Last year I spent 14 days in Mexico. I wrote about my experiences in each city I visited but I never really explained the itinerary. I decided to take some time to leave some of the most practical details here. Also, hopefully it would be useful for solo female travellers, like myself, who would love to visit Mexico but are hesitant about it.
My first piece of the advice here – there are dangerous places everywhere. But, unfortunately, because we are women, we have to take more care. We have to consider a lot more things than a man would have to. It’s something that I don’t accept (I will always fight this battle) but I’m aware of and do my best to go around it.
London -✈️– Mexico City — ✈️– San Cristóbal de las Casas -🚍- Palenque -🚍- Merida -🚍- Tulum -🚍- Cancún — ✈️– London
I did quite a bit of research having in mind that I wanted to experience a bit of everything in Mexico, whilst keeping myself away from areas considered more dangerous. I wanted to have culture but also the opportunity to swim in the warm waters of the Caribbean, and relax under a palm tree drinking coconut water. I wanted to explore ancient ruins but also to get a taste of delicious food. In this itinerary, you have a bit of everything and, I’ll assure, you, you’ll want to go back to explore other areas.
So, here’s where things get a bit complicated. Mexico is a huge country and it doesn’t have a proper railway system. As a result, there are two ways to travel inland – by plane or by bus.
I flew from Mexico City to Tuxla Gutierrez, the nearest airport to San Cristobal de Las Casas. I used Volaris. From there, I took a bus to the city Centre. All my other journeys were made by bus, using the company Ado Autobuses. These are new buses, with air conditioning (sometimes it gets too cold, so be sure to bring a blanket with you) and usually they have a TV with a few movies playing on the trip Bear in mind these are long trips, up to 7 to 8 hours each. The shortest I took was from Tulum to Cancun airport – only 2 hours.
From San Cristobal de Las Casas to Palenque you would think the duration wouldn’t be that long. However, roads aren’t safe. As a result, the company needs to take another route, and therefore, instead of the normal 4 hours, the trip will take you about 8. That’s so you’re safer.
There is also the option of taking the night bus. You’ll save in accomodation and you won’t be spending precious daylight hours. I didn’t do it. As a female travelling by myself, I decided to take the safe route – travelling during the day, even if that meant I was losing days. And, I don’t feel like I missed out on anything. Travelling by bus allowed me to admire the splendor of the country through the window. I was in awe when we passed through the jungle. Curious about the dozens of stalls selling pineapples by the road. Felt I was in contact with the real people of Mexico. Faced its poverty, seen it with my own eyes. And those the are real things you take home with you.
🏨 ACCOMMODATION 🏨
Leaving here the list of places I stayed in while on this trip. Please bear in mind that I usually look for budget and mid range hotels, and to have my own room. I am a very light sleeper, so everytime I stay at hostels I end up not sleeping at all. Also, because I was alone in Mexico and travelling such long hours, I wanted to feel safe and comfortable.
Mexico City – Hotel Isabel. It’s in the Centro Historico, close the main attractions. The room was incredibly spacious and was cleaned everyday. there was a traditional Mexican Restaurant where you could have breakfast and dinner.
San Cristóbal de Las Casas – Hotel San Luis. Very clean, loved the atrium with so many plants around. Again, it was very clean and it was incredible cheap.
Palenque – Hotel Maya Tulipanes. This was my most luxurious stay. In Palenque, the only thing of interesting to see is really the amazing Mayan ruins. So I wanted to give myself a small treat, and stay somewhere with a swimming pool and a nice restaurant where I could relax after a hot day in the jungle, pretending I was Indiana Jones.
Merida – Nomadas Ecohostel. Wonderful hostel in Mérida, with a beautiful pool area that you’ll definitely enjoy when it’s too hot for sightseeing. I stayed in a single room, but there are also dormitories available.
Tulum – Itour Mexico Tulum. I loved staying in this independent, owned by locals, hostel. The room was always so clean and I’d arrive everyday to a different and cure towel sculpture. They were all very kind – very good breakfast offered everyday and a bike for free. Plus, they also own a tour centre, which is so convenient if you want to explore a little bit more of Quintana Roo.
In the major cities, you’ll find card is usually accepted. Since I live in the UK, I have a Monzo card, and therefore I don’t pay fees when paying by card abroad. However, I recommend you make sure you always have some cash with you. In some places, my card wouldn’t work. Plus, in small shops and particularly the markets you’ll only be able to pay with cash.
Tipping is customary in Mexico. While this is perfectly normal in quite a lot of countries, it isn’t for me. In Europe, you barely tip. Sometimes there is an optional or compulsory service charge, but I wouldn’t call it a tip. I researched what would be the acceptable amount to tip, and found that usually 12% of your total bill should be acceptable.
As you may already know, do not drink tap water, or any water for that matter you don’t know the origin of. You can get seriously sick and that would ruin your trip. Carry always with you bottled water or get some of those tablets to purify water. And carry a lot of it, as it gets hot and you’ll dehydrate pretty quickly.
Make sure any fruit you eat, if not peeled of, is also washed with purified water and the same applies for washing your teeth.
🌐 WIFI & MOBILE DATA 🌐
Quite a lot of places have WiFi, especially in Mexico City. But, as it happens with public networks everywhere, it doesn’t always work, or, at least, not at the speed we need it. I bought myself a Mexican SIM card to make sure I could access the Internet anytime I wanted. It was a life saver. I often used Uber to travel within Mexico City and also Uber got me safely into my hotel after arriving in Merida in the middle of the storm – the roads were flooded and without data on my phone I wouldn’t had been able to get out of these situations as easily. I got mine from SimCorner and it worked really well – no problemas!
You can read all about my trip to Mexico here. I posted about every single location and my experiences. Please do share yours or any other tips!
P.S. While in self-isolation due to COVID-19 pandemic, I’m keeping a regular schedule of posting about my travelling experiences to bring some light into this dark time. A lot of my travel plans have been or most likely be cancelled or postponed, and I want to continue to blog.