Are Mexican resorts safe? What is going on with alcohol in Mexico?
Recently there have been news reports of one high profile incident at a resort in Mexico’s Riviera Maya where two young people (a bother and sister aged 22 and 20) were found passed out in a pool after drinking. After medical treatment at a hospital in Playa Del Carmen and a medical transfer to Florida, United States, the young woman was pronounced brain dead and her family respected her wishes and took her off of life support. Her brother that was involved in the incident recovered. This story has made people wonder if Mexican resorts are safe and question if it is safe to drink alcohol at resorts.
We have received many emails asking our opinion of this story so we decided to write this article. While this case is still under investigation, we don’t conclude on ideas but do want to shed some light on this story.
The original story in the Journal Sentinel
In our opinion the original story in the Journal Sentinel was not written well and had misleading information. This incident originally happened in January 2017 and the news article came out in July of the same year. The family now has legal counsel. Often we see these types of stories get hyped up in the media which puts pressure for a settlement so the stories goes away.
While there have been many allegations or possible explanations for what happened, one fact of the matter is the toxicology reports. The young woman has a blood alcohol level of 0.25 and her bothers was 0.26. This is three times the level in most places where it is considered to impair you. The two had been drinking heavily before the accident.
So could this just be regular alcohol poisoning?
Alcohol poisoning and effects from just normal alcohol
Regular alcohol can have dangerous effect for the body. This is why moderation is important. Your body is only able to process one unit of alcohol an hour. This means that if you drink rapidly, this can cause your body to not function properly. This is why it is called being “inTOXICated”
What are the symptoms of alcohol poisoning? Here are some of them.
- a slow down in your brain functions which can impair your sense of balance.
- irritated stomach which causes vomiting. It stops your gag reflex from working properly and you can choke on, or inhale, your own vomit into your lungs.
- dehydration of your body, which can cause permanent brain damage.
- a lower your blood sugar level, so having seizures is possible.
- alcohol poisoning can affects the nerves that control your breathing and heartbeat, stopping both.
Many of these are similar to what people have allegedly reported experiencing in media stories. The dangerous effects of alcohol should make everyone aware that even quality alcohol can have dangerous results. What other factors could be at play with the effects of alcohol in Mexico?
How the climate and other factors effect drinking
For most people coming on vacation to the Riviera Maya, they are coming from a non tropical climate. The Riviera Maya in Mexico is hot year round. This means that you will be in a place where you will sweat more and need to drink more water. However many people that are in the pool or swimming in the ocean don’t realize that they are actually loosing water from their bodies. Being dehydrated will amplify the effects of alcohol. This is why we mention this in our dangers and safety guide for Playa Del Carmen.
Coming from another time zone is another big factor in how alcohol effects you. Your inner clock or circadian rhythm is thrown off when you change time zones. Your metabolic functions also get thrown off because of this. This means that your body does not process alcohol as efficiently. Normally it takes your body one day for every time zone you have crossed. Then your body returns to normal functions. Unfortunately this can be the entire week for our visitors from Europe.
So there are factors that influence how alcohol can effect you and even normal alcohol can have a toxic effect on the body. But could there be other factors creating risk for visitors to Mexico?
What is our experience with alcohol in Mexico?
We have been to numerous all inclusive resorts all around the Riviera Maya and had many a drink. We have also been to hundreds of restaurants and bars and have found one common thing, it is hard to get drunk in Mexico. Why do we say that? Many times at resorts we have had drinks during the day and after a number of drinks that should have you tipsy, you aren’t. We were baffled at this at first, even watching the bartender pour the amount of alcohol into the drinks. The amount of alcohol seemed correct but it did not taste like full strength alcohol. Mostly after drinking at a resort we have felt the light effect of alcohol but more the sugar and things that give you more of a headache.
Out at a club with bottle service
One night we were with friends and we ordered bottle service. This is where a table orders one bottle of an alcohol and they give you glasses, ice and a mixer. Typically this cost about 1000-2000 pesos. The same bottle in the store cost about 300-800 pesos, so the profit margin is high on this service.
