Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Additional Information - By Ed Kunze

      Here is some additional information which you may find useful. 1) Places To See and Things To Do, 2) Tipping, 3) Comments – including credit cards, ATMs and real estate, 4) Fish Mounts, and 5) a List of Useful Emergency Numbers. Plus, I have lived here full time for over 15 years now. Do not hesitate to call me with any questions you may have. 553-7141 (local call)

Zihuatanejo Bay
 Note: A Recent New Law in Mexico

Many banks no longer accept Traveler's Checks, and exchange houses can only exchange a maximum of $300 in cash a day, with identification required. The monthly amount allowed to exchange is only $1,500.
       Plus, most banks now require a copy of your passport to exchange dollars.
           This makes it very important to be sure to notify your bank you will be out of country and using your ATM card. The ATM gives you by far your best exchange rate.
          However, it is not all bad for visitors. The $300 limit per day is for each person. A man and wife can exchange $600. Also, please note the exchange house are taking advantage of this windfall and are now at least 10% lower on the exchange rate than banks, and decrease the rate even more after the banks close for the day or weekend.. (At 10%, you would lose 100 pesos for every $100 exchanged...a full day's wages for many people in Mexico and a rip-off to the tourist)

  1) Places to see and do:
a) I have moved this place to visit to the very top of my list. It is the new Refuge at Barra Potosi. I was fascinated with my first trip there. It is closed on Tuedays. The refuge has all local wildlife, which were either injured and cannot be released back in the wild, or were illegally held in captivity for so long, they cannot be released back into the wild. And, there is a regular cycle of animals and birds coming through who are injured, but not seriously, and after they mend they are released back into the wild. Plus, the guided tour (in English) also explains about our local animal life, plants and flowers.

Here is what they say on their website http://www.elrefugiodepotosi.org/html/objectives.html
1) Provide habitat for promotion and protection of local species
2) Exhibit the flora and fauna to promote conservation
3) Provide and distribute information about the life cycle and biodiversity of local species
4) Promote ecological tourism in this region
5) Create opportunity for community involvement and economic development
6) Establish learning opportunities for students from preschool to university
7) Conduct scientific research for the protection of local species
8) Provide rescue, treatment, recuperation, and release of wild animals needing sanctuary.

American Laural Patrick is the director and is trying to put special emphasis on the school age children visiting the refuge. Additional special donations are much needed to pay her staff to remain open for the non-paying students.
Local school children watching Rebeca handle a parrot
El Refugio de Potosi is also custodian to the only sperm whale skeleton on display in Mexico. At 18 meters (about 58 feet), it appears to be the largest exibit in the world.

To get there, take the white Petatlan bus from Zihuatanejo to Achotes (about 20 minutes) – the best place to catch the Petatlan bus is in front of the DHL office. The pronunciation for DHL, to tell your taxi driver is day – ochay – ellee....Or just write it out on a piece of paper. The bus will come by slowly and the helper will be calling out the door “Peta…Peta”. When the helper comes by to collect the fee, and I believe it is 10 pesos, tell him Achotes. When you get to Achotes, just a few feet past the very first speed bump, there is a sign for Barra Potosi. Get off the bus and walk about 50 feet down to the waiting pickups with a canvas cover and stake bed sides. This is your taxi. Tell the driver Refugio (reh – fuw - he - o). For about 6 or 8 pesos, he will drop you off at the refuge on his way to the Barra. The refuge has a guided tour for 60 pesos per person, children under 12 - 30 pesos. It is an adventure, very interesting, and a lot of fun. Hours 10 to 5, with the last tour at 4:30. They are open by appointment only, because Laural cannot have a staff of 5 everyday, and only have a couple of visitors. Either email ahead as on the contact section of their above web page or call ahead, and no matter the size of your party, she will take care of your guided tour. (755) 557-2840

b) La Chole – An archeological museum with excavation of the site in progress. As of this writing, only a small portion of the artifacts are on display, and are a work in progress. And, the museum is brand new. For over 3,000 years the area was home to several thousand pre-Columbian indigenous people, including the Tomiles, the Cuitatecos and the Tepoztecas. The last civilization seems to have been wiped out by a large Tsunami, and the site was abandoned after that.

