Mexico -- how many ruins?

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Jun 10th, 2016, 04:03 PM
  #1
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Mexico -- how many ruins?

Trying to plan an 8 night sojourn by car away from Cancun and the Caribbean Coast to experience Mexican culture and nature, i.e mostly see ruins. This would be after a short stay in Cancun in the hotel zone. Previously Mom and Dad have been to Chichen Itza, Merida, Uxmal, and 3 Ruta Puuc smaller sites, and stayed several nights in Merida. 20+ years ago was appalled by afternoon crowding at C I so initially struck that one from the to do list this time.

I'd sketched out a loop including Uxmal, Edzna, Calakmul, and Coba but now think in this short time frame it's too many, also considering that we would probably pick up a minor site or 2 near these 4 big sites. Also thought that if we can be to C I at opening we can avoid the crowds and since that is really the most spectacular site should add it to the list.

As a last consideration, I really like the idea of hitting a wet, rainforesty jungle ruin since we won't be able to access Tikal easily with this time frame (plus the $500 in additional car rental fees and Belize transit fees). So strongly seeing Calakmul as an essential site, esp with the possibility of seeing and hearing howler monkeys and toucans, unless Coba much farther north can still satisfy these wildlife requirements. I am pretty sure all the other ruin areas are too dry for this kind of wildlife.

Also interested in some time in a colonial city. Merida is quite big so with a car leaning against that one. How about Campeche, Chetumal, or Valladolid?
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Jun 10th, 2016, 08:07 PM
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Generally I don't try to sway people from their itinerary. That said, have you considered Chiapas?
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Jun 11th, 2016, 02:06 AM
  #3
kja
 
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Your call!

I must admit that I found Chichen Itza the LEAST appealing of the dozen or so ruins I saw while in the area (including all of those you mention in Mexico save Coba) -- it is impressive, but too heavily touristed and tourist-ready for my tastes.

I thought Calakmul and Uxmal / the Ruta Puuc especially evocative, but I saw Calakmul before it became a "destination" -- back when the nearest lodging was miles away and the entry hidden down a long road that only locals really knew. I'm not sure what it is like now. I thought it well worth the trouble to visit, not only because of the incredible scope of its monuments, but also because it was so far off the beaten track, in an area where one could still see (or at least hope to see) some wildness. Whether it will be worth your while to try to see in a short trip is up to you. If it matters, it certainly has less architectural detail than most (if not all) of the other ruins you mention. But I did see a toucan, heard and saw howler monkeys, saw dozens of oscillated turkeys, etc.

If it helps, I also saw both howler and spider monkeys at Palenque, which I thoroughly enjoyed and found much more accessible than Calakmul.

Also, although I enjoyed Campeche, I was less than enamored with Edzna -- it has some interesting features, indeed, but given the time and energy it took me to get there, it was, I'm sad to say, a bit disappointing.

Given your interests and your time frame, I would urge you to give some thought to Palenque -- extensive ruins with a range of different architectural styles and different types of details than you will see in the main sites of the Yucatan; a rainy jungle setting complete with howler and spider monkeys and even a small waterfall; and a small, but wonderful museum of exquisite and unusual artifacts. Too, although the city of Palenque itself did not hold much of interest for me, there are several decent restaurants, and there are some very pretty waterfalls nearby that make for a pleasant day trip.

For colonial cities, I was very taken by Valladolid, which I found absolutely charming! I thought Campeche very interesting, and well worth seeing, but with less of the charm of Valladolid and more of the fascinating evidence of it's history as a fortification (if a colorful one, at that). I didn't make it to Chetumal, and so can't comment on it, but I would say that if in the area near Valladolid, you might consider spending a few hours in beautiful Izamal.

If you go to Valladolid, consider a trip to the ruins at Ek' Balam and to the cenotes of Dzitnip. Awesome!

Unfortunately, I think you will be hard pressed to find a way to fit the best of these sites into a manageable 8-day stay, but who knows! At least you've got some great options to consider.

Just my opinions. Enjoy!
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Jun 11th, 2016, 07:59 AM
  #4
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Forgot to mention earlier this is for a family of 5, children ages 14-20.

Checking flights: Villahermosa actually works, only $168 round trip and the flights are at good times. I think driving Palenque to/from Cancun is too far, and then we would see less for the trip?

