Friday, May 29, 2009

Mexico- Best Kept Secrets

Although our first secret may not exactly be a secret, we thought we needed to share this extremely popular activity in this post, SCUBA DIVING IN COZUMEL! The scuba diving in Cozumel has world renowned popularity among scuba enthusiasts. This 28 mile long island off the coast of Mexico is particularly known for its drift diving, hence the appeal. Drift diving is when the current carries you under water without having to swim. You basically “drift” along with the current. The boat does not anchor but rather follows the bubbles of the drifting divers below.

The Santa Rosa Wall is one of the most popular drift diving walls in Cozumel next to the Palancar. The 50 ft wall is created from some of the most spectacular coral and marine life. The drift is extremely quick, so only experienced divers should dive in this spot. There are plenty of tunnels to explore too as the wall goes to the deeper abyss.

Aside from the amazing drift diving, Cozumel offers diving spots that are known for its variety of large marine life and its clear visibility. One diver even claimed diving in Cozumel is a rite of passage for a diver!

All dives take place on the west side of island which is the developed side and faces towards Mexico. The east side of the island in not developed and has serious waves which are not good for neither swimming nor diving. The water temperatures in the Caribbean are between the 70’s and 80’s on average and the high season is the best time to dive, this ranges from the months of December through March.

Another great secret of Mexico isn’t an activity but rather a town! Located on the western coast (Pacific side) of Mexico, Mazatlán is home to tropical climates and beautiful beaches. If you are looking for an authentic Mexican town with little tourism and lots of charm, Mazatlán is the place for you!

For a more authentic feel, visit Old Mazatlán. This part of town has quaint shops and large, newly restored homes that face the ocean. Staying in this part of town is less likely to attract many tourists as the luxury beach front resorts/spas and shopping are located in New Mazatlán.

Don’t forget to check out the Corona/Pacifico Brewery Tour. There is, of course, unlimited beer tasting at the end of the tour located atop the roof which has 360 degree views of the ocean and the island.

Mexico is known for its silver production and buying a reasonably priced piece of silver can make a great gift or souvenir! Joyeria Jewlery Yolerstore is a jewelry store in Mazatlán which contains some of the most beautiful jewelry Mazatlán offers! The prices are even negotiable, dependent upon how much you buy, of course.

So, if you are looking for some of the best that Mexico has to offer, you know our recommendations! Reading traveler’s reviews and researching your interests are the best way to find great activities in your destination. Don’t take our word for it, get researching!

For more great information on Mazatlán or diving in Cozumel, visit these sites!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Mexico- How to get around within the country

Welcome to Mexico… now how do I get around?

Getting around town by taxi is the preferred method of transportation in Mexico. Traveling within the town or on short trips generally has low, set fares as they are pre-determined by zones. Even the costs of trips to nearby cities are generally low, costing an average of $15-$20. Speak with your hotel staff as many resorts have a service or can help advise you of the best transportation method. Also, the government fails to enforce taxi regulations and there are many “illegal” taxi services. Don’t be surprised if your driver looks young, this is common practice in Mexico. Drivers can be as young as 15 years old, with parental permission of course! The legal driving age is 18… You also might be surprised to know that passengers can drink in the vehicle, however, the driver is not allowed. Rightfully so!

The bus is another popular transportation method used in Mexico. The bus system is not regulated by safety and will squeeze as many people in the bus as possible, so forget breathing room or personal space. In fact, during rush hours, people will be hanging out of the front and back of the bus! The fair is inexpensive and is sure to give you a taste of the “real” Mexican life. Because of these close quarters for travel, watch out for pick-pockets.

Lastly, walking. If you are in walking distance of attractions then walking can be a good option. Be aware that drivers do not always obey the set speed limits and rarely respect the pedestrian right of way rule. Have a careful eye out for the reckless drivers and make sure all cars are stopped before crossing. Additionally, the sidewalks may not be in the best condition. Tree roots and other obstacles may make you walk a little uneasy. It is not recommended for people in wheelchairs.

Whatever your transportation needs, Mexico is relatively easy to get around and has many options for tourists. Checking with the hotel staff is advised as they may have a service they provide to guests.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mexico: FOOD!

Mexican food is often misunderstood as North Americans have altered the Mexican style to reflect its own tastes. This Americanized style of Mexican food is known as Tex-Mex or sometimes Cal-Mex. Authentic Mexican food reflects the Spanish and Middle Eastern influences from its cultural history.

