Why I’m Going Back to Mexico – The Plans for my Second Solo Trip

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If you follow me on social media, you will probably already know that I am embarking on my second solo trip to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and I am leaving tomorrow morning! I previously visited the Yucatan only six months ago in May of 2015 for my first solo trip ever.

In the weeks leading up to my trip, various comments by people that I know, have been made to me about me traveling solo in Mexico, including the following:

“I hope you come back alive…”

“You are crazy.”

“Isn’t Mexico really dangerous? What about the drug cartels and gangs?”

It’s difficult to let these types of comments just roll off my back. I definitely find myself internalizing some of the fear behind these comments, which leads to me feeling a little nervous and to having doubts about my abilities to travel solo.

I have to keep reminding myself that other people are projecting their own fears and insecurities onto me, but I have a choice whether or not to adopt their beliefs as my own. I also have to remind myself that the people making such comments about my travels, have either a) never traveled to Mexico or b) only get their information about a country’s safety from the mainstream media (which tends to sensationalize violent and rare incidents and then make sweeping generalizations that such incidents mean that the entire country too dangerous to travel to). If our only source of travel safety information is the mainstream media and the government travel advisories, we would probably never desire to leave the comfort of our houses.

I also have to remind myself that what I am doing is not something that many people have the opportunity or desire to do. The fact that I am able to face my fears, break down the barriers and overcome my anxieties and the other challenges (ie. introversion) to traveling solo, is something that not many people do. And I think that’s pretty awesome that I am able to do those things.

I sometimes think to myself, “What if the success I had during my first trip was just a lucky fluke? What if I don’t meet any other travelers I can connect with? What if I get lonely and have to do everything by myself?”

It’s a battle in my mind sometimes between the rational side of my brain and the emotional side. My rational side researches everything possible about my destination – reading countless travel blogs and forums and reaching out to fellow bloggers and asking for their advice. But my emotional side thinks about the worst case scenarios and the doubts.

But I have to remember that I have traveled solo in Mexico once before and I know and believe that I am capable of doing it again.

Even in knowing and believing this, I have still experienced some anxiety and worry about my upcoming travels, as I do any time I step outside of my comfort zone and into the unknown. I have to learn to accept that there are many unknowns and uncertainties and that I cannot be in control of everything, but remember that God is in control.

I tend to over-plan everything in my life, so naturally, I have been spending all of my spare time lately researching and planning my travels in great detail. Of course, I also leave lots of room for relaxation and spontaneity and don’t plan everything down to the day.

Researching everything about my trip in detail is one thing that I do before traveling that helps me to feel prepared because I have a lot of knowledge about my destination. In turn, feeling prepared helps to increase my confidence and lessen the anxiety that I may have.

So getting back to the focus of this post…

Since I’ve been to Mexico before (6 months ago), you might be asking yourself, why would I go back so soon? 

In short, I have completely fallen in love with Mexico as a country. From the vibrant culture, to the delicious variety of food, to the Spanish language, to the gorgeous natural beauty (jungles, cenotes), to the impressive and detailed ruins from the ancient Maya civilization, and the warmth, kindness and generosity of the local people.

Mexico is such a vast country with a huge variety of landscapes and things to see, do and experience.

During this trip, I want to focus on exploring some my favourite places in-depth while also getting off the beaten path to discover more favourites and local hidden gems.

I am very excited to be going back to Mexico! I will be re-visiting three places that I went to during my last trip (Playa del Carmen, Tulum and Valladolid) as well as exploring three new places (Merida, the Puuc Route/Santa Elena and Campeche).

As my departure date has been getting closer and closer, I have been experiencing a mixed bag of emotions, from feeling excited, fearless and empowered to anxious, worried and fearful. Some days, I experience a range of all these emotions.

Even though I have traveled solo once before in Mexico, doesn’t mean I am immune to fear, anxiety and nervousness. It’s something that I have to deal with and overcome every time I travel.

As an introvert, traveling solo is definitely stepping wayyy outside of my comfort zone. Challenging myself in unknown territory is definitely difficult for me at times and it takes effort. I was so proud of myself for taking the leap and traveling solo for my first time to Mexico this past spring. Approaching complete strangers, meeting new people and making friends was surprisingly easier than I was expecting it to be and I met so many wonderful and interesting people – both fellow travelers and locals alike.

I learned a lot about myself, the Mexican culture and history, the Spanish language and other people, and gained so many valuable skills when I traveled in Mexico the first time. I became more independent, gained confidence in my abilities, became resourceful, learned how to handle a variety of challenging situations (learning Spanish on the go and dealing with the language barrier, navigating the public transport system, and finding my way around completely foreign places) and ultimately, felt so empowered that I had the opportunity to do something (travel solo) and experience such incredible beauty in our world, that many people do not have the opportunity to experience.

The purpose of my current trip is to hopefully discover more about myself, gain some clarity of my purpose and direction in life, travel deeper and explore more of Mexico (the colonial cities and towns, Mayan villages, cenotes and Mayan ruins), try new foods, and meet some amazing people who will maybe become lifelong friends.

I have been doing extensive travel research and planning for the past month or so now, and I have finally figured out my rough itinerary, so here it is:

November 12-15 – Tulum, Mexico.

November 15-18 – Valladolid, Mexico

November 18-22 – Merida, Mexico

November 23-24 – Santa Elena, Mexico

November 24-25 or 26th – Merida, Mexico

November 25 or 26th-28 – Campeche, Mexico

November 28-29 – Playa del Carmen, Mexico

I will not be writing any blog posts during this trip, but I will be writing comprehensive posts about the places I visited along with my stories and experiences after I return home.

If you are interested in following my journey in Mexico – the lessons I learn along the way, the challenges I face, the amazing natural beauty, the people I meet and the memorable experiences that I have – you can do so in a number of ways!

I will try my best to post photos daily on Instagram, summaries and photos from my day on Facebook, and random snippets of information, observations and thoughts along my travels on Twitter. I’ll be posting slightly different stuff on each platform, so you’ll get the full story if you follow me on all three!

I am so looking forward to meeting new friends, learning more about the Mexican culture, Mayan history and Spanish language, sampling some new foods, while exploring and experiencing the natural and ancient beauty of this wonderful and diverse country!

Adios amigos!

My Carry-On Packing List for 17 Days in Mexico

Carry-On Packing List

I am very excited to be heading back to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula for 17 days (I leave bright and early tomorrow morning!), after 6 months of last being in the area. I will be traveling to Tulum, Valladolid, Merida, Campeche City and Playa del Carmen.

Even though I consider myself to be a minimalist, packing for travel always remains a challenge for me. I only first began packing a carry-on only earlier this year. Prior to that, I traveled with a huge suitcase and would pack it completely full of stuff. But after I returned home from my travels and unpacked my bags, I started to realize how little I actually used and needed.

So, on my first solo backpacking trip to Mexico this past May, I purchased a 48 litre backpack and a 12 litre daypack and challenged myself to pack lighter. This was the first time I packed carry-on luggage only and it was incredibly freeing! Physically, I had much less weight to carry around with me and it was so nice to be able to breeze through airports, bypassing the baggage drop-off and pick-up lines, while everyone else stood there… waiting.

