Thursday, October 12, 2006

Looking for a Cheap Rental? In Chacala? Read this real-life experience

I think I have mentioned before that I have a little website listing all the rentals, almost, in Chacala. It's a no charge to renter or rentee set-up. My intention is to help the landladies without English, or websites, or a way to accept security deposits to find renters. And for English-speaking people to find affordable (or whatever) places to stay in Chacala.

Sometime last month I got an email from the the friend, of a friend, of some nice people who have visited Chacala the last two winters. She was inquiring about an affordable place to stay in Chacala, (apparently at the same time as the friend of a friend).

Sep 23 2006
Hola Andee
Soy XX una amiga de YY de Canada. Quiero venir tambien a Chacala y quiero saber si hay un lugar barato para cadar possiblemnete por tres o cuatro semanas en enero-febrero? Quiero possiblement trabajar un pocito tambien si espossible por comida o algo. Soy CCCC aqui en Canada de espanol y tambien enseno anglais. No tengo mucho dinero y creo que tu puedes encontrar un apartamento barato para mi. Soy sola y me gusta cadar con los mexicanos.
Gracias y hasta luego. Espero tu noticia!

I get a lot of strange e-mails on Chacala Budget Rentals that turn out to be spammers of some sort, pretending they was to rent a place here, in Chacala. So when I had a funny feeling about the email, I was uncomfortable enough that I emailed the friend who referred this person, to ask if she was comfortable with this person renting the adjoining unit to the place she had just arranged to rent.

I felt funny doing that, but last winter a man tracked his ex-wife and two daughters to Chacala, and inquired (to me) about a rental where they were staying. I also had a funny feeling that time, and it turned out to be valid. And he didn't come, and neither did the ex and kids.

Anyway. The friend was fine with her friend coming down the same rental. The units' kitchen are open to each other, so it's a pretty friendly situation. Hopefully. So I went ahead and responded with some suggestions, etc. As usual.

Sept. 24
Hi XX.
I speak and read Spanish well enough to get by, but I would prefer to communicate with you in English. Thanks.

I am in San Miguel, and some traveling until late next Monday, a week from tomorrow. I can't do anything about rentals until I get home.

I can tell you the unit across the stairwell from YYY, and a mirror image, was still available when I left on Friday. I might be able to get someone to tell the landlady there (I will call her Maria) that I have another interested renter, and a friend of YYY's, but it might not work.

Maria's is the cheapest place with a kitchen in Chacala. It's not the very cheapest but I assume you want a private bathroom and a decent space. If you are interested in something cheaper than Maria's you would need to come down and look around and see what you could do.

Maria's is $150 pesos a night, $750 pesos a week for a month stay, and $700 pesos a week for a stay of six weeks or longer. Weekly cleaning and change of linen. Very basic rooms. Go to My Life in Chacala and look at the 3rd or 4th post, and at Chacala Budget Rentals to see another photo.

If you were suggesting you could work here for money, it is basically illegal for a person on a tourist visa to work here or volunteer in exchange for room and board doing work a Mexican citizen could do, including teaching English. I would be surprised if you could find someone to pay you for English lesson, but you might be able to arrange it. You would have to meet people when you got here and see what happens, I guess. I hope I understood you correctly.

If you want me to try to get a message to Maria, please give me the exact, or almost exact, dates of your stay. Things are filling up in Chacala for mid-Dec thru late February, just so you'll be aware of that.

I hope you decide to come down, and unless you could get by without a kitchen, which isn't a good idea in my opinion, I don't think there is anything cheaper.

Hope to hear from you soon,

I got this response, which seemed to be more-or-less normal.

Sep 24
Hola Andee
Are you American? Sorry but I thought you were Mexican. Are there a lot of Westerners in Chacala?

About a place I still have a few questions. A kitchen is not all that essential to me but a fridge is. For example at Marias's could it be a little less if I do not need the cleaning and bed change service. Could you please check with her. I have always just gone and found a place to stay wherever I go so this is a liitle strange for me to be organizing in advance but I realize that things have changed and I am not getting any younger and YYYY advises me that it is a good idea to do it now so I am checking it out. I was not thinking of working for money I know that is illegal but more for exchange of services and I will check that out when I get there. I would be coming around Jan.10 and staying probably till Feb.8 or so. I still have yet to confirm my flight.

