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Ajijic is a small town on Mexico’s biggest lake (Lake Chapala) about 50kms south of Guadalajara.
Lake Chapala is a well known expat destination: mainly for expats from the USA and Canada … but they are, now, being joined by an increasing number of Europeans.
Ajijic boasts the largest expat community in Mexico: over 20,000 expats live here on a permanent basis and 1,000s more ‘snow birds’ join them each year (especially from Canada) as they escape from their winter back home.
In Ajijic, Spanish is almost a second language … English is widely spoken everywhere.
WHEN TO GO:
The Chapala Lake basin has a year-round average temperature of about 72 °F (22 °C).
The rainy season begins in June and lasts until October with an average rainfall of approximately 34 inches (860 mm). Even during the rainy season, precipitation generally occurs during the evening or at night.
December and January are the coolest months and May is the hottest, just before the onset of the rainy season.
I made my own way from Tlaquepaque, Guadalajara to Ajijic by standard bus. Make sure that you go to the correct Bus Station in Guadalajara!
They do not stow your luggage in the luggage compartment; you have to take your luggage on the bus with you.
From Guadalajara you can catch several different buses: some stop on the way (which can more than double the total journey time), some go to Chapala Town. I caught the Direct Bus to Ajijic.
In Ajijic, free internet is widely available in the restaurants and bars. Your accommodation usually includes free internet too.
This means that you won’t need the usual GRANDPAcker 2GB Mobile Phone Data Package; you should be able to get away with less data.
TELCEL only cell ‘call + text + data’ packages – most of which provide unlimited calls and texts within Mexico, USA, and Canada. I suggest that you look at their MXP150 Package. This package lasts 30 days and provides 400MB of Data.
Trike / Tuk Tuk:
You don’t find things like Trikes or TukTuks in Mexico, so those ‘supercheap’ options are not available to you.
Local buses have their fixed price displayed in their front window.
Local buses don’t usually have a route of more than 10kms long.
The fixed price is typically MXP6 or MXP7 per ride.
I saw no Scooter Rental options in Ajijic, so I cannot provide indicative costs. However, I am not sure that I would recommend that GRANDPAckers rent a scooter anyway.
It is worth noting that my USA Hacienda Host (see below) drives legally in Mexico on a US Driving License.
This suggests that many people from many different countries can, probably, do the same without needing either an (a) International or (b) Mexican driving license. But, check yourselves first.
Taxis are reasonable cheap in Mexico if you know what the Rule Of Thumb should be. Alas, tourists get over-charged frequently.
So far, I have found the UBER Taxis to be a safer and cheaper option than using the Taxis on the street.
If you need to ‘stagger home’ after a good night out and want to catch a Taxi instead 🙂 … budget about MXP10 / km using UBER.
WHERE TO STAY:
With such a large number of full time expats and such a large number of expats regularly coming for several months each year (to escape their winters back home), accommodation is in high demand and prices are high accordingly.
Ajijic’s Central Plaza is not really a ‘focal point’. As a consequence, given that Ajijic is so small, you can stay anywhere.
HOTELS & HOSTELS (Nightly Rates):
As I have said, Hotels in Ajijic are expensive for GRANDPAckers.
A simple future search on AGODA.COM demonstrates this nicely:
DON’T FORGET: Sites like AGODA and BOOKING display prices EXCLUSIVE of TAXES. You, usually, have to add 18% to the displayed price to get the final price.
I had a good walk around town to look for Hotels NOT found on the internet.
An ‘average’ Double Room (of 12-15sqm) with hot water ensuite and cable TV can be found for MXP600 / night. Expect to be able to negotiate this down to MXP500 / night for a 1 week stay.
However, I wouldn’t suggest that you just ‘turn up’ without a booking.
I suggest that you pre-book a couple of nights online in a cheap place before you arrive … then, have a walk around and negotiate a price for somewhere that you like (and can afford).
HOLIDAY RENTALS (Weekly Rates):
If you plan to stay a week or more, another good option is to use TRIPADVISOR to book a Holiday Rental / Vacation Rental.
Holiday Rentals are usually rented by the week. A simple future search on TRIPADVISOR.COM demonstrates this nicely:
Holiday Rental prices are normally displayed INCLUSIVE of taxes.
