Tuesday, 6 of October of 2015

Pre Travel Planning Tips

Communication—Important #s to bring & also to leave with family members (your lodging # & other #s below)

Karen Pedersen US Cell: 515-249-3060 (Dial as normal long distance US Call—no international roaming charges)
Larry Pedersen US Cell: 515-249-9241 (Dial as normal long distance US Call—no international roaming charges)
Pedersen’s Vonage # at Coz House: 515-309-2265 (Dial as normal US Call) (can leave messages)
Pedersen’s Coz House: Local dial: 869-2049; From US dial: 011-52-987-869-2049 (can leave messages)
Karen’s Coz Cell: From Coz landline 044-987-564-4830; From other Coz cells 987-564-4830
Larry’s Coz Cell:  From Coz landline 044-987-101-0743; From other Coz cells 987-101-0743
We have a limited number of Cozumel cell phones to loan to volunteers for local (not international) communication.

Optional but helpful items to have:

____ Travel alarm
____ Small flashlight or keychain light
____ Card Reader, cables or jump drives for downloading and sharing photos
____ Small lock for luggage to secure items that may not fit in the room safe…i.e. laptop, camera or electronic equipment.
____ Small calculator to figure currency and/or metric conversion table. All measurements are metric!

Zero—The # of things that will go as “planned”! You’ll need patience, personal flexibility and problem solving ability.

Unexpected things may happen…”Just in case” we recommend you do these things BEFORE your trip:

Consider trip insurance (for cancellation or trip interruption due to traveler or family medical issues, etc.)
Leave your flight and lodging info and the number(s) or copy of your passport with a friend or relative in the U.S.
Make a copy of your passport, driver’s license, and credit cards (front & back) to bring with you. Put the copies in a different place than your wallet or travel documents in case your originals are lost or stolen. Carry a copy of your passport with you while in Cozumel.
Scan and save an electronic copy of the photo page of your passport. Email the saved image to yourself, a family member or save in electronic format that can be easily accessed if needed.
Lock passports & credit cards in a safe place during your stay.
Check your personal health insurance coverage while you are out of the country so you know the procedure should you need to visit a clinic. Some insurance providers have in-network doctors on the island…others don’t provide any international coverage. Note: You need to have a credit card to provide immediate payment locally or be prepared to pay cash for any type of medical consultation. US insurance providers that do cover some emergency medical procedures require you pay for the treatment when received and submit a request for reimbursement after returning to the US. We have contact info for local English speaking doctors & clinics.
Complete the online Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) – US Department of State. The US Department of State assists US travelers in cases of natural disasters and/or with communications in case of emergency. US Consulate services for US citizens visiting or living in Cozumel are provided by the Consular Agency in Playa de Carmen: “The Palapa” Calle 1 Sur, between Av 15 and Av 20; Monday-Friday 9am – 1pm. Email: ConAgencyPlayadelC@state.gov. Direct dial from US: 011-52-984-873-0303; From Coz dial 984-873-0303 or 0481. Emergency 999-942-5700 (US Consulate in Merida, MX).

Money—Current exchange rates as of June 2015: 1 USD converts to 14-15 pesos; rate fluctuates by the hour/day.

You can use US dollars (not coins) or you may change dollars to pesos.
It is cheaper to pay taxi fares in pesos but they gladly accept dollars if you are more comfortable using dollars. If you prefer to use dollars, bring lots of $1 bills for taxi’s and tips. Taxi fare in town will be $3-5 US for 1-4 persons; $7-20 each way to beaches.
CI Banco is a change house a few blocks from Pedersen’s, also on avenue 30 and at Punta Langosta Mall near downtown with a good rate for changing dollars to pesos. However, there are other change houses located throughout the town. You don’t need to bring pesos from the US or change $s at the airport (not good FX rates).
Do not bring $100 US bills as they are difficult to change ($50’s or $20s are fine). You don’t need new US dollars but change houses will not take bills that have ink, other marks or are torn. Tip–Call your US bank ahead of time to explain what denomination of dollars you need and have them pre-check for marks or torn bills.
Traveler’s checks are difficult to use/change here because few banks provide the service of changing currency.
Plan on using cash (pesos or dollars) for groceries in small shops, most restaurants, taxis, tips, etc.
Credit cards are accepted by Chedraui, Mega, Bodega Aurrera (large grocery stores), and Sam’s Club. Note: All are good places to pay in dollars with credit card or cash as the dollar exchange rate is better than a change house. Some tour operators, larger tourist stores and car rental agencies accept credit cards. Some local businesses charge an additional fee for credit card use while other places give a very favorable exchange rate to encourage the use of credit cards…ASK about fees before using a credit card.
Sam’s Club US membership cards can be used in Mexico. Sam’s Club and Bodega Aurrera (Mexico’s Walmart) provide the highest exchange rate for purchases made in US Dollars on the island.
ATM’s are available in many locations. You may use bank debit or credit cards to withdraw pesos and you will receive a good exchange rate. The important thing to know before you travel is the approximate fee your bank/credit card company charges for these transactions. When using an ATM note if you can withdraw pesos or dollars or both. ATMs for withdrawing dollars are clearly marked, so if it doesn’t say anything about the currency, it will likely be pesos. ATM’s have Spanish or English options. If an ATM is not marked for dollars, and if you select “$100” as the withdrawal amount you will receive 100 pesos (less than $10 USD), NOT $100 USD.

