|Secrets Akumal Riviera Maya||Riviera Maya||7 nights||FI|
|Pan Pacific Vancouver Hotel||Vancouver||5 nights||RO|
Straddling Highway 307 along the Caribbean coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, the Riviera Maya is one of Mexico’s most popular resort regions. This 130-kilometre stretch of spectacularly scenic coastline extends from the resort city of Cancun in the north to the Mayan ruins of Tulum in the south. The area is renowned for its long white sand beaches lapped by the clear turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea and lined with world-class all-inclusive resorts and boutique hotels. While travellers seeking tranquillity can explore the jungle and the sleepy fishing villages, those looking to get in on the action can head to Playa del Carmen, a vibrant tourist town featuring some of the best shopping, dining and nightlife that Mexico has to offer. Popular activities in the area include snorkelling, scuba diving, jet skiing, ziplining, horse riding, and swimming in cenotes.
Located at Canada’s southwestern border, the city of Vancouver boasts majestic mountains, sparkling ocean, rainforests and beautiful foliage in all four seasons. A vast multicultural population, endless activities, and excellent infrastructure ensure Vancouver is welcoming to all. While the city has excellent public transportation, it is a great walking city - easily accessible, clean, green and safe. Vancouver caters to almost any interest throughout the year; visitors can enjoy world-class shopping, gourmet meals, outstanding live entertainment, sporting events, theatre, outdoor adventure, a huge array of watersports, and spectacular sights and attractions. The city is also known for its easy access to Whistler, the Canadian Rockies, Victoria, and Vancouver Island. Don’t miss the opportunity to traverse the thrilling, famous Capilano Suspension Bridge and its new related activities, including palpitation-inducing cliff walks and historical tribal sites.
Mexico offers travellers a tantalising smorgasbord of nature, history, cuisine and culture. Aztec and Mayan archaeological treasures, tequila, charming colonial cities, Mexican food and beach culture, all these features and more make up this tourist and historical hub. Culture vultures will be bowled over by the impressive sites of ancient civilisations that moulded Mexico’s great Pre-Columbian history, while nature lovers will be in their element on the pristine beaches along its 10 000-kilometre coastline, or exploring the country’s rainforests, mountain peaks and mangrove lagoons. Gourmands flock here for the distinctive and flavourful cuisine that has become famous the world over.
The national currency of Mexico is the Mexican Peso; and Banco de Mexico is the nation’s central bank, issuing coin and paper money which is legal tender. Prices throughout the country are commonly shown with a dollar-sign ($) in front of the Peso amount; and although in some parts of the country businesses willingly accept U.S. dollars, it's almost always more advantageous (less expensive) for travelers to pay with Mexican Pesos. Likewise, certain people on the receiving end of your payment (e.g. waitstaff, bartenders, chambermaids, et cetera) generally prefer Mexican currency, to save them the inconvenience of a trip to the bank or a stop at a Cambio on their day off. Remember there is a difference between the sell rate and the buy rate so your foreign currency tip will be worth less than intended.
ATMs often provide the best possible exchange rate, the approximate exchange rate between Mexican Pesos and U.S. Dollars, multiplying any Peso amount by 8, then dividing by 100, will approximate the U.S. Dollar cost - within a few cents. For example: $90 Mexican Pesos X 8 = 720, divided by 100 = $7.20 U.S. Dollars. At an exchange rate of 13:1,
On a related topic, it's also strongly advised that travellers call their bank(s) and/or credit-card companies prior to departure, to inform them of their impending travel plans. Otherwise, they might run into some difficulties with their cards. One should also be aware that 'foreign currency transaction fees' and/or 'ATM withdrawal fees' may be incurred when using either type of card. It's best to ask your bank(s) and credit-card companies, in advance about their fees (which usually range between 1%-3%, but could be higher) and make comparisons prior to travelling. FYI: Some banks which are affiliated with (or owned by) Mexican banks impose no 'ATM withdrawal fees', or a minimal charge (less than a dollar per transaction), but each has its own rules and regulations, and some may limit the number of foreign withdrawals before fees are imposed. Two examples of U.S. bank affiliations would be CitiBank with Banamex, and Bank of America with Santander. For Canadians Scotia Bank and HSBC have Mexican affiliates.
