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Here is our first tale for the would-be visitor of Cancun and the Riviera Maya.

Unlike our Iceland trip earlier this summer, we booked an all-inclusive package so that we don’t have to deal with the details. Although this is our first visit to Riviera Maya, we thought this is a well-trodden tourist area, so we let our guard down early.

After the long flight of almost 5 hours, we finally landed in Cancun, Mexico.  Even as we were standing to collect our checked luggage, I could feel the heat and humidity.  If I thought that the line of planes for takeoff was long (see post on November 2009), I obviously had another thing coming because the line of people trying to go through customs was even longer (can I add that there were little people screaming and running amok too?).  I couldn’t wait to go outside and start our vacation, one where we do nothing, just zoning out.

We cleared customs and walked out to a large hall which was filled with uniformed people with IDs hanging around their necks.  As I was looking at the little bright candy apple red folder that Liberty Travel gave us which contained the voucher for the airport-to-hotel transfer, one of them approached us and led us towards a man by a lectern. I went because above the man, it said “Informacion”. We got Manuel (not his real name to protect, not him, us) who started by giving us some good information: change the money at a bank which will give us a much better rate than the hotel; go to this place and/or that island, etc.  He told us our bus would be waiting outside, the driver wearing a orange polo shirt, and it would not leave for another 20 minutes.  He then stated that a hotel in Cancun has recently been renovated and wanted to have people visit and we should go.  For going to the hotel, we get a free adventure such as the fantastic Jungle Tour (normally $75 p/person) or visit the Chichen Itza (normally $67 p/person). Or a free massage. All we have to do is deposit $40 with Manuel and show up the next day at this hotel in Cancun.  Even the transportation from our resort to this hotel will be provided by Manuel and he would contact us at the resort to ensure that our trip to this hotel in Cancun would be smooth.

The little folder provided by Liberty Travel contained some travel information which said that we shouldn’t be fooled into attending any timeshare schemes.  We both thought Manuel was trying to sell us exactly that.  Maybe Manuel saw something on our faces, because he immediately pointed out a line in the little brochure which stated, “This is not timeshare related marketing”.   We still did not commit and wanted to turn around.  Just then, another guy approached and said “Is there a problem?  How is Manuel doing?”  Showing us his and Manuel’s IDs, “Listen, we are legitimate.  The government would not give us these IDs, if we weren’t.  We are not trying to cheat anyone.”  Pointing to the CCTV in the ceiling, “See the camera up there?  We are not trying to cheat.”, he said.

By this time, I was tired and desperate to leave.  Fine.  Whatever.  Here’s $40.  Just let us go.  Even as we walked towards the exit (I can see sunlight!), several other men tried to stop us.  I told them the password:  we already spoke to Manuel.  The men then stepped aside and let us through.  One dude didn’t believe me and actually looked at Manuel to confirm.  I had to repeat the magic password at least twice before we were allowed to exit the building.  As we left the airport building, we were greeted by another ring of people, and low and behold, we spotted a men in an orange polo shirt who escorted us to our private car.  He confirmed that he cannot go inside the building to meet us, and that Manuel was indeed selling us timeshare.

And no, we did not go to that stinking hotel that was just renovated.  Manuel did not call us at the resort as he promised.  Had we gone, we would be held hostage for hours to buy timeshare, and wasted our vacation time.  So, first time travelers to Cancun: beware of men with IDs at the airport. – S



  1. We had a similar experience in Puerto Vallarta, but I had Amy “Tough As Nails” Gong with me to fend those guys off. Sadly, our driver was really late so we were fending them off for quite awhile.

  2. Ha! They got me in Vegas, Aruba AND Puerto Vallarta. But to their credit, in Vegas I got $100 cash and snorkel boat tours in Aruba and PV, so I consider the 3 hours of time-sharing hawking worth the freebies.

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