Hi I'm Laura Bronner, AKA the Eternal Expat. In the last seven years I've lived in Switzerland, New Zealand, Australia, South Korea, England, and now - Mexico. I want to show you that a life of travel doesn't require a ton of money or all that much bravery. I've been doing it for all this time without either of them.
The Mexico City metro is one of the cheapest and quickest ways to get around the city. The metropolitan area of Mexico City has over 20 million people driving, taking the bus, using Ubers and taxis, and of course, taking the Mexico City subway.
While I try to avoid the subway during rush hour when it’s incredibly busy, I do like taking it on weekends when it has slightly fewer people.
Safety on the Mexico City Subway
The Mexico City often gets a bad rap. I’ll admit, it’s certainly not the cleanest, the newest, or the nicest looking (or smelling for that matter), but with some street smarts and common sense, you can easily and safely take the metro during your trip to Mexico City.
As a woman, one of the things I love about the Mexico City subway are the women-only cars. Simply walk to the end of the platform where it says damas or mujeres and you’ll be able to sit in a quieter car and won’t have to worry about any harassment issues that you could face if you go into the other cars (though I’ve never had this happen to me, it’s something to be aware of).
I’ve also never had any problems with pickpockets or snatch-and-grab situations, it’s important to know that this sort of thing does happen occassionally (just like it does on the NYC subway and in other busy cities in the world). My biggest tip for guys is to ALWAYS keep your phone and wallet in your front pocket and to keep your hand in your pocket. This is the tip that gets shared across expat groups in Mexico City and is what Luke does whenever we ride the subway.
Ladies – keep your things inside a purse that is zipped and keep that purse on your lap. I always loop the strap of the bag around my arm and then put it on my lap. If you do want to take your phone out to use it, just be aware of your surroundings. A friend recently warned me against using my phone if I’m sitting next to the door because he saw someone doing exactly that and when they pulled into the next station a guy grabbed the phone and ran off the subway before he could do anything about it.
I don’t tell these stories to put you off going on the subway. Unfortunately, these sort of things happen in cities all over the world, Mexico City is no different. That doesn’t mean it’s dangerous or that you should avoid these places, it just means you have to be more aware of your surroundings. I’ve been using the Mexico City metro for the last two years and I’ve never felt unsafe, threatened, or even at risk of having something stolen.
Buying a Ticket For the Mexico City Metro
One of the reasons that the metro is one of the most popular modes of transport around the city is because it’s so cheap. One ticket costs only 5 Pesos (which is roughly 23¢). You can change as many times as you need to without having to purchase the ticket – so as you can imagine, getting across the city is incredibly affordable.
You can buy single tickets at any metro station. Simply get in line at one of the windows labeled taquillas or boletas. Give them your money and tell them how many tickets you would like (for instance, give them 20 Pesos and ask for cuatro, por favor).
If you plan to take the metro several times, I recommend buying tickets in bulk because the lines at stations can get very long.
If you’re going to be in the city for more than a week, you may want to purchase a metro card. Metro cards cost 10 Pesos to purchase, but you only need one between a group of people, so if you are traveling with two or three people, you can share it. If you’re using the card between a few people, tap it against the card reader, go through the turnstyle, and pass it back to the next person. This is perfectly legal as you are paying for each person as you go through the turnstyles.
To buy one of the re-useable metro cards, you can simply ask for a card, una tarjeta. Just make sure you don’t go to one of the windows that says solo boletas. These windows only sell tickets.
You can top up these cards with up to 100 Pesos at a time, but once it’s on there, you’re not getting it back, so be sure to think about how many trips you’re actually going to take before you top it up with money.
It’s also worth noting that you can only pay with cash – no one is going to accept card as payment at ticket counters in the metro stations.
Best App for the Mexico City Subway
When I first got to Mexico City I downloaded Mapway for Mexico City. In my opinion, it’s one of the best apps for using the Metro in Mexico City. You can get an overall view of the subway map or you can plan your route to find out exactly where to change stations.
My only caveat is that the time it says it’s going to take to get from one station to the other is almost always wrong. The Mexico City subway isn’t exactly the most on-time subway network I’ve ever used.
How to Change Stations on the Mexico City Metro
Changing stations on the Mexico City metro is relatively simple. It can seem confusing at first and in some stations, the colors don’t correlate the color of the line that you are looking for.
Once you get off of one train, you’ll follow the signs for the line that you’re looking for – make sure you know which direction you want, because sometimes they are on opposite sides of the station.
One of the biggest things you’ll need to know when you ride the metro and when you change stations is that in order to know what direction you want to go in, you need to know the two stations at the end of each line.
For example, if you are at the Zocalo metro station, which is the blue line 2, you can either go west towards Cuatro Caminos station or you can go south to Tasqueña station. If you want to go from the Zocalo to Ermita station, you’ll want to get on the train that’s headed towards Tasqueña.
This is why having an app like Mapway is a good idea. In my experience, a lot of the stations don’t have a ton of metro maps to consult, so you’ll need one of your own.
The main changing stations on the Mexico City metro that you’re likely to pass through while visiting Mexico City are Tacuba (orange and blue), Hidalgo (blue and olive), Balderas (pink and olive), Tacubaya (pink, orange, and brown), and Centro Medico (olive and brown).
Taking the Metro to and From the Mexico City Airport
Taking the metro from the airport is really easy, especially if you’ve packed light. While some websites tell you that suitcases aren’t allowed, I can assure you that no one will stop you (but I don’t recommend taking the metro if you have a huge suitcase, it’s a huge hassel).
When you arrive at the Mexico City airport, you’ll need to get yourself to terminal one. If you land in terminal two, head to the Aerotren (the monorail between terminal one and two) and tell them you want to go to terminal one to take the metro. Once in terminal one, just follow signs to the metro.
The Mexico City airport is on the yellow line, line 5. The stop is called terminal aerea. If you are heading into the city center, I recommend taking the line towards Politécnico. You’ll change stations at La Raza, which is the olive line, line 3. It’s a long walk between the two lines, about 10 minutes. You’ll then take the olive line towards Universidad.
If you are staying in the Centro Historico, you’ll want to get off at Hidalgo. If you are headed towards Roma or Condesa, you’ll probably have to change at Balderas to the pink line. Head towards Observatorio and depending on where you’re staying you may want to get off at Cuahtémoc, Insurgentes, or Sevilla stations. Check with your hotel, Airbnb or hostel about the nearest station.
Now that you know how to keep your stuff safe, buy a ticket, top up a card, get through the barriers, and go in the right direction, you should probably know a few things about actually riding the metro.
Like I mentioned above, there is a women-only car (which also includes children who are riding with women), which I highly recommend using if you are a woman traveling solo on the metro.
Something else you should probably know about the metro is that when it’s busy, everyone stands by the doors. You may have to push your way onto a car, but just head towards the center of the car and you’ll have plenty of room to stand comfortably.
The reason everyone congregates around the door is that the doors don’t stay open for very long. There isn’t really time for everyone to get off AND THEN let everyone else on, so it all ends up happening at the same time. Don’t be offended if you get pushed or shoved, there’s no harm meant by it and while most people I’ve encountered on the metro are very polite, sometimes there’s no time to apologize because you gotta get off before those doors close!
Be sure to hold onto something. The subways can sometimes stop suddenly between stations and if you’re not sitting, you can end up falling into other people at best, falling on your face at worst.
There are vendors that walk up and down the cars throughout the day selling pretty much everything. Some have speakers playing loud music selling CDs, other people are selling candy or chewing gum. Some people sing or do magic tricks. There are often small children walking around asking for money.