On this current solo trip that I am about to take, I attempted to pack even less than what I did during my last trip. Even though I thought I had packed light last time, there was still stuff that I didn’t use or need! So during my packing, I took the time to really question every item that I wanted to pack, asking myself, “Do I really need this?” “Will I actually use this?” “Is this something I could buy relatively cheaply and relatively easily at my destination?” “Am I bringing this item solely for those ‘just-in-case’ scenarios?”

It took me a good chunk of the day (good thing it’s a Remembrance Day in Canada today, which means no work and more time to pack!) to finish packing but I think I am finally content with my list. It was a challenge and I know there is still going to be stuff that I don’t use or need, which is why I plan on writing a post when I return from Mexico, reflecting on my packing list – what worked, what didn’t and what I could do to improve for next time.

So now that I have finally finished packing, here is my complete packing list as I attempt to travel minimally for 17 days in Mexico, with only a 48L backpack and 12L daypack:

The Travel Gear:

48 Litre Gregory Cairn Women’s Backpack

12 Litre PacSafe Slingsafe 300 GII 

PacSafe Slingsafe 75 GII Purse

Liquids Bag (Under 100 ml):

My Liquids Toiletry Bag

My Liquids Toiletry Bag

Since I traveling with carry-on luggage only, all of my liquids must be 100 ml or less. I bought this Lewis N Clark Clear Plastic Toiletry Pouch from Amazon.ca and it works great for holding my liquids! It is made from a thicker plastic that won’t rip or tear, which is great and better than using a Ziploc bag.

Sunscreen 30 SPF

Insect Repellent

Hand Sanitizer

Travel Toothpaste

Facial Moisturizing Lotion – with natural ingredients and homemade from a company in Winnipeg that I love, called Just The Goods

Bug Bite Allergy Stick

Essential Oils – I love this Pocket Pharmacy from Saje! Their essentials oils smell amazing, they are pure and they work very effectively for a variety of ailments.

GoToobs filled with organic shampoo and conditioner (I love the brand Andalou and I can usually find their products for cheap at Winners in Winnipeg)

Contact Lens Solution

Natural Roll-on Deodorant – from Rocky Mountain Soap Company

Medical and Toiletry Bag:

Medical and Toiletry Bag

Medical and Toiletry Bag

In this packing cube, I have the following:

Travel-sized Hair Brush

Diarrhea Relief Pills – when you’re eating street food and at local eateries in Mexico, you never really know how the food was cooked.

Ziploc Bag With Various Medications – Advil, Tylenol, Pepto-Bismol, Sore Throat Lozenges, and Activated Charcoal

Emergen-C Vitamin C Powder – it is dissolved in water and is good for boosting your immune system to fight off colds

Wet Wipes – these hand and face wipes are a good alternative to washing your face at the end of the day.

Nail File – in case my nail clipper (not pictured) is found by airport security and confiscated

Q-Tips – gotta keep the ears clean!

Ear Plugs – to be able to get a good sleep if there are loud snorers in the hostel dorms

Band-Aids

Pepto-Bismol – in case of heartburn, nausea, indigestion or diarrhea

Hydrocortisone Cream – for itchy bug bites

Concealer – this is the only makeup item that I am bringing with me. I prefer the natural look, but I brought this just in case I get a huge zit or something that I would like to cover up.

Travel Flashlight – for finding my way to the bathroom in the nighttime at hostels and for exploring cenotes and caves.

Allergy Relief Pills – I am allergic to mosquito bites (and probably other bug bites as well) and strong fragrances.

Hair Elastics – I don’t want my hair touching the back of my neck when it’s super hot outside.

Travel Toothbrush – this handy little toothbrush folds up into a case, to protect the bristles.

Razor (not pictured)

Nail Clipper (not pictured)

Day Pack:

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Here are the contents of my day pack/personal item:

Two Anker External Chargers – these are great for charging my phone on-the-go.

Travel Power Strip To Go – electrical outlets are sometimes hard to come by in hostels, so this power strip allows you four outlets!

Eagle Creek Money Belt – this is where I keep my credit card, debit card, foreign currency and identification.

Tales of a Female Nomad (Novel) – I always bring one novel with me to read.

Travel Journal – I love writing and documenting what I did during each day, the weather, my thoughts and feelings, who I met, what I ate and how much money I spent. I bought this specific travel journal from Winners in Winnipeg.

Sunglasses – cheap pair from American Eagle

Lonely Planet Mexican Spanish Phrasebook – so I can attempt to communicate with the locals.

Cliff Bars and Kind Bars – for the plane and for general snacking in Mexico.

Contact Lenses and Case

Eyeglasses and Case (not pictured)

Travelon Packing Cube with Various Chargers, Cords and Combination Locks (for hostel dorm room lockers)

Kleenex

Homemade Hand Sanitizer

Just The Goods Lip Balm – natural, homemade and locally made in Winnipeg (my hometown)

Ear Planes – my eyes don’t pressurize on airplanes, so these handy earplugs help with that!

Miscellaneous: 

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Miscellaneous

These are random items in my backpack that don’t fit into any packing cubes:

Rain Jacket

Travel Microfibre Towel

Sandals – I actually bought these the last time I was in Playa del Carmen because the flip flops that I had originally brought, gave me the worst blisters ever on my first day in Mexico!

TOM’s shoes

Reebok Athletic Shoes

Glasses Cleaning Cloth (not pictured)

Headband (not pictured) – to pull my bangs off of my forehead on hot days.

Undergarments:

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Undergarments

This packing cube contains the following:

Socks – four pairs

Underwear – 17 pairs (one pair for every day. I don’t plan on doing laundry!)

Bras – one sports bra and one regular black bra

Clothing:

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Clothing

Deciding what clothing to take is always the most difficult part of packing for me. I think I have finally figured it out, although I know for sure that I won’t wear all of this.

Three T-Shirts – one Reebok athletic shirt (moisture wicking) and two solid-coloured Polyester t-shirts from H&M

Three Tank Tops – one cotton from Dynamite and two athletic tanks (moisture wicking) from Winners

One Swim Suit – tankini top and boy short bottoms

One Pair of Black Leggings

One Pair of Pants – from Eddie Bauer, beige-coloured with lots of pockets and they roll up into longer capri pants

Two Pairs of Capri Pants – one black athletic pair and one black baggy pair from Lululemon

Pajama Bottoms and Top – pink tank top (not pictured) and grey sweatpant-like shorts

One Cardigan – grey button-up long sleeved from Garage Clothing

Two Pairs of Shorts – both athletic, one is black and the other is a dark blue

One Sweater – 3/4 length, baggy, solid burgundy-coloured from H&M

Travel Purse/Identification/Important Items:

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Travel Purse/Important Items

My small PacSafe travel purse contains my most important and valuable items:

Canadian Passport

iPhone 5S

Canon Digital Camera

Foreign Currency – Mexican Pesos

Identification – driver’s license, debit card, credit card, birth certificate, insurance card, and provincial health card.

That’s everything I am packing for this trip! I am sure there will be items that I don’t use or need and will be writing a post when I return home, reflecting on my packing list.

What are some essential items that you have to pack when you travel? 

Budget-Friendly Accommodations in Tulum

Budget Accommodations Tulum

Tulum, Mexico is a small, laid-back Mexican town with a slow-paced atmosphere located in the Mayan Riviera along the Gulf of Mexico, approximately two hours south of Cancun.

