Wanted: Independent travel tips for Mexico

Old Jul 8th, 2003, 01:59 PM
  #1  
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Wanted: Independent travel tips for Mexico

We are planning to go to Mexico next February, but prefer to travel independently rather than on a package. We have two weeks and would like comfort but not luxury in transportation, and the same plus local charm in accommodation. We would not like to rush, staying in 4 places max and doing day trips. I have heard that flying is a pretty cheap and comfortable way to get around.

Suggestions for an itinerary which will capture the flavour of Mexico: food, history, culture, music, people?
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Old Jul 8th, 2003, 02:40 PM
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Where in Mexico are you planning to travel? I've been to Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan. Am planning another trip back to PV as I type. Where is your geographic location here in the states? I live on the West Coast and book airfare/hotel through Alaska Airlines (better deal on flight). Have also been to Jamaica and book through Northwest Airlines (air/hotel).
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Old Jul 8th, 2003, 02:59 PM
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I've done 16 trips independently to Mexico. Have visited the Baja, but mostly return to Puerto Vallarta 1-2 times each year.

Flying is actually not all that cheap within Mexico, but certainly do-able. There are luxury class bus services both day and overnight trips between destinations that would work nicely. And of course car rental if you like.

As above, I'd ask where you are coming from ?? if EastCoast USA maybe the Yucatan peninsula area, if WestCoast USA then Pacific west coast. Different regions have so much different to offer. If you want "ruins" than you'd probably do the Yucatan. Good food, friendly local people, mariachi music, then try the Pacific coast. There's a lot of coastline but also lovely colonial inland mountain towns and cities. So whether you prefer big city, small village, beaches, mountains, it's all possible. Do you have an interest in including Mexico City in your trip, or not?

Personally I always go for at least 2 weeks and stay in one place, but that's just me and my Mexican "speed".

Besides what we can offer here, some guidebooks from the library or travel magazines might give you even more ideas. Also you can look at the itinerary of a packaged-tour and use that as an outline but then make it a do-it-yourself trip.
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Old Jul 9th, 2003, 05:58 AM
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You are making the right choice - packages are very touristy.

Puerto Vallarta is nice for west coast, although the beach quality is terrible. It is rocky and murky. So pick a hotel with a nice pool.

Cancun is like Vegas but in Mexico - too many big hotels and not enough ambiance and culture.

Playa del Carmen is quaint and inexpensive. And from there you can take a bus to a number of Mayan ruins for only a few dollars. The beaches are clear, sand is beautiful, and the food / hotels are cheap. I recommend Posada Freud - we paid $65/night for a room on Avenida 5 (1 block from the ocean) with 2 queen beds, a kitchenette, and great balcony with a hammock. Clean, European run, and gorgeous.

You might also try San Miguel de Allende, which is inner Mexico, but is a fun and artsy town.
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Old Jul 9th, 2003, 08:53 AM
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The Costa Alegre area south of PV to Manzanillo is my favorite. Still hasn't changed much over the 20 yrs. I have been traveling to the area. Try www.costaalegre.com.ca or www.mexicomexico.info for places to go and things to see!
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Old Jul 9th, 2003, 10:50 AM
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Carolred, are you looking for beach or somewhere in the interior? I made up a long reply last night and then I had trouble with my connection. Before I compose another note, any idea? I've done a fair amount of travelling in Mexico, both the interior and the coasts.
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Old Jul 10th, 2003, 06:55 AM
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We were in Mexico this spring. I placed a report in this forum if you are interested in MC and Guadalajara.

If you fly, think twice of Air California.
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Old Jul 11th, 2003, 10:39 AM
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Thank you all for your help so far.

I am curious, why is where I am coming from such a big deal? Can't eastern americans go to the west and vice versa? FYI, I am coming from Canada and would probably take advantage of a package for a few days at a resort to get cheap airfare.

I have looked a bit at books and on the Internet. I am definitely very interested in Guadalajara and MC. MC sounds a bit scary re crime but there are a few sights that I can't miss. Besides, I have been more nervous in world cities that do not have a crime reputation than others that do, so I am not too put off by it.

Thanks for the info on Puerto Vallarta. The stuff I read made it sound like a cool place to visit if you could ignore the high-rise hotels. But if we are at a beachy area, I like to swim and walk rather than lie on the beach, and prefer a beach to a pool.

From suze, sounds like the West side is fun (not: our way of being laid back is one or two short excursions plus a 2-hr nap daily!). Is Puerto Vallarta worth it sans beach?

