Coming & Going: Mexico declines the dollar, a new bus service debuts, and more

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Friday, October 29, 2010; 1:59 PM

Taking dollars to Mexico and buses to Brooklyn

Get your pesos

Travelers, be aware: Your freewheeling days of spending U.S. dollars in Mexico are over.

Last month, the Mexican government passed a law restricting how many greenbacks Americans can exchange south of the border. The new magic number: $1,500 per month. In addition, certain states, such as the resort haven of Quintana Roo (see Cancun, Cozumel and Playa del Carmen), are capping individual purchases at $100. AAA and other travel experts add that some vendors may refuse dollars altogether.

"Despite the $100 restriction in many parts of Mexico, tour operators are warning customers that some businesses might not accept dollars at all," AAA spokesman John Townsend said in an e-mail, "and are suggesting that visitors stock up on pesos or traveler's checks in the U.S. before flying south."

Townsend also said that the law forbids Mexican airports and their occupants to accept U.S. currency "for anything," including checked baggage fees. Air Transport Association spokeswoman Victoria Day said that the organization's members are addressing the new law "individually." JetBlue, for one, now takes only credit cards and pesos for expenses incurred in Mexican airports; American Airlines has established a similar policy.

The government enacted the change to control the number of dollars entering the country's banking system, hoping to curb drug-related money laundering. The law, however, does not limit credit card or debit card transactions, or ATM withdrawals of pesos. Nor is it stymieing some regions' trade with American visitors.

"Despite recent reports, hotels, restaurants, stores and other merchants in Baja California still gladly accept U.S. dollars," said Juan Tintos Funcke, state secretary of tourism for Baja California, in a statement. "Dollar bills are as welcome as pesos and credit cards across Baja California, everywhere a tourist would spend money." The one concession: "For sales over U.S. $100 in cash, venues may choose to run multiple transactions without any problem."

Brooklyn bus: Not a bust

On Monday evening, CoGo boarded the KnowItExpress (www.theknowitexpress.com; $21 one way, including service charge), a new bus service between Washington's U Street corridor and Brooklyn's Park Slope. (Take that Manhattan!) Here is a review from the inaugural weekend:

Travel to the pickup spot: Already based in Brooklyn, we did not have to suffer the usual crammed subway ride to Penn Station, which typically adds about an hour to our trip. The hop to the Atlantic-Pacific station, the embarkation point, took us a mere 15 minutes, including a quick exploration of the area.

Queuing up: Lots of space to line up, and no angering pedestrians with our bodies and bags. We stood behind yellow pillars in our own personal space.

Bus stop eats: Thankfully, no Sbarros. Options for to-go meals included Halal shops, a Spanish restaurant and delis.

Amenities: The company loans out mini-laptops (HPs), with a time limit depending on demand. The WiFi connection lasted from start to finish, with few glitches en route. And the driver let us rifle through the DVD movie collection, which included both classics ("Reservoir Dogs") aJnd duds ("Killers").

Exiting N.Y.: Gone is the disorganized conga line leading into Lincoln Tunnel. The local roads to I-278 were a bit congested, but traffic flowed. Once we were on the Verrazano-Narrows and Goethals bridges, the river scenes flew by. We were on the Jersey Turnpike within 35 minutes.

Drop-off: Great if you take the Green or Yellow Metro lines home or attend Howard University. However, we live closer to 18th Street, and the driver graciously let us stay onboard until the intersection with Florida Avenue, so we could walk home.

Secure your flight

Starting tomorrow, the Transportation Security Administration will require all flight reservations to include the passenger's full name, date of birth and sex. The information for the Secure Flight Program helps the agency match passenger names with its watch list. Travelers who omitted this data when booking will be denied their boarding pass. Call the airline or your travel agent to fill in the gaps.

Reporting: Andrea Sachs. Help feed CoGo. Send travel news to: cogo@washpost.com. By mail: CoGo, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.


© 2010 The Washington Post Company


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