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2008 The year of the dollar holiday

by Ron Meijer in Travel and weekendtrips , 22 maart 2008

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar


If you want to travel far for little money, go for the dollar. New York is getting cheaper and cheaper to shop in but also a holiday in the Caribbean will set you back less than ever. It’s already quite normal to hop over to New York for a shopping weekend. The weakening dollar makes holidaying in the States very attractive. A trip to Aruba, Barbados, Mexico or Venezuela has also become very affordable. Most of these states have linked their currency to the dollar. The Antillean guilder has dipped with the dollar in spite of its Dutch name.

TNS-Nipo has calculated that in 2007 126.000 Dutchies traveled west, while there were only 104.000 travelers the year before. Every continent has countries that have linked their currency to the dollar, including all the oil producing states like Bush-basher Chávez’ Venezuela. Some have partial links like the Chinese renminbi. Still, the dollar effect is not as strong everywhere.

“The Caribbean is very cheap because all the hotels and kerosene are paid in dollars,” says Simone van den Berk of Tui. Arkefly offers more and more charter flights to the Caribbean for Tui’s customers, and for affiliated travel agencies.

The position of the dollar as the currency for international travel and accommodation arrangements makes Mexico with its floating peso cheaper as well. Cuba however, misses out. Tourists in Havana might pay for their beer with the dollar-linked peso, but all the hotels and travel bureaus use euros.

“Cuba is lowering their prices now that other Caribbean destinations have become cheaper though,” says Van den Berk of Tui. It’s remarkable that the States are also not really profiting from the cheap dollar in 2007. Last year 314.000 Dutch tourists visited the States while there were 336.000 in 2006.



Way above the historically high number of 300.000, but still. Ad Schalekamp, researcher with TNS-Nipo thinks the cause could be found in the stricter checks at the airports. “Stories of long queues and waits at the passport control do go around fast.”



Mexico

General information

Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a North American country under the United States. Several islands also belong to Mexico. Mexico City is the national capital, also referred to as Federal District (D.F.), which lies on 2240 meters above sea level.


Mexico is a federation of 31 states that all have a considerable autonomy. It has 108.700.891 (2007) inhabitants. Spanish is the main language, which makes Mexico the largest Spanish-speaking nation. Mexico’s landscape is very varied: deserts, tropical jungle, high mountain ranges and swamps. More than half of the country lies higher than 1000 meters above sea level.

Central Mexico lies on a plain with a northern and a southern part. In the southern area lie the volcanoes Popocatepeti, Orizaba, Nevado de Toluca, Cofre de Perote, Matlalcueyetl and Ixtaccihuatl. This is the heart of the country and over half of the population lives here. Along the coast in the northwest and southwest with the Yucatan peninsula are many lagoons and swamps.

Climate

Mexico has a dry and a wet season. The dry season (winter) lasts from October till May. From May till October the sun is so strong that large amounts of water evaporate, which results in heavy downpour usually in the afternoon. Short, intense and very refreshing. May is usually hotter than July but otherwise it also depends on where you’re going. The coastal areas are very hot and humid; the mountain area is milder but can get very cold at night. Above 2000 meters it’s really cold.

Crossing the border

You need a valid passport (surprise!). If you come by plane you’ll get a form on board. If you come from Guatemala, Belize of the United States you will have to ask for the form at the border. You need to hand in the copy of the form when you leave. The tourist visa will allow you to stay for ninety days. It’s almost impossible to change any leftover pesos at departure. Even in Guatemala they’re not accepted. Better to change them beforehand into dollars. It’s highly illegal to take any archeological finds with you. There’s a new airport tax now that you have to pay on arrival: 15 dollar.

Health

Montezuma’s revenge hits many a tourist. As a result of jetlag, smog, climate change and unknown food you can easily fall ill. To prevent that there are a few simple basic rules. Always wash your hands before eating and after using the toilet. Don’t eat any food from the streets. Avoid alcohol as that impairs your resistance.

