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Costa Maya Newsletter> Archived Costa Maya Newsletters > August, 2009 -

Costa Maya Newsletters: of primary interest to property owners and those interested in Mahahual / Majahual - Rio Indio - Placer - Uvero - Punta Herrera - Xcalak and other points along Quintana Roo South

You can now read up to the minute Mahahual happenings at

*******************Costa Maya Newsletter*******************
August / Agosto 2009

Hi Costa Maya Neighbors-

It seems like a long time since I've sent out a newsletter. Between vacations, visiting family and great snorkeling weather, other priorities just kind of got in the way. When you live at the beach and your family lives in the US - it's a hard choice you make to be away from them for so many months of the year. People ask me what the hardest thing about living in Mexico - and that's it. I just couldn't talk family into coming with me!

Marcia with Baracuda

I have lots of important news this month. I especially wanted to draw attention to the section on Playa del Carmen Speed trap. It also includes information about import stickers on non-Mexican vehicles and the laws regarding that. When you know the law, it empowers you so that you don't inadvertently break the law - AND so you can look a police officer in the eye and argue your case. The longer I am here, the more I'm amazed at how many laws there are in this country. It's mind boggling. While there are so many laws and policies, it seems that few people obey them. Its part of the fascinating but sometimes maddening culture. Coming from a law abiding family - I'm just naturally a person who follows the rules as close as I can so I can sleep at night. But even I find myself slipping into that part of Mexican culture that seems to find that some laws are "real" and others are only there to establish liability. Ever seen anyone stop at a stop sign here? The California stop must have been a Mexican import!

Kim and I have had some good and bad run-ins with Mexican laws. Despite more than our share of bad things that have happened, we have also had good things. I'm here to stay and get more and more confident with the laws here in Mexico and even if some of them still baffle me, there is a logic there that is fascinating to me. The hardest part is to find out what the laws really are. The information at the end of this newsletter is a big step to understanding some of them. Good web sites put out by the Mexican department of immigration and Mexican Foreign Affairs have quite a few laws and policies translated into english - and

Now if we all spoke Spanish well enough that it allowed us to read the rest of the web sites in Spanish!

Past newsletters can be found at NEWSLETTER ARCHIVES

PS If you don't already, instead of staying up in Playa del Carmen and Tulum when you travel to Mexico - Try staying on the Costa Maya for a change! Every month there are more rental options and things to do.



Speaking of laws and vehicles - Someone posted some really good questions on the Costa MayaLIVE message board regarding the importation of vehicles into Mexico. The answers to these questions more than likely we will beneficial to all of us, so I thought it might be worthwhile as a discussion.

1. If I want to sell my car in Mexico- how is this done? What are the repercussions?

2. Is the car import into Mexico registered upon entry and can I leave the country without a car (I don't have a FM3/2)?

3. Is it easier to sell the car to a Mexican citizen (or expat) across the border in Belize? How exactly is this done?

4. What type of car or SUV/Van or truck is best for this purpose? I heard, for Mexican citizens to buy a foreign car it has to be older then 10 years (true? why?).

5.How easy is it to get through Mexican custom at the US border? What type of fees do I have to expect? How can I avoid paying custom dues?

6. Any other advice on this subject appreciated.

If you know anything that can help answer these questions - please log on and help with your experience - good or bad so that we all can learn.

mahahual and Costa maya news

Happenings in and Around Mahahual

Jats'a-Ja' - July 17-19

On July 17th, the 2nd annual festival of Jats'a-Ja' was held in Mahahual. Because of the late date change, there wasn't a lot of turn-out, but like the first one - it was wonderful for the businesses and people of Mahahual to interact. New this year was a kite flying contest, sand castle contest and photo contest. Prizes were great - so start saving up your great photos for next year.

For those who don't know what Jats'a-Ja is about, on August 21st of 2007, Hurricane Dean, the 3rd worst hurricane ever to hit land slammed into Mahahual. The small town was devastated. Not only was the town in shambles, the the main source of income, the cruise ship dock was damaged. A Year later, in 2008, the annual festival of Jats'a-Ja' was created to celebrate Mahahual's rebirth, only in 2009 they changed the date to July. Because of many complaints, next year's event will be close to the anniversary date of Dean.

Jatsa ja tasting tables
The Doctor - owner of Tequila Beach enjoying local restaurant tasting tables. Mayan Beach Garden served up some of our famous Chocolate Cake, Banana lime and Papaya.
Sand sculpture
Sand Sculpture youth winner - Mother turtle laying eggs with baby on its back.

    International Beach Clean up day - to be observed Sept 19

    I don't yet have much information on this, but last year Mahahual had a great turn-out. If you are thinking of being here in the area make sure you turn out. There will lots of shore and underwater clean-up up and down the coast.

