The many forms of tourism

S called me in the middle of a busy day.  But that was okay, because I wasn’t doing anything important anyway. I was just busy, which is a completely different thing.

“Did you read this NY Times article on this boom in tourism to Mexico?” she asked me.

Now, I hadn’t read that NY Times article.  But I wasn’t going to say so and have her describe the entire article right then, was I ?

“Well, what’s so surprising about that? ” I asked her.  “Mexico has lots of places to see, right? I mean, apart from Cancun?  Relics from the Aztecs and the Mayans and what not ?”

“Oh, I am not talking about that kind of tourism”, she said.  “That’s old-fashioned tourism. This is tourism with a cause.”

“What, like eco-tourism?” I asked. “Cleaning stables and milking cows? Wait, I did read that NYT article about honeymooners choosing eco-friendly honeymoons.” (I had only read the headline, but wasn’t that good enough?)

“No, not that one. This is more self-centered. You haven’t read that article yet, have you?” she asked.

I wasn’t going to admit to anything. “You mean medical tourism, right?” I asked.  By now, I had decided to drop the pretense of even knowing where she was going.

“No, guess again. Why would people want to go to Mexico?  What can you get there that is much more expensive in the US?”

Well, I thought.  What can I get in Mexico that is more expensive in the US?  That would be Mexicans, of course.  Cheap labor, I mean.

“Oh, you mean carting Mexicans across the border to pick apples in California?  That’s old news”, I said dismissively. I had seen enough Jay Leno episodes to know that happened all the time.

“Wrong, guess again! I give you one last chance!” she said.

A light dawned in the dim reaches of my mind. “Ah! You mean visa tourism, then!” I said, patting myself on the back for being so brilliant.

“What’s visa tourism ?”, S asked in confusion. Aha!

“You know, when desis and other H1Bs cross over to Mexico just to get their visas stamped”, I said.

“Nope, that’s not it, but very similar.  Okay, I will tell you what it is – gas tourism” S said. “You go across the border to fill your SUV tank and then you return. Gas, you see, is just $2.66 a gallon across the border, while in the US it’s $4 and climbing.”

Now I have seen it all.

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15 thoughts on “The many forms of tourism

  1. Huh! I was going to guess corn. Given that everything here is going for ethanol, might be cheaper to just go across, buy food and come back. Maybe it is easier to go across, buy food, pump gas and come back.

  2. Deep thought: like the ones in the US, do the gas stations in Mexico also sell beef jerky, 2 week-old hot dogs and 48-ounce slurpees? Nah, they have the metric system there. It’s probably dried jalapenos, 2 week-old burritos and 4 liter frozen margaritas.

  3. La vida Loca: Tequila might be a good idea too 🙂 Yeah, it would make sense anywhere along the border. The article mentions Texas, but for all we know, people in California do it too..

    Cacophoenix: That’s exactly what people do – also buy some groceries and even (the article says) visit a doctor. I wonder how it goes:
    “Honey, I am going to buy some groceries”.
    “Make sure you have your passport with you!”

    BPSK: Welcome back to the blogosphere!
    As for the 2 week old burritos, now you know why (as the NYT mentions) the doctor’s office is right beside the convenience store 😉 It’s no coincidence!

  4. I had heard about this when I went to Singapore. It’s the same there. Singaporeans go over to Malaysia to fill up their tanks. Gas is cheaper in Malaysia compared to Singapore. But then I saw on the news channel that Malaysia had stopped fuelling cars which were from Singapore. And recently there were protests against the Malaysian government since the fuel prices had increased a lot.

  5. I thought they went to Canada.. whatever tourism as long as one gets to see a different place.. what the heck ?? 🙂 I would love to go to Mexico.. but funnily was discouraged by my friends there.. saying it was not safe.. 😦

  6. My guess was ‘teeth’, having read articles of how dental care is so much cheaper in Mexico (Guess who received a clean-and-exam reminder from their dentist yesterday!)

    The way the grocery prices are going, I might have to drive down from PA to Mexico to get mine- even with the gas prices, it will work out cheaper than buying from the local supermarket.

  7. Maddie: So they already do this in Singapore? It’s not even something we invented? Sigh. Where has all the innovation gone in this country? 😛

    Pallavi: Whichever border is closest, I guess. Mexico should be quite safe, I’d say, except during spring break, when it’s filled with teens gone wild 🙂

    amit: Yeah, that’s a pretty shocking post too..

    kalafudra: Why is gas more expensive in Germany than Austria? Taxes?

    Sujatha: Dental exams, grocery and gas, and maybe some ruins along the way..what’s not to like in a vacation like that? It’s like those American Express ads – you save every time you spend 😉

    I am going to call it a gas-cation.

    Gascation n. a trip to a place with cheaper gas.

  8. Lekhni: Not dissimilar to Kalafudra’s observation, between CH and FR, there is a degree of tax/ costs/ job type tourism. People work in CH, but live in France which is cheaper. In fact, if one drives from Zurich to Geneva, there is a point at which noobs end up in France and not in Geneva. :-/

  9. There was a story on NPR recently about a different kind of “gas tourism” (it wasn’t called that, though) in Colombia. Apparently, “gas smugglers” buy 1970s-era American gas guzzlers, fill it up with gas in Venezuela, hop across the border to Colombia and re-sell it there at a handsome profit.

    America needs that spirit of entrepreneurship right now.

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