When our waiter brought our bottle of vodka over, he presented it like a bottle of wine and showed it to us. He then proceeded to take off the plastic seal from the cap. He poured the vodka and mixed it with the cranberry juice. After we tasted it, it did not seem like there was much alcohol. After tasting the vodka straight from the bottle, we discerned it was not the same vodka that you buy off the shelf.
In most nightclubs in Playa Del Carmen you will get poor quality drinks. This is true of many bars in the world that are a party scene with many tourist. Most mixed drinks cost between 80-150 pesos. For tourist coming for a few days this is fine. If you live here you grumble about not having good drinks in clubs. Many locals drink beer because it is consistent and lower cost as well.
The problem with alcohol at resorts in Mexico
It is always a balancing act between keeping customers happy, not having people get too drunk, and not giving away all the profits in alcohol. While we have noticed that drinks are low in alcohol, usually lower shelf brands and even what seems to be not full strength alcohol, we do not think that there is a major concern about drinking alcohol in Mexico.
Remember, you get what you pay for. All inclusive resorts are beautiful and can provide for a wonderful vacation. But we do notice that most resorts have average food and you can get better in restaurants if you know where to go. We do not go to resorts to have a great cocktail, to have a drink and relax with friends, yes.
Who is responsible for safety at Mexican resorts
Resorts in Mexico do have the responsibility to limit customers access to alcohol when they become intoxicated. This however can be hard when there are multiple bars or other patrons getting drinks from the bar for friends. Resorts also have the responsibility to provide good food and beverages to guest and to buy responsibly.
As customers we have the responsibility to enjoy ourselves and be able to have control from getting out of control with alcohol. This would prevent many slip and fall accidents that we have seen here in Mexico.
The Mexican government has the responsibly to regulate industries so that products are produced according to standards.
The government of Mexico has said that there is illegal production of alcohol in Mexico. However there have been no conclusive studies to connect the illegal production of alcohol in Mexico to health issues. All around the world today there are imitation products scandals with meat, and bacterial contamination. These all scare us because we use these products and we care about our health. We feel that in this case of allegations of tainted alcohol, there is not a need to worry about your vacation. The fact that millions of people come to Mexican resorts each year and millions go home after having a great vacation shows that there is not a major issue or problem.
We do look forward to the government looking into the production of alcohol and seeing if there is any effect health that has taken place.
Our recommendations for drinking in Playa Del Carmen
As you can see from above, we have not found great drinks at resorts, many bars, and clubs in the Riviera Maya. We do however like when we find a place that serves decent proportioned drinks that give you good value for your money. It is why in our bar guide to Playa Del Carmen we mention places like Dirty Martini and the Thompson Hotel’s Cinco Restaurants sunset lounge from 5:00pm-8:00pm daily.
We also suggest staying at independent hotels and eating local restaurants. Anywhere that “free” or “unlimited” anything is offered it is usually not going to be the best quality.
Where to buy alcohol in Playa Del Carmen
With everything mentioned above, you might be put off by drinking. But many still like to partake of some spirits. There are many touristy places on 5th Avenue and even some cheap places to get tequila. However the best place is the La Europea liquor store. This is where locals buy and everything is normal retail price. You can see where this store is and other suggestions in our guide to buying alcohol in Playa Del Carmen.
What to do in case of emergency in Mexico
Here is just some good information for guests to Mexico incase you do have an emergency on vacation.
If you are staying at al all inclusive resort in Mexico, the staff is well trained to assist guests. Often there are basic medical facilities on the property with a doctor. If not or the situation is beyond the capacities of the staff of the hotel, you will be sent to a medical facility or hospital.
It should be noted that hospitals in Mexico are for profit and usually do require proof of payment when you are registered. This is where travel insurance does come in handy. Even in some cases with insurance, they will only reimburse you for your expenses. So you still might need to pay upfront. This is just standard practice here.
If you do get into trouble in Mexico wither it be for an arrest, death of a non-Mexican citizen or other emergency, it is best to contact your countries consulate or consular agency. For example we have a wonder United States Consular Agency in Playa Del Carmen. They work very hard to help US citizens with issues that arise in this part of Mexico. You can read our article about the United States Consular Agency here and see what services they have.
Do you have questions or comments about this? Let us know in the comment section below.
Want to know more about the area? See one of our dozens of guides here!