22 August 2001
Information overload! Were receiving so many interesting emails and Mexico tips that without a secretary I simply cant keep up. As a result, Im going to try to streamline publication of my Notebook by combining several entries into a single post.
Now that we have a search engine on this website, were also making an effort to include obvious keywords in the title and subheads of every article. If youre interested in Mexican real estate, bus travel, whatever... use the Google box provided on this page to search for related articles and Notebook postings. To cut down on the number of hits returned, try to include more than one key word in each search. As an example, if you vaguely recall an article on this website about renting houses in Mazatlan, try this search string: Mazatlan rent real estate.
"If you're not living on the edge, you're taking up too much room." Thanks to Vee Weber for sending these words of.... encouragement?
I was surprised to receive a letter mailed just 29 days ago from New York state, addressed simply, Carl Franz Ajijic Mexico. It seems that the author of this letter read an article about retirement in Mexico published in the New York Times on March 21 of this year. Because I was quoted in this article, the letter writer asks that I make the necessary arrangements to rent an efficiency apartment for her and her husband. She doesnt tell me what color the drapes should be, but I assume those instructions will soon follow....
Buying Prozac In Mexico
I feel fine today, so I passed the buck on the question below to our Medical Expert, the renowned David Eidell:
My daughter, who is 24, went to Tijuana and bought birth control pills and Prozac ($176 worth). The Prozac was confiscated at the border and the reason they gave was that it was not approved by the FDA. She did not have a written prescription with her but apparently that wouldn't have mattered anyway. What is the law? Do you know where I can find a source that explains it? Obviously she was purchasing her meds in Mexico because she can't afford them here. So, she is out the $176 and still has no meds and is devastated. What to do to avoid this problem in the future? Thanks for any assistance you can give us.
David Eidell replies:
I am going to speculate and answer this by sheer guesswork!
US Customs will not allow "unapproved" medicines into the USA. By "unapproved" I mean medicines whose formula isn't found in the US Pharmacopeia (USP). This is a relatively new development and relatively few drugs are affected by this new wrinkle.
In the case of your daughters Prozac, the refusal of US Customs to admit the drug into the USA "may" be because the medicine that was shown to them was not labeled "Prozac", but was actually an alternative brand name unrecognized by the Agent.
Technically, if the "formula" of the medicine in question is identical to standard Prozac, then it is admissible as a valid drug.
I would have a doctor create a letter on his letterhead (preferably with his DEA Registration Number attached). The letter should state the patients name, that the patient is being treated with Prozac, and then list the dosage and the name of the formula.
Retain the original containers of the Mexican medicine to show the Customs Inspector. Ask to see a supervisor if a Customs Agent doubts the validity of the medicine.
Customs Agents are paid to be suspicious; they are not pharmacists.
Okay, now that weve cleared that up, Im going to ask your help in answering the question below, which has stumped me completely. If you can give Mr. Kamal a clue, please email him directly.
Subject: LOOKING FOR INFORMATION - WE ARE IN EGYPT
From: Shahira Kamal, email@example.com
I AM A TRADER FROM EGYPT
I GOT A BIG LIST WITH NAMES , TEL AND FAX NUMBERS FOR MEXICAN EXPORTERS OF GREEN COFFEE BEANS IT IS A BIG LIST AND IT WILL WILL TAKE ME AGES TO GET THE MAIL ADDRESS OF EACH IS THERE A SPECIAL DIRECTORY FOR MEXICO WHERE I CAN LOOK FOR THE MAIL ADDRESS OF EACH NAME I SHALL BE VERY GRATEFUL FOR THE INFORMATION THANKS SHAHIRA
Cozumel Dive Trip Scam
Jon Bowman describes how he and his friends were almost taken for a ride in a clumsy bait-and-switch scam:
Reading Jim Jamiesons Huatulco boat warning story reminded me of our recent trip to Cozumel. We had been approached by a nice man in the Plaza Las Glorious Hotel who had a picture on his desk in the lobby, of a neat looking catamaran with happy-party people on board.
