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08-12-2015, 11:14 AM   #31
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QuoteOriginally posted by steveeboy Quote
Mexican "drug war" has been ongoing for decades now.
No it hasn't. The Mexican drug war started less than a decade ago when the "new" Mexican government decided it wasn't going to turn a blind eye to the Cartels.

Throwing caution to the wind is extremely dumb, this isn't something that should be taken lightly as it gets worse with every given year.

08-12-2015, 11:49 AM   #32
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QuoteOriginally posted by ZombieArmy Quote
No it hasn't. The Mexican drug war started less than a decade ago when the "new" Mexican government decided it wasn't going to turn a blind eye to the Cartels.

Throwing caution to the wind is extremely dumb, this isn't something that should be taken lightly as it gets worse with every given year.
I don't quite understand where you are coming from with this panic-mongering about "drug war" business. The vast majority of Mexicans go about their daily lives without any issues whatsoever from the "drug war." 95+% of the people killed have been battles, street-turf wars between cartels or between cartels and the federales. Do you actually live and travel in Mexico frequently? I do. Approximately one million other Americans do. We're not cowering in our homes from constant gunfire. In fact, in over 20 years, I have never heard gunfire in Mexico. Paintball, yes.

Steve correctly described the situation above and it is just as he said: "If you are not looking to buy or sell drugs, are not involved in illegal activities like prostitution, and are not wandering alone late at night in a drug-dealing area of a major city, you're just not really at risk."

The greatest risk Americans have in Merida is teenagers wanting to trap them into practicing English!

Cancun, Tulum, Playa del Carmen... the whole area is scenic and a lot of fun. Beautiful beaches and water. To the OP: Mexico has very few ruins which you can enter, so maybe save yourself the worry about an "inside in the dark" ruins-lens. Almost all of the ruins are outside only structures with few inner rooms. Wide-aperture is greater value for bokeh than low light with great higher ISO capability of the K-5's.

I'd go with an 18-135mm as it is plenty sharp, a great improvement over the kit lens (imho), and very versatile. If you want wildlife or longer telephoto, the 55-300mm might make a better addtion than many listed. But also, as suggested, you may want to go wider. The thing about "wider" is that you can always stitch a panorama. That works quite well in my recent experience practicing. So, again, the 18-135 seems to cover almost all your needs. And there is great value of not changing lenses in salt spray, fine sand blowing (it's there even when you don't feel it), etc.

Also, evaluate the purpose of your trip. If you are mostly adventure-seeking, sight-seeing, culture-absorbing, etc, the advantage of a smaller lighter kit is great. If you are truly going mostly for the photography, then carrying more equipment with you will be helpful.

For more of the local flavor, I would suggest a trip to Valladolid. Tulum is one ruins site, but you might enjoy Ek Balam where the ruins are only partially restored and work is on-going. Chichen Itza has become awfully crowded and touristy and a bit passe these days, but there are unique structures there if you want. Any ruins are best taken in early in the morning, not in the heat of the midday sun.

All of the east coast of the peninsula is a bit touristy and Cancun is sorta like a transplanted NYC on a lovely beach (in fact, Baskin-Robbins ice cream may be more expensive in Cancun than NYC). If you have lots of time, some wonderful and unique ruins can be seen at Uxmal, SW of Merida, which is a lovely nearly 500 year old colonial city, with the largest preserved Centro colonial district outside Mexico City. The first Cathedral on the American continents is found there and many other ancient churches.

Take lots of water with you everywhere you go. You should drink at least one to two 2-liter bottles of water per day. The tropics can bring on heat exhaustion quickly for those who do not consciously maintain their fluid intake. In fact, you are far, far more at risk from heat stroke than from the so-called "drug war."




