Salespeople attacking like hungry sharks...
If you take the ferry from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel there will be lots of sellers waiting for you at the dock. They attack you like hungry sharks and are offering all kinds of things like snorkeltrips, renting a bike or scooter, boattrips and so on. It's like a swarm of mosquitoes and you can wave them away as much as you like, but they keep coming back for a taste of your blood... Some of them have really great offers and are serious tour organisers, but others have lousy deals and should be avoided. We found it better to just run away from them all, and to walk a bit around in the city and check out the deals of the different agencies on our own.
Keep walking when you get off the ship!!
Chances are if you are in Cozumel you probably just got off of a cruise ship. When they drop you off at the port you are immediately bombarded with a fake parade of men and women dressed up in tribal clothing of the Aztec period. They begin by forcing you to take a picture as soon as you get off the ship (only to push on you to buy them later) You continue to walk past the duty free shop into what I can only describe as a Disney version of Mexico. Souveniers shops filled with t-shirts, shot glasses, hats and all the typical tourist trap shops you would except to see at an amusement park! Just keep walking because all of Cozumel is not this colorful.
Fun Alternatives: Go to the rent-a-car place and get a jeep and ride as far into the island as possible away from the port itself.
- Diving and Snorkeling
Shopping near the cruise ship terminal
Many of the megacruise lines stop in Cozumel, the main activity of many of these cruisers is shopping. Near where the ships dock, there are many stores that cater to the cruisers so the prices are high. Since we were there on a Sunday when a cruise ship was not in town, many of these places were closed.
Rent a jeep but haggle on the price we rented one and later found out we could have gotten it a lot cheaper.
there is only 1 gas company in mexico and they wont let you pump your own gas so watch the price on the pumps.
only dive at a reputable dive shop. We chose Pappa Hogs
better to rent a jeep.. at least wear your helmets, do not drink alcohol. bring plenty of money for the emergency room treatment and paying for the damages. locals expect tourists to pay all.
Unique Suggestions: practice riding around town until you get the hang of driving customs in town including stops.
Fun Alternatives: rent a jeep and don't drive drunk. wear you helmets, knee pads and bring a first aid kit.
- Road Trip
Carlos & Charlie's
I suppose that your opinion of Carlos and Charlie's will depend on what it is that brought you to Cozumel in the first place. We found that it was full of American men, on the island to SCUBA dive and cheat on their wives...yuck!
Unique Suggestions: Get drunk...
Fun Alternatives: Viva Mexico
What I learn in Cozumel
All the major tourist traps are right outside both piers. They will sell you everything and anything. You can get better prices on the other side of the island. i.e. $2 blankets
Unique Suggestions: However you can negotiate prices down. Just make sure that when you are doing this to cover all basis. For an example if your renting a moped make sure the price of refilling gas is included.
Fun Alternatives: Instead of doing an excursion like every other cruiser/tourist, I highly suggest you rent a moped or a car and drive the entire island. It takes 45 minutes to an hour non-stop; or take several breaks along the shore and enjoy the spectacular views and the occational drink of Sol. I just did it last week--the best time of my life. Also if you like to surf check out northside. The problem with surfing is there is a 40 yard stretch of rocks to the waves. A local told me that more up of Northside there are less rocks but I can't confirm that I ran out of time. Also you can stop in several locations and snorkel for very cheap.
Don't get suckered!
There are unscrupulous time share programs being marketed in many of Mexico's main tourist areas. The typical come on is something free (like a meal) or very cheap (like a rental car) in exchange for listening to a "short presentation". The presentation isn't short, and the tactics are strong-arm once they get you in the door. DON"T GO! BUY YOUR OWN BREAKFAST OR RENT AT THE GOING RATE. WE WASTED ALMOST A WHOLE DAY TRYING TO ESCAPE ONE OF THESE PRESENTATIONS.
If you happen to arrive with a cruise ship (we were with royal carribean), don't go to the shops right across the street from the docking area. If you show ANY interest in anything there, they will hound you and follow you to the point of where you feel uncomfortable. My dad almost got suckered into a $200 dolphin necklace, this guy followed us through 5 shops. I'm sure they posed no danger, but it was not fun.
now, i had no problems with the "boardwalk area", right after you pass through the gates from the ship. i had a fabulous time hanging out there.
Fun Alternatives: i recommend getting into a taxi and heading directly into downtown. It seems friendlier & less pushy, and you can stick your toes in the ocean:)
Time Share Offers
My family of 3 stayed 4 nights in San Miguel, Cozumel starting 3/14/2006.
The Time Share talk falls under the category of Tourist Trap ... BUT that does not mean it is entirely bad. The budget tourist might just find the Time Share talk to be a worthwhile endeavor. People who feel that every single minute counts, who hate high-pressure sales with a passion, and who have a lack of patience should DEFINITELY avoid the Time Share talk. People who consider money more important than time, and who have the patience and backbone for a high pressure sales pitch, might want to read on.
