This review is Part III of my nine weeks in South America and like all my Group Travel reviews it’s about the nuts and bolts. There are plenty of blogs that have exquisite photos and details of each step of a trip. I like to focus more on the who, what, where, how and when. I also don’t make any assumptions that you’ve read my other posts on my adventures, so each blog post stands on its own merits. Here goes……
I was now on another invigorating part of my South American adventure and this leg started in Mexico City and ended in Playa del Carmen which included another Wonder of the World to tick of the list towards the end.
There were many highlights such as visiting Frida Kahlo`s home, Chichen Itza, Cenotes outside of Tulum, the Museums in Mexico City (over 180 ones to choose from) Teotihuacan, Puebla town, Oaxaca Centro, Monte Alban, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Salto de Agua, Pyramid of the Magician and much more.
I flew into Mexico City and out of Playa del Carmen with Latam Airlines on this trip. Excellent. Again, I’d like to thank Fiona from The Adventure Store in Prahran, who helped me map out my nine-week itinerary through South America.
The trip started with an Orientation briefing at a simple hotel in Mexico City, with me arriving a little late having to walk quite a distance from my other hotel. No taxi driver would take me because many of the streets are ‘one way’ and it was an awkward trip for them. On a mission not to be late, I put my head down and walked with my pack as fast as possible. Thank goodness for the Map Me app (Android) or (Apple) that helped navigate me to the hotel.
I snuck in five minutes late to find that this was a full trip. The briefing went well and I found out I was sharing a room with a lovely woman who was also travelling with two friends but they were sharing a room together. My roomie would sometimes share with her friends when they lucked out within a triple room. Either fortunately or unfortunately for my roomie, I wasn`t 100% on this leg of my South American adventure.
To this day I still don’t know what bug/illness I had but despite one course of antibiotics, lots of throat lozenges, paracetamol and other miscellaneous drugs, I never quite knock it on the head. So it was common for me to sleep in or go to bed early. Not sick – just overwhelmingly tired.
This trip was an Intrepid Basix, which meant I would be doing much of the exploring on my own unless my travelling companions were open to sharing side trips, taxis, dining etc. Alas, this happened only occasionally.
Intrepid has a few different styles of trips – Basix, Original or Comfort and I’ve done each one of them, often more than once. As someone who has spent many, many years camping, the Basix more than accommodates my needs and I certainly found this trip comfortable.
I liked this style of trip because I could explore in my own way and in my own time. The group were ‘okay’ but the nature of the trip is to be independent and therefore, I didn’t get to know the people on the trip well which is out of the hands of Intrepid and the guide. You can make what you want from a group and frankly, everyone was nice, helpful and pretty easy going. We shared a few meals, broke into smaller groups to visit sites but mostly, we were on our own.
I have to admit I can`t remember the name of our guide. He was very helpful and worked over and above the call of duty but alas, his name has slipped my mind. For now!
On this trip, my fellow travellers were mostly Australians and under 32 but a lot of fun albeit could drink more alcohol I ever could as a younger person. The other nationalities were from the USA, Ireland and New Zealand. As usual, some had booked the trip well in advance, others had made a last minute decision to jump on board. All of us were keen to see Chichen Itza but mostly we were open to seeing how the trip would unfold and what adventures lay in front of us.
On this trip I continued my ‘minimal impact’ philosophy by using my own:
- Frank Green water bottle
- Frank Green coffee cup
- Tupperware collapsable bowl and lid
- Bamboo straw
- Cotton napkin
- Reusable bag
As I’ve said in previous blog posts, Intrepid has an excellent policy on how to be respectful to people, to the culture, and to the environment.
As this group wasn’t as ‘tight’ as my Peruvian travellers there was a lot of exploring solo. Many of the people on this trip already knew each other and there were few solo travellers. Those that were solo were younger and that often made connecting easier. In saying that, no-one ever knocked back the request for a travelling companion to a restaurant, museum or monument.
Unlike the two trips prior to this one, there was no WhatsApp group created so we were all something of ‘free spirits’ and if you wanted to connect with others it was about timing at breakfast more than anything.
Now for some nuts and bolts about the Mexico Unplugged trip.