Food from Mexico is known for its varied flavors, colors and spices and ingredients. Corn is the traditional grain and very important in Mexican food and culture. Today, rice has become equally important.

When the Aztecs ruled Mexico, their diet consisted of corn-based dishes with chilies and herbs usually complimented with beans and tomatoes. They used whatever ingredients were available to them and mixed them together to create popular dishes still eaten in Mexico. Along with the Aztecs, the Mayans style included exotic dishes containing ingredients ranging from iguana to rattlesnakes, deer, spider monkeys, grasshoppers, ant eggs and other insects. The most traditionally used ingredients included vanilla, chocolate, peanuts, avocado, fish, beans and turkey. Chocolate originates from the Aztecs where it was first drunk rather than eaten. We know this drink as hot chocolate!

When the Spanish and other conquistadors of Mexico ruled, they introduced beef, pork, chicken, wine, garlic and onions. Many of these ingredients are found in popular, authentic Mexican dishes today.

Food by regions:

Northern Mexico- known for its beef, goat and ostrich.
Central Mexico- largely made up of influences from the rest of the country such as barbacoa, pazole, menudos and carnitas.
Southeastern Mexico- known for its spicy vegetable and chicken-based dishes. The dishes are also known to have a lot of Caribbean influence.

*Seafood is commonly prepared in the states that border the Pacific Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico.

You might be surprised to hear that foods such as nachos, chimichangas and quesadillas are not authentic Mexican dishes as they are considered Tex-Mex and have originated in the United States. Popular Mexican dishes that claim fame in Mexico and the U.S. are enchiladas, tacos, burritos, tortillas and salsas. Additionally, arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) is another Mexican favorite. Mexican dishes are low in fat and calories and considered to be high in vitamins and minerals because of all the vegetables.

See Rossana make arroz con pollo in the video below.

Modern Day

If you are a little weary of only eating Mexican food when you are in Mexico, have no fear! Mexico doesn’t solely consist of Mexican food as other cuisines of the world have become very popular and even adopted Mexico fusions. For example: sushi. Mexicans have made sushi their own creation by adding a variety of sauces based on mango and tamarind and usually served with a Serrano-chili blended soy sauce using hot spices.

Please remember to be careful while enjoying the various flavors and cuisines Mexico has to offer. It might be a good idea to start slow before diving into all the eclectic foods Mexicans are accustomed to eating. Always drink bottled water that has an un-cracked seal. Also, if you can't peel it yourself, don't eat it. Try to stick to that rule when eating fruits. Additionally, make sure your foods are thoroughly cooked and hot before eating.

Keep in mind Passport Health is a great resource to purchase a water filtration kit and diarrhea kits to help ease the tummy troubles.

Swine Flu updates

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Mexico: Take Care While Adventuring


There is plenty of adventure to be had in Mexico.

About an hour northwest of Monterrey, a craggy limestone outcrop named El Potrero Chico has been quietly attracting rock climbers from around the world. What makes the area unusual is the sheer variety of the 600-plus bolted routes — in which permanent artificial anchors are embedded in the rock — all within easy access of a campground and lodge at the base of the rock. Read more about El Potrero Chico.

If you are trained in climbing (and I don't recommend this climb if you are not) then you know how important it is to be safe while climbing. A single wrong move or slip can be the difference between a great day and a REALLY bad day! As you know, when you participate in any activity outdoors, you should be prepared with a few things at all times: sunscreen, insect repellent, first aid kit, drinking water, just to name a few. Have a safe climb.

If its not so much heights as it is depths that excites the adventurer within you then Mexico will not disappoint. Forty miles northwest of the party port of Cancún is little-known Isla Holbox (pronounced OLE-bosh), a narrow spit of white sand some 25 miles long and no more than two miles wide at its widest point, situated in the Gulf of Mexico. From June through September, the island’s offshore waters are the site of a large congregation of whale sharks, who come here to feed on seasonal plankton blooms. More on Isla Holbox.

