Safety in Lake Chapala: Chapala and Ajijic, Mexico are perfectly safe if not ideal places for a family vacation. That said, as the Lakeside area grows, so too does the risk of petty theft. Therefore, it is always wise to take the necessary precautions just as you would in most vacation areas around the world:
- Lock up your valuables (in a safe if available)
- Do not leave cash/cameras/jewelry in plain view
- Lock up your rental car (especially at night)
- Have photocopies of passports kept separate from actual passport just in case
Tipping in Lake Chapala: In Chapala (and all of Mexico) there is no better way to say “thank you” than with a little cash or coins. Most of Mexico’s personal service and tourism industry relies on tips to help make it from paycheck to paycheck. A small tip from you can go a long way with a working father whose sole income supports his entire family. A tip (and its amount) is always very subjective, but here are a few general suggestions:
- Airport baggage personnel: $10-$20 per article of luggage
- Taxi driver: 10-20% of fare
- Waiters: 10-15% of tab (Remember, you must ask for you bill “la cuenta por favor” in Mexico, and should check to make sure that the tip has not already been included)
- Maids/cleaning staff: $20 pesos per day per guest
- Gas station attendants: Any amount of loose change is appreciated.
- Boat captains + help: 10-25% of the cost of the trip. More if you caught lots of fish.
- Baggers at grocery stores: Any amount of loose change is appreciated.
Life is slow and laid back in Mexico and especially in small villages like Chapala and Ajijic. People take their time to do things and “maņana” is an expression that does not necessarily mean tomorrow, only “not today.” When you arrive in the Lakeside area, please leave all of your hasty and grand expectations behind. Enjoy the village and the peacefulness it offers to residents and visitors alike. Unlike the USA or Canada, getting mad and/or raising your voice does not bring about positive results; it simply shows your lack of understanding of the foreign culture and will make people ignore you. No one will want to help you if you behave in such a manner. Stay calm and polite, and you will have more success. What’s more, try to relax and enjoy the slower pace of life.
Language: Though many of Chapala's residents speak a little English, your vacation will be greatly enhanced if you practice a few Spanish words before arriving. There are hundreds of websites offering free courses. Please, thank you, how much, when, where, and I’m sorry are a few expressions that will really help you around the town. Remember, hardly anyone in town is hard of hearing; repeating a phrase in English very loud only makes YOU look like the person who does not understand the conversation. While it is sometimes embarrassing to not have all the words or pronunciation, just showing the effort to speak a little Spanish goes a long way.