I was wondering about Casa Dona Lupe's. On the site it says $200 or $300 a moth or $100 for a room with a shared bath? Does that mean a shared bathroom? For Maria's at 750/week that is 3000 pesos a month which is $300 Canadian? So I was wondering if Casa Dona Lupe's was cheaper since it says $2-$3 hundered a month. Or Casa de Concha's?

In your opinion would it be very difficult to find a place if I just showed up in mid January. I speak and understand Spanish well.

I appreciate you getting back to me so quickly and I look forward to hearing from you again. Maybe if you have contact with Maria's you could pass on my ideas or I would be more than happy to speak to her myself if I had a contact number or e-mail. I do not want to bother you more than I already have.
Thank you, Gracias XXX

This email wasn't particularly out-of-line, I just started kind of gritting my teeth for some reason. The phone number and other ocntact information were written on the website. So she could have followed-up, but apparently she didin't want to do that. I should of wondered what was going on. I have since removed that phone number from the website.

But as I started answering her letter, my simmering irritation with people who want to vacation in poor towns in Mexican for almost free, started to build up. I had received several of these kind of emails in the previous few days, and I guess my back was already up. So this was my answer. Looking back, it wasn't the best response. I should have just told her to contact Maria directly, since she said she spoke Spanish. But I stupidly didn't.

Sep 24

Yes, I'm American. I have lived here almost 3 years, in Chacala, I mean..... There are US/Canadian tourists here in the winter, from early December thru late February usually, with some on either end. During those months, particularly Jan. and Feb. there are maybe 80 American here at one time. Plus Mar de Jade has retreats all winter, maybe 30-60 people. But you rarely see them in Chacala. They pretty much stick to Mar de Jade. You might contact them about doing some kind of trade. I think that do that sometimes if you can do something they need.

I am curious about something, and maybe I misunderstood you, so tell me if I did.
It sounded like you would like me to pressure Maria to charge you less rent [than the normal rate]. This is a very poor woman, who doesn't make much money from her rentals. It's hard for me to believe that you are so improverished that you would think she should have less income so that you can have a vacation.

I hope I am misunderstanding, and hope I am not offending you. But it worries me when people seem to want very poor people to subsidize their vacations. It seems strange to me. And this is the second email I have gotten this week from someone who seems to be suggesting that a landlady here should give them some kind of break on the rent.

I guess I am thinking it is pretty easy for an American/Canadina to pickup some extra work and earn an extra $100 for rent on a vacation. I don't get it and I hope that's not what you are saying.

I hope I haven't been too rude in asking you about this. I guess it is rude, but.......

Re Lupe's. The downstairs room is not available. Her son is back from the U.S. and it's not for rent. The upstairs is rented for six months, starting in late October. And it may be a year-round rental if this renter works out. There are other problems there that I won't go into right now, ..... I only arrange rentals at Lupe's with people who have been here and understand the situation. It is not a short-term rental anyway, and the rent is now $350 a month. Starting in October.

I don't think any landlady in Chacala, or probably Mexico, would accept not cleaning the rooms on a regular basis. They have no way of knowing how good a job you would do, and want to keep any eye on things. It costs about 40/50 pesos to have a set of sheets laundered at the lavanderia. More for towels. And, of course, if the idea is for the landlady to have less income, it's hard for me to see the justice is your suggestion.

My thought about a fridge is that there is a refrigerator there will be a kitchen. No one that I know of has a room with just a fridge. You could buy one for about $200US. But most landlady's would want more rent money for the electricity. In Mexico, the more electricity you use, the higher the rate. The low-use rate is about a 1/5th of the middle use rate.

Maybe your idea about waiting and finding something for yourself is a good idea. I think you might have a hard time finding something in the middle of the high season for less than $100 pesos a night, but.........

