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Guerrero first became a state on October 27, 1849. This southern Mexican state covers 64,281 km² and has a population of about 3 million. The state capital of Guerrero is Chilpancingo, known as "Chilpa" to locals. Most people have "been" to Chilpancingo, meaning they have driven through it on a trip between Acapulco and Mexico City. During the period of independence Chilpancingo was briefly the national capital.

Guerrero is recognized nationally as one of Mexico's poorest states, with an economy based mainly on small-scale agriculture and tourism. The "Triángulo del Sol" (Triangle of the Sun) are the three cities that make up Guerrero's tourist economy: Taxco, which is a small colonial town in the mountains, Ixtapa & Zihuatanejo, which are smallish tourist resorts on the Pacific near the border with Michoacán, and, of course, Acapulco. Iguala is also worth mentioning. It is a small, traditional inland Mexican town in the mountains, about a half hour's drive from Taxco.


Politically, Guerrero is still dominated by the PRD in the cities. The PRI still maintains its strength in the countryside. In 2008 mayoral elections were held in Acapulco, in which the PRI candidate, Miguel Añorve Baños, narrowly beat the PRD candidate, Gloria Sierra. The PAN, the party of Mexico's past two presidents and Mexico's "conservative party" scores little support in Guerrero. Guerrero is known for its hand carved masks, sea turtles, beaches, and its long tradition of "old school" politics.

Located about 450 kilometers south of the Tropic of Cancer (measured at Acapulco), Guerrero is also known for the occasional cyclone (Pacific hurricane or typhoon). It also has some seismic activity. Guerrero's pacific coast region is basically divided into two sections. The Costa Grande, which runs north of Acapulco, and the Costa Chica, which runs to the south of Acapulco towards Oaxaca.


The State of Guerrero is officially divided into 7 main regions: Acapulco, Centro, Costa Chica, Costa Grande, Montaña, Norte, and Tierra Caliente. There are 76 municipalities, roughly the equivalent of counties in the US. They are:

Acapulco De Juarez, Ahuacuotzingo, Ajuchitlan Del Progreso, Alcozauca De Guerrero, Alpoyeca, Apaxtla, Arcelia, Atenango Del Rio, Atlamajalcingo Del Monte, Atlixtac, Atoyac De Alvarez, Ayutla De Los Libres, Azoyu, Benito Juarez, Buenavista De Cuellar, Coahuayutla De Jose Maria Izazaga, Cocula, Copala, Copalillo, Copanatoyac, Coyuca De Benitez, Coyuca De Catalan, Cuajinicuilapa, Cualac, Cuautepec, Cuetzala Del Progreso, Cutzamala De Pinzon, Chilapa De Alvarez, Chilpancingo (Chilpancingo de los Bravo), Florencio Villarreal, General Canuto A Neri, General Heliodoro Castillo, Huamuxtitlan, Huitzuco De Los Figueroa, Iguala De La Independencia, Igualapa, Ixcateopan De Cuauhtemoc, Jose Azueta, Juan R Escudero, Leonardo Bravo, Malinaltepec, Martir De Cuilapan, Metlatonoc, Mochitlan, Olinala, Ometepec, Pedro Ascencio Alquisiras, Petatlan, Pilcaya, Pungarabato, Quechultenango, San Luis Acatlan, San Marcos, San Miguel Totolapan, Taxco De Alarcon, Tecoanapa, Tecpan De Galeana, Teloloapan, Tepecoacuilco De Trujano, Tetipac, Tixtla De Guerrero, Tlacoachistlahuaca, Tlacoapa, Tlalchapa, Tlalixtaquilla De Maldonado, Tlapa de Comonfort, Tlapehuala, La Union, Xalpatlahuac, Xochihuehuetlan, Xochistlahuaca, Zacapocstepec Zapotitlan Tablas, Zirandaro, Zitlala, Eduardo Neri.

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A typical Telmex telephone

The telephone situation in Mexico can be flabbergasting, even for natives. More accurately, it is especially complicated for residents, as they are the ones who, year-in, year-out, have fed Mexico's massive telephone monopoly, Telmex, a sizable portion of their hard earned wages each month. Mexico's regular telephone service is the de facto private monopoly of one of the world's richest men, Mr. Carlos Slim, who is up there with Warren Buffet and Bill Gates every year as one of Forbes Magazine's richest billionaires.

Telmex was privatized in 1992 under what many suspect were dubious circumstances during the presidency of, Carlos Salinas de Gortarri (who remains to this day Mexico's most disliked person).

Happily, competition has come in via the cellular phone, with several contending providers. The days of the $1,000 USD telephone bill are over. Even TELMEX has come around to offer some attractive plans. Today a person can have telephone service with 2 MB of high speed DSL along with unlimited local and national calls for about $100 USD per month. VOIP services (like Vonage) now offer a Latin American plan with free unlimited calls to various cities in Mexico (including Acapulco) for about $40 USD per month. Cable telephone service is rumored to to be on the way from Cablemás - the main provider of cable television and internet service in Acapulco.

Cell Phones

Cell phones are a great option if you need to communicate while in town. If people in your group want to separate to do different activities, the local cell phone is a more convenient option than buying phone cards and looking for a pay phone. You can buy a "throw away" cell phone for little more than the price of the phone card at local convenience stores (like Oxxo and Extra). You can get a cell with $50 USD worth of credit for about $65 USD. The main advantage of this over the pay phone is that you can give out your number while you're here and can receive local calls, even if you run out of credit. That's the good news. The bad news is that cell phone reception is not always stellar in the more remote sections, like Las Brisas. When you buy air time ("tiempo aire") or its equivalent, the phone card ("tarjeta telefónica"), know that the larger denominations (like $100 and $300 pesos) offer bonus minutes for free. Air time is easy to buy at any of the convenience stores, supermarkets and at Wal-Mart.

