Spend Smart for a Safe and Enjoyable Visit
As Isla Mujeres is part of the United States of Mexico, the official currency on the island is the Mexican Peso. However, because it is a popular tourist destination, many establishments will accept the U.S. dollar. Since the exchange rate on the street won’t be as advantageous to you as in an official exchange house, you’ll get the best value by using Pesos during your trip to Isla Mujeres. Be sure to carry plenty of Pesos with you and familiarize yourself with their value.
Pesos bills are issued in the following denominations: 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500. Anything more than a 100 Peso bill will invite a great deal of scrutiny, and many establishments may refuse to accept them or may not have change for them. When exploring the island, carry smaller bills in abundance.
Although there is a bank on Isla Mujeres, HSBC, as well as a number of ATMs, you’ll receive the best exchange rate on the mainland. Whenever possible, exchange your currency before coming to the island. As of April 2009, the exchange rate was about 13 pesos to the dollar. Be sure to check the current exchange rate before your visit. The rate being offered may be a little less than the official rate, but it should be within the 5% range.
A good technique for remembering how the current local currency relates to the value of the U.S. dollar is to establish what the major denominations are worth. For example, at the current exchange rate, 100 Pesos equates to approximately $7.50. The 50 Peso bill is half that, and so forth. If you start your visit with these values fixed in your mind, it will help you when trying to perform conversions.
Although traveler’s checks are promoted widely for tourists, many local establishments will not accept them, and banks or exchange houses (cambios) may impose fees or hold the checks before exchanging them for cash. These conservative practices are the result of widespread counterfeiting of travelers checks, so you’re better off using cash or debit/credit cards.
Although debit and credit cards are widely accepted, there are a few guidelines you should keep in mind. First, you should call your bank before traveling abroad; let them know you’ll be visiting Mexico and provide them with your estimated travel dates. This should prevent your card from being suspended while you’re on the island. It’s wise to bring along several different cards, and keep at least one in a safe place in your hotel in the event that your wallet or purse is lost or stolen.
When you visit an ATM, be sure to keep your receipt as proof of the amount of the transaction. If your bank statement shows a different amount, you can use the receipt to contest it. If you have trouble with an ATM during your visit (such as not receiving the amount of cash you requested), let your bank know immediately so they can verify that your account reflects the proper withdrawal.