The People's Guide To Mexico

People's Guide

David "El Codo" Eidell

Note: in Mexico, "codo" or "elbow"
is synonymous with cheapskate.

David takes a low-budget view of Mexico.

"The truly accomplished traveler will extract the best, and not dote on the rest"

David “El Codo” Eidell says of himself:

El Codo was born Sept. 20 (send presents early and avoid the rush), 1946.

I grew up in east San Francisco Bay Area and went to Vietnam in 1966 in Uncle LBJ's Brown Water Navy (Basaac River Mekong Delta). Came home thin, brown, and very tired (with some Chinese party favors, inside).

In short, I went to Vietnam to avoid college.

But now for the GOOD part:

Following my tradition of doing things back assward, I first went to Baja, Mexico in the SUMMER (!) of 1964, riding in the back of my brother's new CJ-5 Jeep. I rode on four cases of warm bubbling Cerveza Corona. I was so dumb that I had to ask how to say "no" in Spanish (one cannot enter Mexico for the first time more naive than I was).

We arrived in Mulege as the guard blew the conch shell for the prisoners to return to their cells in the penitentiary up on the hill. We camped by the estuary and were devoured by hordes of hungry zancudos. The next day we camped at Bahía Concepción. A pocket thermometer revealed that August days then averaged about a 105 F in the shade. At night, it cooled down to 80 F or So. I spent most of the time in the water.

In Mulege, I purchased a fifty pound block of ice to use as a seat in the back of the Jeep. The guy who lifted it in for me scuttled away keeping the ice tongs handy in case my obvious dementia got out of control. Who in their right mind would pay six pesos (about 45 cents US) for a seat that melted? When I stepped around the corner to take a leak, my travelling companions promptly chopped the block into shards to ice down the beer.

I returned to the USA and forgot about Mexico for four years.

In late 1967, I travelled to Tijuana, then eastward to Nogales, then down the Pacific Coast to Guaymas and Mazatlan, then overland to Guadalajara, Morelia, DF and Veracruz. I wandered around Puebla for a while before returning home through the colonial cities region. I reentered the USA at Brownsville. It was then that I figured hour how large Texas really is. I drove 80 mph for 10 hours and STILL had a ways to go before El Paso.

From 1967 to 1982 I made "area specific" trips. In short, I found myself sidelined in one village or town for most of the trip, usually because I made friends and in turn, they made me reluctant to leave.

I started towing a pickup behind a converted school bus in 1978. My trips became much longer and more detailed: Rural camping in Michoacan for most of the winter. Camping on my own private cove near Puerto Escondido for six months. Spending an entire Spring and summer on the Caribbean near Xcalak, fleeing before the ravages of hurricane Gilberto in 1988. Winding a 33' superior 66 passenger bus through San Cristobal de Las Casas on my way to Ranch San Nicolas for a summer parked beneath a rain cloud. The following year found me in the Peten jungles of northern Guatemala. I was delayed in a small village by a group of rebels, who spoke to the entire assembled village through a scratchy bullhorn in a language that I did not fathom. When I started to tune up the propane powered engine on my bus, they abandoned ideology and watched me closely.

I found myself travelling through Honduras, finally chickening-out at the border with El Salvador. I detoured to the east coast, but after being hemmed in by summer, I retreated to Lago Atitlan. I was out of the USA for so long that my bus license was 2 years expired.

I believe that I am among the few who have sailed from Baja to the mainland aboard a Mexican shrimp boat. Later I returned to Baja on foot, abroad the ferry and then accompanied a fellow camper back to Tucson. From there I hitched a ride back to Punta Chivato in a twin engine private aircraft.

I may also be the only living gringo to install strobe lights in the flat black interior of a Disco owned by a Mexican Secret Service agent (at least one that was operated by a former tortilleria owner).

Oh yes, I once went deer hunting with a bilingual Indian and his son in Guatemala. The only problem was that we started our hunt in Mexico. But I'll save that one for a future story.

