mexico.

 

I’ve been to Mexico more than 25 times in the last 15 years.  I lived in Playa del Carmen for two months last winter.  It’s close, cheap, beautiful, fun, and has no Covid restrictions.  I really think it’s one of the best places for Americans to travel this winter.

 

I’ve compiled a list of the best articles on the internet for visiting and/or moving to Mexico.  If you are curious about life south of the border, you’ll find all the information you need in the links below.

 

Riviera Maya (Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum)

 

26 Unexpected Things to Do in the Riviera Maya, México

 

 

The Ultimate Guide To Nightlife In Playa Del Carmen

 

 

19 Things Travelers Need To Know Before Visiting Tulum

Playa Del Carmen: The absolute guide for gay travelers

 

 

Digital Nomad Communities Booming In Playa Del Carmen, Tulum and Cozumel

 

 

5 Things You Should Know About the Hotel Zone of Cancun

 

How To Get To Cozumel – Cancun To Cozumel

Everything You Need To Know About Traveling To Cancun This Summer

 

 

The Best Time To Visit Tulum

 

 

Other Areas, Trips, and Travel Tips

 

Travel Tips For Mexico

 

 

The 24 Most Beautiful Places in Mexico

 

 

Complete Guide To Visiting Chichen Itza, Mexico

10 Best Mexico Cities (and Worst) to Work Remotely in 2021

 

Solo Female Travel in Mexico – Your Essential Guide

 

Best Mexico Tours: Ancient Ruins, Sun & Spicy Food!

 

Mexican Food Bucket List: 60+ Traditional Dishes to Eat from Mexico

 

Top 7 Places To Visit For Adventure Tourism In Mexico

 

Living in Mexico

 

Living In Mexico City: A Guide (For Digital Nomads)

 

 

15 Pros and Cons of Living in Mexico

 

 

Digital Nomad Guide to Living in Playa del Carmen

 

3 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Moving to Mexico

 

I hope you enjoy Mexico as much as I have.  Please contact me if you have any questions.

 

 

All-Inclusive Wristbands

All-Inclusive Wristbands 480 640 Greg Ellifritz

If you’ve ever spent any time at all inclusive resorts in Mexico or the Caribbean, you’ll be familiar with the wristband issued to you at check in.  That lets the staff know you belong at the resort and what level of services you’ve paid for.

 

If you are staying on the resort, the wristband is no problem.  Everyone has one.  It’s only if you decide to go into the local town that you might have problems.

 

The locals see the wristband and they instantly know that you are a high dollar tourist.  The locals know which wristbands belong to which hotels.  They know if you are staying in a $500 a night property or a $150 a night property.  They will use that information to set the prices for any local goods you buy.

 

I’ve always preferred to take the wrist band off when going in to town.  I want at a chance of looking like a local, or at least someone who is living in town full time.  I’m less likely to be scammed that way.

 

I stayed last week in a hippie surf town in Ecuador.  It was a small place with only about 3500 residents.  Lots of the residents were burnt out surfers, mentally ill folks living on the beach, or heavy drug users.  The hotels used wristbands there to keep the riff raff off their property.

I used a simple but effective solution to deal with the wristband issue.  I cut the band and then used a small piece of Gorilla tape to refasten it whenever I was entering or leaving the hotel.  Once out in the town, I took it off and put it in my pocket so the locals wouldn’t know where I was staying.

 

Cut wristband with tape attached

 

Wristband looks intact while wearing it

 

 

Closer look at taped area

 

I would caution you to avoid using this tactic if the all inclusive charges a lot of money to replace your wristband.  In that case you might get a big bill when you check out.

 

If you are staying in a place like that, ask the staff at the front desk to temporarily remove your wristbands if you are going into town.  You may also ask them to put the band around your ankle instead.  If it is around our ankle, you can cover it up with a sock when off resort property.

 

Common Mexican Scam

Common Mexican Scam 777 437 Greg Ellifritz

Here is an article by an ex-pat retired American police officer currently living in Mexico.  He describes a common scam that is running rampant in the Cancun area.  Versions of this scam happen everywhere, often to foreign tourists.  It might be one of the most common scams seen worldwide.

 

Riviera Maya: Beware of This Scam

 

How do you stop it?  I like his advice:  “I immediately become suspicious of unsolicited help from strangers. That suspicion level grows exponentially if the person is trying to get me to accompany them to more isolated location, like a bathroom or a parking lot.”