If you are interested in history, this is a must see. Do not expect Mayan like temples at this time, but by hiring a tour guide, watching the work in progress, and visiting the local village of the current residents, you will have a very memorable day.

c) Go to the gold vendors and church in Petatlan. But, with the price of gold high right now, you are probably better buying silver from one of the many shops in Zihuatanejo.

d) The crocodiles and iguanas at Playa Linda (just before you go to Ixtapa Island).

f) Ixtapa Island- because of the nearby river, the water gets muddy with poor visibility in the rain season (June through October), but in the dry season, has great snorkeling at the eco preserve on Corral Beach. I prefer the Island over Las Gatas, with the exception of the rain season.
     The best snorkeling is in the morning. After 11:00 the onshore breeze churns the water, reducing the visibility. We usually get there about 9:30 and enjoy the water, have a few appetizers, and leave around noon…when the crowds start showing up.
      To get to and from Playa Linda, take a micro bus. You are charged less than $1.00 a person, whereas a taxi can be very expensive.

Per the trip report by TexasAudra…June 24, 2009 (posted on Trip Advisor):
Isla Ixtapa: We took the local bus from in front of our hotel up to Playa Linda--it lets you off at the crocodiles--walk past them and turn left, past the market (shop on your way out!) and go straight down to the pier-turn left and go to the end-35 pesos each way for a water taxi to the island. WARNING: Ignore EVERYONE who stops you wanting to "help" you get to the island! Just say, "No, gracias" and be as insistent as they will be with you--then get your water taxi ticket and enjoy your day at Isla Ixtapa. If you give in to one of these "helpers" you will end up with a really pushy "escort" who wants to tell you where to go, where to eat, and expects a big tip from you for their "service". You don't need it--really. You can do it yourself and enjoy yourself much more. When you leave the island, just hop on the water taxi back, do some shopping in the market and back to the crocodiles to catch the bus back to your hotel.

g) Horseback Riding: We set it up to go horseback riding and ended up going to Playa Larga for it--that is a beach more for locals--it was completely deserted with beautiful waves--we rode the beach and the countryside and had a fabulous time! Even if you don't ride, you would probably love Playa Larga for something different and really beautiful.

h) Zip-Lining: We got adventurous and did the Zip-Line at Parque Aventura! We LOVED it. Everyone should try it--just know that you will sweat buckets (LITERALLY--even first thing in the morning) and your arms will be exhausted for at least a day. It was so much fun and the guys at the park were very helpful and fun--would do it again -- after resting for a day!!!

i) PICANTE: We decided to take the Sunset Cruise on the Picante (NOT the Dancer!!!) mainly because we wanted to get out on the bay and relax. We are just 2 friends who used to be roommates and now live in 2 different states but meet up for vacations! While the majority of people were couples, there were a few singles on the cruise! It was beyond FABULOUS!! I highly recommend it to anyone visiting. You leave from Zihuatanejo Bay (transportation, all drinks, and a snack are included in the $52 price), cruise around the bay then over to Ixtapa Bay and cruise around for a beautiful sunset. It is very relaxing and the crew is absolutely wonderful--you will never be without a beverage, there is great music, they'll take pictures of you with your camera, and are happy to answer any questions or just chat. The Picante also offers some other cruises--one of which is a Sail & Snorkel during the day (think it is $74, transportation, drinks, and lunch included and $7 for snorkeling gear) that goes to Playa Manzanilla--we so wanted to go on that too, but there were not enough people, so it was cancelled--even though we could not go, I feel safe in suggesting you try that too--just in knowing the crew, you would FOR SURE have a wonderful time and a truly great experience. We loved the Sunset Cruise so much that when we couldn't go on the Sail & Snorkel, we did the Sunset Cruise AGAIN on our last night and once again were NOT disappointed. What a great way to end the vacation.

j) **THE BEACH** Be careful on the beach in front of Ixtapa! This is not a swimming beach!! There is serious undertow even on calmer days and the waves break right on the beach--it is beautiful and we did get in the water, but were very careful--we started to refer to it as "the GREAT SUCK!" because the water would literally be "sucked" out into the ocean for the next wave to crash--some of the waves were getting to be around 6 feet on the trip--beautiful, but definitely not for beginner swimmers or kids -- unless they have very good supervision!