If you come into contact with coral reefs while snorkeling there are a few safety tips to keep in mind.
  • Coral is an animal that makes calcified outer skeletons which make sharp, jagged edges, so to prevent injury, avoid standing on reefs.
  • Wearing reef shoes, gloves and a wet suit will better protect you.
  • If injured, promptly scrub the coral cuts with soap and water and flush with copious amounts of water to remove any coral fragments.
  • Rinsing with vinegar or rubbing alcohol may help relieve stinging.
  • Seek medical attention immediately if the cut is large enough to require stitches.
You should make sure that your tetanus vaccination is up to date and it would be helpful to carry a wound care kit with you to help prevent infection.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Mexico:Hotels and Hostels

Finding a place to stay while you are away should definitely be one of the most researched elements of the trip, along with attractions, restaurants, flight fare, etc. Your home away from home can help symbolize the essence of your trip. It can be in the center of the night life if you are looking for a fun and busy trip. It can be the oasis off the beaten path for a more quiet and relaxing trip. It can be a small, secluded spa for the romantic types who are looking to reconnect. It can be a combination!

Researching hotels to stay in during your trip can often help you understand the town in which you are staying. It will force you to find a place close to the attractions most important to you in the thought of saving time and money while being a place that has all the amenities you are looking for.

Below are a few hotel and hostel suggestions in three of the most popular cities in Mexico. The hotels and hostels range in price, quality, location and other elements. Don’t take my word for it, do some research for yourself as you may be looking for something different to suit your specific qualifications!

Let’s start with Cancun:

The Le Blanc Spa- A five star hotel with excellent amenities, this hotel offers incredible views, complimentary breakfast, spa and health club facilities among the other excellent amenities and a great location. This hotel might be at the top of some people’s budget.

Hostel Quetzal- Voted the best hostel in Cancun in 2008 by HostelWorld and winning the best value award in January of 2009 by HostelBookers, this hotel will offer a great value that won’t break the bank. Your stay can include free internet, free breakfast, a private tanning terrace, nightly cocktail parties including beer nights, tequila nights, bbq nights and hostel outings with the owners to local sporting events. This hostel hosts a great location and an overall rating of 90% by its reviewers!

Head west to Acapulco:

Grand Mayan Acapulco- This four star hotel features a new water park friendly to families, ocean views and spa and health club facilities. The clean and beautiful resort also hosts Robert and Benjamin Alacon. These friendly brothers are well-liked and recommended hotel tour-guides who provide transportation, knowledgeable tours and excellent city recommendations.

Las Brisas- Over-looking the Acapulco Bay, this hotel provides rooms with private pools and balconies. If you are looking for a romantic get away, this is the hotel for you! The once adult only hotel offers free breakfast, a spa and jeeps that offer transportation 24 hours a day. Don’t worry, the hotel still has several adult only areas.

K3 Youth Hostel- Located on Costera Miguel Aleman Ave, one of the most famous and visited streets in the world, this youth hostel is great for young travelers who are looking for night life fun! The hostel is in the center of Acapulco near Condesa beach where all the night life happens. Offering free breakfast and inexpensive transportation, this hostel is perfect for travelers on a tight budget.

End on the island of Cozumel:

Villas Las Anclas- Voted travelers choice in 2009, this clean and quiet oasis is located just a few miles from the busy downtown. The staff is excellent and the location is great for divers.

Casita de Mayo- Dan, the owner, is reviewed as being one of the best hosts in Cozumel. The individual attention, due to the hotel’s small size, is perfect for those looking for restaurant recommendations, personal tours, and general help getting around and doing things in Cozumel. This clean hotel’s rooms all open up to the pool. The location is perfect for those looking to get away from the bustle of the downtown Cozumel.

Villa Anna Maria- Just 10 minutes from downtown, this quiet and almost hidden villa is perfect for those who enjoy diving. The owners of this hostel offer to take guests on diving trips. All the rooms have private bathrooms and guests can rent bicycles on site. If you are looking for an inexpensive, quiet place to stay and enjoy diving, this is the place for you!

Hopefully these suggestions point you in the right direction to start your research. It is important to know what you are looking for ahead of time to reduce research time and keep you focused. Planning a trip is time consuming so cut corners where you can. Exploration of what the country has to offer can help you meet your expectations and enhance your trip. Buena Suerte!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Swine Flu death toll hits double digits in US

Swine Flu (H1N1) cases and deaths are on the rise. The US just hit a death toll in the double digits last night and panic is growing. We would like to take this opportunity to pinpoint a few facts about the Flu that most have overlooked.

1- Seasonal flu kills 36,000 people every year in the US.
2- 13,000 people have died from complications from seasonal flu already this year.
3- Approximately 85 people have died from complications from H1N1 (swine flu)
4- Seasonal Flu HAS A VACCINE!!!

