Accommodation in Mexico

Hotels and hospedajes

Hotel prices in the lower and middle categories are still very reasonable by US and European standards. Prices of top and luxury hotels have risen more steeply as tourism has increased. English is spoken at the best hotels and is increasingly common throughout Mexico. There is a hotel tax of 1-4%, according to the state, although it is generally levied only when a formal bill is issued.

During peak season (November to April) it may be hard to find a room. The week after Easter is normally a holiday, so prices remain high, but resorts are not as crowded as the previous week. Discounts on hotel prices can often be arranged in the low season (May to October), but this is more difficult in the Yucatán and Baja California. For hotels in high price brackets it's worth checking their websites for any promotional deals or packages.

Rooms are normally charged at a flat rate, or if there are single rooms they are around 80% the price of a double. Couples should ask for a room with
cama matrimonial
(double bed), which is normally cheaper than a room with two beds. Costs tend to reduce with the number of people sharing a room, making Mexico an economical destination for groups. Always check the room and water supplies before paying in advance. Check-out time is commonly 1100 but bag storage is commonplace. Note that throughout this guide, the term 'with bath' usually means 'with shower and toilet', not 'with bath tub'.

A cheap but reasonable hotel might cost US$15 a night upwards in southern Mexico (away from the coast), US$20-25 in the north. In many of the popular destinations, there is often an established preferred choice budget option. The quality of these fluctuates. The good ones stay on top of the game, the mediocre ones fade and bloom with the fashions.

For those on a really tight budget, ask for a
casa de huéspedes
(boarding house); they are normally to be found in abundance near bus and railway stations and markets. The very cheapest hotels may not have 24-hour water supplies so wash when the water is available. They may be quite dirty too, so pack your own sheet if you intend to stay in a lot of these places (a duvet cover serves as a very good lightweight sleeping bag). Fleas, bedbugs, cockroaches and chirping geckos can all add to the experience!

Motels and auto-hotels, especially in central and south Mexico, are not usually places where guests stay the whole night (you can recognize them by curtains over the garage and red and green lights above the door to show if the room is free). If driving, and wishing to avoid a night on the road, they can be quite acceptable (clean, some have hot water, air conditioning or even a jacuzzi), and they tend to be cheaper than other, 'more respectable' establishments. Beware of 'helpers' who try to find you a hotel, as prices quoted at the hotel desk rise to give them commission.

HostelTrail Latin America i www.hosteltrail.com
, is an online network of hostels and tour companies in Latin America providing up-to-date information for backpackers and independent travellers who pay particular attention to locally run businesses.


Youth Hostels

Hostels in Mexico are very much on the increase covering private hostels and International Youth Hostel endorsed accommodation.
Albergues
exist in Mexico, mostly in small towns; they are usually good value and clean, although not necessarily cheaper than hotels, especially for couples. While the hostels take YHA members and non-members, members pay a slightly reduced rate; if staying more than four nights, it normally works out cheaper to become a member. Services vary from place to place. Hostels often have lockers for valuables. For information contact
Hostelling International Mexico
, www.hostellingmexico.com
.

Many towns have a
Villa Deportiva Juvenil
. While these are essentially the Mexican equivalent of a youth hostel their main market is for groups of Mexican students who may, for example, be taking part in a regional event. It's worth looking out for the option as they are normally very cheap. But while some cater very well for the international traveller, others are barely interested.


Camping

Most sites are called
trailer parks, but tents are usually allowed. However, due to their primary role as trailer parks they're often in locations more suited for people with their own transport than people using public transport.
Playas públicas
, with a blue-and-white sign of a palm tree, are beaches where camping is allowed. They are usually cheap, sometimes free and some have shelters and basic amenities. You can often camp in or near national parks, although you must speak first with the guards, and usually pay a small fee.

Paraffin oil (kerosene) for stoves is called
petróleo para lámparas
in Mexico. It is available from an
expendio
(general store), or
despacho de petróleo
, or from a
tlapalería
(hardware store), but not from petrol stations. Methylated spirits is called
alcohol desnaturalizado
or
alcohol del 96
and is available from chemists. Calor gas is widely available.
Gasolina blanca
(white gas) may be bought in
ferreterías
(ironmongers) or paint shops; prices vary widely, also ask for Coleman fuel. Alcohol for heating the burner can be obtained from supermarkets.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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