Last edited by yucatanPentax; 08-12-2015 at 12:16 PM. Reason: maps + added some info
08-12-2015, 12:01 PM - 1 Like   #33
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Ive been to Mexico and ALL over Baja for 30 years and at least 50+ trips...DRIVING ALONE.
Yes there are Drug Wars , Murders , crooked Cops and such. But largely its isolated along borders and regions that I simply pass through quickly. There is so much Fear and Fear Mongering from people that really don't have a "Clue" to what is really going on and how it "Really" is...... its completely ridiculous.
Don't be overtly stupid , don't go to bad areas , and always show respect....YOU will be just fine.
And as far as lens selection ? I highly suggest the 18-135 as that what I use and no reason to look further.
08-12-2015, 12:02 PM - 2 Likes   #34
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QuoteOriginally posted by yucatanPentax Quote
I don't quite understand where you are coming from with this panic-mongering about "drug war" business. The vast majority of Mexicans go about their daily lives without any issues whatsoever from the "drug war." 95+% of the people killed have been battles, street-turf wars between cartels or between cartels and the federales. Do you actually live and travel in Mexico frequently? I do. Approximately one million other Americans do. We're not cowering in our homes from constant gunfire. In fact, in over 20 years, I have never heard gunfire in Mexico. Paintball, yes.

Steve correctly described the situation above and it is just as he said: "If you are not looking to buy or sell drugs, are not involved in illegal activities like prostitution, and are not wandering alone late at night in a drug-dealing area of a major city, you're just not really at risk."

The greatest risk Americans have in Merida is teenagers wanting to trap them into practicing English!

Cancun, Tulum, Playa del Carmen... the whole area is scenic and a lot of fun. Beautiful beaches and water. To the OP: Mexico has very few ruins which you can enter, so maybe save yourself the worry about an "inside in the dark" ruins-lens. Almost all of the ruins are outside only structures with few inner rooms. Wide-aperture is greater value for bokeh than low light with great higher ISO capability of the K-5's.

I'd go with an 18-135mm as it is plenty sharp, a great improvement over the kit lens (imho), and very versatile. If you want wildlife or longer telephoto, the 55-300mm might make a better addtion than many listed. But also, as suggested, you may want to go wider. The thing about "wider" is that you can always stitch a panorama. That works quite well in my recent experience practicing. So, again, the 18-135 seems to cover almost all your needs. And there is great value of not changing lenses in salt spray, fine sand blowing (it's there even when you don't feel it), etc.

Also, evaluate the purpose of your trip. If you are mostly adventure-seeking, sight-seeing, culture-absorbing, etc, the advantage of a smaller lighter kit is great. If you are truly going mostly for the photography, then carrying more equipment with you will be helpful.

For more of the local flavor, I would suggest a trip to Valladolid. Tulum is on ruins sight, but you might enjoy Ek Balam where the ruins are only partially restored and work is on-going. Chichen Itza has become awfully crowded and touristy and a bit passe these days, but there are unique structures there if you want. Any ruins are best taken in early in the morning, not in the heat of the midday sun.

Take lots of water with you everywhere you go. You should drink at least one to two 2-liter bottles of water per day. The tropics can bring on heat exhaustion quickly for those who do not consciously maintain their fluid intake. In fact, you are far, far more at risk from heat stroke than from the so-called "drug war."


This is awesome stuff! Thanks for the recommendations on the places. We are actually looking at stuff to do there and I think you've given us some good pointers. Ek Balam looks interesting for sure..

08-12-2015, 12:06 PM   #35
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I was in Cancún in April we stayed at the moon palace I love cancun! hope you have a nice trip and bring some nice photo since there a lot of flora and colors there! God bless
08-12-2015, 12:14 PM - 1 Like   #36
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QuoteOriginally posted by vikranta Quote
This is awesome stuff! Thanks for the recommendations on the places. We are actually looking at stuff to do there and I think you've given us some good pointers. Ek Balam looks interesting for sure..
I highly recommend Xel Ha or Xcaret too
They are really cool ecotourism water parks. For those though I recommend getting a cheap underwater camera.
08-12-2015, 01:03 PM   #37
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Mexico is not quite as safe as we might think. Less than five years ago, my boss was nearly kidnapped outside a high end Mexico City hotel. The hotel security guards prevented the crime, fortunately. One of my co-workers in Mexico City (a Mexican national) had an extended family member kidnapped for ransom. Our company's travel policy requires all non-nationals visiting Mexico City on business to either be accompanied by a local employee or stay inside their hotel. We don't have this policy in place for any other country we might commonly travel to.
08-12-2015, 01:08 PM   #38
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The 18-135 is my favorite travel lens. However since the OP seems to be headed into "non-tourist areas" that changes some of the math. I'd be OK with the financial risk of an 18-135 but the original poster may not be. The 18-55 plus something longer like a 50-200 isn't a big risk. But the 18-55 wouldn't be on my camera, the 18-135 would. I also might not venture out to non-tourist areas; I don't speak the language and I have kids and a wife that would object to that.

