Exploring Cancun, Mexico For Long Stays And As A Remote Office

Let’s go to Cancun!

Was what I told my wife after I became tired of just researching where to work remotely as a location independent travel agent.

“We never had the vacation we wanted last Christmas holidays, so why not do it after, when the prices are more reasonable?”

That’s what I said after showing her that airfare to Cancun, Mexico from Toronto dropped to about $400 against more than $1,200 during the holiday seasons.

She finally relented and I booked our flights before she can even change her mind.

I am freakin’ desperate; desperate to get out of the winters of Canada and desperate to find out if Cancun can be a replacement to the Philippines to become my home – our home, to while the winter away as a location independent travel agent.

As I explained in my last post, I’m hoping to find a Filipino in the city to: (1) To make it a bit easier for me to adapt in the city and (2) To help me find some Filipino contacts in Cancun who I can hire as remote worker or freelancer so I don’t have to worry about employment visas.

But even if that issue will not satisfy my requirement, it’s still a go for me to Cancun!

budget Cancun bed and breakfastAnyway, after I have bought the airline tickets for our stay there, I also booked a reservation at a bed and breakfast in Cancun that I found on the internet – Los Caracoles B&B.

The lady who owns the place, Martha, asked for $50 reservation via Paypal as goodwill and the balance to be paid when in Cancun.

The rate she quoted me was $51/night for 3 persons and $28/night for solo person. Our booking was supposed to be 3 nights for 3 persons and then 10 nights for single occupancy because my family will be with me for the first 3 nights and I will be left behind on the remaining ten.

(Please note that the bed & breakfast have different rates for different season. Visit their rates info for more.)

But, three days before we left, a cousin of my wife who is working for Westin, got concerned about our safety and wanted us to stay in a Westin resort in Cancun instead. So instead of the original booking I negotiated with Martha, some days of our stay were at the Cancun Westin Regina.

I think they read too much and believe what the media in Canada report about Canadians getting hurt or killed in Mexico. I don’t blame them or the media for doing their job, but to me, they should have thought how we were pictured in the Philippines before. The media reports about trouble in the Philippines were always exaggerated and does not really affect the general population.

Anyway, since her cousin offered us a gift free accommodation at Westin in Cancun, I agreed although I told my wife that I’m not staying there when they leave me behind. I wanted to feel and experience a real Mexican environment and also practice my Spanish, so we agreed.

Setting foot in Mexico for the first time

living in Cancun as a local

Cancun hotel zone

The flight to Cancun took us more than 6 hours, including a layover in Miami. It could have been a shorter flight of less than 4 hours if I’ve booked it with Westjet or Air Canada but I feel so stupid not to have availed of the cheap flight to Cancun early in November, so.

As soon as we landed in Cancun, I had that wonderful feeling of relief that I’m seeing “green” and feeling the warm weather again. The city, even when you see it up in the air, is lush with plants and trees. That’s why even if it is over 27C that day, the breeze brought some freshness on the surroundings.

Compared to when I land in Manila, the airport of Cancun looks more organized even if its obviously a high traffic gateway. It was lean season when we arrived but still you will notice a lot of visitors arriving.

We didn’t have any trouble at all passing through immigration and customs. It’s just kinda new to me that upon exiting the customs area (which is the last step before being officially in Mexican land) that we have to go through another baggage xray screening again and we have to press a button at the final exit. I learned later from Martha that the button was for the random check of luggages kind of thing.

public beach Playa Delfines in Cancun, Mexico

Playa Delfines Cancun

When you press the button and the light turns red, the customs officer will have to check your luggages. And if the light turns green but there is something suspicious on the luggage when xrayed, the customs officer have the option to check your luggages also.

Afterwhich, we walked to the exit. As instructed by Martha, who will pick us up, we went to the left side of the airport exit where residents of Cancun are picked-up.

This is also the drop-off for departing passengers. It is also here that the free shuttle to other terminals is located.

If you go straight upon exit, all that will greet you are hotel representatives, car rental representatives and so forth – all offering you their services.

