Stop stereotyping! I promise Mexico is not nearly as bad as people make it out to be. I’m 99% sure you will not be kidnapped. You will not come down with food poisoning (right away). You will not discover drugs stashed in your backpack. With about thirty Rocky Point trips between the two of us, I would consider Adam and myself practically experts on the matter. Because of this, here are a list of 12 lessons or takeaways from our vacations, beginning with the “least” important.
#12 There are two sides to every peso.
Cash versus credit cards will perpetually be a never-ending debate, but there are clear sides to both arguments while traveling in Mexico. In America, I typically don’t like carrying cash with me. It’s easy to misplace (I’m still disgruntled about $75 that “walked away” when I was little). As a result, I prefer to be hassle free and simply carry a couple cards in my wallet phone case. Adam’s best friend, Tyler, opted to use his credit card whenever he had the opportunity. His reasoning behind this was that banks typically give their cardholders the current national exchange rate which is often better than what the locals are willing to give. Only one restaurant we dined at actually offered a better exchange rate (there will usually be signs posted on the walls or on menus), so be mindful. Of course, most card companies require you to call ahead, and let them know you will be out of the country in order to prevent fraud. On the other hand, a majority of shops and beach vendors only accept cash and provide change in pesos (which are cool souvenirs if you ask me). My solution? Bring some cash (always smart on any trip), but use your card when it’ll benefit you (particularly hotels, gas stations, and larger supermarket chains).
#11 Cornrows are not for everyone.
Corn rows were one of those random items on my bucket list. I thought I would be living the dream by combining two of the best things life has to offer – the beach and getting my hair done. Now, let me preface by stating I have a pretty high pain tolerance even though my hair didn’t start getting curly until half way through elementary school (can one of you scientists out there please explain to me why that is?) Let’s just say getting cornrows was my scalp’s equivalent of giving birth. Just like after having a baby (from what I’ve heard), the pain lingered. My hair was pulled tighter then a tight end walking across a tight rope. Granted, I loved how my hair looked after I took out the deathrows, but it’s not something I would ever do again.
#10 Your heart strings will be pulled.
If you have a soft spot for dogs and children, Mexico may not be the place for you. Strolling through the streets of Rocky Point, I have never spotted so many stray dogs in my life. What makes it even worse is you can’t pet them due to possible diseases. The last thing you want is rabies. I remember a class in college where we discussed all of the various diseases, and I strongly believe rabies is one step away from zombie status (any Walking Dead fans out there?) As if dogs weren’t enough, so many kids are required to work alongside their parents instead of attend school. There was even a little boy who kept playing follow-the-leader with us and offered to watch our quads for money. Doesn’t this sound like some sort of depressing Hallmark movie? I can only hope that both the dogs and children will find their happy endings.
#9 Bargaining is the best.
Ugh! I know this would destroy our economy and free market capitalism, but why can’t bargaining become the social norm in America? In the United States, the only two places I have ever been able to negotiate prices were at garage sales (go figure) and New York City. I love how it never fails. Each of the vendors in Mexico always exclaim something along the lines of, “Twenty dolla’! I will take fi’teen, but for you ten”. Why thank you. I feel so honored you made this deal for me (and not for anyone else that walks into your knock-off shop). This reminded me of when my mom visited Egypt, and a man offered to exchange all of his camels for her! Bartering is a whole different ballgame though.
#8 ATVs are the best form of transportation.
Similarly to bartering, you typically can’t ride off-road vehicles throughout Arizona cities unless you meet certain qualifications like street-legal tires and a horn. Even if you don’t own any quads, side by sides, or dirt bikes, you can rent “toys” down in Rocky Point. Obviously, they won’t be the best quality, but they will still get the job done! All you need are some wheels and some gas. However, if you are bringing four wheelers down from the States, make sure you bring your titles and registration or you might not be able to get your toys into Mexico! My lovely fiancé neglected to tell me this factoid (that word doesn’t get used nearly enough) until late the night before. Thus began the crazy frenzy of digging through this box and that pile to see where I stashed it. Fortunately, I recently discovered there are multiple authorized third-party MVD dealers scattered throughout Phoenix. This makes it so much easier as the regular MVD hours completely collide with my work schedule. With all of this being said, if you decide to use this form of transportation, be careful. Traffic can get pretty crazy in Rocky Point, especially during holiday weekends, but being able to squeeze into tiny parking spots makes it worth it.
#7 Las Conchas is the place to be.
If you enjoy watching HGTV, exploring model homes, or taking guided online tours of celebrity mansions, Las Conchas is the place for you! On the outskirts of Rocky Point, the houses in this elite and gated area will take your breath away. If I’m ever wealthy, I would seriously consider buying a vacation home here. While a few houses showcase some wear and you can tell their age, others are so beautiful. I love how they all have such different styles unlike most of the cookie-cutter homes here in Phoenix.