For some additional clarification about ATM-cards versus debit-cards and which credit-cards are locally accepted, travellers might also benefit from the following. In simple terms, ATM-cards can ONLY be used for cash withdrawals from ATMs. They are not linked to VISA or MasterCard and cannot be used as a credit-card for purchases. Ergo, if one's ATM-card goes missing, it's useless, without the proper PIN to anyone else. On the other hand, a bank debit-card (which serves a dual purpose and is common elsewhere but not for Canadians as yet) is usually tied to a major credit-card name as well as a personal checking or savings account, and can potentially be used for purchases by anyone who finds or steals it. Should this occur, a traveller may run the risk of having his/her bank account emptied out with no recourse for recouping those funds. It is, therefore 'best' NOT to travel to Mexico with your bank 'debit-card'. Canadians will need to learn that the terminology of debit-cards and ATM cards differs from the USA terminology. As for paying with major credit-cards in Mexico, most business establishments accept either VISA or MasterCard, and some (though fewer) will honour American Express. Discover hasn't yet become an acceptable card, and don't expect to be able to use your foreign WalMart credit-card either. Keep in mind, too, that although the majority of businesses will accept plastic payments, certain local restaurants, many smaller stores and eateries, taquerias, cabs and buses, and most private drivers and tour-guides take 'cash only'. Places which don't take credit cards, especially restaurants, often post a sign which reads 'Lo Sentimos - No Tarjetas de Crédito' (Sorry - No Credit Cards) or have it printed on their menus; but it's always best to inquire.
The use of Travelers Cheques may have waned over the years, but some folks still 'don't leave home without 'em'. While some local businesses continue to honour them, it can be hit-or-miss. For those who prefer to carry Travelers Cheques, it's probably best to cash and exchange them at your hotel whenever possible, on an as-needed basis.
Other precautions regarding ATM-, debit-, and credit cards, which some travellers heed; is to make a photostat copy of your cards, front and back, and obtain and record corresponding 'direct-contact' telephone numbers for the card companies, in the event that your card(s) are lost or stolen. Store this information with your passport in a locked luggage compartment or hotel safe. FYI: Most toll-free company phone-numbers which you'd normally dial from home cannot be accessed from Mexico and you should, therefore, request special contact numbers. Alternately, some travellers prefer to email a copy of this information to themselves, making it more easily accessible from wherever they may happen to be.
Distances in Mexico can be huge, and if you’re intending to travel on public transport, you should be prepared for some very long journeys. Getting from Tijuana to Mexico City, for example, can take nearly two days nonstop by bus. Although public transport at ground level is frequent and reasonably efficient everywhere, taking an internal flight at least once may be worthwhile for the time it saves.
GENERAL PACKING TIPS
- There is so much to see and do in Mexico; whether you are trekking and plan to see a good deal of the country and its archaeological sites, or enjoying a beach/water sports trip, your clothing checklist will depend to a large degree on what you are planning to do.
- It is a hot and humid climate and light layers in natural fabrics (cotton, silk or linen) are good and work well with the humidity. They also wash and dry easily.
- Having said that, jeans are always popular here.
- Merino wool is a good choice to wear against your skin as it naturally helps to regulate your body temperature. It keeps you warm in the cold, wicks away moisture when it's hot, and doesn't retain odours, even after prolonged wear.
- But in resorts and at tourist attractions it's shorts (long shorts are popular) and t-shirts all the way during the day, but do be sure to keep swimwear to the beach and pool and use a sarong or t-shirt to cover up for lunch. Many resorts are fairly self-contained, so unless you plan to travel around independently you are unlikely to mix much with the locals.
- Wear plenty of sunscreen, sunglasses and a sunhat. Don't forget your insect/mosquito repellent.
- Pack a pashmina or sweater as the air conditioning on the first class buses, in smart hotels etc. can be fierce, it's often warmer to sit outside in the evenings. And if you're on the coast there can be cool sea breezes which are chilly if you're sat out of the sun.