k) Las Gatas Beach- in Zihuat Bay. Like the island, the price for a water taxi is about 35 pesos each. Save your ticket for the return trip.

l) Barra Pototsi- out past the airport. A lot of the local people go there because it is similar to Las Gatas, but cheaper. It is the same type of fresh sea foods and prepared the same way. It is just that you are not paying “gringo tourist” prices. There is horse back riding also. This is where my family and I like to go, plus there is always the possibility of shore fishing there. To get there, take the same bus and truck you take to go to the Refuge.

 2) Tipping – Tipping percentage is less here in Mexico than North of the border, but the wages are considerable less also. In the service industry, the workers depend on their tips to help offset a poor wage, being business owners try to justify the poor wages they pay, which is usually the minimum wage. The business owner’s thought process is “you are getting tips, so if you are good, you will do well”. Minimum wages vary in Mexico, but it is generally close to $5.00 for an 8 hour day. Basically, the owner reaps the profit, and the worker must rely on tips to just make a decent wage.

However, by taking advantage of this, your life can be easier too. Why carry your groceries around in the Mercado while you continue shopping, when there are lots of kids willing to do it for you for 20 pesos? They will follow you everywhere you want to shop and also load them in your vehicle or taxi for that much money. Or, after you are done fishing and you are hot and tired, why carry a lot of fishing gear from the boat back to the waiting taxis when 20 pesos will get it all taken care of?

I live here, and always find it difficult to carry enough change with me to use for tips…and there are many instances in a day you need to pay a small tip.

The kids who put your groceries in the sacks at the supermarket get no wage at all, but you are expected to pay 2 to 5 pesos to them. The gas station attendant should get about 2%. In other words, if you get 200 pesos of gas, a 4 peso tip is fine. If he washes windows, or checks your oil, 10 pesos (total) would be in order.

Even with the trend of the “tips included” and the all inclusive hotels, the maid who cleans your room should get about 25 to 30 pesos a day, and as they sometimes change schedules, it is best to pay daily. Just leave the tip at the foot of the bed.

Fishing captains should get 10%, and if your day exceeds your expectations, you can up it from there. If they kill a sailfish or marlin, they will sell it, so that should be their only tip. If they try to tell you they are going to donate the fish to the hospital or orphans, then they killed the fish intentionally, and definitely are looking for the income. There is no need to reward a situation by tipping and further ecouraging a valuable commodity to be killed.

In restaurants is where most north of the border people over tip. 10% should be the maximum for a decent sized bill. Remember the wage is low here, so a 50 peso tip is a lot of money…it is a day’s wages. There are some instances when I pay more than 10%, but it is because the food and service was excellent and the bill was very small. If you are eating in a small cocina economica in the Mercado, and the total bill only comes to about 35-90 pesos, I still leave a 10 peso tip and 20 pesos if the bill is about 100-200 pesos. After the bill starts getting higher than the 200 pesos amount, I revert back to 10%.

At many beach side restaurants, especially Las Gatas and Ixtapa Island, the waiter gets no wage, rather the bill is inflated by 10% so he gets 10% of whatever clients he can draw in, and how much he can sell the client to get the most expensive things on the menu. A 5% tip at these locations is more than enough, with most Mexican Nationals not leaving any tip.

I do not tip taxis. They have created a mess here with more permits issued than work available. Why is it you seem to always see them sitting under a shade tree, talking with the other drivers? They have up to an hour wait for another fare. This leads to too much false charging and over pricing. This is their problem and the tourist should not pay for it.

            On the other hand, some of these guys speak English well and are great guides for a few hours or a day. They are different because they are professionals, and not just drivers trying to get from point A to point B in the fastest time possible. With a professional, a decent 10% tip would be well invested.