Salud, Pesetas, y Suerte


David Eidell,

March 2002

I Am Thrifty, Not "Scrooge"!

Hi Lorena,

Perhaps it would be wise to add a caveat to the description of "El Codo" the cheapskate. We all know that I am thrifty but various readers seem to interpret this as meaning "price is everything".

I think "value is everything" would be a more apt description of my propensity to squeeze every peso until the Aztec farts.

"The religion of 'El Codismo' is not merely choosing the cheapest way (that would be a piece-of-cake), but 'being Codo' means that every centavo is utilized to get the best for the Peso: Sometimes I have felt that I have been ripped-off with a taco that cost the equivalent of fifty cents, while other times I felt like a twenty dollar dinner was a bargain.

Too often I run into folks who reach way down into their pockets to shell out an outrageous sum of money for goods or services "Oh well this is Mexico" they explain. Paying twenty dollars for an RV parking spot (the equivalent of six hundred US per month) might be a bargain, depending on the amenities, but I feel that paying twenty dollars a night for a flea bag cubicle with a five foot bed, no bathroom and a bare bulb dangling from the ceiling to be an extravagance.

I have come to the realization that much of my attitude stems from the fact that I approach this subject with a perspective much like a campesino, a country person. The planks of the American economy are such that a person like myself would have no problem falling through a crack. I need to apply my money wisely which is totally different from being a scrooge.

Being El Codo means looking at things from somewhat the same perspective of the majority of the citizens of Mexico. Rather than being a curse, over the years a lack of surplus funds has caused me to seek "The Real Mexico", which is priceless.

And yes, consider me to be "El Codo!" for sure!



•El Taco de Huitzilopochtli

Like the Aztec god of war that the restaurant was named after there is nothing subtle about El Taco de Huitzilopochtli. It is easily the most intensely Mexican restaurant that I've ever visited....Traditional Mexicans love to express their exuberance of things Mexican. When the exuberance is coupled with the talent of a skilled host and chef, and finally amplified by the strong will of a cultural aficionado, the result can be spectacular.... (more) by David "El Codo" Eidell.

Camping on the Pacific Coast of Michoacan

After spending some four years living and traveling up and down the rugged and beautiful coast of Michoacan I have formed some opinions about travel and camping safety....My advice is to not camp alone on a seemingly deserted beach.... (more) by David Eidell (4-08)

The Rough Guide To Mexico (2007)

Carl says: This review of the latest edition of The Rough Guide To Mexico by our curmudgeonly correspondent, David "El Codo" Eidell, reminds me of why I could never face the harsh realities involved in writing and updating a "real" guidebook..... (more). Full review by David "El Codo" Eidell

Oaxaca: A Bit Uncomfortable for Tourism

Stan Gottlieb's article about the violence in Oaxaca "Well, at least no tourists have been attacked" was a bit off center. He could have better described things as being, "A bit uncomfortable for tourism, but because no tourists have been attacked it serves to show that once the dispute has been resolved, things should quickly return to normal in the city of Oaxaca".... (more) by David "El Codo" Eidell

•Life In A Coastal Village: Flores de Las Peñas

I awoke a few mornings ago to the sound of pounding surf in my ears and a pungent seashore odor in my nostrils. I relaxed, this was home and it was August and dawn was muted by billows of summer rain clouds. It seemed as though everything happens in moderation in the tropics -- the temperature was neither too hot nor too cold; unlike in more northerly latitudes the sun doesn't rise too early nor set too late during the summer; and pointless enthusiasm is tempered by balmy temperatures. “Moderation”, I repeated silently to myself as I drifted off again-- “That's the key to life around here, mod…”.... (more) by David "El Codo" Eidell

Buying Prescription Medicines: Will I have trouble at the border?

Even though my need is legitimate my question is this: If I go to TJ in search of Cypionate with my U.S prescription and manage to get a mexican presescription for the actual purchase, will I have trouble at the border?... (more) Answer by David "El Codo" Eidell

•Buying Controlled Medicines With A US Prescription

First of all the US prescription is invalid in Mexico, so flashing it in a farmacia or at a snooping policeman is next to worthless.

