Archive for May, 2011

*Genteel decline: nice hotels that have known former glory and still have the flavor of the past.
*Travel tips to Mexico: how to rent a car, buy gas, and more
*Travel tips in general: plane etiquette in the days of deregulation!


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Gas is sold by the liter–about 3.8=1 gallon.

Most places, you never get cheated. But in Quintana Roo (CANCUN), Mexico, I’ve experienced a couple of attempts. I’ve written to the Quintana Roo State Tourism office, to no avail–perhaps they did hear me, because I bought gas on May 28 and there were two guys, one checking the amount, the other making sure I saw the $00.00 on the pump!! However, two friends had the same trick pulled on them at the first gas station coming into Tulum from Cancun: they got only about a quarter of a tank for $200 pesos (the tank fills with $200 on that little ATOS car), and then were told that they had NO oil and that it cost $150 peso per liter (really $50). Shame on you Quintana Roo.  [COMMENTS SEND TO SECTUR and Quintana Roo Secretaria de Turismo]

In many places in Mexico, you can now use VISA cards to charge gas.

1. pull in, unlock your gas tank, tell them what you want (you want the low octane, unless you’re driving a luxe car). It never hurts to say, (in English or Spanish): buenos dias/ noches.

2. get out, stand in front of your car, and check the $00.00 on the gas pump. This is where they screw you over. Once they told me, after charging me $200 pesos, that I’d asked for 20 liters.

3. get a receipt. Take a photo. Go to the office, if you have a problem.

4. I’ve only had this problem in Matehuala, SLP (once 30 years ago) and between Cancun and Akumal, QR. (twice in 2010).

5. the rest of the time, the gas pumpers are great. If they wash your windows, tip them $5 pesos. I often tip the pumper $5 pesos or so–and ask for a receipt. It never hurts to say, (in English or Spanish): ‘gracias.’

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Most hotels (like most colleges, car dealers, etc.) negotiate.

When you get a price, mention that you’ve been recommended by a repeat customer (or are a repeat), and ask if you can get a discount.

Once, I arrived at my hotel, HOTEL MISSION PALENQUE, in Palenque Mexico. I waited behind a couple who had just driven in from Merida. The man asked for, and got, a 10% discount off the bat.

So, I went up and said, ‘you gave him a discount, and I’m a repeat customer…?’. I got the discount, too, and realized that I always need to ask for a discount.

Nothing to lose.

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Airplane Etiquette in times of Deregulation

Air travel today is public transportation, no longer the elite experience of yore. What follows are my observations about rude or efficient practices on these ‘chicken carrier’ buses.

  1. Travel light. Baggage handlers have been reduced, checking your luggage increases your chances of loss or delay.
  2. Be prepared. Keep essentials and 2-3 days of supplies in your carry on.
  3. Security. Have your passport and boarding pass out for security. Put them away. Prepare to load your shoes, metal ornaments, and stuff into travels. Have your computer and liquids handy for separate trays.
  4. TSA. Get over the pat-down. You should be so lucky. Most of these folks are earning minimum wage, they work extremely stressful jobs trying to keep us safe from bombs. I’ve never had a rude TSA agent. Never. Lots of rude fellow passengers. What’s your problem? Feeling inadequate and taking it out on service personnel?
  5. Move on through. Put your belt and stuff back on OUTSIDE the line. Please.
  6. Now you’re on the plane (after pushing your way to the head of the line, and generally blocking the boarding of people in a lower zone than you—get over that, too, it won’t get you there earlier, or to a different seat). Don’t kick (or let your kids kick), shut off your phone, and if you must talk business, LOWER YOUR VOICE. The rest of us don’t care how important you are.
  7. Guys. Men feel entitled to take up space, women tie themselves into to knots to avoid the unwanted touch. Guys, remember your male privilege. Wrap it up. Keep your legs, elbows and voice out of my space. I just want to take a nap.
  8. Gals. Air travel is a good, a very good, place to let go of the perfume. Remember. If I can smell it, I’m too close to turn back.
  9. Deplaning. We’ve gotten through the flight and are deplaning. Here is where normal, nice humans turn into snarling animals. Remember the rules from kindergarten. Stand in line. Let those in front of you out. You aren’t going to get out more than a minute or so ahead of the others, and even so…where’s the fun of that? EXCEPTION: passengers on a late flight with a connection. If you don’t have a connection, chill and let them out.
  10. Remember (from above), air travel is public transportation, you aren’t privileged because you’re on a packed plane, you’re cattle.
  11. Cell Phones. Remember that the rest of us can hear your conversations and we don’t want to hear your orders for a colonoscopy for some patient (neither does your patient want us to hear). *See number (7) above–I just want to take a nap.

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1. your US insurance doesn’t work
2. car rental agencies use this to bilk you–they scare you into buying extra insurance, doubling the price of your rental
3. Get coverage for everything but liability through American Express. I had to buy liability at $13/day [see http://travel.aol.com/articles/mexico-transportation-how-to-rent-a-car-on-your-vacation]
4. Get an American Express card. Add the car rental insurance coverage (they charge you $25 per rental). I don’t use this card for my US rentals, because these are covered by my US insurance.
4. When you rent a car in Mexico, print out the AMEX coverage agreement, and TAKE PICTURES OF EVERY PIECE OF THE CAR YOU RENT.
5. check that there’s a spare tire, jack, etc.
6. take an image of the gas gauge.
7. look for lights, mirrors, cigarette lighters.
8. note it all down on your contract.

I’ve used BLUEWAY in CANCUN a lot. They always want to sell me insurance, and have given me cars that don’t start (I had to get a push and return the unit). But they’re cheap and the little cars are very fuel-efficient!

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