The town of Tulum is a great place to stay to get a better feel for the local Mexican culture. There are also more authentic restaurants to choose from that serve traditional and cheap Mexican food. The town is becoming more touristy but is nowhere near the level of tourism that you will see in Playa del Carmen and Cancun. There are not too many crowds in Tulum, which I loved.

Tulum is the perfect place to relax and learn about the Mayan culture and history. The town is close to the gorgeous beach which can be reached via local colectivo shuttle van or taxi (5-10 minutes) or bicycle (25 minutes). The are an abundance of unique and beautiful cenotes surrounding the town. The ruins of Tulum, Coba and Muyil are also nearby, as is the Sian Ka’an Biosphere.

Hostels:

Mama’s Home | Starting at $14 CAD per night

Calle Orion between Calle Venus and Sol Sur 

I stayed at Mama’s Home for four nights during my first solo travels in Mexico. It was an amazing hostel!

Mama’s Home is a hostel in a quiet local neighbourhood of Tulum, with a relaxing and laid-back yet social atmosphere. It is centrally located and is within short walking distance to local restaurants, shopping, pharmacies, grocery stores, and banks. The ADO bus terminal is approximately a 10 minute walk away, on the main avenue going through Tulum.

The hostel features a central outdoor courtyard surrounded by colourful and brightly painted walls with a variety of designs and patterns that is the perfect place for socializing with and meeting fellow travelers and also just relaxing in one of the hammocks along the side of the courtyard, unique decor, a communal kitchen and refrigerator for guests, super fast and free Wi-Fi, two guest computers, a book exchange, luggage storage, free breakfast (the breakfasts are elaborate, delicious and different every morning), super friendly and helpful staff with great tips and recommendations, a 20 peso discount on daily bike rentals from a local place in town, free maps of Tulum, and hot showers.

Jose, the owner of the hostel, organizes a variety of fun social activities and events that take place in the communal courtyard, as way for travelers to get to know each other, make friends and have fun. When I stayed there, there was a pina colada night and movie night. I participated in both and ended up meeting some great friends! There are also two adorable kittens that live at the hostel. They love to cuddle and play with you.

Mama’s Home offers a variety of rooms to choose from. There are spacious and air conditioned private rooms along with an air conditioned 6 bed mixed gender dormitory and a 10 bed open air mixed gender dormitory (with no air conditioning). The dorms have individual lockers to keep your belongings safe.

I have personal experience staying at this hostel (you can read my detailed review by clicking on this link) and can pretty much guarantee that you will not regret staying here!

View of the hostel from the street

View of the hostel from the street

Colourful walls in the courtyard

Colourful walls in the courtyard

Hostel courtyard with vines growing up the walls

Hostel courtyard with vines growing up the walls

The outdoor hostel courtyard

The outdoor hostel courtyard

The tables in the courtyard with a nice view of the beautiful murals and paintings on the walls

The tables in the courtyard with a nice view of the beautiful murals and paintings on the walls

TripAdvisor, HostelWorld, Facebook, Twitter 

Hostel Akadia Cultural Tulum | No price listed

Calle Sol Poniente Lote #5 between Calles Alfa and Jupiter (one block north of the main avenue, directly behind the ADO bus terminal)

Hostel Akadia Cultural is a relaxed hostel with a chill atmosphere, located in the town of Tulum.

The hostel features a large courtyard with a swimming pool. Other amenities include Wi-Fi, TV, lockers, equipped kitchen, music, bar, cooking classes, and an on-site restaurant.

Hostel Akadia offers private rooms, dorm rooms, camping and hammocks.

Official Website, TripAdvisor, Booking

Chill Inn Hostel | Starting at $15 CAD per night

Avenida Gama #47 between Calles Orion and Beta Sur 

The Chill Inn Hostel is a newer hostel with a relaxed atmosphere located in a quiet and safe neighbourhood in the town of Tulum, a 5 minute walk from the main avenue where you will find banks, restaurants, groceries, tour agencies and transportation. It is located within a 20 minute bike ride to the beach and Tulum ruins or a 5 minute taxi ride.

The hostel features a shared kitchen and common areas which are great for relaxing or socializing, free Wi-Fi and included breakfast.

The hostel offers four dorms with the choice of 4, 8 or 10 beds, all of them equipped with a full bathroom and shower. Each bed has an electrical outlet, comfortable mattress, reading light, fan, and security box, as well as fitted curtains so you can have some privacy.

Chill Inn Hostel

Chill Inn Hostel

HostelWorld, TripAdvisor, Facebook, Booking, Official Website

El Jardin de Frida | Starting at $

Avenida Tulum between Avenida Kukulkan and Chemuyil

El Jardin de Frida is an eco-cultural hostel built around a beautiful garden, located in a calm and quiet neighbourhood of Tulum. They use solar panels to generate 80% of their electricity. The hostel is centrally located on the main avenue in the town of Tulum, close (about a 10 minute walk) to the bus terminal, restaurants, attractions, banks and supermarkets.

The hostel features a large, beautiful and tranquil garden where you can find hammocks to relax, mango, banana, and avocado trees and be surrounded by nature. The hostel offers daily cleaning, hot water, linen included, luggage storage, tourist information, a communal kitchen, bar, free continental breakfast, free Wi-Fi, lockers, and a library.

There are both private rooms as well as a 7 bed mixed dormitory (shared). All of the rooms are spacious and clean and have fans. The private rooms have private bathrooms and a small terrace facing the jungle. The dorms have a full bathroom ensuite and single beds (not bunk beds).

El Jardin de Frida

HostelWorld, TripAdvisor, Official Website, Facebook

Hostel Sheck | Starting at $11 CAD per night

Corner of Avenida Satelite and Calle Sagitario 

Hostel Sheck is a laid back hostel with a beautiful lush garden to relax, socialize and meet new people. The hostel is located in the town of Tulum, close to banks, supermarkets, the ADO bus terminal, restaurants and attractions.

The hostel features a budget-friendly bar, fully equipped industrial kitchen (with blender, juice squeezer, variety of utensils, industrial stoves, refrigerator, microwave, toaster oven), hammocks, tour and travel recommendations from the staff, free hot breakfast, free Wi-Fi, free purified drinking water, free Tulum maps, hot showers, individual lockers, bed linen included, towel rental, discount on bike rental, table games, book exchange, and more.

The hostel offers a variety of rooms including: 12 bed mixed dorm, 6 person mixed dorm, 4 person mixed dorm, and private rooms with shared as well as private bathrooms. The dorms have individual lockers, a full bathroom, and ceiling fan.

Hostel Sheck

Hostel Sheck

Hostel Sheck

HostelWorld, Official Website, Facebook, TripAdvisor

Hostal Tulum Naa | No prices listed

Avenida Satelite between Calle Sagitario and Calle 2 Poniente (left hand side)

Hostal Tulum Naa is a clean and comfortable hostel centrally located in the town of Tulum. It is close to banks, restaurants, the ADO bus terminal, supermarkets, shopping and attractions.

The hostel features 24 hour reception, free Wi-Fi internet access, board games, housekeeping, an outdoor terrace and a kitchen.

The dorms include a ceiling fan, shared bathroom with hot water, lockers and reading lights. Linens and towels are included.