Initially sketching out 1 night Chichen Itza, stay on site at the villas for 8 am access and out by 10:30, 2 nights Xpujil (hell of a name!), 4 nights in a cabin rental in Bacalar for hanging out, then one perhaps back in Cancun by the airport for the last night, could stay free with points, or I suppose check out PDC for 1 night. There are 2 major southern ruins on this route, Calakmal and Kohunlich, and a few smaller ones near each so we could see at least 6 ruins, all away from the worst crowds except for CI. Ruins used to be free on holidays like Christmas and New Years, is this still true?

About the rental car: Seems that Hertz is the way to go since basic liability is included in all reservations and they will accept credit card coverage for the CDW and theft insurance? Planning on taking the bus to the Cancun Walmart and renting from Hertz there to avoid airport rental scams. They are the lowest price anyway. People have recommended Easyway but their website is semi broken (try to return the car to a different location) and every car they have they rate "fits 5 adults" even the microcompacts! Also the stories of rattle traps being substituted for what was rented, things like the keys fall out of the ignition when driving, and then their price is high, $600/week.

In general having no luck with the finding of a full sized car like a camry (except maybe Avis but really expensive), only "standard" cars which I think are really compacts (Jetta, Lancer, Sentra, Cruze), so that makes getting to and from Palenque by car too uncomfortable. Even with the itinerary we have there are 2 five hour drives, CI to Xpujil and then Bacalar back to Cancun.
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Jun 11th, 2016, 12:23 PM
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I've used both EasyWay and America Car Rental with good results.
http://www.america-carrental.com/
I take all the insurance and do not rely on my credit card for CDW, since if you dent a fender you have to pay and then wait to get reimbursed upon your return and after submitting the proper paperwork which can take awhile.
I did NOT like Chichen Itza, thought it was too manicured and crowded. My two favorites are Coba (you can climb here) and Ek Balam which has beautiful carvings. Ek Balam is an easy drive just north of Valladolid. We enjoyed our stays at both Meson de Marques in Vtown, and Hacienda Chichen Itza.
I have not yet been to Calakmul, not willing to sacrifice the time. I do recommend keeping the number of ruins to a low roar so you do not get "ruined out".
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Jun 12th, 2016, 04:32 PM
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Bacalar lodging booked already, I'm having a lot a trouble with getting good lodging reserved in the Calakmul/Chetumal/Bacalar area, good meaning good value (not $800 US for 2 people in an ecolodge, and not roughing it in huts).

Frankly finding this all to be harder in Mexico than I thought (getting good value). Is there no Mexican middle class to support good Airbnb type condo/house options? Puerto Rico massively easier than this. May end up in a condo in PDC and just suck it up since lots of value there. Was just looking for a better cultural experience.

Or maybe end up on the fringes of the main tourist zone again in Merida, Valladolid, because straying too far seems too hard to get good value.
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Jun 13th, 2016, 06:19 PM
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Merida is without question, the best, when it comes to Mexican culture, restaurants, theatre, week end folklore, dancing, touring, ruins near-by, convents and churches and so so much more...
Mearby villages like Izamal and Progreso are worth spending the night. Isla Holbox for a couple of days, all on the northern tip of the Yucatan peninsula and well worth their time and very reasonably priced!
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Jun 14th, 2016, 07:17 AM
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@tom_mn

We've never had trouble finding lodging we consider to be "of good value" in the Yucatan, i.e. clean, comfortable, basic posadas for about $500-1000 pesos, double room, per night. Many have been from forum recommendations. There are cheaper, and there are more expensive and luxurious.
Not sure what you are looking for.

We have always rented from Easyway in Cancun with absolutely NO PROBLEMS with cars, insurance or staff. E-mail them if you have questions/concerns; the Cancun office folks speak/write English.
You want to take the full insurance, which is clearly presented on the Easyway website, and not use your cc coverage (which will only reimburse if something happens, and will not keep you from remaining in jail until the case is settled).
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Jun 14th, 2016, 07:29 AM
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Tell us your budget and we can help you.
The idea of spending most of your time in a centrally located place such as Merida or Vallalodid and commuting generally for a max of 1 hr away to various has lots of merit. You'll have lots to do at night, have plenty of options for places to stay and will often find cheaper digs with more amenities.
That is, of course unless you want to spend your time at the beach. We can help you with that, too.
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Jun 15th, 2016, 08:20 AM
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Now considering Valladolid because it is possible there to get a nice house that sleeps 5 for $150/night or so. Nothing like this is available south of Tulum to Belize and west past Calakmul for less than $300 (at least that is still available over Christmas), except maybe some of the dead end beach communities and not looking for long dirt road treks. And a lot of the hotels south of Tulum are either too rudimentary, i.e scorpions and concrete toilets, or super pricey like Kohunlich Ecovillage or rather pricey like Puerta Calakmul. Not that those types of places aren't for the right kind of person, it's just not the type of vacation I am looking for.

