Cozumel Travel Tips

 

 

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Friday, 24th of October 2014
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Cozumel Travel Essentials : Travel Tips

a b c de f g h i j k l m n o p q rs t u v w x y z 



ATM Machines
They are located downtown in the banks.

Baggage
Always tag your bag with your home address and the hotel/address while you are in Cozumel. It has been known in Cancun (stop over) for baggage to be delayed and sometimes as a result, shipped to your destination. It's also a very good idea to have locks on all bags, even carry-ons.

Budget Travel
The cheapest hotels are located downtown but you can often get cheap all-inclusive packages at 2 or 3 star hotels on the beach. Also, renting apartments or condos in town with kitchens will save a lot of money. 
Reducing Costs: Eat cheap or cook your own meals, stay at a clean budget hotel downtown to cut down taxi costs, tour on your own, rent a bicycle, don't spend money to go to national parks just to snorkel (amazing snorkeling almost everywhere). Charters flight are much cheaper but are non-refundable. Check out last minute flights only or package deals. Book with discount brokerage offices that offer additional discounts for booking with them.

Cameras
You'll definitely want to take pictures so don't forget your camera. Disposable cameras are also great and even waterproof disposable cameras for snorkeling. There are lots of camera shops.
Reducing Costs: Buying a camera or disposable cameras are very expensive and you will wish you had brought an extra with you.

Car/Jeep Rentals
Not all rental offices have automatic cars/jeeps. Cars are cheaper to rent but if you are wanting to drive through dirt roads, jeeps are better. Ask to see the cars/jeeps before you rent. Sometimes, you may get a jeep that has only an ignition key on the dash board and no hood.  It's a good idea to reserve your car ahead, especially during high season. 
Reducing Costs: You can usually get discount rates for reservations and use the internet for specials for internet users.

Car Ferry
There is a car ferry at Puertos Morelos (~30 minutes south of Cancun). You do have to reserve space for your car 24 hours ahead of time. The car ferry ride is about 4 hours long and costs begin at ~$50 USD. Passenger rates are $2.50 USD.

Children
Many of the larger hotels have baby-sitting services and children's activities.  Ask your local travel agent or your hotel about these services.

Cruises
Cozumel has several international piers and is frequently a 1 day stop-over destination. There's great snorkeling, diving and tours so don't miss out while you're in Cozumel. Plan ahead by making your arrangements via the internet.

Dining Out
Restaurants range from vendors on the street to extravagant restaurants with matching prices. The restaurant hotels tend to serve more continental menus whereas the restaurants downtown serve more Mexican foods. Most restaurants have menus and price lists visible outside the restaurant so that you can see the menu before you decide to step inside the restaurant. 
Reducing Costs: There's lots of great eateries and less formal restaurants that has great food at great prices. That's where the locals eat. Check out the restaurant section or ask a local where to get great cheap food. 

Driving
Be sure to understand the local traffic laws. The main hotel strip is a two-way road but the streets downtown are mainly one way. Obey the traffic rules and signs. During high season, the roads are flooded with taxis, scooters, bicycles and rental cars so if you plan to be on the road solo, be on the lookout. Signaling is not a common practice.

Electricity
Cozumel runs on the standard 120 volt system. The new hotels and large resorts will have the standard 3 hole outlets but the older hotels, downtown hotels and apartments may be a concern so adapters may be needed. Adapters can be purchased there.

Email/Internet
Most hotels have internet. The larger resorts have internet stations and costs can be high. There are many internet cafes and internet centers where you can easily be connected.

Ferry from Tampa Bay
Service is now closed. No new news about further developments.

Gas Stations
Gas stations are located in the residential part of townt. When filling up, ask for the dollar (pesos) amount instead of litres. See map.

Groceries
There's lot of small variety stores downtown where you can buy groceries, canned goods and bakeries.
Reducing Costs: Stay away from hotel stores and try to guy groceries away from the main downtown area.
Chedraui is a large supermarket like Walmart and it's conveniently located along the main oceanfront road in the southern part of downtown.
San Francisco's, a huge grocery store in the residential district that carries baked good, fresh meat, produce and household items. Taxis within the downtown are is ~$2 USD. See map

Health Risks
Many people travel to Cozumel without any problems. However, there is a risk from contaminated drinking water, peeled fruits and vegetables. An unpleasant result is the traveler's diarrhea. Often, an anti-diarrhea agent will help stop the problem. It might be a good idea to take some with you just in case. If it persists, consult a physician. 

