The Barnes & Noble Review
Mexico in Mind
Maybe you're thinking "Mexico" right about now.
If you are, and if you're also thinking "beach," then The Complete Idiot's Travel Guide to Mexico's Beach Resorts by Edie Jarolim would be a good book to have.
Yes, I know. I hate the title of this series, too. But it is an indisputable fact that these are marvelous books. Each one of them crams in a staggering amount of information in an easy-to-use format, in a style that's light and amusing, and in a tone that doesn't I hate to say this treat you like an idiot.
Even if you're devoted to sun and fun Mexico-style and a veteran who calls Puerto Vallarta "P.V.," I think this guide, among the many available, would be a good thing to study pretty thoroughly. It covers all the right spots: Cancún, Cozumel, Acapulco, Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo, Manzanillo, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlán, and Los Cabos.
For starters, its hotel and restaurant recommendations are based on those of the Frommer guides, so you're off on the right foot. Then you get the special Idiot's Guide features. For example, restaurants for each place are sorted out by price, style, location, and every which way from domingo. Kid-friendly places are clearly flagged. And if you're suffering from burrito burnout, it tells you where to get a pizza or a waffle when you really need one. Plus, it has assorted sidebars, like the one for Cancún labeled "Most Likely to Have to be Carried Home From." It also has excellent large, clear maps.
The "Yo, Gringo!" boxes provide useful tips and reminders,aswell as advice on rip-offs, romantic spots, where to try if you're really stuck without a room, and everything else from golf to gazpacho.
Let's not kid ourselves. We all know that many of these resorts are more like a Disneyesque "Mexico-land" than Mexico. You may not care about that as your friends carry you home, but the next day you'll be glad they had this book's nifty map to help them find the way.
Alan Ryan, barnesandnoble.com
Read an Excerpt The Complete Idiot's Travel Guide to Mexico's Beach Resorts - CH 3 - Getting Started
[Figures are not included in this sample chapter]
The Complete Idiot's Travel Guide to Mexico's Beach Resorts
- 3 -
In This Chapter
- Where to go for information
- Surfing the Web
- Using a travel agent
Naturally, I'm going to try to tell you every little thing you need to know aboutMexico's resorts in this book. But if you're an insatiable information hound, Webaddict, brochure hoarder--or any combination thereof-- I wouldn't want to depriveyou of any fun, so grab a pencil, phone, fax, and modem, and get ready. I'll alsoclue you in here to the pros and cons of putting yourself in the hands of a travelagent when it comes to arranging your vacation.
Information, Por Favor
The Mexico Hotline (800/44-MEXICO) is a good source for generalinformation, including brochures and answers to the most commonly asked questions.Keep in mind, however, that hotels and other concessions spend a fair amount of moneyon photographers and writers, so their brochures are often like hearing about yourblind date in advance: Don't be surprised if everything isn't exactly as advertised.They can be useful, however, for putting you in the picture--albeit one shot througha rose-colored lens.
The U.S. State Department offers a consular information sheet on Mexicowith a summary of safety, medical, driving, and general travel information takenfrom official State Department offices reports. Write or call and ask for OverseasCitizens Services, U.S. Department of State, Room 2201 Sea St. NW, Washington,DC 20520 (202/647-5225).
A fax machine nets you the Fax-Me Mexico line operated by the Mexican Ministryof Tourism
(541/385-9282). Start out by leaving your fax number on the automated systemand requesting the list of topics; there are more than 100, ranging from generaltips about food, money, and accommodations to specific information about variousdestinations, including all the beach resorts. Pick the topic(s) you're interestedin--no more than three at a time--phone again, and punch the appropriate numbersinto the system. (Beware: This is a good, but addicting, resource. You can spendlots of time and end up with piles of faxes.)
You can also get a broad sprectrum of information from the following MexicanGoverment Tourist Office branches:
- In the United States: 300 N. Michigan Ave., 4th Floor, Chicago, Il 60601 (312/606-9015); 10440 W. Office Dr., Houston, TX 77042 (713 780-3740); 2401 W. 6th St., 5th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90057 (213/351-2069); 2333 Ponce de León Blvd., Suite 710, Coral Gables, FL 33134 (305/443-9160); 405 Park Ave., Suite 1401, New York, NY 10022 (212/755-7261); and the Mexican Embassy Tourism Delegate, 1911 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20006 (202/728-1750).
- In Canada: One place Ville-Marie, Suite 1526, Montreal, PQ H3B 2B5 (514/871-1052); 2 Bloor St. W., Suite 1801, Toronto, ON M4W 3E2 (416/925-1876); 999 W. Hastings, No. 1610, Vancouver, BC V6C 2W2 (604/669-2845).