A US prescription has two purposes, the first is to convince the Mexican doctors that your personal physician believes that the medicine is justified.... (more)

¿Is It Safe to Drive in Baja? ¿Banditos?

Perhaps the best way to describe Mexico1, the transpeninsular highway is to say that many solo grandmother types drive small to medium size RV's annually to a winter's perch on a beach. Sadly, the days of banditos, highway robbery and ambushes have seem to have gone the way of the dodo.... (more) questions answered by David "El Codo" Eidell

My Medicines Weren't Allowed Into The U.S.

When we came back to the border the Customs Officials detained me, told us we could NOT take ANY controlled substance into US unless we also had a US prescription.... (more)

•¿What If They Won't Let Your Prescription Medicine Across the Border?
Uneven U.S. Customs Enforcement Policy Towards Controlled Medicines: Updated December 2002

Let's say that you've followed all of the recommendations regarding being legal and declaring your medicines to U.S. Customs. Upon your declaration, the Customs Agent responds with "Sorry you cannot bring that medicine into the United States" (or any number of other negative replies)..... (more)

Crossing the US Border: What Might Happen

Why Is He Typing In My License Plate Number?
US Customs, created a computer database system in the late 1980's that links every kiosk in every Port of Entry, together so that information could be shared instantly.... By noting the time, and place of your entry "Big Brother" can later review this data to see if perhaps a strange or odd pattern emerges. If for instance a Missouri automobile repeatedly enters the US between two and four a.m. at various entry points .... (more)

Buying Prescription Medicines in Mexico: Update: March 2002

Mexico's legislature nixed president Vicente Fox's plans to add a twenty percent tax onto prescription medicine sales. Medicines seem to be one of the few commodities in Mexico that haven't undergone a series of spiraling price increases in the last several months. If anything, competition in border cities has resulted in price slashing on some of the more expensive antibiotics and stomach remedies.... (more)

Save Your Medicine Receipts

Friday Feb 15th, 2002

US Customs announced that medicines from a Baja California chain of pharmacies will be confiscated at the border. Starting today, medicines purchased from farmacias VIDA SUPREMA, a Tijuana based chain of twenty pharmacies are "medicinas non gratis" into the United States.... The US Attorney General says that the pharmacy is somehow linked to the infamous Arellano Felix drug cartel and the ban is one way the United States plans to combat profits and money laundering.... (more)

•Dorado Fever

Suddenly Armando yelled, "Dorado under the boat!" It was getting dark. My rod tip made a sudden hard left turn and the drag on my reel began to howl. I tightened the drag and felt the line go slack as water erupted fifty feet off the stern.... (more)

My Low-Budget Mexican Bus Vacation

I always seem to have more time than money for my vacation. A combination of daydreaming and shrewd planning focused around my tiny budget allowed me to arrive at numerous options. The first point was that I shouldn't commit myself to a round-trip ticket even though it meant passing up a ten percent discount on the fare.... (more)

Book Review: Bus Across Mexico by Robert Berryhill

Book Review: Bus Across Mexico, is perhaps the first serious attempt to list the thousands of various bus schedules of Mexico's several hundred bus companies. Sixty two of the book's two hundred thirty pages are devoted to general information and description of Mexico's buses and bus lines. The remaining pages are organized so that individual cities and towns have listings of bus lines, schedules, price, and travel time to a variety of local and distant hub cities.... (more)

Camping Mexico's Baja, by Mike & Terri Church

For RV'ers to the Baja peninsula and Puerto Penasco upper gulf region.... I particularly like the inclusion of handy RV parks on the US side adjacent to major border crossing points... (more)

Baja Updates

The latest information on Baja, including the road conditions, check points and fishing

•The Unforgettable Sea Of Cortez

Baja California's Golden Age 1947-1977
The Life And Writings Of Ray Cannon, By Gene S. Kira