08-12-2015, 03:58 PM   #39
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All of the concerns around theft and such are a big reason why I generally travel with a small cheap but good film rangefinder. You can get 2 Olympus XA's for the price of any decent AF Pentax lens and I won't cry or ruin the trip of one breaks or gets stolen.

Nothing screams "I'm a tourist with money, rob me!" more than a big DSLR imo.
08-13-2015, 09:21 AM - 1 Like   #40
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"Five years ago, my cousin was mugged in Brooklyn, so be extra careful on your beach vacation in South Padre Island this fall."

People wouldn't make those statements about locations in the USA, but because "Mexico" is a monolithic mystery to most, it all gets lumped together, incorrectly, as "Mexico = bad things". One crime or set of crimes is attributed to the whole thing.

Yet, regarding our own country, we instantly recognize that the murder rate in Detroit has nothing to do with how nice the beaches are in South Beach. Perspective:



"Oh no! There was a crime in London! Be careful in Sicily!"



I don't mean to belabor this point, but there are roughly 5 million foreign visitors to Cancun each year. 15 million Americans visit Mexico every year. About one million Americans live in Mexico permanently. There are 350 million legal crossings being made annually between the US and Mexico. I've got 20 years of experience. No one has ever tried to kidnap me. Am I not staying in expensive enough hotels? What can I do to increase my attractiveness to kidnappers!?!?!

In all seriousness now, NO Place is perfectly safe. "Something" can happen to anyone anywhere. Just be smart about not showing off money and wealth (like any place) and enjoy your trip. I use an old Khaki canvas carrying case with a nice soft divided insert for carrying my gear everywhere, even (or especially) in the USA. We have many cities in the US with higher crime rates than Mexico.
08-13-2015, 10:10 AM   #41
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QuoteOriginally posted by yucatanPentax Quote
"Five years ago, my cousin was mugged in Brooklyn, so be extra careful on your beach vacation in South Padre Island this fall."

People wouldn't make those statements about locations in the USA, but because "Mexico" is a monolithic mystery to most, it all gets lumped together, incorrectly, as "Mexico = bad things". One crime or set of crimes is attributed to the whole thing.

Yet, regarding our own country, we instantly recognize that the murder rate in Detroit has nothing to do with how nice the beaches are in South Beach. Perspective:



"Oh no! There was a crime in London! Be careful in Sicily!"



I don't mean to belabor this point, but there are roughly 5 million foreign visitors to Cancun each year. 15 million Americans visit Mexico every year. About one million Americans live in Mexico permanently. There are 350 million legal crossings being made annually between the US and Mexico. I've got 20 years of experience. No one has ever tried to kidnap me. Am I not staying in expensive enough hotels? What can I do to increase my attractiveness to kidnappers!?!?!

In all seriousness now, NO Place is perfectly safe. "Something" can happen to anyone anywhere. Just be smart about not showing off money and wealth (like any place) and enjoy your trip. I use an old Khaki canvas carrying case with a nice soft divided insert for carrying my gear everywhere, even (or especially) in the USA. We have many cities in the US with higher crime rates than Mexico.
Nicely said, but the state department website that was shared earlier was clear that "safe in tourist areas" was the mantra. The OP has said he isn't confining himself to those areas. I would also say that many US cities could be safe in tourist areas - and scary outside them because of a lack of knowledge of what is and is not safe. I would not suggest that Mexico unsafe - just that as a tourist you often don't understand the safe vs. unsafe areas and you paint a bullseye on your back if you carry a lot of nice equipment.

