Record number of counterfeit banknotes found despite new security

The Bank of México removed more than 80,000 fake 500-peso bills from circulation

A record number of counterfeit 500-peso banknotes was detected in the first half of the year despite the release in 2018 of a new bill with enhanced security features.

The central bank reported that 80,891 fake 500-peso notes were removed from circulation between January and June.

It is the highest number of counterfeit notes of any denomination that have been detected in a six-month period since 2015. The figure exceeds the total number of fake 500-peso notes that were withdrawn from circulation in the entirety of each of the past four years.

According to the Bank of México, 156,278 bogus banknotes were removed from circulation in the first half of 2019. The total value of the phony bills was 54 million pesos (US $2.8 million).

The fake 500-peso bills had a face value of 40.4 million pesos, or 75% of the total, and accounted for 52% of all notes withdrawn from circulation.

Among the counterfeit cash detected were fake versions of all three 500-peso notes: the inaugural bill featuring army general Ignacio Zaragoza, that with the countenances of renowned Mexican artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera – which first appeared in 2010 – and the new blue-colored note featuring former president Benito Juárez on one side and a gray whale on the other.

Released on August 27, 2018, the most recent 500-peso banknote features a range of security features including fluorescent ink, a dynamic thread, embossing perceptible by touch, a watermark and a multicolor denomination.

However, it wasn’t long before the first counterfeit versions of the note were detected.

In the first half of 2019, almost 57,000 counterfeit bills that were removed from circulation – 35% of the total – were detected in Mexico City.

Almost 17,000 fake notes were detected in México state, 9,442 were discovered in Jalisco and more than 7,000 were found in each of Puebla and Nuevo León.

Bank of México reports indicate that forged banknotes are most commonly produced using inkjet or laser printers.

Source: Milenio (sp) 

Mexico Travel Dos and Don’ts

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Don’t Overpack

You can leave expensive jewelry and other valuables behind, and try to pack light—it makes things much easier at the airport and getting to your accommodations once you’ve reached your destination. Check out the weather in Mexico for a general idea on what you can expect for the time of year you’re visiting, and do a search to see what weather you can expect, so you bring the appropriate clothing.

SEE ALL HERE

SHOULD YOU TIP AT AN ALL-INCLUSIVE HOLIDAY RESORT?

‘In America the law colludes with the business model of restaurateurs who find it much easier to leave the tiresome business of paying staff to customers’

Simon CalderTravel Correspondent  

When in Mexico, do as the North Americans do. That’s the advice on tipping in all-inclusive resorts on the Riviera Maya from “Timbuktu Timmy”, who hands over a dollar for each all-inclusive drink. “Not because I necessarily want to or think it’s deserved,” he says, “but just to get served, as otherwise you get ignored whilst all the Americans and Canadians are served around you.”

I’m not a fan of all-inclusive resorts. They seem to me to deprive holidaymakers of one of the joys of travel: discovering great local places to eat and drink. And while “AI” resorts generate plenty of jobs, they deplete the ability of locally run enterprises to flourish by catering for visitors.

But British holidaymakers are keener than ever to cling to the umbilical of unlimited burgers and booze. According to Abta, the travel association: “Almost a quarter of people (23 per cent) are thinking of taking an all-inclusive holiday in 2018.” That’s up from 18 per cent two years ago. At that rate, all-inclusives will be in the majority within six years.

One of those AI newcomers asked me: “What is the correct tipping etiquette in an all-inclusive hotel in Mexico?” As it is not a specialist subject, I sought opinions on social media.

Melissa Smith says: “In AI resorts we tip for good, friendly service throughout the holiday – this helps a lot if it’s a particularly busy resort – and at the end of our stay.”

North of the Rio Grande, though, things get more serious. At Walt Disney World, warns Stewart Armstrong: “On the ‘free’ dining plan you’re still meant to tip 18-20 per cent on what would be the original value of the meal.”

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Is Mexico safe? Experts say yes, despite isolated attacks on tourists

Even with recent news of violent attacks against tourists in parts of Mexico, some travel experts say Canadians shouldn’t dismiss an entire country due to some events.

