Mexico: Top Tips

Officially one of my favourite countries in the world – Mexico has it all! We travelled from the beaches to the mountains to the big bustling city and loved every second of it. Here’s some advice about where to stay and what to do, just in case you fancy planning a trip of your own!

Where to stay:

The Yak, Playa del Carmen

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$12 per person, per night (6-BED DORM)

9/10 – Located close to the ADO bus station and just a 10 minute walk from the beach, The Yak is one of the best backpacker options in Playa del Carmen. The price is in the mid-range category but it’s certainly not just an average hostel. There’s free breakfast, multiple chill areas, helpful reception staff, tour bookings, air conditioning, laundrette on site, free welcome drink, good vibes – this list could go on! I’m going to deduct a point for the fact that the queues for the bathroom can sometimes be long because there aren’t enough showers for the amount of guests but that really was the only downside I can think of.

Hostel Orquideas, Cancun

$10 per person, per night (8-BED DORM)

5/10I apologise for the lack of photo – this was a very quick stop-off for us. We only stayed here to get some rest after our return flight from Cuba and it did the job of providing us with a bed to sleep in but we probably wouldn’t have stayed here out of choice. The hostel is actually quite expensive for what it is but that’s to be expected because Cancun is an expensive area. The free breakfast is dished up onto plates and left on the side for you to pick up when you wake up. There were sausage pieces in the breakfast so Alice and I asked for a vegetarian option, to which they responded; ‘just pick them out’. Fine for us but maybe not for people who don’t eat meat for stricter reasons. The rooms are ridiculously hot and stuffy and there are only 2 bathrooms in the whole hostel. Plus, the location of the hostel is pretty awful if you’re looking for the beach/nightlife – you’ll probably spend more on taxis than you would on just paying for accommodation nearer the strip. I liked the art on the walls, the beanbag chill out area and the free drinking water but overall, I don’t think any of us would have wanted to stay for longer than 12 hours!

Mama’s Home, Tulum

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$10 per person, per night (6-BED DORM)

9.5/10 – I’m not too sure why this place isn’t getting a 10. I find it really hard to give 10’s – If I was a uni lecturer I’d be one of those that gave you a 1st, say your essay was flawless but then just write 70… (“IF IT’S FLAWLESS, GIVE ME 100”) Ok, no, back to the point. This hostel was one of my favourites – there was just something super magical about it. The staff are great, there’s always something going on, they put a big emphasis on being social – eating together, going out together etc. The rooms aren’t that amazing but it’s very rare that backpacker dorms ever are. The bathrooms are divine though – hot, powerful showers are always a blessing! My favourite thing about our entire stay was probably the breakfast. You don’t get a choice but you can tell them about any dietary requirements and they will accommodate, then they make it from scratch and serve it to you at the table. It was seriously top notch food – from pancakes with berries and chocolate sauce to massive veggie toasted sandwich towers – I was really impressed. I could say that I deducted the .5 for location (the beach is FAR away) but, at the same time, this hostel is close to restaurants and shops and there are bike rental places everywhere so getting around isn’t really an issue. Long story short, this place is a 10. GO AND STAY THERE!

Posada del Abuelito, San Cristobal de las Casas

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$6 per person, per night (4-BED DORM)

9/10 – Yet another GEM of a hostel! Nestled away in the back streets of San Cristobal this was one of the cosiest places we have ever stayed. It reminded us of our favourite hostel back in Antigua, Guatemala due to it’s quaint vibe and traditional interiors. The rooms were really comfortable – beds with private lights and plug sockets, plenty of blankets to get through the minus degree temperatures at night and en-suite bathrooms. The free breakfast is good but it’s sometimes hard to get a seat at the table during busy times, meaning you’ll have to sit outside. This would usually be fine but it gets pretty chilly in San Cristobal so sometimes you’ll be shivering and eating your cereal. There are hammocks and an internet room with sofas, so plenty of chill out space and the owner is helpful when it comes to advice about the town. It’s not in the centre, so you have to walk for about 10 minutes to reach the main road and you’ll need to take a taxi to and from the bus station because it’s probably too far to lug your backpacks.