It's just more relaxing with a family to have a kitchen and rooms to hang out in, a hotel is not that restful nor is spending half the day figuring out food: where to eat, waiting for the food, waiting for the bill-- not a vacation so much unless eating is the priority.

Found out the Coba can have monkeys, and there is a monkey sanctuary nearby if Coba does not deliver.

Vacation starts out with a couple nights paid with points in the hotel zone in Cancun.

Rental car reviews are universally awful across all brands. I wonder if it is worth busing to Valladolid and renting there?
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Jun 15th, 2016, 11:25 AM
  #11
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When we were there in 2012, there was a morning bus that ran from Palenque to Campeche and Merida.

Palenque really is the crown jewel of Mayan sites in Mexico, and it offers your lush jungle. Plus easy day trip to Yaxchilan and Bonampak, which offer further jungly adventurism.

Trip report:

http://www.fodors.com/community/mexi...ruary-2012.cfm
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Jun 15th, 2016, 12:30 PM
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The monkey preserve near Coba is called Punta Laguna and you need a car to get there:
https://www.locogringo.com/punta-lag...ture-intended/
There is also the Jungle Place which is a sanctuary for rescued spider monkeys but reservations are required at least two months in advance and they only allow visitors 2-3 days a week in small groups.
I would not worry about rental car reviews, most are probably from people who actually think they are going to get a car for $2-5 per day and then claimed the rental car company "ripped them off" when they failed to realize the insurance requirements and used a third party like Kayak or Expedia to book.
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Jun 15th, 2016, 01:32 PM
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I know there are many car rental topics, but they are not as focused/fact oriented as I like:

Car rental Cancun, summary of options, for a standard-sized car, automatic

Lots of people recommend Easyway or America agencies for their one price option, all insurance included no upcharge or sales pitch, no additional fees. Limits of insurance is not posted on website, though, so can’t really determine what is being reserved and make an apples to apples comparison to prices of conventional rental companies. Maybe insurance coverage is minuscule and doesn’t cover much?

ISSUES: Not at airport so requires a shuttle, seem to often provide old cars. VETO ISSUE: usually do not provide the car reserved, and if you have 5 passengers and require a larger car you can’t rely on them.

Turning to the conventional rental companies:

Liability is required by law, only Hertz includes this item in the rental reservation as a specific line item. All other companies post prices without it then require it be added as an extra at time of rental. All companies offer “additional” liability. Is the basic US $45,000 sufficient liability coverage, or is the supplemental up to US $350,000 necessary?

Using credit card insurance will cover all damage (collision or other loss, CDW/LDW) and theft up to the value of the car, no deductible/no excess, provided strict conditions are met (car value under US $50,000, police report provided, collision occurs on paved or gravel road, keys can be presented for theft coverage, “optional” CDW/LDW is declined at time of rental, vehicle is not a truck, van, large SUV or luxury vehicle, no drinking and driving, no reckless driving behavior)

ISSUES: Will locals accept as coverage? How easy is it to get a police report? Seems like free credit card coverage is better than paying for coverage that has a large deductible. Going back to Hertz, they have a CDW policy with US $1900 deductible on a standard car for US $210, but to zero this out to super CDW with no deductible is another US $245. Obviously buying the CDW and the super CDW is a terrible idea if one has credit card coverage for free?

Not going into the details for theft, suffice to say it’s about the same, why pay more for high deductible car rental theft insurance when no deductible coverage comes free with the credit card (and at least for Hertz, there's no super theft insurance offered as an extra purchase to eliminate the deductible, fixed at 20% of the vehicle value).

