How To Outwit, Outlast, Outplay - Survivor - the Baja Edition

Published: May 5th 2010
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too much tequila?too much tequila?too much tequila?

what happens in Cabo, stays in Cabo!
Going to Los Cabos for the first time? Just to be sure you don't end up 'tits up' like my little friend hooty the blowfish (see picture), I've jotted down a few little pointers to help.

Hola! I'm Cabochick and I know Cabo. I get asked all the it safe to go to Mexico?

Yes, Mexico can be an intimidating, nerve-wracking ordeal for those who haven't stepped foot on the lands of hot peppers and mariachi before...and granted, those with easy-going personalities will get along suitably better than those high-strung, starbucks-saturated individuals. If I can give one word of advice....adopt the following mantra...."Don't Worry, Be Happy" and all will be fine.

Jimmy Buffett really did know what he was talking about when he wrote Margaritaville.

While in Mexico, I highly recommend you practice your highest level of alertness around your person at all times. That doesn't mean being all paranoid or yelling at inanimate objects when startled. What I mean is... "If you go looking for trouble, you're gonna find it." Activities such as 'trying to score some weed', 'making friends with the child in the miniskirt on the street corner', or 'drinking until you can't manoeuvre your flip flops' are all definite guarantees you will meet up with trouble, or at least the local Policia. The best advice is to blend in. And use common sense. Other than that, Yes, Los Cabos IS a very safe and fun destination!

The following is a list of all the idiosyncrasies that are Mexico. Love 'em or Hate 'em, the minute you step off the plane, you are immediately subjected to 'em.

First off, I can guarantee you did not fill out that gigantic FMT form correctly while on the airplane. No one does. Be prepared to be reprimanded like a school kid by the angry customs official. Smile and nod and re-write. First hurdle averted.

RED light GREEN light
My favourite part of Mexican airports. After you have retrieved your luggage, you must clear the immigration area. The clerk will take your declaration card, and point at a button you and only you must push. Green light means you get to leave, Red light means all your luggage and items need to be rifled through and questioned. May you always get the green light my friend.

The Shark Pit
My least favourite part of Mexican airports. The frenzy of clean-cut young men can startle even the most seasoned of travellers. They yell at you from behind booths. They will pretend they are your shuttle service. Others stand right in front of you, asking your name, asking where you are staying, asking if you are alone. It can be horrifying and for the most part, all are moonlighting for timeshare companies - they get commissions for signing up clients. Best thing to do is walk through without talking to any of them, as you can get the same information at your resort concierge desk.

The only downfall to any of this, is that if you haven't pre-arranged any transportation to your resort, then you WILL need to talk to them...because they also all moonlight as shuttle service providers, taxi or bus hire. Good luck to you, as you WILL be on a complimentary glass-bottom boat tour by the morning...whether you want to or not.

Bypassing The Harsh Reality
Not to burst your vacation bubble, but in Cabo San Lucas, the Mexican government does not want their tourists to see their ugly side. So they built a bypass toll-highway that conveniently skirts past the little town of San Jose del Cabo that displays a nice array of shanty towns built in the arroyos (dry riverbeds). Those cardboard and tin shacks are the homes of the people who will be cleaning your room, preparing your food, or washing your sheets. Remember that when you dole out a tip or leave behind some perfume or makeup. Life here is not all sunshine and lollipops.

Not Every Mexican Is On The Make/Take
Simple rule to live one wants to be friends with you in Los Cabos. Seriously. Most Mexicans that live and work here in Cabo are only here for one reason - the tourists and their tips. If you really want to meet Mexican people and get to know them and their families, the resort towns are not the places. Please consider visiting towns far inland to meet Mexican people with real traditions and to learn about their history and rich culture. Cabo Wabo Cantina isn't the place...even on the nights Sammy Hagar shows up.