Not to steal thunder away from H1N1 (swine) flu, but those in a panic about swine flu should also be aware that seasonal flu is much more deadly and much more prevalent. More importantly there is a VACCINE for seasonal flu (a new one each year). Passport Health has flu vaccine for seasonal flu available year round in most locations. Health officials are still deliberating about whether or not to make a separate Swine Flu vaccination, or to include it in with the seasonal flu vaccination.

Swine flu is not targeting the usual suspects (young children and the elderly). Instead it is hitting the middle aged group and younger. There have been deaths of people in their 20s and 30s! The key to this is that each victim of the Swine Flu has had other health problems underlying. Whether it be obesity, lung or heart disease, it is this type of person (one with an already weakened immune system) that is losing the battle with Swine Flu.

It has always been important to take care of yourself, eat right, exercise, don't smoke or drink alcohol in excess and get adequate rest at night. Until a vaccine is developed, the only thing that can save you from getting the swine flu is ensuring your immune system is as strong as it can be. Certain antiviral drugs (tamiflu, relenza) do help with fighting swine flu if you do fall ill, but those drugs may be in short supply and very difficult to get.

Pay attention, wash your hands, cover your coughs and take care of your body. Its the only one you'll get!

swine flu updates here

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mexico: Money


One of the hassles of traveling to another country can be learning the different currency and exchange rates.

Currently the exchange rate of US Dollars(USD) to Mexican Pesos (MXN) is:
1 US Dollar =12.98278 Mexican Pesos
1 Mexican Peso (MXN) = 0.07703 US Dollar (USD)

This means:
For 1 US Dollar you get 12.98278 Mexican Pesos
and 1 Mexican Peso is equal to about 8 cents (0.07703 USD)

Dont worry if you buy a meal or something small and the price is 100 pesos (MXN) because thats only about $7.70!
Exchange rates can change on a daily basis, so be sure to check back again closer to your time of departure (that is, of course, if you have decided it is worth the risk to travel to Mexico).

Credit cards and traveler’s checks are accepted in almost all businesses in the city of Monterrey and conurbated area, but not so in regions outside this area.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Mexico: Language Barriers

Although Mexico is just south of the United States and the lands are touching, the language is different. The national language is Spanish. The minority language, which includes 62 different versions of Indigenous Amerindian dialect, is spoken by the rest of the population.
Like most countries, English is spoken by many people in major touristy areas.

Learning a few phrases in the local language will help you get around town. Also, being able to communicate with the local population will enrich and enhance your travel experience. If you are spending more than a week in a country, it might be helpful to buy a phrasebook. It might also be useful to by a Spanish/English dictionary to assist with other language issues you may have such as ordering food, asking how much something costs, trying to get directions somewhere or simply trying to hail a cab.

If you understand some Spanish or are going to make the effort to speak as much as possible when in Mexico, remember to use the proper verb forms. Use the form of Ud, a formal “you”, when speaking to a senior or someone you have just met. It is appropriate to use the tú form of “you” when you become friends with someone.

It might also be useful to look up some non-verbal communication gestures that may be appropriate or inappropriate to use in Mexico. For example, having your hands in your pockets while having a conversation with someone is regarded as bad manners and putting your hands on your hips is a sign of aggression. Additionally, making the “okay” sign with your thumb and finger is considered a vulgar gesture. Lastly, sarcasm is not taking lightly in Mexican culture no matter what language you are speaking. In fact, most forms of sarcasm are considered extremely offensive. Say exactly what you mean and you will avoid this blunder.

H1N1 Health Alerts and others here
Currently there are no travel restrictions to Mexico by the CDC or WHO, so if you must travel, please do so with caution. The H1N1 (swine) flu virus has been claiming many lives in Mexico and so far 5 people have died in the US. All five were people who had pre-existing medical conditions, so if you have any health problems, please exercise EXTREME caution wherever you go. Be sure to wash your hands, avoid large crowds and especially avoid others who are exhibiting flu-like symptoms.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Mexico: Proper Etiquette

No matter where your travel destination may take you, make sure you not only do research on the fun activities, the food and the lodging, but also research etiquette and proper customs of the country. Taking note of these cultural elements may be the thing that keeps you out of a sticky situation.

Many cultures react differently to the smallest of gestures. You might be surprised to know that giving a Mexican person red flowers is offensive as it is a symbol that has a negative connotation. Below are some other etiquette rules that range from gift giving etiquette to dining etiquette.