Cell brands in Acapulco (past and present) include Telcel, Unifon, Iusacell, and MovieStar. Telcel and MovieStar have the best reception. While Telecel is the most expensive, it is by far the most popular. You can buy a Telcel phone card almost anywhere. Unifon is cheaper, but the range and reception are limited. Iusacell is expensive
and has iffy service. You can get Nextel and iPhone in Acapulco, too.

Land Lines

It's easy to set up a land line in Acapulco if you have lots of time and patience. You just march down to the big Telmex office, take a number and wait a couple of hours. Then a nice lady helps you fill in the blanks, you pay an installation fee, and within four weeks to three months, you will have your Telmex phone. The long delay is no exaggeration; it will take that long to have a line installed. To obtain quicker installation service, drive around until you find a Telmex truck and offer the technician a nice tip to install your phone right away. Generally you can have it done on the spot. This is a very common practice.

Calling Mexico from Abroad

You dial (011 - 52 - area code - number) unless you are calling a cell phone, in which case you dial (011 - 52 - 1 - area code - number).

International Dialing Codes

Thankfully, Mexico deregulated its long distance and international telephone service in 1997, so the best option is to use a discount calling card from your own country. Then circumvent the system entirely by connecting yourself to an international operator. Here's what you would need:

AT&T operator: 001-800-462-4240

Sprint operator: 001-800-877-8000

M.C.I. operator: 001-800-674-7000

Bell Canada: 001-800-010-1990

AT&T Canada: 001-800-123-0201

TELMEX: 01-800-728-4647 (800-SAVINGS)

Dialing Nationally (Inside Mexico)

To dial a national number, start with 01 then the area code and number.

Money Saving Tips

Ask your hotel operator about their fees and rates before placing a call. When walking down the street, never pick up a phone that advertises rapid, direct collect calls to your home country. These are among the biggest rip-offs known to humankind. Even if you are calling a millionaire with an emergency, you should not use these phones, as it just encourages this sort of racket to continue. Call a friend using one of these devices and that friend won't be a friend when the bill arrives. You can easily run up a hundred dollar bill in minutes. Avoid collect calls altogether.

Using a Telmex Payphone

Mexico Telephone Card

Although there are few coin operated telephones situated around town, to make a call you'll likely need to buy a far less troublesome Ladatel tarjeta telefónica (tahr-HATE-a tehl-eh-FOH-knee-kah), which you can buy almost anywhere. Tarjetas telefónicas (phone cards) come in denominations of 30 pesos, 50 pesos, 100 pesos, 200 pesos, 300 pesos. They used to feature some unique and interesting art, but more recently they figured out that they could sell ads on them so now they're not quite as interesting. If you're going to be talking awhile, go with the largest denomination so that you don't have to try switching cards live because you'll probably hang up on yourself.

RealAcapulco Tip: When choosing a street telephone, try to get one as far away from the traffic as possible. Otherwise, fifty percent of your conversation will be comprised of words and phrases such as: "what", "What was that?" , 'I couldn't hear you" "Could you repeat that?" and "[insert expletive here] bus."

What are all those buttons for?

You'll know that you're going native when you can do one thing… switch phone cards without hanging up on yourself. When you're making a long distance call, being able to switch phone cards and performing other assorted phone-related operations is essential to your ability to manage the already somewhat strained communication situation where your cell probably doesn't work and your hotel phone is too expensive to use. RealAcapulco shows you the ropes here. Despite what the picture above might suggest, it is not really as "easy as 1,2,3..."

  • The first button with the picture of a hand changing phone cards is the button you use to change phone cards. The key is to not wait until the card has run out of credit to try it, but to make the switch before you run out.
  • The second button, with the picture of a telephone receiver with sound coming out of it and a little arrow pointing up is used for...
  • The third button, the one with the picture of the finger pressing the buttons that have the letters "RE," is Redial. Use if you need to dial again the number you had dialed before.
  • The fourth button with the two faces that say ABC is the language button. You can press this to change the language displayed in the digital display above.
  • The last button, with the telephone, is the button you press to revalidate the telephone card. This is useful because you don't have to hang up, remove the card, re-insert it, and then pick up the receiver again.
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Acapulco Taxi

Taxis in Acapulco are ubiquitous. Think of swarms of locusts; then replace "locust" with blue and white Volkswagen beetles and you’ve gotten the idea. More than 6,000 taxis have been licensed in Acapulco. That may not be a lot for a place like New York, but Acapulco has really only three major avenues and an official population of 600,000. That's one taxi for every 99 inhabitants (not counting the driver).

How you feel about taxis depends on whether you drive your own car (share the streets with them) or use them as your basic means of transport. Drivers of private vehicles often feel outnumbered, crowded and menaced by them. (In fact, only 4 out of every 10 vehicles in Acapulco is a taxi.) Many taxi drivers are aggressive risk-takers who are always in a hurry. Not all are; many others are friendly, helpful and calm. Some can perform feats of daring that could qualify in Acapulco as an extreme sport. The economic reality of being a taxi driver is that you must constantly elbow out your competition, just to make as many short hauls as possible in your shift. You will have to pay for the car, the gas and use of the plates, and hope to have something left over for food and shelter at the end of 10 to 12 hours.

