I am quite excited about the next few days. How successful I have been planning our Mexico trip (with my spouse on the occasion of our upcoming first anniversary) will be revealed then. This is going to my longest trip ever – a fortnight. And for this fortnight trip, I had been planning since a fortnight now. While planning for Mexico, I have already visualized and experienced the beautiful landscape of Mexico (highlands on the central part and lowlands along the coast of Riviera Maya), the warmth of the Mexicans, its cultural richness and several magnificent historical monuments.
In this blog, let me mention some important aspects of planning a trip.
- Place – Select the country and read about it as much you can. This time, our selection is Mexico.
- Your Budget – Be aware of how much you wanna spend. Allocate an approximate budget. This determines important parameters of the trip, like places you visit, type of accommodation, and duration of trip, off-season or peak tourist time, mode of travel and others. For Mexico, any time of the year is good to travel. So, we chose March as temperatures are good around this time with low probability of rainfall.
- Visa – Check whether visa is required before your travel or visa-on-arrival facility exists. If visa has to be obtained, plan for it and schedule your trip accordingly. This should your most important milestone of planning because any delay in securing visa can scuttle your plans. Interestingly, an Indian citizen holding any long-term valid visa of USA, like H1B, H4, L1, L2 or F and J series do not require a Mexican visa. Just pack up and fly. What a relief!
- When to Travel – Generally, for a backpacker trip (true for our Mexico trip), a visit during the peak season could be an expensive affair. And did I not say that you can be in Mexico any time of the year! Carnivals and festivals can be good lure but that also burns a hole in your pocket. Remember, Mexico is not a very cheap place. Still if planned meticulously and well in advance, you end up saving money for your next few trips. Sounds good?
- Duration of Trip – Allocate number of days for the trip. Drain yourself looking for deals and discounts available with the airlines, hotels, hostels, travel companies, etc.
- Book Flight Tickets – Compared to flights at bigger airports, flying into smaller, nearby airports, is more economical at times. Subscribe to mails of various airlines. Set price alerts on websites like Kayak. Check for multi-city tickets. You may plan to fly into Mexico City and out of Cancun or vice-versa, for example. We planned it such. Did you forget anything? Ah, your frequent travel air miles.
- Itinerary – Before booking the flight tickets, you must have had just a cursory glance. Now plan at a granular level. For Mexico trip, after much deliberations, our thumbs up was for these places: Mexico city (obviously, one of the finest cities of the world!), Cancun (one of the best beach resorts of the world with aqua-colored seawater), Puebla (flanked by volcanoes), Cholula (largest pyramid in terms of volume), Guanajuato (beautiful walking city with cobblestoned alleys), San Miguel de Allende (typical of any small European town), Teotihuacán (Aztec pyramids), and then Riviera Maya and cities of Yucatan peninsula, like Playa del Carmen (trendiest coastal town), Tulum (Maya ruins overlooking Caribbean sea), Chichen Itza (Mayan ruins), Merida (Spanish colony and Sunday local market), Valladolid (sleepy Spanish colony)and Cozumel (world famous scuba diving destination). Celestún, a small fishing village with mangroves and flamingoes on the Gulf of Mexico coast, and west of Yucatan, also gets our vote.
- Safety – On the contrary to various talks of Mexico not a safe place due to drug wars and crimes, rest assured that most of the tourist places are pretty safe. Look for regular travel alerts (latest USA State Department warning for every Mexico state) and you find that all the places we have planned are pretty safe.
- Accommodation – I would recommend you sites like hostelbookers and hostelworld. They are more economical with no or very low booking charges. You can also register on sites like Couchsurfing, which provides free accommodation and you can be hosted by a local. What better way than to live with a Mexican and know the place better. Someone can also host a dinner / lunch for you at home, courtesy dinewithlocals. If traveling is your passion, make a note of these good travel sites. (50 best travel websites)
- Transportation – Transportation within the country is another key area not to be missed. Especially, in a big country like Mexico, traveling from one city to another could eat up lot of your time. And mexico does not have train service! Surprised? So, commute the way Mexicans do – luxury buses, mini-vans (called collectivos), and even chicken buses. It has good inter-city bus network. Bigger cities like Mexico City, Cancun, and Guadalajara have their own public transport system. Mexico City, the capital has one of the largest and most used subway systems in the world, called Sistema de Transporte Colectiv, or more popularly Metro. That’s not all. Five Mexican Pesos per trip including transfer – can you beat that. That is less than even half a dollar.
- Domestic Flights – If the stakes are time against money, low cost domestic airlines provide good connectivity to almost every touristy area, including few destinations outside Mexico. Many of the bigger travel sites may not always list flights of these low-cost airlines; hence take my advice to individually visit their sites. Volaris, VivaAerobus, Interjet and AeroMexico are the air carriers in Mexico.
- Language – Read a number of blogs, articles based on the places. Look at photographs of these places for more inspiration. Being in a Spanish colony, not knowing even bits of Spanish could be sacrilegious. I have read and noted few basic Spanish phrases. I have also downloaded few apps on my smartphone for Spanish translation and English – Spanish dictionary which work even offline. I would reco Offline Dictionaries app. If you have time, devote few days learning basics of Spanish. And what better way to learn the language in Mexico itself – by the natives, who will teach you Spanish with flavor from Aztec and Mayan civilizations. Sé Español (I know Spanish).
- Finally, the most important aspect – currency exchange. Know the currency of the country and the conversion charges of your bank before you travel. Mexico’s currency is Peso.
And finally, for next three days, I will be living in my Mexican dreams.
Gracias (Thank You)!