    New Development in and around Mahahual and the Costa Maya

    Power lines finally back up in Uvero

      The power lines that were installed after hurricane Dean and subsequently stolen for the copper have now been replaced by the CFE. Yesterday I saw a new ice machine headed to Uvero and also pump trucks for concrete. Because the Costa Maya is again listed on the Delphinus web site, I assume that they are rebuilding the facilities for the Interactive Dolphin swim.

    Costa Maya Villas (Condo-hotel) breaks ground

    Costa Maya Villas Cornerstone


    Many newsletters ago (before Hurricane Dean) I announced Costa Maya Villas, a luxury condo-hotel project located between the light house and the Cruise ship port. Since that time, Dean got in the way, as well as delays in zoning changes. Many people thought it would never happen, but with much fanfare and a grand opening attended by dignitaries from the municipality, the project has finally broken ground. Excavation started in August 2009. Pre-construction prices are 1/2 of similar condo-hotel projects in Playa del Carmen.

    This project is unusual in Mahahual for several reasons:

    • Financing is available
    • First project North of the light house.
    • First Luxury Beachfront Condos.

    The Malecon will extend North past the project. For more information , you can check Mayan Paradise Properties Inc. web site, or email me for more information.

    Costa Maya Villas web site

    More hotels coming to Mahahual

      For those who want to be where the action is, there is a small hotel being constructed on the north side and adjacent to Tequila Beach. I'm waiting to see if it will dwarf the landmark beach club and town gathering place or add to its charm. For sure, it will make the beach and malecon more crowded. If you drive around Mahahual, you will also see some other hotels, condo hotels and small restaurants opening.

      If you prefer things quieter, driving south from town, there are some newly remodeled hotels, restaurants as well as new homes. Lots of good excuses to come to Mahahual for your vacation. In Placer and elsewhere, there are several homes nearing completion or just starting.

    Creating Spanish accents on letters on your PC computer

    Ever wondered how to make the accents in Spanish on your computer? You have several options for this, and it can be kind of convoluted. I've explained several of the options below.

    • Cheat. Go to Google language tools, write the word in English and then hopefully it provides the proper translation with all the accents. The problem is that words often have many meanings, so only rely for this for spelling, not for translation. Copy the word and paste it into my document-but only for words that I know.
    • Cut and paste from some other document (also something I used to do)
    • Add the Spanish Keyboard option to your PC computer or Laptop . This is easy to toggle on and off with an icon at the bottom of your keyboard. Instructions are included below the ASCII codes. This is what I use because it is easy to Toggle on and off on XP when you choose the option to show it on your task bar. However, the keyboard acts slightly differently. If you've used an internet cafe and found you couldn't find the apostrophe key, you will know what I mean.
    • Use the ASCII codes. This is a series of keys you press to create the accents. This works in any program that supports the ASCII codes, which all Microsoft products do as well as standard forms on the internet (including Mozilla browsers). I can't prove that these codes will work on a PC or a Mac, but I've tested the PC Laptop codes since I work on a laptop. On laptops, you have to press the Num Lk or "Numbers Lock" to make the keys in the center respond to the codes - you may also have to turn on Num Lk on regular PC keyboards as well. There is a light that indicates that it is on.

    (use numbers on number pad while holding down the Alt key)
    Laptop PC ASCII
    Use numbers in color in the center of the keypad. Mine are on the M J K L U I O 7 8 9 keys- NumLk must be on
    Macintosh ASCII
    Press option+__, then release and press the letter you want. For example, "option+e then the letter e" gives you é
    Alt + 0225
    Fn + Alt + 0225
    Option + e then a
    Alt + 0233
    Fn + Alt + 0233
    Option + e then e
    Alt + 0237
    Fn + Alt + 0237
    Option + e then i
    Alt + 0241
    Fn + Alt + 0241
    Option + n then n
    Alt + 0243
    Fn + Alt + 0243
    Option + e then o
    Alt + 0250
    Fn + Alt + 0250
    Option + e then u
    Alt + 0191
    Fn + Alt + 0191
    Opt + shift + ?
    Alt + 0161
    Fn + Alt + 0161
    Opt + 1
    Alt + 0193
    Fn + Alt + 0193
    Option + e then Shift a
    Alt + 0201
    Fn + Alt + 0201
    Option + e then Shift e
    Alt + 0205
    Fn + Alt + 0205
    Option + e then Shift i
    Alt + 0209
    Fn + Alt + 0209
    Option + n then Shift n
    Alt + 0211
    Fn + Alt + 0211
    Option + e then Shift o
    Alt + 0218
    Fn + Alt + 0218
    Option + e then Shift u

    Adding the Spanish Keyboard option to your PC computer or Laptop .

    1. Log On
    2. Click the Start button
    3. Click on Control Panel
    4. Click Regional and Language Options - a new window will pop up
    5. Click the Languages tab
    6. Click on the Details button
    7. Click the Add button - a new window will pop up
    8. Select United States-International (keyboard layout menu)
    9. Click OK
    10. Click Apply
    11. Read the instructions for "Using the U.S. - International Keyboard" below.

