|Secrets Akumal Riviera Maya||Akumal||7 nights||FI|
|Pan Pacific Vancouver Hotel||Vancouver||5 nights||RO|
Set on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula about an hour’s drive from Cancun, is a sublime summer holiday resort town. Boasting jaw-dropping long white beaches backed by tropical vegetation and bright turquoise waters that beckon for a dip, as well as an exquisite swimmable lagoon, the location provides an idyllic setting for leisurely days of sun and sea. A beautiful and rich underwater life and diverse coastline also make this prime territory for snorkelling, scuba diving, cave diving, and eco-tourism. Meaning ‘place of the turtle’, Akumal offers a unique and heartwarming experience of seeing turtles come to shore to nest - make sure to sign up for the Turtle Night Watch tour. History enthusiasts will delight in a visit to the ancient ruins watching over the sea in the neighbouring town of Tulum.
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 currency of Mexico is the Mexican Peso (MXN; symbol M$) = 100 centavos. Notes are in denominations of M$1,000, 500, 200, 100, 50 and 20. Coins are in denominations of M$10, 5, 2 and 1, and 50 and 20 centavos.
Note: The M$1,000 and M$500 notes can be difficult to change and are sometimes not accepted.
Banking hours: Monday-Friday 09h00-16h00; some banks are open longer hours and others are open on Saturday mornings.
Mastercard, Visa and American Express cards are generally accepted by businesses catering to tourists, such as car rental agencies, airlines, some bus lines and higher-end hotels, shops and restaurants. (Credit companies add a surcharge of around 5% for foreign transactions.) At humbler establishments you'll need pesos to make purchases.
ATMs on the Cirrus and Plus networks are easily found in cities and towns throughout Mexico, dispensing pesos for holders of both debit and credit cards. ATMs and credit cards mean traveller's cheques are less necessary as a means of carrying money than they used to be and not necessarily recommended. However, traveller's cheques issued by well-known brands can be cashed in exchange houses. Traveller's cheques in Pounds Sterling and Euros are now as readily accepted as those in US Dollars.
Navigating Mexico City's vast urban sprawl can be a daunting prospect even with a comprehensive and cheap public transport system. However, the metro makes light work of crisscrossing the metropolis and is at its most efficient when you buy tickets in advance. La Tarjeta del Distrito Federal is the city's reloadable public transport smartcard. There are special women- and children-only carriages which run from 1800 and 2100. The Xochimilco Light Rail is an above-ground system that connects to offer a fast, efficient alternative to bus and taxi travel.
State-run Ruta-100 buses display their destinations on the windscreen. There are also minibuses in Mexico City. Schedules are loose with no fixed stops or departures, so allow plenty of time. Simply hop aboard, pay the driver (correct fare) and shout out 'bajan' when you'd like to get off.
Radio taxis are reliable and safer and are ordered by telephone from hotels and restaurants. Companies include Servitaxis (tel: +52 55 5516 6020) and Radio Taxi Sitio 153 (tel: +52 52 5674 6120). From the airport and main bus terminals, opt for a fixed-price Transportación Terrestre or an authorised taxi. Tickets are prepaid from booths (prices vary according to city zones) and it is not customary to tip the driver.
Car hire in Mexico possible. Drivers must be a minimum of 23 years old (21 in special cases). A valid driving licence from your home country is required, as is a valid passport and a major credit card. Insurance, tax and fuel are an additional cost to the basic daily or weekly hire rate.
There is a growing network of state-funded cycle paths throughout Mexico City. There is also a bike share scheme called ECOBICI, with over 6,000 bikes parked at over 400 stations. One-, three- and seven-day passes are available, after which the first 45 minutes of any journey are free.
This varies from area to area. Natural fibres are best in the heat, but have a sweater on hand as the nights are generally cooler. A sun hat will help to avoid dehydration. In the mountains, heavier clothing will be required.
Mexican cuisine is a gloriously rich mix, reflecting the many cultural influences the country has absorbed throughout its history. Nevertheless, the main ingredient in Mexican meals is the humble but versatile corn, prepared in every conceivable way. A basket of hot tortillas – savoury cornmeal pancakes – is always on the table. Tacos, available everywhere, consist of crispy tortillas topped with beef, pork or fish. And there's a huge range of corn-based antojitos (snacks), including those listed below, which are staples at street stalls across the country.
Fresh fish and shellfish are the main attraction along both coasts. For vegetarians, nopales the succulent leaves of the prickly pear cactus are a good option, as are squash blossoms and all kinds of wild mushrooms. Don’t miss the opportunity to try exotic fruits like zapote (sapodilla) and tuna (cactus fruit).
Water in bottles or marked 'drinking/sterilised water' can be drunk without precautions. All other water should be boiled or sterilised before consuming. Milk in major cities, hotels and resorts is pasteurised, otherwise it will probably be unpasteurised. Travellers concerned about drinking unpasteurised milk will find powdered or tinned milk readily available. Only eat well-cooked meat and fish, cooked vegetables and peeled fruit.
Service charges are rarely added to hotel, restaurant or bar bills and many of the staff depend on tips for their livelihood. 15% is expected and 20% if the service has been very good.
Electrical sockets in Mexico are one of two electrical socket types: Type B (NEMA 5-15) and Type A (NEMA 1-15). If your appliance's plug doesn't match the shape of these sockets, you will need a travel plug adapter in order to plug in. Travel plug adapters simply change the shape of your appliance's plug to match whatever type of socket you need to plug into. If it's crucial to be able to plug in no matter what, bring an adapter for all types.
Electrical sockets in Mexico usually supply electricity at a voltage of between 110-120 volts AC @ 60 Hz. If you're plugging in an appliance that was built for 220-240 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need. If your appliance isn’t compatible with 110-120 volts, a voltage converter will be necessary.
Mexico is a great destination to visit throughout the year. Altitude is a determining factor with regards to the weather, with cooler temperatures at higher elevations (Mexico City, Puebla, San Cristóbal de las Casas) and warmer, tropical weather as you descend to sea level (Guadalajara, Cuernavaca, Cancun).
Along the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, the winter months (November-February) are warm and sunny. Many Europeans visit during this time to escape winter in their homelands. The summer months (June-August), meanwhile, are very hot and humid with heavy rain showers and the occasional hurricane. October and November are perhaps the best months to visit the interior, after the rains have ended and everything is still green.
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.