Taxis mainly come in three versions: the blue and white Volkswagen beetle ("Vocho"); the blue and white taxi that is not a Volkswagen beetle, but rather, a larger vehicle (like a large Ford or Chrysler); and the boxy yellow and white taxis, which are a different breed altogether. The blue and white Volkswagen are Acapulco's cheapest. The minimum daylight fare is $25 MXN, and most short hauls will not exceed $50 MXN. The larger blue and white taxis are more expensive. The boxy yellow and white taxis are called "collectivos" or "peseros." If you hail one, they will accept other passengers along the way. As many as five passengers will share the cab. These taxis always follow a pre-determined route, like a bus, and the name of the route is posted on the windshield. The main ons are from the center of town up Cuauhtémoc out to Renacimiento and from the Hornos beach area on the Costera to Acapulco Diamante, either Coloso (a large, working class neighborhood) or Colosio (a large, working class housing development). The fare is $12 pesos. Other colectivos follow other routes and will charge a fixed fare between $5 and $12 pesos, depending on the route.

To hail a taxi, use the approach you would use at home. Waves, shouts, whistles all work. The gesture for "come here" in Mexico is confusingly similar to "bye bye" in English (extended arm, hand waving up and down). The difference is that in Mexico the emphasis is on the downward motion (as if gesturing towards the feet), and usually involves bending the hand at the palm. If a taxi driver with no passenger sees you, he is likely to beat you to the draw and beep at you first to see if you need a ride. If you don't speak Spanish, many drivers will practice their English. If you speak Spanish, you may be in for a conversation ranging from the weather, to politics, to life in the States, to strip clubs.

The minimum fare ($25 pesos), which can go as high as $60 pesos during daylight hours for points inside the city proper, will rise by a factor of 50% at night, and by 100% after midnight, when the buses stop running and other forms of transport are scarce. Long hauls are a separate subject: A small taxi to the airport will cost $100 to $300 pesos. It is always a good idea to establish the fare before entering the taxi. If you think the fare quote is too high, offer what you think is correct. If the driver does not accept it, look for another taxi. Remember, there are hordes of them. For that reason, most drivers will not try to gouge you; but if you don't agree on a price beforehand, a few will take advantage and double or triple charge you at the end.

In 2004, Volkswagen shut down the last factory in the world that made the beetle, so perhaps 20 years from now Acapulco will again be beetle free.

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Mexican police are much different from their counterparts to the North. In truth, they are generally more laid back and friendly. They take themselves -- and you -- less seriously, and, in the main, they are less meddlesome and authoritarian than the average patrolman or state trooper in the States or Canada.

Naturally, there are exceptions, and a lot depends on who YOU are and HOW you are conducting yourself. In the past, police shake downs were reported from time to time, usually a routine stop in which the subject was threatened with arrest unless he or she paid a “fine” on the spot. The amount of the fine was coincidentally the same amount as the currency the subject was carrying. Part of the problem was drug use by individual police. Though the officers are subject to drug testing, the police unions and the bureaucracy made it difficult to clean out the drug users, who needed to supplement their salaries with extra contributions from the public. For example, on January 26, 2005, the newspaper Novedades de Acapulco announced "Police Rob Foreign Tourist" in an article by Jose Luis Rodriguez Alcaraz. In this case three policeman were reported as having stopped a tourist walking alone on Acapulco's main drag and relieved him of $300 dollars.

Americans who live in Acapulco can report that they have been stopped by the police, but were not robbed. Since 2008, with a new administration in the city, complaints like this have subsided considerably. Either life is now much safer, or the city has better "damage control" than before. The story above contains two bright spots: The first is that it made the front page of the paper, meaning it was a news event, not a common occurrence. The other is that the tourist made a complaint, and disciplinary procedures were triggered, as appropriate. Tourism is big business in Acapulco, and the last thing the city fathers want is that sort of press.

Most of the bad police stories reported back in the States take place along the northern border and in Mexico City. They are worlds apart from Acapulco. Even today, however, common criminals may don police uniforms to prey on the public. For this reason, tourists are often advised to avoid the police, especially at night, and particularly in areas where tourists may be carrying lots of cash. If a policeman arrives in a private vehicle or in a police patrol vehicle that has its vehicle number covered over, take this is a sure sign of trouble. If you ever encounter such a problem, try to discover the vehicle number or license plate for purposes of a complaint. The Tourism Director of Acapulco (Director General de Turismo) has the responsibility to receive all such complaints from visitors. The telephone number is 440-7010, extensions 4740, 4950. The office is on Calle Hornitos s/n, (Zona Militar) Centro, 39300 Acapulco, Gro., México.

La Mordida

In Acapulco, as in the rest of Mexico, police don't always command respect, and their word is not taken as gospel, the way it is in the US. The reason is that some policemen in Mexico are known to become more flexible if a little money enters the conversation. One can't begin to talk about the police without first mentioning the term most widely associated with them - "la mordida" (lah mohr DEE dah), literally “the bite.”

A mordida is a small bribe you pay the police to let you off the hook for some minor infraction. Basically you offer to buy them "a refresco" (soft drink) for maybe $50 pesos. By most US standards this is corruption, but the system works very well and greatly uncomplicates the life of the person stopped and the officer who would otherwise have to issue a ticket. If you are unfamiliar with the routine, however, it can be distressing.

