Before you even leave Britain, you must convince the airline that you will be allowed into the US. America recently made it much tougher to get a visitor's visa, preferring tourists to travel under the Visa Waiver Program. Yet to qualify for this, you have to fulfil a whole catalogue of criteria - not just ticking the right box when asked "Have you ever been a drug trafficker, prostitute or procurer?" and "Do you seek to enter the United States to engage in export control violations, subversive or terrorist activities or any unlawful purpose?"
You must never have had any criminal conviction, even if it has long been erased from the public record, nor "been afflicted with any communicable disease of public health significance".
Supposing you are allowed into the US, your problems are only just beginning. American airports have not caught on to the idea of transit lounges for connecting passengers, so you have to clear immigration and customs even if you have no desire to visit America. August is an even less happy time than usual at the International Arrivals Building of JFK airport in New York.
Compared with this palaver, getting into Mexico is easy. The only stress occurs at customs. No "blue lane" for Mexican customs; they prefer something a little more random. You press a button on a device like a traffic signal. If the green bulb illuminates, you go clean through. If red lights up, your baggage is subject to a thorough search - unless, that is, you look as though you have spent the past 12 hours being ground through the mill of mass travel. This being a friendly, flexible country, you will probably be waved through.
Mexico is the one country in the world where flying is still a pleasure. My five flights on the airline Mexicana all left exactly on schedule and arrived five minutes early. As the plane pushes punctually back, the ground crew lines up and wave farewell to the aircraft.
Inflight refreshments often offer an endearingly straightforward approach: Johnny Walker Red Label, or water, or both. Each flight around the vast country cost me just pounds 50, flying on a Mexican air pass.
Better to fly than to be a pedestrian. I read in a local newspaper that drivers who merely injure victims of road accidents must pay much more than for those who are killed outright. The report concluded: "Although no one admits it publicly, bus drivers are often told by their bosses that, if they run over someone, they'd better be sure that the victim is dead rather than merely injured."Reuse content