Hostal Tulum Naa

Hostal Tulum Naa

Hostal Tulum Naa

HostelWorld, Facebook, TripAdvisor

Hostal Chalupa | Starting at $15 CAD per night

Corner of Avenida Tulum and Avenida Coba

Hostal Chalupa is a newly built hostel that is comfortable and clean. It is located at a busy highway intersection in the town of Tulum, within walking distance to the bus terminal, restaurants, banks, supermarkets, tour agencies, and shopping. The beach, ruins and cenotes are a short taxi (5-10 minutes) or bike ride (20 minutes) away.

The hostel offers free Wi-Fi, air conditioning at night, a kitchen, relaxing lounge, outdoor swimming pool, housekeeping, linen included, luggage storage, lockers, and huge rooftop patio.

Accommodations include a 4 bed dorm, two 5 bed dorms and two private ensuites.

Hostal Chalupa

HostelWorld, TripAdvisor, Facebook

Una Noche Mas En Tulum | Starting at $8 CAD per night 

Calle Jupiter Sur, just south of Avenida Tulum (main avenue) 

Una Noche Mas en Tulum is a clean and simple hostel and it is the cheapest accommodation in the town of Tulum – perfect for budget travelers. The hostel is located in a safe and quiet neighbourhood just minutes south of the main avenue in town. It is located two minutes from the ADO bus terminal, and close to many local restaurants, shops, supermarkets, tour agencies and attractions.

The hostel offers free drinking water, 24 hour reception, free city maps and an outdoor terrace.

The hostel offers private rooms with a shared bathroom, a 4 bed female dorm, and a 6 bed male dorm. All rooms have fans, lockers, and free Wi-Fi.

Una Noche Mas En Tulum

HostelWorld, Facebook, TripAdvisor

Quintana Roots Hostel | Starting at $15 CAD per night

Calle Sol Oriente #19 between Highway Coba and Calle Escorpion Sur

Quintana Roots Hostel is a new and comfortable hostel in Tulum. They are centrally located in the town of Tulum, and a short bike or taxi ride away from the beach, ruins and cenotes, as well as being within walking distance to local restaurants and the ADO bus terminal.

The hostel provides information about tours and Tulum, free Wi-Fi, free breakfast, drinking water, kitchen, hot water, lockers, daily cleaning, linens included, dive centre, lots of electrical outlets, fans, game room, rooftop area, flat screen television and lounge and hammock area.

There are a variety of rooms to choose from, including mixed dormitories, female-only dormitories, and private rooms. The dorms range in size and can sleep from 6 to 12 people.

Quintana Roots Hostel

Quintana Roots Hostel

TripAdvisor, Official Website, Facebook, HostelWorld

Budget Hotels:

Kin-Ha Suites | Starting at $55 CAD per night

Calle Orion between Calles Venus and Sol (across the street from Mama’s Home Hostel)

This small, affordable and comfortable hotel has a pleasant and peaceful atmosphere and rooms surround a small courtyard garden. The hotel offers free parking and is centrally located in the town of Tulum, only a couple of blocks south of the main avenue in a quiet residential neighbourhood.

Services include: rental cars, bike rentals, access to facilities at sister hotel on the beach (Playa Kin-Ha), 24 hour surveillance, airport transfers, discount at the restaurant at the beach location, diving, yoga classes, beach club, massages and laundry.

The rooms feature hammocks, air conditioning or a fan, double, single or king sized beds, free Wi-Fi, and a private bathroom.

Official Website, Trip Advisor

Secret Garden Tulum | Starting at $75 CAD per night

Sagitario Poniente #54 (from Avenida Tulum, walk two blocks north on Calle Acuario Norte and turn left on Calle Sagitario – the second street you will arrive at)

Secret Garden is an affordable and comfortable hotel that is hidden away in a quiet neighbourhood in the town of Tulum. It is centrally located, only two blocks from the main avenue with shops, restaurants, transportation and more.

The hotel provides a beautiful courtyard area with a tranquil atmosphere and surrounded by tropical gardens, tour desk and information, free local maps, hammocks and lounge area, free Wi-Fi, luggage storage, laundry service, hot water, beach towels, daily cleaning, coffee/tea/cookies/granola bars/fruit available 24 hours and a book exchange. Breakfast is not included.

The rooms and cabanas feature modern, minimal and unique decor with a comfortable atmosphere, and are decorated with local and handmade ornaments. The rooms are clean and all have air conditioning and all feature private bathrooms.

Secret Garden

Secret Garden

Secret Garden

HostelWorld, Official Website, Facebook, TripAdvisor, Booking

Hotel Posada Las Tres Palmas | Starting at $23 CAD per night

Calle Venus #88 between Calles Satelite and Centauro Sur

Las Tres Palmas Hotel is a comfortable budget hotel located in the town of Tulum. It is located within walking distance of restaurants, banks, the bus terminal, transportation, and groceries.

The hotel offers bikes for rent, tour desk and information, laundry services, and airport transfers/shuttles for a fee.

The hotel has 12 rooms available which include double, twin and family rooms. All rooms have a kitchenette, bedroom and balcony overlooking the surroundings, air conditioning and free Wi-Fi.

Las Tres Palmas

Las Tres Palmas

TripAdvisor, HostelWorld, Official Website, Booking

Hotel Palma Real | No information available

Federal Highway Tulum-Coba Km 21.5

Hotel Palma Real is a budget hotel located on the highway between the towns of Tulum and Coba. In order to get to Tulum town for restaurants, banks, groceries, and transportation, you will have to take a taxi.

The hotel offers an outdoor swimming pool, bar, free Wi-Fi, included breakfast, free parking, on-site restaurant, 24 hour reception and luggage storage.

The rooms are air conditioned and have simple decor with tiled floors. The rooms feature cable television and private bathrooms.

TripAdvisor, Booking, Official Website

Hotel Nadet | Starting at $85 CAD per night

Calle Orion Norte by Calle Polar

Hotel Nadet is a hotel located near Tulum town’s main avenue, close to restaurants, groceries, banks and transportation.

The hotel provides free Wi-Fi, luggage storage and free parking.

The hotel has 15 rooms which offer free Wi-Fi, cable television, kitchenettes with refrigerators and premium bedding.

TripAdvisor, Expedia, Official Website

Hotel Villa Matisse | No information available

Avenida Satelite Norte #19

Hotel Villa Matisse is located in the town of Tulum, close to banks, restaurants, transportation and supermarkets.

This hotel offers free bike rentals, free Wi-Fi, a garden and lounge area, tour desk and free parking.

The rooms are simple and feature a full private bathroom with shower as well as bed linen and a fan.

TripAdvisor, Booking

Mango Tulum Hotel | Starting at $15 CAD per night

Calle Polar and Avenida Coba (behind the OXXO)

Mango Tulum is an affordable, modern, comfortable, simple and clean hotel located in the heart of Tulum, close to the ruins, cenotes and beach and within walking distance of banks, restaurants, transportation (15 minute walk to the ADO bus terminal) and groceries. It is a small and friendly family-run hotel located in a quiet and tranquil neighbourhood.

The hotel provides free Wi-Fi internet, large garden and swimming pool, air conditioning in all rooms, hot water and free drinking water, free tea and coffee, free maps, fridges in the private rooms, parking and on-site security.