Casa Losodeli, Puerto Escondido

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$5 per person, per night (6-BED DORM)

7.5/10 – First things first, look at the price of this hostel – what an absolute bargain! Casa Losodeli is near Playa Carizalillo and just a bus or a taxi away from popular places like La Punta and Zicatela. It’s just a 10 minute walk from the ADO bus station too, which is great if you’re arriving from/departing to other Mexican cities. Let’s start with the good stuff: pool, great staff, bar, big rooms, super friendly atmosphere. Now for the not-so-good stuff: no air conditioning, no free breakfast, only 2 bathrooms in the entire hostel and it’s quite a big hostel! We had a wicked time here and weren’t too phased by the negatives (we are very used to taking 2 minute showers and sweating profusely due to humidity all night) but I’m still gonna have to deduct some points…

Casa Angel Youth Hostel, Oaxaca

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$7 per person, per night (4-BED DORM)

9/10 – Another high scorer! Mexico really hit the mark with hostels and gave Guatemala a run for it’s money! Casa Angel has the choice of basic and deluxe rooms – we chose the basic option and it was fine but I can imagine the deluxe rooms are extra special! There are communal bathrooms on every floor with a few showers and WCs plus there is a computer suite, a roof terrace and a TV with Netflix! It’s so nice to kick back and watch TV every once in a while – especially when you’ve been travelling non-stop, so this was a massive selling point for us. I can imagine that you probably wouldn’t care too much about that kind of thing if you were on a 1 or 2 week trip so I’m not gonna let that factor into my rating (although I really want to give it a 10 just because we could watch a whole season of ‘Glee’). This hostel was great – the free breakfast has a lot of choice, there is free drinking water on tap, the location is pretty sweet, the staff are friendly and will help you book tours but most importantly, they write a welcome message for you on the noticeboard when you arrive. Such a cute personalised touch!

Hostel DF Suites, Mexico City

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$14 per person, per night (PRIVATE ROOM)

8/10 – Originally, we were thinking about booking a fancy hotel for Abbie’s birthday but when we realised how little money we had left we decided to get a private room in a hostel instead. Mexico City doesn’t really have any amazing, distinctive hostels like, say, Zephyr Lodge in Guatemala or Bambuda Lodge in Panama but we managed to find some pretty SUITE digs. See what I did there? It’s called Hostel Suites, so I said suite… no, you’re right, that’s not a good joke. Our private room was super simple: a double bed and a set of bunkbeds with an en-suite bathroom. I’m just gonna take a moment to congratulate the shower on being one of the best showers of the whole trip and also to congratulate our in-room-TV for having a channel that just played Malcolm in the Middle all day long 👏👏👏. The free breakfast wasn’t great but that may be because I was too sick to actually eat anything… I appreciated the free drinking water though and the staff were amazingly helpful when I wanted to hide Abbie’s birthday gifts. The location is brilliant and, honestly, we ended on a high with this hostel but points have been deducted because it had a sterile feel to it (we prefer hostels with a bit of charm) and there wasn’t much of a social atmosphere.

General Information:

• The ADO bus company is the most famous one in Mexico (they have routes in parts of Belize and Guatemala too) and you should 100% make the most of their services. You can download the app on your smartphone, see timetables and book tickets with a 10% discount or you can just go into the station and get a staff member to plan your journey for you.

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• There are different types of ADO bus – basic to luxury. The costs vary and basically just determine how far your seat will recline, if you’ll get free bottled water and what the on-board entertainment will be. We didn’t really notice much of a difference between basic and luxury so don’t worry too much about that – just choose the one that’s in your price range.