    Note: You will now have a keyboard icon on the task bar (usually on the right side). To switch between keyboard layouts click the keyboard icon on the task bar and choose which layout you want to use. Changing the keyboard layout will only affect the log on profile used. No other users will be affected.

    Windows Vista

    1. Start-->Control Panel-->Clock, Language, Region-->Change Keyboards
    2. New Window: Click the Change Keyboards button
    3. New Window: Click the Add button
    4. Select United States-International keyboard
    5. Click OK
    6. From drop down menu (Default Input Language) select United States International

    Using the U.S. - International Keyboard

    Once you have the international Keyboard working, you will find it now reacts differently. When struck, the single apostrophe (') key, does nothing. To type the single apostrophe now, you must strike the single apostrophe key and then strike the space bar. When you strike the spacebar, the apostrophe will appear.

    The next thing to note is that the quotes (") key behaves the same way as the apostrophe key. You must first strike the quotes key and then strike the space bar in order to create the (") symbol. These two minor inconveniences are more than made up for by the ease with which you can now type the special characters.

    To type the special characters, two keystrokes are required. To type the á, you need only strike the apostrophe key and then the letter a. The other characters are just as easy:

    To type the special punctuation characters, you need to hold down on the Alt key while you strike the appropriate punctuation mark. On some keyboards, only one of the two Alt keys will work for this, usually the left.

    Key combination

    á = ' + a

    é = ' + e

    í = ' + i

    ó = ' + o

    ú = ' + u

    ñ = ~ + n

    ¡ = Alt (hold down) + !

    ¿ = Alt (hold down) + ?

    Tulum Airport (TUY) News and Playa del Carmen By-pass Bridges

    AIRPORT: It seems like forever that we have been waiting for the Tulum Airport. The latest news was that it was going to start in 2011. Now it looks like there is no deadline and no date for the bids to be tendered, although the stories continue to conflict based on various statements made by companies involved in the bidding and government officials. Some state the economy as a reason for the lackluster deadlines. The good news is that it is now regularly in the news. The formal area has been defined, the runway has been determined and the letters TUY have been assigned to the airport, nicknamed the Riviera Airport.

    PLAYA DEL CARMEN BRIDGES: No one is happier than I to hear that they are considering building bridges to bypass some of the intersections in Playa del Carmen. By some reports, the bridges will be completed within 5 months. Now if we can only get rid of the speed traps and allow traffic to go 100 km an hour! (see story below!)


    Summer Deals on Costa Maya Vacations!

    These are special rates for this summer - take advantage of some great prices right now before the summer is gone and high season rates take effect..

    • Casita Dragonfly - couple special for $100 night
    • Mayan Beach Garden - Low season prices NOW, plus Free nights and Free day's Meal plan when staying at least 5 nights
    • Casa Que Canta - $99/night between now and Sept 30th when rented by the week. (best deal!)
    • Taj Majahual - no minimums - rent one room or the whole house - PLUS the spectacular plunge pool is now complete (photo below). This is one of the first pools that I am aware of in a private rental home and includes an iridescent starfish on the floor of the pool.

    Taj Majahual Starfish
    Plunge pool starfish at Taj Majahual

    Bridge from Xcalak to San Pedro, Belize

    The following information is taken from The Guardian, a Belizean newspaper.

    Belmopan, 17 August 2009. The Embassy of Mexico informs that on 15 August, the Mayor of the municipality of Othon P. Blanco (Chetumal), Mr. Andres Ruiz-Morcillo, and Minister of Tourism, Civil Aviación and Culture, Hon. Manuel Heredia, signed a Letter of Intent in order to promote the construction of a road between San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, and Xcalak. The objective of the Letter of Intent is to boost the tourism industry between Mexico and Belize connecting San Pedro with Xcalak (Mexico) and Mahahual.

    In addition , the Morcillo announced the project of a water taxi, which will link Chetumal and Xcalak with Belize. Currently XTC takes people to Belize, but requires advance reservations. The future water taxi would depart from the the Customs Dock Facility in Chetumal - with a stop at Sarteneja and San Pedro and arrival at Xcalak. The run will be operated by the Belizean company San Pedro Belize Express Water Taxi. This service will allow visitors from Chetumal to travel to San Pedro and Xcalak and from there to visit Mahahual and Chinchorro (Mexico). It will also allow Belizeans on San Pedro to travel easily to Chetumal. The new water taxi will benefit the local population on both sides of the border, it will boost the tourism industry and it will promote the economic development of the border area of Mexico and Belize.

I love you Xcalak

Whilst I was away in Austin the Pueblo's 109th Birthday Fiesta was celebrated. My house/dog sitters had a front row view of everything. The band was great they said, so was the football, volleyball, t-shirt contest and all sorts of other amusements and activities. Sorry no photo's, John's computer wouldn't spit them out.