“Those travel warnings are broad in a sense and not for all of Mexico,” says travel expert Barry Choi of Toronto. These incidents are very, very isolated and it doesn’t make sense to block off an entire country.”

READ MORE: Alberta man carjacked, abducted in Mexico offers harrowing warning for Canadians

Travel advisories

“People are afraid when they hear about violence and crime, but think about how many people travel there and how safe people are. It’s just like people who are scared to fly,” he tells Global News.

Last week, Canada issued a travel warning for Playa del Carmen after a ferry explosion, cautioning Canadians to avoid tour ferries and travelling to the region until further notice.

READ MORE: ‘I will never go to Mexico again’: Ontario man claims he was attacked, robbed in Playa Del Carmen

According to the government’s latest advisory board, Canadians should exercise a high degree of caution in some parts of the country due to crime, protests and occasional illegal roadblocks, as well as an ongoing warning for Playa del Carmen.

The government is warning against non-essential travel to Mexico’s Northern and Western states due to the high levels of violence and organized crime.

Recent headlines

Since the news of a Calgary man dying in a Mexican hospital in February and the ferry explosion later that month, there have been several incidents involving Canadian tourists.

Recently, an Ontario man claimed he was attacked, robbed and left for dead in Playa Del Carmen after hopping into a cab to go back to his hotel at night. And on Thursday, an Edmonton man, who has been an on-and-off tourist to the country for 50 years, said he was carjacked and abducted.

Peter Grosser, a travel agent of Escapism Travel, based in Burlington Ont., recently came back from Mexico and says he never felt unsafe there.

“I’ve been travelling to Mexico two to three times a year for 25 years,” he tells Global News. “I am very cautious about safety and I always found it safe enough to take my family.”

Like Choi, Grosser says when we hear about acts of violence, we have to consider how often it happens and where.

“It’s an over-generalization. [People] take one incident from one part of the country and don’t fully understand the geography of Mexico and how large the country is,” he says. “No country is completely 100 per cent safe. You need to take that into consideration.”

He says lately, he does have people come into his business and ask for sunny beaches or all-inclusive resorts, but steer clear from Mexico due to the news.

“They have this predetermined decision and they don’t feel comfortable,” he says, adding as an agent, it is his job to ensure his customers feel safe wherever they go.

And although, according to his research, most resorts in Mexico continue to be fully booked and agents in his network don’t see trends in price reductions or discounts for travel, Grosser says it’s unfair to avoid hot spots that don’t have any warnings just because of some incidences in other parts of the country.

He says while the local hotel industry in Mexico is also aware of the fear, the industry will do anything to keep their tourist dollars coming in — tourism continues to be one of country’s largest markets.

“It’s a matter of using common sense and not putting yourself into situations [where] you become vulnerable,” he continues. “Sometimes when we’re on vacation we let our guard down a little bit and do things we would never do here, not clearly thinking of what we’re doing. There is no problem going out and experiencing the culture, nightlife or restaurants, but just be vigilant and use common sense.”

Safety while travelling

Choi says there are general rules all tourists should follow if they end up travelling to Mexico or other countries with isolated events.

“You always gotta think about your personal safety,” he says. “I would never flag down a random cab in certain countries, the locals will tell you the same thing. If you need a cab, book it through your hotel or through a local cab company.”

READ MORE: Canada issues travel warning for Playa del Carmen, Mexico after ferry explosion

And although he doesn’t discourage tourists from using local buses or cabs, always talk to hotel management first. You can also do research on your own before you get there.

For excursions or activities, you can either book at the hotel or through a local company. While local vendors tend to be cheaper, Choi suggests doing the research online beforehand for the best recommendations.

“At the same time you don’t want to make yourself look like a target, don’t flash your money.”

arti.patel@globalnews.ca

Traveling Safely in Mexico

by Kitty Bean Yancey

Source

Ten tips to make your vacation a fiesta vs. a fiasco

En español | The image of Mexico as a dangerous country with a drug cartel on every corner is far from the truth. The government puts a priority on making tourist areas safe. Still, it’s never a bad idea to take a few precautions — before you leave and while you’re traveling — to minimize the chances of something going wrong.