Concha has a room with the bath down the hall and no kitchen that she sometimes rents for $20 a night. As far as I know she doesn't give a discount for a month stay, although she might. Her other rooms with kitchens are higher, and she already has reservations for those units for the high season.

It would be very difficult for me if you contacted Maria yourself. But of course you are welcome to. You probably know that most Mexicans are extremely polite, and will say whatever they think you want to hear, regardless of what they really can do or want to do Maria is very much like that. If you call her and try to get a lower rate, she will say "yes", and come to me and tell me "no", that she doesn't want you. You might think I am exaggerating, but I am not.

Okay, I imagine this doesn't sound like a very friendly letter. I am not trying to offend you or discourage you from coming to Chacala. I am trying to lay things out as I see them.

Please let me know if you want to go ahead with Maria, with dates, and I will check with her on Tuesday, and try to get a message to her, if you write saying want to make a tentative reservation.

Take care, Andee

This was her angry and offended ( I guess) response.

Sep 24
Hola Andee
That was a quick reply! Wow, I don't know what to say. I am not used to going through a middleman/woman, especially a gringo to deal with mexicans. I have been travelling to all parts of mexico for the past 25 years and yes,I am offended by your response. Who do you work for? I know how to deal with people in general and I am very respectful of where I go and the peoples that live there. Thank you I have mar de jade's e-mail.
Yes, you have definitely misunderstood me, I am not interested in pressuring anyone but I am curious as to what there is and what is being offered and the possibilities of what there could be. I guess everything has gone up and especially if there are lots of gringos there things go up. I have gone to Melaque for years and know people there but this year I thought I would try somewhere different and was turned on to Chacala as a quaint fishing village.
You say you don't understand but I don't understand. Do you not think that people in your own country are impoverished. It could be very possible that I do have less money than you certainly and maybe even la senora, you have no idea what I make or how I live so please do not preach..I do not expect la senora to subsidize my vaction where do you even get that? I will not labour the point anymore .At this point it seems to be the only way to reserve a place in yes I am interested in you passing along to Socorro's that I am interested and will let you know my dates when they are more secure. Please let me know the proceedure for payment etc.
I hope we can meet face to face and see the goodness in one another. All I was doing was asking questions!

I didn't respond, thinking "Well, no loss there". Then, unfortunately, XXX, wrote again a few days later.

Sep 28
Hola Andee
XXX here. I'm a bit clearer as to my dates. Is there anything at Maria's for Feb 1 for two weeks. Please let me know. Also I am planning to travel with an older gentleman friend for awhile as his interpreter and guide and we hope to go to Guanajato and San Miguel if you would be so kind as to make some recommendations or some interesting places to go visit.
Gracias y hasta luego.

I found her email unclear and asked for clarification.

Sep 28 Hi XXX.
Are you saying there will be two of you in Chacala, from the night of February 1 thru the night of the 14th. Or just one?
I won't be seeing Maria until Tuesday, so I will get back to you on Tuesday.

Have you be reading my blog? I have been writing about where I have visited. Not very clearly probably. There is lots of info out there if you Google "SMA".

Also, there's a blog called "Falling in Love with San Miguel de Allende" with lots of info. I was only in Guanajuato overnight. It wasn't my kind of place, and I don't know why exactly. Sort of like Disneyland maybe.

Okay, talk to you later.

This was her response. She didn't answer my request for clarification re the dates and number of persons.

Buenas Dias Andee
I have just read your blog on SMA and realize that we have more in common than I thought at first. I think we got off on the wrong foot and I'm sorry about that. I too when I travel am defintely more in contact with the Mexican people than the gringos and have similar feelings to you. Thank you for your writings and pictures, most helpful. Can you suggest a place for myself and my friend to stay at that isn't too pricey but comfortable and within walking distance to most things. My friend is 75 years old and doesn't speak Spanish but is very curious about other cultures.
Gracias, XXX

I decided at this point she had never really intended to rent a place in Chacala. So I just responded to her questions. Stupid me.

Sep 29

You know, the Lonely Plant website Thorntree (Google for the address) Mexico section would probably be really helpful for finding affordable places to stay. I am just housesitting and have no idea. I will say, SMA has some very difficult walking. You really need to keep looking where you are stepping.