The metro can get pretty hot, especially at peak times, but even when the cars are nearly empty. Some have windows, but others are stiflingly warm. It’s 5 Pesos, guys.
Don’t forget to give your seat to older people or pregnant women, especially on really busy cars. I know this is probably an obvious one, but you’d be surprised how many young people aren’t paying attention. You’ll also notice a lot of people give up their seats for moms or dads with young children.
My last tip is simply to be nice. Don’t get stressed about how busy it is. You can always get off at the next station and do a loop around – it costs you nothing but a little bit more time. If you get easily stressed around large crowds, you don’t share well, or you’re not budget conscious, the metro may not be for you.
Heading to Mexico City Soon? You may find these other posts helpful!
For those new to this series (it’s only a month old, so we’re all sort of new to this series tbh), I have decided to keep you all in the loop with these monthly updates so that they live forever somewhere rather than solely in my monthly newsletters.
I know that a lot of people come to this blog to learn more about life in Mexico City, whether that’s because you’re traveling to Mexico or you’re considering moving here yourself. There will be stories, current events, recent restaurant finds, and different photos from around the city that I often don’t get a chance to share anywhere other than Instagram stories.
Favorite Recent Mexico Eats
I checked out a few new places this month and there is one in particular that you should not skip out on when you visit Mexico City.
El Turix: This little hole-in-the-wall taco joint in Polanco is out of this world. Expect to wait a while if you visit on a busy weekday, but it’s surprisingly quiet on weekends. Go straight up to the chef at the front of the shop and order your tacos. They have one meat – cochinita, which is a dish from the Yucatan. It’s slow roasted pork in a deliciously spiced and almost sweet sauce. It’s super rich and four tacos was more than enough for me at lunchtime. Definitely have it with the red onions.
You can also have it in a torta (like a sandwich) or on a panucho, which is a fried tortilla, making it crispier. All are outstandingly delicious. The salsa is habañero, so use sparingly. It’s also worth noting that it’s cash only. Tacos are 17 Pesos each.
Favorite Recent Bar in Mexico City
I tried a new craft beer bar this past weekend in Mexico City and it was pretty cool. While there are tons of great bars in the city, it can be hard to find new spots that actually brew their own.
Crisanta Garage: It’s located in a cool spot right near the Revolution Monument. You can actually grab a table outside and enjoy the view of the monument while you sup their beers. The drinks menu, in general, is pretty extensive and they also make their own spirits, but I went for the craft beer.
I tried both of their IPAs and really enjoyed them. They’re both pretty heavy and tasted quite strong, but they had a lot of flavor and the labels on the bottles were eye-catching. I’d definitely head back again to try some of their other beers (they had seven in total).
Favorite Recent Day Trip in Mexico City
I’ve been trying to change things up a little bit on the weekends. Luke and I joke that whenever we go into the city we’re just trying to fill time between a tasty lunch and cocktail hour (aka craft beer hour, unless of course, you’re talking about Limantour, in which case, definitely cocktails).
This past weekend we headed to Roma Sur to check out the Mercado de 100, an organic market that takes place every Sunday, as well as the Huerto Roma Verde, which is a funky community space that usually has different markets or events going on every weekend. Both are right next to each other and were really cool to spend some time. I recommend coming hungry to Roma Verde – there are SO MANY delicious stalls selling good food and drink.
Life Lately in Mexico City
I’ve been trying to work a ton this month since I’m going to be traveling a ton this summer, but I’m still enjoying weekends here.
I also recently released my labor of love, Mexico City: A Travel Guide. It’s a comprehensive 200-page digital guidebook to the city. It has a guide to street food with locations of my favorite vendors, a neighborhood guide for Polanco, the Historic Center, Roma, Condesa, and Coyoacan. Each neighborhood guide talks about my favorite boutique hotels, top restaurants, bars, and cafes to check out as well as day trips that I love.
I have been working on this book for a year and am so proud to see it finally in print. I’ve been overwhelmed by the response and I’m so excited to be able to help people see a totally different side to the city. You can read more about the book here and you can purchase a copy here.
Upcoming Travel Plans
This will likely be my last update until September because I’m headed on a bit of a Europe tour this summer. I’ll be announcing more as the time gets closer!
As always, if you have any questions about Mexico City, get in touch with me on Facebook, Instagram, or via email. I’d love to help answer your questions!
The rain is upon us now. The wet season in Mexico usually starts around mid-June, so I guess it’s a little bit early this year, but it will now last until early to mid-October.
The days vary. Sometimes it can be hot and sunny with temperatures reaching 85 degrees F (29C) and then around 3 or 4pm, the clouds roll in and you get a torrential downpour for about an hour.
Other days, you wake up to cloud, it spits a little bit in the morning, the cloud stays, it feels like it’s about 65 degrees F (18C) and you don’t see the sun for a week.
I’m really selling it to you now!
But actually, visiting Mexico during the wet season has a lot of perks (unless you’re looking to have a beach holiday where you do nothing but dip your toes in the sea, then, well, I don’t recommend visiting at this time of year).
The wet season is the perfect time to visit places like Mexico City, Puebla, San Miguel de Allende, Oaxaca, and other cities. The rain means you can spend all day inside a museum, the cloud cover means you don’t get sunburned as you explore Aztec and Mayan ruins, and best of all, the rain also means that everything is crazy green. In fact, in many parts of the country, they don’t call it the wet season at all, they call it the green season.
What to Pack for Mexico During the Wet Season
This is my number one piece of advice for visiting Mexico during the wet season. Drainage around the country is sub-par, especially in big cities like Mexico City. The last thing you want to do is head out to explore for the day and get caught in a downpour that leaves you with sopping wet feet for the rest of the day (trust me, this has happened to me more times than I can count).
Even if you manage to avoid getting your feet wet when the downpour happens, there will no doubt be huge puddles around for the remainder of the day.
I absolutely love these waterproof ankle boots from Sam Edelman. They are stylish, incredibly comfortable to walk in, and they keep my feet dry during the miserable wet season (as well as in rainy England whenever I’m back to visit).
Any other type of classic leather boot or waterproof shoe will be fine, just make sure you pack a pair!
Another must is a lightweight rain jacket. It’s still going to be hot, so a rain jacket with a thick lining will make you sweaty and uncomfortable. Thanks to all the rain, it can also get pretty humid during this time of year (especially if you’re traveling along the coast – yowza is it humid there!).
Look for the most lightweight rain jacket you can find that still keeps you dry. We’re talking about tropical-storm style rain here, so a windbreaking isn’t going to cut it.
I love my Columbia rain jacket. It wasn’t super cheap, but it keeps me dry, it’s kind of cute (if bright pink waterproofs are cute?), it fits well and it doesn’t make me sweat a ton. I use it throughout the wet season here in Mexico, I loved it when I visited the wet season in Costa Rica, and with layers, it’s great for rainy days in the U.K.
Quick Drying Pants
If you’re going to be out for the day exploring and you get caught in a downpour, you’re going to want to be wearing clothes that dry quickly. For me, that usually means lightweight cotton trousers which keep me cool during the sunny hours but also are great for when the temperature drops post rain.
Consider the length of the pants when you’re shopping, too. While those long pants might look super cute, they’re likely going to get soaking wet at the bottom if you wear them after a downpour.
These are some of my favorites available right now:
The temperatures are all over the place during the wet season. You’ll want to be prepared for hot and humid as well as cool and breezy. It can be sunny and warm one minute and the next minute a gust of wind blows through and you’ll want another layer or two in your day bag.