Whatcha Gonna Do When They Come for You
There are three levels of police in Cabo. Not too long ago, officers had to resort to bcommuted to work crammed in the back of a pickup truck...and made less than minimum wage. Now, they have all the gadgets, vehicles and their favourite....sirens, to play with. Messing with any level can be interesting. I would highly recommend not joking about. Throw in guns and a language barrier and things can go badly quickly. Be respectful. Not all officers are corrupt...but if you are given any strange direction or asked for any money up front, then you must decide how you will deal. You have every right to ask for a receipt, or to go to their police station to sort things out. In a back alley? Not so much. Don't forget in Mexico, you are guilty until proven innocent. Situations can be an assortment of frustration depending on what level of police you are dealing with. In Cabo there is the equivalent of City, State, and Federal police. You will most likely tangle with "Federalies" in a surprise weapons or drugs roadblocks outside of town. If you are driving and cause any kind of traffic infraction, you will probably meet the municipal police - but they also moonlight as tourist they will sort out any tourist related issues...they also speak English. The state police are involved with any boating issues or serious crimes.

Don't Drink The Water
True, Cabo water isn't nothing to write home about, but for most of the year (except storm season), it is drinkable, but I would stick to bottled water anyway. The food is really what you have to watch out for, or the unwashed vegetables and fruits. One way to get around having a bout of 'tourista' - is to eat yogurt every day. For me, I take the pill form that contains acidophilus. This ensures you have enough good bacteria in your system to fight off bad bacteria you have unknowingly ingested, allowing you a worry-free holiday. Believe me, snorkelling and diarrhea are NOT amusing when combined. You still should be cautious as some bacteria and viruses can kill ya. Here, foods we think should be refrigerated aren't (eggs), or foods that need curing (bacon) aren't. If you run up against E-coli or even worse, Hepatitis A, a fever or your pee turning black is usually a good indication to seek out a Doctor immediately. There are also preventative vaccines, which are highly recommended if you plan to travel anywhere internationally. Better safe than sorry right?

Ironically 'self indulgence' appears to be the main culprit for why most tourists get sick - a combination of massive quantities of tequila, flaming spicy tacos, heat stroke, and burning yourself into a bright red lobster, and then drinking half the ocean surf all in one week does takes its toll! Be kind to yourself. You are susposed to be on vacation...not pretending to be a prisoner at abu ghriab prison.

Take A Chill Pill
Back to the above mentioned mantra - Ddon't Worry, Be Happy - please understand that nothing, and I mean nothing in Mexico runs like it does back home. And even though Los Cabos is very americanized...the line-ups still won't make sense, ATM's will run out of money, waiters won't bring you the bill unless prompted, and 'meet me here at 5:30' means probably anywhere between 7 and 9:30. Time in Mexico is not about the deadline but the experience.

Defensive Driving
Mexican people are some of the kindest, shy timid people I have ever met, but get them behind the wheel of a car, and I don't know what happens to them. Every single one drives at least 140 kms an hour, weaving in and out of traffic with one turn signal constantly blinking. They do not stop at an alto...rule is first person to cross the line just sorta slides through without hitting the brakes. They like loud music, loud mufflers, and it appears to be mandatory to have at least twelve people per car per trip. I often refer to my trip to the grocery store as doing the Mexican 500...and there is usually at least one close call per. And don't get me started about the round-about edicate! Best advice is to be prepared to drive like your life depends on it, drop all your common roadsense rules, and ensure you have lots of Mexican insurance.

Los Cabos is located on the mighty Pacific Ocean skirted by the Sea of Cortez, and it likes to remind you of that daily. I am a former lifeguard and expert swimmer, and even I have been caught in severe rip currents, undertows, and body slammed by rouge waves. Lots of people have died. Resorts overcompensate for this by having amazing pool areas that are quite massive and impressive, but their clients often feel ripped off that they can't swim in the ocean and try anyways - so the resorts hired guys called lifeguards (qualifications unknown) to patrol and yell at tourists. Some years they even pay to bulldoze the beach flat so the undertow isn't so severe. If you really really want to swim in the ocean while in Los Cabos, I would recommend going to some of the public beaches on sheltered bays along the coastline instead. Chileno is the most popular, then Santa Maria next to it, also Palmilla, Playita, Medano & Lovers beaches. All are fairly safe even on high surf day.