- Pack some comfortable closed walking shoes or sneakers if exploring away from resorts. The ground can be uneven and dusty, whilst at the Mayan ruins of Tulum etc. if you want to climb the structures (only allowed at some) then they can be steep and strenuous, and slippery if wet.
CLOTHING TIPS FOR WOMEN
- Mexicans tend to look very groomed, with ladies wearing jewellery and make-up even when doing the shopping. A few simple accessories or costume jewellery will help you 'glam up' if you need to.
- A pashmina is a versatile piece that will dress up any outfit too.
- Jeans are always popular here and teamed with smart tops and heels make for a flexible look that will help you fit right in.
- Dinner in resort hotels tends to be smart casual and some restaurants will not allow shorts or camisoles. Women tend to wear loose sundresses and skirts with sandals, as it is still hot and humid in the evenings.
- Avoid wearing clothes that show your stomach or cleavage, particularly if you are planning to visit the more conservative rural parts of Mexico. A wrap is always good to help you cover up.
- And if you are travelling outside of the popular resort areas our advice would be to wear skirts or dresses, lightweight pants or Capri pants rather than shorts.
CLOTHING TIPS FOR MEN
- Dinner in resort hotels tends to be smart casual and some restaurants will not allow shorts or sleeveless tops. For men, lightweight pants and short-sleeved shirts are the norm.
PACK FOR THE WEATHER
- You may experience some light drizzle or short sharp downpours. A lightweight pack-away raincoat or travel umbrella can be handy, but it is so warm you will dry quickly if you do get wet.
- Winter (December, January, February) can be cooler in the early mornings and late evenings, so our advice would be to pop a fleece in your case. The rest of the year the temperature remains pretty constant.
What to drink in Mexico:
- Try to get your body used to reaching out for water before you travel to Mexico. Bottled water that is. While it may seem a bit expensive to do at home, it is a necessity in Mexico. Train the brain into a water break and always keep hydrated. When touring around Mexico and outside of your hotel zone, always keep a bottle of water with you. Not only will thirst hit you at an intense level, your body needs more hydration here than it does in other countries.
- Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT drink the tap water anywhere. Most people know this tip and never have an issue because of it. Nowadays, many hotels feature mini-bars with bottled water to keep you hydrated and Montezuma-free. If at a bar, it's safer to drink a bottled beer than a glass with water and ice. That shouldn't be a problem should it?!
- Avoid squeezed juices. You have no idea where the vegetables or fruit has come from and now that your basking in the Mexican sun, do you really want to chance it?
- Minimize your alcohol intake. While you may think it's time to party because your resort is an all-inclusive, remember to drink responsibly. Drinking not only dehydrates you immensly, but in massive quantities it can also mean the difference between a broken arm and a night in a Mexican jail. (i.e. for acting like a clown in the resort and performing stunts you wouldn't normally do or for getting angry at a bar in the local area and assaulting someone....but I am guessing you already knew what I meant :-)
- If you are at a local bar or club and a shooter gal comes by to offer you a shot, do not drink one. They usually never have time to clean those shot glasses and some believe that alcohol actually kills any bug. Ummm.....NOT!
- Do not mix the drinks you consume. Stick with one solid drink during the day or evening and avoid sugar-filled and creamy drinks like Kahluah and cream.
- Avoid ice cubes if possible. Many upscale resorts make their ice cubes with purified water so there usually isn't a need to be paranoid, but if outside your resort, do not add them to drinks. If you do, you and your hotel room and bathroom will become better acquainted.
What to eat in Mexico:
- The most common stomach problem and bug that tourists suffer from when in Mexico or after a trip to Mexico is Montezuma's Revenge. Oh....and revenge it is! Having gone through it once before, it is something I will do my best to avoid for the future. It is a bug that will make you feel as though your bathroom and hotel room have taken you hostge for the duration of your vacation. It involves sweats, stomach pain and cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches and more. First things first, keep your eyes open when eating in Mexico! Your eyes will not lie to you.