During the wet season I usually wear a pair of lightweight pants, a t-shirt or tank top and then in my bag I’ll have my rain jacket and, depending on what the weather app on my phone says about the temperatures later in the day, perhaps a lightweight cardigan too (long time followers will know JCrew sweaters are the only ones for me).
Bug Spray is a must for wet season in Mexico, especially when the sun goes down. With all of the moisture and humidity around, mosquitos are everywhere. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in the mountains or at the beach, you’ll need to cover up with bug spray during the wet season here.
You can definitely purchase bug spray once you get here, but if you’re going to really touristy areas like the Yucatan or Puerto Vallarta, then you’ll likely pay a lot more than you would at home.
While it’s most likely going to rain during this time of year while you’re traveling around Mexico, it will also be incredibly hot when the sun comes out. Last year I visited Oaxaca during the wet season and while it was amazing to see all of the ruins surrounded by bright green grass and lush hills in the distance, I also almost suffered from sunstroke (dark hair, strong sun, and no hat is a terrible combination).
I highly recommend packing a hat and if you forget one, be sure to pick one up when you arrive. If you’re going to be exploring ruins like Palenque, Mitla, Chichen Itza, or Teotihuacan, you’re going to need a hat – that goes for both guys and gals. There is little to no shade at these places and when it’s not raining the sun can be ferocious.
What NOT to Wear in Mexico During Wet Season
There are a few things that I would avoid wearing on those days when you know it’s going to rain. That’s not to say you shouldn’t pack them at all. If you’re going to be traveling around the country or visiting big cities, you can probably still get away with most of these things on days when the rain is nowhere in sight.
I love jeans, especially here in Mexico City. They’re versatile, they help you look put together even if you don’t feel particularly put together (who feels put together when they’ve just traveled for 8 hours?). The trouble with jeans during the wet season in Mexico is that they don’t dry very quickly. If you get caught in a downpour then they’re going to be wet for pretty much the rest of the day.
The other problem with jeans is that when it’s humid they literally feel like they have become part of your legs. Humidity and denim and human skin are just not meant to be friends. I suggest that if you do pack jeans, that they are very lightweight and avoid skinny jeans if possible.
Lightweight Dresses or Skirts
While these are usually my go-to when I travel during the summer, I end up being so annoyed that I’ve worn these during the wet season. The number one reason is because of wind. There is never a day without wind during the wet season – even if it’s just a light breeze, lightweight dresses fly away. I hate walking down the street and holding down my dress when I walk.
Of course, if you pack lightweight maxi dresses or longer midi-dresses, then you can probably get with it, but just be prepared for what feels like constant wind.
Okay, obviously you don’y wear an umbrella, but you’ll probably considering packing one (and you should). Just make sure it’s not a terrible dollar store purchase. Don’t get me wrong, I love a cheap umbrellas as much as the next person, but it will be totally useless here in Mexico during the wet season.
Make sure you have a sturdy umbrella that fits in your purse or day bag. You probably won’t use it every day, but when that rain comes, you’ll be glad you packed it. I love this umbrella and have been successfully using it during Mexico’s wet season for two years running now.
If you’re by the beach, by all means pack your favorite flip flops. However, if you’re headed to any of the cities around Mexico, I really recommend leaving your flip flops at home. They may dry quickly, but your feet will be filthy at the end of every day. Between the rain, the wind, the puddles, and the residual muck that gets left behind when the water recedes, you will most likely want to keep your feet covered up.
Driving in Mexico can seem daunting at first. Having lived here for two years, I can honestly say I was a little bit nervous at first (especially after seeing drivers in Mexico City!).
But if you’re from the US or you have some experience driving on the right side of the road in other countries, you’ll find driving in Mexico is pretty easy and straightforward.
Having a car to get around different parts of the country is a much more affordable way to explore the country than flying or taking inter-city buses. It’s definitely the cheaper option if you are traveling with two or more people with rentals available for as little as $10 a day and gas prices sitting at about even with prices in the US at the moment (this may change post-election on July 1 if the Peso drops in value).
I’ve tried to answer the most commonly asked questions when it comes to driving in Mexico. If you still have some concerns after reading this post, feel free to ask in the comments and I’ll do my best to find the answer for you!
Is it Safe to Drive in Mexico?
Yes and no. It depends on where and when you’re driving. Just like there are parts of the US that you might avoid driving in at night when you’re alone, there are places in Mexico that you will want to avoid driving at night when you’re alone.
Driving in Mexico, in general, is perfectly safe and like I mentioned above, is one of the best ways to see the country.
A few tips I stick to when driving in Mexico are to avoid driving at night. If you are traveling between cities or other rural areas, stick to the daytime. There is more traffic on the road during this time and should anything happen (like a breakdown), you’ll be in a much better position to get help.
Another thing I do whenever I’m going to be driving around Mexico is to seek advice on the route I’m taking. I reach out to the amazing community of Mexico travelers on Facebook or other forums and I simply ask. People are more than happy to give their two-cents. There is almost always someone who has done the trip recently and can tell you what the roads were like and if they felt safe during the journey. The best forums for this, in my opinion, are Facebook groups like Expats in Mexico or on Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree Forum.
While you’re at it, it’s worth asking about how many gas stations are along the way (especially if you’ll be traveling through more rural areas for long periods of time). Always make sure your phone is fully charged and that you have a charger that you can plug into your car to keep connected.
These tips are mostly for those that will be road-tripping around Mexico. If you are simply renting a car to enjoy the trip from Tijuana to Ensenada, from Cancun to Merida, or from Mexico City to Puebla, there’s really nothing to worry about. Take the toll roads, keep cash on you, and enjoy the trip.
The only caveat to short trips is if you decide to rent a car in Chiapas or Oaxaca to explore some of the natural beauty without a tour guide. While it’s not necessarily dangerous, it can be uncomfortable or difficult to pass on certain roads. Much of the land ownership is debated in this part of the country and if you don’t speak very good Spanish, you may find yourself turning around and struggling to reach your desired destination. The biggest issue you’ll probably face while trying to visit the tourist areas of Chiapas is when children pull ropes across the road and ask for money in order to pass. These can be as frequent as every few hundred feet.
Cuota Roads Vs Libre Roads
There are two main types of highways in Mexico – cuotas and libres. Cuotas are private toll roads and libres are free roads that tend to stop through towns, have the odd traffic light, and are generally not well-looked after (HUGE potholes). There is a lot more pedestrian traffic and from other people’s stories, a lot of cattle and wild animals on the libre roads.
I always recommend taking the cuota roads, but especially if you need to drive after dark. In general, these are considered the safest option when traveling around the country and often there is no other option to get to your destination.
When I was driving in the Yucatan last year there were tons of cuota roads between Cancun and Merida and Merida and Chichen Itza. They aren’t exactly cheap and can quickly add up when you are traveling long distances. If you’ve rented a car, it usually comes with a tag that you can use and then you can pay the fee once you return your vehicle.
Otherwise, you can usually pay with cash at every cuota road (at least the ones that I’ve driven on). Expect to pay anywhere between 25 and 200 Pesos to use the stretch of road, depending on how many miles it is. So keep plenty of cash on hand.
Driving Your American Registered Vehicle in Mexico
While it is possible to drive your American or Canadian car over the border and use it in Mexico, it can be a bit of a pain and in the end, cost you just as much, if not more, than renting one once you cross the border.