I suspect there are a number of afforable places. My best luck is going to the websites of Hostels (just google "hostels" and "San Migeul de Allende". Many of them also have cheapish rooms with private baths. Very basic but clean and decent. I have paid about $13-16 a night (US) for private rooms in Morelia, Guadalajara and Guanajuato. And Patzcuaro. You can even make reservations with about $3 or $4 down.

One great thing about SMA is the taxis are 20 pesos (1.80 US) anywhere in town. Worth it to me sometime. I do about 1/2 walking and about 1/4 each buses and taxis.

I will be back in Chacala on Tuesday. Andee

I imagine we DO have alot in common, and I wouldn't have written what I did if I hadn't thought we could come to some agreement or whatever.

I didn't bother to pursue the question about her renting, since I had decided she was just screwing around, fantasizing about a vacation in Mexico.

Sep 29
Gracias Andee
For all the info, most helpful and yes that is what I said to
YYY that you probably wouldn't have written what you did if you didn't feel comfortable in some way. So, I tried not to be too offended, sorry if it came across that way. But it seems that it is all water under the bridge and I look forward to meeting you in Chacala.

After saying all that I realize that my portion of stay has changed for staying in Chacala and now it will only be 21/2 weeks or so but I was hoping to get the 750 peso a week rate. Let me know what you think. I am very resourceful and maybe could help Maria in some way.
Talk to you soon.

And then she, XXX , starts talking about renting a place in Chacala, again. Now it's for two weeks or so. No particular date. I didn't respond, mostly because she hadn't answered my questions about dates and number of occupants. But mainly because here she was, asking again to pay less than the regular rate. She was asking to pay about 100 pesos a night instead of 150. (about 9.00US versus 13.50US).

Oct 12
Hi there [Andee]

Haven't heard back from you. You must be back in Chacala by now. So have you talked to Maria about my staying there. Would like to know soon if that is OK. I've got my plane tickets. Please get back to me one way or the other so I'll know.

Now, I am really thinking "Something is wrong here." Notice no dates, no discussion of rates or number of occupants, etc etc etc.
So I wrote back this email. I wasn't thinking clearly, or I never would have written another word to this woman. I certainly wouldn't wish her on Maria. I can just imagine her arriving here and refusing to pay the "full" rate.

Oct. 12

Here is a copy of the last email you sent me.

“Gracias Andee
For all the info, most helpful and yes that is what I said to YYY that you probably wouldn't have written what you did if you didn't feel comfortable in some way. So, I tried not to be too offended, sorry if it came across that way. But it seems that it is all water under the bridge and I look forward to meeting you in Chacala. After saying all that I realize that my portion of stay has changed for staying in Chacala and now it will only be 21/2 weeks or so but I was hoping to get the 750 peso a week rate. Let me know what you think. I am very resourceful and maybe could help Socorro in some way.
Talk to you soon”.

I was amazed, after our previous discussion, that you would suggest I ask Maria to allow you to pay about $110 pesos a night, rather than the regular nightly rate of $150 pesos a night.

I think it would be nice of you to "help Maria in some way". But the nightly rate is still the same. And most guests here DO find a way to help their landladies out, usually a nice tip or whatever.

I don't have to energy or interest to keep having the same discussion with you regarding wanting a cheaper rate.

Please let me know if you want to pay the nightly rate, otherwise maybe you can find something else.

As far as I know, Maria is still open for the dates you mentioned before. If you do decided to accept the nightly rate, please give the exact nights again.


I understand you probably don't understand where I am coming from about this issue, but be that as it may.

So, in summary:
So. I have learned a few things here.

1). Stop for a minute, and really figure out if this email is something I want to respond to. Or if it really makes sense to continue the correspondenc.e

2) Don't answer emails when I am in a crabby mood.

3) Don't ask people poorer than me for "deals" or "cheaper rates".

4) Trust my instinces when something seems strange.

5) Get rid of the rental blog. There are now some other options in Chacala for adverting your rental. is one.

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