Costa Maya Newsletter > Archived Newsletters > January 2006

Newsletters: of primary interest to property owners on the Costa Maya, - Rio Indio - Placer - Uvero - Punta Herrera - Xcalak and other points along the coast

*************Newsletter: Jan. 20th, 2006*************

* Record temperatures
* Inflation in the Costa Maya
* Topes -- some rules to be aware of
* Accidents -- what to do and how to make it as painless as possible
* Car Storage in Cancun
* Current Exchange rates
* Steps for moving a road
* Holidays in the Costa Maya
* Identify that bird
* Prayers needed
* Chamber of commerce

Hi Neighbors,
We had to pay attention to the dates so we didn't loose track of them, but the Holidays came and went with beautiful weather and great times here at Mayan Beach Garden. I decorated a Chit Palm with chili lights and sentimental decorations I had brought with me from the US. The Chili lights "cooked" the chit palm and it lasted only a week before looking very dry and saggy indeed. Everyone was very kind and pretended not to notice. Next year I will have to experiment with something else! We combined Christmas foods from the US and from Mexico for our Christmas day dinner and also celebrated Jan. 6, or Epiphany which commemorates the arrival of the Three Wise Men in Bethlehem. On that day, throughout Mexico, everyone serves roscas de reyes, a round cake topped with dried fruit and stuffed with one or more little plastic babies. The person or persons who find the babies become the godparents of the Christ child and must throw a fiesta on Feb 2nd, or Candlemas. This day officially ends the Christmas season, so if you still see Christmas decorations in and around Mexico, you now know why!

We had many neighbors visiting us as guests this Christmas along with some return guests and new visitors. It really is great to get to know the Costa Maya neighbors. Many of you who stayed elsewhere made a point of stopping by so it really felt special to me -- more "Christmassy" than I ever remembered in the past. Thanks for being such great neighbors and we hope you had an equally fabulous holiday season complete with your own traditions, new or old.
You can find this newsletter and archives of past newsletters at this
location: Newsletter Archives .

Many of you may be aware of record cold temperatures descending on the Florida pan handle. Normally the Costa Maya is not affected by weather in Florid, but on Jan 8, the same day that citizens in Florida we bundling up, Merida, the capital of Yucatan hit a low 48 while Chetumal was 57 degrees. In a place that has no heat, this is indeed cold. My heart went out to people that have no doors and windows. Many locals here only have curtains for doors and windows because normally it is so hot. We just closed our windows, put on sweats and ate inside for a change. The next day, the cold front moved through and we were back to warm temperatures.

January 1st brought a wave of price increases to the Costa Maya. Most noticeable was the price of gas. Magna (82 octane) shot up from 6.1 pesos to 7.9 and Premium from 7.1 to 8.9. This is a huge increase. There must have been some protest against the state-run Pemex because the prices were back down to a more reasonable increase yesterday. The latest rate is 6.5 for Magna. They didn't have Premium so I couldn't verify the price. Using a bathroom also went up. Bathrooms in Chetumal and at the Pemex are now $3 pesos instead of 2. I noticed other prices going up as well, like the rate for sodas, meat, tortillas and eggs -- normally things that don't fluctuate. We give our staff a raise at the first of the year, but it is sad to think that most of it may end up going to cover inflation. We have decided not to raise our prices in the near future, but when you visit, you may find prices all over Quintana Roo and Costa Maya higher than you had remembered.

Those annoying speed bumps located everywhere in Mexico and known as Topes or "sleeping policemen" aren't just there to launch your vehicle into flight, potentially damage your suspension, and possibly cause you to bite halfway through your tongue as you land. They are poorly marked, but their purpose is clear -- they are meant to slow you down. They range from a rope laid across the road to giant concrete bumps across the highway. Even the smallest town will have 2 speed bumps. When approaching a town, assume there are topes. There are most always topes at schools, military installations and fire stations.

A wide tope often doubles as an elevated crosswalk. These are often marked as pedestrian walkways and have yellow stripes. The pedestrian always has the right-away on these types of topes and failing to stop can be a ticketable offense. The new stretch of 307 that looks like a freeway is littered with these type of topes. The signs in that area call them "reductors de velocidad" or "speed reducers.

A tope that is placed before an oncoming left turn indicates that you must yield to the left turning traffic. The tope is replacing the function of a left turn light for the oncoming traffic. You won't see too many of these, but Chetumal has one in front of the Police station on Insurgentes, so watch for this.

Accidents are never fun -- regardless of what country you are in. Hopefully no one gets hurt and the insurance will take care of everything leaving you to breath a big sigh of relief. What do you do in Mexico if you have an accident? Well, Kim and I have both experienced the anxiety of auto accidents in Mexico and I have to say that I am glad I had insurance, although it cost me a day of my time. I made the mistake of hitting a Taxi in Chetumal. The incident was extremely minor -- broken headlights and scraped paint, but it was clearly my fault. The Taxi driver immediately called up his reinforcements and 15 taxi drivers swarmed the place. He was thinking "new car" and I was thinking that I was clearly out numbered and out maneuvered by my lack of English skills. Thankfully, a woman who had seen the accident and who had a clear aversion to taxi drivers, found someone to help me out. He quickly informed me that they told the late arriving policeman that the taxi was undrivable and the vehicle severely damaged. They were all discussing where we were going to go so that I, a north American as I was being referred to as, could pay for the extensive damage to the "undrivable" vehicle . Up to this point no ticket had been written. When I produced my insurance policy, things immediately changed. My translator cheered because he felt the forces of local corruption were beaten. I wasn't sure what he meant, but at that point we all proceeded to the police station where they confiscated my car and I watched taxi drivers and policeman greeting each other like long lost friends. I wasn't so sure that my new friend was correct as I watched the equivalent of a police sergeant, who looked very much like a caricature of Mexican corruption. My fears escalated as my translator conveyed a story of his own experience where 10 years prior he had been held in the jail of the very building and had been beaten severely. Things changed quickly once my insurance representative arrived. He quickly negotiated everything with the taxi drivers AND with the police, making sure I was not over charged for my offence. I got off with a $200 peso ticket, which according to my translator was a very good deal. He protected my vehicle, taking possession of my key (apparently insurance companies garner a lot of influence). The only downside was that I had to return the next day to pick up my vehicle mainly because the other party didn't have his license on him and they gave him 24 hours to produce his license, which he did. Had he not been able to, the insurance company would not have had to pay.