What to Do if Stopped by the Police

By and large, Mexican cops are as interested as you are in avoiding a hassle. They are happy with a small bribe to make everything go away, unless you have done something really serious. The officer might even threaten you with a major hassle, like impounding your car, or taking your driver's license to some location you’ve never heard of. All this can be intimidating. But: Always remember to be friendly and agreeable. This is the phase where you are being softened up. The wrong thing is to get pissy, and the really wrong thing is to become indignant and accuse him of corruption. The mega-wrong thing is to tell him -- in case he did not already know it -- that you are an American and come from the most powerful country on earth, blah, blah, blah ...

It is always best to go with the flow. Be "all sweetness and light." Do not act terrified. Fear makes the "mordida" go up in price. If you have a little cash in your pocket, just pay the mordida. Don't get upset. Add the experience to your collection of colorful stories. If you speak Spanish, you can try to bargain a little. If you are not dealing with the federal police and the accusation (true or not) is minor, the mordida should be somewhere between 50 and 200 pesos.

The key to entering the negotiation phase are three words "échame la mano" (EH-cha-meh lah MAH-noh), which literally means "give me a hand," but is more akin to "help me out" or "give me a break." This code phrase is universally understood to convey that you know the score.

If You Need Police Help

The police are not around to help you handle the minor crises of life. Don't call the cops for some small problem. If you need a police report for your insurance company in the event something is stolen, you can go down to the station and get one with no hassle. There is also a special cadre of "tourist police" whose function it is to help you out as well.

If you need the police for something serious, they are perfectly willing to help you. The first step is to go to the police station and file a complaint, a process known as "levantar una demanda." Don't expect lightning fast response times. The paperwork can take days, even weeks before anything happens. A bit of money for "refrescos" will always help shuffle your case to the top of the pile.

Types of Police in Acapulco

You might encounter several different types of police, and their jurisdictions often overlap. At all levels of government, police forces are classified in one of two categories:

This distinction, once very clear, has become cloudier in recent years. Acapulco, like all local governments in the Mexican Republic, enjoys a public security system with a confusing number of layers and variations, both of the “judicial” and “preventive” varieties.

Consular Contacts

Foreign visitors are strongly encouraged to contact their country’s consular representative before doing anything else.

Useful Telephone Numbers

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This page is dedicated to Montezuma's Revenge - such a frequent problem for people visiting Mexico that any travel guide that doesn't include a detailed section doesn't really deserve to call themselves a travel guide.

What is Montezuma's Revenge?

I would say that a bad case feels rather like someone coming up and giving you a big kick in the stomach at 30 second intervals. Really, it is really just another name for travelers' diarrhea that happens to take place in Mexico (where it's also known as "turista" ). Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever, sweats, chills, headache, and malaise.

Diarrhea is the most common travel-related illness so remember that if you do have to suffer through a case, you're in good company.

On a trip to Mexico in February 1979, President Jimmy Carter famously quipped to an apparently overly sensitive Mexican President Jose Lopez Portillo that he (President Carter) had been "afflicted with Montezuma's revenge." Lopez Portillo was by all accounts deeply offended by the comment and it has been suggested by some this caused a planned immigration reform measure to fail - even though I doubt he was THAT offended.

Montezuma's revenge is most widely associated with Mexico for two reasons:

1) Mexico gets a lot of tourists.

2) The tap water is not safe to drink (it's not potable as they say). Not even Mexicans themselves drink it.

According to Dr. Olds, a Professor of Medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin: "Average Americans visiting Mexico for the first time - up to 85% of them - develops travelers' diarrhea." Montezuma's revenge comes in two main varieties: "The milder form is the result of changes in the normal bacteria your body is used to," and usually goes away in a couple days. There's the severe version, which results from ingesting a bacterial toxin. "It can go on for five days, accompanied by painful cramps," explains the good doctor.

What causes Montezuma's Revenge?

It may be caused by any number of organisms, including bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella, Shigella, Campylobacter, Aeromonas, Plesiomonas, and vibrios; parasites such as Giardia, Entamoeba histolytica, Cryptosporidium, and Cyclospora; and viruses.

How can you avoid it?

The best way to avoid getting it is to avoid eating or drinking any suspect foods or beverages and avoiding any "street food". Don't drink tap water unless it has been boiled, filtered, or chemically disinfected. Remember to wash your hands thoroughly before putting them in your mouth, eyes, nose or other bodily orifice. If you really want to be safe, don't drink beverages or drinks with ice. Don't eat fruits or vegetables unless they've been peeled or cooked. Avoid cooked foods that have been sitting around for a while. Avoid unpasteurized milk, its byproducts, and run don't walk away from raw or undercooked meat or fish. If taking these steps does not assuage your concern a plastic bubble suit might be in order.

I've got it, now what do I do?

Try taking "a quinolone antibiotic like ciprofloxacin Cipro 500 mg twice daily or levofloxacin Levaquin 500 mg once daily for a total of three days. Alternative regimens include a three day course of rifaximin Xifaxan 200 mg three times daily or azithromycin Zithromax 500 mg once daily. Rifaximin should not be used by those with fever or bloody stools and is not approved for pregnant women or those under age 12. Azithromycin should be avoided in those allergic to erythromycin or related antibiotics. For children, the dosage of azithromycin is 10 mg/kg on day 1, up to 500 mg, and 5 mg/kg on days 2 and 3, up to 250 mg."