Holiday Rentals, usually, offer better quality accommodation than Hotels for a lower price.
However, you may find that you are sharing the accommodation with either your Host or other people. This can prove to be good or bad depending on you and whom you end up sharing with … but, people are people all over the world, most of the time this is not a problem.
I couldn’t find any Hotels within our GRANDPAcking price range online.
The one that I chose is the ‘House to Share in Upper Ajijic‘, above.
MXP525 / night is 50% of our GRANDPAcking Budget and the maximum target price for a GRANDPAcking couple.
I was pleasantly surprised by my accommodation … it was better than any Hotel option within our GRANDPAcking price range.
I shared the accommodation with my host, Michael.
He did his thing … I did my thing … and we got on fine every time that we crossed paths.
It was a pleasant and comfortable stay … as long as you are happy walking up and down a 400m cobbled street to get to / from the main road.
There are surprisingly few Street options in Ajijic … I expected more.
Down at the Central Plaza, a Street Cart sets up in the evenings. Here you can buy several different meals including Hot Dogs and Hamburgers. I tried 2 of their Quesadillas for MXP17 each.
The Tuesday Market is a pleasant place to have Lunch and meet other expats. You will find a couple of Street Stalls there.
BUDGET CAFES / RESTAURANTS:
Try one of the local cafes. You should be able to find a decent meal (like Burritos) for as little as MXP30-50.
One of my favourite places was a street van at the bottom of my road that set up in the afternoons through to late in the evening.
It sold Eastern Mediterranean dishes for slightly more than what you would pay for a Mexican meal.
MID RANGE RESTAURANTS:
Expects to pay MXP70-90 for something from the ‘lower quartile’ of the menu.
Expect to pay MXP25 for a bottle of Coroner beer. More in an up-market restaurant.
They have a nice restobar set around a central garden.
On Wednesday nights they have a live Jazz Band that is said to be very good.
On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday they have a 3-for-2 Happy Hour on beers (a Coroner is MXP25). The Happy Hour also extends across some shorts.
YOUR HEALTH & SAFETY:
There is no reason to feel unsafe in Ajijic. But, as always, exercise normal levels of caution … don’t make yourself an obvious target.
Bring a torch. The back streets can get pretty dark at night.
Bring decent shoes. The cobbled streets (and footpaths) are very uneven and can be ‘hard underfoot’ if you only have flip-flops.
There are none. The lake isn’t really for swimming either.
WHERE TO GO / WHAT TO SEE / WHAT TO DO:
Get around and meet some expats or wander down to the Lake Chapala Society (LCS) which is located 2 blocks directly south of the Church near the Ajijic lakefront.
You will find that the expat community have many things going on … enough to satisfy almost everybody. You can play Bridge every afternoon if you want to or join a Trekking group …
MXP7 on a local bus.
MONEY / PRICES / SHOPPING:
There are several banks and ATMs around town.
Alas, there is no HSBC bank offering an MXP7,000 ATM withdrawal.
The ‘de facto’ ATM withdrawal limit is MXP5,000.
Ajijic has a large Walmart Supermarket a 30 minute walk towards Chapala Town from the Ajijic Town centre. Or take a local bus for MXP7 each way.
In Ajijic, itself, you will find a smaller Supermarket with slightly higher ‘convenience’ prices.
- 1kg Natural Unsweatened Yogurt: MXP35
- 1Kg Grapes: MXP35
- 10L Water: MXP24
- 1Kg Toasted Muesli: MXP65
- 1.5L Tequila: MXP100
- 4L Orange Juice: MXP35
- 1 Kg Grapes: MXP25
- Large punnet of Strawberries / Blueberries: MXP45-50
From Ajijic I will be heading to Guanajuato via Guadalajara.
I will tell you more about that in a future post.
Many retirees will fall in love with Ajijic. 20,000 expats already have – and call it home.
In my opinion, living in Ajijic would be living in one great big Retirement Village.
You won’t find any backpackers here
1,000s more come for several months each year … alternating between their home country and Ajijic so that they can live in constant summer whilst retaining their right to their home country’s Retirement Pension.
The standard Mexican 180 Day Free Tourist Visa makes this easy to do.
GRANDPAckers should definitely come and have a look.
I will provide a GRANDPAcking Budget for a holiday visit in my next post.