By David Simmonds
When I talk to Mexico travelers the subject always comes up: how do you carry and get your spending money? Even the people who plan to vegetate at an All-Inclusive (translate to “you could be anywhere”) resort where the only mystery is the color of your plastic wristband.
The fact is, you need to carry pesos when you wander off the resort plantation. I always make sure I deplane in Mexico with at least enough pesos to grab a welcome-to-Mexico beer at the airport and to pay for transportation to town or my hotel…assuming I’ve planned sufficiently to have a room reserved. So I’ll save enough from my previous trip to cover that, and most Mexican airports have a Casade Cambio where you can exchange dollars for pesos. Or there is usually an operational ATM in the larger airports.
Not too many years ago most people used Traveler’s Checks, and it’s not a bad idea to carry some for an emergency, packed separately from your credit and ATM card. If you are going to use your credit card at all, notify the issuing bank about your trip so that you don’t get “red-flagged” when a Mexico charge is attempted. This has happened to friends and is a major inconvenience. You can carry U.S. cash, hoping you don’t lose the stash, but don’t rely on that method other than to have some “insurance” money if all else fails. I usually pack three $100 bills in a hidden place and rarely have to use it. Otherwise I use ATM’s, making sure to make fairly large withdrawals since you’re going to get dinged by your bank for the convenience, no matter how much you take. Better to have a $3.00 charge on $300.00 rather than several withdrawals of a lesser amount. I use a credit card for some expenses…expensive hotels and meals, a car rental, or a return home bribe gift of jewelry for my wife is she wasn’t able to make the trip.
For a good account of one person’s recent experience comparing several methods and how much they each cost go here http://www.ourmexico.com/story.php?storyID=31.