I'm not into ruins (found that out in Greece, Italy, Turkey). I'd prefer to see colonial cities and local festivals over Mayan ruins.
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Old Jul 11th, 2003, 11:40 AM
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Response regarding PV: the new development & highrise hotels are almost exclusively out in Nuevo Vallarta, The Marina, The Hotel Zone. these are all to the north of downtown. you can see them on the horizon across the Bay, but that's as close as I ever get to them!

I'm a little confused, do you prefer to swim in the ocean or in a pool?

A couple trips I went my entire vacation without even 1 day at the beach. I like walking and poking around in El Centro in the AM, then hanging out at the pool in the afternoon, a nap, sunset, nice dinner somewhere nearby.

Puerto Vallarta is about as laid back as it gets. Plenty of time for siesta. My friend and I used to joke in the morning ... oh dear should we spend the day at the beach or the pool ... read a book or a magazine ... drink beer or have a margarita. That's about the biggest decisions you'll ever need to make.

PV is not a huge "cultural" hub, just a normal working Mexican town with lots of friendly local people and a tourist industry that has successfully developed from that.

Guadalajara and PV would make a nice combination for a two week trip (maybe adding DF if you really are set on some sightseeing there).

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Old Jul 11th, 2003, 11:50 AM
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I can do without a pool if there is a nice beach nearby. Although poolside is nice for eating/drinking. I also like walking in town, so that part sounds nice.

We'd like a basic hotel with a small suite or at least a fridge in the room.
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Old Jul 11th, 2003, 12:39 PM
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Not that I mean to be planning your entire vacation for you (!) but here's an idea ... fly into Mexico City if you decide to do include that, or Guadalajara, and finish up with a week in Puerto Vallarta (flying out from there).

Everyone's definition of "basic" is so very different, I'll give you a couple of my favorites:

Take a look at www.casa-andrea.com. Casa Andrea has only 10 units in a beautiful private courtyard setting, each casita has an open air kitchen, plus bedroom and bath. Runs about $75US.

If you really mean "basic" I like Posada de Roger which offers simple hotel rooms and you can add a small frig for 50peso extra/day. 3-star approx. $40US for a double. www.puerto-vallarta.com/posada

Both of these have pools and table & chairs to eat & drink, are within a couple blocks of the beach and walking distance to most shopping, restaurants, nightlife.

There are also many small family-owned TRUE basic 0/1-star hotels with no pools in the $25US range.

I'm not trying to convince you of any of these, or even of going to PV, but having spent so much time there, I feel I can accurately pass on an idea of what is available.
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Old Jul 11th, 2003, 12:49 PM
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omigod, suze, casa andrea looks fabulous! Thanks so much!

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Old Jul 11th, 2003, 03:53 PM
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Carolred, this is the second post of yours I'm responding to this evening!

We've done a lot of travelling in Mexico. Last February, we flew into Mexico City, spent just a day there (we've been before), then flew on to Puerto Vallarta. It was my first trip back to PV in 16 years and I have to say I didn't like it nearly as much this around. Maybe I've changed, but it's so much busier now - however, I guess it was busy and touristy back then - as I said, maybe I've changed. We went budget in our accommodation there - Posada de Roger, and I'd spend a bit more if I was back in PV again. We had only a couple of nights there, then we had a week in Sayulita, which is about 40 miles north of PV. Sayulita was fabulous! We had rented a gorgeous casita overlooking the Pacific and it was a wonderful week, just what we were looking for. We finished up with a few days in Guadalajara. Lots to see and do there and the shopping in Tlaquepaque was terrific.

I'd really recommend Mexico City - it's just an amazing place. From there, you can easily take a bus to some of the colonial cities. (There are some very comfortable buses in Mexico.) I know that San Miguel de Allende is touristy, but it is beautiful. Guanajuato is really interesting and about an hour from SMA. We went to Morelia a couple of years ago and there are some interesting smaller towns around the city. (The downtown is a world heritage site itself.) It's also possible to go see the monarch butterflies from there - we visited the reserve on a day tour.

The other possibility is to go south from Mexico City and visit the Oaxaca area. The city is terrific and again there are several villages around the city to visit. It's probably been 10 or 11 years since I was there and I'd love to go back.

Another beach area that is really nice is Zihuatanejo. Again, it's been a few years since I was there (I think it was 1999), but the area was very nice.

Good luck planning!
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Old Jul 12th, 2003, 10:22 AM
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SusaninToronto you always write such nice advice. I've never been, but Zihuat is on my list if I can ever tear myself away from PV and SMA and Guanajuato if I can bear to leave the coast!

