Mexico is a starting point for many Central America backpackers due to its cheap flight connections. It was the same for me and Mexico is where I decided to start my Central American journey.
RULES OF THUMB:
When you arrive in a strange country it is helpful to have some ‘rules of thumb‘ to ensure that you don’t get over-charged.
Transport costs should be as follows:
Luxury / Aircon Bus: MXP80 / hour.
Local Bus (around town): MXP7 / trip (up to 10km).
Second Class Bus (between towns): MXP5 plus MXP1 / km.
Tuk Tuk / Colectivo: MXP5 for the first km plus MXP1 / km.
Taxi (urban): MXP10 for the ‘flagfall’ plus MXP10 / km.
Taxi (rural): MXP5 for the ‘flagfall’ plus MXP5 / km.
UBER Taxi: If the Taxi doesn’t give you an up-front fixed price quote, budget MXP5 for the ‘flagfall’ plus MXP6-7 / km.
WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT TO PAY:
Expect to pay MXP500 / night for a GRANDPAcking Double with fan and hot water ensuite. Add MXP100 / night if you want aircon. Regardless, expect to pay MXP600 online for a reasonable quality room. Breakfast is usually NOT included.
HOW TO GET A BETTER PRICE:
If you get on the internet and search hard across multiple hotel search sites you should be able to find a deal that discounts these rates down to MXP450 and MXP550 respectively. In Mexico, I recommend that (for short term Hostels & Hotels) you try BOOKING.COM and AGODA.COM. For weekly or monthly Holiday Rentals, look at TRIPADVISOR.COM.
CABLE TV or GOOD WIFI:
Many hotels offer Cable TV with up to 100 Channels. Unless you speak good Spanish, this is of little use / value … all of the channels are in Spanish or ‘dubbed’. You may be lucky and find 1 English speaking channel … this is, usually, the Golden Edge Movie Channel.
You are better off getting a cheaper room WITHOUT Cable TV but with GOOD WIFI. With the latter, you can stream programs and movies off the internet.
You can always find ‘cheap eats’ on the streets:
- Tacos: MXP10
- Tortas: MXP20
A typical meal from the ‘lower quartile’ of the menu: MXP35-50
An ‘average’ meal: MXP60-70.
- A typical meal from the ‘lower quartile’ of the menu: MXP70-90
- An ‘average’ meal MXP90-110.
TIPS, TRICKS, AND TRAPS:
DESPEGAR.COM.MX is a Mexican Hotel search site. It is in Spanish but Google Translate will convert that to English for you so that you can use it.
It often lists Hotels that are not listed on the English speaking search sites. And, it often lists the same hotels at lower rates than those other sites.
However, there are 2 problems with DESPEGAR:
- You may have problems paying for your booking with your foreign Credit Card. The payment engine expects your Credit Card details and address to match USA standards (such as a mandatory 5 digit ZIP Code in your address). You must enter your Credit Card details into DESPEGAR in the format that they require … this may prove incompatible with how your Credit Card holds your information … the result is that your Credit Card company fails the transaction because it does not exactly match their information … and you cannot confirm your booking. Some hotels allow you to pay by cash on arrival; if your Credit Card payment fails, choose this option.
- Sometimes DESPEGAR offer a much better price compared to other sites ‘exclusive of fees and taxes’. However, it charges MORE than the 19% charged by those other sites … it can be over 25%! The final price can end up more expensive than the final price on other sites. Always check the final price against other sites … not the starting price.
Forget them. The only TTs that the Mexican banks will exchange are American Express … and, even then, you will have to go to quite a few banks before you find one that takes TTs.
If you have any other sort of TT on you … they are just dead luggage.
Never accept transport from touts inside an Airline or Ferry Terminal.
Always walk out of the Terminal to get better prices.
Often, you will find a Bus Terminal or Minivan Terminal within walking distance of a Ferry Terminal.
Always negotiate and agree a price BEFORE getting into the Taxi.
Always try and go to a Taxi Stand to catch a taxi. Try not to ‘flag down’ taxis on the street unless you have to (it is ‘flagged down’ taxis that contribute most to the ‘bad stories’ that you find on the internet).
TRANSPORT (UBER TAXIS):
I recommend that you download the UBER Mobile Phone App and sign up.
The UBER Taxis are ‘unmarked’ cars with Registered Drivers. In Mexico, knowing that your driver is Registered adds to your feeling of comfort and safety.
With UBER, you are tracked using GPS; everyone knows where you are and who you are with … even your friends and family can watch you get to your destination safely.
I have found UBER Taxis to be upt HALF the price of what I can negotiate with a normal Taxi on the street.
However, watch out for the ‘Increased Prices’ which can double their normal fare. They increase prices to get more UBER Drivers on the road when there is an over-demand. The UBER App tells you about the price increase in advance (so there are NO SURPRISES) and you have to accept the increased rate before the taxi is confirmed.
TELCEL is known to have the best and widest coverage. TELCEL are, also, known to be the most expensive and most congested.
If you plan to stay in a big city or town and not travel far you can consider alternatives (eg AT&T and MOVISTAR).
If you plan to travel and / or go to more remote locations, you will need TELCEL.
However, don’t make the same mistake that I did … get the right TELCEL Package.
GRANDPACKING RETIREMENT LOCATIONS:
When it comes to retirement locations in Mexico, you have many options – major urban cities, larger rural cities, beach resorts, mountain retreats. Each has its own unique and attractive features.
Have a look at:
LOCATIONS THAT DIDN’T MAKE IT:
There are some very nice places to visit in Mexico that make it into the Holiday Table but DO NOT make it into the Retirement Table.
The reasons are pretty much always the same:
- The Town Center is the only place to be, but accommodation costs in that area are out of GRANDPAcker price range
- Finding cheaper accommodation in the ‘suburbs’ just doesn’t ‘cut the mustard’ as you lose all of the ‘ambiance’ and the cost of transportation to and from the Center makes the ‘suburbs’ uneconomic.
The Holiday Locations that fall into this category are:
- San Miguel De Allende
- Playa Del Carmen
Locations that don’t make it because they are too expensive ‘full stop’ are:
- Isla Mujeres