©1996 by Lynn D. Troldahl Hershberger (Lynn@ColorJoy.com)
We got great tickets with about one month's advance notice. The great hint we got was that Charter airline companies have very limited schedules but great prices. We found this to be true. Commercial airline tickets were between $400 and $500 round trip per person when we started shopping. However, we found a charter flight for $299 plus tax, round trip, per person (from Detroit).
Usually these charter flight tickets include a hotel package but we chose to purchase "air only." However, we had hoped for an eight-day trip and to save that great amount of money we went with the charter company's limited schedule. This company only had flights from Detroit to Cancún (kahn-KOON) on Wednesdays, and Cancún back to Detroit on Tuesdays. We decided to live with a shorter trip.
[Photo: Police Officer directing traffic in front of the Cathedral in Merida.]
I also had received advice about renting an automobile in Mexico. A friend had rented a car last year through National Car Rental with a great week-long rate and unlimited mileage. He said there was a misunderstanding about the price of insurance when he returned the car at the end of the week. He decided to just pay it rather than argue at the counter (even though his Spanish is excellent). When he returned to the USA, he called National's toll free line and they refunded the difference in question. I was impressed with the easy solution to his concern, and decided that was good enough of a referral for me.
We reserved a car (the price for 6 or 7 days was the same) for about $230 US, including free mileage, tax and insurance. We had requested and confirmed a VW Beetle (the standard car in much of Mexico) but the car rental had run out of "bugs." Instead, they gave us a shiny red, brand new, sporty VW; with spoiler and the works. It also had a built-in alarm, which we discovered when we returned to our car! We did figure out the alarm the hard way.
The car became quite a problem as the trip wore on, as it looked ready for a car phone and other executive-type amenities. We were assumed to be quite wealthy throughout the trip. Pale skinned folks are usually assumed to be rich anyway, but the car made it much worse.
It turned out that Brian did most of the driving in Mexico. He has more nerve behind the wheel than I do. It is nothing like driving in the USA. There are pedestrians and bicycles everywhere, more of them than motor vehicles. Everywhere there are bicycles with two or three people riding them through town. In cities, pizza delivery places use mopeds with hot boxes on the back. In addition, the streets are narrow with very narrow sidewalks and so the buildings are just a few feet from the streets. Children dart in and out of the street and it is nerve-wracking at first. After some time, you get more used to the street bustle but it never loses its sense of danger.
Even driving on highways in Mexico is a different experience. Iguanas and road runners cross the road as squirrels do here. And the rule for anyone in Mexico is "Don't drive at night!" One little guidebook we got from an information booth warned that vehicles are not regulated well if at all. Therefore, cars without lights can be found on the road any time, day or night. Livestock can also wander onto roads. In the dark, it is too easy to hit something.
Also, we read that when some folks have car trouble on the narrow roads, they will put a rock in the road a bit back to warn oncoming travelers of the hazard. Never mind that the rock is hazard enough! Our guidebook suggested that any country that has to post highway signs that translate "Don't Leave Rocks in the Road" is not a smart place to drive at night! We saw plenty of these signs, too.
Folks who live in Mexico frequently take buses. We saw people waiting for buses to pass by everywhere, even roads that seemed very remote. However, we did not experience buses first hand since we rented the car.
Next: Playa del Carmen
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