I was having a bit of a time of it just before I went to Austin, my car wouldn't start, ditto my quad bike, my bicycle had a puncture and 3 spokes rusted out and to add insult to injury my flip flop thong broke. Was somebody telling me something?

Hurricane Janet 1955. Xcalak and Corozal Belize.

Living here in paradise I like to keep my eye on Weather Underground. I happened on this,  I thought it was interesting and since we just commemorated 2 years after Dean,  maybe it is good to remember Janet.

The only Atlantic Hurricane Hunter flight to go down occurred on September 26, 1955. Snowcloud Five, a U.S. Navy P2V Neptune weather reconnaissance airplane flying out of Guantanamo, Cuba, was lost in Hurricane Janet, 300 miles southwest of Jamaica.


Snowcloud Five was part of the Airborne Early Warning Squadron Four (VW-4), based at the Jacksonville, Florida Naval Air Station. Carrying a crew of nine and two reporters from the Toronto Daily Star, Snowcloud Five took off at 0630 local time, and performed its initial penetration into Janet at an altitude of 700 feet. At the time of the crash, Janet was a Category 4 hurricane with 145 mph winds. The aircraft sent back this transmission, then was never heard from again:


Corozol after Hurricane Janet
Snowcloud Five, the U.S. Navy P2V Neptune weather reconnaissance airplane that went down in Hurricane Janet of 1955. Image credit:

An intensive air and sea search operation combed a 300 by 200 mile region of the Caribbean for the airplane over the next five days. In all, sixty aircraft, seven ships, and three thousand personnel were involved. No trace of Snowcloud Five was ever found. A book called Stormchasers: The Hurricane Hunters and Their Fateful Flight into Hurricane Janet (David Toomey, 2002) provides a detailed story of the flight into Hurricane Janet and offers some insight as to what may have gone wrong. Dr. Hugh Willoughby, former director of NOAA's Hurricane Research Division, speculated on the fate of Snowcloud Five in a review of Stormchasers that appeared in the February, 2003 issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society: "The enlisted aerographer's mate was left behind that day in order to accommodate the Toronto Daily Star reporter. His job was to keep the pilots aware of altitude by calling out readings from the radar altimeter located at the aerologist's station. Without him, the aerologist, Lt. William Buck, had to do two demanding jobs: He had to simultaneously read the bouncing, flickering altimeter and peer down from his Plexiglas bubble in the nose to discern the wind from streaks of foam on the sea. He might have lost control of the situation as he struggled to keep the airplane safely above the waves and flying perpendicular to the wind towards the eye."

Hurricane chaser
Damage to the town of Corozal, Belize, after Hurricane Janet in 1955. Janet intensified to a Category 5 hurricane the day after Snowcloud Five went down, and hit the Yucatan Peninsula near the Belize/Mexico border with 175 mph winds, killing more than 500 people. Image credit:

Editor's NOTE: Xcalak was severely damaged as a result of Hurricane Janet, forever changing the history of the town. Only a couple of structures survived Hurricane Janet, including the old lighthouse. Hopefully these will be preserved.



On to brighter things. . . .We have no Hummingbirds in England so you can imagine how delighted I am to be visited by at least two if not more. I bought two more feeders when I was in Austin and they love them. I also learned the Spanish word for them, Chupaflor, isn't that fantastic, it is so descriptive. The Maya for them is Tzudz u lol. These little devils in my garden have got quite familiar, I can be within a yard (meter) of them and they just carry on feeding. They also let me know in no uncertain terms when the feeders are empty, following me around the garden and sitting quite close and "shouting".  Of course I obey immediately. I know my place!!

I was daydreaming on the long drive to Chetumal last week, I haven't seen a Toucan for the longest time. So on the return journey, yes, a Toucan   flies right across the road in front of me. I love the way they have to fly to keep from dive bombing with that out sized beak.

Parrot update- Lolita adores Linda of the Leaky Palapa, she is regurgitating food for her, that's got to be love parrot style. She's very spritely now to what she was, in and out of her cage/home, taking sunflower seed from fingers without biting and learning which new foods she likes. Grapes are now on the favorites list.


Leaky Palapa closed for the low season ............................

PLAYA DEL CARMEN SPEED TRAPS, Vehicle importation rules, Bribes to officers

The following information was sent to many of you from Kevin Graham, representative in the Costa Maya for the US Consulate and clears up some confusion that exists regarding the laws. It has so much valuable information that I feel compelled to repeat it, despite the length of the report.

The following information was forwarded by Kevin Graham, representative in the Costa Maya for the US Consulate and clears up some confusion that exists regarding the laws. It is written by Samantha Mason who is the USCA Agent in Playa del Carmen.