My family decided to go for a Time Share talk because of the freebies they offered. We spent 2.5 hours of our vacation at the Time Share talk from the time we left our hotel to the time we were dropped back off at the hotel. In exchange, we got the following:
1) Free "all you can eat" breakfast including yogurt, fruit, chips, sandwiches, and drinks. Value = $15 per person.
2) Free bottle of tequila and Mexican blanket. Value = $15.
3) Discount on a snorkeling excursion. Value = $20 per person.
Wasting 2.5 hours out of 5 days is not too bad and we saved a whopping $120 on stuff we were going to buy anyway. And that was just a snorkeling trip; the cost savings are probably even better for diving expeditions. If you have the patience to sit through the Time Share talk with an interested look on your face, the willpower to end the Time Share talk after you have declined the deal 2 or 3 times, and enough time in your vacation to feel ok with losing 2.5 hours, then this might not be such a bad deal.
Unique Suggestions: If you decide to suffer through the Time Share talk, you might as well enjoy your time. Eat and drink as much as you want, it's free. Act interested, it will keep him talking quickly. Answer his questions quickly and briefly, lying if need be. Doing otherwise will waste your time. For instance, "Name three places you would like to vacation?" can be answered with "Japan, Scotland, and Australia". Whether or not that's true doesn't matter since your only objective is to make it end faster.
If the salesman asks a question that obviously leads to "yes", like "Does this sound good so far?", then say "yes". If he asks for an estimated amount, such as the cost of your current vacation, don't think about it just blurt out a number like $3,000. He doesn't know and it doesn't matter anyway.
Near the end, he will start asking how much you'd be willing to spend on the package. Tell him you don't work that way and you want the bottom line. Usually, you'll get it. Once offered the bottom line price, tell him that you are not interested. He'll try to talk to you more. He may even call over a "supervisor" to talk to you about "affordable options." At any time now, you must put your foot down and say, "Thank you for your time. I've heard your pitch. I've seen your offer. It's a good product but I'm not prepared to purchase it today. I'm ready to leave now." If they do not accept that as an answer, everyone in your party should stand up, push their chairs to the table, and repeat your closing statement again. That should do the trick.
- Budget Travel
There are a couple of problems with renting a Jeep type car in Cozumel.
1. It is extremely difficult to find a place to park while shopping down town.
2. Since hurricane Emily, you can no longer drive all the way around the island. The road is blocked at the southern end near the light house. Unfortunately when we rented our Jeep, in fact, he encouraged us to take the trip around the island. If the road closure was something new, I could understand, but later we were told the road had been closed for about 3 weeks.
Unique Suggestions: Ask in advance if all roads are open before you sign the dotted line.
Fun Alternatives: If you need to explore on your own, rent a scooter. Although there are more scooter accidents on the island than auto accidents. With a scooter, you will at least be able to find a place to park.
- Diving and Snorkeling
- Hiking and Walking
Research Prices !
If you go to Cozumel within a tour group from Cancun , the touristic guide will try to close with you something to do.
They will tell that the island is full today and you will miss the time, do not worry about it , they only want take from you some extra dollars.
Go to the island and look for a diving agency, is there a lot there and ask for best service and price !
- Diving and Snorkeling
- Budget Travel
Carlos and Charlies
Want goofy crowd participation? Carlos and Charlies is your cup of tea. I, however, like to try things that I can't get back home.
My preference is to step outside my comfortable box and try something less touristy. Emphasis on the less, because Cozumel is built for tourists and it is hard to find something not designed for tourists in some way or another.
Unique Suggestions: Know what you're getting into.
Fun Alternatives: Go to ANY restaurant not aimed specifically to suit a gringo's tastes. I like the one with a yellow canopy on the far right corner of the plaza (if your back is to the water.)
El Cedral - Don't Bother!
The ruins of El Cedral are shown on maps of Cozumel but don't even bother going to see them. They were hard enough to find as it was and all that remains is a tiny building. I got there and went, "Is that it?!"
Unique Suggestions: There's a wee store in this tiny place so pick up a few snacks if you're hungry.
Fun Alternatives: Head for San Gervasio instead, the ruins are really good there.
Bringing back your rented jeep/car
Make sure to return your rented jeep or car with a full-tank gas, otherwise they will be charging you in dollars instead of in pesos.
Also, when you pump gas, make sure to ask whether the gasoline is paid in dollars or in pesos! The gasoline boy here where I pumped gas fooled me! I will never forget. He collected dollars from me instead of pesos and he devalued my dollars.
Unique Suggestions: Make sure to have dollar exchange at the start of your visit so you can pay in pesos.
- Diving and Snorkeling
- Family Travel
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