In Mexico, look before you leap isnt just an expression, its a survival tip. Forget about bandits; the greatest threat to your safety comes from slippery cobblestones, uneven sidewalks, knee-high curbs, head-knocking signs, eye-poking awnings, toe-stubbing thresholds, open trenches, unexpected drop-offs and discarded construction debris.
In Zihuatenajo, a busy sidewalk collapsed into a pit deeper and darker than a storm sewer. Rather than close the sidewalk, pedestrians were forced to step carefully around this unmarked hazard. In Mexico City, construction workers stretched a heavy dark wire across a busy downtown sidewalk, at ankle height. Did anyone call the cops? No, passers-by simply stepped over this dangerous hurdle.
We call these unexpected pedestrian pitfalls gringo traps, though they also catch Mexicans, Europeans, Japanese and anyone else who forgets to watch their step.
In a single day in Puerto Vallarta, I saw three women tourists sprawl painfully on cobblestones and uneven sidewalks. At Uxmal, a popular archaeological site in the Yucatan Peninsula, two young Mexican women near me tripped over each other while climbing the steep, narrow stairs of a pyramid. They took a horrifying, bone-breaking fall to the bottom.
In a Pacific coast resort, starry-eyed honeymooners strolling along an unlighted seawall plunged through a gap in the guardrail and brought their vacation to a painful (but not fatal) end. The message is clear: watch your step!
When tourists arent stumbling or falling down, were banging our heads. Though Im of average (gringo) height, I cant count the number of times Ive bashed my skull against low doorways, overhanging signs and swinging lamps. Be especially careful in souvenir malls and public markets, where low sun awnings and miscellaneous headknockers abound.
If you hurt yourself in Mexico, who pays? In virtually every circumstance, you do. Unlike the US, where every injury can lead to a lawsuit, suing someone is very difficult in Mexico. Poolside mishaps in hotels, for example, are almost always considered no fault under the law. When you smack your forehead against a gift shop sign that hangs perilously low over the sidewalk, the law assumes you werent keeping your eyes open.
The benefit of this custom is that private individuals and businesses arent crippled by insurance bills and lawsuits. If you are injured in Mexico, keep copies of any medical bills you incur and try to collect on your insurance policy at home.
Continued.... with part 3