She added this DIsclaimer : "I am not a professional or certified translator nor am I a lawyer or legal counsel.  All the information contained here is true to the best of knowledge:

Dear fellow American Citizens,

". . . I had a meeting with the Chief of Police, the Director of the Transit Department, the Director of Public Safety and I invited The Director of Public Relations for Tourism in Solidaridad.  The meeting was very productive.  I would like to thank each and every one of you who sent me information about incidents with the Police in Playa del Carmen. The stories about both positive interactions and negative interactions were very helpful to demonstrate the core of the problem and its effects on the community. Please keep in mind that this entire discussion is related to Municipal Police (Green and White Vehicles) except where explicitly stated.

Let me start, by giving you a general overview of the meeting and then I will go into more detail about some issues that were addressed specifically and should be addressed with each of you.  First, we were able to identify one particularly corrupt official, who will be severely reprimanded and possibly dismissed. Second, we discussed the growing problem of American Citizens living in the area with importation stickers who have been targeted continually and extorted often.  We also discussed the common complaint of being wrongly accused of excessive velocity at the radar operation zones. We discussed the proper mechanism for bringing forward a complaint of either mistreatment or extortion from local officials. And lastly, we discussed a way to positively open the door between yourselves and the local Police. 

Now I will discuss each one of these points in more detail.  I realize that one of you may post this information on one of the local message boards and for that reason I want to preface this discussion with a bit more background.  The information contained within this letter is not my opinion nor the opinion or beliefs of others.  All of the rules / laws stated have been corroborated with the Agency that is responsible for the law. Some concessions have been made by the local authorities in order to service the foreign community that lives here, but the law is the law.  If I have made a false statement I will be happy to correct it.  Please do not contradict what I have stated without absolute certainty that what I have written is not true, as that just confuses everybody. Oh and by all means if someone can find a federal law that gives us all an easy way out of the car impound issue, please, please, please inform me.  Okay, so here we go.

Temporary Importation Stickers

These temporary importation stickers are governed by Federal Customs Law Article 106. The law can be found in Spanish on the internet. Here is the part that refers to Foreign plated vehicles in Spanish first and in English next.

Article 106: Temporary importation pertains to the entry into the country merchandise which will remain for a limited time and with a specific purpose, provided that it will be returned to the exterior of the country unaltered; for the following periods:

Section IV:  For the period of time allowed by a foreigners migratory status, including any extensions, in the following cases;

A)      The vehicle belonging to a foreign person that enters the country as renting immigrant (FM2) or non-immigrant (FM3), except in the case of a person seeking refuge or political asylum and it is understood that each foreign person is only allowed temporary importation of one vehicle at any given time.

B)      The vehicle imported by a tourist (FMT) and visitors, including if it is not their property and again it is understood that each person can only temporarily import one vehicle at any given time.

C)      The vehicle can be driven in all of the national territory by the importer, his/her spouse, his/her ancestors, his/her descendants, his/her siblings, even if they are not foreigners; by another foreigner with one of the above mentioned migratory status; or by a Mexican national, but in the case of a Mexican national who has not otherwise been authorized by previous sections of this law, only when accompanied by one of the other persons who has been authorized to drive the vehicle by previous sections of this law. Any of the above authorized persons can affect multiple entries and exits into and out of the country.

D.       Vehicles referred to in this section must meet the requirements of the regulations.

Okay, so that is the law, what is its meaning? Well it means that you can as a foreigner who is legally in this country and in possession of a valid FMT, FM3, or FM2 immigration document (not in process, not expired, not immigrated) can legally temporarily import one foreign plated vehicle into Mexico and that that vehicle can stay in the country and be driven in the entire country by you, your relatives, your spouse or another foreigner with a current FM3, FM2, FMT without you present in the vehicle.  Your car can also be driven by a Mexican National under the circumstances that the Mexican is either related to you or accompanied by you, one of your relatives or another non-Mexican person. 

The very last section of this rule states that the car must also meet all the requirements of the “Regulations” This is where it can get a little tricky because then it is referring to both federal regulations and more local regulations, like municipal and state regulations. 

Local regulations, particularly Articles 75 and 76 of the “Reglamento de Transito de Solidaridad”, requires that in order for a car to circulate in Solidaridad (the county from South of Puerto Morelos until about Akumal) the driver should have the following documentation on board at all times and be prepared to show it to any officer that solicits.

  1. Circulation Card
  2. Valid Plates (Front and Back)
  3. Identifying window sticker
  4. Valid Substituting document or Provisional permission
  5. Mechanical Review of the car
  6. A copy of the Transit Rules of Solidaridad

And local regulations Article 51 and Article 52 require that the driver of the vehicle have in his possession a valid Driver’s License. 

However, in discussions with the chief of police today, this is the requirement for foreigners in this county.  I urge you to immediately check to see that the documentation that you carry in your vehicle meets these requirements.

