& OTHER GEAR
drugs & rock 'n' roll made me crazythank God!
An Erotic Novel
How we lost the right to feel.
Go to the beach.
Literary Love Affair
"Bring half the clothes you think you need-- and twice the money."
--The Ten Commandments
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