"An antidiarrheal drug such as loperamide Imodium or diphenoxylate Lomotil should be taken as needed to slow the frequency of stools, but not enough to stop the bowel movements completely. Diphenoxylate Lomotil and loperamide Imodium should not be given to children under age two.

Most cases of travelers' diarrhea are mild and do not require either antibiotics or antidiarrheal drugs." Remember to drink lots of liquids because the main problems for your body associated with diarrhea is dehydration. Drinks high in salt and sugar are best. Avoid dairy products. Pepto Bismol never hurts either. If things don't improve, become intense, or if blood makes an appearance at any point, you should go to the doctor right away.

Who is Montezuma?

Montezuma II (1470-1520) was the last independent Aztec emperor. He ruled much of the territory we now call Mexico until the Spanish conquest. Montezuma was known for his ability to consolidate power in his central government and had great success in asserting control over the semi-independent city-states that comprised Mexico under his rule. Despite his strong leadership, when the Spanish arrived in Mexico in 1519, Montezuma committed a fatal mistake failing to realize that they had come to take over. The Spaniards eventually captured and killed Montezuma and seized his empire. While old Montezuma may have passed from the scene, Montezuma's revenge lives on.

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The New Mexico

Misconceptions and stereotypes about Mexico abound. Try to free yourself of them all.

You can spend twenty years or more in Mexico and never actually see anyone snoozing in the shade under a wide-brimmed sombrero. You will never go out dancing and see the crowd suddenly break into the Mexican Hat Dance. The northern part of the country does have its share of cowboy hats and pickup trucks. In this regard, it looks like a Spanish-speaking version of Texas, given the ranchero culture. In Acapulco, you see lots of shorts and flip-flops instead.

Another common misconception about Mexico is that it is somehow primitive and backward. Your grandmother might have wondered if they have television in Mexico yet. Well, there are hundreds of channels, actually. There is broadband internet. There are modern hospitals, a high-tech manufacturing sector and a home-grown film industry. Mexico offers such ponderous modern technological marvels as the camera phone. In short, Mexico is able to provide all the technology and comfort that you will find in the U.S. or Canada.

The major difference is that in Mexico, all of these trappings of modernity are not spread evenly around the country or among the social classes. Pockets of high development co-exist right beside pockets of underdevelopment. If you look for it, you will find places where people live not much differently than their ancestors did in the final days of Montezuma. And just down the road, some of the world's most wealthy (like Carlos Slim) might have a sprawling mansion.

Another major misconception is that Mexico is unsafe. For sure, parts of Mexico are unsafe. Ciudad Juarez and Nuevo Laredo qualify as some of the scariest places on earth, and the other border towns may easily strike one as irredeemable hellholes as well. Mexico City can also be pretty dangerous if you stumble into the wrong areas or wander around alone at night. Also, odd things seem to take place down around the border with Guatemala.

This may sound like a lot, but imagine judging the United States by what happens in South Central L.A., Detroit, and Newark. Like the U.S., Mexico is a large, diverse country. The Mexico you find in Acapulco is not only safe, it actually feels safer than the US. One can wander all over Acapulco without worries. You will always see people milling around, selling this or that, walking, or just standing around talking.

Mexicans themselves defy stereotyping. You can find tall, blonde Mexicans as well as short brown ones. There are Jewish Mexicans, Chinese Mexicans, black Mexicans and American-Mexicans. You can find quiet, shy folks as well as guys that drink tequila and scream at the top of their lungs. You can find deeply religious Mexicans as well as some that never darken the door of a church. You can find a rough and tough Mexican macho walking down the very same street as a Mexican drag queen.

There is something unique about Mexico that defies putting down in words. If Mexico is not one of the richest countries on earth when measured in money terms, it has to be one of the richest when measured in culture. The key to finding it is an open mind. Mexico really offers rich rewards to us all.

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"The Manager has personally passed all the water used here." - A notice to guests posted in an Acapulco Hotel

Bad translations aside, Mexican water is famous around the world for not being safe to drink. "Don't drink the water" is the common refrain. The reputation of Mexico's water has indeed been earned. You can travel to all the continents in the world -- including Africa -- and not run into the problems that can become commonplace in Mexico.

The full answer to the question whether it is safe to drink Acapulco's water is that it depends a good bit on where you're getting your water. Generally the water is safe to drink if it has been purified. Otherwise, it's not safe. In other words, the water they serve you, or that you buy in bottles, is fine, but water from the tap is not. The exception is that some of the finer hotels filter and treat their tap water, too. But as a general rule, no one -- not even the local residents -- drinks tap water.

If you are wondering what happens if you drink the tap water, go to the article on Montezuma's Revenge.

So what actually causes the problem? Bacteria. Candidates are E. coli, Salmonella, Shigella, Campylobacter, Aeromonas, Plesiomonas, and vibrios. What else? Parasites like Giardia, Entamoeba histolytica, Cryptosporidium, and Cyclospora. Any thing else? Viruses.

In tourist zones, no one will serve untreated water. Everyone in Acapulco (indeed in Mexico) knows better. Serving someone water, ice, or food prepared with untreated water is tantamount to walking up to them and giving them a big kick in the stomach. The water and ice are purchased from purveyors who bottle and bag their product using treated water.

Street vendors and low-end restaurants might use a little tap water in the preparation of their food, but usually this is not enough to affect the stomachs of their clients. Most of the time it is boiled or cooked before serving. Be forewarned: the clientele of these places are mainly locals who have lived in Acapulco most of their lives.

