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Mexico….Travel on a Shoestring! | Shoe String Life Style

Mexico….Travel on a Shoestring!

Mexico 2009 We love being able to take off in the winter to get away from the cold, dark and drizzle. One of our favorite places to go is Mexico.

We go to out of the way places which is great for us as we often have ample time on our hands to allow for “explore” time. If on the other hand time is limited a different destination may be more to your liking and actually cost less in the long run. We don’t do the all inclusive holidays but if time constraints only allow for one week then it can be your best bet by far. Shopping around in this medium is fairly easy as there are numerous package vacations well advertised in the newspapers and on internet travel sites.

With our available time of 2 weeks or more we generally have a more liberal selection at our disposal. Depending on what it is that you want out of a holiday you usually have a few choices of destination. Are you a shopper? Do you like the heat? Is swimming your focus? High end facilities are not always available in some of the smaller towns that we frequent.

A simple search on the internet at www.expedia.ca or www.kayak.com or any other flight search site will quickly show where the deals are. Puerto Vallarta may be much cheaper to fly to than Manzanillo for example as more flights are available to PV which brings the cost down. Also check different days of the week as some days are cheaper to fly than others. Watch out for connections and travel durations as some flights listed may seem cheap but lay-overs and their connections can be unreasonable. You usually have an option as to how many stops you want to include in your choice of flights which will also affect the cost.

We usually fly to Puerto Vallarta and then depending on our final destination will either stay there for the night in a prearranged (via the internet) hotel or hop a bus and head out if we have the time. Puerta Vallarta, nice as it is for some folks, can be very expensive by comparison to the small villages on the outskirts.Sayulita However you can find reasonable even in P.V. We stay at Hotel Posada de Roger which is central in old town, close to the beach and a short walk to the bus station. Book your stay at www.hotelposadaderoger.com.  The “bus station” which is just around the corner, is actually a particular corner with a guy in a red shirt hanging out in front of it holding a clip board. There are  some buses parked around which loosely qualifies it as a “station”. The Mexicans  are very used to dealing with people who have a limited command of spanish so all you have to do is remember your destination and be able to pronounce it and as long as you look lost someone will usually come to your assistance very quickly and get you on the right bus. Buses are very reasonable and there are lots of them. If you have a choice, which you usually do, the best is to take the “Premier Plus” which is their first class bus.  It has air-conditioning and a toilet, plus it only makes a minimum of stops along the way so the duration is much less. Bus schedules for the Puerto Vallarta area are available via the internet.  Primera Plus Mexico

Our priorities for destination are….cheap, clean, close to the beach and markets, good eateries with street vendors which takes us out of Puerto Vallartas more expensive environs. Within a short bus rides distance there lies a whole strip of small oceanside communities dotted along the coast just north of P.V. that are quieter,quainter, and cheaper.nayarit map

Bucerias, the town just north of Puerto Vallarta is the first  on the “strip” heading north. It is one of the more sprawling communities.

Lots of Colour here!
Lots of Colour here!
Shop-a-holic in Bucerias
Shop-a-holic in Bucerias

An abundance of shops and eateries presented themselves all along the beach. Serious shoppers could be quite content here it seemed.

The next stop on the journey north from Puerto Vallarta is Punta de Mita, a small town with a large flat beach that looked ideal for swimming. Our stay here was short but it looked nice and apparently cheap accommodation was available.  It looked from what we saw to be somewhat expensive.

View from Casita
View from Casita

Further up the coast we reached the town of  Sayulita where we had made reservations.  We found and booked on the internet through www.sayulitalife.com before leaving home. Great website for accommodation, listed by catagories 1 or 2 bedroom etc., and then by price. Most expensive first. We found a nice little casita for $45 u.s. per night with a little kitchen and private bath, and a lovely garden. Not on the beach, but a nice walk to the beach. This lovely little town has lots to offer. The architecture is unique with most buildings nestled into the sides of the hills or hugging the shore. There are many bars and restaurants and shops. There is a town square (Zocolo) where one can meet up with friends or spend the warm evenings eating pastries  or ice cream. Swim, surf, yoga or massage.  Everything is within walking distance, but keep in mind when booking a place, it could be situated on a hill, which may be difficult for some people. We spent much of our time exploring the town and surrounding beaches on foot, buying our daily groceries from the local markets, then packing the goods home to see what new concoction we could cook up for dinner.

Casita on the hill
Casita on the hill
Stairway to....
Stairway to....
Playa los muertos
Playa los muertos
Zocalo (Town Square)
Zocalo (Town Square)

No need to eat out every night if you plan to get a little casita with a kitchen.  Great way to save on your vacation! We loved Sayulita, and would definately go back!

Just a few miles north of Sayulita, are the towns of San Francisco, Lo de Marcos and Rincon de Guayabitos. All very nice little towns with a variety of services. Affordable accommodation looked quite possible here.

Beach Vendor
Beach Vendor
Inflatables on wheels
Inflatables on wheels

South of Puerto Vallarta lies a whole new spectrum of travel experiences. On its way to Manzanillo, the bus  goes through numerous small Mexican towns, most of which are not on the coast, so they have a different flavour….dusty. If you are lucky enough to be on a first class bus, you will be faced with one major stop on the way, Tomatlan.  The stop is short, enough time for a squirt and a burrito…….this IS Mexico. Back on board again the bus winds its way on to Melaque, passing the small seaside towns of Tenacatita, Boca de Iguana and La Manzanilla. All three offer good eateries, swimming and snorkelling.

Melaque is a quaint tourist town, frequented by Mexicans and Gringos alike. You don’t find high end resorts here.  They are small, often family run bungalows and hotels, scattered throughout the town and skirting the oceanfront. You can count on them being more affordable than their counterparts in towns north of P.V.

Melaque view from Barre
Melaque view from Barre

Melaque is one of our favorite places to travel to in Mexico. For us it has it all…..good eateries, shops, beach bars with great happy hours and a beautiful beach.

We prebooked a lovely bungalow steps from the beach, through an online service called Small Town Adventures Mexico.  They were very helpful finding us what we needed, and were able to keep the accommodation within our price range….cheap. Check out their website to get some ideas. There are pictures of most places, and the rates are listed in Pesos. www.smalltownadventuresmexico.com

Beach treats!
Beach treats!

Finding yourself there with no prebooked accommodation is usually not a problem, there are always rooms available… unless it’s Christmas or Easter.

There is a bank with an ATM right in town opposite the bus station. Travellers cheques are only cashed after 3pm at the bank, which can be inconvenient. Debit and credit cards work best.

We loved going to the market to buy fresh fish, meat, and poultry and other staples such as vegetables, fruits and tortillas. Going in to the market on an empty stomach can be a joyful experience sampling the many culinary options available. Go early for best selections!

The beach is beautiful. The best swimming is at the far end of town where the bus comes in from P.V.  As you go farther south along the beach the undertow and surf gets increasingly stronger.

Barre de Navidad
Barre de Navidad

It is possible to walk along the beach to the next town called Barre de Navidad. Its nice to do this early in the morning before it gets too hot as there is no shade. The healthy contingent use the beach as a form of excercise early in the day, running or walking to their destination.

Barre has alot to offer as well. There are many restaurants and bars and the nightlife is a bit more lively than Melaque. Lots of shopping and for those who want to surf, there are boards to rent and even a surfing school. The beach is beautiful, but watch out if you are swimming for the crashing waves and undertow, as is common on the pacific coast.

If you are looking for a budget vacation, Mexico can give you good value if you do your research.


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