1. Choose your destination carefully

Drug runners, carjackers and kidnappers are active in a number of areas, which caused a spike in 2016 homicides and prompted the U.S. State Department to issue a travel warning for certain locales. (Get the latest updates at travel.state.gov.) When it comes to personal security, there’s a world of difference between, say, Acapulco (which U.S. government employees may now visit only on official business) and Cancun’s well-secured hotel zone. Typically, areas such as the Riviera Maya south of Cancun — as well as inland cities popular with Americans, including San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato and San Cristóbal de las Casas — are considered low risk. The tourist areas of Cabo San Lucas in Baja California also belong in this category.

2. If you’re a trepidatious traveler, consider an all-inclusive resort or a cruise

In addition to having a single fee cover all your meals, most alcoholic beverages and most activities, all-inclusives typically allow only guests and employees inside a gated area. And cruise ships generally call at well-guarded ports.

3. Think twice about renting a car

Driving can be risky in Mexico. It’s possible to be stopped by police demanding bribes, slangily called mordidas (Spanish for “bites”). If that happens and you don’t want to pay, act as if you don’t understand. Alternatively, politely ask to follow the officers to the police station. Chances are, they’ll move on to another victim. The State Department strongly recommends buying auto insurance in Mexico that includes bail. If you’re involved in a serious car accident, both drivers can be detained — and even jailed — until fault is determined. Also, most experts advise against driving at night, given the greater chance of robbery, carjacking or hitting an animal (or even a person) on a dark road.

4. Monitor what you eat and drink

Whether it’s the mild inconvenience of turista (traveler’s diarrhea) or a more serious case of food poisoning, no one wants to spend their vacation in the bathroom. To head this off, drink only water that you know has been filtered or purified. Water in a bottle with an unbroken seal is safest.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises eating food that is cooked and served hot. That means you should avoid salads or uncooked vegetables, which could have been rinsed in contaminated water or prepared by someone who didn’t properly wash their hands. It’s not a bad idea to stick to fruit you peel (such as bananas). Avoid ice unless you’re sure it was made from filtered water. Wash your hands often, or pack some hand sanitizer.

To stave off the effects of contaminated food or drink, the CDC advises Mexico travelers to get a hepatitis A vaccine. It also suggests a typhoid vaccine, especially for adventurous eaters and those traveling to small cities or rural areas. Bring an over-the-counter antidiarrheal medicine. Savvy travelers should also carry an antibiotic, such as Cipro, to treat a debilitating bacterial attack. And if you do get sick, take care to stay hydrated in order to avoid hospitalization and possible IV treatment.

5. Bring more cash than you think you’ll need

Should you require emergency medical attention, it’s not unusual for a doctor or a hospital to demand payment in cash. The peso is the official currency, but U.S. dollars are often accepted.

6. Leave the bling at home

Flaunting costly watches and jewelry is an invitation to be relieved of them.

7. Be cautious of cabbies

Try to use only taxis that are official. If in doubt, ask a front desk staffer at your hotel to call a cab or have a restaurant call one. Before you get in the vehicle, ask how much the trip will cost; again, hotel and restaurant staffers should be able to give you an estimate. Cabs aren’t always metered, so if a quoted fare strikes you as unreasonable, bargaining is worth a try.

8. Don’t leave valuables in your hotel room

This is a good rule of thumb no matter where you travel, but with poverty rife in Mexico, iPads, diamond earrings and pricey headphones make tempting targets. And, of course, always stash your passport in your hotel’s safe (room or front desk).

9. Pack a copy of your passport and credit cards

Keep tabs on credit- and debit-card transactions; fraudulent charges or withdrawals can be a problem, the State Department reports. Learn the location of the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate beforehand in the event that you need help.

