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An Erotic Novel

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Go to the beach.

A Literary Love Affair

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"Bring half the clothes you think you need-- and twice the money."
--The Ten Commandments for Travelers.

If you run out of money, someone can wire it to you from home, but the charges will be ridiculously high. The principal money transfer services, Western Union and Moneygram, have been accustomed to charging a fee to the sender and then giving the receiver an outrageously unfavorable exchange rate. Civic organizations representing the interests of Mexican workers in the United States sued and recently won a multi-million dollar restitution settlement. In an extreme emergency, Western Union and Moneygram can be a fast, safe way to get money from home, but it's not the preferred method.

If you have any form of ATM card, there are machines in all the strategic tourism locations. Make sure that someone at home has full information on how to deposit money to your account. In the Hotel Zone, you'll find the best concentration in and around Plaza Caracol. Some machines are a bit finicky and won't accept all cards. There are also the usual temporary system glitches. If one machine doesn't work, try another. If they all don't work, it means the system is down and you will just have to wait until it's up.

All machines have instructions in English and Spanish and work the same way they do at home. If your account is in US dollars, your account balance will be almost ten times what you expect -- until you realize that the numbers are in pesos. Almost all machines deliver Mexican currency in denominations of 50 and 200 pesos, but a few will let you withdraw dollars.

Some kids were arrested a while ago for using various tricks with adhesive tape and cardboard to keep ATMs from returning the card or delivering the money. When the card failed to come out, they would helpfully advise the user to try entering the PIN. Shoot, no luck. Well, go to the bank and report the problem. The kid (who memorized the PIN) then retrieved the card and withdrew the maximum -- usually 3,000 pesos -- or released the money slot and ran off with the cash. They were smart enough to use the Internet to learn these tricks, but dumb enough to do one at a major bank, which had closed circuit cameras watching its ATM area.

This sort of scam is quite rare in Cancun. It could happen anywhere. The best way to avoid getting stung is to make your withdrawals in daylight hours at a very public ATM, preferably during weekdays. Some machines use the swipe method to read your card. Others ask you to insert it and enter your pin number, then remove it. If you are unable to make your withdrawal during daylight hours, try to find one of these machines, as they are safer. You'll find a 24-hour insert/remove ATM at Walmart.

To be absolutely safe, use the ATM machine at a bank and take a friend with you. If a machine retains your card or fails to deliver the money, leave your friend to watch the machine and report the problem to the bank. Since ATM machines occasionally eat a card because of some mechanical problem, it's wise to travel with more than one card.

Call the card's hotline, too -- and make sure that you write that number down before leaving for Mexico. Citibank has a no-cost 800 number for Mexico -- 001-8000-881-8951. Other systems may also have this option, but you will have to get the number before you leave home. Other American 800 numbers are toll calls from Mexico, accessed by dialling 001-880 instead of 800



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Zona de Tolerancia

Words to live by.