Should you ever have the honor of dining at a Mexicans house, there are a few table and dining manners that should be followed.
• Arrive at least 30 minutes late. Arriving on time or early is considered inappropriate.(check with someone else attending the same function to see if you should arrive even LATER.)
• Do not sit down until you are invited and told where to sit.
• Start eating only after the hostess has started unless otherwise indicated.

If you are invited into a Mexican’s home, remember, it is customary to bring a gift such as flowers or candy. Not forgetting the negative connotation that red flowers have in Mexican culture, marigolds have the same effect. Marigolds symbolize death and therefore are not a proper gift for a Mexican. However, white flowers are considered uplifting and are an acceptable flower to give as a gift. Additionally, should you receive a gift from a Mexican, it should be opened right away and your reaction should be one of enthusiasm.

When you meet a Mexican for the first time, unless told otherwise, do not address them by their first name. It is tradition to be invited to use the first name as a greeting. Also, women typically greet each other by patting each other on the right shoulder while men typically use a hand shake or a hug if they know someone well.

These simple guidelines can help show Mexican friends your understanding of their culture and show them and others the effort you are making to participate in their traditions. Keep in mind that in Mexico, just as in all cultures, there is not one set of defined rules. You will find that each household will be slightly different and may hold some traditions closer than others. Mexicans are very friendly by nature, so don't worry if you arrive "early" or shake a hand instead of pat a shoulder. Your manners will be forgiven and many will be honored that you choose to spend your time with them.

Swine Flu News Update here

Friday, May 15, 2009

Mexico: Staying Safe

Personal Safety:
  • Blend in as much as possible. Walking around with a camera around your neck and a guidebook in your hand advertises your tourist status and may make you a mark for thieves. Try to be discreet.

  • Choose ATMs in malls or stores if possible. Avoid using ATMs at night or in deserted places. When you withdraw money from an ATM put it away immediately.

  • Carry only the cash you need for the moment in your pocket or purse. Carry your passport, credit card and extra money inside your clothes in a money-belt, or leave them in your hotel's safe. When you need to get something out of your money belt do it in a private place.

  • Exercise particular caution when in crowds, markets or on public transportation. Pickpockets can be very crafty and sometimes work in pairs - one person will distract you while another takes your wallet.

  • Ask your hotel manager or another knowledgeable person if there are some areas of the city you should avoid.

Food Safety:

  • Only drink bottled water while in Mexico. You should also brush your teeth with only bottled or filtered water even in the most exclusive resorts.
  • Food that is well cooked and served hot is generally considered safe. Tortillas, a Mexican staple, are safe to eat. Ice should always be avoided and that means no frozen Margaritas. Beans, rice, and soups are safe as they are boiled to be prepared and boiling will take care of bacteria and viruses that freezing does not.
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables should be considered risky unless you can peel them yourself.

H1N1 numbers for today:
Mexico has reported 2446 laboratory confirmed human cases of infection, including 60 deaths. The United States has reported 4298 laboratory confirmed human cases, including three deaths. Canada has reported 449 laboratory confirmed human cases, including one death. Costa Rica has reported eight laboratory confirmed human cases, including one death.

In total, 34 countries have confirmed at least one case of H1N1 (swine) Influenza.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mexico: How do you get there?

Getting there by air:
From the United States and Europe there is no shortage of flights to Mexico, with over a dozen major carriers servicing the country. In addition, the two international Mexican airlines, AeroMexico and Mexicana, have flights from a number of American cities. Although there are non-stops offered by many of the companies, the majority of flights headed to Mexico pass through southern hubs in Miami, Houston, Dallas, or Los Angeles.

Airlines servicing Mexico from the United States include Aeromexico, American Airlines, Continental, Delta, Mexicana, Northwest, United, and USAir. From Europe, visitors can fly Aeromexico, British Airways, Continental, American Airlines, KLM, Air France, Delta, United, Lufthansa, and Iberia.

Getting there by car:
From the U.S., there are several major highways that lead into Mexico through border checkpoints.

Getting there by water:
Main ports: Acapulco, Cabo San Lucas(, Cozumel(, Manzanillo, Mazatlán, Puerto Vallarta(, Tampico( Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa.

Regular passenger ships run from the USA and South America. A huge number of companies operate cruise services to Mexico. There are also riverboat services from Flores and Tikal (Guatemala) to Palenque, Chiapas in Mexico; enquire locally for details.

