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Friday, December 04, 2009

Mexico: A Wander or Two Around San Cristobal

One of my favorite things to do in San Cristobal was to pick a direction and go for a wander.  Sometimes I'd have a destination, like a church or a museum, but sometimes I'd just head up a hill to see what was there.  It only took a turn onto a side street to put me in a different city, without hotels or restaurants with menus in English.

If it rained, as it often did, I would duck into a nearby cafe or pastry shop, order hot chocolate and wait it out.  I found some nice places to eat that way.

Sundays, however, were a different story.  On Sundays, most places are closed.  Getting caught in the rain without an umbrella on a Sunday afternoon can leave one cold, and drenched to the skin both from the rain and the occaisional splash by a passing car.

I know this.  My innate sense of direction is barely good enough to get me across a room, let alone tell me that I am not three blocks from the hotel, but nearly twenty.  Notice the clouds in the picture below.  I took it just before I headed back to my hotel, starting with a ten- block excursion in the opposite direction.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Mexico: How Expensive Is It?

Mexico can be as expensive as you want it to be, of course.  Five star hotels and elegant dining are readily available.  As a budget traveler I'm more interested in Mexico's cheaper side.  I want cheap meals, hostel beds, and low tour and admission prices.  Mexico delivers.

Meals first.  Most restaurants have a lunchtime fixed price meal, the menu del dia.   In Merida, my favorite restaurant served a bowl of soup, a juice drink, and one of three or four main courses for 37 pesos, or less than three dollars.

I paid $9-$11 per night for a place to sleep.  In Cancun, and Merida, this got me a dorm bed.  In San Cristobal I got a private room with a shared bath.  Lest this sound like an onerous burden, it isn't.  OK, sometimes it's a problem and annoying, but I'm pretty well suited to sleeping in a big room with lots of people coming and going.

I come from a family of very sound sleepers, so the comings and goings of others doesn't bother me.  I don't care whether lights are on or off.  If people are reasonably considerate, and they usually are, I'm fine.  My other advantage is that I don't actually spend time in my room when I have one.  If I'm in a motel in the US, with TV, and a refrigerator, and a microwave, maybe.  But usually I'm out.  If I want to read a book, I don't sit in a room, I sit in a restaurant or a park.  So the room thing isn't important.

Transportation is good.  Even second class on most routes is comfortable, with air-conditioning and assigned seats, basically just older first class buses.  Buses are big, clean, modern, air-conditioned, and keep fairly well to schedules.  First class seems to cost, on average, about $4-5 per hour.

Sites and events are the real bargain. Free concerts, free art exhibits, and when there is a charge, it is usually nominal. Only really big name attractions cost as much as $10 or $15, and even some of those are only $3-$6. This is in stark contrast to Costa Rica, where admission to some parks is a much as $35 per day.

Mexico is more expensive than Nicaragua or Guatemala. I think it is less expensive than Costa Rica, and perhaps Panama