|Q: Should we be concerned over foreign state department warning on travel to Mexico or over media reports on drug wars or violence in Mexico. | TOP | |
A: While anytime you are traveling abroad you should always be aware of your surroundings and exercise caution, Isla Mujeres is a small island that is for the most part free of any crime more serious than petty theft. There is a reasonably large navy base on the island which is a great presence when it comes to keeping things very tranquil locally. The warning publicized relate primarily to drug and violence problems within border towns, not tourist areas such as Cancun or Isla Mujeres.
|Q: I heard the bank is no longer exchanging American Dollars for Pesos. What do we do? | TOP | |
A: Not to worry at all. It is true that the HSBC branch here on Isla Mujeres is no longer exchanging foreign curency, but there are several money exchange houses downtown that are more than happy to exchange Dollars or other foreign currency. There are also plenty of cash machines (ATMs) in the downtown area where you may withdraw money directly in Pesos. This way generally gives you the best exchange rate, but you should consult your bank before leaving to find out what foreign withdrawal fees apply.
|Q: How do I get to/from Isla Mujeres and the Cancun Airport? | TOP | |
A: To get to Isla by Air – you fly to the Cancun airport and then take ground transportation to the Ultramar Ferry (also known as Gran Puerto, Isla Ferry or Puerto Jerez – when in doubt say ‘Isla Mujeres Ferry’). You purchase tickets for the Ferry at the Ferry Dock and the ferry takes you across the Bay of Mujeres to the island. During the day the Ferry runs about every 30 minutes and takes about 25 minutes to cross the bay. When you arrive on Isla Mujeres you can rent a taxi to take you to your hotel or a tricycle operator to take your bags while you walk to your hotel depending on location.
|Q: How do I get to the Ferry from the Airport? | TOP | |
A: You can get to the Ferry by taxi, transfer service or the public bus. Each method has pros and cons here are the common ways to get to the Ferry. If you get in a vehicle with multiple parties – make sure they are not going through the Cancun hotel zone or you will add another hour to your transfer. Normally the transfer takes about 30 minutes. Don’t forget to tip the drivers.
a. Taxi and private Vans – when you exit the Terminal there will be numerous people trying to get your attention to ‘help’ you. If you have not prearranged transportation – you can book with a Taxi on-site – you can buy a voucher at the exit of the terminal or negotiate directly with a driver. This will require fairly good Spanish abilities and make sure the fare you negotiate is for the entire party and is either in Peso’s or US dollars. For 2 people the Taxi or Van is usually around $45usd.
b. Transfer Services – there are numerous transfer services where you can pre-arrange for private van transfers from the airport to Isla (round trip or one-way) – popular services include www.bestday.com/Transfers/ , www.cancunvalet.com and www.cancuntransfer.com – usually you fill out a form on their website with your flight information and they meet you at the exit with your name on a sign. You pay the driver in cash, ask for a receipt and keep it for the return. These services cost between $40-$90usd for one-way and round trip.
c. Public bus – There is a public "ADO" bus that runs from the airport to the central bus terminal in Cancun. From there you can take a cab to/from the ferry for $5usd.
|Q: What is the best way to get back to the airport when leaving Isla? | TOP | |
A: You have basically the same options returning to the airport as going except the Taxis are generally cheaper on the return. Expect to pay about $25usd total for 2 people going back to the airport by taxi. When at the ferry in Cancun there are usually taxis waiting up near the entrance for hire. Confirm the total price in US dollars (NOT per person) before loading into the cab. The transfer services will have arranged the pick up time for you at the Ultramar dock – remember the ferry takes 25 minutes – so for an 11am Ultramar (Ferry) pickup you have to catch the 10:30 ferry from Isla Mujeres.
|Q: How do I pay for things on Isla? | TOP | |
A: Everyone in Cancun and in Isla will take US dollars or Mexico pesos. The exchange rate fluctuates daily but is around 10.5 Mexican pesos to the US dollars. This translates to a practical exchange of 10 to 1 to keep the math easy when dealing with small dollar amounts. If the amounts are in the hundreds of dollars it pays to get the exchange rate converted precisely. US coins are of no value to the locals and can even be considered offensive so please do not leave them for the locals.