Anyway. So, Martha drove us to her Cancun bed and breakfast accomodation, because we will stay there for the night. It is located in a nice Cancun neighborhood which, for me, looks upscale – surrounded by a couple of small but beautiful parks.

The inside of the house is nicely kept and there are 3 bedroom upstairs, one of which will be where we will sleep.

iguanas are very common in cancun, mexico

Cancun Iguana

We arrived very tired that afternoon and although it is just only a couple of hours flight, we were not able to get a good sleep the night prior. It’s a good thing Martha and David (her husband) is so accommodating that they drove us to a nice eatery before we went to bed.

Next day, David and Martha drove us to Westin Cancun Spa Regina for our reservation. And this hotel will be our home for the next 3 nights in Cancun.

Westin Regina Cancun Resort and Spa is a nice hotel, located along the Zona Hotelera but almost at the end of Blvd. Kukulkan, the way to the airport. We were given a beachfront room but not beach level. Nothing fancy, just like any other regular hotel room we’ve tried but this is the first time we wake up to see and hear the ocean lapping on the beach.

The Caribbean Sea fronting us has been very rough since we arrived, with waves sometimes as high as 3 feet – so everytime we go for a swim, we’d always walk Southwards where there is a barrier to break the waves a bit.

I feel really glad that we took a vacation as a family, although I intentionally want us to stay in a Mexican bed and breakfast, being close to the ocean for a change is also a great experience.

Is it safe to go around in Cancun, Mexico?

One of the things that is really annoying are cautionary words from people who had been to Cancun but only stayed in their all-inclusive resorts the whole time.

They kept telling my wife not to go to such and such places because it’s dangerous, which confused her to the point of almost backing-out from our trip.

turquoise green waters of the caribbean in cancun, mexico

Caribbean Mexico beach

Sure there are dangers in Cancun, but what city in the world doesn’t? How is Cancun’s environment of safety different from that in Manila where we grew up and lived half of our lives?

For me, as long as you stay away from criminal characters and away from problem areas, everything will be fine. For example, if you like to party and are a night person, go out with someone familiar of the place (preferably a street smart person) or just don’t drink too much or stay too late in bars. Coming out too drunk from a bar or staying too late might spell trouble if you are not very familiar with a place.

It only takes common sense to be able to do those. Why let perceived safety issues stop you from enjoying?

To sample how the reality of interacting with locals in Mexico is, I ask my wife to go around the main city, away from her “perceived” safety of the Zona Hotelera. What I did was, I dragged them to Mercado 28 to take a look at what the flea market has to offer.

We just went around the market to look at products, without any real intention to buy, but I was just watching my wife’s reaction whenever a storekeeper ask us to look inside their store. “Mira” or look inside was the usual invite. “No, gracias” was our usual response. No one was really forcing us to go inside. It was just a typical market that we’re used to in the old days of our Hong Kong trips back then. We even had lunch at a local restaurant in the market.

It just goes to show that this is the best gauge of showing how the locals will treat us. We don’t speak Spanish, so they know that we’re not from Cancun or from Mexico.

But, Mercado 28 is also frequented by adventurist tourists coming from the Hotel Zone and some young backpackers living around the Centro. The real test, though, was when my family went back to Toronto and I was left behind. I took the path less traveled by foreigners and frequented the places where average Mexicans go – their parks, markets and hangout places.

And I would say, I don’t felt at all threatened. In fact, I made friends with others outside of the Cancun bed and breakfast already – like those guys offering cheap hostel stays at Cancun Centro.

And so, now, I am still exploring Cancun, specially during the daylight going about farther West. I am presently searching for the best spot to locate for my future long-stays in Cancun and I feel that I will find it soon. If not, when I come back, I would either stay a few days at the Los Caracoles bed and breakfast or crash at the place of my new found friend, while continuing searching for my own in Cancun, Mexico.

I think I just found my other tropical home and office besides the Philippines and I like it here as well. It’s a lot closer to my home in Canada and I plan to winter here until such time my wife is ready to retire in the Philippines.