This hotel/hostel offers 4 bed shared dormitories and private rooms. The dorm is simple and has bunk beds, air conditioning, and a separate full bathroom ensuite with showers and toilets. There are large individual lockers, individual power outlets, and individual fans. The private rooms are spacious and modern and have ensuite washrooms and showers, air conditioning and internet.

Mango Tulum Hotel

Mango Tulum Hotel

Mango Tulum Hotel

HostelWorld, Facebook, TripAdvisor, Official Website

Unique Accommodations

Pacha Tulum |

Avenida Coba in front of the Supermarket San Francisco

Pacha Tulum is located beside a supermarket and banks, and close to restaurants, transportation, and about a 5 minute drive to cenotes, the beach and the ruins of Tulum.

It features free Wi-Fi, 24 hour front desk, free parking,

The rooms are comfortable and simple, offering basic decor with a desk, wardrobe, private bathroom and air conditioning.

TripAdvisor, Official Website, Facebook, Booking, HostelWorld

Lobo Inn | Starting at $12 CAD per night 

Carretera Federal Chetumal-Cancun Km 230.5 

The Lobo Inn is ideally located near Tulum and it is only a 10 minute walk from the beach and 3 km from the Tulum Ruins.

The inn offers a spacious garden and swimming pool with a relaxing atmosphere, full breakfast, friendly service, free Wi-Fi, bike rentals, purified drinking water, hot water, fully equipped kitchen, bed linen included, parking, hammocks, lockers for bags and personal belongings, book exchange, TV room with DVDs, luggage storage and a lounge area. They also offer a travel desk, taxi service, 24 hour reception and currency exchange.

Lobo Inn has a variety of rooms to choose from including private rooms with double beds as well as a 14 bed mixed gender dormitory.

Lobo Inn

TripAdvisor, HostelWorld, Facebook

MyTulum Cabanas | Starting at $40 CAD per night

Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila KM 7.5 

MyTulum Cabanas are large cabins located on the gorgeous beaches of Tulum. The town of Tulum, along with local restaurants, supermarkets, the ADO bus terminal and shopping is located 9 km away, and can easily be reached by taxi.

The cabanas feature a tour desk, massage services for a fee, tropical decor, an on-site restaurant serving local and Mexican-style dishes, a bar, car rental, bike rental, laundry service, and airport shuttle (the last four items have a fee).

The bungalows offer rustic-style decor, free Wi-Fi, a fan, mosquito net, sofa and garden views. The bathrooms are private and are stocked with free toiletries.

MyTulum Cabanas

TripAdvisor, Official Website, Booking, Facebook

Ahau Tulum | Starting at $72 USD per night

Carretera Tulum-Punta Allen KM 4.4

Ahau Tulum is a unique and eco-friendly accommodation located directly on the beach. It features free Wi-Fi, yoga lessons and massage services (for a fee), and an on-site restaurant.

Ahau Tulum offers rooms for a variety of budgets. The guesthouse with shared bathrooms and “Bali Huts” are budget-friendly and rooms have mosquito nets and fans.

Official Website, Facebook, TripAdvisor, Booking.com

Yoga Shala Tulum | Starting at $63 CAD per night

Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila KM 7.5

Yoga Shala “offers a comfortable space to stay, relax and practice yoga.” It is conveniently located between the Tulum Ruins and the Sian Ka’an Biosphere, and is only a 10 minute taxi ride from the town of Tulum where you will find restaurants, shopping and transportation. Yoga Shala is surrounded by lush jungle and is located only steps away from the white sand beaches of Tulum. The hotel offers a wide variety of yoga classes and styles.

The hotel features massage services for a fee, tours, bike rentals, on-site restaurant, and boutique for shopping. Wi-Fi is available in public areas.

You can choose from a couple of different rooms including private rooms with shared bathrooms or private bathrooms. All rooms are unique in their decorations and their size. There is no air conditioning.

Yoga Shala Tulum

Yoga Shala Tulum

TripAdvisor, Official Website, Facebook, Booking

Volunteer Exchanges:

The website Workaway is a place where volunteers can connect with businesses and individuals in destinations around the world, offering free accommodation and sometimes food in exchange for your time and skills.

You are often required to work for 4-5 hours a day, 5 days a week. There are a variety of volunteer placements available on the website and you can browse through them for free (but you must pay for a membership to contact the hosts). You could be working at a backpacker hostel, guesthouse, bed and breakfast, local hotel or small business or helping out a local individual or family with something.

Volunteering in Tulum is a great way for budget travelers to save money on accommodation costs in order to travel slower and for longer periods of time.

Here are some volunteer placements that I found interesting during my travel research:

Help at a hostel in Tulum

Help at a bed and breakfast in Tulum

Help at a hotel 

Help at a small hostel 

Airbnb:

Airbnb is a website that allows locals in places around the world to rent out a private room in their home or their entire home/apartment to travelers for either a nightly, weekly or monthly fee.

Airbnb rentals are a great alternative to hotels and they are often cheaper. You have the opportunity to live with a local resident who can provide you with advice and recommendations for things to see and do, transportation and where to eat in Tulum. You might even become great friends! Airbnb is great for those who enjoy the comforts of home and those who want more privacy than a hostel dorm room offers.

If you sign up for Airbnb using this link, you will get a $25 USD credit for your first booking!

Here are some Airbnb rentals that I found during my travel research:

https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/2122747?s=2ZE4ANl1 – Located in Tulum town, $34 CAD per night, 5 night minimum stay.

https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/4502053?s=2ZE4ANl1 – Located in Tulum town, $21 CAD per night.

https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/4305070?s=aorgy32m – Located in Tulum town, $41 CAD per night, 2 night minimum stay.

https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/5077746?s=aorgy32m – Located in Tulum town, $38 CAD per night.

https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/3877314?s=aorgy32m – Located in Tulum town, $41 CAD per night.

https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/3153261?s=aorgy32m – Located in Tulum town, $60 CAD per night, 3 night minimum stay.

https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/2071513?s=LkYUwkpL – Located on the beach south of Tulum (camping), $20 CAD per night.

https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/2102819?s=eAw1D67v – Located in Tulum town, $57 CAD per night, 3 night minimum stay.

https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/2883241?s=eAw1D67v – Located in Tulum town, $47 CAD per night, 3 night minimum stay.

https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/862329?s=eAw1D67v – Located in Tulum town, $52 CAD per night, 2 night minimum stay.

https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/4477417?s=eAw1D67v – Located in Tulum town, $40 CAD per night, 2 night minimum stay.

https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/2993524?s=eAw1D67v – Located in Tulum town, $43 CAD per night, 2 night minimum stay.

I hope that you have found this accommodation guide to Tulum helpful for finding cheaper places to stay on a budget.

Have you been to Tulum? Where have you stayed? Do you have any recommendations that are not listed here? 

Please let me know in the comments below!

20 Reasons Why I Love Mexico

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The first time I visited Mexico, was in 2011 with my family. It was my first trip abroad (aside from going to the United States) and we stayed at an all-inclusive resort near Playa del Carmen, in the Mayan Riviera. Even though we didn’t stray too far from the resort, it was absolutely amazing!

Since then, I have been to Mexico two more times with family and once backpacking as a solo traveler. With every trip, I have fallen more and more in love with this beautiful country!