3) Comments:

a) The Commercial Mexicana is as fine a supermarket as any I have seen. Buy your water, beer, sandwich stuff, etc. there. It is also the best place in town to buy liquor. And, they have a great deli.

b) I personally feel eating the shrimp and lobster here is way over rated. In most restaurants, it is more of a tourist trap than anything. Some of the shrimp dishes are outstanding however, but other than Lety’s, can be expensive. The lobster is just a spiny back lobster, charged at the market prices. You can do better at home.

c) Taxis get you anywhere around town in Zihuat for about 25 pesos. Use the micro bus for 8 pesos to go to and from Ixtapa. The micros have their destination marked on the front windshield. No matter where you are at, just raise your arm and the taxi or micro will stop.

d) The best time of the day to see the tourist markets and shops in Zihuatanejo is not during the middle of the day. It is too hot! Come into town about 6 in the evening and shop around a bit. Eat dinner, and do some more shopping. The shops stay open until at least 9:00. The town becomes vibrant and alive around 7:00 in the evening. This is when most of the locals venture out for their shopping also.

e) Depending on when you read this, the current exchange rate could be different. It is about 12 to 1 right now. But, if you pay in dollars, you will be given a rate of only 10 or 11 to 1. You will be losing over 10% by not paying in pesos. When you have a fishing charter, or a hotel room is quoted in Dollars, pay in dollars. If a hotel quotes in dollars, but they convert to pesos for the bill and you want to put it on your credit card, this is not a problem. But, check what rate they used as a conversion, and compare how they have the rooms quoted in Spanish, and pesos. You should be paying the same rate as a Mexican National is paying in pesos.

f) Never assume a restaurant will accept credit cards. Many may even have the sign in the window, but no longer take them. Always ask before you order.
    The same is with the fishing charters. Nobody here takes credit cards because it takes to long to get the funds to the captain, and he needs the money that day to buy fuel for the next day’s fishing. I can take credit cards, but on a two week advance notice. This gives me time to get the funds transferred to my account here.
      When paying in pesos, and the price quote is in dollars, use the exchange rate of the current time. Too many people will assume it is 10.00 to 1, when it is actually 12.00 to 1. This short changes the captain by 20%.

g) ATM machines are everywhere. They will give you your best exchange rate, unless your bank’s fees are off the charts. There are even a couple of ATM machines at the airport. These would be the first place to get a couple of thousand pesos.
     When you use the ATM machine, do not punch in the 200, thinking you are getting $200 dollars. You will get 200 pesos, which is a little less than $20.00 dollars. Every bank has an ATM machine, plus there are several others at the Commercial Mexicana.
     If possible, just use the swipe through machines. Most of the times I have heard of when a card gets “eaten” by a machine is when the person is in a hurry, grabs the money and then leaves, forgetting all about the card. A few seconds later the card pops out and then is taken back in the machine.
     Also, there are two ATM machines at the airport. This is the best place to get pesos when coming to Mexico. You will pay a terrible exchange rate if you try and get pesos in your home town. Plus, by getting pesos, you can now pay the taxi in pesos to take you from your hotel from the airport, saving at least 20%.

h) If you are looking at Real Estate, either raw land or an existing house or condo, John Murphy with Beach Properties is probably the best one here. John has been here over 20 years, returns all calls and emails promptly, and will spend the amount of time with you need.  His email is:  john@mexicobeachproperty.com  and his web page (with phone numbers and contact information) is: http://www.mbprealestate.com/

4) Fish Mounts - For years the fish mounting services here in Zihuatanejo have been a huge rip-off. At first it was Artes Marina, and now Grays has moved in. Grays partially won out through a large promotional program of furnishing shirts, sunglasses, etc. to the captains. However, the main reason Grays won out was the huge commissions the captain makes off each sale.