- If you can and if you are staying at an all-inclusive resort, stick to eating the meals in the hotel. Avoid going to restaurants unless you have heard through word of mouth about the food. While trying street food from local vendors sounds like fun, your stomach might not be able to handle it. If you are not good with spicy foods, stick to bland foods. Don't be a hero and try to be over-the-top risky and adventurous. You won't look like such a tough cookie when laid up in your room for 5 days because of that extra spicy enchilada from a street vendor.
- Some foods within a buffet that could make you ill if left out too long are milk, cheese, seafood like ceviche salads, salads in general, dressings, salsa's, mayonnaise, fruit juices and more. Just be aware as you grab a quick bite to eat when in a buffet line. This is pretty much the same around the world with buffet safety.
- Sauces and dipping treats like guacamole are risky. They are not always as fresh as you would hope them to be and you run the risk of contaminating yourself with bacteria or a bug.
- Make sure every meat dish you order is well done. This will decrease the risk if illness. Learn how to say well done in Spanish here. We'll give you a tip: BIEN HECHO POR FAVOUR - Translation, well done please.
- Seafood is also tricky and should be cooked well done to avoid any nasty bacteria contamination.
- A tip: Buy some acidophilus before you visit Mexico and take it up to two weeks before you leave. It can kill any bad bacteria as it enters the body and keep you healthy.
If you are unsure about any drink or food item when you are in Mexico, it may be your gut talking. Listen to it, trust it and protect it. It is a smart traveler who is aware of their surroundings and meals at all times.
- Voltage: 110-120 Volts (Same as U.S./Canada, most other areas are 220-240 Volts)
- Primary Socket Types: North American Non-Grounded , North American Grounded
Please note that these may not be identical to U.S./Canadian sockets, and may require an adapter.
- Multi-voltage appliances (laptops, etc.): Plug adapter
Click socket type links to view adapter for that type
- 220-240V appliances: Plug adapter + step-up transformer
- 100V Japanese appliances: Japan to U.S. reducer transformer
The climate of Mexico varies according to altitude. From desert-like regions on the northwest part of the country, the low-lying coastal areas are typically tropical, hot and humid. The weather in Mexico City, which is sited at an altitude of 2,300 metres above sea level, is far more moderate. Mexico City has pleasant summers and mild winters, with an annual average temperature of 18 degrees Celsius. Also, northern Mexico gets very hot during the summer with sudden violent storms in the afternoon, with heavy rain and hail, also an isolated tornado can occur with these storms. Seasonal variations in temperature are small, but May is the warmest month of the year, and January the coldest, when night frosts are possible. Mexico City has a high average annual monthly rainfall, most falling in summer, the wettest month being July, and the driest month February. ). During hurricane season, hurricanes are common in the coastal cities especially those near the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.
Lumberjacks, beavers, hockey fanatics, Mounties and maple syrup spring immediately to mind. While Canada certainly provides all of these traditional associations in abundance, this awe-inspiring country has so much more to offer than a slew of cliches. With its unrivalled outdoor adventure facilities, its unforgettable natural landscapes and its exceptionally cosmopolitan and progressive cities, Canada has plenty to offer those seeking cutting-edge culture as well as adventure junkies looking for a serious adrenaline kick. Popular tourist destinations include: the magnificent Rocky Mountains around Banff and Lake Louise, high-end luxury ski resorts such as Whistler and Blackcomb, the French-speaking cities of Montreal or Quebec, or the uber-cool and perpetually bustling urban centres of Vancouver or Toronto. Whether visiting an Inuit lodge in Nunavut, taking a dog-sled ride through the Yukon to view the spectacular northern lights blaze across the night sky, or indulging in some lovely high tea on Vancouver Island, you are bound to find plenty of activities to keep you blissfully engaged in this exceptionally diverse and incomprehensibly vast nation.
The Canadian dollar is the currency of Canada. It is abbreviated with the dollar sign $, or sometimes C$ to distinguish it from other dollar-denominated currencies. It is divided into 100 cents. Canada has both paper money and coins. There are currently five coins in circulation – nickel (5¢), dime (10¢), quarter (25¢), 'loonie' ($1 ) and 'toonie' ($2). There is no longer a penny coin (1¢), so amounts are rounded up or down to the closest 5¢. Five bill denominations ($5, $10, $20, $50, $100)
Regular banking hours in Canada are 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday, with extended hours including weekends at some locations.
