Mexico is one of the best tourist destinations in the world. More than 2 million of tourists visit the country every year. Unfortunately, though, there are some tourist scams as a consequence of the tourist’s success. The scams have evolved in time and could be painful enough for a tourist to ruin what could be the perfect vacation. In this article, we will explain the most frequent scams in Mexico and we will propose a solution based on our experience in Mexico.
In Mexico, there are many scams that come from official agents of decent institutions. The corruption in the country is still high regardless of the government’s efforts to limit its effects, The first rule that applies in Mexico for scams is not to trust a concrete agent because it belongs to a respectful institution. A cheater is a cheater no matter what from where it comes. Just learn how to identify the practice, the trick, or the scam.
This is a fact. In a month of driving in Mexico, we faced attempts to be cheated by policemen who asked for bribes. We have been stopped 5 times for controls and they tried something wrong on 4 of them. They never got a penny but be ready to be patient. It is very common in Mexico, not only with tourists, that police try to get some money from drivers since their salaries are very low. The only force in the country that stopped us and they didn’t ask for money when they stopped us was the Guardia Nacional, a modern force known for being clean from corruption.
Solution: Be on guard, keep calm, and be gentle if they stop you but don’t be naive. They don’t want problems, they just want money. When they understand it will be very difficult to get money from you they will let you go.
The traffic light and the line
It is very hard sometimes to stop before the line on a traffic line since the traffic is very dense and the officers present to control let many rare things happen. People, cars, and sellers will stop you at any crossroads and there is nothing you can do about it. It happened to us that we needed to stop the car just stepping on the line of a traffic car in Oaxaca City downtown. That was enough for a policewoman who said we would be fined while she was jotting down our registration plate and asked for the documents.
Crossing the line at the traffic lights was, she said, one of the most expensive fines in Mexico. We tried to argue and she said since it was already Friday we couldn’t pay the fine since Monday at the post office. Of course, during those three days, we would have stood with no documents and no right to drive.
They know that is a mess for a tourist who needs to move on to the next destination or reach the airport to fly back home. But another policewoman appeared, dealing with her partner and offering a friendly solution with a discount. If we paid in cash at the moment we would pay half and it would be solved.
Solution: Don’t argue, don’t get upset. All is a theater, do your role. Make the conversation longer and try to show at the place how many of the others do the same as you do. Make questions and questions and be patient and patient. Remember they can really find you, but it is not their intention. In the end, they will give you back the documents with no fine if you don’t make out of an injustice a personal fight.
The random police control
This is a bit different from the previous one. They stopped you at random and since you are a tourist, someone decides ad hoc to ask for money. First, they will always ask for the papers. If you give your documents to them they will invent a previous fine. To us, this happened twice. You ask first if you did something wrong and they ask if they will see, then once they have the documents in hand they communicate a random creative traffic offense. To us once they said my wife was not wearing the mask in the car… while nobody else of those who were stopping at the same time were wearing it and it was not a problem at all.
Solution: First try to offer a copy of your documents showing the original but try not to give the driver’s license to them. Explain that it should be a mistake for any reason. Invent if you want but be always gentle and friendly. Keep calm and always show patience. What is really discouraging for a corrupt policeman is to understand it will take a long time to get something from you. Show you have time to be patient and you will win.
The tip to the policemen
This happens in regular traffic controls. The policeman asks for the papers and you ask back what you did wrong. He may say he needs to do some checking, then you give a copy of your documents showing the original and you tell them they don’t need to have in hand the original ones since you didn’t do anything wrong. They will understand you are a veteran and then they may try to be friendly and ask for a tip… since it is very hot for cold water or any other excuse.
Solution: Refuse very gently but never mention that it is illegal or he is abusing his power.
Only cash at the tolls
The roads in Mexico are more than terrible. We highly recommend using the paid roads (quota) and highways so as not to spend too long or even eventually have an accident. You must have enough cash to pay them because even if there are some that show on big billboards you can pay by card your card will always be rejected by the agent. We could pay only once by card in a month driving along the country.
Solution: You need to bring enough cash with you to pay the tolls.
Chains on the roads
There are some drivers who try to avoid paying the tolls by passing via alternative private properties. That has developed a business. Some landlords with unofficial access to the highways from their properties allow it to pass if you pay a reduced toll to them. You can arrive at their properties by mistake and they may ask money for removing the chains of their private or even public paths. There are communities that organize unofficial tolls to access beaches or any interesting point of their territory.
Solution: If the dirty road is only leading to the fields or the house of the landlord you can ask gently to drive back to the misleading point which drove you there. If the dirty road connects two villages or leads to a road the path is public and you can remove the chain yourself or tell you are calling the police to solve the problem. They will let you pass.
At some tourist attractions, especially in Mayan Riviera, you will find so-called official information desks. They will offer some true information and exaggerate the hassles of the lines, the heat you will handle, or worse. In the end, they will try to sell more comfortable packages at high prices. We never bought anything from them but we can say they lied a lot on many details we could find easier and less dramatic as expected.
Solution: Stick to your plan and don’t waste your time if you don’t think you need any information. Don’t buy packages you were not interested in before getting weel-informed by yourself.
Counterfeit notes in change
This is a classic in every touristy country. Since you don’t know the currency and you are not familiar with the notes and coins they could try to cheat on you.
Solution: Take your time every time you get the change or you change some money. Change your money always at proper money changers and get familiar as soon as possible with the local money.
Help at the ATM
One of the most popular scams in Mexico is the unwanted help at ATMs. They could try to see when you use your pin code or they can even try to rob you at the moment you use it.
Solution: Don’t let anybody too close when you use an ATM, never reveal your code to anybody, and just never accept unwanted help in this situation.
Cheating at the rental
This is one of the easiest of the scams in Mexico. It happens mainly to expats looking for a flat to rent or even to tourists looking for a long stay. After checking the flat on the internet, you decide to contact the advertiser who asks for some money in advance. After paying you will never see him or her again.
Solution: Do not pay caution to anybody before watching the flat from inside. Choose trustworthy agencies and don’t trust properties on tourist websites with no comments.
One more of the classics worldwide. The taximeters in Mexico DF are probably the most diverse on the planet. Nobody cheats, only the count is different. So in order not to pay differently just have some preventive measures.
Solution: Use apps where the final price is known upfront or let a trustworthy handbook book a known driver for you.
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Useful information about scams in Mexico
Are there common online scams in Mexico?
Yes, common online scams in Mexico involve phishing emails, fake online marketplaces, and fraudulent job offers. Always verify the legitimacy of websites and offers.
Can I trust roadside vendors in Mexico?
While many roadside vendors are legitimate, be cautious and haggle prices when shopping. Avoid buying expensive items from unknown vendors.
Is credit card fraud common in Mexico?
Credit card fraud can occur, so use ATMs and card readers from reputable sources, monitor your statements, and report any suspicious activity.
What should I do if I encounter a scam in Mexico?
Report scams to local authorities and your embassy or consulate. Keep records of the incident and seek assistance if necessary.
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