By: Susan Gerle

I have spent many years traveling and living in Mexico, especially in Puerto Vallarta. Recently I stayed in an all-inclusive resort for the first time. It was also my first experience getting robbed.

99% of the staff at the resorts are as honest as I am. There is always the 1% though that can’t be trusted. I personally feel the reason for robbery in an all-inclusive resort is the huge monetary distance between the staff and the customers. Most servers and housekeepers are averaging $5 to $6 per day in wages in Puerto Vallarta. In order to feed their families, it requires extra income from some source. The honest ones work 2 and 3 jobs. The thieves find robbing vacationers an easier way to make extra.

How to Avoid Being Robbed

  • Use the safe
  • All-inclusive hotels should have a safe in each room. Make sure you lock up your valuables and your not so valuable items. I left a couple of pieces of Mexican jewelry lying in the bathroom that went missing. I imagine the items were easily resold. The camera that was sitting on the table went missing too, yet the charger that was in the suitcase was still there. Obviously it was a “line of sight” grab.

  • Lock the patio doors
  • Most all-inclusive resorts have balconies. Check and see if your balcony is easily accessible to the one next door and keep it locked. We figured that someone possibly came into the room next door, climbed over the balcony, and then left through our door.

  • Make sure you lock your door
  • Hotel security can check the computer and determine who has accessed the room and at what time. Every staff in housekeeping has an employee card that registers on the computer. Every time you enter the room it is recorded. If the door isn’t quite latched when you leave it won’t register on the computer.

  • Immediately report to security
  • If your door isn’t latched when you return, have a look around and then report to security. Even if something isn’t missing at the time, the thieves may be planning a heist.

  • Let the tour company representative know right away
  • If you traveled down on a vacation package, let that person know immediately so they are aware and can help you with the paperwork if necessary.

  • Check your insurance policy before you leave home
  • It’s a good idea to know what you are and aren’t covered for before you leave home. For instance, if you have just purchased you camera on a major credit card, it may be covered by the credit card company.

    It’s a nuisance if you are robbed because there is lots of paperwork to do. The hotel security will check your room out thoroughly. Don’t expect any compensation from the hotel though because they really believe in personal responsibility. That doesn’t mean they won’t be sympathetic. It just means they look at things differently.

    If they happen to catch the culprit though they will definitely take care of the problem and in a much harsher way than in other North American countries.

How To Avoid Being Ripped Off

Many people who visit Mexico end up buying souvenirs to take home. Because silver is such a popular souvenir, be conscious of what to watch for.

  • Shiny silver – is it real?
  • One of the easiest way to avoid being ripped off is to have a small magnet with you if you plan to buy silver. If there is the amount of silver in the product that a vendor says there is (.925), the magnet won’t work.

  • Licensed Vendor?
  • In Puerto Vallarta Mexico the beach vendors have to be licensed. They will be dressed in white and have their license visible usually. They are required to be honest about the silver content in the jewelry.

  • Negotiate, even in the stores
  • The price that the vendors start with is usually 40% higher than what you should be able to get the item for. For example, if they ask for $50 USD, offer them $20. You will probably get the item for around $30 or sometimes even cheaper, but it may take time. If there are lots of tourists around it will be harder to negotiate.

    The first sale of the day is the most important one for the vendors. The deals won’t be as good in a retail outlet but there is room for negotiation.

  • Keep the item in sight while you get your money out
  • Most of the vendors I’ve dealt with are very honest but occasionally there will be one that isn’t. Keep an eye on the items you are purchasing so what you get hasn’t been changed.

  • Know your numbers if you are dealing in pesos
  • If you aren’t totally sure about the amount the item is being offered for in pesos, you could end up paying more than the item is worth.

  • Have fun but be respectful
  • Try to remember that the vendors are making very little compared to what we are used to making in our country for doing the same job.