Guns and ammunition are illegal in Mexico. You can do some serious jail time if you are caught bringing any kind of weapon or bullets into the country without getting the proper documentation first. The possession of a single weapon or bullet carries a penalty of up to five years in a Mexican prison. Just recently there was a story in the news about an American who made a wrong turn and unintentionally entered Mexico with a hunting rifle in his car. He was immediately arrested and taken to jail, even though he had no intention of even entering Mexico. He was very lucky, for it only took him about a week to clear things up and get released. Any tourist who doesn't admit to possessing a firearm, and is caught with one, will be treated as an arms smuggler and will be ineligible for bail. Do yourself a favor, and don't pack any heat when you cross the border.and pesosare freely convertible, so there is no reason to change money in the US before you come down here. In fact, by my experience, the conversion rates that you get in the US are much lower than what you will get down here. Once here, you can exchange dollars or travelers checks for pesos at any bank or "cambio" which is a small business that only exchanges money. Cambios are all over the place in Mazatlán, you won't have any trouble finding one.
One more recommendation: It never ceases to amaze me that tourists will stand in line at a bank to exchange money for hours, rather than go to a casa de cambio right next door and buy pesos without waiting. The largest spread I have ever seen between a bank and a casa de cambio is .10 pesos, or 10 centavos, and often the bank rate is slightly lower than the cambio rate. Why, I don't know, but it is. Now let's do the math. Say you are going to exchange $1000 dollars, which is probably a lot more than most of you tourists are going to exchange. The difference between a cambio and a bank would amount to 100 pesos, which currently is about 13 dollars. If you are exchanging $100 dollars it would be $1.30. Is that worth standing in line for? It's your vacation, you decide.
On the subject of ATM machines, they do exist in Mazatlán, almost every large bank and even some supermarkets have them. You can use them to withdraw money from your account back home and get cash pesos in your hot little hand. You will also find that most restaurants, many shops, and all the hotels take VISA and MasterCard. So don't worry about money, these clever Mexicans are prepared to relieve you of yours in all of its forms, and with great convenience to you.
There is another debit card scam going around. Apparently some enterprising crooks have gotten their hands on a device that allow them to clone debit cards. In some restaurants, you are presented with a little machine that reads your debit card and asks you to enter your pin. The device dutifully records all the info it reads from you card, as well as the pin you type in. That night, or the next day, the thief goes on a spending spree at your expense. My advice, is that until further notice, do not use a debit card anywhere, ever. (That includes the USA and Canada, as these devices supposedly come from Canada.)
You can see what pesos look like before you get here, and learn about the people who appear on the current crop of peso notes. They range from bandits to nuns, and provide an interesting glimpse into the national heroes of Mexico.
The following table gives you a peso to dollar conversion table. The numbers in the peso column are the denominations of the currently available bills. The most popular bills are the 100 and the 50 peso note, so if you remember those conversion rates, you should have little or no trouble in figuring out the prices in dollars. The conversion rate I quote is what I see on the signs of the various cambios that line the main avenue. It is generally lower that what you see in the New York Times, which quotes the interbank rate. I will endeavor to keep the following table up to date.
This table was generated on March 10, 2012
Exchange Rate is 12.6415 pesos to the US dollar.
and 0.9906 pesos to the Canadian dollar.
|These are most popular denominations you will find in Mexico. Please note: This data was generated by downloading the official exchange rate. The local banks and cambios rates are typically 5% less.
Speaking of phones, I've compiled a little table that should get you through just about any emergency. Why not print it out and take it with you.
|Consumer Affairs (Profeco)
|Social Security Headquarters
|982-2111 x 2120
|Teacher's Social Security
|Secretary of Education
|Federal Election Board
|Ferry to La Paz
Unlike the USA, when you dial a cell phone user in Mexico, the caller pays, not the receiver. You can tell this is happening to you because local cell phone numbers always begin with 044. Well, starting Nov. 4, 2006, you can now call (and pay) cell phones that are not in your local area. To dial a long distance cell phone number from a phone in Mexico, you need to prefix the number with 045. To dial a cell phone from north of the border, you must dial a 011-521 prefix. Now isn't that just so user friendly?
The busses are another convenient way of getting around. The Sábalo Centro line runs from the heart of downtown, through the golden zone, and continues to the North. The cost is about $5 pesos to $7 pesos, depending on the time of day and the bus that you board.. The air conditioned Mercedes busses cost about $7.00 pesos. You should probably avoid these during rush hour (from 5pm to 7pm) because they tend to fill up quickly and you will definitely know what kind of deodorant your fellow passenger isn't using. If you are in the golden zone and want to go to another part of the golden zone, any bus that runs in your desired direction will stop pretty close to where you want to go, so just jump on. Also, the Cerritos Juarez bus stops at the Gran Plaza mall and the baseball stadium, and the Sábalo Cocos bus stops at the Soriana supermarket and Plaza Ley. The Sábalo Centro bus runs along the main road connecting the golden zone to old Mazatlán, and stops at the Cathedral and the Mercado. Finally the Playa Sur line will take you all the way down to the lighthouse. A map of the bus routesin Mazatlán is now available online. It is a large file, so please be patient. Try to carry change with you when you board. Driver's will make change, don't expect them to break a 100 peso bill. If you need to transfer to another bus, you will have to pay another fare. There is no such thing as a transfer here. To catch a bus, either wait at one of the designated bus stops or hail the bus by waving your arm when the driver is about a block away. Normally they will stop for you, unless they deem it unsafe to do so. For a cheap city tour, pick a bus line and ride to the end of the line. Then ride it back again. Unlike busses in most US cities, the busses in Mazatlán are cheap, frequent, and safe.
