by Mike Cadue (April 2013)
Like any tourist destination in the world, before you come to Mexico research what you want to see and then find reputable companies to contact. You can find tour companies online and from the hotel where you are staying. If you don't, then you are leaving yourself open for those unscrupulous people who are looking to make a fast dollar.
An example I know of first hand is the "parking lot guides" at the ruins in Tulum. First of all they are not trained to give tours and are trained as snorkel guides; it could be very dangerous to get involved with these people. Here is how it works: You drive into the parking lot at the Tulum Ruins and immediately a person comes right over to your car and asks if you want a tour of the ruins and to go snorkeling with turtles. The cost is 800 pesos per person (which no reliable and licensed tour would charge you). They also say you get complimentary drinks at the beach club at Paraiso on Tulum beach and a beach towel. If you accept, this is what you should expect. A person will walk you around the ruins but have no knowledge of the site or its historical significance to the Maya people. You will then be led through the beach club for one drink.
They will tell you the snorkeling portion of the tour will consist of a boat ride to the snorkeling area where you get to see a sunken Spanish galleon and swim with fish and turtles. Well, first of all there is no Spanish galleon sunk off Tulum and to see any fish, the reef at Tulum is a long way off shore. Add to that that turtles are few, if any.
You arrive on the beach, there is no boat, and you are given very poor snorkeling equipment that looks like it hasn't been washed in a long time. Here is the dangerous part: the "guides" don't even go in the water with you.
That is your 800 peso tour, or nightmare.
When booking an excursion, look on sites like TripAdvisor or others to get the real thing. You can also book tours at your hotel, if you are at a good hotel. Again, consult TripAdvisor or other travel websites.
Be safe and enjoy your vacation. Don't get "ripped off" by the parking lot guides.