10. Don’t let tequila drown your judgment

Keep your wits about you. Never accept a drink from a stranger, and be wary of unsolicited attempts to befriend you. That said, be reassured that the overwhelming majority of Mexicans are friendly and hospitable to Americans — even in the wake of recent friction between the two governments. “Everyone we’ve encountered has been welcoming,” says Wisconsin native Laura Bly, who lives part of the year in San Miguel de Allende. So clap in time with every mariachi band — and enjoy your stay.

Travel writer Kitty Bean Yancey has been visiting Mexico for three decades.

Also of Interest

WHY TULUM DOESN’T DESERVE ITS BAD REPUTATION

The former holiday darling is getting more than its fair share of bad press recently – but it could be for the best, says Liz Dodd

Liz Dodd Monday 25 February 2019

I am lying on warm, white sand, at that perfect point when it has adjusted to fit me like memory foam, listening to the tide break near my feet. Listening to the tide, and to the cluster of tourists standing behind me. “We can’t stay here,” one has just said. “This is awful.”

It feels like a war is being waged against Tulum, Mexico, by the same affluent bohemians who made it an aspirational destination in the first place. The short stretch of jungle and beach on the Caribbean coast, close enough to Cancun for convenience and far enough for its ugly resorts to be a distant memory, made its name as a hippy hangout in the Nineties. Surrounded by Mayan ruins, its quasi-mystical atmosphere turned the sleepy Mexican town into a meeting place for yogis and crystal-hoarding meditators of all varieties.

As with so many backpacker destinations – think anywhere on the “banana pancake trail” in southeast Asia – Tulum soon went mainstream. Now, people come to buy a week in paradise – which is where it starts to go wrong.

Recently, the beaches of Tulum have been overwhelmed by a kind of seaweed called sargassum. For a Brit used to the pebble beaches of Brighton and Essex, it is really not that big a deal: the sea is tinged a light red, and you have to wade through some weeds to get to clearer water.

“I thought that’s just what the sea looked like,” I told an incredulous American tourist when they wondered how I could bear a holiday in such intolerable conditions. But because of it tourism in the region has dropped by an astonishing 35 per cent: in desperation, richer resorts now pay locals to wheelbarrow it away from their pristine beachfronts. Some of the more enterprising locals have started building houses and hotels out of bricks made from the dried seaweed.

“Tulum goes from beach paradise to eco-nightmare,” a recent headline warned. The environmental impact of the tourist boom – seen in landfill overflow and water contamination – is undeniable, but is the solution really to abandon the region?

“Tulum goes from beach paradise to eco-nightmare,” a recent headline warned. The environmental impact of the tourist boom – seen in landfill overflow and water contamination – is undeniable, but is the solution really to abandon the region?

When I was there last, for a month in off-season (which runs late August-December, but is really any time outside the peak seasons of Christmas and mid-April), it was paradise. The beach road, a bumpy track that runs between the sea and the jungle, from Tulum town to the beach strip, was almost silent; you could walk into the hottest restaurants on a whim; hotels that usually charged $10-20 (£7.50-15) a day for a spot on the beach let me lounge all day for the price of a coffee or bowl of nachos. My twice-daily yoga classes were often one-on-one, held in an open walled shala set back in the jungle 20 paces from my bedroom. Including breakfast, this set me back £40 a night. Between classes I dived in cenotes – giant, cool, underwater pools and cave systems; one day I pottered up to the Mayan Clay Spa, and because it was 40 per cent off for low season, treated myself to a 90-minute massage that almost made me melt through the table. At night I dragged friends from my yoga classes to jungle raves; in the mornings we nagged our yoga teacher into leading us in restorative classes that always stretched long past the allocated hour and a half.

If you visit Tulum in high season the jungle road will roar with taxis, the beach loungers will be reserved, the restaurants heaving. But the playa will still have soul, because that is preserved in the noises from the jungle that startle you when you’re walking home at night; at the bottom of the dark cenotes when you explore them with a diving torch; when a yoga teacher you trust coaxes you into a pretzel-like pose you could never do at home.