#6 Spanish Classes: Go Big or Go Home.
“Hola! Cómo estás?” y “Me llamo Brittany” are about the extent of my Spanish knowledge. Okay, I know a little more than that, but for 3.5 years of Spanish classes, you would think my vocabulary would be more expansive. I retained very little. Now, that might be attributable to the deteriorating education system or more likely my embarrassment of practicing my skills with native speakers, but you know what they say. Hindsight is always 20/20. After visiting Mexico, I really should have paid more attention in high school and college. I expected more people to know English, but I was surprised. Although I’m sure you can survive without a Spanish speaker in your party, it’s definitely very convenient to have one. In fact, it can decrease your ordering time at restaurants from five minutes down to one.
#5 Mexican “henna” tattoos are deceiving.
I know, I know. I should have known better, but being the great tourist I was, I couldn’t pass up a henna on the beach. Nevertheless, after trying soap, rubbing alcohol, and paint thinner to remove the tattoo with no luck, I really wanted to travel back in time and take back my $20. I think the man must have used a combination of henna and black ink from a permanent marker. The “tattoo” appeared like a henna during the application, but it revealed its true identity as it started to dry. If you want a good henna, stick to the Renaissance Festival or the little shops in the mall where they don’t have to use a stencil to draw the design.
#4 Vans and sand don’t go together.
I am not talking about the clothing brand. I’m referring to the minivans people claim they will never drive, but twenty years down the road (pun attended) they are sitting behind the wheel of a Toyota Sienna. While in Puerto Peñasco, there’s a large sandy parking lot right along the beach. It’s very convenient for those with coolers, chairs, tents, or little kids. Following a day at the beach, Adam’s brother’s van got stuck in the soft sand. Adam was able to hook up the White Beast to pull the van around the congested area and on to the main road. Little did we know there was a massive piece of concrete waiting to play hide-and-go seek under the sand. The concrete attached itself to the bottom of the van and left us in a predicament. Fortunately, some people jumped in and started digging and chipping away at the piece of concrete, and the van was able to drive away with some minor scratches. The moral of the story is that if you don’t have a four wheel drive vehicle, pack light, and be willing to walk.
#3 Max’s and Thrifty’s are the go-to for picky eaters.
During my first trip to Mexico, I quickly discovered I am not a fan of authentic Mexican food but rather Tex-Mex. Even though there are a Domino’s and Burger King close to Rocky Point’s Walmart, those fast food joints can get old quickly. As an alternative, I found Max’s was my favorite American-food serving place. Be forewarned of the slow service though as there are usually only two waitresses working. Thrifty’s, an ice cream shop, is another must if you are vacationing down south. We went there not once, not twice, but three times in one day! No judging — you will do a repeat offender as well once you taste the creamy deliciousness!
#2 The banana boat is worth $6… and so much more.
Adam and I decided to ride the banana boat along with his sister-in-law, Lisa, and her seven year old son, Matix. A banana boat was completely harmless, right? I ended up sitting in the front (the best seat) with Matix directly behind me. We opted for the “fast” ride. After a couple minutes, Adam sounded like he was on laughing gas from watching me. Since no one was sitting to the left of me and the front was light, it appeared like I was riding a mechanical bull every time we passed over a wave. Due to this, my pants kept sliding down revealing a sliver of my gluteus maximus. Poor Matix. This is not what he thought he was getting himself into when he begged his mom to ride. He kept shouting over the sound of the engine, “Brittany, your butt crack is showing!” I wanted to pull my workout spandex up. I really did! I just couldn’t risk falling off into the ocean! Not only that, but I also kept smashing Matix every time I came crashing back down on the boat. Finally, Lisa replied in exasperation, “She can’t pull her pants up right now!” Needless to say, that ride was honestly the highlight of the trip. Maybe I’m just a kid at heart, but I would have ridden the boat ten more times… after I found better pants of course.
#1 Say adiós to long border waits.
Fasten your seatbelts ladies and gents because this is probably one of the best pieces of advice out on the internet right now. Do I have your attention? Excelente. It’s common for everyone to dread the journey home, the drive back to reality, especially on those big weekends with the infamous 5 or 6 hour wait times at the border. You can try all the tricks: leaving at the crack of dawn, leaving the night before, checking out late and hanging around town for a late night crossing. Nothing seems to help though. Nothing except one thing. Once you arrive in the border town, take the neighborhood side streets which run parallel to the main road off to the left. Adam decided to try it on a hunch, and it was the best decision he’s ever made (besides to propose to me, obviously). There were only a handful of other cars on the back road, and we easily cut down a 5 hour wait to 20 minutes! Did we feel a little ashamed of “cutting”? Sure, but not enough to prevent us from doing it again! Time is precious which makes this last point the best one of all.
What point on the list was your favorite? Does anyone else have any good advice for people planning a trip to Rocky Point?
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