It is required by Mexican law that all drivers have car insurance. When you get to the border with your car, you’ll have to prove that you have insurance that is valid within Mexico. In Mexico, U.S. and Canadian car insurance policies are not valid. You’ll need to get yourself international car insurance from an authorized Mexican auto insurance company. BestMex is a good website to learn more about getting car insurance in Mexico.
Besides getting car insurance, you may also need to get a temporary import permit depending on where you’ll be driving your car in Mexico. If you will be staying within 20 kilometers of the border zone, then you don’t have to worry about it, but if you’re going to be heading to Cabo, Mexico City, Monterrey or anywhere else south of the border zone, then you need to purchase the permit.
You can learn more about getting a temporary import permit here. You can either purchase it online between 7 and 60 days before your trip, or you can get it when you arrive at the border (but this will significantly hold up your processing time so be prepared to wait).
It’s worth noting that Mexican speed limits are posted in Kilometers per hour, so be sure you’re following those numbers on your speedometer rules rather than the miles per hour numbers (I say this because I have made the mistake so many times).
Can I Use an American License to Drive in Mexico?
Yes. Mexico recognizes all driver’s licenses that are issued in English so you are free to drive in the country with a Canadian, British, EU, Australian, New Zealand, (etc…) license.
The only regulation that comes into place is if you are living in Mexico. If you will be getting temporary or permanent residency here in Mexico, technically you should be driving on a Mexican license. How often this is actually enforced is a different story. However, if you plan on buying a car while you’re here, you’ll need a Mexican license.
How Do Mexicans Drive?
Mexican drivers vary across the country, just like in any place as large as Mexico. Mexico City drivers are manic, they drive quickly and rarely if ever use their indicators. But drivers in the Yucatan are polite, drive the speed limit, use their blinkers, and don’t honk as soon as a light turns green.
My biggest advice is to simply pay attention. Check your mirrors constantly and never make assumptions about what other drivers are doing. They may have their blinker on, but that doesn’t mean they’re turning. They may be braking near the curb, but that doesn’t mean they’re about to stop. Always be prepared for the unexpected around Mexican drivers.
Rules of the Road to Know
There aren’t really many “rules” of the road as it were, but there are a few things to be aware of that I’ve noticed over the years of driving in Mexico (or more often, being a passenger in Mexico).
People put their hazard lights on when they are possibly going to stop. This is something I’ve noticed most in Mexico City. It’s basically telling the person behind you that you don’t know what the heck you’re doing and you may be looking to stop at some point. People also pop their flashers on when they are coming to a sudden stop due to traffic. It’s a way to alert drivers behind you that everyone is braking.
You’ll notice a LOT of speed bumps in while you’re driving around Mexico. They’re called topes and you’ll either see signs that say topes or you’ll see yellow signs with two black bumps on them. Both are letting you know that speed bumps are ahead. In most parts of Mexico, speed bumps are no joke. They are HUGE and you have to go very slowly over them. Some drivers even take them at a diagonal so that their bumpers don’t get smashed as they go over them.
Be cautious of potholes. They are prevalent in cities around Mexico or anywhere other than cuota roads really. They can be very deep and obviously going over one in a rental car could mean having a very bad day.
There only used to be one gas station company in Mexico, Pemex. It was government owned and opperated. This year, at least in Mexico City, most of the Pemex stations have been sold off to other companies like Shell and BP. It has meant a little bit more competition when it comes to pricing.
You don’t pump your own gas in Mexico. You pull up to the pump and tell the attendant how much you want and how you want to pay (efectivo is cash and tarjeta is card). After they pump your gas you should give them a small tip (from what I’ve been told, this is the only way they make money, they don’t actually receive a wage). I usually give 10 Pesos if they’re filling up the tank and they clean the windscreen.
Military Check Points
There are military checkpoints on major highways, outside of big cities, and near borders where you may be asked to pull over. Usually, they are nice enough and they will ask for your license and proof of insurance. I’ve never had a bad experience and often we simply get waved passed these without ever being asked to stop, but I have heard stories of people driving in American cars with American license plates and being given a hard time or told to turn around because they can’t go that way (even though all of the other traffic is going that way). In these cases, they’re usually looking for a bribe of 100-200 Pesos. It’s up to you whether you feel this is a good idea or not.
Renting a Car in Mexico
Renting a car in Mexico is pretty simple. If you use websites like Expedia or booking.com, be aware that you are not being quoted the full price. That is the price of the rental without insurance. You won’t know what the insurance fee is unless you call ahead. This can sometimes be double or even triple the day rate that you’re quoted. I’ve had this shock before and it is not nice.
So instead of booking on third-party websites, the biggest tip I can give you for renting a car in Mexico is to go directly to the car rental company’s websites and compare prices that way. Every major airport and big city has Enterprise, Thrifty, Budget, and National. The price that you’re quoted on their website will include insurance. If you’re still unsure, you can always call. They can always connect you to someone who speaks English.
Another important thing to note about renting a car in Mexico is that the low prices that are quoted are usually for manual cars. If you can’t drive a stick shift, make sure you choose an automatic vehicle when you are booking. They usually charge slightly more per day for automatic cars.
If you are traveling across the border from San Diego and are thinking about renting a car in the US, I highly recommend simply taking an Uber to the border and walking across to Tijuana. Renting a car in the US that you will be taking into Mexico will cost a whole lot more money and will require a ton more paperwork. Save yourself the hassle and rent from Tijuana. You can always pick it up in one location and drop it off in another (for an added fee of course).
What if You Break Down While Driving in Mexico?
Have no fear, the Green Angels are here! The green angels are basically roadside assistance that you can call from anywhere in Mexico. They only service major highways though, so if you break down in a random place, they won’t be able to help.
You can call the Green Angels from a cell phone or a pay phone by dialing 078. It’s a 24/hour hotline so they can always assist you. Their services are free, you simply pay for whatever gas or tolls you go through once you’re sitting up front with them. The only caveat being, well, you need to have a basic level of Spanish if you want to communicate with them.
That being said, if you are driving a rental car, the company you rent from will no doubt have a hotline that you can call if you break down. Major companies like Enterprise and Budget have their own breakdown service that they’ll send to help you and obviously someone on the end of that telephone line will speak English.
The Mexico City Travel Guide that I’ve been talking about for months is finally here. I have poured my heart and soul into this guidebook. I’ve toured the city, searched for unique sites to enjoy, eaten my fair share of Mexican delights, and put it all together in what I hope is an easy to read digital guide that you can take you with all over Mexico City.
Why I Wrote a Mexico City Guidebook
Just before I moved to Mexico City, I did a ton of research on all of the best restaurants, bars, places to hang out, and tourist spots too of course. The trouble was, two years ago there simply wasn’t that much information available in English. When I arrived, I was disappointed to constantly find myself surrounded by other tourists who’d read the same two or three websites about Mexico City that I had.
I decided early on that I wanted to make it my mission to help others who wanted to see more of Mexico City. As I’ve gotten to know this amazing metropolis over the years, I’ve come to see this project not only as a way to show you some cool spots, but also as a tool to let the world know just how awesome Mexico City really is.
What You’ll Find Inside My Mexico City Travel Guide
This book contains all of the things that I love. Inside you’ll find tips for visitors like what street foods to discover and how to get around the city on public transport.
You’ll also find neighborhood guides for my favorite areas: Centro Historico, La Roma, La Condesa, Coyoacán, and Polanco. Each neighborhood guide is packed with things to do, places to eat, boutique hotels (you won’t find any chain hotels in this book!), and my favorite bars and cafes in each neighborhood.
I’ve also written about safety in Mexico City, where to get the best street food, and day trips that are worth making time for in your itinerary.
