With coronavirus cases rising daily, particularly in four of Canada’s most populated provinces, Canadians are turning to Mexico for some winter respite.
Having lived part or full-time in Mexico for over 25 years, the thought of not returning to what I have considered my second home seems inconceivable. And I am not alone.
There are thousands of Canadians who, like me, flock south of the border every year, arriving anytime between the months of October and May. While reported cases in Mexico appear to be rising again (as they are the world over), most people I talk to feel that it is easier to isolate and distance in a warmer climate than it is in a cold one.
Although the biggest risk seems to be the flight itself (middle seats now being sold on most airlines), the idea that we can safely fly with masks, sanitizers, and face shields is an appealing argument.
Beaches, hotels, and most restaurants are also open in Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo, the part of Mexico where I winter, but at limited capacity. Thankfully, social distancing and mask wearing, washing hands, etc. are widely encouraged from the top down, which makes the idea of going all the more attractive.
Although, as in Canada and the U.S., there are still people in Mexico who believe the pandemic is a hoax, for the most part locals are complying with the rules for safety and health. However, it is reported that some tourists from other parts of Mexico, the U.S. and Canada are not, and there lies the rub. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid both situations and people who do not comply with the guidelines.
Still, as easy as it could be to social distance while enjoying a daily dose of vitamin D, two of the biggest concerns for Canadians heading south are health insurance and health care in Mexico should you get sick. In March, Canadians in Mexico were strongly urged by insurance companies to return immediately as their plans would not cover Covid.
This year several insurance companies are offering Covid protection, albeit at a steep price of up to $1,000 extra on top of regular fees. For many of us it is worth considering while some say that given reasonable medical costs in Mexico, it is better to pay as you go. The bigger issue is can the hospitals in places more rural handle the influx of cases should the need arise? And do we as Canadians want to tax a potentially overrun health system and take care away from nationals should things become worse?
Another problem for some when deciding on travel is the frequent flight changes or outright cancellation of flights to and from Mexico. In my case I have already used up the credit I was issued for my cancellation back in March, and was warned by the agent that should I have to cancel due to Covid, I would not be issued another. This, however, does not apply if the airline cancels, but it is still a concern.
General consensus among expats and locals seems to be that the end of 2020 and going into 2021 will be a much different experience than one we have enjoyed in the past. In Zihuatanejo, we assume there will be few festivals, if any, and perhaps celebrations such as Day of the Dead, Carnival and Cabalgata will be canceled as well.
If they are not, most people, including myself, will avoid the huge crowds. Day to day life will be different too, as my friends and I plan our stricter social bubbles with like-minded people, patronizing restaurants and shops that follow guidelines. As in Canada, our hobbies, online classes, and Netflix binging can be as prevalent in Mexico but in a warmer climate.
Whether you stay in Canada or go to Mexico, my advice remains the same: follow the guidelines — wear a mask, wash hands and social distance, stay healthy and live your life for the betterment of all. And remember, one day this will pass.
The writer divides her time between Canada and Zihuatanejo.