Most of the time, people get sick just because they (or someone else) puts unwashed hands into a bodily orifice, like the eyes, nose, mouth, et al. Then they blame the restaurant food. The lesson: Wash the hands regularly or use the sanitizing alcohol-gel on the hands. And be careful! As they might say in Mexico "¡Ojo!" or "¡Aguas!" (literally, "eye" and "waters"), which both mean, "watch out!"

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Driving in Mexico can either be peaceful and safe or nerve racking and dangerous. It all depends on you. A popular route is to enter at Nuevo Laredo (the worst part of the trip) and head towards Monterrey and Mexico City. Then you go down the "Autopista del Sol" to Acapulco. This is the easiest and perhaps safest route to Acapulco. It has wide, mostly well-groomed lanes that take you all the way. Your can drive as easily at night as in the US or Canada - that is, if you take the sparsely populated cuotas (toll roads).

Driving on a Mexican highway is no time to be a cheap skate. Though some cuotas can be as expensive as the equivalent of $20 USD for a short stretch of road, they are worth every peso. If you decide to go Mexican-style on the free highways, be prepared to deal with two lane roads with huge trucks bearing down at you head on. The lanes are narrow. The curves are blind. And you may suddenly encounter peasants, burros or chickens in the middle to the road. The distances between gas stations is vague. Pot holes may be chasms, and the spring-breaking speed bumps may seem like they are a foot tall. The roads are often undercut, with no shoulders, and visibility after dusk is minimal. The toll roads have "Green Angels," pickup trucks with mechanics and medical aid that patrol for stranded motorists. There are call boxes. The highway is marked with crosses where fatal accidents have taken place.

Mexican Toll Road

If you break down and decide you need to start hiking, pay somebody a deposit to watch your car and promise them three times the amount when you get back. An unattended car on a lonely highway conjures images of vultures picking apart a fresh corpse.

Though subject to change, a trip to Acapulco from Texas runs about about $200 USD in tolls.

When gassing up on the highway, be careful to see that the attendant resets the gas pump to zeros (ceros, SAY-rows) before he starts to pump. Starting you out with $100 pesos or so on the meter is the oldest trick in the book and the gas stations in Mexico are historically slippery. In part this explains why most attendants are women these days; the guys were just too problematic. If they scam you and you figure it out after the fact, there is really nothing you can do. The same goes for watering down the gas and damaging your engine or shorting you (claiming the tank is full when you later find out it is not), giving you the wrong change, etc.

No matter which route you take, make sure to buy Mexican auto insurance. It is not that expensive unless you have an expensive car. You can get it at the border (there will be places to buy it everywhere) and it is s a big help if you get into a tight spot, and such "spots" are not uncommon.

One thing that always shocks people from the US is when they find out that in Mexico there is no law requiring auto insurance. In fact, unless you have a new car or a car under lease, most people do not carry insurance. This is a stark difference from the familiar “let me see your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance” routine that has been hard-wired into the mind of every US resident. Once you cross the border you are far from the land of no-fault and have stepped back in time to the days of the Code Napoleon.

So what happens if there's an accident? If there's an accident and it's your fault, they put you in jail until you settle with the injured party. No jury trial, no innocent-until-proven-guilty, no bail. You are guilty, and you must make restitution, and that's is all there is to that. Is it fair? Maybe not. Is it efficient? Absolutely. People settle really fast under such circumstances. What might take years to settle the US can routinely be resolved in a couple days in Mexico. If you have insurance (and you better) the insurance company will handle it for you. The lesson: make sure you have the best insurance available and that you're clear about whom to call in case of an emergency.

Another common and potentially unnerving occurrence is the presence of military checkpoints. In the US the constitution protects us from being stopped by young stone-faced soldiers with machine guns. In Mexico, you actually don't see them often when heading south, but you do see them frequently when heading north. They monitor the north-bound lanes of the major highways to check for contraband ranging from drugs, to guns, to Central Americans. These guys are all business. No mordidas (bribes). They take a quick look and send you on your way.

If you're thinking of driving to Acapulco from the West Cost and tend to panic on long stretches of scary, bad, desolate highway, it's recommended to drive to Arizona and enter at Nogales. Then drive straight down (through Mazatlan) to Guadalajara on the well-groomed, spacious highways. From Guadalajara, head to Mexico City (driving into the city), then down to Acapulco on the toll road (Autopista del Sol).

Two stretches of very tricky road may tempt you, as they seem to be the shortest way when looking at a map. They are not, at least if time, stress, and safety are a concern. The highway between Mexicali and Hermosillo is long, lonely and frought with peril. There are few toll roads, only long stretches of free, open road that takes you through the middle of nowhere (really, nowhere!). There is also a bit of road between Toluca and Cuarnavaca that can be more treacherous even than driving through Mexico City. Starting in Toulca (where the traffic rivals that of Mexico City) you travel through narrow two lane highways, tiny towns, highways full of massive speed bumps and pot holes that seem to come out of nowhere, villages with unpaved roads, down alleys, through town squares, residential neighborhoods, and then through a long section of two-lane aggravation that snakes endlessly through a dense forest before descending on the land eternal of spring, the city of Cuernavaca. If you are the adventurous sort and decide to try these routes, you'll come away feeling like you've gone over Niagara Falls in a barrel and lived to tell about it.