Language
Spanish is the first language in Cozumel. Most restaurants are bilingual and so are hotels. However, English conversation is limited to money and the service they offer. If you plan to do some day trips on your own, it's a good idea to learn some essential phrases. See Spanish Lessons for useful phrases.

Long Term Stays
Almost all lodging places offer good long term rates.
Reducing Costs: Stay downtown or in-town and check out condos and apartments with kitchens. They tend to have the best places. For families or groups, villas in town are a very good option.

Money Exchange
You can exchange money at hotels, money exchange booths downtown and at the banks downtown. 
Reducing Costs: Usually, best rates are at the banks and the worst rates at the hotels. Canadians: sometimes, it's hard to exchange Canadian dollars except at the banks and exchange booths. Having pesos is not neccessary but when tipping in pesos, the money seems to go farther.

Parking
Red lines on the street curve means no parking. Parking tickets are becoming more common. 

Pharmacies
Pharmacies are located down town and in residential zones. 

Roads
The road are paved easy to get around but the dirt roads to ruins or other tourist attractions outside the main streets still have rough spots. The roads also get flooded during heavy periods of rain so try not to take road trips just after heavy rains.

Safety
Cozumel is a very safe island but like any place, it not exempt of crimes. It's quite safe to walk around at night and women feel safe walking alone. Theft seems to be he most common crime that locals complain about.

Scooters
You canít buy insurance when renting scooters. Having additional insurance is a good idea. Also be careful on the roads because of the heavy and fast traffic.

Scuba Diving Knives & Gloves
Banned in the waters of Cozumel when scuba diving.

Seasonal Rates
Cozumel is beautiful all year long. However, the airfares and hotel rates are much higher during December - March. There are usually 3 seasonal rates: 1) mid December to April; 2) April to mid December (lowest); 3) Christmas and New Year's weeks (highest and can be more than double the lowest season rates.
Reducing Costs: Travel during the lowest season. If you like a busy place, avoid January and September. It's the slowest time of the year and it's great if you like tranquility.

Security
Use hotel safes. They free and secure and will give you a peace of mind. Don't forget to write down the numbers of the the traveler's cheques and mark them off as you use them. Keep personal belongings locked up when unattended.

Shopping
There are so many shops that carry the same products and prices can differ dramatically depending on the location of the store. Bargaining is allowed and accepted mainly where it's owner operated. When bargaining, in Mexico, it is often practiced to start at half the original price and then meet half way. Best bargains are made with cash and if you are buying more than one item.
Reducing Costs: Bargain when you can and less fancy stores tend to have better prices and prices tend to drop as you move away from the downtown core. If you're looking for something in particular, asking locals is always good and let them know you are seeking cheap prices.

Sunscreen 
Just like anywhere else that's tropical, the sun is very hot in Cozumel and sunscreen is recommended, especially for children. You can purchase sunscreen and sun tanning products in Cozumel but it is very expensive. Be aware that national ecological parks do not allow lotions in the water.
Reducing Costs: Take enough sunscreen so that you won't be running out. Remember that Cozumel has a tropical climate.

Telephone Calls

There are telephone booths on the streets downtown compatible with major credit cards and collect calls. If you have calling cards, you might also have a difficult time using them in Cozumel. 
Reducing Costs: Long distance calls at the hotels are more expensive because they often charge a fee on top of the long distance charges. A cheap alternative is email or fax which is readily available.

Time Zone
Cozumel is in central time zone and it does observe Daylight Savings Time.

Timeshares
Timeshare can be a very good investment but if you are not interested, it can be a very annoying, time consuming experience. Solicitation of timeshare is very aggressive in the downtown area. Locals stand behind booths and "pretend" to be offering tourist information but are actually timeshare solicitors. They will often offer a free brunch, restaurant voucher or a jeep rental in exchange for a no obligation visit to a hotel. The short visit usually lasts a couple of hours and once they "show" you the place and you're not interested, the timeshare representatives reluctantly will give you the bonus for visiting. Timeshare selling in Cozumel is legitimate.
Reducing Costs: Hotels from 3 stars to 5 stars offer timeshare. Prices don't range too much but the luxury and amenities do range. If interested in timeshare, make sure you want Cozumel to be your most frequented destination and check out a few places before signing. There are lot of hidden costs, especially when you trade for other destinations.