A last point-- What about AutoEurope?
I have scoured the net for ratings or comments about use in Mexico but find nothing. The reason for bringing up this third party agency is that they offer cars through the major companies with insurance included at low rates, often half what the companies own websites offer, what gives? Isn’t this the obvious way to go, especially since the insurance is not optional and cannot be refused, so the credit card coverage is still in effect and would automatically kick in to cover the deductibles not covered by the primary Mexican insurance so no "super" CDW coverage needed either?
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Jun 16th, 2016, 07:09 AM
  #14
 
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re: Easyway (my preferred company for good reason).....If you have questions about their coverage amounts for insurance, simply send an email to Easyway. They are very easy to work with and respond promptly.
When renting from them, the insurance is not "extra at booking" or whatever, it comes up online as part of the reservation process, based on the type of car you choose, before the final booking commitment.
A local company such as Easyway has an advantage in solving problems with a local car, over a third party agency just going through a local company. Much anecdotal evidence online to back this up.

Locals will not accept credit card coverage at the time of an accident. Your company will reimburse you after you possibly risk sitting in local jail for a time while the case is being resolved.

Frankly, IMO, you are making this whole planning process harder than it needs to be, and not listening well to good advice folks are giving you here.
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Jun 16th, 2016, 08:00 AM
  #15
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I've rented cars in multiple countries, and NEVER have I had to pay US $600/week for a mid-sized car as Easyway is demanding. And if I take the full insurance from Hertz for the same size car it's more like US $1000/week (US $600/week for insurance, that's the equivalent of a US $31,000/year insurance policy!).

This is totally bonkers, out of the ball park nutso, that a car rental in Mexico should be two to three times the going rate in other countries, especially for the wrecks often rented out. Scam alert.

Also: You CANNOT get thrown in jail "till things get sorted out" causing damage or injury to others with a rental car. Mexican federal law requires the OWNER of the car to have liability insurance. Any story that gringos are thrown in jail due to car crashes is fabricated. And these false stories are all over the net, why? They simply can't have ever happened, unless there is some special circumstance like DUI or reckless driving which insurance won't save a person from anyway. I assume the rental car people repeat these myths to incite fear selling? If so, it's working.

Another option for me to consider is the US $25 primary auto insurance policy offered thru Amex (not automatic credit card insurance, it is a special purchase per rental and has fewer exceptions). It should be straightforward to get a Spanish language copy of the policy to present when renting. It does not cover liability but that is always included in a Mexican rental, whether it's part of the base rental price or appears to be an optional add on line item (it is not optional). The theft and CDW/LDW at Amex are no-deductible. US $25 is more reasonable for a week of insurance.
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Jun 16th, 2016, 12:30 PM
  #16
 
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You are really overthinking this and making it harder than it needs to be.
Here is the info on America Car Rental liability coverage:
http://www.america-carrental.com/en/policies.html
Limits in state of Quintana Roo (Cancun, Tulum) are fairly low but much higher in state of Yucatan (Merida, Chichen Itza).
It is no big deal to me to get a ride from Easyway or America to their office which is a grand 5 minute drive away.
However if that is an issue, have read nothing but good reviews on other forums about Avant, who will deliver the car to you at the airport and you meet them to drop it off. You will have to write them for a quote though.
I will say, some good friends got in an accident in Tulum, an ice truck T-boned them and did not stop, no police report, they had a car from Easyway, when they dropped it off, the response was "No problem". They had full coverage and that was the end of it.
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Jun 16th, 2016, 02:18 PM
  #17
RAC
 
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We had a good experience with Easy Way, they even dropped off a car for us in Campeche and allowed us to drop it off in Cancun.
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Jun 17th, 2016, 05:02 AM
  #18
 
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A Jetta from Easyway is $345/week with insurance. I was just driving one in Baja for a week and found it perfectly comfortable, sufficiently spacious, economical on gas, and handling well on some much more challenging roads than in the Yucatan.
You say you do not find the Jetta comfortable and are looking for a Camry. YM certainly does V. But even moving up in size doesn't get to $600-1000/wk. for most models.
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Jun 17th, 2016, 09:37 AM
  #19
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This is a Jetta in Cancun for 8 days in December.

VW Jetta (aut)
Rates - Time & Distance
For 1 week and 1 day $577.00 USD
Insurances $88.00
Subtotal 665.00
State Tax+ 106.40
Total of USD $771.40

The website is very buggy, cannot select drop off at different location, or remove the $88 ALI (the box won't uncheck). If I add full insurance it jumps to $836.36.

To be fair to Easyway, all the other rental agencies also list every car as seating 5 adults, even the tiniest ones.
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Jun 17th, 2016, 12:17 PM
  #20
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Above quote is for Easyway, I didn't specify. I thought the $600 I quoted previously included tax and insurance, I guess not. Either that or prices are going up. And it's not possible to choose a full sized car on the Easyway website.
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