Before I get into the gist of of this post, I want to emphasize that I have been to Mexico many times now and fell in love the country every single time (for example, here, here, and here). I love the rich culture, the food, the natural beauty, and above all, the kind denizens who make my experience that much more special. Most of these trips were work-related, in collaboration brands, or vacationing with reputable hotels and resorts. However, this time, I opted for an adventure and got to see a different side of the glorious grams we’re oft exposed to.
If you’re one to venture off, I’m sharing some extremely valuable and important safety tips when traveling to Mexico – most of what you don’t hear other bloggers talking about.
My most recent trip to Mexico was for a family vacation so I planned everything on my own and opted out of the traditional resorts and touristy spots. To be frank, it was pretty disappointing. I felt compelled to write this post to warn you guys about the issues you can run into if you do the same. Having awareness and taking the right precautionary steps will equip you with having a safe and seamless vacation. As for my top safety tips, let’s dive right in.
1. Extreme heat waves
I think I was so used to the air conditioned resorts that I overlooked the extreme heat waves in the summer. I bring this up because my whole family and I were taking turns getting sick from vomiting and nausea to stomach flus that lasted days. My husband usually has a pretty impressive immune system and he was no exception this time. I have never seen him so sick.
To avoid this, always have bottled water on hand and don’t explore too much (i.e. walk around) during the day. As a blogger, photo opps are a huge focus for me, but we only ventured out twice to take photos this time. The majority of my photos were taken at the villa.
Please do not disregard or try to downplay the severity of the scorching temperatures because extreme heat waves in the summer can cause illness and even death. Heat also causes swelling and bloating, signs of dehydration. Always plan for preventative measures to prevent heatstrokes.
2. Disappointing beaches
It’s very normal to envision sandy white beaches with refreshing blue water when you think of Mexico. However, note that very few hotels manage to keep the beach clean, so check them before you book.
The beach we were at in Tulum was covered in seaweed, which doesn’t come with a very pleasant smell. You may see workers trying to clean it up, but with little success.
3. Beware of mosquitos
The mosquito situation is no joke! While Tulum was bearable with mosquito repellent and bug sprays, my family had the worst of mosquito attacks at our villa in Merida. No amount of sprays could help. I highly recommend staying in a hotel if you decide to visit Merida. It’s no doubt a vibrant and beautiful place. Our villa had open ceilings which sounds dreamy but it was just too heartbreaking to see my girls’ tiny bodies covered in giant mosquito bites and bleeding from the scratching. We ended up having to leave Merida early because we just couldn’t handle it anymore.
4. Gas station scams
Now for some real strange stories… I experienced some crazy scams at the gas stations especially around Tulum and Playa del Carmen – two very touristy areas. We decided to rent a car because we figured it’d be the easiest way to get the whole family around and learned quickly that it’s a common practice for the workers to scam foreigners and even some locals who least expect it.
First, if you pay with your credit card, they’ll claim that the card is declined in order to force you to pay cash. And when you do, they’ll switch a 500 peso note to a 50 peso note and tell you that you are short. It usually happens so fast that you’ll even question if you gave the proper amount to begin with. Plus, the peso notes of 500 and 50 look pretty similar.
I’m not exactly sure how you can avoid this but one way is to have exact change for the amount of gas you want. I’m sure other gas station scams exist but I believe this is the most common one.
5. Corrupt police
Basically, I learned that driving should probably just be avoided if you’re a foreigner going into Mexico. It’s possible to be stopped by police officers who demand bribes. We got pulled over for no reason, and the cop told us to go to the police station to pay a fine or pay him 1200 pesos. Upon my research, I also discovered that the State Department recommends buying auto insurance that includes bail in Mexico. Apparently, if you’re involved in bad car accident, both drivers can be detained and jailed until they determine who is at fault.
6. Hidden charges
We got our taste of hidden charges during the car rental process. They’ll make you pay for expensive insurance at the pickup counter and local taxes, which easily doubles the original quote. It’s much cheaper to pay for Uber or taxi! Fortunately, that was my only experience with hidden fees but I have heard about inflated cab fees because many taxis do not have meters or published fares.
7. Book hotels through Airbnb or travel sites
I made the mistake of booking a nice and spacious villa with a private pool for our family in Tulum directly through the host. My initial thoughts were that I wanted my kids to have a place to enjoy while Dan and I are out for shoots. When we got there, the employees told us the villa had no water and instead, they gave us a much smaller room without a pool. We found out that night they had another customer in the villa we booked. We were not able to make the switch till the next day around noon. We ended up spending more time unpacking and packing than enjoying our vacation. To make matters worse, the front desk manager had no interests in hearing what I had to say and shut me down every time I tried to express my concerns. It was rude and unprofessional. After the trip was completed, the manager sent me an angry letter accusing me of canceling the credit card charge, which I didn’t. It was hands down one of the worst experiences, so for future reference, book your stay through Airbnb or other travel sites!
If you guys had similar experiences or other tips to share, please do let me know below! Again, I love Mexico and would love to go back better equipped!travel tips