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Merida

Hotel Mucuy, a nice family run place with a quiet garden, good rooms with bath and fan for $200. Taxis in Merida tend to be fixed at $30 but you might be able to get some to jump at $25 from the bus station. The hotel is easy walking distance to the plaza. If you turn right and go about 60m out the front door the hotel there does good breakfasts - $20 for continental, $28 for American, $15 for cereal - also the service is excellent. Otherwise, in the couple of days in Merida we found food to either be average, expensive or both.



On the street that runs on the North side next to the Cathedral is one of the places you can make cheap international phone calls. However, the internet is $14 an hour, where as the one to the right and opposite Mucuy is $10.

Cancun

Las Palmas in one of the few budget places in Cancun. It has fan doubles for $250, AC for $300, both with attached bath, or dorms for $100. It is easy walking distance from the bus station - just head down Uxmal and turn right at the Oxxo sign. It is about 100m down the small road. They had no fan rooms left so we got AC - it is a huge room with 2 double beds, cable TV, large bathroom, etc. . . At $300 it is still good value and includes a basic DIY breakfast.

To head to the beach from here just take bus R1 from Av. Tulum (next to bus station) on the near side of the road. Once you are near the package tour hotels you will see the bus stands have numbers. This is because package tourists are stupid. I would recommend getting off at stop 17 and going to the beach next to the Hilton as there is a large gap of nice sand and hopefully you might get a bit without too many over-weight gringos looking for the Imported US Steak House.

Playa Del Carmen

OK, I thought that Cancun was bad for hoardes of package gringos, but this place is just as bad. One of the only cheap places is appropriately named Las Ruinas - we negotiated down to $180 for fan double with bath. Dirty, small, hot room and nothing to recommend it. In fact, unless you really really need a t-shirt that says 'Beer Drinking Machine' there is nothing to do here - there are just streets filled with junk for tourists and pushy sales people trying to stop you in the street - this isn´t the Mexico I know and enjoy. Also, the beach is crowded and dirty, the restaurants play '80s pop. We came here to dive, but will go to Cozumel as it can´t be worse than here. 'Nuff said. New town tomorrow.



Chichen Itza

We didn´t stay here, but it is worth going. When we first arrived there were lots of large people wearing bikinis - reverse culture shock for me. But most of these stay around the main pyramid. By the mid afternoon most of the tours had left for Cancun and the place was almost deserted. They have free storage for your packs and the last buses to either Cancun or Merida are 2nd class and leave at 5:30 - 1st class go an hour earlier from memory. In summery, I would recommend visiting but avoiding the middle of the day when the crowds roll in.

Angel fish seen diving off Cozumel, Mexico

Cozumel

We knew Cozumel was going to be expensive compared to much of Mexico, and it is. But once you get of the water-front roads and away from the plaza you can do things on a budget.

We stayed at the Posada Letty, run by a nice family who take care of the rooms, which are kept nice and clean. Large fan-cooled doubles with wooden slats on the netted windows (no glass) work extremely well at getting a nice sea breeze through while keeping the room private and secure. The rooms have large bathrooms, and are good value (very good for the island I suspect) at $250.

Our favourite restaurant is the brand-new Sabores, which just does breakfast and lunch Monday to Friday in a palm-shaded garden. It is run by a woman whose husband recently died and the neighbours are all helping her out. They do amazing 2 course lunches for $45 to $50 - my favourite was (huge) stuffed chicken breast with rice, salad and beans with the cream of vegetable soup for a starter. It is at 316 5a Ave. Sur.

Diving was obviously the reason we went to Cozumel and it is very good. After spending an afternoon walking the dive shops I settled on Blue Bubble, and was glad I did. Dives are limited to a maximum of 8 people, but no more than 4 per group plus divemaster. All the staff are excellent and they are doing some of the best rates in town at the moment at US$60 including all gear (hidden cost at most other places), park fees, etc. . . . They are on Calle 3 Sur No. 33, happily just around the corner from Sabores. Some dive operations pack their boats with dozens of people for similar rates ( eg Dive Paradise). All the other people I dived with had been diving with Blue Bubble for years and say it is the best in town.

If you are stuck for something to do in the evening without punishing your liver further the Cineopolis south of town is a good cinema with English-language movies.