Of course Tulum’s soul will evade you if you’re only in it for Instagram, or if a clump of seaweed can ruin your holiday. Hopefully a brief drop in tourism will give local businesses room to breathe and new pro-environment policies a chance to have an impact. If high season becomes the new low season, the backlash against Tulum could be the best thing to happen to it.

Eat

It’s a bit of a walk to Charly’s Vegan Tacos but well worth it: the Chicharron Prensado tacos, crackling with pepper sauce and garlic aioli, are out of this world.

Drink

The noisy and enjoyably un-hip Ice Cream Bar serves michelada – glasses of beer seasoned with hot sauce and lime – and generously filled $2-$3 tacos

Stay

Yoga Shala is one of the cheapest places to stay on the playa, offers twice-daily yoga classes and a range of accommodation. Double with shared bathroom from £45, B&B.

At the luxe end, Dos Ceibas offers a genuinely eco-friendly stay. Entirely solar-powered, it sources its own water from a well to avoid contributing to traffic, and strives for zero-waste. Doubles from £180.

Getting there

British Airways flies to Cancun from £362 return. Tulum is two hours’ drive away.

 

 

 

Mexico Vacations: 10 Things to Know Before You Take Off

More Americans visit Mexico more than any other international destination, and Canadians are not far behind. It’s no surprise seeing as this country boasts sunny skies, clear warm waters, beautiful weather and a slew of resorts and activities to choose from. In order to make your trip to Mexico a little more enjoyable, there are a few things you should know before taking off. Here are 10 of our best suggestions on how to make the most out of your vacation to the beautiful country of Mexico.

10. Tequila is NOT the only Drink of Choice

We get it, when you travel to Mexico you are going to drink Tequila, and probably a lot of it. But that is not the only choice in this awesome country. Before the fire of tequila there was another beverage fermented from agave nectar: pulque. This ancient liquor has been making a comeback in recent years and those familiar with the drink tell you that it won’t get you intoxicated, well not exactly. While you can sit there and drink pulque for hours, chances are your legs won’t want to work when you get up, but your mind will be clear. Mezcal is another alternative to tequila, a cousin to the popular drink and is meant to be sipped, straight up. Acolytes claim that is a much purer tipple than tequila and that it never betrays you with a hangover, however its up to you to test that theory.

9. You Have to Pay to Leave

The Mexico departure tax is overwhelmingly complicated, thanks to a lack of information available regarding it. Our best advice, make sure you keep at least 900 Mexican Pesos on hand when you arrive at the airport. Depending on whether you drive or fly in, depends on who asks for your money. Some airlines include the departure tax in their ticket price, some don’t. It is possible to go to any bank before you depart and pay the tax, just show them your tourist card, essentially a visa that allowed you into the country and they will give you a receipt to show the border officials when you leave. Yes, you have to pay to leave, or as others would say, you have to pay to get in. Either way, keep 900 Pesos handy and you’ll be just fine.

8. Don’t Drink the Water

As a general rule, stay away from all tap water in Mexico. It’s pretty simple actually considering locals themselves find the idea of drinking the tap water repulsive. The water is indeed purified at the source but it’s the distribution system that allows the water to be contaminated en route to the tap. Most Mexicans buy water in five gallon jugs called garrafones which are delivered to their homes and recycled. If you are staying at a hotel they should be providing bottled water or large jugs of purified water for you to refill your bottle. This goes for brushing your teeth as well, make sure you are using the purified water. And don’t forget about the ice cubes that are put into your drink at the restaurants, we suggest asking for any drink “without ice” or inquiring if the cubes are made from tap water or purified water.

7. Learn some Española

It is always a good idea to learn the local language when you travel, always. It is no different when you are traveling to Mexico, especially if you are planning on traveling around the country. With the availability of free language programs available, there is no real excuse for not knowing simple phrases. A couple key phrases include dónde está el baño (where is the bathroom), una cerveza porfavor (one beer please), and gracias (thank you). Make sure you have google translate enabled on your phone or have a phrase book handy in order to connect with the locals. Before you know it you will be speaking Spanish to everyone you come across.