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The beautiful beaches of Tulum

Mexico offers so much more than the all-inclusive beach resorts from Cancun to Tulum. The beaches are some of the most gorgeous in the world, but if you visit Mexico and stay on a resort property or the beach the entire time, you are missing out on so many amazing things. Mexico is a diverse country and there is a wide variety of activities to do and experiences to be had. You can swim, snorkel or dive in natural underground sinkholes known as cenotes, explore some of the many ancient Mayan ruins, see gorgeous waterfalls in the jungle, explore authentic Mayan villages, eat traditional Mexican food, engage in adventure activities like zip-lining over the jungle treetops, wander through colourful and colonial towns and cities, and much more. There are many things to do, both touristy and off the beaten path.

The country has an array of landscapes, from jungle to desert to mountains to beaches to colonial cities to traditional villages.

Mexico is definitely a country worth exploring. If you are staying at a resort, I highly recommend venturing into the “real” areas of Mexico in order to experience and interact with the country’s authentic culture, cuisine, language and people.

Backpacking through Mexico on my first trip as a solo female was an unbelievable experience!

Here are some of the reasons why I am in love with Mexico (in no particular order):

The Food:

There is no question about it, Mexican and Mayan food is absolutely delicious. In the Yucatan Peninsula, you can find tacos, panuchos, sopes, salbutes, huevos rancheros, chilaquiles, guacamole, paletas, aguas frescas, cochinita pibil, poc chuc, and so much more. As a fruit and veggie lover, I was in heaven with the constant availability of fresh produce. If you want to read all about the various foods you should sample in the Yucatan, then check out this post.

Mexico has everything from street vendors, to family-run eateries, to upscale restaurants serving traditional and authentic Mexican cuisine and regional specialties. If you’re feeling adventurous, I recommend trying the street food at one of the many food carts everywhere. It is fresh, spicy, delicious and authentic.

My favourite foods would probably be tacos al pastor, panuchos, huevos rancheros and guacamole. I loved the fresh fruit popsicles known as “paletas” for snacks and desserts. And my favourite aguas frescas (a beverage made with water, sugar and fresh fruit) flavours were jamaica (hibiscus flower), horchata (made from rice, vanilla and cinnamon), and sandia (watermelon). Visiting the local markets was one of my favourite things to do and there were so many exotic and delicious fruits and vegetables to try!

I loved eating at the street vendors and small eateries or “loncherias” (lunch restaurants). I was often the only Caucasian female tourist eating at these places, and it was fascinating to just observe the daily life of the locals around me, practice my Spanish with the restaurant staff and immerse myself in the culture.

Huevos Rancheros

Healthy Greek Salad

Panucho, sope and taco

Mexican People:

The majority of the locals that I interacted with in Mexico were super friendly, warm, welcoming and helpful; from the shop-owners, to the restaurant staff, to the bus/colectivo/taxi drivers, and more. They are so cheerful too! When I would go for morning walks and wander through the streets, the local people and shop-owners would say “buenos dias” (good morning) to each other and to tourists as they passed by on the streets and sidewalks. It felt really welcoming and I liked that everyone acknowledged each other, instead of just burying their faces in smartphones and keeping to themselves, as is the case in Western cultures.

I bought fresh coconut water from a local man in Tulum, during my walk through a residential neighbourhood near my hostel. He was so friendly and inviting, and offered for me to have a seat on a chair in his front “yard” (a cement block in front of his house). He spoke great English, as he worked as a scuba diving instructor at the nearby Dos Ojos Cenote, and we chatted about our lives. His mother (who spoke no English) also joined us outside. It was such a cool experience being able to interact and connect with the locals like that!

The Weather:

Compared to Canada, the weather is always warm in Mexico! I love the heat and visiting Mexico in May, which is one of the hottest months, was absolutely amazing for me. It can’t get much better than +35 to +40 degrees Celsius every day! Perfect weather for cooling off for a swim in the cenotes.

The Culture:

I am fascinated about culture, and the Mexican and Mayan culture is very interesting to learn about. I loved sitting in a park or wandering the streets and just observing the culture around me. If you want to read more about my cultural observations, check out this detailed post.

The Safety:

The mainstream media wants you believe that Mexico is a country that is much too dangerous to be visiting. However, they tend to generalize violence and crime in certain states (usually the central and northern border states) to the entire country, which is unfair. The three states that make up the Yucatan Peninsula, have some of the lowest violent crime rates in Mexico and is considered the safest region of Mexico. The crime rates are even lower than rural areas and large cities in the United States!

The Yucatan Peninsula is a very safe area of Mexico to explore, in addition to some other states. As a solo female traveler, I felt super safe there.

The Markets:

Visiting the vibrant local markets in Tulum and Valladolid was one of my favourite things to do in Mexico. The markets are colourful and a hub of activity, and most of the locals do all of their shopping here. They are colourful and busy and a great place to immerse yourself in and learn about the local culture while practicing your Spanish and getting off the beaten path. As I toured the markets, I was often the only Caucasian female tourist wandering around. It was such a cool experience!

Some of the markets are so big and it’s overwhelming at times, because there is just so much to see, smell and taste. The markets don’t just sell fresh fruits and vegetables, they sell everything you can imagine! There are toys, games, personal care products, shoes, clothing, handbags, spices, dry goods, herbs and more.

As a vegetarian (most of the time), walking through the meat section of the market was interesting and slightly nauseating. The aisles were lined with tables, with local men chopping up and portioning very fresh meat, and then bagging it up for customers. I saw almost every animal body part imaginable being sold to people… things that I had no idea people even consumed! There were animal eyeballs, heads, intestines (hanging from strings above the meat table), legs, hooves, and other body parts that almost induced vomiting as I walked by. There were so many flies sitting on everything, that I couldn’t imagine eating the meat… How is everybody not sick all the time? But it was definitely interesting to walk through the area.

My favourite sections of the market were obviously where the fruits and vegetables were! There were local Mayan women dressed in their traditional outfits selling their produce, which was fresh, local and ridiculously cheap. You could even buy freshly cut fruit pieces in a bag for only 10 pesos, which you could enjoy eating immediately! There was produce I was familiar with and then some exotic things that I had never heard of or seen before.

I recommend checking out some of the many markets when you are in Mexico!

Mercado Municipal in Valladolid

Market in Valladolid

Market in Valladolid

The meat section of the local market

The meat section of the local market

The Abundance of Retro VW Beetles:

Mexicans appear to have a fascination with brightly painted retro Volkswagon Beetles. They can be seen everywhere, and make for fantastic photo opportunities! I saw many different patterns and colours, including leopard print and hot pink.

Hot pink VW Beetle in Tulum

Cenotes:

Cenotes are natural sinkholes in the ground filled with clear, fresh water. They are often connected to expansive underground river systems that run throughout the Yucatan. The porous rock has eroded over time and has caved in to form these beautiful natural wonders. You can swim, snorkel or dive in them. Cenotes are unique to the Yucatan and there are thousands of them all over the peninsula.

During my first solo trip to Mexico, I swam in eight different cenotes around Tulum and Valladolid. They are so refreshing (especially after climbing some Mayan ruins!) and the water is so clear. Little black catfish live in many of the cenotes and they will swim around you. There were a few cenotes I visited that had A LOT of catfish, which freaked me out a little bit. I swear I felt one of them brush against my leg (but I can’t be sure), which is a strange fear of mine.

