If you should be unlucky enough to suffer an illness or an accident while on holiday in the Lakeside area, don't worry. Lakeside practitioners can address most problems the traveler is likely to experience. If your problem is serious, doctors, clinics, and ambulance services can stabilize you and then direct you to excellent specialists and hospitals in Guadalajara. For unusual emergencies, air ambulance services can fly you to your home country, if necessary.
Can I drink the water? What about ice?
Without exception, the water you'll get in a Lakeside restaurant will be purified. Everyone drinks bottled water and you'll see huge water trucks making their daily rounds to households and businesses. Ice is made with purified water, too. Should you have chronic stomach upsets, always ask for agua en botella (bottled water) in restaurants, to be on the safe side. Shops sell small bottles of water for toting while you sightsee, so the availability of bottled water is not a problem here. What you must be careful to do is choose restaurants that observe good kitchen hygiene. In Mexico, the disinfecting of fruits and vegetables is left to the end user, while in northern North America the distributor performs this task. Individuals and restaurants must disinfect fruits and vegetables with a readily-available iodine-based solution for 20 minutes before eating or cooking. (This does not apply to thick-skinned fruits such as the banana, which can be peeled and eaten.) Until your stomach is fully acclimated, be wary of fondas (small eateries for the locals) taco wagons, or bars serving snacks, especially if you are sensitive or if this is your first trip south of the border.
I've Been Careful but I Still Have "Turista"!
The World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia says diarrhea is a normal by-product of travel. It should clear within 3 days, as long as the traveler does not take drugs to stop the body's normal flushing process (which only trap the unfamiliar germs inside the body.) During those two or three days drink plenty of fluids, especially fluids that replace electrolytes such as Gatorade or Pedialyte, a formula designed for babies available in every drug store. (Strawberry is the best flavor.) Incidentally, Mexicans, Central and South Americans go through their own process of stomach upset getting used to the northern North American "bugs" and foods. It works both ways.
Accessibility is limited in the four-hundred year old villages that make up the Northshore. The cobblestone streets with high curbs and narrow sidewalks can be treacherous for those on foot, as are tiny restrooms, doorways and circulation paths inside buildings for those using wheelchairs or carts. However in the last five years, there has been a trend to build ramps outside public buildings and into some restaurants. Ramps are in place on both the Ajijic and Chapala plazas.
If you are traveling with a pet that becomes injured or ill, you'll be able to find veterinary care in the Ajijic area with doctors who speak English and who have well-outfitted clinics.
Many drugs are available and often less expensive to buy in Mexican farmácias. There are pharmacies in nearly every neighborhood, including the giant Farmácia Guadalajara in Ajijic that offers standing 30% discounts on most drugs, as well as a chain of generic drugstores that can offer greater savings.
The peso is the basic monetary unit of Mexico. Each peso is divided into 100 centavos. Notes of 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 peso denominations are in common circulation, and there are coins of 10, 20, and 50 centavos as well as 1, 2, 5 and 10 pesos. A ten-peso note and a 20-peso coin were recently withdrawn from circulation, and a 5-centavo coin is rarely seen. Each coin is distinguished by size, metal and shape and each note is distinguished by size and color. In addition, each coin and note is clearly marked with its value shown in numbers. While centavo coins are given in change they are seldom required when paying for goods or services.
The Exchange Rate
The daily exchange rate is posted in a variety of places, and the exact rate varies among some of those places. For example, the rate quoted in most banks will be about the same, the rate quoted in the casas de cambio (literally "houses of change") may be a little higher. The rates quoted in shops that are willing to accept dollars will differ considerably from each other but will normally be lower than the bank rates, and the rates quoted in hotels will almost always be the lowest in the area.
The easiest way to keep the right amount of cash on hand when traveling is by using the 24 hour ATM machines found near every plaza, inside the Super Lake grocery store, at Farmacia Guadalajara and at the airport. Your card will dispense pesos from your home accounts. With few exceptions, this is a cash society. Credit cards are rarely accepted and changing travelers cheques tends to be problematic.
Internet cafes abound in the three main villages on the Northshore, Chapala, Ajijic, and Jocotepec. Internet service is available from Telmex, the country’s telephone company and from a private provider who offers a wireless service that doesn’t use telephone lines.
The cellular phone revolution has reached Mexico and five major companies offer cell phones and plans. The leader is Telcel, the cell phone arm of Telmex.
Shipping and Courier Services
DHL, UPS, and FedEx have pick up and delivery service along the Northshore. Estafeta ships reliably within Mexico. Global Delivery is also available.
One of the greatest advantages of this area is its proximity to the Miguel Hidalgo International Airport, a 25 minute drive away.
As Mexico’s second largest city, this sprawling city of 8 million offers everything you could want in the way of entertainment and shopping. Upscale malls support Guadalajara’s Hard Rock Café, multi-plex cinemas, and high fashion shoe and clothing stores. Such international stores as Wal-Mart, Costco, Sam’s Club, Office Depot, Home Depot, and Sears, are available as are the uniquely Mexican stores and markets. Guadalajara is home to the San Juan de Dios market (also called the Libertad), the third largest market in Latin America.