|Q: How do I get Pesos and Cash on the Island? | TOP | |
A: The popular ways are ATM's, Travelers Checks, Exchangs and Credit Cards
ATM’s on the Island
The main bank on the Island is HSBC – they are one of the largest banks in the world. As such, their ATMs (at the bank office near the ferry, inside the 7-11 and the super market) work with just about any ATM card. Your bank will probably charge you a fee to use the ATM as will HSBC. The ATM is in English and Spanish – it is a good idea to only have a 4 digit pin as older machines will automatically continue after the 4th digit has been entered, preventing you from entering a 5th or 6th digit. Also use common sense to hide the pin, etc when entering the number. Remember you are getting peso’s not US dollars at these ATM’s so 100 pesos is 10 us dollars. It is not unusual to get 2,000 - 5,000 Mexican pesos (mp) at one time ($200usd-$500usd).
The bank, most exchanges and most hotels will accept travelers’ checks. You will need your passport to cash these checks. Bank lines can be long at times so check around for the best time of day to go to the bank. The bank is closed on Sunday but the ATM’s are available 24 hours a day at the bank.
There are a few places that exchange US dollars for Mexican pesos (or Mexican to US) – which in general does not have to be done on the Island as everyone takes US dollars. They will also cash travelers checks. If you do use these services make sure and get a receipt that shows the conversion and count your money before you leave to make sure you received the correct amount. Ninety-nine percent of the time you get everything done perfectly – but sometimes errors do occur – take your time and double check everything – no sense rushing through this process.
A lot of restaurants and hotels take Visa and MasterCard (American express and others are less popular). Mexico is well known for credit card fraud – the paper receipts will generally contain the entire account number – not just the final 4 digits of your account. Normally, if your number is stolen and used someplace else – you are generally only out a maximum of $50usd but each card issuer’s agreement is different. Because of the fraud rate – most cards are deactivated after the first use in Mexico – you then will need to contact your bank to have it re-activated. You can call your bank ahead of time and tell them you will be in Mexico, but often you are stuck having to call the bank again anyway to re-activate the card. Calling US banks can be difficult from the Island – see the section on phoning home for help.
|Q: How do I stay in contact with home via email and phone? | TOP | |
A: The best way is to use an internet cafe for email and phone service.
There are a dozen or so internet businesses in downtown that offer phone, internet and laptop connections. The rate for internet access is around $1.50usd an hour or $1.00usd for half an hour.
Most US cell phones will work in Isla – you need to call your provider before you go to Mexico and tell them you will be in the Cancun Mexico area and you want to make AND receive calls while there. The US cell phone calls are expensive (60-99 cents/minute) to use in Isla but for very brief calls it’s easy and convenient. To call the US on your cell phone you dial 001-AreaCode-Seven-Digit-Number. You will NOT be able to dial a toll free 1-800 type number from your cell phone while in Mexico. You could call someone in the US and have them do a three way conference call to a 1-800 number but you can’t call 1-800 numbers directly.
The cheapest way to call home is to go to an internet cafe that offers calls to the US for around 30 cents a minute. That is about the best rate you will find on the island to call the US. Some internet cafes have the ability to dial US 1-800 numbers – very important for calling banks, cell phone carriers, airlines, etc.
There are also a few businesses that now offer free WiFi access to their clients. Look for signs or ask around for free WiFi service if you bring your laptop to the island.
|Q: How do I rent a golf cart on the Island? | TOP | |
A: There are numerous places to rent golf carts for the day or for 24 hours from the time of rental.
Golf cart rentals are recommended over scooter rentals as traffic has become an issue and scooter accidents are ever increasing. Most golf carts are about $40usd for the day and $50usd for 24 hours. You can sometimes get $5usd off each day if you are renting for multiple days but be prepared to negotiate for this at multiple places to get a discount. Most places will want to keep your drivers license for the duration of the rental.
|Q: How do I get a taxi and what are the rates? | TOP | |
A: Taxis can be hailed just about anywhere in Isla and they can be seen circling the island looking for work in 4 door red cars.
The official rates are posted on a sign near the ferry but to keep things simple here is a general rule of thumb. Taxi’s cost from $3-$7usd. The price scales from short($3) in-town transfers then to mid-island($5) trips and finally to longer($7) trips down the island. Be sure to ask the price before taking off to avoid a surprise at the end of the ride. If you like the driver it is great to ask for their cell phone number and taxi number and have your hotel call them directly for additional trips during your stay.
|Q: How do I check the weather on the Island from home? | TOP | |
A: A good way is to check a weather radar map of the Cacun area and look at Isla for clouds from that map.