Nevertheless, swimming in these natural wonders is absolutely amazing. I really enjoyed visiting the lesser known and off the beaten path cenotes, like Cenote X’Canche near the Ek Balam Ruins and Cenote Oxman near Valladolid (You can read more about the cenotes I visited in Tulum here, and near Valladolid here), because I (along with some friends from my hostels) were often the only people there. Being pretty much alone in such a gorgeous place, was magical and I loved the peaceful and relaxing atmosphere, and being surrounded by unspoiled natural beauty.

Getting to and from the cenotes is usually pretty straightforward and easy using local transportation (colectivos, taxis, bikes, etc.).

Swimming in the cenotes should be a must on your list of things to do in the Yucatan! They are all so unique and beautiful in their own ways, so I suggest visiting more than one to see the variety. I highly recommend seeking out some lesser known cenotes, by asking your accommodation staff or any local for their recommendations. Guaranteed, they will know of a place that only the locals know about and visit. Those are the places where you can really get a feel for the culture, interact with locals and have unique and authentic experiences.

Cenote Zaci in Valladolid

Cenote X’Canche near Ek Balam

Cenote Samula near Valladolid

San Lorenzo Oxman Cenote near Valladolid

Valladolid:

Valladolid is one of my favourite cities in the Yucatan. It is a charming colonial city in the centre of the Yucatan Peninsula, with a laid-back and slow pace atmosphere. The narrow cobblestone streets are lined with pastel coloured low-rise buildings, all with such unique architecture and character.

I fell in love with Valladolid almost immediately after stepping off the bus. Most tourists only end up staying one or two nights in this city, in order to visit Chichen Itza and other nearby ruins and cenotes. But I believe that Valladolid is worth more than a two nights’ stay! There is so many things to do and see (check out my complete guide to Valladolid). There is a cenote in the middle of the city, colonial churches, a massive ex-convent to explore, a beautiful central park, delicious places to eat and much more.

I loved how prominent the Mayan culture was in Valladolid and it is a great place to immerse yourself in and learn more about the culture. Hardly anyone spoke English, and I enjoyed the challenge of practicing my Spanish and learning more of the language. I walked everywhere in Valladolid, and especially enjoyed wandering through quiet residential neighbourhoods where I was the only tourist around. It was fascinating to be able to observe the local life around me. I also loved admiring the beautiful colourful and colonial architecture.

Valladolid is a fantastic city, that is definitely more authentic of Mexico and further off the beaten path than Tulum and Playa del Carmen, which I loved. You will get a real feel for the culture here and have some pretty unique experiences.

Catedral de San Gervasio in Valladolid

Central Park in Valladolid

Colourful doors and wall in Valladolid

Cobblestone streets lined with pastel-coloured buildings

The Beaches:

When you inform people of your upcoming travel plans to Mexico, most people will assume that you are going there for the resorts and beaches. This is what I went to Mexico for during my first three visits.

I have visited the beaches at Playa del Carmen and Tulum and they are absolutely gorgeous, and the water is a beautiful turquoise colour.

I am not a huge fan of beaches (I don’t enjoy the feel of sand or how it gets in everything), so beaches are no longer the primary reason why I visit Mexico. But if you love beaches, this is definitely a great place to find them!

The beach at the Tulum Ruins

Secluded beach below the Tulum Ruins

The Ancient Mayan Ruins:

Mexico is well-known for its many ancient Mayan ruins. There are so many of them in the Yucatan! Learning history behind these ruins and of the ancient Mayan civilization fascinate me, and the ruins are a huge reason why I love and continue to return to Mexico.

My favourite ruins that I visited during my first solo trip was Ek Balam, which is a site located about twenty minutes north of Valladolid. The ruins were lesser known and were surrounded by dense unspoiled jungle. Very little had been done to modernize the site (aside from the entrance area and washrooms) and you were free to explore and climb all of the structures. I loved how “undiscovered” these ruins felt and it was definitely an off the beaten path experience!

I have also visited the ruins of Chichen Itza, Tulum, and Coba, which are all unique and amazing as well.

The main pyramid at Chichen Itza

The main pyramid at Ek Balam

Public Transportation:

Mexico has an amazing public transportation system; definitely better than Canada’s! The ADO first and second class buses are convenient, safe, comfortable and reliable. The local colectivos (shared shuttle vans) are fast and air-conditioned and do not operate on a fixed schedule, so it is easy to catch one whenever you need.

Tulum:

Tulum is a small village located on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, along the Mayan Riviera. It has a relaxed and laid-back atmosphere, and the locals are welcoming and friendly. There is so much to do in and around Tulum! You can visit the Tulum Ruins, wander the residential streets finding colourful street murals along the way, visit the ruins of Coba, swim at the beach, check out some of the many wonderful produce markets, and eat lots of delicious authentic Mexican food! Here is my detailed guide to Tulum, with everything else you need to know.

Postcard scene from the beach at Tulum

A colourful mural on a quiet street in Tulum

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Produce market in Tulum

The Amazing Hostels:

Mexico has so many amazing hostels! I stayed in hostels for the first time in Mexico during my solo trip. Of the three hostels I stayed at, they were all so unique and I had such positive experiences. I loved the colourful decor at the hostels, the extremely friendly and helpful staff and how easy it was to meet new people and travel friends. My favourite hostels were Mama’s Home in Tulum and Hostel La Candelaria in Valladolid.

Mama’s Home had a beautiful outdoor courtyard in the centre of the hostel, with colourful paintings on the walls surrounding it, a large palm tree in the centre and hammocks to relax in along the edges.

Colourfully painted floor and walls in the outdoor courtyard

View of the hostel from the street

View of the hostel from the street

The outdoor courtyard

Hostel La Candelaria was located in a colonial building and featured a rooftop patio, a beautiful treed garden with hammocks behind the building, and even an outdoor kitchen!

Colourfully painted outdoor washrooms and showers

Colourfully painted outdoor washrooms and showers

The front of Hostel La Candelaria from the plaza/square

The front of Hostel La Candelaria from the plaza/square

View of the hostel from the garden behind it

View of the hostel from the garden behind it

The History:

Mexico’s history is fascinating. If you are interested in the Mayan civilization, there is so much history you can learn about the ancient ruins, the cenotes and the towns and cities. I recommend reading about the history of the places you plan to visit before you get there, so you have some background knowledge.

The Local Shops:

Something I loved about Mexico, was the lack of big department chain stores (in small towns and cities, like Tulum and Valladolid) and the abundance of small specialty shops that were locally-owned. Every shop has its own specialty. There is the “papeleria” which sells stationary and paper; the “tortilleria” sells fresh tortillas; the “floreria” sells flowers; the “paleteria y neveria” sells popsicles and ice cream. There are so many more that I could list as well.

I love supporting local businesses and individuals, both at home and when I am traveling, and I loved how easy it was to do that in Mexico.

Local woman in Tulum selling fresh fruit from a bicycle cart

Local convenience store or “abarrotes” in Tulum

One of many paleteria and neverias in Tulum

The produce market in Tulum

Affordability: 

When you hear people talk about traveling to Mexico, you might assume that it is an expensive luxury destination. While there are definitely some pricier areas and types of accommodation in Mexico, like boutique hotels and all-inclusive resorts along the Mayan Riviera, traveling in Mexico doesn’t have to be expensive.

