It’s been over a decade since I have traveled to a country whose native language is not some form of English. So this would be an interesting experiment to test both my language skills and my patience. It’s one thing to visit another country, but it takes it to a whole new level when you don’t speak the language of the locals. Deep breath. Thankfully, my two years of Spanish in high school would prove invaluable (shout out to Senor Barlow woop woop!).
The most nerve-wracking part of this trip was going to be the planes, trains, and automobiles I would have to take just to GET to Isla Mujeres. It would require a flight to Cancun (not the safest place to be traveling to right now), a taxi to the ferry, a ferry to Isla Mujeres, then a cab to our hotel. It’s exhausting just to think about but I prepared early and hired a transfer service through our hotel, Ixchel, to do all the heavy lifting for me. And that, mis amigos, was a dream. I likely paid triple what it would cost to get to the island, but it was just too easy to have someone else do all the work. Fancy? No. Lazy and chicken? Yes!
My first observation occurred the moment I stepped outside of the baggage claim area. There were hundreds, I repeat, hundreds of tour, taxi, bus, and transfer drivers hovering around the exit doors hustling for work. The sales tactics were fierce and I was already feeling overwhelmed and annoyed that we couldn’t walk 5 feet without someone bugging us to take their taxi. Intense. I was already on the defensive and bowing up (mentally that is, since physically bowing up would be hilarious and completely unthreatening) because the transfer service sent us a warning that other operators may try to “act” like them and then charge us for something we already paid for. What I DID appreciate about the situation was how hard they were working and how polite they were, albeit pushy. Oh and one more thing, there were tiki bars outside the airport selling those touristy beachy “yardstick” drinks, coconuts with umbrella straws and every type of tacky vacation drink you can think of. They even had small mobile bars/stands so you could grab a foo-foo drink on your way to the taxi. Hilarious.
I noticed a guy standing against a pole, clearly uninterested in hustling along with the others, holding a sign with my name on it. That’s my guy! He immediately introduced himself as “Jose”, grabbed our bags and walked us about 100 yards to a van to meet “Pedro”. And his job was done. That’s it. Nothing more. Find the guests, walk them to the van. I see how this works now. Tips, tips, and more tips. Be prepared with a crap ton of small bills because EVERYONE works for tips. So there’s Tip #1 when traveling to Mexico (no pun intended) – Always carry small bills.
Jose introduced us to Pedro and we were on our way to the ferry. Pedro bought us ferry tickets and told us Eduardo would be meeting us on the other side. Now I’m laughing out loud. We tip Pedro and hop on the ferry, just a quick 20 minute ride to the island. I spotted Eduardo and he walked us to a taxi, he hopped in the front seat, and had the taxi drive us to the hotel. I tipped the taxi driver AND Eduardo and a young man that works for our hotel greeted us at the taxi, took our bags, and directed us to the front desk. Another tip. Er muh geeerd. I have been in Mexico for exactly one hour and I have tipped 5 people already. <eye roll> It’s not the money I care about, but damn its exhausting always worrying about having small bills. Hell we were almost out of them already!