The Autopista del Sol

Autopista del Sol

To drive from Mexico City to Acapulco, you go to Cuernavaca, about 85 kilometers away. It takes about an hour to an hour and a half, depending on traffic and what part of Mexico City you start from. In Cuernavaca you pick up the “Autopista del Sol,” a toll road that takes you to Acapulco. The road is not four lanes, but it is theoretically limited access. The Autopista del Sol costs about $504 pesos for normal cars (more for trucks). This includes a toll booth at Tlalpan ($80 pesos), which is technically not part of the Autopista del Sol but is part of the trip. Along the highway are four toll booths (Alpuyeca $52, Paso Morelos $110, Paso Blanco $100, and La Venta $90) and one more at the Maxi-Tunnel ($72) as you arrive into Acapulco. The Autopista del Sol is 296 km long, and in all, coming from Mexico City, the trip is 380 km. This compares with Mexico 95, the so-called “free road,” which is a narrow, two-lane road that is over 400 km long. It is considered a whole lot rougher ride, but it saves nearly $80 USD in tolls for the round trip, calculated at current exchange rates.

The Autopista del Sol was constructed over several years in the 1980’s and 90’s. In 1993 all segments were finally completed. Then, in 1997 special legislation was adopted to pay for more construction and improvements on the Autopista del Sol and several other of the country’s toll roads. Operation and management of the toll road has been transferred to a private company.

If you are planning to drive on this highway, remember this: Acapulco was isolated for centuries from the rest of Mexico because the terrain around it was so hard to cross. The first road to Mexico City was opened only in the 1920’s, reducing travel time from 6 days to a matter of 24 hours! Even though the Autopista del Sol can cut the travel time down to about 4½ hours, the terrain is still a major factor to consider when making the trip. Travelers to Acapulco from Mexico City must cross a high plain and go into and over the Southern Sierra Madre Mountain Range, finally descending sharply down to the sea. This road is not for inexperienced drivers. It has lots of sudden curves and often passes along the side of steep cliffs and gullies. The views are wonderful, but extreme caution is recommended. Traffic accidents are fairly common on the Autopista del Sol, as many drivers coming out of Mexico City, in a hurry to reach the beach, drive too fast for the terrain and weather conditions. During rainy season, keep your eyes open for mudslides.

If you have a breakdown or a flat tire along this road, trucks ("Green Angels" or "Ángeles Verdes") patrol in order to render assistance when needed. Tow trucks, both public and private, are also on call.

Highway 200: The Coastal Road

Highway 200 is Acapulco’s coastal highway. In Acapulco, it's more widely known as Carretera Ixtapa Zihuatanejo (heading north) and Carretera Pinotepa (heading South). It is the coastal freeway that runs from Acapulco to the resort town of Ixtapa and it's more traditional brother Zihuatanejo in the north (the region known as costa grande) and south to Oaxaca (the region known as costa chica). These freeways can be a bit challenging for the inexperienced.

In its full length, Highway 200 takes you from Tapachula in the north (the capital of the coastal state of Nayarit) all the way down to Tepic at the border with Guatemala in the State of Chiapas. The part of Highway 200 that goes from Acapulco up the coast towards Michoacán is the main artery of the shoreline known as “Costa Grande” (Big Coast). From Acapulco, it passes through Pie de la Cuesta right away, and then continues through the towns of Barra de Potosí and Papanoa, finally arriving in Zihuatanejo and then Ixtapa. Then it leaves the state of Guerrero at a small town called La Unión. Lázaro Cárdenas is the name of the first town you reach on this highway after leaving La Unión and crossing the border into Michoacán. The length of this highway from Acapulco to Lázaro Cárdenas is approximately 300 km. Outside of the towns, services on this road are very sparse. It's hard to find a place to pass another vehicle in some stretches, so be sure to give yourself ample time to reach your destination. Plan to stop at a couple of beaches. They are some of the most inviting places on Mexico’s Pacific coast.

To the south and east, Highway 200 connects Acapulco and Barra Vieja to the rest of this part of Guerrero’s coastline, known as “Costa Chica” (Little Coast). The road follows the coast more or less, winding its way towards the state of Oaxaca. After that there’s Chiapas and eventually, the border with Guatemala. Because the Costa Chica is quite mountainous in spots as you go from Acapulco towards Oaxaca, the road often turns inland for a bit, seeking a good route for crossing the mountain ridges as they descend down to the sea from the plains above. The first stop after Acapulco is San Marcos, about 58 km away. A town of about 45,000 inhabitants, noted for its festivals, folk lore, and pretty girls. After San Marcos the next town is Ometepec, close to the border with Oaxaca. Then, just on the other side of the state line is the town of Pinotepa Nacional, which lies 170 km from Acapulco. The resort town of Puerto Escondido is another 90 km past Pinotepa.

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Acapulco and environs is home to some of the world's most treasured wildlife. Many of the species are rare or endangered. This article covers some of the more unusual fauna that you may be able to see while visiting or living on Southern Mexico's Pacific coast. See related articles specifically on sea turtles, dolphins, sharks and insects.


Mexican Cuijas

The Cuija, or Gecko, is not the most charismatic of creatures. You will find him sneaking round the light fittings, running along the ceiling, sometimes falling off. He can be found in the best hotels and restaurants. He is not a pest; he is a blessing. He eats the things you like even less: flies, mosquitoes and even bigger beasties. He will not harm you. So let him get on with his life. You never know: the mosquito he has just devoured might have been about to give you a dose of Dengue fever.