Tipping
It is customary to tip 10-15% in restaurants. Tipping taxi drivers is not common but is appreciated. In large resorts, tips are included but tipping the maid at the end of your stay is common. For those new to scuba diving, captains (boat driver) should be tipped and even dive masters (especially to those that work for large dive shops).

Travel Insurance
Travel insurance can be obtained from insurance companies, banks, visa cards and other financial institutions and even from your own company. It's a very good idea to always travel with insurance in case of medical emergency. Rates will vary depending on the number of people, number of days and type of coverage.
Reducing Costs: Ask around for different rates and if you are going to with others, ask about family and group rates. Also, ask your human resource representative about travel insurance. You might already be covered. 

Vaccinations
Many people travel to it's always better to be safe than sorry. Ask your physician about what is best suited for you if necessary. 

Water
Cozumel has a very good purified water system. The large hotels have a complete purified water system but some of the smaller hotels do not. It never hurts to take extra precautions: drink only bottled water or purified water in restaurants and at in-town restaurants away from tourist areas, be more cautious.
Reducing Costs: If you drink a lot of water, buy bottled water in the residential district away from the downtown area and stock up. If your hotel offers free bottled water, take them with you during the day.

Wheelchair Accessibility
Over the last few years, the streets has been changed to accommodate wheelchair accessibility with ramps. When choosing a hotel, ask about services for the disabled because some hotels do not have ramps or elevators.

Posted by Larry, TravelNotes Chatters Member

NOTES & TIPS

NOTES:  
On drinking the water - We had planned to be very careful about catching whatever the "bug" is.  After the first night, we both had drinks with their ice, ate fresh vegetables, squeezed fruit, limes in our beer, lettuce under the guacamole . . . (I think I'd have the fresh squeezed orange juice with breakfast every morning even if I knew it would make me sick once, it's that good!) We realized afterward that we had both brushed our teeth from the tap and showered without giving the water a thought until after we did it.  People who are extremely careful will miss out on a lot of the best the island has to offer.  We each had a tinge of upset stomach at one point or another but it was more likely a function of too much rich food rather than the bacteria.    

On buying gas - We stopped for gas at both gas stations in town (One near the Supermarket on 30th and 1st Avenues and the other, on the Cross Island Road as you come into town).  I got out and checked the pump to be sure it was zeroed before I gave the attendant my key to the locking gas cap.   The second time I just ordered 100 pesos worth then told him to fill it up so I could turn the car in.  I'd read about the scams that seem to go on when you're buying gas but we experienced no problems.

On currency - We didn't try to convert dollars to pesos or make an effort to deal in pesos.  I'm sure we got hit pretty hard on the conversion but everywhere we went, the two currencies are absolutely interchangeable.  It's been convenient to just deal in dollars anytime we didn't have pesos.  It's not unusual to get 10 to one exchange rate for convenience but many stores have computer registers that just display prices both ways.  If you go into one of the many currency exchange shops they were selling pesos at 9.4 to the dollar and selling dollars at 9.7 pesos to the dollar with the official exchange rate at 9.5 or 9.6.  We've gotten some Mexican coins and bills in change but generally vendors just tend to round up to the nearest dollar and keep the difference. When shopping most places, you are expected to dicker anyway so offer a dollar less. One piece of advice we'd read and didn't follow was to get $100 in ones before leaving for tips.  You might not need $100 but you'll use it.  We left home with nothing smaller than a $20 and scrambled every time we needed to leave a tip all week long.  This is a better idea than it sounds.

On renting and choosing a rental car - Our Jeep had a top that worked and it was nice that it did because after the first day, we put it up and left it up.  We seemed to get plenty of sun on the beach and it was nice to get into the shade, not to mention avoiding a hot seat when we got in.  Make sure you get a top that works and learn how to put it up.  If you expect to have passengers in the back, think about the fact that they have no roof if you rent a bug with the roof cut off.  At night, driving 50 or 60 K/Hr it can get downright chilly but the top helps that a lot.  You might also think about getting in and out of the back seat if you intend to use it.  We tried both a jeep and a Chevy Tracker and found the back seat of both to be very difficult to get in and out of.   After a week for two couples, we'd recommend a small 4 door sedan with AC.  

