Tips for Travelers Going Off the Beaten Path in Mexico

Nothing can prepare you for your trip to Mexico better than tips from those who have not only been there, but have dug their heels into the culture and have gone a bit off the beaten path.

Shane Brown at Sanchez Jalepeno spills his advice about holding onto your pesos, and finding a beach where cervezas outnumber gringos in Mexico.

1. Think Long and Hard About Your Choice of Transportation

If you want to get to the Pacific coast from the colonial town of Oaxaca, it's a pretty tiring 8hrs or so bus ride through the mountains, which leaves even the most iron clad of stomachs a little queasy.  The alternative is a pretty cheap flight with Aero Tucan on a small Cessna, which takes all of 45 minutes. We left Oaxaca early in the morning and were on the beach in Puerto Escondio in time for breakfast. Just ignore the stories about the pilot who forgot to put the gear down before landing...twice.

2. Don’t Get Into a Drinking Competition With a Mexican

You will lose. I learnt that the hard way in an old cantina on a dusty street in Oaxaca. An old man, about 70, indicated he could drink his michelada (beer with tomato juice, chili powder and other spices... tastes amazing) faster than I could. I scoffed at the very idea.  I then lost, shamefully, and had to buy the next round. Which I also lost. The cycle continued until he had won the very last of my pesos, dignity and girlfriend.

3. Learn Some Español

A lot of people will advise you to take some conversational classes to learn the standard traveller fare like ‘a ticket for the bus please’ (un billete para el autobús, por favor), or ’how much for a room with a roof?’ (¿Cuánto cuesta una habitación con techo?) but if you’re time-poor (or just poor-poor) all you really need are toilet (baños), more beer (más cerveza), and I like your moustache (Me gusta el bigote). Of course, you could take advantage of the free Spanish language guide that World Nomads offers, which has 30 basic phrases.

4. Despite What You May Have Heard, You Won’t Get Robbed in Mexico City

Well, probably not. I wish I had known that before I went to Mexico. Instead, I was regaled with horror stories of ‘friends of friends’ getting mugged or losing a kidney in Mexico City. I was so scared, that I spent the majority of my first Mexico trip glancing over my shoulder and doing my best (failing miserably) to look like a black belt master. I needn’t have bothered though, Mexico City is one the friendliest cities I’ve ever visited and not once did I feel unsafe. Obviously if you’re strolling around the districts of Tepito or Iztapalapa, sporting a Rolex or fiddling with your iPhone, you might have a different experience.

5. Find a Beach Side Haven Away From the Pasty Gringo's

Check out Zipolite on the Pacific coast. Known as 'Sexy Port' for the bohemian lifestyle, you can hit the surf, rip your clothes off at the officially sanctioned nude beach and get a tan, only leaving the sand to top up your ceveza and eat a mean pulpo diablo (spicy squid). Nearby Mazunte is another chilled out beach spot with cheap Cabaña's and home to possibly the cutest bunch of turtles you'll ever see.

6. If You Arrive by Land but Fly Out, Leave Enough Time to Pay the ‘land Tax’ at the Airport

I spent a hectic hour dashing around Cancun airport trying to find the office to pay my tax, reaching my departure gate with only 5 minutes to spare, which is of course, just enough time to hit the duty free shop to pick up a tasty bottle of Mescal to take home.

Felices Viajes!

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3 Comments

  • michelle o'flynn said

    Once again Shane Brown regails us with witty and insightul advice about experiences abroad. His first-hand knowledge give us tips and sage advice about where to go what to see and how to go about it. cheers Shano

  • Sam Davies said

    Terrific article, do you have any tips on favourite places to visit in Mexico? Somewhere a bit off the beaten path, somewhere I can truly experience the local culture?<br><br>Cheers

  • Cabo said

    I had a similar experience with a drinking contest in Mexico. I ended up having to shamefully buy a round of shots for mis amigos.

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