the Wal-Mart at Calle 8 and 30th, with directions included in the condo guide notebook. Be adventurous and stop at some of the corner stores for fruits and vegetables. DAK is especially a great find for organic produce as well as the organic restaurant Le Ceribe that is right next door. Also available is a Sam's Club so if you have a US membership - bring it along.
We typically purchase breakfast and snack food as well as many options of drinks and then enjoy the many restaurants along 5th Avenue or some great finds that you might find a little bit off the beaten path.
Are there any precautions needed before eating fresh produce?
Definitely. If you purchase fruits or vegetables there is an easy step to take prior to eating them. You will need to rinse them in purification drops and tap water. We have provided a number of large bowls and containers to make this even easier. The purification drops needed are called Microdyn and typically found in the produce section, although many times there is a bottle left behind from a previous guest so look in cabinets before heading to the store.
Just fill the sink or container with water, add 5 or 6 drops, and soak everything - lettuce, apples, onions, jalapenos, tomatoes, etc., for about 15-20 minutes and then store as you would normally. There is no flavor in the drops. Note: Mexican produce is often very fresh and without preservatives, it won't keep as long as produce bought back home....probably better!
What is the best way to exchange money? Should I get pesos before I arrive in Mexico?
We never exchange money prior to coming to Playa - too expensive. You can easily get along in most of the major places with US dollars or credit cards until you have an opportunity to exchange your currency to pesos.
Banks used to offer the best exchange rate, followed closely by ATMs. However, at the banks a new law was passed that require a passport to be presented and there is a strict limit on the daily amount exchanged. We typically exchange $100-$200 US dollars at a time which can last your for a number of days depending on your activities. Plan just like you would any vacation - some cash and credit cards as back up.
ATMs work the same in Mexico as in the States, with most of them having instructions in English and Spanish. You will have to input the amount of pesos you want to withdraw instead of US or Canadian dollars (as of January 2012 - 5,000 pesos = about $400 US). The fee is also stated in pesos, so don't be freaked with what looks to be $6 or $7 ATM fee when it is really about 60 or 70 cents. For the lowest fees and safest ATMs, use those that are attached to a bank and not the ATMs located within stores or out on the streets. There are quite a few options within close proximity to Casa de Canciones as well as on 10th Ave & Calle 8 or Constituyentes. There is also a ScotiaBank ATM in front of the bus station on 5th Avenue which is very convenient.
Just like at home, thieves will sometimes target an ATM and place tiny cameras or other instruments to read your card. Always be sure that nothing foreign and removable is inside the card reader and cover the keypad with your hand when entering your PIN.
What about the exchange places on 5th Avenue?
Other than ATMs or banks, the next best way is at the cambios which you will find up and down 5th Avenue. They are easily spotted by their large advertising signs with their exchange rate. The rate can vary widely so we often check out various ones before committing. There are some cambios associated with banks that will also request your passport when exchanging.
Can I use my credit card?
As you would with any travel plans, always call your credit card companies prior to your vacation to let them know you are traveling out of the country. We will use our credit cards at Wal-Mart and other large stores where the card is always in sight and have had no issues as long as we have alerted the credit card company. At restaurants we typically use cash as we feel safer since the card leaves your sight.
How do I stay in touch back home?
If you have family at home you want to connect with, there are two inexpensive options. We offer free WiFi in the condo so just bring your laptop or iPad and connection is easy. Instructions are in the condo guide or Latido de Mexico can assist you with any problems. Internet in Mexico can sometimes be spotty and at times you might just have to reboot the cable box to reset and get connected.
We also have provided a Mexican Movistar cell phone for your use while in Mexico. Previous guests may have left some minutes on the phone or you can easily purchase additional minutes at an OXXO.
What if I get sick?
We recommend using common sense when selecting restaurants, drink and make coffee with bottled water in the condo and you should avoid any stomach trouble. But, because you will be experiencing different foods that your system is not used to, we suggest traveling with ImmodiumAD and other meds that you know help you in these situations. There are also countless pharmacies up and down 5th Avenue to pick up items you may need. Some prescription drugs can also be purchased if you need something stronger. Pharmacists have more authority in Mexico and many are prepared to offer 'light' medical help for minor illnesses just ask for their help. We have been told to ask for "Treda" if we have stomach troubles in Mexico, but have not had to check that out. We have also had some friends need more medical care and they have recommended using Dr. Bernardo Diaz for care while in Playa. His information is in the condo guide just in case.
Can I drink the water?
If you are new to travel in Mexico the horror stories of drinking the water are always being told. Rest assured that drinking bottled water is the norm and the way of life in Mexico. You will have an ample supply of purified water in the condo and more can be made available to you through our property manager, Latido de Mexico, or is easily purchased at any OXXO, Wal-Mart or Chedraui. Use the bottled water for making ice, brushing your teeth and of course drinking. It is perfectly safe to wash your dishes in hot soapy tap water.
Where do I get groceries?
There are quite a few options for groceries within walking distance. We often get the basics from