As a quick reference, here are some of the major routes and stops. I'm assuming your catching the bus in the golden zone and that the bus is heading southbound, towards old Mazatlán.
Angela Peralta Theater
|Central Bus Station
Old Plaza Ley
Plaza Las Americas Cinemas
Gran Plaza Shopping Mall
Want to know more about busses? There are over 350 of them in the city, and each is owned by its driver and driven along established routes set by the union, which oversees the busses. Drivers buy books of tickets 650 at a time, and are obligated to issue a ticket to each passenger that gets on the bus. Drivers get to keep 20% of the fares, with the remaining 80% going to the union. Occasionally, a union inspector will get on the bus to confirm that each passenger has a ticket, just to make sure the union is getting its 80%. In dollar terms, you are paying the driver less than a dime for the ride, so if you want to give him a little extra, it would certainly be appreciated. I never ask for change back whenever the fare isn't an exact number of pesos, and the drivers are always happy to pick me up.
|Camarón Sábalo 402
|Camarón Sábalo 224
|Camarón Sábalo 7000
|Camarón Sábalo 134
|Tel.- 1 (800) 6954-3030
|Camarón Sábalo 333-3
|Camarón Sábalo 316
According to the 1998 published National Car Rental price sheet, there are two different rate plans, one that includes unlimited mileage and one that has a per kilometer charge. The per day car rentals range from $135 pesos per day plus $1.85 per kilometer for a VW bug to $520 per day and $3.65 per kilometer for a GM Suburban. The unlimited mileage plan ranges from $267pesos per day for the VW to $980 per day for the Suburban. Insurance is an extra $95 per day and there is a 15% VAT tax on top of that. You need to be at least 25 years old, with a valid driver's license and a major credit card. All of these prices are as of Nov. 1998 when the peso is at $9.80 to the US dollar. I can tell you that even $135 pesos will buy you a lot of taxi rides.One of the great things about traveling to Mexico is how easy it is to bring your little doggie or kitty into the country. We have two cats and three dogs,so we speak from experience. All you need to bring them into the country is an up to date health certificate, which should be available from any vet in the US. There are a couple of gotchas, however. First your health certificate should be issued within 5 days of entry. We have been known, in our earlier lawbreaking days, to alter the date on the certificate ourselves. So far the FBI has not caught up with us. Second, each person is only permitted to bring in two pets. Since we travel with three (two dogs and a doglet) we have the vet in the US put Nadine's name on two of the certificates, and my name on the other one. That way we comply with the two pets per person rule. We have found most of the restaurants here very tolerant of our little Gatita dog. You'll have to check with your hotel as to their pet policy, but most vacation rental houses will permit them. Maybe your beloved little friend deserves a vacation as well!
To go in the other direction, ie from Mexico to the USA, all you need is a recent (again 5 day) health certificate. In our experience, the customs officials in the US don't check as thoroughly as their counterparts in Mexico.firstname.lastname@example.org Their local phone number is (669) 913-0117, and foreign subscriptions are available for only $28 dollars per year. They have their own www site at http://www.pacificpearl.com New in 2000, now you can subscribe to their online edition for only $12.99 per year. They are making the entire edition available as a PDF file online. In order to subscribe, please make your check payable to Michael J. Veselik, and send it to:
|In the US:
413 Interamerica Blvd. WH1
Mail Boxes Etc.
PO Box 345
I would like to thank the Pacific Pearl for their permission to allow me to reproduce their tourist maps of Mazatlán for my WWW site. Thank you Michael and Maricha!Another friend of mine, Maureen Dietrich, decided to get in the newspaper business in late 2008. She and her team have put together a first class semi-weekly newspaper, called The Mazatlán Messenger. It is availble at about forty different locations throughout Mazatlán, and contains timely and interesting articles about current events. Marureen tackles things that are little discussed in other publications, for example her lead article in the Jan 11 2009 issue talks about a guy arrested for real estate fraud. We happen to know a little about this case, and were that told the victim knew he was in trouble when he bought the entire fifth floor of a new condo development going up in Mazatlán, and witnessed the workers starting to put on the roof after only four floors were completed. You can contact Maureen at email@example.com, and her office is at:
Mexico may be a third world country, but it has a first world communications system. There are three different internet service providers here. They are Red2000, Telmex,the phone company, and Megared,the cable company. There are also several internet cafes in the Golden zone, where you can send and receive email or surf the web.
