Yucatan base

Old May 20th, 2007, 03:25 AM
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Yucatan base

My wife and I are planning a trip to Mexico of 10-12 days in January, 2008. I think we'll spend 4-5 days in Mexico City and the rest in the Yucatan. I have a question regarding bases in the Yucatan.

In the Yucatan, I'd like to use 2 bases, Merida on the western side and another base on the eastern side, but not Cancun. I'd prefer something smaller and conveniently located to visit the Mayan riviera area. The beach is not our main interest. We are more interested in exploring the Mayan ruins, eating at good restaurants and enjoying the local atmosphere.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
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Old May 20th, 2007, 07:17 PM
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We just returned from two weeks in the Yucatan and we did not have enough time to see everything we wanted.

If you are going to be there for only 5-7 days as you say and are not interested in the beach, I would zone in on just the Merida area. A couple of nights in Merida, a couple in Uxmal, and a couple at Chichen Itza would allow you just enough time to explore those places and their immediate surrounding areas.

By the way, if you are interested in good restaurants and fine food, you cannot go wrong with Merida. It's the center of fine Yucatan cuisine and there are even cooking schools you can attend. See: http://www.los-dos.com/ as an example.

If on the other hand, you want to explore the Mayan Riviera, be aware that there is little of cultural interest other than Coba and Tulum and that the area will be full of vacationers in January. The 75 mile stretch between Cancun and Tulum accounts for 40% of Mexico's tourism dollars and the winter is the busiest time.

Don't get me wrong, there's a reason why the area is so popular and it's why we go there - the beach. But, if the beach is not your thing, then go somewhere else.
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Old May 20th, 2007, 09:40 PM
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Super...

Thanks for that super piece of advice. You've helped me a lot with your suggestion.
Actually, I should have reviewed my own travel web site and followed my own advice. When we went to Portugal, we didn't go anywhere near the Algarve (one of the most popular beach resorts in Europe!).
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Old May 21st, 2007, 06:48 AM
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January would be the perfect time to be inland - I imagine it's the most pleasant time to be there.

If you stay in Valladolid (or nearby at Chichen or in Piste) for a few days (why pay beach prices if you won't be beaching-it, right?), you can see Chichen Itza, Ek Balam.
And do a day trip to see Coba and possibly Tulum ruins.
Another set of ruins located south of Tulum called Muyil.
Some enjoy the ruins at Xel Ha - across the highway from the waterpark - virtually nobody visits the Xel Ha ruins.

You can find excellent descriptions of each of these ruins on locogringo.com - scroll to the bottom of the homepage and click on "Past Spotlights".
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Old May 22nd, 2007, 12:03 AM
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Pepper,

Thanks.

Is it reasonable to do a day trip from Merida to Chichen Itza?
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Old May 22nd, 2007, 07:48 AM
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You can do Chichen Itza as a day trip from Merida but I would advise against it. If you've never been there before and have the time, stay in Chichen Itza at the Hotel Mayaland or the Lodge. It's best to spend two nights so you have the whole middle day to explore the ruins.

The hotel is right next door to the ruins and even has its own entrance. You can use the hotel as a base and enjoy their beautiful pools during the heat of the day. Then you can explore the ruins in the cooler mornings and late afternoon and go in for the sound and light show at night.

It's best to avoid Chichen Itza in the middle of the day because that's when all the day trippers and bus groups show up.

You can also use Chichen Itza as a base for exploring the Balancanche Caves, Izamal, and Ek Balam which are all highly recommended.
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Old May 22nd, 2007, 08:15 AM
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I had to get out my map and check the mileage. Looks like it's about 100 kilometers from Merida to Chichen using the tollraod (fast!). I think that's doable if you get an early start.

We have gone to Chichen twice from Tulum and it's a longer drive - about 150 kilometers. It ends up being a long day since we stop in Valladolid and once stopped at Ek Balam (I do recommend; it's small).

But both times, we have driven back to our hotel in Tulum at night. It's a white-knuckled drive that I do not recommend! But the tollroad into Merida is probably in much better shape and much safer to drive at night.
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Old May 22nd, 2007, 06:39 PM
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A few years ago, the road from Tulum to Coba and beyond was in terrible shape. We drove it again last month and found it much improved.