Parrots & Parrot Smuggling

Amazona Auropalliata

Numerous species of rare birds make their way through these parts. Most are smuggled from Central and South America. Two species in particular are indigenous to Acapulco or nearby areas: -- the Yellow-headed Amazon Parrot (or as we lay people like to call them amazona ochrocephala oratix)and the Yellow-napped Amazon Parrot (amazona auropalliata). Both can be found from Southern Mexico down to Costa Rica.

An expert could point you to several types of parrot that can sometimes be spotted in the nearby wilderness: the maroon fronted parrot, the thick billed parrot, the lilac crowned parrot and even Rhynchopsitta pachyrhyncha pachyrhyncha (yes there really is one with this name). They are hard to identify from a distance, and avoid human contact, so the intrepid will just have to go out into the brush, sit down, and wait for a good while.

Parrots are known locally as loros. The really large ones (the variety you see at the zoo or sitting on a pirate's sholder) are really McCaws, called guacamayas in Maxico. They are not indigenous to Guererro but are (ahem) "imported" from South America. At several thousand dollars each, they fetch a mighty good price even this far south.

You do not need to be an expert to understand about parrot smuggling. It is the second most lucrative illegal cross border activity. It is estimated that at least 25,000 birds are smuggled into Texas each year. Probably 5 times that number die before they even get to the border. Many are plucked from their nests at an age before they can live on their own. The trade to Europe is also very lucrative. According to TRAFFIC, a World Wildlife Fund trade monitoring unit, the annual retail turnover in all kinds of parrots, both imported and captive bred, in the United States is estimated at $300,000,000. Captive bred birds do not make a very large percentage of this astonishing figure. Parrots have become one of the most threatened species in the world … not entirely due to poaching but also because of habitat destruction.

The profit margins for parrot smuggling are not unlike those of the cocaine trade. A parrot that costs $20 in Mexico can fetch between $300 and $10,000 on the open market in the US or Europe. And better than the cocaine trade, the penalties for being caught are not so stiff. To make matters worse, the US Fish and Wildlife Service is desperately under funded, what with wars in Asia and terrorists to be tried, Mexican parrot smugglers are at a fairly low rung in the hierarchy. Viewed in comparison to other pressing matters, how can you expect politicians to care about birds? This is a symptom of a general malaise, one that eventually could bring down the whole human race. Policy makers and their well-heeled constituents simply care more about making money than the state of the planet. Earth will live on -- a poorer place, to be sure, but there are plenty of ants and cockroaches to take our place.

The irony of all of this is that parrots are miserable pets. They are noisy, dirty and incredibly destructive. We are all better off if they are left in the jungle to rip up leaves and spit bits of fruit all over the place, rather than to be caged in an urban apartment to eat the Turkish rug and shred the silk curtains.

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Tours by Trolley

Acapulco offers a variety of city tours, one of which is by trolley car (a bus dressed up like an old fashioned trolley). They are not always noticeable around town, but they can always be seen over by La Quebrada, where the cliff divers make their famous dives. The trolleys are an excellent way to make a quick tour of the city. They offer a lot of room, and they hit the major spots for tourists. It is a good, quick way to get a good set of photos. Click the thumbnail logo for a map of the routes (it's in Spanish).

Acapulco Tours

Boat Tours of the Bay

The tours take you all around the bay and then head into the Pacific and around to La Quebrada, where Acapulco's cliff divers perform, and then turn around and go all the way to the beautiful Puerto Marqués.

Yate Bonanza

Acapulco Cruises

Costera Miguel Alemán, (Muelle Central), Acapulco, Mexico
+52 74 835981

The Bonanza makes a morning and a sunset cruise of Acapulco Bay. It goes from the bay to the open sea to provide an unequalled view of La Quebrada and of the sunset. On weekends and holidays there also is a moonlight (romantic) cruise. On some cruises the crew will organize a swimming session in the open sea for those who want to experience it. There is also a fresh water pool on board. The cost is $45, which may include a transfer from the hotel to the departure dock and back again. If this important, ask first before buying. Pickup and drop off points include most popular hotels. It may be possible to obtain a ticket for less money if you go down to the dock itself. During the cruise, the Bonanza provides live Mexican music and a Hawaiian dance show. The bar is open for any sort of drink (national, not imported). The outing takes about 4 hours. The morning cruise serves a buffet breakfast.

Acarey Catamaran Ride Tour

Costera Miguel Alemán, (Muelle Central), Acapulco, Mexico

The Acarey is a big party boat, built as a double-hull catamaran for width and stability. It can take up to 350 on three levels. The Acarey makes a complete tour of Acapulco's bay, and then it cruises out into the open sea for a perfect view of the sunset. Usually there are two departures daily, one in late afternoon (theoretically at 4, but subject to change) and one around 8:30 or 9 at night. The point of departure is the Town Pier (Malecón), on the Costera Alemán, in the traditional part of town, across from the Zócalo. The crew speaks Spanish and English, and some French. Arrangements for guides in Portuguese and Italian can also be made. The ride lasts between three and four hours, during which time the crew provides an open bar (national beverages only) and music. Sometimes there's dancing. Guides speaking both English and Spanish will entertain and animate the passengers, even organizing contests of different kinds and handing out prizes. The cost varies. The hotel concierge and some independent sales people will sell a ticket for as much as $35 (cheaper sometimes if you sit through a timeshare pitch).

Tickets can be bought at the dock itself for less -as low as $20, depending on exchange rates. The top deck can be rented for a private party of up to 40 persons.