Carolred glad you liked the peak at Casa Andrea, it is a true hidden gem. Feel free to write me direct if you have PV questions and don't want to tie up this board with details.

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Old Jul 12th, 2003, 01:49 PM
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Suze, it sometimes is hard to go elsewhere, isn't it? Sometimes what we've done is go to 2 places on 1 trip - somewhere new and somewhere we've already visited, although we rarely go to a place more than 2 or 3 times. Although I suspect we could visit Mexico City more often, since it's a good starting point. The thing is that the more places I visit in Mexico, the more I want to see. There are still places I want to visit - places I've read about or heard about from others. We're not going to Mexico in the next year or so - we've decided that we should visit my mother-in-law in Australia and I have to admit I'm not all that excited about the trip. Our trip in 1996 was pretty dreadful - so much went wrong - and I'd much rather be going to Mexico. Or somewhere else in Central America. Or Turkey - we were there for only a week in 2000 - I know that Carolred has been there and I'd love to be asking her for advice about that! I definitely want to go back there. But I digress .......
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Old Jul 14th, 2003, 09:05 AM
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Thanks for the tips. I will ask more when I have read more. My husband is starting to say we should go for 3 weeks instead of 2! He also loved the photos of Casa Andrea.

Susan, I only was in for 10 days in Istanbul, Marmaris and Cappadoccia. Although Istanbul is now my favourite world city over Rome or Paris.

My to-do list includes Ukraine (my husband's family there), Prague, India, and Vietnam. I usually don't do hot vacations and mostly have travelled to Europe or the US, but we went to Cuba last winter and I tolerated the heat. Plus, a 4-hr direct flight beats 13 to Europe any day (from Winnipeg via TO or Montreal).
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Old Jul 20th, 2003, 11:46 AM
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Dear Carol; I just returned in May from a week in Guanajuato at a spanish language school. I would highly recommend you visit this part of the country. American Airlines has 2 daily non-stop flights from Dallas-Ft. Worth to Leon. From Leon it's only a 30 minute cab ride to Guanajuato. From Guanajuato you can take the bus to Dolores Hidalgo or San Miguel de Allende.

Guanajuato is a beautiful city with low prices and a beautiful jardin in the center of town. I hope to return some day myself.
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Old Jul 22nd, 2003, 08:17 PM
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I am very interested in knowing more about Casa Andrea in Puerto Vallarta,
and I thank you, too, Suze, for mentioning it. It may work out perfectly for my group of women friends. I am concerned about no a/c, though. We'll go in June. Are we going to be miserable sleeping? And how about bugs?
Thank you in advance. Wisteria
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Old Jul 23rd, 2003, 12:36 PM
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For Wisteria, Casa Andrea *does* have AC in the bedrooms now (the kitchens are as you enter and are an open air patio with seating arrangement). The AC has limited hours of use (at night maybe?). Write Andrea an email and ask for details. She is a very gracious hostess. It would be a wonderful place for a women's get-together. There are (2) 2-bedroom apartments and (8) 1-bedrooms. Free coffee and rolls are served in the morning on the lovely patio/palapa. Pool area is every bit as nice as the photo appears.

I can't comment about bugs as I have only been in PV (various times but) between November thru April latest. No bugs then.
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Old Jul 23rd, 2003, 04:29 PM
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My daughter just got back from Oaxaca...and it is now on my list for a future trip. She does speak Spanish rather well (has taught 1st grade at a bilingual charter school in the South Bronx for 2yrs, voluteered as teacher in Costa Rica for 3 months, did a home-stay Spanish emmersion course in college in Costa Rica before that)...but she said she thinks we would love it there and she knows we DON'T habla Espagnol. In the mountains, Oaxaca is a stunning town with lots of colonial flavor and wonderful arts & crafts. The Pacific coast beaches are amazing. Do some internet surfing on Huatulco, Puerto Escondido, and Mazunte and you will see there accomodtions to suit any budget. (She and a friend stayed 2 nights in palapas on the beach for $6 ea, then moved to a more luxurious hotel for $25/double.) While she was planning on returning to Mexico City for her flight back on an overnight bus (for about $30US)from the beaches near Huatulco, I "gifted" her with a one-way air ticket to Mexico City. The flight was just under an hour and cost $125. It was an Aerocaribe flight purchased via Mexicana Airlines website. The city of Oaxaca is probably about a 6 hour drive or bus ride from Mexico City. But I have a feeling visiting Mexico City, Oaxaca, and one of the Pacific beaches might be a truly memorable Mexican adventure.
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