This book is truly everything I know about Mexico City packed into over 200 digital pages.
This book is the most comprehensive Mexico City guide out there at the moment, I’m certain of that.
How to Buy Mexico City: A Travel Guide
I’ve made it as simple as I possibly could for you to get access to this travel guide. Simply follow this link and pay with your preferred method. Gum Road is a fantastic and trusting website that I have chosen to use thanks to its excellent reputation for customer service. You will receive the link to download the book as soon as you complete your purchase.
The book is fully digital and is available in two formats – a phone version that has big font so that it’s super easy to read on the go. Download it to your phone and take it to Mexico City with you so you can quickly look up the best bars in Roma or where to go for lunch in the Centro Historico.
The other option is a printable PDF. I know some people don’t love reading on their phones or tablets, so I wanted to create a version that you could print off or read on your laptops. The font is slightly smaller so the book is fewer pages, but it’s still large enough to make it easy to read once printed.
How Much is the Mexico City Travel Guide?
The question you’re probably most interested in (you may have done what I always do and literally scrolled past all of the other information above and come straight to this section).
This is a one-time payment which will give you lifetime access to the book. If you misplace your download, it will live on your Gum Road account and you can always download another copy. You are free to print the book and take it with you on your travels.
Have questions before you purchase the book? Feel free to get in touch on Facebook or Instagram and ask away. I’d love to help!
I recently took a whirlwind trip to the UK where I flew 9 hours on Thursday night, partied all weekend with friends, and then flew back to Mexico again on a Tuesday night flight that took roughly 10.5 hours.
By the time I got home I was SO exhausted that it took me the rest of the week to properly recover and feel like a human again.
I’ve taken a fair few long-haul flights in the last 10 years or so. I’ve flown from New York to New Zealand, from Australia to New York, from the UK to Korea, Thailand to the US, the UK to Mexico, and I’ve crossed between the US and the UK more times than I can count. I’ve got something of a routine down that I’ve crafted over the years to make sure I avoid jetlag as much as possible.
But it’s not just jet lag that can ruin the first few days of your trip. It’s all the other stuff that comes along with being on a plane for so long – dehydration, blotchy skin, bloating, and just general exhaustion.
After I got back from this trip where I literally followed none of my usual rules (and severely suffered the consequences), I have promised myself that doing these little things before, during, and after a flight really are the best way to get the most out of your trip even after being on a plane for 10+ hours.
How to Avoid Jet Lag, Dry Skin, and Dehydration From a Long Haul Flight
The Day Before Your Flight
Before you fly, you’ll want to do a few simple things to make sure you’re ready for such a long flight. The first thing is to drink plenty of water. I read recently that you lose something like 1.5 liters of water every three hours that you’re in an airplane. If you get onto a plane and you’re already dehydrated, you’re going to be feeling pretty rough by the time you land, so hydrate well the day or even few days leading up to your flight.
If you’re concentrating on staying hydrated, I recommend also avoiding alcohol. I pretty much always have a beer when I get to the airport if there’s time, but I try to limit it to that and I definitely try to avoid alcohol for at least two or three days leading up to the trip just to make sure that I’m properly hydrated. It may sound intense, but I’ve found that focusing on drinking a ton of water before, during, and immediately after the flight have made such a huge difference in how I feel on those first few days after a long flight.
Another thing I like to do on the day before a flight is to eat something healthy and hydrating – I stock up on juicy fruits, drink plenty of fresh orange juice, and make sure that my meals aren’t too high in sodium (which can cause bloating, especially when you reach heights of 30,000 feet).
My skin used to really suffer when I flew, so I’ve started paying a lot more attention to moisturizing, especially leading up to a long flight. The night before I fly, I usually use a hydrating face mask. I love all of the Korean and Japanese style masks that sit on your face for up to 30 minutes (this is my current go-to), but any moisturizing face mask will help. Pack one for the trip too, so you can use one in the days following the flight as well.
Last but not least, get an early night. You’ll no doubt be sleep deprived thanks to a long day of travel through different time zones, so you’ll want to have as much sleep as you can beforehand.
So to quickly recap, here’s what you should do the day or two before your flight:
Drink plenty of water – at least 3 liters
Try to eat something healthy
Face mask or night moisturizer because the skin suffers a lot on fights
Go to sleep early
The Day of Your Flight
The day of my long-haul flight, I have a few routines which just solidify what I did the day before. If my flight is going to be an overnight flight (which I find is usually what I end up on for long-haul flights), then I try to wake up pretty early. I want to make sure I still get at least 8 hours, but beyond that, I try to wake up earlier than I usually do so that I feel tired once I get on the airplane.
I seriously struggle to sleep on flights, but I’ve found that if I’m really tired I’ll sleep anywhere, so hence why I wake up nice and early.
The other thing I do on the day of the flight is to make sure I drink at least 3 liters of water. This is A LOT of water and I’m usually rushing to the bathroom all day thanks to it, but it has made a HUGE difference in how my skin feels when I land. It also helps my digestion, which almost always gets messed up when I fly (plane food, WHAT IS IN YOU?!)
The last thing I do before I get on a plane is to make sure I eat a full meal, preferably something healthy and not too salty. Plane food is my guilty pleasure, but I’ve found that thanks to how salty it is and whatever else is in it that makes my stomach upset, it just really isn’t the best move for me to eat it. So instead, I eat either at home or at the airport. I have even started packing some food that I’ve made at home so that when I get hungry, I have something healthier.
I’m not going to lie, I’m still sometimes tempted and end up having the salty beef and potatoes with a glass of red wine, but I know deep down this is not going to help me avoid jet lag or bloating. The best thing to do is be prepared. It also means you don’t add to the immense waste that airlines create with their meal service.
So to recap, the day of your flight you should:
Depending on the time of your fight, wake up nice and early so that you’re tired for the flight
Drink at least a liter of water before you fly
Eat a healthy meal before the fight so you’re full and not tempted by any of the salty snacks that make you feel bloated and thirsty on the flight
During the Flight
Now that you’re well hydrated, have had a healthy meal, and feel tired, the flight itself should be a cinch! ha ha, I kid, it’s definitely the second hardest part.
My number one tip and the thing that I have beaten over your head this entire post is water. Why do airplanes never have enough water? Why when I ask for water do I get a thimble full of water? I always bring at least a 1.5-liter water bottle on the plane with me. I can easily get through one of those in a few hours, but then I try to sleep, so it ends up being the perfect amount.
The other thing that I did recently that I think has made a big difference with my bloating is that I have started wearing compression socks on long-haul flights. I usually get really swollen ankles and calves on flights. I don’t get up as much as they say you should, but also I just tend to really retain water when I’m up in the air. These simple compressions socks from Amazon were super reasonable. For $13.99 I got a two pack, so one for me and one for Luke, and we’re both converts.
They are also recommended to help stop any sort of blood flow that can sometimes occur in some people when they fly. It keeps the circulation going a lot better than when you’re not wearing them. Overall though, my legs just felt better after the flight than they ever have before.
Now it’s time to sleep. Sleeping on a long haul flight is one of the best ways that you can avoid jet lag when you land, especially if you’re going to be landing in the morning. There’s nothing I love more than landing at 5 or 6 pm after a long haul flight because you only have to be awake for a few hours, but this is rarely the case.
I do a few things to make falling asleep easier (I mean as easy as you can make trying to sleep when you’re sitting upright). I have a nice soft eyemask (the ones on planes are always itchy), ear plugs, and a blanket or sarong. I used to use a sweatshirt or some other shirt that I’d packed, but this is a surefire way to wake yourself up when it falls or when it doesn’t cover your whole body. Bring a sarong or use the provided blanket.
