September 2004

September 29th, 2004

Mexico via the US – Part 2

Following yesterday’s story, BBC News Online report on all the kerfuffle created by the new entry procedures: US to fingerprint all UK visitors. They have also posted a useful Q & A piece.

Filed in Traveller's Tales

September 28th, 2004

Mexico via the US – Part 1

Many Europeans travelling to Mexico do so by first flying to the United States and from there catch a connecting flight to a regional airport in Mexico. From the end of this month, they will have their fingerprints and photos taken on entry into the US.

US Visit programmeOn 2 April the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it would extend US-VISIT arrival procedures to all passengers, including those from the 27 Visa Waiver Programme (VWP) countries – which include many European countries, Australia and Japan. This means that from Thursday 30 September, arriving passengers will have a digital photograph taken, and have inkless digital scans taken of their index fingers. Canadians will be the only foreign nationals able to enter the US without the new checks.

Delays at US gateway airports are not anticipated. The US-VISIT ‘flash-and-scan’ procedure will add an average 15 seconds onto the security screening process.

US Visit programmeAlso, from 26 October, anyone wishing to visit the USA (or in transit) must have either: 1. a Machine Readable Passport and a Visa Waiver form (obtained at the airport on departure) or 2. a valid visa which must be obtained before travel from the US authorities.

Note that if you want your child to travel with a Visa Waiver form, they must hold their own Machine Readable Passport.

The airlines appear to be trying hard to educate their customers about the new regulations and explanatory cards in different languages will also be distributed to in-flight passengers. British Midland has a particularly clear explanation of the new rules on its website.

You may also watch a video of the entry and exit process in English or other languages on the DHS website.

That’s not the end of it. After 26 October next year, travellers will be required to carry a biometric passport – containing an electronic scan of the fingerprint, iris, hand or face.

Disclaimer: I am not an expert in these things; the situation is complex and can change. Always consult ‘official’ sources such as your nearest US Embassy.

Filed in Traveller's Tales

September 24th, 2004

Behind the wheel

Guadalajara - Colima cuota / toll

Open road
Originally uploaded by Greenery

“For once”, Melanie Bateman tells me, “I was taking it easy being the passenger…”. This photo was taken on Monday, descending the Guadalajara to Colima toll road beyond Ciudad Guzman, Jalisco.

The main roads in Mexico are being upgraded all the time – the fact that I drove 24,716km through 17 Mexican states without ever suffering the indignity of a puncture is testament to this fact.

However, they do vary a bit: very good in Querétaro and Yucatán for example, poor in Guanajuato and Veracruz.

Toll roads are generally in excellent condition but are considered by many to be the among the most expensive in the world.

These “cuota” highways were planned alongside or near existing free roads (which often make an interesting detour), as Mexican law requires that there be a free, parallel alternative to each toll highway.

Most traffic (especially ‘muffler-less’ trucks) uses the congested, limited “libre” or free federal roads, dissuaded by the high tolls, placing less emphasis on timesaving than the toll roads’ engineers and developers had anticipated.

Filed in Getting about, Michoacán & Western Mexico

September 21st, 2004

King Pacal and the Red Queen

Mexico City’s Museo Nacional de Antropologia (National Museum of Anthropology) , one of the ten most important museums of its type in the world, celebrated its 40th birthday on 17 September.

Pacal's Burial MaskThere is really too much to take in during one visit, but don’t miss the newly re-opened Maya Rooms. Dave Pentecost’s excellent blog, The Daily Glyph, also reports that the jade masks of La Reina Roja (the Red Queen) and el Rey Pacal, ruler of Palenque, have been brought together for the first time in 1500 years in the Museum’s Rostros Mayas exhibition.

Pacal’s mask, incidentally, was once famously taken in an audacious heist in 1985.

Museo Nacional de Antropología, Paseo de la Reforma, Bosque de Chapultepec. Open: Tues-Sat 9:00am-7:00pm, Sun and holidays 10:00am-6:00pm. Entrance: 37 pesos. Poor website.

Filed in Archaeological Mexico, Palenque

September 20th, 2004

Justice for Kirsty Campaign update

The documentary “Who Killed Kirsty MacColl” will be screened on BBC4 this Friday 24th at 22:00. More on this story…

Filed in Uncategorized

September 15th, 2004

“Viva Mexico!”

Miguel Hidalgo, Museo de la Independencia, Dolores HidalgoMexico is celebrating the 194th anniversary of its independence from Spain.

Tonight, President Vicente Fox delivers the “grito” – or cry for independence – from the national palace.

But this year’s independence celebrations also mark the 150th anniversary of the Mexican National Anthem, interpreted for the first time on the night of September 15, 1854, during the last government of General Antonio López de Santa Anna.

Mexicans had been asked to stop what they were doing at noon today… and sing.

16 September is Independence Day and a national holiday.

Filed in Events & Festivals, Mexican Life & Society

September 14th, 2004

Online Conference: September 20-30, 2004

Urban Ecotourism Conference
Join a global dialogue examining how urban tourism can be more ecological and brainstorm about alternatives to urban sprawl. Conducted via the Planeta.com online forum.

Filed in Uncategorized

September 13th, 2004

Severe weather affecting Yucatan

Hurricane alert‘Ivan’ has taken on mind boggling proportions.

I’m just awe-struck by the sheer devastating power and natural beauty of this extremely dangerous Category 5 hurricane, which is now 400 miles (640km) across.

It goes without saying that my thoughts are with all those who have suffered as a result of the hurricane… and with those still waiting with trepidation.

Contributors to Wikipedia are doing a good job of summarising the history of the storm thus far.

Another satellite image

Editor’s note: 2005 severe weather updates

Filed in Yucatán weather

Ivan: Too close for comfort

Hurricane alertTwo hurricanes now threaten to cause heavy rainfall and storm surges along Mexico’s Caribbean, Gulf and Pacific coastline. Hurricane Ivan’s unexpected wobble and lurch to the west over the weekend has made it more likely that its affect will be felt along the Mexican Caribbean. This extremely dangerous hurricane is now heading for western Cuba and the Yucatán Channel on its way to the Gulf of Mexico.

Hurricane Ivan, 20040912 © NOAAHurricane Ivan – the sixth-strongest storm ever to hit the Atlantic basin – may just clip the north-eastern tip of the Yucatán Peninsula. A Hurricane Warning has been issued from Tulum on the Mexican Caribbean to Progreso… including Cancun and Cozumel. As a precaution, civil protection authorities began evacuating 45,000 residents and tourists from Isla Holbox, Isla Mujeres and other vunerable locations on Sunday.

Meanwhile, almost unnoticed, Tropical Storm ‘Javier’, located south-east of Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, was upgraded to a hurricane this evening and forecasters predict it will hug Mexico’s Pacific coast all week before possible landfall on Friday.

Filed in Uncategorized

September 10th, 2004

Mexico City Metro

Mexico City Metro

Metro de mi ciudad
Originally uploaded by juanrene

It’s still only $2.00 pesos for a metro ticket.

Filed in Getting about, Mexico City