         Combined with the pressure they put on the angler at the dock, Grays has developed the rip-off into an art form. Do you realize the deposit you make is actually just the commission to the captain? It has always been like this. You are quoted a price, and then sign the contract. But, you just signed an open contract with no maximum amount stated for things like shipping, taxes, handling, etc. Does it really make sense if the deposit paid is just the commission, the balance will only be a couple of hundred dollars more....as stated on the contract?
         In partail defense of the captains, they know something is not right with the system, but they never see the final billing amounts, nor are they told any different than what is stated on the contract. They are not ignorant of the fact there are problems, but the lure of large commissions is just too overwhelming when you try to survive in a very short work year. And, if the captain does not own the boat, no matter how much you liked him, he will see very little of that money. He will get his tip, and less than 30% of the fish mount deposit. The owner keeps the rest.
          As with the catch and release of bill fish, if the public is not made aware of the problem, then it is not going to stop. It will continue. The best option is to get a photo and a measurement, and release the fish. Then when you get back home, contact a reputable fiber glass fish mounting service, like Fintastic Fish, and get a quote and a time reference, for a mount delivered to your door. You will be free from the last minute decisions of the pressure at the dock, and can make an intelligent choice.
         Paul Phillips, with Fintastic Fish, has been fishing here for years and he and I started the release of billfish here. sailonthefly@google.com or fintastic@telus.net This is a good email address to file away for future reference.

5) Emergencies and important numbers –
     Nobody wants to think you are going to have an emergency while on vacation, but if it can happen where you live, it can happen here also. And, occasionally they do happen. First, let me ease your fears about the quality of the doctors, hospitals, and care you would receive. I am not going to try to convince you they are equivalent to John Hopkins or one of the highest rated hospitals in the world, but you will be well taken care of.

My personal experiences with fishing clients who were in a real nasty head on accident, and me almost loosing several fingers to a machete, have fortified this belief. Without going into detail, the doctors of the fishing clients where they live said they couldn’t have done better, and my 5 hour surgery went well.

There are basically two hospitals I have had personal experience with, and you can trust. In Ixtapa, the Marina hospital near the tourist flea market has an excellent reputation, as well as Hospital Especialidades across the street and up the hill from the central bus station in Zihuatanejo. I know for a fact the Hospital Especialidades, if the onsite staff feels it is needed, will call a specialist in to take care of any specialized situation.

However, it is also understood by most of the population here, to stay away from the General Hospital in Zihuatanejo, even though the few times I have been involved with them, they were satisfactory.

I have also heard good things about the Maciel and the La Salud clinics in Centro.

For a personal general physician, it is hard to beat English speaking Dr. Greyeb in Zihuantanejo Centro.

Here are some important phone numbers:

U.S. Consular Agent (Deborah Mione) …………………..553-2100

Marina (Navel) Hospital, Ixtapa……………………...…553-0499

Hospital Especialdades, Colonia Hujal, Zihuatanejo……554-7628

Clinica Maciel, Centro…………………………………..554-8617

Clinica La Salud, Centro………………………755-101-4928 cell

Dr. Greyeb, Centro………………554-3334….. cell 755 557 8303

Cruz Rojo (Red Cross ambulance)…………………….,..554-2009

Plus, these numbers copied from www.zihuatanejo.net/

Emergency Phone Numbers

Emergencies (general) 066

cellphones: 112

Cruz Roja (Red Cross) 065

cellphones: 114


Policía Preventiva Municipal

(Municipal Preventive Police) 060




Policía Turística

(Tourist Police) 060



Policía de Tránsito Municipal

(Municipal Traffic Police) 060



Policía Judicial del Estado (PJE)

(State Judicial Police) 554-2100

Policía Federal Preventiva (PFP)

(Federal Preventive Police) 554-0090



Agencia Federal de Investigación (AFI)

(Federal Investigative Police) 554-3899

Bomberos y Proteccion Civil

(Fire Department and Civil Protection) 068




Armada de México

(Mexican Navy) 554-6070

cellphones: SOS MARINA

(767 627 462)

Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE)

(Federal Electric Commission)

(for reporting problems) 071



Ambulance (other than Red Cross) 554-5404


Air Ambulance 554-3334


Hospital de Especialidades 554-7628

Hospital Naval 553-0499

Instituto Mexicano de Seguro Social (IMSS) 554-3257

Centro de Salud

(Health Center) 554-2088

Hospital General 554-3650



Dialysis Clinic cel: 755-112-1754

Hospital Clínica Maciel 554-2380

Funerales del Pacifico 554-2825

Funeraria López 554-8309

cel: 755-559-5393

Dr. Grayeb MD

(Spanish - English - French) 554-3334

cel: 755-102-8066

Desarrollo Integral de la Familia (DIF)

(Municipal Family Services) 554-4367

No phone card is needed on public phones for 3-digit emergency numbers.