I also started practicing a little bit of meditation before falling asleep to help myself relax. Now, for all you non-meditators, hear me out. I use the Calm App for some relaxing sounds and to practice some deep breathing and it helps me relax SO MUCH when I’m on a plane. It’s also a good way to just try and shut out the sounds of an airplane that can make sleeping difficult. Give it a try.
Okay, so to recap, here’s what to do during the flight to avoid jet lag:
Sleep. Try an eye mask, earplugs, a blanket or sarong, NOT A SWEATSHIRT, and do some deep breathing exercises.
Once You Land
Congrats, you’ve made it through the flight. You have now entered the most difficult part of avoiding jet lag. You’re no doubt in a completely different time zone, your body doesn’t know whether it’s night or day and your stomach is hungry even though you literally just had the in-flight breakfast (or the healthy one you packed!).
Now that you’re on the ground, you’ll probably want to hit the ground running. There’s no time for jet lag! My first tip is, you guessed it, DRINK WATER! You’ve lost tons of water on your long-haul flight, so it’s time to rehydrate. On that first day, depending on how many waking hours you have left, you should try to drink at least 1.5 liters of water, more if you can.
You can also hydrate by having nice hydrating fruits. Maybe you’ve landed in a tropical place, perfect! Stock up on mangos, grab a fresh sugar cane juice from a street vendor, or go for some pineapple slices. Whatever you do, try to continue eating some healthy options before you get on those buckets of coronas and fried fish tacos.
It’s okay to nap. I learned this after many years of trying not to nap. Last year when I went to the UK, I landed at 7 am. I had only slept for a few hours on the flight and I had a raging headache. I knew there was no way I was going to be able to make it through the day, so I set an alarm and I slept for an hour and a half.
It was a game changer. I slept in a bed with covers and a pillow and I was horizontal and it was the best thing I could have done. Don’t be afraid to nap, just make sure you don’t sleep for too long (no more than 2 hours) and then get up and get out to explore.
Try to stay awake until at least 9 pm. The longer you can hold out, the quicker you’ll get used to the time difference. If you head to bed at 7 pm because you’re just so exhausted, you’ll probably end up waking up in the middle of the night and you’ll feel wide awake.
Distract yourself. Go out for dinner, go for a walk, talk to friends, call someone if you’re traveling solo so that they can keep you entertained. Whatever you do, do not sit down on a cozy couch with a boring TV show on!
Okay, so to recap, here’s what to do one you finally land:
Keep hydrated, eat hydrating foods if you can like fruit.
Take a nap. Set an alarm sleep for 90 minutes. That’s it. Then I get up, have a coffee and eat something.
Stay awake until at least 9 pm. If you stand any chance of actually sleeping through the night, you need to wait until it’s dark outside to go to sleep.
There you have it. These are the tips I try to follow every time I hop onto an overnight flight. It’s not easy and following absolutely everything can seem a bit extreme, so if there’s only one thing you do, drink plenty of water.
Packing for a trip, whether it’s a long weekend away or a 6-month round the world adventure can be pretty stressful. While I’ve talked about my favorite travel clothes for women to pack, I have never given my two-cents on the best travel packing hacks out there. I’ve been traveling on and off for over 10 years now with everything from winter getaways in Europe to summer adventures in Mexico, from short 2-day trips to a serious 5-month adventure around Asia.
Needless to say, I’ve tried a lot of travel packing hacks along the way. Some are absolutely fantastic and some are horrific. This is for travelers who want to take all the necessities but aren’t stressed about packing absolutely everything. I’m not by any means a carry-on packer and I’m okay with that.
Travel Packing Hacks You’ll Love
1. Plan What You’re Going to Wear
One of the best ways to make sure you don’t overpack (or underpack, which is apparently a thing for some people?) is to plan out what you’re going to wear for every day of your trip. This is really easy if you’re only going somewhere for a week or less. But it’s easily done for longer trips, too. Think about whether or not you’re going to be able to do laundry while you’re on your trip. If that’s a possibility (which is almost always is), you really only need to pack for a week to 10 days.
When you plan out your outfits you not only pack exactly the right amount of clothes, but you also get rid of basically all of the stress each morning on your trip because you only have a finite number of outfits to choose from.
2. Use Bags (or Cubes)
While most of the world has probably already told you about packing cubes, I prefer to use small bags to organize my stuff. Mostly because I already have a ton of small bags, but also I’m vain and I think they’re much cuter than the generic packing cubes that you can find on Amazon. Although if you came here looking for a packing cube recommendation, most of my friends rave about these Eagle Creek packing cubes ($22.99).
For my makeup, I swear by these canvas bags by Pamela Barsky. They’re funny, stylish, easy to clean, and they are the perfect size for travel. They ensure that I never pack too much makeup, but they still fit plenty of goodies.
I use smallish bags, usually the sort that you get as a free gift from a makeup counter, to put dirty undergarments, toiletries, first aid stuff, and jewelry. I don’t worry about bagging up my clothes because the next tip is so much better than bagging up your clothes.
3. Lay It Flat
I have been a roll-it supporter for many years. I actually only came over to the lay-it-flat team about two months ago. It is amazing how much more space you create when you lay your clothes flat rather than folding it. Obviously, this only works if you’re traveling with a suitcase, not a backpack. If you’re traveling with a backpack, rolling your clothes is still the best way to pack that.
However, if you do have a suitcase, start at one corner and lay your clothing flat, one piece at a time, clockwise until you have even layers of clothing. It also keeps them from wrinkling which is always a problem I have when I roll my clothes.
4. Stuff Your Shoes
This should be an obvious one, but if you are packing shoes, don’t waste the space inside of them. I usually put socks and underwear inside my shoes or bottles of things that are delicate like perfume that I want to protect and know they won’t burst. This serves not only to take up less space, but also keeps the shape of your shoes. There’s nothing worse than squishing a nice pair of boots in your bag to get rid of those wrinkles.
If you’re bringing snow boots, thick scares, and oversized coats, wear those on the plane, don’t even think about trying to fit all that bulky stuff into your suitcase!
5. Wear the Bulky Stuff
If you’re going somewhere and you’re taking bulky sweaters or coats, wear them instead of packing them. A coat or thick wool sweater can ruin the whole balance of your suitcase and they take up way too much room. Plus, if you’re going somewhere cold, you’ll want to have all of those warm clothes on when you arrive anyway.
6. Think About The Weight Distribution
You know when you pack your suitcase or backpack, then zip it up and stand it upright and it falls over? That’s because the weight is all wrong. I used to think this was a problem with my suitcase being front heavy, then I realized it’s because I put all of my heavy stuff near the top rather than thinking it through while the suitcase is laying flat.
When you pack a suitcase or a backpack, be sure to pack the heavy things near the wheels or towards the back of the backpack. That way, it won’t tip over and will be easier to carry, too.
7. Don’t Bring All Your Makeup
Instead, use little hacks like putting a few squeezes on concealer into a contact lens case. This was one of the best things I ever discovered. I used to cart around my entire makeup bag with a full-sized face cream, a full-sized foundation, all of my brushes, and at least 6 tubes of lipstick because you never know!
Now I buy small travel-sized lipsticks because 1) I get bored of colors before I use the whole thing anyway and 2) they are so much easier to travel with – even when I use them day-to-day in my purse. I don’t bother bringing my foundation and concealer when I’m going somewhere hot because I’ll be working on my tan and I sweat so much that stuff just melts right off anyway.