Surfing the Web Before Snoozing on the Sand: Online Information Sources
For a country not universally known for technological advancements, Mexico issurprisingly well plugged in. Any good search engine will dump thousands of listingsonto your desktop, so to save you time, I've compiled some of the best ones I found.In addition to the following Web sites, I'll be providing you with other, morespecific ones throughout the book.
Just the Facts
The best Web site by far for both general and specific information about Mexicois !@migo¡ at www.mexonline.com. This site haseverything from a mini-telephone directory with the numbers of such diverse organizationsas the Mexican Wildlife Office, which gives you hunting information, and the MissingPersons Hotline (presumably there's no connection between the two), as well as foreignembassies and consulates, banks, and organizations with ready information about thecountry and its services. It also has an excellent state-by-state guide to popularcities.
Mexico Travel Guide at www.go2mexico.com/navigate/html gives a goodgeneral introduction to various Mexican destinations, including all the beach resorts,but only goes into detail--glowing, of course--about sponsoring hotels, restaurants,and so forth.
Caveat BrowserMost sites are as ad- (or sponsor-) driven as any glossy brochures you might send for, and many are not updated re gularly. You may want to cross-reference information with another source.
Tour By Mexico (www.tourbymexico. com) offers a map of thecountry, state-by-state descriptions, very basic information on the culture, as wellas some offbeat takes on such topics as the electrical current, national holidays,and cargo shipping. It also has links to specific resort towns, with short takeson local beaches, scenic outlooks, wildlife refuges, archaeological sites, and shopping.The grammar is charmingly goofy (I know, let's see me try to write a Web site inSpanish . . . ).
Try www.mexicohotels.com for hotel information in the most popular resorttowns. Also good for Mexico hotel information is www.hotelstravel. com/mexico.html.Look up the region that interests you, and then scroll to the town you want to visit.Most of the popular hotels are listed.
The Camino Real chain is prevalent throughout Mexico. The site www. caminoreal.comgives you a brief tour of its properties throughout the country, including thosein Mazatlán, Acapulco, Cancún, Puerto Vallarta, and Manzanillo.
Welcoming you in four languages, Hyatt's offering, www.hyatt.com, takesyou on a cybertour of its Mexican resorts in places such as Cozumel, Cancún,and Acapulco.
www.travelfile.com/go takes you to many cities in Mexico for a closer lookat sponsoring companies in those localities. Type in the name of the destinationyou're interested in exploring further (say, Cancún, Mexico) and you'll get(sketchy) information about dive-boat charters, accommodat ions, restaurants, andso on, as well as passport and visa information.
The Travelocity home page, ps.worldview.travelocity.com/, lets youperuse a list of cities in Mexico and then explore local options for shopping,cultural events, monetary exchange, transportation, restaurants, hotels, and so forth.
Separate from the other sites (although you can link to it from various places)is Puerto Vallarta's Web site, www.puerto-vallarta.com. The information onhotels, home rentals, tour operators, restaurants, and so forth is as commercialas you might expect, but it's also more up-to-date, complete, and better-translatedthan most of the material you'll find on foreign cities' Web pages.
The California-based Los Cabos magazine also has an excellent Web siteat www.loscabosguide.com, with good maps, informative articles on local activities,and useful links to its various advertisers.
Travel Agent: Friend, Fiend, or In-Between?
A good travel agent is like a good mechanic or a good plumber: hard to find, butinvaluable once you've located the right one. The best way to find a good travelagent is the same way you find a good plumber or mechanic or doctor--word of mouth.
To make sure you get the most out of your travel agent, do a little homework.Read about your destination (you've already made a sound decision by buying thisbook), and pick out some accommodations and attractions you think you like. If necessary,get a more comprehensive travel guide, such as Frommer's. If you have accessto the Internet, check airfare prices on the Web yourself in advance (see chapter5, "Fighting--and Winning--the Airfare Wars," for more information on howto do that) so you can do a little prodding. Then take your guidebook and Web informationto the travel agent and ask him or her to make the arrangements for you. Becausethey have access to more resources than even the most complete Web travel site, travelagents should be able to get you a better price than you could get by yourself, andthey can issue your tickets and vouchers right there. If they can't get you intothe hotel of your choice, they can recommend an alternative, and you can look foran objective review in your guidebook right there and then.
Remember, too, that things change rapidly in the travel business, so if your agentvisited a city 5 or 6 years ago, his or her information could be woefully out ofdate. Therefore, it's a good idea to clue your travel agent in after you returnfrom your trip--what was good, what was not-so-good, and so on, so that future travelersto the same place will benefit from your experiences.
In the past 2 years, some airlines and resorts have begun limiting or eliminatingtravel agent commissions altogether. The immediate result has been that travel agentsdon't bother booking these services unless the customer specifically requests them.However, some travel industry analysts predict that if other airlines and accommodationsthroughout the industry follow suit, travel agents might have to start charging customersfor their services. When that day arrives, the best agents should prove even harderto find.