In fact, they are quickly widening and repaving the stretch between Tulum and Coba and it's more than half completed. There's still as many topas but the highway is in great shape.

However, this is a concern because it will greatly increase traffic to Coba which will certainly ruin it. (Pardon the pun).

By the way, for those traveling that stretch, the Club Med Hotel at Coba is an oasis in the jungle and I highly recommend staying a night there if it fits in with one's itinerary.
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Old May 23rd, 2007, 02:38 AM
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You've both (super & pepper) been really helpful. Now I have another question.

I have rented cars all over the world, and driven in all kinds of places and we almost always rent a car on our trips so that we can have total freedom. Regarding the Yucatan, I'm really in a conflict. I've read all kinds of things regarding safety, night driving, corrupt police, and the insurance costs. From what I've seen, it costs $20-30 per day to rent a car, and another $70 per day for the full insurance which is highly recommended due to Mexican traffic laws. I know the busses are pretty good in Mexico, but it's still a hassle and not nearly as convenient as renting a car. I'd prefer to rent a car, but I am really hesitant.

What's your opinion?
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Old May 23rd, 2007, 06:32 AM
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We always rent a car and in 5 years, never came across a cop...corrupt or not. Some people are not so lucky; do make sure you follow the speed limit, wear your seatbelt, etc. I heard that cueing your wife to cry hysterically works very well...I'm a terrible actress and could never pull it off...

We always get full coverage insurance with zero deductible - it does add up. Our rentals usually average out to $50-60/day. If you don't have the insurance, you have to pay for any damages before you leave Mexico.

Driving at night is a challenge because of others on the roads - people walking, biker riders, cars with terrible lighting. But this would not be on the tollroad - the tollroad is rather pricey, most locals on a budget would not be using it.

On the other roads, like the road to Coba from Tulum - it's all jungle on either of you and totally pitch dark - no reflectors on the road, nothing!! It's a he!!ish drive. Then you come upon a guy peddling a bike-cart. You just have to be very aware.
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Old May 23rd, 2007, 06:27 PM
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The road from Tulum to Coba has been widened about 3/4 of the way with a shoulder and !!! a median in the center with plantings!!!. A much easier drive.
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Old May 23rd, 2007, 06:59 PM
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Driving is pretty safe in the Yucatan and the rural roads have little traffic but you don't want to drive at night.

You might be better off taking the bus or a combination of the two. It depends on your itinerary. For example, if you were spending three or four days in Merida, you would not need a car and having a car there is a hassle. You could rent one at the airport which is on your way to Uxmal and then pay a drop off fee for taking it to Cancun. The savings from not renting for a few days would make up for the fee. Also, the road from Cancun to Merida is rather boring and quite expensive (tolls + gas). Taking a bus is more relaxing.

We rented from this company and were satisfied. They were one of the few companies that had the total cost up front. http://www.cancunrentacar.com/
They also brought the car to our Cancun hotel and picked it up there for no additional fees.
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Old May 23rd, 2007, 09:09 PM
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super...

Just checked out cancunrentacar. They do look good and their prices are the best I've seen. Unfortunately, they only rent on the east coast of the Yucatan (Cancun, PDC, Tulum) but I plan to base in Merida and spend most of my time in the Merida area.

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Old May 24th, 2007, 12:37 PM
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Are you flying directly to Merida from Mexico City? If you are renting a car in Mexico City, you might be able to work out a deal with one of the agencies that rents in both locations.

We rented in Cancun because that's where we flew into and we were splitting our trip between the states of Yucatan and Qunitana Roo. We didn't have a car in Cancun though, only rented on the day we left. Having cars in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Merida is more of a liability than an asset. Driving around in Merida is especially difficult if you don't know their street system and trying to park around the Zocalo is very challenging.
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Old May 24th, 2007, 08:34 PM
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At this point I am planning to fly directly from Mexico City to Merida, spend a few days in Merida and then rent a car to visit the area and finish up in Chichen Itza. After that fly out of Cancun, because there are non stop flights from there to miami, (which is where I have to finish up), but not from Merida. No, I definitely will not have a car in Mexico City.

How long a drive is it from Chichen Itza to the Cancun airport? I was also considering driving to PDC for the last day just to get a taste of the east coast.
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