My go-to travel makeup bag usually contains waterproof mascara, my beloved Anastasia eyebrow pencil, a few lipsticks that I love, and my tweezers because eyebrows seem to grow much quicker on vacation.
8. Get Yourself a Luggage Scale
This is by far the best investment I’ve made for my travels. There is nothing worse than guessing whether or not you’re overweight. That goes for your carry-on luggage and your checked luggage. If you only take on travel packing hack from this list, it should be this one. I bought this scale from Amazon a few years ago and the battery only just died. They’re cheap and easy to replace and it works perfectly now that the batteries have been replaced.
Most decent scales allow you to swap between kilos and pounds so that no matter what the airline tells you the weight is, there’s no question. They’re also really small, so you can pack them for your trip and when you’ve purchased all those souvenirs in Mexico, you can check the weight to make sure you won’t have to pay that overage charge.
9. Reusable Travel-Sized Bottles Are Your Best Friend
For some reason, I resisted buying these sort of things for years and years. It wasn’t until around mid-2017 when I was doing a lot of one or two-week trips that I realized what I was missing out on. They make it SO EASY to travel carry on for short trips, they are easy to clean, you can actually take your favorite face cream, sunscreen, bug spray, shampoo, body lotion (I could go on) with you without worrying about carrying 10-pounds worth of toiletries. They also fit easily into a carry-on or checked bag and don’t take up nearly as much space as your normal-sized bottles.
This is a travel packing hack AND and an environmentally friendly hack. I used to use big plastic freezer bags to put all of my toiletries in so that in case they burst a little on the plane, they didn’t get all over everything else. As I started traveling more frequently, I really started noticing how wasteful it was, and I even tried to reuse them as much as possible. Unfortunately, they would burst or tear at some point and I would have to replace them.
Would you know it, they make bags specifically for this very purpose and you can just use it again and again and again. The best part is that it has a lining that makes it super easy to clean and the one I bought recently (this L&FY one) is super cute and fits toiletries for both myself and my boyfriend (and he loves a good travel toiletry).
I have a camera bag that also doubles as a purse. That way I don’t have to bring both. I have a pair of really comfortable walking sandals that are cute and fashionable that I can wear during the day to explore and dress up at night with makeup and a nicer outfit. I have belts that I can wear with jean shorts or use to cinch my waist in a dress when I go out for dinner. Pack items that you can use not only for one thing, but that will come in handy for several outfits, for different times of day, and that aren’t one-time-use items. Leave those sort of things at home.
If you’re looking for the best ruins in the Yucatan, look no further. I’ve only been to this amazing side of Mexico a few times, but I try to visit at least two or three of the Yucatan ruins whenever I’m there. There are so many Mayan ruins in the Yucatan peninsula, it can be hard to determine which are the must-sees and which are the ones to save until next time.
It’s also hard to know how close you really are. On a map, none of it looks all that far from one another, but the Yucatan Peninsula is a lot bigger than you might think. If you’re based in Tulum, Coba is a great addition to your trip after visiting the ruins by the beach. However, a trip to Chichen Itza is pretty far – it’s more than three hours each way. From Merida, you can definitely see a ton of the ruins on day trips, but getting to Tulum would require an overnight trip, there’s no chance of seeing that in a day.
Whatever you don’t see on this trip just makes for a good excuse to come back again!
Chichen Itza is by far the most famous set of ruins in Mexico. It is the beautifully formed pyramid that I dreamt of visiting ever since I first moved to Mexico a few years ago. Seeing it person was just as incredible as I imagined it would be. I was based in Merida and my friends and I had rented a car, so we could easily get from Merida to Chichen Itza and back again in a day.
We opted not to get a guide, and instead grabbed a map and I also took screenshots of the Chichen Itza page of Lonely Planet so I could read out facts about each structure as we walked around.
You can definitely see Chichen Itza as a day trip tour from Cancun and Playa del Carmen if you go with a company like Olympus Tours or Get Your Guide. It’s a long day and they pick you up pretty early, but if you want an English speaking guide who can tell you more about the ruins and you don’t want to rent a car, this is definitely the best option.
A Chichen Itza Tour usually also includes a stop at a cenote, which is a naturally formed freshwater pool as well as a buffet lunch. This Chichen Itza tour gets really great reviews and is the one that I’ve sent family and friends on when they are in the Yucatan on vacation.
Uxmal is an easy day trip from Merida. It’s only an hour away if you want to rent a car and self-drive. In my opinion, driving yourself is the best and if there are two or more people going, it’s also the cheapest option. You can easily rent a car for the day in Merida for about $35. Entrance to the ruins is minimal. If you’re really on a budget, you can pack a lunch for the day or you can have a cheap meal in the nearby town or once you get back to Merida.
You could easily spend a few hours here exploring the ruins site. It’s one of the biggest ruins in the Yucatan and it also happens to be one of the least touristed, so you’re likely to have it almost all to yourself (except during Easter). One of the things that makes this site slightly different to other Mayan ruins in the Yucatan is that you can actually climb up some of the different pyramids. Because the site receives so few tourists throughout the year, the wear and tear on the ruins is minimal compared to what it would be at a site like Chichen Itza.
If you don’t want to rent a car in Merida, you can also take the bus from Merida to Uxmal. Head to the Terminal de Segunda Clase (TAME) bus station in Merida where you can hop on a bus that leaves every two hours between 6am and 7pm (check the day before so you don’t miss the early ones). It costs 50 Pesos each way.
If would prefer to have a guide take you through the ruins to explain more about the history as well as to visit a few different nearby sites, this tour from Get Your Guide takes you to the ruins at Uxmal as well as the ruins at Kabah and a stop at the Mayan Chocolate Museum. It also includes lunch, a bilingual guide, and all of the entry fees. If you would rather just have some transportation so that you don’t have to stress about rental cars or buses, you can opt for this $29 tour which takes you on a Grey Line bus and solely includes transportation to Uxmal and the chocolate museum as well as the entry fees.
Coba is a smaller set of ruins, but similar to Uxmal, is not as widely visited as others, especially early in the morning before tours from Cancun and Playa del Carmen arrive. It only takes 40 minutes to drive from Tulum to Coba, so if you’re doing a road trip down the coast, it’s an easy detour along the way.
The site itself played a huge role in the region during the time of the Mayans. Keep your eyes peeled for the talled stelae, or tall carved stones that documented the daily life and important ceremonies performed by the people of Coba between 600 and 900 AD.
If you don’t have a car, you can either take an ADO bus (inquire at the ADO terminal in Tulum for times) or you can take a tour. If you are based in Tulum, it could be as simple as joining a tour from one of the companies that sell tours on the main street. Most offer English speaking guides for an extra fee, but if you just want to get there, opt for the transportation only option which should only cost about $15 or $20 USD for the day.
If you are staying in Cancun, this tour of Coba with dinner is a really cool option. It’s definitely something that you won’t find elsewhere and offers something a little bit unique – perfect if you’ve been to Mexico a few times already and want to experience something new. If you’re staying somewhere along the Riviera Maya between Cancun and Tulum and you’re pressed for time or don’t want to deal with a bunch of tours, this is a one-stop-shop. This Get Your Guide tour will take you to Chichen Itza, Coba, and Tulum. It includes lunch, an English speaking guide, bottled water for the journey, and all of your entry fees.
Besides being a great little beach town, which has recently become a luxury resort area for fashionable and food-loving tourists, Tulum is also home to one of the most stunning ruins in the Yucatan. These Mayan ruins are said to be some of the most important in the region and the view you get as you stand on the cliff’s edge is unbeatable.