6. There is More to Mexico Than the Drug Cartel, But it is Still Dangerous

Like the title suggests, this country is not all drug cartels and smuggling operations. But there are drug groups openly battling law enforcements as well as each other in certain parts of Mexico. And the number of tourists murdered here has risen in the past few years. But that doesn’t mean you have to stay away from this country all together, traveling here can be safe. It is recommended to read travel advisories before booking a trip here, as there are some undesirable states, especially near the U.S border. The good news is that the most popular tourist spots are deemed safe to visit. If there is one piece of advice to take with you when you travel to this country, it is to know what car you are getting into, and only get into registered taxis. Use common sense and stay in the safe tourist areas, don’t withdraw large amounts of money from the ATM and don’t wear a ton of jewelry if you are off of a resort.

5. Mexico is a Nature Lover’s Paradise

From the deserts of the north to the tropical forests of the Pacific to the feeding ground of the Sea or Cortez to the pine forests in the Mexican Central Plateau, this is one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world. Mexico is home to the second highest number of mammal species, more than a thousand species of birds and more reptile species than any other country. You know what this means? Visitors should expect to be blown away by nature here. The eastern perimeter of Michoacán state is home to 30 billion butterflies, the winter home of the Monarch butterflies. The mystical state of Chiapas is overflowing with brilliant shades of green and vertical jaw-dropping cliffs. The Caribbean coastline of the Yucatan is home to the 2nd largest barrier reef, littered with manatees, whale sharks and turtles. Copper Canyon, four times the size of the Grand Canyon stands in the heart of the Sierra Madre and offers breathtaking views and incredible adventure opportunities.

4. Buses are Safe…and Cheap

If you are planning on making your way around different parts of the country, we suggest hoping on a bus. Not only are they safe and cheap but they generally run on time. Hop on one of the executive or first class busses for a great experience that includes air condition, reclining seats and movies. These generally run on express routes and can take you from Cancun to Chichen Itza for under $20. Second class buses normally make more stops, perfect for those who are looking to make local stops. Buses here are a great way to avoid the touristy tours and sightsee independently.

3. Mexico is Loaded with UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Mexico has 28 cultural sites, 5 natural sites and one mixed site of UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites, more than any other country in the America’s. Chichen Itza is perhaps the most well-known of these sites and no one will argue that these ancient ruins are awe-inspiring, but there are so many more sites to discover in this country. The historic centre of Mexico City and Xochimilco is home to five Aztec temples, the largest cathedral on the continent and floating gardens. The islands in the Gulf of California are loaded with high cliffs, sandy beaches and brilliant turquoise waters. The Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is located on the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula and is home to tropical forests, mangroves and marshes, along with a large marine section, and is home to over 300 species of birds. The Monarch Butterfly Reserve is where the billions of butterflies call home in the wintertime and is located 100km northwest of Mexico City. There is so many natural wonders, ancient ruins and historic cities that deserve a visit when you are here.

2. Two Words: Linen and Cotton

It is HOT here. All the time. No matter when you come. Remember this. The humid climate and climbing temperatures are especially uncomfortable in the summer months. How you will stay cool in this country is by wearing natural fabrics such as linen and cotton, or your bathing suit- although we don’t suggest leaving the resort in just a swimsuit. Many locals will wear long pants made out of linen as it allows the body to breathe. Stay away from polyester. You can thank us later.

1. Mexico is a Foodie Lover’s Dream

We understand that everyone thinks Mexico and immediately thinks tacos, but come on people, that is clearly not the only food in this country! Mexican cuisine is indeed so good that UNESCO has put it on the cultural heritage list. Make sure to visit the stalls in the markets where you will find succulent dishes at ever turn, think meat with purple corn topped with avocado ice cream. It is a must to try mole when you visit Mexico and enjoy the rainbow sauce of bitter chocolate and spice that often accompanies it. Each region in this country is known for it’s own local specialties. In the Yucatan make sure you try the slow roasted pork with bitter orange marinade and lime soup, also called the cochinita pibil. And for dessert, one word- churro- a fried dough covered in sugar and cinnamon, found all over the country.