Getting there by rail:
Amtrak provides railway connections to various points along the Mexican border from cities in the USA or Canada (tel: +1 800 872 7245, in the USA; In Mexico, federal subsidies to the intercity passenger services were removed in 2000 and almost all long-distance passenger services were discontinued.

To get into Mexico by train, the only option is on luxurious private services like the Sierra Madre Express (tel: +1 520 747 0346 or 800 666 0346, in the USA) operating between Tuscon, Arizona and Mexico's Copper Canyon. Tickets available through specialist agents. Mexlist ( maintains a list of similar luxury services, most of which have pullman sleepers, restaurant cars, lounge observation and club cars.

Be sure to have all the necessary legal documents to minimize travel issues and set-backs.

Swine Flu update here.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mexico: Short History and Cultural Vocabulary

If Mexico is on your list of places to visit, enhance your experience by learning about the cultural history before you travel. Mexico has a rich culture that reflects a fascinating combination of ancient peoples and European settlers.

As early as 300 B.C. indigenous people ruled the land known as Mexico. Over the years many tribal groups fought for power over the country leaving behind a long cultural history. The founding tribe, known as the Mayans, was known for their intellect in math and science. They created large, intricate cities. Many of the cities created by the Mayans are still standing and can be seen through tours.

By the 1400’s a tribal group called the Aztecans, also known as the Mexicas, had completely taken over control of most surrounding tribes in the area. Building further on the ancient Mayan civilizations, they also created the tribes religion. Their capital city, Tenochtitlan, is still the capital city of Mexico today, now known as Mexico City. Human sacrifice was a large part of the Aztecan culture. They believed the earth would not exist if they did not sacrifice human life everyday.

The Spanish arrive in the early 1500’s gaining control of the capital. The Spanish brought many new things upon their arrival including ships and other supplies. They also brought diseases never seen by the indigenous people resulting in killing many of them, including those who fought along the Spanish against their own tribe. The Spanish influence changed Mexican culture and language forever.
Finally, in the early 1800’s, Mexico declared its independence. The struggle for independence lasted over a decade and resulted in the Mexican War of Independence. The history officially records Mexican independence as September 16, 1821. This holiday remains one of the most widely spread celebrations in the history of Mexico.

Here are some characteristics of ancient Mexican culture to review before your trip and some other interesting facts about Mexico’s past:

Cultural Vocabulary:
  • Mayan- The term used to represent the founders of ancient Mexico.
  • Aztecan- The term used to represent the tribe for whom achieved political and military dominance over large parts of Mesoamerica
  • Tenochtitlan- The ancient capital city of Mexico which once held the title of the largest city in the world with over 500,000 people in the 1500’s
H1N1 (Swine Flu) update here

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mexico: What do I pack?

Mexico has two seasons; the dry season extending from late November to early June and the rainy season which extends from June to November. The height of tourist season is during the dry season between November and June, specifically as it is not the rainy season!

The climate in Mexico during the rainy season is very humid while the temperatures range all year from the low 40’s to the mid 80’s. When the climate is hot, loose and light cotton clothing is recommended. It can get cool after sunset, so bring a sweatshirt if you’re out and about and definitely wear long pants as the mosquitoes bite at night! In the summer time, your choice of clothing is essential to your well-being on your trip.

Key Items that should be on your Checklist:

- plenty of sunscreen
- sun hat or other covering
- sunglasses
- comfortable walking shoes
- a water bottle/filtration kit (staying hydrated is important on your trip)
- power converter/adapter (make sure your electronics are compatible)
- traveler guides/ maps
- a camera

… And don’t forget to stop at your Passport Health location to pick up a mosquito kit which includes appropriate repellents containing DEET, as well as a kit for traveler’s diarrhea (ahem... Montezuma's Revenge!) including antibiotics and re-hydration powders.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mexico: Stay healthy on Vacation!

Swine flu update: May 11, 2009
  • Third U.S. death reported more
  • Swine Flu Ancestors May Protect Elderly, Experts Say more

Getting ready for any trip takes months and weeks of research, planning and packing. While preparing all the activities, transportation, documentation and securing loose ends while you’re are away, don’t forget to prepare your health for the visit too! It is important to make the most of your trip by participating in all pre-planned activities rather than experiencing Mexico from the hotel bathroom or a local medical center; so be safe, vaccinate!

Planning to stay healthy while you travel is the MOST important part of planning for your trip.

The best ways to ensure a safe and healthy trip are to be educated about the health risks in Mexico and get vaccinated.