In the following posts, I’m going to write about the places I visited around Cancun and how to get there for cheap if you’re on a travel budget.

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Where Is It Better To Locate – Cancun Or Medellin?

I mentioned in my last post that I will explore the possibility of taking our work with us somewhere in Latin America to prove to ourselves that it is possible to become location independent as travel agents.

The city that we, or I rather, were setting my sights on was either Mexico or Colombia – proximity to Canada and no significant time difference being major factors considered.

When I started my research, I was originally searching for the presence of any Filipino community in both countries, in any city, because by knowing a fellow overseas Filipino worker living like a local in a target destination, will make the adaptability easier because you don’t have to rush into learning the local language because a kababayan can somehow be a source of assistance.

explore cancun as location independent place for remote work

photo cancunmap.com

And also, another reason I was looking for a fellow Pinoy is because, if ever I find setting a remote office in Latin America feasible, I would like to hire a local who can speak Filipino. That way, I don’t have to worry about visa requirements and other stuff to make working in the country legal. All I have to concern myself with is training the person.

Anyway, my search for a Pinoy community is fruitless. But this does not discourage me from continuing with my objective of setting-up a remote office while snowbirding in either Mexico or Colombia.

I don’t want to wait and dilly dally much longer, so I decided to just choose where to locate. And this are the steps I took:

1) I already have in mind some places I wanted to locate in and this were Cancun in Mexico or Medellin in Colombia.

I was already researching those two places for quite a while, so I pretty much have an idea what to expect. But of course it’s different when you actually set foot in a place so, I have to plan where to go first.

2) The second step I did was to find out where the airfare was cheaper between the two cities. From Toronto, in the lean days of January, the airfare going to Cancun is about $400 while to Medellin it is around $800.

That is based on 90 days of stay for both. I made the airfare search in November and during that period, there was a straight flight to Cancun from Toronto with Air Canada, but I did not decide to buy it immediately, so when the time came for me to purchase, that straight flight is much more expensive already. Lesson learned. On this particular issue, Cancun is the clear winner.

3) Next, I searched for and compared some bed and breakfast or homestays places in both cities – price wise.

Why I chose to stay in a bed and breakfast accommodation instead of hostels where most backpacking travelers frequent? Mainly because I like the element of being in a local’s house, where immersing in the culture and language of the country is a big part of the adventure.

More specially so because I’d like to learn and practice Spanish, a language most Filipinos are familiar with but was forgotten because it was taken for granted by the Philippine government and removed from the school curriculum completely.

Another factor that made me lean towards a bed and breakfast is the fact that most who stay in hostels are very young travelers. They party a lot in their dormitories or rooms that you might be sharing with them. They usually go back to their own beds all drunk and noisy, which may rouse me from sleep – and I didn’t want that. Because when my sleep was interrupted, I will have a very hard time going back to rest.

I guess the point here is that, I’m not a hostel age anymore. LOL.

Anyway, when I compared accommodation in both cities, I found that the price is the same for both, about $30/night, but there are more bed and breakfast accommodation choices in Cancun than Medellin. So, I also chose Cancun there.

Sources: http://www.bedandbreakfast.com, http://www.bedandbreakfastworld.com. Don’t use Trip Advisor on your search. The website have too many annoying pop-ups that will only slow your computer down.

Cost of food and other necessities and summary

It is difficult to compare the cost of food in both cities if you are not actually there yourself. That’s what I think.

So, I totally skipped this part and just decided to take note of my everyday expenses when I’m actually present in either of those cities.

In summary, I decided to go to Cancun to explore over Medellin, mainly because using the airfare and accommodation factors, I think I will be able to save on expenses in Cancun, considering the cost of airfare.

I am intending to stay in Cancun for two weeks for this exploratory objective. If I find the city satisfactory to my objective, I might skip going to Medellin altogether. Meanwhile, let me get ready for my next adventure and will post the result of my research here.

Tell me what you think.

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