• As with any bus in Central or Latin America, keep your valuables on your person! The one time we forgot to do this we had our stuff stolen so it just goes to show how important this advice is! Whether its in a fanny pack, in your pockets zipped up or even in your underwear… just put them somewhere that you can feel and check on at all times.

• If you get chance try and Google the exact directions from the bus station/airport to your hostel. Hostelworld.com usually has a brief description but sometimes these aren’t detailed enough and you’ll end up getting lost so print screen a map or something while you still have WiFi.

• If you’re desperate to visit Mexico’s East coast then we would recommend basing yourselves in Tulum or Playa del Carmen instead of Cancun. It’s easy enough to take a day trip because each of these cities are only 1 or 2 hours away from each other but Cancun isn’t the best place for backpackers. You’ll probably be able to make your money go further if you stay in the surrounding cities instead.

• Rent bikes in Tulum – it’s the best way to get to the cenotes and the beaches and the prices start at just $5 per bike for the whole day.

• The maps you’ll see in Tulum aren’t to scale and you’ll think the town centre and the beach are pretty close. Don’t assume you’ll be able to walk between them though – I mean, you probably could do it, but you’d waste a whole 2 hours..

• If you want to visit the Tulum ruins, try to arrive as early as possible. They open at 8am and if you get there for opening then you may be lucky enough to have the ruins all to yourself! Crowds start to pour in at 9/10am and this will make snapping the perfect shot very difficult indeed. We’ve heard that sunset isn’t a bad time to go either but seeing as we haven’t tried and tested this theory, I’m only going to recommend it at your own risk!

• The restaurants on the road behind the beach will always be cheaper than restaurants directly on the beachfront – this rule applies to every beach in Quintana Roo (and probably in the world)

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• The ADO bus from Cancun airport is half the price of the colectivo taxis and takes about the same amount of time into the centre – the only difference is that it doesn’t drop you off outside the door of your accommodation.

• Take your own snorkelling equipment to Akumal beach  and swim with the turtles – they’ll say you need to be with the guide but it’s not hard to sneak out past the barrier.

• We had a bit of a nightmare with ATM’s in Mexico – they all seem to charge foreign cards a fee to withdraw cash. If possible try and withdraw large amounts in one go to save yourself a few extra dollars.

• Mexican money is called pesos. The rate is about 25 pesos for every £1 and all the prices are written like this: MX$25. So whilst your mind will think you’re spending 25 dollars on a chocolate bar, you are actually well in budget.

• Get to Playa Bacocho, Puerto Escondido for 5pm sharp to watch the baby turtle release! If surfing is your thing, check out La Punta and Zicatela and if you just want to sunbathe, Carizalillo and Manzanillo are perfect for you.

• Definitely take a trip to Hierve del Agua when you’re in Oaxaca. There are tour companies in town or you could probably hire a car and drive there yourself but we booked through our hostel, which worked out perfectly.

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• Although we had a great time at Six Flags theme park, I’m very aware that we could have used our time in Mexico City more productively. Go to the wrestling, learn about Mexican culture in the museums, walk around the parks and the castles, take a boat tour down the canals and visit the pyramids outside of the city.

• We weren’t taxed to enter or exit Mexico but other travellers told us that they had been. I’m not sure what the official stance is – perhaps you will be asked to pay, perhaps you won’t but considering we didn’t pay a penny, I’d try and stand your ground and make sure you’re definitely paying a legal tax and not being mugged off.

Mexican words:

Que pedo?/Que onda? – A greeting, ‘whats up?’

No mames! – ‘You’re kidding!’ ‘No way!’

Chido – Cool

Wey/Güey – Kind of like man or dude, refers to someone without using their name.

If you’d like to know more about the individual destinations that we visited in Mexico then click the links below:

Quintana Roo ⛱
San Cristobal de las Casas ⛪️
Puerto Escondido ☮️
Oaxaca 🕍
Mexico City 🏙

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