Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Coastal Real Estate Prices

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008

There is a genuine land rush going on anywhere near the beach in Mexico. Prices are rising very fast, with village after village near the major tourist areas experiencing price escalations that are sometimes hard to believe. The coast line north of Puerto Vallarta, mostly in the state of Nayarit, has been designated as the next major area of development by the Mexican government, and the cost of ownership has skyrocketed. Not surprisingly, rumor has it that ex-president Fox owns a good chunk of that coast acquired before leaving his six-year term, which may be a factor in why it has been targeted (ya think?).

I have seen houses selling for $500,000 – $700,00 that would have been $50,00 ten years ago and $20,000 ten years before that . A little village 1 ½ hours north of PV is selling ocean lots (just the dirt) for $400,000. If you do find something for a steal, it’s probably ejido land, which legally can’t be transferred to a private party until it becomes regularized….a daunting and complex procedure. Developers are buying up large tracts of land for future development. The same thing is taking place on the Riviera Maya, the Los Cabos region, just south of Tijuana in Baja Norte, Zihuatenejo/Ixtapa, and Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point) and other beach locales. Much of what is not in the cross-hairs is still ejido land.

Are there still deals to be found? Yes, but you really have to scratch and search. A more compelling question is where will it go from here? Will the declining prices in the U.S. filter down to Mexico? If so, by how much? Rationally, I have to believe that there will be a price adjustment, but a lot of the buyers these days are coming from all over the world, which might keep prices rising.

So, where does the smart money go now? Don’t tell anyone, but I like the area around Manzanillo, a town that has stayed below the tourist radar due to a lack of flights into their airport from the U.S. The town itself is not the best, but the surrounding areas, in the state of Colima, is as beautiful as Mexico gets…and you’ll pay less than ½ the price of today’s hot markets.

Cruising to Cabo

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

                                                         Cabo San Lucas
                                 (You too can be a proportional owner of the arch)

by Richard Kiser
This is the first of a three-part series on a cruise to Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta.

It’s about 6AM and we are approaching our first port –Cabo San Lucas. I was sleepless
and found myself walking the deck and soaking in the view when it happened. The
sky was clear and the ocean motionless. I was facing east just as the sun was rising.
I’m sure you all have heard of the green flash; here is a new one for you, the yellow
burst. Just as the tip of the sun appeared, it seemed to me I had just witnessed one of
the most amazing sights in my life. A small flicker of yellow and then the birth of a new
day. Wow!

We take a ship tender to the marina with no thought as to what we are going to do
ashore. There was some discussion the previous sea day involving a rent-a car that I
strongly objected to. My idea of a vacation in Mexico has nothing to do with driving,
driving while drinking and bribe money or Mexican hospitals. Laura was not pleased,
but the point is made clear later.

Bouncing along the marina we are approached by every vendor, boat trip, jewelry
sales person known to man. I was wishing for a can of Raid. We decided to head to the
office of a friend of mine who sells yachts. As we approach David’s office we meet
Ernesto, nice smile, great English and a deal we can’t refuse, a paid shore excursion.
This is what we were promised for a 90 minute time share presentation: $100 in pesos,
2 tee shirts, a bottle of tequila, lunch, drinks and roundtrip transportation in writing.
Our taxi driver is great! Along the way to the resort he points out places of interest, celebrity homes, and general pleasantry’s. Suddenly I feel Laura’s fingernails digging into
my knee. I look at her and her face is displaying a bit of alarm. She points forward to
the road and whispers “The road arrows for traffic are pointing at us”.  About the same
time our driver points out the traffic accidents where fatalities took place the day before
and that they were rental cars with Americans involved. I did my best not be smug face
here.

I have a question for you. If you know you are going to be lied to is it OK to lie back?
The resort is beautiful. Our paperwork is handed off and check-in begins. Usual stuff.
Are you married? Yes. Why are your address’ different? Laura, you really need to do
something about that. Where is your wedding ring? As I answer with “I left all jewelry on
board for safety”, Laura is removing her ring and putting it on her ring finger. Good job!
After the tour it is time for the closer. I don’t remember his name but he did have a nice
watch. The price starts out at $49,500. It drops to $24,500. We decline. Enter closer
#2. A nice woman who drops the price to $10,000. Closer #3 arrives and the final offer
is $2995. Let’s get our goodies. Of course they try and leave out the lunch and drinks
but Laura stands pat. Lunch was great and I bought the drinks –whatever. Back to the
marina. Taxi time. We get dropped off at the office –home of topless strippers and baracho y loco.