On buying groceries - We found the big Supermarket on 30th Avenue East and 2nd Avenue North  by accident and asking directions of locals.  It is very complete with a deli a bakery (that puts Zermatt Bakery to shame) even some clothing and all the other things you might expect in a US market.  It is definitely oriented to the locals but they are comfortable dealing in dollars at the check outs.  Not much English spoken here though if you need help.  If you want ice cubes tell the checker (the word for Ice in Spanish is close to "Yellow", they charge about $1.50 for a bag and you show your receipt to the attendant at the ice machine.  One bag was plenty  to fill both our collapsible coolers.

On finding addresses in San Miguel - All the streets in San Miguel are systematically numbered, even those that bear the name of someone.  Driving East and West (directly away from the ocean) the main road along the waterfront is counted as 0 and then the streets running parallel are numbered 5, 10, 15, etc., all East.  The Avenue Benito Jarez where the big Mexican flag is and the square are at the center of town counts as 0 with streets North numbered evenly 2, 4, 6, 8 and streets to the South numbered Odd: 1, 3, 5, 7, etc.  The hook when driving is that almost all the streets are one-way.  Watch the street signs for an arrow indicating the direction of travel and keep an eagle eye out for ALTO signs which are sometimes small and obscured.  

On stoplighted intersections - Stoplights in San Miguel stop three directions to let one go.  If you pull up to a stop light just as it turns red, you will see the other three directions get green before it's your turn to go so don't try to "time the light".    

On the Weather -  For the eight days we were on the island, the weather was very predictable.  Highs around 85 every day and cooling to the low 70s at night.  There was more or less of a breeze, and no rain.  Some days were partly to even mostly cloudy but there was always some sun and we never missed it when it was covered with clouds.  I'd call it "just about perfect" for what we were up to.  I have no way of knowing if this was just luck or what you can expect at this or any time of year.  We'll take it.

On the Bugs - Here again, a possible concern turned out not to be.  In our group we had varying sensitivity to biting bugs.  At the resort and in the town, we had no problem with but bites.  We saw a very few flies and ants at our picnic.  There were some occasional flying insects but certainly not a problem.  We did encounter some biting bugs in the Botanical Gardens at Chankanaab.  Probably some sort of mite because they were very small but they didn't produce a bite that bothered for an extended period and we weren't bothered again once we got out of that forested area.  We had a couple mosquito bites on our last night sitting out on the patio after dark, until we turned the light off.   Maybe just luck, but again, Cozumel gets a "10" from our party.

On the sun - This should go without saying but we saw numerous cases of painful looking sunburn, particularly on peoples legs.  Our advice is, if you're not sure of your tolerance to the sun, try to plan you beach activities starting in small doses and find other things to do during the 11 to 2 hours when the sun is at it's peak.  It seemed best to us to plan getting the sun either first thing or in the afternoon then covering up with clothes and 50 rated sun block on everything exposed and don't forget a hat for your scalp if your hair isn't really thick.   Coming from the North where we've not been in the sun for months, we start out doing 15 minutes on each side and then work up to about an hour on the last day.  It works for us and we get brown enough that no one has to ask if we enjoyed our vacation.  

On Packing - I'm sure it's different for everybody but looking back, we did pretty well.  CLOTHING: Swim suits and short on the bottom T-shirts, Golf shirts on top.  A hat or cap to protect your scalp from a burn and shade your eyes.  Most days were spent in a swim suit and top or cover-up, after the beach, a shower and change into shorts and shirt for dinner in the evening.  We didn't wear slacks all week long and never felt under dressed.  Sandals and a pair of sneakers are all you need for the feet.  My wife wished she'd brought along more tops so she bought a couple in town.  OTHER STUFF WE WERE GLAD WE BROUGHT: A corkscrew for a bottle of wine on our picnic and the deck.  (Look for the great Chilean wines at the supermarket,) Lots of Aloe Vera lotion for soothing the sun burn.  Our one cup drip coffee. (Just right to get you started in the morning.)  Sun Tanning lotion and SPF 50 sun block. Our own bar soap and shampoo.  (The hotels mini soaps and shampoo get to be a hassle after a couple of days.)  STUFF WE GAVE A LONG RIDE BUT DIDN'T USE: My wife's jewelry, second pair of slacks, first aid and sewing kits, a windbreaker.  

On Tipping - We ended up leaving a couple of bucks laid out on the unused bed each day for our maid.  Seems high but that's what we did.  We gave the staff at the front desk $15 and slipped $10 to the one guy who did the most for us.  In bars, restaurants and with cabbies we followed our usual practice of 15% plus or minus just like at home.  Bellmen got a buck a bag.

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