Habla your Espanol
Why oh why do tourists think all Mexicans should speak English?? I find this so incredibly distressing and disturbing. We are in their country...and in their country they speak Spanish! For god sakes TRY at least. Most locals do speak some English, but are also experts on figuring out what you want. You throw the odd Spanish word out there, and they will do everything to help you. If you say BAN-YO...They know you want a bathroom and will point you in the right direction. I can't tell you how many rude tourists I've watched reprimand a Mexican for not speaking English properly. Really?

Sea of Peddlers
Probably the biggest complaint I hear from most resort dwellers is the sea of beach vendors in white that will walk up and down the beaches trying to sell you stuff all day long. About 300 of them will come by at least once, and you will say 'No Gracias' 300 times. Safe haven is on the resort grounds which they aren't allowed on - but they will wave items at you to get your attention. If they even smell your slightest interest in their wares, you are toast. They will circle you like hungry piranha, and you WILL buy a turtle mobile or straw hat. Seriously though, if I ever need my hair braided or some gaudy silver jewellery...these are the guys to go to! They will bargain with you, and you will come away with a deal. Best rule of thumb what ever the price is, offer half, and haggle a bit. It always feels like sweet victory when you get your marlin ironwood carving for 1/2 price (even though its only worth 1/2 of that).

How 'bout those Cartels?
Well thanks to our drug-addicted western civilization, we have gang related cartels. Whatever your politics or beliefs may be about this whole situation, the one thing that is obviously clear, cartels are brutal...and will duke it out anywhere and anytime for their piece of the pie. So, are you safe in Cabo? I'd like to say 100%!y(MISSING)es....but that would be ridiculous. So, I'm just going to say this. Cartel and gang members live all over Mexico. They also live in resort do their families. Although I know the Mexican Government pays them off to keep their inhouse fighting out of the multibillion dollar resort towns, for some reason criminals don't keep their word nor do they feel morally obligated to do so. So, things still happen randomly. I.e. recent randoms in Acapulco and Mazatlan. They also don't really give a rats ass about the fat white Gringos that invade their lands seasonally and act like freakin' hooligans...I actually saw this one sunburnt Texan sport fisherman yell at a vacationing Cartel member thinking he was wait staff. "Hey Jefe, get me another cervasa....Rapido." Yah, that's right he did. Simple rule of thumb: If all this makes you nervous then stay within the confines of your resort grounds, try not to yell at random Mexicans, and always pay attention to your surroundings and your situations when in a foreign country.

Well there you have it. This is all meant to be tongue and cheek by the way....I hope I haven't scared you off. Everyone should experience wonderful Los Cabos! I personally go to Los Cabos twice a year and have been for over thirty years now. If it's any consolation, there IS a reason why thousands upon thousands of tourists visit Los Cabos annually.

Cabo San Lucas is known Internationally as a sports activity destination, so if you ever want to put down your pina colada for a second and get out of that lawn chair during your vacation holiday, you won't run out of fun things to do. You can Swim with dolphins, ATV sand dunes, Parasail over the beaches, Surf, Snorkel or Scuba, Mountain bike, go fishing, Golf, Zip line over an arroyo, go Whale watching AND that's not all. Los Cabos has some of the best restaurants, sunset cruises, shopping, and sights around town to see. Come and see for yourself!!

No Bad Days,
Cabochick aka Andrea


6th May 2010

Always enjoyed your very entertaining way of writing. Nice Blog ! Cheers ! Jo ;)
7th May 2010

Cute blog Andrea, lol, I definitely felt tips one and two upon arriving here! I like especially what you say about the English, it's SO true, we're in their country, not the other way around! The ignorance amazes me too! And if I may ... please reconsider the dolphin swimming, have you seen "The Cove"? Oy, it broke my heart! Happy Travels Canadian Girl! :D P.S. Are you fluent in Spanish now?
9th May 2010

Was planning to visit sometime next year
This blog has certainly changed my mind!
10th May 2010

lo siento senor!
@aspiringnomad. my apologies for offending your travel senses! hopefully you will reconsider, as not all of mexico is resort-like. I love love Mexico and its peoples...

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