For travel to Mexico, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends the following vaccinations:
Hepatitis A and B
Varicella (Chicken Pox)
• PPD Test (Tuberculosis skin test)

Also, beware of the recent H1N1 flu outbreak currently in Mexico. The current vaccine does not offer protection against this strain of H1N1. However, because this H1N1 Influenza Strain (swine) has part avian, part swine, part human characteristics, the vaccine MAY help improve the immune response and therefore give you better chances of developing the specific antibodies once exposed to H1N1. While the H1N1 flu virus is appearing less severe than the seasonal flu, it is still recommended that you take precautionary measures to protect yourself. It is better to be on the safe side and take all preventive precautions, get the flu shot before travel! Passport Health offers the influenza vaccine year round.

Most of these vaccinations are routine for citizens of the USA and you have more than likely been adequately vaccinated for some, but it is important to see a travel medicine specialist to be sure you are prepared with the proper vaccinations and information to stay healthy in Mexico.

Now that you know about all the diseases and viruses that have preventive vaccines, you are free to take other preventive measures for the rest of the "icky" things that can affect your trip.
  • Insect-Borne Diseases(Dengue Fever, Malaria): use appropriate repellents containing DEET, and prescribed Malaria medication.
  • Travelers' Diarrhea: use antibiotics and re hydration powders (diarrhea kit available at Passport Health)
  • Intestinal Infections: Swim only in properly chlorinated or salt water, wear shoes at all times (even on the beach), follow food and water precautions given by an expert.
  • Jet-Lag, Motion sickness, Altitude sickness: several different medications available
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis: Remain properly hydrated during flight, get up frequently to stretch your legs to maintain circulation, consider wearing pressure gradient Travel Socks
  • Emergency Medical Evacuation: Obtain appropriate Travel and Evacuation Insurance
Don't let the possibility of getting sick in Mexico deter you from going. The best way to ensure safety and good health is to know the risks and take the right precautions against them.

Thank you to the CDC and our Travel Medicine Specialists for their contribution to this post.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Mexico: Documents Needed for Entry

Updates on the H1N1 virus outbreak:
  • Mexico City has reopened businesses and is getting back to a normal workflow, though Mexicans are still extra-cautious.
  • No new deaths have been reported due to H1N1, but the CDC does expect more confirmed cases.
  • CDC is not advising against travel throughout the US, though all non-essential travel to Mexico is still discouraged.
And we would like to take this opportunity to clear up a common misconception:


Documents needed for entry to Mexico

The legal documents required for entry to Mexico are dependent upon the way in which you enter the country.

  • To visit Mexico by land or sea until June 1, 2009, you can use a passport or you can use proof of US citizenship, like an embossed birth certificate, with a government issued photo id. Regardless of id choice, you also need a tourist card. (You don't need a passport, but you can -- and probably should -- use a passport instead of the combo of a birth certificate with id.) To return from Mexico by air, you need a passport and Mexico tourist card.
  • NOTE: Although Mexico only requires a picture ID and a birth certificate to enter, the United States now requires that you have a valid U.S. passport to travel between the U.S. and Mexico in either direction. You cannot leave or return to the United States without a passport. more

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Mexico: Facts


• CDC is reporting 896 laboratory confirmed human infections with novel H1N1 flu in 41 states in the United States.

• While this virus has been reported in 23 other countries according to WHO, there is no evidence of sustained person-to-person transmission beyond two generations outside of North America.

Because the CDC and WHO are still recommending that travel to Mexico be minimized, we will enjoy learning about the country from home. Below are some basic facts about Mexico and some photos.

Population: 101,000,000
Capital City:
Mexico City (337,000)
Official Language: Spanish
Languages Spoken: Spanish, Latin American Spanish, 62 indigenous languages, and English
Government: Federal Republic
Religion: 90% Roman Catholic, 6% Protestant, 4% other
Official Currency: Mexican Peso (MXN)
Land Area: 1,958,200 sq km
Latitude/Longitude: 19.2ºN, 99.1ºW
Highest Point: Volcan Pico de Orizaba 5,700 M
Bordering Body of Water - lies between the Pacific Ocean and Gulf of Mexico
Time Zone: GMT/UTC
Electricity: 127V 60HzHz
Country Dialing Code: 52
Major Industries: Food and beverages, tobacco, chemicals, iron and steel, petroleum, mining, textiles, clothing, motor vehicles, consumer durables, tourism

National Flag

Mexico Flag

Consists of three vertical bands

Coat of Arms
Mexico Coat of Arms

Land of the Eagle and the Snake

National Flower

(Dahlia spp.)

