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Tourist Trap: Beach Scammers in Yucatan, México (Story Time)

Updated: Jul 4

One of the downsides of living abroad is constantly being mistaken for a tourist. It is one of my biggest pet peeves and makes me realize just how bad people are being taken advantage of. It really grinds my gears if we're being completely honest, but it just comes with the territory as an expat.

Living in Mérida was done intentionally to be in a city away from the tourist traps and closer to the beach. The thing is depending on which beach you go to you will still find predators ready to prey on tourists that don't know any better. There are plenty of different beaches near Mérida, but for the first trip I decided to go to the one closest to the city, Playa Puerto Progreso. This is also the most touristy beach in the area.

Progreso City sign
Progreso City Sign (2022)

As for me, I knew what things cost in México because I purposely lived away from the main areas and saw what people are actually paying. For example, at a restaurant along Playa Puerto Progreso you can get an order of 3 tacos for $210 pesos (~10.50 USD). I get those same tacos (probably better if we're being honest) for $45 pesos (~2.255 USD) on the street. You see the difference?

Now that we have some context let's get into this story time.

When you arrive at this beach you are immediately bombarded with people trying to get you to come to their "free" tables. Notice the word free is in quotations. A tourist trap once again because ain't shit free. Let me explain...

Along the beach there are tables with chairs and umbrellas that people will say are "free". The thing is, it's not. If you want to use the tables, chairs, umbrellas, etc. you have to order food or drinks from their menu OR pay the rental fee. If you plan to get food or drinks while enjoying the beach it works out, but there is a catch... When walking along the beach I got proposals for rental fees anywhere between $150 to $300 pesos ($7.50 to $15 USD). You can also completely opt out and just spread out along the sand with a towel, tent, or your own umbrella which a lot of people were doing.

I already knew there were going to be taxing and wanted to eat at an actual restaurant along the beach for dinner so I went a few blocks in town to get some tacos and then came back to enjoy the beach. Less than five blocks from the beach the prices were way more reasonable. I got two tacos for $30 pesos and drank water I brought from home. These folks won't get me..... or will they 🙄

After being harassed by everybody along the beach trying to fill their tables I finally decided on a table with reasonable-ish menu prices and a low rental fee just in case. I ordered a beer and then went on to enjoy the beach. A few hours later I ordered the cheapest thing on the menu (rice and plantain) to hold me over until my real seafood experience at another restaurant. Even this plate didn't match the price, but at that point I was willing to just take the L and move on so I asked for the bill...

That's when shit went left.

They charged me for the drink, food, AND the rental. I was bewildered. I immediately called the waiter to figure out exactly how they planned to explain this finesse attempt that was not going to happen. Long story short, he tried to tell me I didn't order enough and that was why I had to pay the rental fee. It was an absolutely fucking not for me.

Jash standing on the beach in México
📍 Playa Progreso in Yucatán, México

One thing I've learned over the years is to hide your money. When the waiter walked away, I discreetly took out the maximum amount I was willing to pay and tucked away the rest. As soon as people see money they'll try to get you for everything you got and I will not be got... more. For me, it's not about the money. It's the principle.

I don't care if it's two dollars. Don't lie to me. Don't try to play me. Don't try to hustle me. Just don't.

The bill was supposed to be $140 pesos (~7 USD), but for some wild reason they were trying to charge me $290 pesos (~14.50 USD). More than double like get all the way outta here. As a foreigner, I knew I was most likely going to have to take some kind of L, but it damn sure wasn't going to be double the price. The waiter was steadily trying to tell me how I didn't order enough food and I pulled out my elementary school Spanish to hit him with the MENTIR (to lie) over and over again. Try again, señor.

And what do you know? Now, he's lowered the price to $240 pesos (~12 USD). That's interesting. Another one.

$200 pesos (~10 USD). I'm just trying to figure out what kind of business this is because now you're just lowering the price after trying to argue with me? Interesting, very interesting. At that point I was over it and ready to pay the $200 pesos which was my mental maximum anyway. When I was getting ready to give the money I expressed my dissatisfaction and asked for the name of the restaurant. They gave me the name of the restaurant NEXT DOOR. My jaw was on the ground. I calmly told them to cut the shit and tell me the real name and they finally did. Do yourself a favor and stay away from El Ancla/El Angla by any means necessary. I got scammed, but you don't have to 😂

Being mistaken for a tourist is bound to happen when living abroad, but doing your research and being prepared to fight for a fare price can limit the damage. Sometimes you will just have to bite the bullet though...

After four months living and exploring in Mérida and surrounding cities I learned a lot about the ins and outs of the region. You can get all my insights in one place in my Mérida + Yucatán Cities Guide!

Have you ever gotten caught in a tourist trap? Let me know where you were and what happened in the comments!

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