If you’re based in Tulum, it’s incredibly easy to get there. You can either rent a bike and cycle to the entrance (there are places where you can lock it up outside) or you can take a taxi or colectivo to the parking area.
If you are coming from Playa del Carmen, you can easily and cheaply visit the Tulum ruins without a tour. Simply take a colectivo (shared taxi) from the colectivo area on Calle 2 between 20th and 25th avenues. You’ll see them all lined up. Simply look for the ones that say Tulum. Tell the driver you want to get off at the archaeological area (zona arqueologica).
If you are staying in Playa del Carmen or further afield along the Riviera Maya, you can also take a tour to Tulum which usually also includes a stop in Akumal and at a nice cenote along the way. You can take a half day tour if you’re pressed for time or go for a longer 5-hour tour which gives you a bit of free time at the Tulum beach or more time to explore the ruins on your own.
Dzibilchaltun is another easy day trip from Merida. It’s actually an incredibly short drive from the city center and can be easily reached if you have a car. It takes about half an hour to get there and is a great place to start the day if you plan on heading north to Progreso Beach for a day trip. It’s a small site, but is still really cool to walk around and one that I really enjoyed on our trip to Merida last year.
If you don’t have a car, the second best way to get there is to take the bus from Merida. Head to the Autoprogreso terminal which is located on 62nd street between 65th and 67th in downtown Merida. As of writing this (May 2018) the buses leave the terminal at 7:20, 9:30, and 11:35 hrs. On Sundays it’s at 8:00 and 11:00am. The bus is 14 Pesos each way and it takes about 40 minutes. It stops about five minutes walk fro the entrance of the archaeological zone.
The other day someone found my blog by Googling, “is settling down abroad a bad thing?”
My first thought was what a weird question. I sort of didn’t even really understand what that person was trying to better understand by conducting their Google search. Were they concerned about the safety of living abroad? The financial issues? The societal pressures that come from family and friends back home?
It got me thinking about living abroad and how my life has changed in the last eight years since I left the US. When I left all those years ago, I hadn’t really planned on never coming back. I wasn’t really thinking about that at all – I was off on an adventure! I was going to travel! I was going to write! I was a grown-up I could do whatever I wanted!
Now I look at it a lot differently. I look at how my life has changed, how much I’ve grown, how lucky I’ve been to meet so many amazing people and learn so many fascinating things.
It’s a conversation I’ve had with many an expat friend. We all agree that there’s just something about the way you act when you’re abroad that makes you feel like you’re living a better life, even if where you’re living isn’t necessarily a much better place than your home country. Things seem brighter, shinier, more fun.
Obviously, this is all subjective. This has been my personal experience. This is all based on what I love about my life, health, and wellbeing as an expat and why I think living abroad enhances all three of those things. Is my quality of life better abroad? Right now the answer is absolutely yes.
A Sense of Adventure
Since the day I moved abroad back in September 2010, my mindset to daily life has totally shifted. Living abroad, experiencing new things almost daily, has heightened my awareness of things that I never even paid attention to before. I’m more aware of the smells emanating from random shops. I notice the weather more. I notice the sound of people accents and the unique-to-me phrases they use that I’ve never heard before.
Living abroad has given my life a sense of adventure that I don’t think I would have if I was living in a place that was utterly familiar to me. It forces me out of my comfort zone in ways that I don’t realize until it’s already happening. I don’t purposely put myself in these situations, but because I am constantly being confronted with new situations, I have no choice but to adapt, to grow, to learn something about myself in the process. I love that.
Access to Affordable Healthcare
If we’re going to talk quality of life, I guess you have to bring up the fact that going to the doctor’s office doesn’t require me to take out a private loan or go into credit card debt. Private healthcare is very affordable for me here in Mexico on the wage that I earn as a freelancer. If I need to visit the dentist, the gynecologist, the eye doctor, I can do so for a fraction of what it costs me in the US.
Pharmacies are very affordable as well. I can get most medications there without requiring a visit to the doctor first. This includes the contraceptive pill, antibiotics, and cortisone creams. There is a doctor at my local pharmacy four days a week and if I’m feeling under the weather, I can visit him for 20 Pesos (just over $1 USD).
When you leave your own country, uproot your life, and try to live somewhere completely different, it’s really important to understand that you have to not only look after your physical health, but your mental health.
This really interesting survey from Aetna International is all about expat wellness. It talks a lot about the reasons that people moved abroad in the first place, but it also addresses how living abroad, away from everything that you’ve ever known, can really effect your mental health.
It’s something I wish I’d learned about a few years ago, something I had to learn the hard way. When you don’t have a support system around you like you would back “home,” you have to cut yourself some slack, realize that life can feel a little bit hard, and learn how to rebalance. I used to have a lot of anxiety around whether or not I was making the right decisions and I still have to check in with myself regularly, but now I know what signs to look for in myself.
Aetna International interviewed 32 families from different countries all who uprooted their lives, and in many instances, the lives of their children, in search of a better life, a better job opportunity, a better something. I really liked reading about why other people chose to move abroad, it’s something that always fascinates me.
Fresh & Affordable Produce
One of the things that I feel greatly contributes to my health and quality of life here in Mexico is the access to fresh and affordable healthy food. Every Tuesday, a local farmer’s market, called a tianguis, comes to my street. I go there armed with 500 Pesos (about $30) and I buy bags and bags of oranges, mangos, bananas, tomatoes, green vegetables, mushrooms, ginger, avocados, and a pile of fresh tortillas. I always come home with change.
It’s been so much easier for me to have a healthier lifestyle because I can afford to. When I go back to New York to visit family, I can’t actually believe the price of things anymore. Buying a few groceries for dinner costs me almost as much as my entire week’s shopping in Mexico.
This wasn’t always the case when I lived in other, more expensive countries. When I lived in New Zealand and in South Korea, I worked a lot. My job consumed me and I wasn’t very happy because of it. One of the main draws to moving to Mexico was that I could really get serious about my freelance writing career without worrying too much about running out of money.
I would consider myself an easily stressed person. I get anxious about pretty much everything from deadlines to making sure I don’t forget anything at the grocery store. I used to really struggle with conflict (although getting older and firmer in my opinions has changed that a lot).
Working a stressful job has been something that I know adds to this anxiety and makes even the hours that I’m not at work a big struggle. Having fewer financial obligations here in Mexico has meant that I don’t have to take a high-stress job with long hours. It’s allowed me the freedom to build a business that I’m passionate about, that makes me feel fulfilled, and after a lot of work, means that I don’t have to work all that much.
I’ve been here for two years now and while I know that I’m working hard the hours that I’m at my laptop, I spend fewer and fewer hours glued to the screen than I ever have in my adult life. I have been able to earn a lower income than I would need in countries like the US or the UK, I’ve built up a business that is sustainable going forward, and I work about 20 hours a week.
There’s no way that I could sustain this lifestyle in the US with the current income that I earn, which would mean either going back to full-time work or taking on a ton more freelance work to be able to earn more money (and therefore working a whole lot more).
It’s Not for Everyone
Living abroad has been great for me, for my goals in life, for my quality of life and happiness, but that’s not necessarily the case for everyone. If moving to different countries, having tons of different jobs, and acclimating to different languages and cultures has taught me anything it’s that happiness can be discovered in the most unlikely places, even in your hometown.
I don’t think I’ll live in Mexico forever and I don’t know that I’ll ever move permanently back to the US. What I do know is that I’ve seen what my life can look like in different countries and environments and it has changed me.