The People's Guide To Mexico


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Better Safe Than....

By Carl Franz & Lorena Havens
Excerpted from The People's Guide to Mexico

There are disadvantages to supercheap rooms and these include not only cardboard-thin walls and the occasional bedbug, but also a lack of privacy and even rip-offs. For the cautious traveler I heartily recommend the following precautions:

• Keep small valuables on your person at all times. I take my money to bed with me and unless there’s another person in the room, I also take my money into the shower when bathing or using the toilet. One of the classic rip-offs in cheap hotels (and this is worldwide) happens while the unsuspecting victim is in the bathroom. When the shower is turned on, the door opens and within seconds, wallet, money, camera and other goodies disappear. "I can’t believe it! I was only in there for five lousy minutes!" That’s also all the time it takes for two strong men to move a refrigerator from a kitchen to a moving van.

• When you’re going out for a stroll, leave larger valuables at the desk, even if the clerk protests that it’s not necessary.

• At night, or when sleeping, make sure the door is securely locked. In most really cheap hotels with flimsy or improvised doors, this is difficult, if not impossible. We sometimes carry small padlocks, but even this is a poor defense against a hard blow or a well-wielded screwdriver.

• If you’re a light sleeper, rig an "alarm" that will signal if the door is moved. I usually have a few empty soda bottles on hand and arrange them to topple over with an ear-splitting racket when the door is opened. I know this works because when I wake in the middle of the night and stumble out to the bathroom, I always crash into the bottles myself.

• If you sleep or worry heavily, move the entire bed to block the door. It it’s too heavy, find something else; table, bureau, chairs, etc.

• Women traveling alone should be particularly careful when selecting a cheap room. Many women have told us that saving money on a room was sometimes offset by hassles from other lodgers or desk clerks looking for one-night romance.

Because the cheapest hotels are usually located in less than elegant neighborhoods, women should exercise caution when walking alone at night. (See Safety and Viva Mexico: Machismo.)
When a man and woman travel together but always sleep in separate beds, it doesn’t hurt to give the impression of being a couple. It not only avoids offending straight-laced people who may refuse or balk at letting two people share a room, but also cools down those on the prowl. This is especially true in small towns where tourists’ eccentricities are unfamiliar.

• Precautions such as these are rarely necessary, but I consider them to be like health care: it never seems important until things have gone wrong. Precautions are not paranoia; they’re good common sense.

excerpted from The People's Guide to Mexico

he People's Guide to Mexico
13th edition
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©1972-2011 by Carl Franz & Lorena Havens