The agent told me that he worked for several companies and the one I used - GNP was the best of all the ones he worked for. I purchased it over the internet after doing a search for Mexican Insurance. I have a US vehicle and the insurance was very reasonable and is valid only in Mexico with similar coverage as exist in the US. They have a local office in Merida and in Chetumal and are available 24 hours.

If you visit the Costa Maya often, you will want to have a car at your disposal. Renting a car is expensive. You may find that it is cheaper to purchase a car and store it in Cancun. California Transmission, an auto-repair shop stores cars in its walled enclosure. When you arrive, you can arrange to have them pick you up in your own vehicle and also drop you off at the airport when you are ready to leave. You can reach them at 01998-886-4100 or 886-6093. The owner speaks English and has room for a few more vehicles.

Exchange rates have been hovering around 10.4-10.5 pesos to 1 USD or the last couple of months. Rates on Jan 20th, 2006 are:
1 USD to Peso: 10.52, but the best the banks will give you is 10.4 and the money exchangers 10.3. Compare that with .89 at the airport!
1 Euro to Peso: 12.17, similar ranges apply as listed above.
1 CAD to Peso: 9.05

The following is an excerpt from a newsletter that Denis Couture sends out to potential investors in the area. Denis Couture also is a neighbor and owns property south of Mahahual. He wrote in detail about his experience relocating a road to the back of his property:

"Over the past 2 months I've been involved in a road relocation project. This may not be particularly relevant to some of you, but for those of you that could benefit by moving the road to the back of your beachfront property, this may be of interest.

I've often been told, particularly by realtors trying to sell property, that the road can be easily moved back in order to gain distance between the road and the beach. Be very cautious of these claims. While it's true that there is a process for doing this, it can get quite bureaucratic and expensive.

First of all, I would recommend finding a local contact that has experience with the process and is well connected with government officials. I used such a person, and it's amazing how much faster and efficiently the process flowed. This road relocation project is still in process but it appears we're getting through it. Let me provide you with some background on the project. A group of landowners with property measuring approximately 200 meters were interested in relocating the road, in an area south of Mahahual. The first step was to apply for an environmental study and permit. The study is actually performed by a trained biologist who comes to the property and assesses the impact that the relocation will have on the environment. An accounting of the vegetation on the property is performed. Of particular concern is the impact the relocation will have on protected plants like mangroves and chits. Only under special circumstances are mangroves allowed to be cut. Chits need to be literally transplanted and moved to an alternate location on the property.

The process of performing the study and obtaining the permit took about 1 month and cost 45,000 pesos. At about the same time the environmental study is being performed, a surveyor (topografo) is sent out to locate and mark the centerline of the proposed road relocation. When this is complete, a cutting crew comes out and cuts away trees and vegetation to allow the road to be built. This is the step we are at in the process. When this is complete, the road construction can begin. All of this may seem relatively simple, but making all of this happen requires the knowledge of someone familiar with the process and contacts. There are some pitfalls that can complicate things.


(1) Unknown Landowners
In our particular case, most of the owners were identified with the exception of one parcel of 100 meters whose owner could not be identified. Keep in mind that county records are not that good and often are not updated, so it may be impossible to find a particular landowner. The option at this point is to stop, or move forward without the consent of the unknown landowner. Technically, all landowners must approve of the relocation; sometimes the relocation takes place without this approval, which could pose a risk. In any event, without knowing the landowner, the cost of the relocation for this property must be borne by the other landowners if they so desire. In most cases it turns out to be a good investment, so the landowners agree to paying this extra cost.

(2) Non-Paying Landowners
It's quite common for some landowners to refuse to pay for the road relocation. There's not much you can do about this. There's nothing that requires them to participate in and pay for the project, even though their property increases in value as a result of the relocation. Once again, a decision by the paying landowners must be made to determine if they will absorb these extra costs.

(3) Non-Consenting Landowners
Some landowners can be spiteful enough to object to the relocation across their property. In such a case, consenting landowners must decide if it's worth relocating, and having to jog the road so as to avoid the non-consenting landowner's property. This obviously complicates the relocation and can also add additional cost to the project.

Even with the pitfalls identified, relocating the road across your property may well be worth it to gain the extra distance. The increased value in property, in my opinion, can range from $10,000 to $25,000. The cost of relocation for our project was about $110 per meter, or $2,200 for a 20 meter lot. That's a good investment, as I see it."
You can find out more about Denis' activities at

Tom Woodward, who owns Paradise Lodge, went to the US for a checkup. He ended up having by-pass surgery and never really recovered. He is now in critical condition and could use your thoughts and prayers. We wish him luck and hope he returns here to the Costa Maya soon.

With over 350 species of birds making their home along the Costa Maya, you may often be struggling to identify a certain bird. Try the following link to a great website to help identify the bird you may be looking for.

The chamber of Commerce has been idle during the holidays as have been all government offices.

Until Next month...
Regards from your Costa Maya Neighbor


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