  1. Valid Driver’s License
  2. Temporary Importation Card
  3. Temporary Importation Sticker on your windshield
  5. If your temporary importation sticker and card is out of date then you must also have in the car a copy of your immigration document in the vehicle showing that your immigration status is current. (If your  papers are being processed and your previous FM3 is out of date you nor anyone else should drive your vehicle)
  6. In cases where others will drive your vehicle, on top of what is mentioned above, they should have a valid driver’s license and the following

a.       If they are foreigners, a valid FM3, FM2 or FMT
b.      If they are Mexican and related to you, then proof of that relationship (Marriage Certificate, Birth Certificate
c.       If they are Mexican and not related to you, they should not drive the vehicle unless they are accompanied by another authorized driver who has previously mentioned proof of immigration status or relationship available in the car.

*** On top of this I recommend that you also have the following:

1.       A copy of your vehicle’s title, current registration or purchase receipt.
2.       A copy of your current insurance policy.

Okay, so let’s talk about some specific cases:

  • A married woman introduced the vehicle into Mexico on a 180 day tourist visa. Before her temporary tourist visa expired she was approved for an FM3 as a “no-inmigrante rentista” and lived in Mexico for many years always making sure she had her immigration status in order.  Several years later she and her husband decided to move back to the US, but the woman was not able to drive the vehicle out of Mexico herself.  Who could drive the vehicle through Mexico and back to the US on her behalf?

A.      Her  Husband 
B.      One of her children
C.      One of her Siblings
D.      Any other Non Mexican with a current FMT, FM3 or FM2.
E.       Any Mexican Citizen accompanied by a person mentioned in A-D  

*** In each case as long as proper documentation of relationship / immigration status is available and the driver has a valid driver’s license. ***

  • A single man entered Mexico on a 180 day tourist visa and spent 5 months traveling through Mexico.  When he arrived to Playa del Carmen he acquired gainful employment and applied for an FM-3, however, unfortunately, before his immigration paperwork had been completed, his 180 day FMT had expired.  Should he drive his vehicle?

A.      No. He should not drive his vehicle until his FM3 has been processed and he has a copy in his possession and if he does and is caught, his car could be impounded and perhaps confiscated.  This confiscation can even be affected by local police (I will go into that shortly) Also no one else should drive his vehicle while his immigration status is in limbo?

B.      Furthermore, if his FM3 is not approved he should not drive his vehicle again until he has processed the “Retorno Seguro” paperwork at the customs office in Puerto Juarez.

  • Q: A woman entered Mexico with an FM-3 with validity for one year and was given a temporary importation sticker and card for the same amount of time as her immigration document. Of course, at the time of the transaction she used her credit card information as a guarantee that she would exit the vehicle from Mexico.  She liked her life in Mexico and applied for an extension of her immigration document, does she need to present to Customs and report the extension of her immigration status?

A: In order to continue to drive the vehicle she does not as long as she always has a valid immigration document.  However, if she would like that customs does not charge her card for the guarantee, she must present in person to any one of the 49 customs office with her vehicle, her temporary importation card, proof of payment of the extension of her FM3 and a copy of the document itself, and a letter written in Spanish explaining the circumstances of her FM3 extension and her desire that the guarantee not be charged. She must do this by the day of expiration of her temporary importation sticker and in less than 15 days after she received the extension to her FM3.

Police Extortion / Paying Bribes (Tips or Mordidas)

Though reportedly a routine practice in Mexico, paying a bribe or a fine directly to a police officer is illegal in the state of Quintana Roo.  Below is the current Article, pertaining to this piece of legislation in Quintana Roo and its unofficial translation in English.  (Reglamento de Transito de Quintana Roo)  

ARTÍCULO 259.- Los elementos de la Dirección de Tránsito que reciban el importe de las multas o a quienes se les compruebe haber recibido dinero de parte de un infractor serán suspendidos o cesados a juicio de la Dirección de Tránsito y el infractor será sancionado con el doble de la multa correspondiente.

ARTICLE 259. – The elements of the Transit Department who receive the amount of fines or who have been proven to have received monies from a transit offender will be suspended or relieved of duty at the discretion of the Director of Transit and the transit offender who pays monies directly to a transit officer will be sanctioned by paying double the originally intended fine.

When you are detained by a traffic officer for a routine traffic violation, he legally has two options and only two options under the law.  The first is to give you a warning.  There is no cost and you should not be charged any “tipo”, “propina”, or “mordita” for being let off with a warning.  Again, this is would be illegal. The other option , of course, is to write you a ticket that you will pay at the police station.  Under the law, he can hold your Driver’s License as a guarantee that you will pay your ticket.  If you do not have a valid Driver’s License he can hold your temporary importation card as the guarantee.