If you are traveling on a budget and independently, you can travel for very cheap, especially if you are willing to stay in hostels, eat cheap and authentic local food and use public transportation. The total cost of my 12 day solo trip to Mexico was significantly less than when I stayed at an all-inclusive resort for 7 days. You can read a more detailed report about what exactly I spent in Mexico during my solo trip here. On average, I spent around $50 CAD per day, but I could have spent even less.

It is also worth noting that the slower you travel and the longer you stay in one place, the cheaper your travel is going to be. This is because you won’t be trying to cram a bunch of activities and sightseeing into a short period of time, but will be able to space things out.

Mexico may not be as bargain cheap as South East Asia or Central America, but it is affordable. If you travel in the off-season, you’ll find even better value for your money outside the November-March season. May is a great month to travel to Mexico because it is between high season and rainy season. For budget travelers, you can get by on very little. The food is cheap as well as the local transportation.

The Spanish Language:

I love everything about the Spanish language. It sounds gorgeous and it has a nice flow to it. The grammar rules make more sense to me than those in English and I like that everything is pronounced how it is spelled. Spanish is the primary language spoken in Mexico and aside from the touristy cities and attractions, it becomes increasingly difficult to find English speakers. Even in Tulum, which is pretty touristy, the minute you step off the main highway with all of the souvenir shops, there were not many people who spoke English! Thus, it is essential that you know the basics of the language and a few key phrases, so you are able to express yourself with words instead of relying on body language, charades and other non-verbal forms of communication. I enjoyed the challenge of having to practice my Spanish skills!

The Colours:

Everything is so colourful and vivid in Mexico! The houses, traditional clothing, the food and the colonial buildings.

The Cathedrals:

There are so many cathedrals and churches in Mexico. The large cathedrals are often located on the main squares and parks in the city/town/village. They are all so unique, grand and beautiful with such detailed architecture. It was fascinating to wander around inside some of them and admire everything.

Catedral de San Gervasio in Valladolid

The cathedral across from Hostel La Candelaria in Valladolid

The cathedral across from Hostel La Candelaria in Valladolid

Catedral de San Gervasio at the main plaza in Valladolid

Catedral de San Gervasio at the main plaza in Valladolid

I hope that through this post, you can appreciate all of the amazing attractions, activities and gorgeous natural beauty that the country of Mexico has to offer!

No matter what kind of traveler you are – off the beaten path, independent, luxury, budget, family, solo female, adventure – there is something for everyone in Mexico.

It is definitely a country worth exploring!

Here are some other blogs that have written about their favourite things in Mexico:

http://globetrottergirls.com/2010/09/33-things-we-love-about-mexico/

http://themexicoreport.com/2011/03/08/things-we-love-about-mexico/

https://www.hotelesboutique.com/en/30-things-i-love-about-mexico/

http://www.alongdustyroads.com/posts/2014/9/10/21-things-we-love-about-mexico

http://www.crazysexyfuntraveler.com/26-reasons-love-mexico/

Have you been to Mexico? What do you love about this country?

Let me know in the comments!

Experience the Real and Authentic Side of Tulum, Mexico

The Real Tulum

When I visit new towns, cities and countries, I want to show and tell you about the realities of life there for the locals. I don’t want to sugar coat it, and make it seem like everything is all perfect. I want to show you the side of places that not many people will show or tell you about, because those are the realities.

It is natural for us as humans, to want to share our best moments, our most amazing experiences and our most stunning photos with the world, via blogs and social media. We post gorgeous photos of the places we travel to, capturing the place in the best possible moment, so as to make it look perfect and desirable to visit. We describe our experiences and how amazing they were and how perfect everything was. As humans, it is also natural for us to compare our lives with others, and what they are doing, what they are experiencing and where they are traveling to. We often forget that we are comparing our real lives to other peoples’ highlights. We are not being shown the realities behind these seemingly perfect photos and social media status updates. People often won’t post online how long it actually took them to get that perfect-looking photo. They won’t tell you about the long and uncomfortable bus journeys necessary to actually get to some of these places. They won’t share with you the mistakes they made along the way, or other things that went wrong. This bothers me.

When I scroll through my Instagram feed, I see photos of gorgeous places that sparks a desire in me to travel there too. But this is just surface beauty. What I really want to see, is how the locals live and I want to understand the realities of life in those places. Beauty is more than what meets the eye. What beauty means to me, is being real and authentic. Seeing the reality of places, adds character and authenticity to our understanding. That is what I want to see people sharing.

And that is why I have written this post about the realities of life in Tulum, Mexico. I will show you the “real” and authentic Tulum.

Tulum, Mexico can be divided into three separate areas: the beach, the ruins and the town. When most people visit Tulum, they only go to the ruins and the beach. But, Tulum isn’t all about the gorgeous beaches and stunning ancient ruins. Not far from the beach and the ruins, is the town of Tulum. Few tourists venture into the town, which I think is a shame. While the beach and ruins are gorgeous, I really enjoyed exploring the town for four days. It is an authentic and real small Mexican town and you really get a sense for what life is like there. Hardly anyone speaks English off of the main avenue, where the small handicraft and souvenir shops are located. There are small family owned, hole-in-the-wall “loncherias” (lunch restaurants) that offer an authentic atmosphere and delicious traditional cuisine. There are small convenience stores called “abarrotes” on almost every street corner. There is garbage in the streets. There are stray dogs and cats roaming around everywhere. There are gorgeous murals painted on random buildings throughout the town. The town has charm and character. The locals are warm and friendly, and I loved my time there. The town of Tulum is definitely worth a visit in my opinion, if you want to experience a real Mexican town.

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These photos below, capture the realities for most of the local residents in this small slow-paced town. 

When I visit new places, I like to observe how the locals live. The best place to do this, is going away from the tourist attractions and spending time wandering residential neighbourhoods in towns and cities. This is one of my favourite things to do when I arrive in a new place. When you explore a city or town more in depth and visit areas where the locals are, you have the opportunity to interact with the locals, experience their nature, and become immersed in their culture and language, which I love. 

Most locals in Tulum live in houses like the ones in these photos: they have one room with a concrete floor, a roof made of sheet metal, hammocks for beds and likely no electricity or running water. It is truly humbling to see how these people live. Despite how little they live with, I observed and experienced the generosity, kindness, warmth and cheerfulness of the locals on a daily basis. 

It reiterates the notion that having more “stuff” does not equal happiness. These Mexicans are cheerful and smiling every day, whether they are selling freshly cut fruit on a street corner to make a few extra dollars, selling souvenirs to tourists or serving in a restaurant. They have so little in terms of possessions but they value family and focus on what is important to them. I think we can all learn some valuable lessons from these kinds of people. 

Learn to live with less and know when is “enough.” Be happy and grateful for what you do have and stop the desire for accumulating more stuff. And remember the nature of Mexicans, despite their life situations, and how positive and warm they are. Remember this when you find yourself complaining about “first world” problems.

Next time you are in Mexico, I recommend staying in the town of Tulum, to experience the culture, learn from the way the locals live and experience the kindness and generosity of Mexicans from your daily interactions! There is so much character and it is a lovely and charming small and authentic Mexican town.

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