The boat was named the Zorro. A six-hour cruise to snorkel and swim was about 800 pesos per day.
Well, we signed up -- the boat looked wonderful and the party looked fun as well. We were told to meet on the pier in the middle of San Miguel at 8 a.m.
We walked to the pick-up spot just in time to see our beatiful boat sail past. We thought, well, perhaps it is heading to pick up people at the resort hotel between the town and our hotel. As we waited and puzzled the situation out, another boat arrived, with peeling paint and three crew members on board.
As they docked, they asked us if we were to go on a cruise...we said yes, but noted that our boat, the Zorro was over there. We pointed to the beatiful blue and yellow boat. Then these three men laughed and said, oh that boat is the Zorro I... you are booked on the Zorro II.
We are from Chicago, we know the hustle, so as we looked at the crappy looking boat and the three less than cool looking fellows on board, we said, no, we are not going on this Zorro II boat at all! We returned to the hotel, found Victor and demanded our money back, which we were given.
We then booked on a glass bottom boat for a three hour trip that was totally cool. And three hours is perfect for all the beer that you must drink in between dives. So, the moral is, know what you sign up for, and demand satisfaction for your bucks!
Carl adds: If the Hotel Las Glorias isnt part of this scam, someone might do them a favor and drop off a copy of Jons cautionary tale.
Ensenada, Baja: Retirement Advice and Information Sources
...from our friend Vee Weber, in reply to several emails weve had inquiring about this area. Vee writes:
I have been a part-time resident of the Ensenada area for nearly twenty years, so Carl and Lorena suggested that I might share some information that could help in your search for a special corner of your own in Mexico.
There is a large retirement community in the Ensenada area. There are still a lot of beautiful areas that are still fairly pristine, where you won't hear a word of English spoken. Yet, Ensenada does cater to a bilingual crowd... for example, many first run American movies are shown in town with Spanish subtitles.
One of the best sites for Ensenada information is located at www.baja-web.com. Go to the main page and then click on Ensenada in the left hand menu selection. The writers on this site have lived in Ensenada for over twenty-five years. They also list information about different clubs and activities which are located in town.
One of the biggest retirement areas is just 15 miles south of Ensenada. I've heard it referred to as "Gringo Gulch" but it is actually called Punta Banda. There is a lot a material on the web about this area....sedentary seniors they're not! There is a Little Theatre group, a scholarship society, La Sociedad de los Vecinos de Punta Banda, aerobics, different clubs for card games, trips, tours, etc. You can get info about this area at www.bajaensenada.com. and at labufadora.com (personal plug here... labufadora.com is my website)
If you have specific questions about the area and activities I would be happy to try and answer them... or suggest a website for more exploring.
Vee Weber (email) BajaGuera@aol.com
Best Airfares To Mexico
The travel agent we use in Mexico has consistently matched or beaten the lowest prices on airfares that weve been able to find on our own. In the hope of possibly saving a peso or two, however, I occasionally search the web for bargain airfares, if only to confirm that our travel agent is still on top of things.
In planning an October visit to my mother near Seattle , I was horrified when the travel agent quoted a price of $600 U.S. round-trip from Guadalajara. Worse yet, Id have to make two connections and arrive late at night.
Naturally, I went to my computer and began searching for better deals on the internet. In the process, I came across Qixo.com. Unlike sites that require you to click through page after page in order to get a quote, Quixio quickly provides a list of the lowest ticket prices to and from Mexico. Thats the good news.
The less thrilling news is that for my Seattle flight, Quixios prices werent any better than our travel agents. In fact, the agent went back into her own computer and put together a flight that earns air miles and also gets into Seattle in late afternoon instead of late at night -- for $630.
The moral, if there is one, is that Quixio appears to be a good, quick way to find low airfares... but it doesnt quite fill the shoes of a helpful travel agent.