Drink bottled water only and don’t eat fresh vegetables unless served at a good restaurant. Be careful with home made aguas with fruit or ice blocks. Is you’re hit by a bug after all, just ration yourself for a couple of days to té de manzanilla, toast, rice, apples and bananas. Avoid citrus fruit and drink a lot of mineral water.

Coca Cola can work well for the stomach too. Don’t eat anything heavy or greasy. Pay a visit to your g.p. before you go. It might be handy to take a diarrhea blocker. And then there are the insects, especially in Yucatan.



The south is just infested with mosquitoes. Local farmacias will sell you spirals you can light before going to bed. If you go into the jungle for an extended period inform yourself on malaria. You’ll need to get shots for hepatitis, yellow fever, typhoid and tetanus for all of Mexico.

Where to go

If you’re just looking for sun, sea and nightlife without any further hassle, go to Cancún. The city of Cancún today is completely focused on tourism and one of the main tourist centers in the country. There are mainly Americans there and hotels, malls, and clubs seem more American than anything else. Even the areas where the locals live are stripped from any authenticity. If you want accommodation in a typical Mexican style, forget about Cancún.

The key to Cancún’s success is the mix of everything: good hotels, excellent restaurants, plenty of sun, beautiful white beaches, a turquoise sea, stunning underwater worlds, a modern infrastructure, exciting nightlife and many interesting sights inland. That’s why the city has boomed to over 500.000 people welcoming over 4 million tourists yearly in over 140 hotels. It makes for one of the best destinations of the entire Caribbean and a guarantee for a super holiday, if you don’t mind mass tourism that is...


Cancún is an ideal location for snorkeling and diving. The island of Cozumel close by belongs to the top-5 diving locations in the world. In and around Cancún you’ll find plenty of schools. Horse riding is spectacular, especially in the evening around sunset. Various rancheros and hotels offer horse-riding tours on the beach. Wellness has been part of Mexico since the times of the Aztec. Temazcal is a special Mexican steam bath popular with the locals and now also discovered by more and more tourists. An increasing number of hotels now also have complete wellness centers.

The massages on the beach are also still very popular, as are hot -stone massages. In between the hotels you’ll find a few Maya ruins. Close to town are the remnants of temple Pok-Ta-Pok. The Wet’nWild Watermark offers beautiful swimming pools and if you pay a bit extra you can swim with dolphins. Night creatures can go to the Boulevard Kukulkán (Zona Hotelera) for several clubs.

Ask at the reception what’s the hottest club of the night. Animal lovers should steer clear from the bullfights in the arena at the Plaza de los Toros. The Torre de Cancún offers a great view; it has a rotating panorama deck and is open till 11 pm. There are several dinner cruises from Cancún: dining while enjoying the sunset at sea. The malls in the hotel zone are American style with plenty of American and European merchandise. Cheaper and local produce can be found in the old centre especially around the Plaza Bonita.

Around Cancún there are several Maya temples and excavations that you can visit. Excursions are easily booked from your hotel or through local travel agencies. 40 kilometers south you find the zoo (Zoo Crococún) and the botanical gardens (Jardin Botánico). 100 kilometers south are the Grutas de Aktun-Chen. These caves give you an excellent idea of the hidden underground world of Yucatann. At Tulum you’ll find remnants of a coastal walled-in Maya city, one of the main sights in the area of Cancún and an absolute must.

Gay life

You won’t be surprised to hear that Cancún has a very lively gay scene. There are plenty of bars and clubs to choose from. The audience is very international so every taste is catered for. The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly. The beaches are also nice for gay watching of course. The place to see and be seen. PICANTE is the oldest and best-known bar with a relatively small dance floor. It’s a reputed pick-up spot. KARAMBA is a large disco for men as well as women. This is more international than Picante. Karamba offers good music and good go-go-shows.

Another large club is the MA’AX’O, a high tech place with very good strip shows. CLUB BACKSTAGE is the latest addition and they are said to have the best-looking staff. SEBASTIAN’S is also new and worth a visit as it’s in the hotel district. So, also for your queer needs you can consider Cancún. If the crowds get too overwhelming you can easily escape to spots that take you back to a colorful and impressive history. A history us, Europeans, have completely obliterated.



 







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