Most merchants accept credit cards. Visa and MasterCard are the most popular. American Express is not as widely accepted. Travellers' cheques are less popular — and may be subject to a fee. Although tempting and convenient to exchange funds at your hotel’s front desk, it’s always best to exchange currency at a bank or credit union.
Direct flights connect the major cities with the larger Canadian airports, and frequent connecting flights will help you get to any Canadian destination efficiently. Canada is well serviced by road and rail – take the train to sit back, relax and enjoy the sites, or hire a car and travel at your own pace.
For the most economical mode of transport, jump on a bus – you’ll find that Canada’s system of intercity bus routes spans the entire country and is very efficient. Some cities also offer flexible transit passes so you can enjoy unlimited all-day, multi-day or monthly travel within that city.
You could also catch a ferry to discover beautiful island retreats and coastal paradises, or just get from A to B on a convenient inland ferry service.
Winter: warm coat/parka, fleece (pants, tops, etc.), undershirt and long johns (underpants), warm hat, gloves, and scarf, clothes you would wear in early spring or fall
Spring: Sweaters (fleece, wool, cotton, etc.), hoodie, ponchos, leather jacket, long & short sleeved shirts, heavier jeans, rain jacket, umbrella, sun hat, sunglasses, etc.
Summer: thin and light cottons, linens, and sport nylons, shorts, cropped pants, tank tops, skirts, sun hat, sun glasses, light jeans, khaki's, etc. in light colours (white, beige, etc.)
Fall: Sweaters (fleece, wool, cotton, heavy linen, etc.), hoodies, ponchos, long & short sleeved shirts, heavier jeans, etc..
Tap water is safe to drink and food safety standards are high. If camping in the backcountry, you should be aware of the risks of giardia, where water in streams or lakes has been contaminated by animal waste. This can cause diarrhoea, vomiting and headaches. Ensure you boil, filter or purify water first; purification tablets are easy to buy in any outdoor equipment store. You should also be aware of the dangers of eating shellfish directly from the sea, which can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning, resulting in illness or death. Check locally before you travel.
An extensive variety of cuisine is available representing the multicultural flavour of Vancouver. Fine dining, casual or family friendly restaurants are easily accessible throughout Greater Vancouver.
Alcoholic beverages in bottles are sold in special 'Liquor' stores. However, alcoholic beverages including beer and wine may be purchased in "Licensed Premises" establishments, such as restaurants, hotel lounges, pubs, and nightclubs. Minors are not admitted into bars. In BC, minors are defined as anyone under 19 years of age.
Canadian appliances operate on 110 volts and the cycle is 60Hz, which is identical to the US voltage. Main wall sockets and plugs are two parallel flat prongs, making a universal adaptor necessary for overseas electrical devices.
Canada’s climate is not as cold all year round as you might think. Winter temperatures fall below freezing in most of Canada but the South Western coast is relatively mild. Along the Arctic Circle is where it is coldest, the temperatures fall below freezing for around seven months of the year.During the summer the Southern provinces often have temperatures of over 86oF and high levels of humidity. In terms of rainfall, Western and South-Eastern Canada has the most, while the Prairies are dry and only get 250 – 500 mm per year.
The bulk of Canada’s visitors turn up in winter with skis or snowboard in hand, ready to tackle the slopes. The ski season runs from December until late March in the East, and extends to late May (and sometimes even June) in the ski hills of the West. With temperatures throughout most of Canada falling below freezing, the best thing to do is to embrace winter and get yourself along to a winter festival or ice carnival, or you could show off your skills at the world's longest skating rink, the Rideau Canal.
If summer is more your style, then you’ll enjoy the hot weather from late May to late September. Summer starts officially in June and carries on through August, with July often being the hottest summer month. Be at one with nature and go hiking or to the lakes for a spot of fishing.