So - I think maybe it's worth worrying about as a tourist - and making precautions. I was very careful in Paris, London, Brussels, Boston, NYC, San Francisco, San Diego... etc. but it should not get in the way of fun.
08-13-2015, 11:39 AM   #42
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Caution is advisable in any unknown area. Travelers are frequently at more risk than locals who know their way around. Anywhere there are people, there are always a few criminals scoping out who is: 1) a better target, more money; 2) more vulnerable; 3) more foolish or careless.

But the US State Department has no warnings for the entire area where the OP is traveling, as reflected on the map which I posted, which includes the entire states shown:
  • "Quintana Roo: Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya and Tulum are major cities/travel destinations in Quintana Roo - No advisory is in effect."
  • "Yucatan: Merida and Chichen Itza are major cities/travel destinations in Yucatan - No advisory is in effect. "

Source: US State Department information Last Updated: May 5, 2015

---------- Post added 08-13-2015 at 01:54 PM ----------

Here's some more photographic advice with links...

Crewl1 went to Ek Balam with an 18-135mm! I really liked his pics.

I asked some questions of my own about improving my photos of ruins in Yucatan here. And as usual, the Pentax Forums community was extremely helpful!

Personally, I very much recommend WR equipment for all of Quintana Roo and Yucatan, etc. "Salt spray" sounds like you'd feel it on your face, but it is often just the salt in the air, which you find deposited later on. Same with fine sand from the beaches. It gets in your hair even if you're only walking. And those both often apply miles inland. Your greatest personal dangers are heat and dehydration. The greatest danger to your equipment, conversely, is the humidity, then tropical downpours, with theft coming up in the rear somewhere.

If you rent a car, be sure that the car carries Mexican rental car insurance and that you are given the phone number of the Insurance Agency Response Team. In Mexico, insurance adjusters come to the accident scene and work out the details and coverage among the people involved right then and there. You need that. I don't recommend that people drive on their first visits because there are too many distractions and unpredictable situations. Never drive at night. Not because of "bandits" but because of wild animals or livestock or poor people on bicycles without reflectors or .... a million dangerous situations you may literally run into.

Enjoy your vacation!

Last edited by yucatanPentax; 08-13-2015 at 12:01 PM.
08-13-2015, 12:01 PM   #43
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QuoteOriginally posted by yucatanPentax Quote
Caution is advisable in any unknown area. Travelers are frequently at more risk than locals who know their way around. Anywhere there are people, there are always a few criminals scoping out who is: 1) a better target, more money; 2) more vulnerable; 3) more foolish or careless.

But the US State Department has no warnings for the entire area where the OP is traveling, as reflected on the map which I posted, which includes the entire states shown:
  • "Quintana Roo: Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya and Tulum are major cities/travel destinations in Quintana Roo - No advisory is in effect."
  • "Yucatan: Merida and Chichen Itza are major cities/travel destinations in Yucatan - No advisory is in effect. "

Source: US State Department information Last Updated: May 5, 2015

---------- Post added 08-13-2015 at 01:54 PM ----------

Here's some more photographic advice with links...

Crewl1 went to Ek Balam with an 18-135mm! I really liked his pics.

I asked some questions of my own about improving my photos of ruins in Yucatan here. And as usual, the Pentax Forums community was extremely helpful!

Enjoy your vacation!
Ack! I misread your map. Good advice all around.
08-13-2015, 01:04 PM   #44
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QuoteOriginally posted by UncleVanya Quote
Ack! I misread your map. Good advice all around.
I agree great advice. Thank you @yucatanPentax
08-13-2015, 08:37 PM   #45
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I did a similar trip, albeit largely family oriented rather than photographically so. I used the 18-135 about 90% of my shots, and it did well. A Sigma 10-20 was useful for sunrise beach pics, and slightly better in quality than the wide end of the da. And I took a portrait prime for family pictures. (Fa 43, but any 50 would do). Have fun!
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