I have heard the stories, read the posts and the emails and have heard from a number of you that you pay the bribe because that “it is the way it is in Mexico”.  I am here to tell you that it is not the way in Mexico.  It is illegal in Mexico the same as it is illegal in the United States. If you are paying the bribe you are doing things your way and not the Mexican way and you are breaking the law and so is the officer that is accepting the bribe. Also, I will say that you are feeding the beast and perpetrating a terrible cycle. I will give all of you the benefit of the doubt and agree that maybe you did not know better or you felt so scared that you felt that you didn’t have a choice. But now you are being educated to know that you have the choice to just take responsibility for maybe having made a moving violation and suck it up and pay the ticket or explain to the officer that you feel that you did not break the particular traffic law that he is accusing you of, but that you will have that discussion with his commanding officer.  I have much more to say about this, but I will not as I said I have a discussion of my opinions in this letter.  But, I encourage anyone who disagrees with me to come have a conversation with me about the effects of this type of behavior on any community and on our community in particular.

So let’s talk about what the law states about how the interaction between you and Officer Friendly should go. This information can be found in Articles 182- 184 of the Municipal Transit Rules.

1.       The officer should clearly signal to the driver of the vehicle to stop the vehicle and park the vehicle where it will not obstruct traffic flow. Driver should do as instructed.

2.       Officer should approach the vehicle and identify himself by name and badge number.

3.       Officer should explain to the driver with brevity, courtesy and respect the infraction that was committed by the driver

4.       Officer should ask for the driver’s license and registration of the vehicle. (In the case of foreign plated vehicles the valid temporary importation card or expired temporary importation sticker and valid immigration document.)

5.       Officer should write corresponding ticket.

6.       Both parties should avoid all discussion about the ticket.

7.       The ticket is given to the driver and either the Driver’s License or temporary importation sticker is kept by the officer as a guarantee of payment of the fine. For five days, the ticket can be used in place of driver’s license / temporary importation sticker so that the driver can still operate the vehicle.

8.       The item that was held as collateral will be returned to the driver of the vehicle when he pays his fine at Cashier of the police station in Playa del Carmen.  Please note that this Cashier station is open 7 days a week/ 24 hours a day and most times can accept Credit Cards. Please also note that there are two ATM machines available at the police station.

9.       According to Article 209 of the Municipal Transit Rules any accused transit rule offender can present personally at the Office of the Director of Transit to contest any infraction received or to report any illicit behavior or mistreatment by a police officer.

On this last issue, here are some details about how to make this a successful interaction. You must present your complaint in less than three days after the occurrence and it is even more helpful if you take immediate action.  During the interaction with the Director, you should have available specific details about the negative occurrence, such as; date of incident, time of incident, location of incident, patrol car number and description, physical description of the officer who offended you, and a description of the events that transpired. If possible the name and badge number, but this is not necessary. You should call the Police Station and ask for an appointment.  The phone number for the police station is 984-877-3340. Again, I am happy to assist in these cases, but I urge anyone who calls me to think about any responsibility that you may have had in what transpired.  I am entirely too busy to assist talking you out of an infraction that you deserved or helping you if you proposed the paying of the bribe to the officer, but always available if it is a case that you were truly mistreated or a victim of pressured extortion. For tourist, who truly did not have time to confront a situation I can present your detailed complaint to the authorities on your behalf.  You should send your complaint to me by email at . Please note here, not having time does not mean you were too busy enjoying your vacation to worry about confronting this behavior.

10.   If for whatever reason, you do not feel comfortable taking a complaint about illicit police behavior to the Police Management, you can submit a written complaint (in Spanish) to the Municipal Office of “Controlaria Municipal”.

Impounding of Vehicles

The impounding of vehicles can be affected by municipal, state or federal police.  According to the Municipal Rules of Transit, Chapter XVII, Articles 201 – 208 impound of your vehicle can occur under the following circumstances:

1.       When the driver does not have the necessary documentation on board the vehicle as prescribed by earlier sections of the rules of transit. (Again, Please get your documentation in order)

2.       When the driver is evidently inebriated or under the influence of any drug, even if that drug is prescribed medication

3.       When the vehicle is parked in a prohibited place and the owner/operator of the vehicle is not present to move his vehicle and receive his infraction

4.       When the vehicle is obstructing traffic and the owner / operator of the vehicle is not present to move his vehicle and receive his infraction

Other important information about impounding of vehicles found in the Rules.

1.       The impound of the vehicle will be ordered by the transit officer and performed by a tow truck of the Transit Department or of a tow company otherwise authorized by the Transit Department.

2.       The expenses incurred as a result of the tow and impound of the vehicle are the responsibility of the supposed offender and the tariff is set by the Municipal Government. The payment for the tow and impound can only be paid to the Municipal Treasury even if the car was towed and is held by a private company.

3.       The vehicle should be towed and deposited to authorized impound lot without delay.

4.        The vehicle will only be released to its owner after its owner has shown proof of ownership, proof of proper necessary documentation to circulate the vehicle and proof of payment of any outstanding fines.

