Thursday, November 22, 2007

Island Transportation

Getting around on this island is rather easy. There are many modes of transportation to choose from. Besides the ones I am going to tell you about, many people choose just to walk. These are probably the same people I see buying bottled water and Yogurt at the grocery store all the time.

The first choice for most people is by private car. That is really not a viable option for most people though. Cars are expensive and beyond the budget of most people on the island. But they have other options.

The cheapest option is the bus. It runs daily from downtown out to Playa Lancheros and back. There are supposed to be two of them running but I only ever see just the one anymore. It is supposed to run every twenty minutes but it has become very unreliable and hardly anybody uses it unless by accident. Like they are waiting for a taxi and the bus comes along before they see one. It only costs 4 pesos to wherever you are going. The taxi drivers are always complaining that it cuts into their business and are trying to get it outlawed. That never happens though.

The second choice is a taxi. There are over 150 of them roaming around the island. Like taxis in most of Mexico, you pay for the ride, not per person. If two or more people get in together and get out at the same place, you pay the price of the ride once, not three times. Right now the price for locals is 9 pesos and for tourists it is 20. I always tell the people staying at the cabana to only pay 10 pesos (including tip) and refuse to pay the 20. (I hope no taxi drivers are reading this.) I hate the double pricing standard and refuse to go along with it whenever it is possible for me to buck it. I tell them to tell the driver that they will report his taxi number to the human rights/tourism office for charging them based on their nationality and then just walk away. After 10 PM though the price per ride is 14 pesos for locals. I can only guess at what they try to charge the tourists.

Also you should know, should you come here and take a taxi, the 9 peso price only extends from downtown to Playa Lancheros, about mid island. Trips to Garrafon, South Point and Sac Bajo will legitimately run around 50-60 pesos.

My Pointer is red. I will never buy another red car while living on the island. I get waved at all the time by people who think I am a taxi coming. It's kind of funny though. Some people wave and laugh as I drive by. Some people pretend like they can't see me and that they never waved at all. Some people turn the wave into a vigorous head scratch. And some people even yell at me as I go by for not stopping, never even realizing I have no writing on my car and that I am not a taxi.

Here's the most beloved transportation for tourists and the bane of my driving existence here.

There are hundreds of these golf carts on the island and dozens of places that rent them. Last I heard they are renting for 350 pesos for 8 hours and 450 pesos for 24 hours. The 24 hours is a better deal. I hate them for several reasons.

* there maximum speed is 20 KMH. (12 MPH) Some of them have governors on them to make them go even slower. The roads are narrow here and passing them is always a crap shoot. It's like getting behind a tractor on a country road.

* anybody can drive them that is old enough to have a license. You don't have to have a license, just be old to have one. No training is given, no lessons in safety, no lessons in driving laws and no lessons on how to read the arrows on one way streets. My first hint would be that all the cars are parked facing one direction and that oncoming traffic is heading right for me. More than once I have had to wait for a cart to back up the entire length of the street because they can't turn around. And before you ask, no, I am not going to be the one to back up and I am not going to be the one to turn around. I have common sense. They should too and if not, I am happy to give them a lesson.

* when you see one on the road being driven by a tourist, chances are better than 50% that the driver will be drunk. And if not, well on his way to becoming that way. It is perfectly fine to have a beer in one hand while driving these things. Geez.

* some of the tour companies include a tour of the island by golf cart. So it is entirely possible to get behind a stretched out caravan of 12 or more of these things. Some are driving bumper to bumper, so way behind everybody else. And they are all over the lane, right, left, middle, wherever. Just try to get past this line of carts! People, I live here! I have places to go, things to do. Just stay over to the right so I can get past you safely.

Finally by far and away the most popular and cheapest way to get around the island is the beloved family motorscooter.

They are everywhere, like ants on a hill. They are used like the family SUV or pick up. People carry whatever they have to on them. I have actually seen a passeger on one carrying a piece of plate glass for a window! Another time I saw a driver and passenger carrying a large, aluminum ladder. Not by their sides. They each had their head sticking through one of the holes in the ladder with the weight of it resting on their shoulders. Decapitacion waiting to happen. It is not unusual to see up to 5 family members riding together on one. The Police are trying to put a stop to this but one still sees it everywhere.

There is a strictly enforced helmut law on the island. Tourists can also rent them the same way they can golf carts. With exactly the same lack of training. The big difference is that most tourists don't drink and drive with them.

So there you have it. If you come to the island you should have no trouble getting around. Should you ever decide to leave the comfort of the beach and see what else this beautiful island has to offer. And if all else fails, you can always buy a granola bar and have yourself a nice walk.


CancunCanuck said...

Your post made me laugh, thanks! Having lived in Cozumel, we had the same moto "rules", family of five with all their groceries and the dog was normal. Terrified me to see newborn babies dangling off those things! I am mostly terrified of anything on two wheels (bike accident at age twelve has kept me on four wheels) but did have a few lifts on the motos. In fact, I have a lovely scar on my calf from an exhaust burn, kind of a badge of honor on the island, everyone has one or at least knows what happens when they see my leg.

Glad to hear they are trying to stop the dangerous practices, but really, good freaking luck. These families of five cannot afford a car or taxis, it's their only means of transport. Not saying they should perch their babies on the handlebars, just saying I understand why. Some education and enforcement could go a long way.

wayne said...

cc: I know what you mean about the babies. I have actually seen women passengers nursing their babies while riding side saddle and not hanging on! Geez.

There is a guy here who has trained his Yorkshire Terrier to stand on the seat in front of him with his front paws on the handlebars. The best part? The dog wears goggles and an Isadore Duncan type scarf blowing in the wind behind him. Cute but not too smart.