|(unrelated - I think it's hilarious that there are more McDonald's in this area of Mexico than any other restaurant. And even more hilarious that they are all listed on a map of local attractions.)|
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
If you haven't been following along, you can read the thrilling
A Honeymoon Story
The First Episode of a Longstanding Tradition in Unlucky Travels and How I Came to Appreciate American Soil
The Mexico Debacle
After an uneventful night in Houston, we finally made it to Cancun, a day late and a dollar short - literally. And NOW nothing would stop us from having the most perfect time on our honeymoon!
We took the airport shuttle over to Thrifty car rental without incident but once there, were informed that we couldn't rent a car in Mexico without insurance. This means we would need to put a hold on our credit card for $4000. This would be perfectly acceptable - if we even owned a credit card. We did not. And we certainly did not have $4000 on our debit card.
If we had been staying right in Cancun at an all-inclusive resort we wouldn’t have needed a car at all. But we weren’t. We were staying in a little village called Tulum in a tiny cabana on the beach. And just for the record, Tulum is about an hour and a half south of Cancun. A little too far to hike.
At that point, we ran into an American couple who gave us the tip that we should take a bus, and it would only run us $60. We could handle that. Who needs a car in Mexico anyway? But when we got back to the airport, we were flagged down by a friendly Mexican guy before we could find a bus. He offered us a deal on a rental car. It seemed a little shifty so we told him we’d just take a shuttle.
But he wanted to make a deal, BAD. “How about $300?” He said. “No,” I responded, “Because we don’t have any money for insurance.” “Is included!” He said. Then I told him we didn’t have $300 to spend on a car. He thought we were playing hard to get, but I was just being honest. It’s easy to bargain with people when you really don’t have any money, I guess.
“Ok. $250?” He asked. “Insurance too?” I asked, in disbelief. He assured us again that it was included. mr asked if there’d be a hold on our debit card. “No, no,” The man explained, “I don’t want your card, I only take cash. No hold.” It was either too good to be true, or too good to be legal. We weren’t sure which, but we WERE pretty desperate. Plus, both of us have a hard time saying no.
All we had were traveler’s checks and the debit card. We had to get to an ATM so we could pay in cash. The Mexican guy, who told us his name was Nacho (short for Ignatio I guess), took us into the airport and introduced us to his brother, Jaime - who spoke MUCH less English - and promptly left us there. Jaime showed us to the ATM, which we couldn’t get to work. No matter what we tried, it kept telling us we had no money. Which was ludicrous.
Every time things started to go right, something else came up.
Now we had no car AND no cash. We couldn’t figure out why our card wasn’t working and we needed to call our bank. But (as you'll remember from our previous episode), we had no cell phone.
Jaime was nice enough to lend us his phone to make the expensive international calls. (These brothers are either very nice or very desperate for some renters...)
The next 20 minutes were a blur of phone calls, panicked conversations, worried looks and sinking feelings in the pits of stomachs. When mr finally got off the phone, we had news. And it wasn't good. Through miscalculations, forgetfulness and a little carelessness we had inadvertently left the country with no money in our bank accounts. None. The bank would let us apply for more credit, but we wouldn’t hear back until the next day as to whether we were approved or not.
So, here we stood with Jaime - no phone, no way to the cabana and only $60 in cash and $150 in traveler’s checks - and our situation was starting to look a little dire. As I turned to Jaime to explain the predicament, I was mentally preparing myself to spend 10 days in the airport subsisting on ketchup and saltines, a la Tom Hanks in “The Terminal.” I sadly filled Jaime in and let him know he needed to find other customers - preferably some that could pay him.
And this was his response: “Hey, no problem. You can fill out the paperwork, take the car today and pay me tomorrow.” When mr pointed out that we weren’t staying in Cancun, Jaime said again, “No problem! You take the car and I will come pick the money up in Tulum tomorrow.” Again, it seemed too good to be true.
And at the same time, completely irresponsible. Why would we make a deal with a complete stranger in a foreign country that is known for some shady stuff when we didn’t even know if we could, in actuality, uphold our side of the bargain in the end? Are you holding your breath for us now? Because you should be.
So we did it. Jaime took us to the shop, gave us an old beater of a car, we signed our money away (money we didn’t even have) and we took our luggage, our maps and our English to Spanish dictionary and drove away.
Don't judge us... we were newlyweds who only wanted to enjoy our honeymoon, trying desperately to make that happen in any way we could. You do crazy things for love, right?
This would not be the last crazy thing we did on our trip.
*Be sure to check just below for all the fun parties I link to!