Monday, May 6, 2013

Top Ten Baja Travel Tips - #10 and #9

I'm no world traveler, much less a seasoned "destination fisherman." Kickin' around North Carolina has generally been challenging enough and a two-tank-trip is about as far-flung as it got. But lately, it seems, I've fallen in with a fast crowd.

Lookin' straight at you, Mr. Hunt.

Being a travel rookie, I've made my share of rookie mistakes. I tend to learn lessons the hard way (as if there was any other process for doing so) and it seems a shame not to share these lessons with other aspiring adventurers. So this week I present the top ten travel tips gleaned from my recent Baja sojourn. Don't get too excited, though. They're pretty basic and most of you fly rod toting globetrotters will chuckle at my naivety. But a laugh is a laugh so, for your entertainment and/or enlightenment, here goes:

Tip #10: Air travel sucks, so enjoy it.

There was once a time when flying was fun. Back when the boarding gates were filled with happy families saying hello or goodbye to their traveling loved ones, when TSA didn't learn more about you during their ten-second body and luggage scan than your spouse knows after fifteen years of wedded bliss, and when people chatted with their fellow travelers about where they were going and what they were doing instead of silently bowing their heads in insular worship to their iGods. Flights weren't booked tighter than a four-man game of Twister, and, more often than not, there was no one sitting in B or E unless they were on their honeymoon. People dressed up nice when flying the friendly skies, yet didn't worry if there were holes in their socks.

And there was food.

Those days are gone. Accept it and find a way to enjoy the ride. Don't sweat the indignities. Make eye contact. Smile and get on with it.

But don't smile too much. You'll look suspicious. Two words. Cavity search.

Tip #9: Understand your currency

Yeah, we need to talk money. And I don't mean "how much," though that's pretty important too. I'm talkin' about currency. What should your money look like? If you're staying in the Sates, it's a moot point. Dollars are dollars (or plastic) throughout the good ol'e USA. But what about when you leave the country? You'd think the answer was simple, but, of course, it's not.

Mexico. Pesos, right? Seems obvious.

So when arriving in the San Jose Cabo airport I went straight to the currency exchange and converted the majority of my dollars to the local stuff. 12.1-to-1, the current exchange rate is, but I got 9.8. And I needed to convert twenty more dollars than I had planned to get that. One-fifth of my walk-around money, gone, with nothing to show for it.

I then got a ride to the resort (a whole 'nother story) and asked the driver how much I owed him. Forty dollars. Excuse me? Forty dollars. Ummm... How much is that in pesos? He didn't know, but eventually pulled out his cell phone and did the math. You can bet he didn't use 9.8.

And for most of the week, having pesos was unnecessary, and usually a complication. At the resort(s) the menus were in American and the bartender knew only piƱa colada, seven dollars. We did our best to use the pesos where we could so to save ourselves another twenty percent bite on the way home.

Check before you go. If you know exactly what you'll be dealing with before going in, you'll save yourself a lot of grief. And maybe more than a few pesos.

But don't put all your bets on the almighty dollar. Even if you know that your destination deals well in American currency, be sure you have some of the local stuff. For, when you find yourself off the beaten track (and you should!), sometimes the right coinage opens some mighty important doors.


Clif said...

I'll never forget being in a German train station bathroom trying to find someone to give me change for a Deutschmark. The stall only took 50 cent coinage (exact change only.) I had money, but only paper bills.

I suppose it's fitting, I'm in China I have to bring my own paper to public johns...and a Deutschmark might be the perfect tool these days.

Tom Chandler said...

"Tip #10: Air travel sucks, so enjoy it."

No. Rail against it, it's better than keeping all that stress bottled up for the hours it takes you to get through security and board your plane behind the people trying to carry on barcaloungers.

Remember the words of that world-famous travel blogger whose name escapes me:

"Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

Mike Sepelak said...

That seems the perfect application for the mark, Clif!

I hear ya, Tom. It could drive you crazy, if you let it.

Chris said...

All I know is the fifth of tequila cost 750 pesos. Seemed like a good deal at the time. The coconut was free ;-)

Mike Sepelak said...

Free, yes, but you had to work at it. :-)

Chris said...

Anything worth mixing with cheap tequila is worth working at ;-)

Capt'n Preston said...

I'll drink to that (with you all)!!!