A very cute, very hot, very cultured place to visit: Tulum, Mexico
First things first! In order to go to Mexico you have to go thru customs and get a passport HERE. For an adult the price per passport is about $165 and for a child about $135. Any child under 16 years old must renew their passport every 5 years. Also, both parents must either be present or give permission for the child to get a passport. *** thank God for co-parenting. Now after we got all that out the way, we used Expedia to book the flights about four months earlier at $338 per person. The closest airport to Tulum, Mexico is Cancun International Airport so factor in the almost two hour drive to get there when making plans. Tulum is a beautiful place, it is also affordable and very family friendly. There is so much artwork and cool quirky artifacts all along the highways. The artwork matches the people’s personalities. They have a very warm and inviting culture; my only complaint would be the humidity. Now, I am from Florida so you would think I would be used to a little thick heat.... no ma'm! Tulum was so hot, every acne bump on my face melted off! Besides that I can honestly say I have no complaints it was fun to experience Mexico for Mexico and not a hotel in Mexico. I’ve broken down the important parts or things to know about visiting Tulum, Mexico below:
A USD dollar for a Mexican peso: currency exchange
The value of the USD dollar in comparison to the peso varies on where you are at. You can literally go from one store to another and have $1 USD dollar equal 15 to 20 pesos. I would recommend exchanging in the town you are at, a local bank, or pulling out the ATM. That's where the exchange rates are the best. Also, pull out your calculator because the person taking your money won't always be honest about what a USD dollar is equivalent to. Overall, you're still getting a lot of bang for your buck because minimum the USD dollar was equivalent to 15 pesos and even in terms of pesos the majority of activities, food, etc. were relatively cheap! In addition, most places offer discounted pricing for kids and kids under 6 years old got in FREE. I spent about $300 USD dollars the whole time I was there which included activities, food, gas, and light shopping for my mother, son, and I. If you want to have an idea about how much you'll spend use a currency calculator to estimate cost.
If you want to feel like it's a glitz and glam vacation get a hotel... if you want to feel what it's like to live in Mexico... get an AirBNB. I had a love/hate relationship with our AirBNB. I loved how beautiful it was and how close to everything in Tulum as well. However, being as it was a town home in the country we had our moments. The first day we got there one of the a/c's in the rooms did not work. As if that wasn't enough, the gigantic steel gate to access the house fell on my foot when I was trying to close it. Luckily, two men rode by and helped me out. The second day the water went out in the morning, the third day the electricity went out at night, and the fourth day the WIFI blew out. Now, I could've sulked and cry about it but I think it added to the culture of the trip. This is what Mexicans go thru on a daily basis, if their lucky enough to even have these amenities. It was an extremely appreciative moment for me, so much that I took for granted on a daily basis at home was a luxury in Tulum. Now, the owner of the AirBNB was prompt in getting a maintenance man to address and try to fix every mishap that occurred along the way... so I couldn't even be mad at him. He got an A for effort. The scenery and layout of the place was also so cute and boho styled. The pool in the backyard was awesome and probably the best part of the trip for my son. The AirBNB cost us about $800 USD for our entire stay, five days and four nights CLICK HERE to get an outside view.
Car rentals versus getting transportation
I speak Spanish and so does my mom, even we struggled with getting around town. We made a vain attempt to see the Casa Malca and never found it. On top of the car rental costing 387 USD dollars after it was advertised as 5 USD per day online; directions were a pain in the ass. I would imagine that since everything else was cheap in Mexico, taxi's wouldn't be too pricey. If you're in a touristy area or a town I would pay to get transported to and from the airport. For everyday travelling I would rent a scooter or a bike. There were tons of tourists on scooters and bikes easing in and out of traffic. I would not get a rental car if I were you... BUT IF YOU INSIST:
Use GPS if you have it on your phone! The streets in Mexico change from one-way to two-way literally from one block to another in some cases. The GPS will at least show arrows to give you a heads up. The street signs aren't always actual signs either so pay attention. Sometimes it is written on a tree, a light post, etc. near the street. Hence, we got pulled over for driving down a two-way lane that turned into a one-way. The police gave us two options: 1) give us your passport and license, get a 1800 peso ticket, and you have to pay it in some far off place before you leave, than you get your passport back. 2) pay us 50 USD dollars and we'll let you go. Unlucky for them, my mom was driving and by the time she was done with them.... they let us go with a warning! I'm sure the amount of tourist driving like crazy people is annoying enough to make any police officer go a little corrupt so I just charged it to the culture. ***Another note: the police also do random stops and walk around with AK47's attached to their hip everywhere.
The Ruins, Snorkeling, and the Cenotes
We saw some of the Mayan ruins in Mexico by visiting the Parque Nacional Tulum. It was about a 10 minute drive from the AirBnB to the park and we were able to get a deal with park admission, train rides, and snorkeling at the beach for 35 USD dollars per person... kids 6 years old and under were free. The views were beautiful and all though we couldn't touch the ruins it was amazing seeing them. It took about 45 minutes to walk around the entire park and along the top where you could see the beach from. As mentioned, snorkeling was included in the package we brought at the park and it was worth every penny. The boats were scary because they were these small speedboats and the ocean was a bit choppy. I was scared as hell to snorkel but my son jumped in like a champ with my mom. I put on a life vest that was a little too big and almost drowned when I finally got in the water. It was worth the fears, we literally swam with the sea turtles. They were so close that one of them bit my mom's arm when she was feeding them. You could also see the ruins from the seaside. The next day we went to the Dos Ojos Centotes because they offer life vest and snorkeling equipment for the kids too.,,. children under 6 years old get in free as well. There are quite a few cenotes at this park we went with the one that was called Dos Ojos; they were two different cenotes to visit. Overall, Tulum is not only family friendly but a great place for those with adventure in their heart. My final commentary would be to drink Coke over there, Pepsi taste like crap. I hope this blog was helpful to any of my other mothers who are planning a trip to Tulum and remember Viva Mexico!