If you check most websites and newspapers for the weather in Cancun. You will likely see that thunderstorms or showers are the plan for the day. The bad news is that in Cancun - because of the heat of the mainland – they do have thunderstorms almost daily. Isla is - however - far enough away from the mainland that it avoids many of these thermal thunderstorms from Cancun. It is very hard to get an accurate prediction of the weather in Isla because of this and there is no simple way to get just an Isla forecast. The best thing to do is look at a radar weather map of Cancun on sites like weather.com and see for yourself what is happening in Isla (6 miles off the coast). Many times it is sunny and hot on Isla and pouring down rain in Cancun all day.
There is a webcam and satellite images for Cancun at www.cancunweathertoday.com that can give you an idea of the general weather but Isla is often very different.
|Q: What is Isla Contoy and how do I visit it? | TOP | |
A: Isla Contoy is a small idyllic Island that is about an hour boat ride from Isla.
The island is a National park and bird sanctuary. There are numerous guides that will take you and your group to the island. The trip usually costs $40-$50usd a person and leaves around 9am and returns around 3pm. Trips usually include a stop along the way to snorkel a nice reef, some sort of fruit brunch, then lunch in the lagoon of Contoy, followed by more snorkeling of the lagoon and during the ride back some hand line fishing for barracuda. It is a great day trip for the family. Tip: bring mosquito block if you plan to go inland at all on the island as they can be fierce from time-to-time.
|Q: Is there good snorkling and scuba diving in Isla? | TOP | |
A: Isla has some great snorkel and dive options.
You can take a quick snorkel trip near the small light house by the ferry landing for about $20usd. There are two tanks dives available for around $45usd where you can dive the reef in the bay. From this base – you can do very exotic dives, night dives, cave dives, wreak dives, etc. Be sure the operator you are working with is officially licensed and certified. Ask around for tips on shops with good reputations for diving and snorkeling around Isla.
|Q: What sort of trips can I do in a day from Isla? | TOP | |
A: You can do a number of trips from Isla in one day – it will be a LONG day but it can be done.
Trips include Playa Del Carmen, Tulum and even Chichen Itza. To do these you will have to get up early, catch the ferry and either rent a car and drive yourself or join a tour group in Cancun. There are various places in Isla that can arrange the trip for you, ask around for information.
|Q: What are the fishing options on Isla? | TOP | |
A: You can do bay fishing for 4 hours or deep sea fishing for a full day.
You can go inshore fishing for 4 hours for about $200usd or 8 hours off shore fishing for as little was $400usd to as much as $2,000usd depending on the size of the boat. When fishing in-shore, on the bay, you will catch mostly barracuda and a few other species (yellow tail, etc). Barracuda can range in the bay from a few pounds to 50 plus pounds and can give you a heck of a fight. Many people do not eat barracuda because of the possibility of being poisoned, especially by the larger ones, but they do put on a good fight. Off shore usually requires about a 20 mile ride out to various spots – the fishing includes Dolphin (no, not flipper – Mahi Mahi), Bonita, King Macrel, Sail Fish, Marlin, Shark, Jack fish and many other types. The fishing is generally good from January through the end of June off shore. Many restaurants will cook your fresh catch for a small fee or tip in town.
|Q: What sort of medical care can I get on or near Isla? | TOP | |
A: Isla has a local doctor (Dr. Salas), a local hospital near the downtown Plaza and the Naval Hospital.
Beyond that, Cancun has a number of facilities (HOSPITEN – 998.881.3700, AmeriMed Hospital – 998.881.3400, Hospital Americano – 998.884.6133, AMAT Hospital – 998.887.4422 and more) available should you require hospitalization. Your hotel can contact Dr. Salas at his local number of 998-877-0021. A number of pharmacies are in the downtown area and generally do not require a prescription but if you think you need to see a doctor call Dr. Salas.
|Q: Should I tip on Isla? | TOP | |
A: Tipping is best described as a personal matter.
Suffice it to say that many service providers – maids, bartenders, taxi drivers, etc rely on tips to make a living. Most restaurants do not include a service charge with the meal – when in doubt – ask the waiter or the manager. Please do not tip with US coins or coins other than Pesos. These other coins are not useful to the locals and can even be considered an insult.