License Plates

Municipal Law dictates that all vehicles (excluding motorcycles and bicycles) that circulate within the County must have two license plates affixed, one must be affixed in back and the other in front.  In light of the information that 20 US States only permit 1 rear plate, the Chief of Police has agreed to make a concession for American plated vehicles from ALABAMA, ARIZONA,ARKANSAS, DELAWARE, FLORIDA, GEORGIA, INDIANA, KANSAS, KENTUCKY, LOUISIANA, MICHIGAN, MISSISSIPPI, NEW MEXICO, NORTH CAROLINA, OKLAHOMA, PENNSYLVANIA, SOUTH CAROLINA, TENNESSEE, or WEST VIRGINIA.  Now, today, the Chief of Police gave the order to the Director of Transit to instruct his elements about this concession, but I am sure it might take some time to be implemented.  Please keep me informed if you continued to be stopped for this reason, so that I can readdress the issue with the Chief.  Again I will need the details of the interaction mentioned above. Please if you do get stopped for this reason that the Chief of Police has made a very nice concession for us on this issue.  Do not act annoyed or irritated with the officer or do anything that my make this concession get revoked. Those of you who have split your two plates from other states between two vehicles, you should probably correct this ASAP.

Special Treatment of Tourist

Both State and Municipal Transit regulations have a special concession for tourist, those people who are in possession of an FMT – tourist visa. The law can be found in the Solidaridad Transit Regulations; Chapter XII, Article 146, which states that the municipal government has established a courtesy ticket that applies exclusively to tourist that inadvertently break the rules.  The courtesy ticket has no cost to tourist.  Its objective is to educate the driver of the committed violation and encourage the driver to comply with the local transit laws. The courtesy ticket may be applied up to two occasions for the same driver or vehicle and will not occur in cases where grave offenses have been made.



Artículo 146.- Se establece en el Municipio la boleta de infracción de cortesía que se aplicará exclusivamente a los turistas que infrinjan este ordenamiento. Esta Infracción de cortesía no implica costo alguno a losturistas, siendo su objetivo señalar la violación cometida y exhortar a conducir cumpliendo con las reglas de tránsito. La sanción de cortesía es aplicada hasta en dos ocasiones al mismo vehículo y/o conductor y no procede en los casos de actos y omisiones graves contrarios a lque se dispone en el presente Reglamento.

Relationship with Public Safety

The Chief of Police is very interested in opening the door between his offices and the community.  I explained that I would like to have “Town Hall” meeting and invite himself or some of his officers to discuss some of the issues our community about which our community is concerned.  He was very excited about this suggestion and it will happen, you have my word.  Unfortunately, most likely it will not happen until the second half of October as I would like to wait for many of the half year residents to return. I would also like to wait a couple of months to how the meeting today has affected the situation. 

Continuing Education about Transit Rules

As a person who is living and driving for a long period of time in Mexico, it is in your best interest to understand the laws that will affect you.  I realize as well that many of you do not read Spanish well enough to read and fully understand the laws that are written Spanish and posted on the various government websites. I propose that the community work together to have the Transit Regulations translated by a qualified translator and then work together to have the actual law written in English readily available. I mentioned this today in the meeting and though the Chief of Police thought it a good idea, I am sure the sentiment was that this would not be a responsibility of the local government. I am eager to hear your ideas on this.


Please know that I went to the meeting today and have written this letter to all of you with the best intentions.  I do realize that some of you may not like having the knowledge that you acquired after reading this information.  Please realize that nothing I did today caused these laws to be legislated as the local Transit Law has been such since 2006 and the Customs law has been in place since 2004.  Many of you might be realizing now that you have been unknowingly offending the local traffic laws especially where documentation is considered. I urge you to do all that you can to get your paperwork in order, as I am sure that for a little time, at least, the officials will be acting in accordance with the laws as they are written, which means your vehicle could be impounded.  For those of you that have your papers in order, please make sure that copies of them are in your vehicle and breathe easy. Please do not let our communication on this topic stop.  Let me know how you have been affected and the behavior of the police towards you in the upcoming weeks.  And remember, if you are mistreated or extorted, inform me with specific information about the incident and we will go to the Chief of Police together immediately. I truly felt a purely positive response from the Chief of Police today and believe him to be sincere in his desire to clean up the police force. In order to do so, he will need cooperation and assistance.  My last plea to all of you is the next time you are detained for a moving violation please use your best judgment like the person you respect most in this world is in your passenger’s seat.  The most expensive ticket is less than $1500 pesos, surely your conscience and our community’s fiber is worth more than that.

Sincerely, Samantha Mason



The editor of this newsletter (me) makes no claims that the information here is completely true. I am not a news reporter, Spanish is not my native language, the newspapers are notorious for not verifying information and this is not my primary business, but rather a service to the neighborhood. If you find something untrue PLEASE let me know and I will print a disclaimer. I try to verify the information but even the newspaper prints up rumors, so I can only report what I read and hear.

Unless otherwise stated, all content is copyrighted by MMB Contractors Inc.

Until next month,
Best wishes from your neighbor,



Updated: 27-Aug-2009

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