Eating/Drinking—STAY HYDRATED!

Local meal times tend to be 2-4 hours later than what is customary in the US. You can find many groceries, including snacks, in the large Chedraui and Mega stores, but if there are special snacks you need, bring them. You cannot bring in any open food items, fruit or open nuts, meat or meat products…NO beef jerky.
Avoid stomach issues. Eating a small amount of yogurt (lots of fun flavors and types in local stores) and consuming the juice of 2-3 lime slices daily will help prevent stomach issues.

Language: Here’s an online source to print/learn a few words/phrases

Travel & Customs Documents—Bring any receipts you have for “gifts” or items you may bring; put with travel docs.

Each person entering Mexico is allowed a $500 US dollar exemption to bring in things in addition to their personal belongings. The $500 per person allotment can be grouped for family members…a couple may bring in a total of $1,000 personal exemption items. Just be sure any gifts or supplies plus any other items you bring in addition to your personal clothing, toiletries, phone, 2 cameras, laptop, are less than $1,000 in value.
Only refer to donations you may bring as “gifts” when going through Customs . . . they ARE gifts. Be prepared to provide receipts for purchased items. We have used this approach and when questioned said the items are gifts for local families that total less than $500.
If you are bringing ”gift” items or mission supplies and don’t have receipts, an option is to prepare a list (in Spanish) of the items and estimated value showing the total is less than $500/person . . . showing a good faith effort to comply! Example of a generic form is below—Translation: “The articles enumerated below were donated in the US as gifts to benefit the community of Cozumel (they are not for commercial use). The total value is less than $500 per person or less than $1,000 per couple.” Email Karen pedersenkj@hotmail.com for Spanish help and questions you may have.

Cozumel, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Administrador de la Aduana
Los artículos enumeraron abajo fueron donados como regalos en los estados unidos para beneficiar la comunidad de Cozumel (no son para el uso comercial). El total del valor es < $500USD por persona o < $1,000 por pareja.
_____________________________ (First & Last Name)
_____________________________ (Street Address)
_____________________________ (City, State, Zipcode; USA)


Cantidad Articulo Precio/Valor c/u USD Total USD
Quantity Article Price/Value for each USD Total USD
________ ________ ______________________ ____________
________ ________ ______________________ ____________

Ready for anything—Helpful items to bring and carry with you daily in a fanny pack, small bag or day pack:

_____ Water bottle _____ Copy of passport _____ Hat/visor/sunglasses
_____ Camera _____ Copy of phone #s _____ Tissues (often no TP in restrooms)
_____ Medications _____ Raingear _____ Sunscreen & insect repellent
_____ Small notepad & pen _____ City map (we’ll provide) _____ Small antibacterial gel/wipes
_____ Work/garden gloves

Island info destination websites: www.cozumel.net or www.cozumelmycozumel.com or www.cozumelinsider.com Go to Island Info—Planning Your Vacation. Review all info on www.friendsofcozumel.com

Pack light (In addition to the items listed above for your day pack). See generic packing lists/tips on websites above

____ Clothing: It is hot, HUMID & often rainy…lightweight casual clothes that breathe work best vs. jeans or medium or heavy knits or t-shirts. Natural fibers like lightweight cotton and workout wear that wick away moisture are ideal. Plan 1-2+ outfits for painting/staining or very dirty work and a couple of nicer outfits for going to restaurants, church services, etc. Check to see if your lodging has laundry facilities. You are welcome to bring/do your laundry at Pedersen’s or use a laundry service. Remember swimsuit; cover-up or shorts for the pool or ocean; snorkel or scuba diving equipment if you have it…otherwise it can be rented.
____ Comfortable footwear…you’ll be on your feet on cement + flip flops are handy for going to/from the pool or ocean.
____ Chargers/extra batteries for cameras, cell phones, etc. Note: Lithium batteries need to be in carry-on, not checked.
____ Surge protector for laptop or electronics since electrical current is not consistent or can purchase locally.
____ Any medications you need…best to leave in original bottle or have the prescription with you.

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