The Office is located about 3 miles walking distance from David’s office so we had a
pleasant stroll along the beach and marina boardwalk. Arriving at David’s office I realize
he has moved—crap! Time for a drink. We sit in the front corner and order an adult
beverage. Within 5 minutes I hear a familiar voice– it’s David. He has been selling yachts in Cabo for the past several years and has attained duel citizenship. He explains to us the whole concept of proportional ownership (new name for time share). This is mind boggling. He points out a development on the hillside and explains that the total cost of construction is 40 million. It is all pre-sold and the total revenue generated is 640 million—almost all proportional ownership.

The watch: David shares a story about his visit to the local pawn shop. He asks to see
the watch collection. The owner opens the safe and displays thousands of dollars in
worth of watches. The owner explains that they all belonged to time share salesmen.
The first thing they do upon arriving and being successful is to purchase an expensive
watch. When the economy, life, or anything else goes south they use the watch as get-
out-of-town money. The other tidbit David dropped on us was how to put down the can of Raid and just use your index finger for the same result. When approached by a vendor just raise your index finger and wag it back and forth –just the finger and not the wrist without making eye contact. This worked like a charm for all future stops.
Our last tour of Cabo was of million dollar yachts. I am guessing it was Laura’s first
time really looking at one and her comment was “I could do this for a couple of weeks”.
Nothing like a vision. Hmmm, I wonder what’s for dinner? Home.

Driving In Mexico…Get a Map

Friday, November 9th, 2007

Having your own transportation while traveling in Mexico has many advantages. You’re not spending hours in airports and bus stations, you can go wherever a road takes you, no time schedule and no annoying people (other than your travel partner who sings the same Led

Zeppelin song hour after endless hour). Of course, there is a downside of having the responsibility of knowing how to drive in Mexico, auto insurance, fuel costs, plowing into farm animals…and getting lost.

I’ll cover driving in Mexico in more detail another time, but for now I just want to encourage you to give it a try and to get a good road map. There used to be limited resources for maps, but now most of the major book stores and the better guide books carry them, or you can use the web. These web sites: www.mexicoroadlogs.com and www.maps-of-mexico.com/mexico_states.shtml do a good job covering most of the roads, and you can buy and download just certain regions or the entire country.

I like traveling between towns in a car, but it is also nice to have even if you have one destination where you are staying and want to see the nearby areas. A compact car can usually be rented for $20 – 30 per day. You can get the best deal by going to the major car rentals’ web sites and doing your booking online or by calling their 800 number. Many times the cost of the car for two days will equal the cab ride to and from your hotel. Just make sure you know where you’re going…and carry a good map.

Pesos or Dollars In Mexico?

Friday, November 9th, 2007

When I first started traveling to Mexico, carrying money was an issue. Dollars were accepted in the border areas, but deeper in Mexico you had to have pesos. These days you can spend gringo dollars in the tourist towns throughout the country, but it is best to convert your money to Mexican money. You won’t be perceived as a rookie Mexico traveler (which increases the chance that you might get fleeced) and you don’t have to do mental math calculations when they give you change in pesos (not recommended while slamming margaritas in a cantina). When a six-pack of beer at a market is marked at 39 pesos you pay that amount in the local currency just like a local. If you pay with a $20 US bill, the clerk, if he accepts your $20, will give you change in pesos using a conversion scale to his liking. Most likely you will pay more for the brew that way.

I always save a wad of pesos from a trip so that I have will them available for the next time…usually around $50 – $100. That way, if I am flying in, I have pesos as soon as I land. The airport may have a bank window or a casa de cambio (money exchange), but they aren’t always open when you need them. The large airports (i.e.,Mexico City) now have ATM’s, but many do not. I also carry a couple of $100 US bills in a safe place (not my wallet) for emergencies at odd hours. Years ago everyone used travelers checks, requiring waiting in bank lines in order to cash them, which was a huge hassle. In the last seven years or so ATM’s have become very common all over Mexico, at least in any town large enough to have a bank. An ATM will offer you the best conversion rate and will leave you a legitimate paper trail. A case de cambio is the second best option, but that is for converting your US dollars into pesos, which requires that you carry cash. Why carry cash that you might lose when you can use plastic, getting enough cash every day for that day’s needs? The ATM’s also handle cash advances for Visa and Mastercard.