National Bird
Crested Caracara

Crested Caracara
(Caracara plancus)

National Sport


National Tree

The cypress, known in Spanish as ahuehuete
(Taxodium mucronatum)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Mexico: Know when to go!


Mexico’s weather is enjoyable year-round, but October to May tend to be the most pleasant months to visit. From May to September Mexico’s weather is very hot and humid, particularly in southern Mexico. During the winter months, of December to February, inland Mexico weather temperatures can reach freezing. In general, visitors to Mexico can expect hot, humid weather along the coastal plains and drier temperatures at higher inland destinations such as Guadalajara and Mexico City, for example.

When planning a trip to Mexico please keep in mind that the peak travel periods are the week before Easter – which is referred to as Semana Santa – as well as the Christmas and New Year holiday travel periods. Travelers who are looking to avoid jam-packed locations should avoid Mexico's southern coast between July and September – which is peak season for North American student vacationers and peak holiday months for foreign visitors. Cancun is inundated with students on Spring Break during the months of February, March and early April. more

The U.S. reported yesterday the first death of a United States Citizen with H1N1 Influenza A. Officials say the female school teacher was in her early thirties and had several other threatening health problems. She did have the H1N1 virus, but health experts are hesitant to say that is why she died.

In spite of yesterday's reported death, health officials are saying the H1N1 virus is not as big a threat as originally perceived.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Exposures Not Thought to Spread New H1N1 Flu

Can I get infected with this new H1N1 virus from eating or preparing pork?

No. H1N1 viruses are not spread by food. You cannot get this new HIN1 virus from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork products is safe.

Is there a risk from drinking water?
Tap water that has been treated by conventional disinfection processes does not likely pose a risk for transmission of influenza viruses. Current drinking water treatment regulations provide a high degree of protection from viruses. No research has been completed on the susceptibility of the novel H1N1 flu virus to conventional drinking water treatment processes. However, recent studies have demonstrated that free chlorine levels typically used in drinking water treatment are adequate to inactivate highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza. It is likely that other influenza viruses such as novel H1N1 would also be similarly inactivated by chlorination. To date, there have been no documented human cases of influenza caused by exposure to influenza-contaminated drinking water.

Can H1N1 influenza virus be spread at recreational water venues outside of the water?
Yes, recreational water venues are no different than any other group setting. The spread of this novel H1N1 flu is thought to be happening in the same way that seasonal flu spreads. Flu viruses are spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing of people with influenza. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.


Monday, May 4, 2009

H1N1 Influenza Virus Continues to Spread

The H1N1 flu virus (AKA: Swine Flu) is continuing its journey around the world. The CDC this morning confirmed that the virus is now present in 21 different countries claiming 984 confirmed cases of the virus.

On the bright side, there have been no more deaths associated with the H1N1 Influenza A virus other than the 25 deaths reported in Mexico, and the death of one Mexican toddler in Texas.

Several countries are taking extreme measures to prevent the spread of the H1N1 Influenza A virus. A Hong Kong hotel made the choice to quarantine all guests after 1 man at the hotel was diagnosed with H1N1 Influenza A. Officials in Egypt made the call to slaughter ALL pigs in the country, even though there have been no cases of the H1N1 Influenza A virus reported in the country.

The thought of a global pandemic does make many people uneasy and extra cautious in the wake of the Swine Flu spread. Hand sanitizer, tissues and antibacterial soaps are flying off the shelves at stores and children are yanked out of school at the mere mention of Swine Flu.

Wash your hands for at least 30 seconds (try singing Happy Birthday to mark the time) with warm water and soap, don't share drinks/food, cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue (then throw it away!) or the inside of your elbow and stay home from work and school if you are feeling any flu-like symptoms. Let us not forget that proper hygiene and smart thinking are the way that we as humans should always behave, not just during outbreaks.

Keep in mind that every year the seasonal flu kills 36,000 people in the United States alone.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Traveling to Mexico?

For the month of May we were going to explore Mexico and what makes it a great place to visit, however, the current outbreak of Swine Flu and CDC recommendations not to travel there have made it a little too risky.

So, if you WERE planning to travel to Mexico you probably are not any longer. That doesn't mean we can't bring Mexico to you!

So get ready for some fun... and you don't even have to worry about getting sunburned!