MEXICO - Land of Thieves and Cheats
My personal experiences in Mexico, after failing to know I needed to exchange US dollars for Mexican pesos.
Unaware, or uninformed...
If you plan to travel to Mexico, it is of greatest importance that you know the current exchange rate, and that you exchange your currency for Mexican pesos before setting foot in Mexico.
In late February, the currency exchange rate was 20 pesos for each US dollar. The math should be simple enough. But not having been told of the need to change our currency to pesos when we arrived at the airport, my wife and I proceeded to pick up our rental car and go on our way.
If you are near some of the larger cities, such as Cancun or Mexico City, there is a good chance that restaurants or gas stations will take credit cards. Otherwise... beware! In the outlying areas, your credit card may be useless, especially at the gas or petrol stations.
The rip-offs begin...
Everywhere you go in Mexico, the clerks or cashiers, or even gas station attendants, have calculators, so that they can change everything over to pesos and finalize your purchase. At one of the restaurants in the lower south-eastern section of the state of Quintana Roo, my wife and I were given an exchange rate of 18 pesos to the dollar. That was only a 10 percent rip off, but it was still dishonest, it seemed to me.
When I got gas early one day, I handed the attendant $10 US. That sounded like 200 pesos to me. There are no self-service gas stations in Mexico. The attendant takes your money and then types into the pump the amount of pesos of fuel to go into your vehicle, and then puts in your fuel. The attendant put in 150 pesos for my $10 US - a 25 percent rip off of my money. Later that same day, since the location was remote and there were no other stations nearby, I returned to the same station. I gave a different attendant $14 US. He handed the amount to the same attendant who had earlier put fuel in my car. Again, he put in 150 pesos - an astonishing 46 percent rip off of my money.
At another gas station, the young attendant was only going to give me 10 pesos for each American dollar - a 50 percent rip-off. I took my money back from him and got back into my car.
"Business as usual"
When I got back to the residence where my wife and I were staying, I told of my 50 percent rip-off offer. Our host explained that this is customary. He told me that the cruise ship passengers and tourists who don't have pesos get victimized the worst. The local restaurants where the cruise ships come in have had their menus printed in Spanish on one side, and English on the other. The side printed in English shows the prices for each menu item - showing the prices at the rate of 10 pesos to the dollar, charging every patron double for their order. I can't put any other name on this besides theft.
A Word To The Wise
If you plan on going to Mexico, be sure to check the exchange rate for your currency and the Mexican peso, and get your pesos ahead of time, whether at the airport or at a bank. I was told that there are plenty of ATM machines around, but wasn't told what type of fee or charge there might be for their use.
After these experiences, I have no belief in the integrity or credibility of the Mexican people. Don't go with the belief that they are all honest, tourist-loving people. Every visitor or tourist in a potential target.