My local ISP is Red2000, which has been my provider since 1996. Why? Because where I live, we don't have cable access, and because Noe and Moises, two brothers who started Red2000, have always been more than helpful to me and have gone above and beyond the call of duty to keep their customers happy. Also Nadine and I are basically loyal. They currently have about 100 lines, and feature a one week unlimited access account in case you are in a place where you have a phone line available. Most hotels go through a PBX, and you may not be able to connect through your room. Their voice number is 011-52-669-985-3733, and there is always someone there who speaks English. You can also visit their offices at Plaza Las Americas, which any taxi driver can take you to, and connect via their LAN for blazingly fast access.
2002 Update I have arrived in DSL heaven! Telmex, the local phone company came over and hooked me up with an ADSL line. It is a little pricey when compared to a dial up line. The installation is around $300US, and the monthly fee is around $50US, but to a nerd like me, it is worth every penny. The installers came over and did a great job. My wiring is, how shall I put it, a bit custom, but they perservered and got everything hooked up, even though it took them almost all day and they had to call in a senior installer to help. Now a word of caution to all you Linux users out there, yes both of you! When you order DSL, which Telmex calls Infinitum, you must tell the operator that you are using a lesser operating system that eminates from Redmond, otherwise they won't even come out and install anything. However, don't despair, all you need is your username and password, and you can be up and running under Linux in 5 minutes.
There are lots of internet cafes around, just walk down the street and keep your eyes open. They are always opening and closing, and I can't really keep up with them. Chrissy's Hair Salonhas a nice coffee shop and a bunch of terminals set up, and has been in the same place for many years now. There are also several places around where you can have open wireless access. In El Centro, these are: Memorial Cafe, Deli 28, Altazor Cafe, Shrimp Bucket, The Melville, the lobby of the Belmar Hotel, and the lobby of the Freeman Hotel. In the golden zone, wireless access is available at McDonalds, Rico's Cafe, Heather's Place,Purple Onion, and the lobby of the Costo de Oro hotel.
In addition to these cafes, there are several little stores that offer telephone, postal mail, and email services, so don't worry if you come to Mazatlán you can still connect up to your email account back home and get all those important messages that you just can't live without, like those once in a lifetime money-making opportunities that I'm sure are in your IN box right now. On second thought, maybe you should just hang out at the beach.
First of all, let me dispel a rumor that I hear all the time. A wedding performed in Mexico is just as legal as a wedding performed in the USA, Canada, or any other country. It is recognized worldwide, so don't think you can get out of it when you sober up the next morning. Now to the practical aspects. The only wedding that is officially recognized here is the civil wedding, which is performed by assistant judge Nancy Llanes Beltran. Couples often go on to have a religious wedding performed by a priest, but these have no legal standing. The first hurdle that you have to clear is to find the office of Civil Registry. This is where official copies of births, deaths, marriages, and divorces are kept. It is located on the second floor of a building one block north of the city bus depot. Tell the taxi driver to take you to the Transito cerca de Central Camionera. The Transito office is at the back of the courts building. Go to the back door and up the stairs, turn left and the Registry is the corner office just a few steps away from the stairway. Get in line and wait for your turn with the clerk. Yes, that is a manual typewriter she is using, and yes, that is indeed carbon paper. Makes you wish you were the local Xerox rep, but that is the way it is. One of the forms that they require is an abbreviated prenuptial agreement. By the way, all of the forms as well as the wedding ceremony itself are in Spanish, so if you don't read and speak any Spanish, you will make things simpler for yourself if you bring someone along who does. You need to decide what you are going to do with the property you already own individually, as well as any outstanding debts. (I suggest that in order to save yourselves time and trouble during the divorce, you just agree right away that the wife receive all of the property, and the husband receive all of the debts.) You will also need a bunch of official paper work. These are:
Okay, you've gotten the blood test, made the copies, filled out the forms, now you're ready to pay the fee and get married. The current fee is around $75 USD if you get married by the assistant judge at the civil registry, or $120 USD if you want to assistant judge to go somewhere else, say the beach, the hotel garden, Senor Frogs, wherever. This fee includes the taxes, license, form processing, and transportation for the judge. None of this fee goes into the judge's pocket, so you if would be nice if you included a little extra something for her trouble. This is not required, but would certainly be appreciated. If you want any extra "official" copies of your local marriage documents, (and you do) they cost around $4 USD each. This whole process can be done in one day, but more realistic is to do the paperwork one day and arrange for the ceremony on another. Needless to say, weekends are very busy in the local marriage business, so if you want the judge to travel somewhere of your choosing, a weekday and advance arrangements would be advised. Judge Nancy Llanes Beltran speaks very little English, but will do her best to make sure your wedding is smooth and pleasant. You can call her at 982-4488 extension 131 weekdays between 8am and 3pm, which are the same hours as the office of the public registry. Now maybe I can convince Jackie to do some research on Mexican divorces.a new servicethat tries to help people who aren't in Mazatlán get things done down here. For example, if you buy something and have it shipped to you, or deliver something to someone down here, or perhaps try to find that long lost best friend you met on the beach, this might be just the thing for you.