,,,,First time visitors to Baja often find themselves marveling at their barely suppressed sense of euphoria. It's cause is difficult to define, but the elation does not dissipate over time, and is not limited to just a single nationality. Much like JRR Tolkien's description of mortals marveling at the surreal ambiance in the land of Elves -- many find themselves mesmerized by mirages that lift entire islands high into the sky and by the illusion of flying because the sky and sea have become one. It is a powerful yet benevolent narcotic.... (more) Reviewl

•The People’s Guide has the last word on drugs in Mexico, right?
•Can I buy controlled drugs over-the-counter in Mexico?
•How do I know if a medicine is available in Mexico?
•Who’s telling the truth here? What’s the real scoop?
•Five Very Important Points about buying Mexican medications!
PLUS Many More

El Codo Tests "Crocodile" Herbal Mosquito Repellent

Sure enough... just at sundown, precisely when the breeze died, no-see-ums started chewing on my ankles. I wiped some Crocodile up to my knees and.... (more) by David "El Codo" Eidell

•Treasures of the Sierra Madre: Vampire Guano??


My hand started to quiver as I mused possible answers to insert in the space which asked the purpose of my visit on the Mexican Tourist Card:
A) Purchase an entire pickup load of fresh vampire bat guano
B) Help a Humboldt County “rose” farmer obtain the best fertilizer in the world for his cash crop.
C) Earn several thousand dollars while visiting an obscure part of Mexico

•There is No Perfect RV: BUT....

I've probably spent more time in an RV in Mexico than most folks and I can tell you that I am firmly convinced that there is no perfect RV. Most everything is a compromise. For instance, when I park a monster trailer, I can detach and take Nellie Belle to places where a VW van would refuse to go. Your van is much more economical and here's where the great decision on a compromise comes in.... (more)

Camping In The Peten Rainforest

...The ‘casa’, turned out to be a hundred and fifty square feet of rotting boards, crumbling adobe, rusting sheet metal and fermenting palm fronds. The parking space was an overgrown foot trail leading from the muddy road. By carefully backing the bus I nudged the pintle hook against the front of the ‘house’....Day two the ants appeared.... (more)

Hurricane A-Coming

I glanced at Arturo's camp through a pair of field glasses and with a start realized that the entire family was disassembling their driftwood and blue tarp house...."Oye David" Artúro began "I was going to tell you that Pecho, my brother-in-law believes that a very ugly storm is coming". He motioned toward the east.... (more)

Buying Prescription Drugs in Mexico:
Part I

"Thousands of Americans cross the border every year in order to save a great deal of money buying prescription drugs....."

Part II

"Medicines cannot be mailed or shipped from Mexico to the United States....."

Calling a Pharmacy for Medicine Prices,
Part III

If you wish, you can use the telephone numbers listed below (Farmacia El Fenix in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico) in order to inquire about price and availability of prescription drugs in Mexico.

Paradise Found, a cheapskate travelogue on Mexico's Pacific beaches.

“It’s Mexico Or Die!” Though burdened by an emaciated wallet, I was determined to feel warm sand between my toes, if only for a couple of weeks....."

Codo's Scientific(?) trials of
No-see-um protection

"As our token sceptic, David immediately challenged Lorena with, “Pennyroyal oil versus no-see-ums? You gotta be nuts! Right?” He later modified this statement, however, and offered to give Lorena’s concoction a try on his next trip to San Blas, a small beach town long rumored to be the no-see-um capital of Mexico....."

Review: The People's Guide to Mexico

"If you read it and apply Carl and Lorena’s vast storehouse of wit, knowledge and understanding to your own experiences in Mexico, the People's Guide method of mellow and adventurous travel will become automatic."

he People's Guide to Mexico
13th edition
Discover why generations of travelers say they wouldn't cross the border without it! Read the award-winning book: The People's Guide to Mexico

©1972-2011 by Carl Franz & Lorena Havens