The following was provided:
No meals are included on this trip.
When we arrived at our accommodation our guide gave us options around all meals. This has pros and cons but mostly, I would seek a meal outside of the hotel because on this trip I wasn’t rising early due to an unknown illness. I do know that those that ate within the hotel said it was good – basic but food.
I found the street food pretty good and never got sick from eating anything at a street stall. You can view how some of the street food is prepared here.
If you have dietary requirements then I’d suggest you are careful of cross-contamination. I certainly had an upset tummy from eating at a food court with the entire group. Others also had a little bit of a grumbly tummy so it wasn`t just me. My gut is pretty good yet I got caught out. One seafood intolerant person had an icky event with oyster sauce at a dinner. Not deathly but put them out of action for 24 hours. Like most places throughout Mexico, you can supplement your dietary needs at supermarkets.
Hotel (13 nights), Overnight bus (1 night). I would grade them as 3 stars are average. As always, Intrepid seek out accommodation that is comfortable, clean and fairly quiet. Doesn’t take much to please people. As someone who used to take up to 200 people away a week – if they eat well and sleep well you’ve satisfied them around 90%.
Rooms were complete with clean sheets, enough blankets/ duvets/doonas, an extra pillow in the wardrobe, no baths but showers with soap, shampoo and shower cap (apparently people like shower caps more than moisturiser). Televisions were in every room and often I could pick up an English speaking channel, usually CNN or something from the USA. As always, I only really watch TV to view the local weather. Nearly all rooms had keys not swipe cards but over time I`m sure that will change.
WiFi was pretty good but as always, head to the foyer for the best connection. Many restaurants have wifi and that would be better than your hotel.
Hotels were usually small, quaint and centrally located. In Oaxaca, the walk into town took about 20 minutes but the discoveries on the way would be missed if you were located centrally in the town.
Note: If you’re sharing a room with someone of the same sex, there isn’t an extra charge. I was shared on this trip, however, if you like to sleep in, worry about your snoring (or someone else’s, like to party or even if you think you might get sick, then I’d go with a single supplement.
Private vehicle, Public bus, Local bus, Overnight public bus, Taxi (from Mexico site) This trip you can also catch taxi’s, Uber’s, or even in Oaxaca you could hire push bikes and explore a lovely city that is nice and flat.
And here is a brief video of how some groups get around in Mexico City. Click here
- Mexico City – Orientation walk
- Puebla – Orientation walk
- Informal Spanish Lesson
- Oaxaca – Orientation walk
- San Cristobal de las Casas – Leader-led city tour
- Maya village – San Juan Chamula
- Agua Azul waterfall – Visit with an option to swim (Entrance fee)
- Palenque – Palenque Ruins (Entrance and Transport)
- Merida – Orientation walk
- Chichen Itza Ruins – Entrance Fee
- Playa del Carmen – Orientation walk
Cenotes visit is essential. You can view a video of some of us jumping into Cenote Yaal Utzil here,
And of course, you can’t see Pyramid of Magicians which is something of a surprise of how extensive it is. Click here to listen to the acoustics of this amazing place.
I won’t go into detail about every place we visited as it would be writing for days but here are some of the places and things we did that were highlights for me and I’ve put up pictures in no particular order of importance.
As with most trips, I organise a transfer from the airport at the start and end of a trip which my travel agent took care of for a minimal fee. It’s always nice to arrive in an unknown country and have someone meet you and introduce you to their country. However, I do acknowledge it can be cheaper to make your own arrangements upon arrival.
Travel Insurance was with Covermore for the entire nine weeks I was away. I`ve used Covermore on all my trips and have found them to be competitive on price.
Thank you to our guide (what was his name?) who did a great job on this trip. Basix trips means people don`t pull together as much as other ones and so it can be challenging to unite everyone. He did a good job of briefing us of what was happening and was about to happen.
I rate Mexico Unplugged
out of 5
Everyday facts for your trip to Mexico
Language: Spanish (official); 66 regional indigenous languages
Religion: Roman Catholic (90%)
Currency: Mexican Peso (MXN)
Power plugs and sockets: Type A and B. Click here to view images
Country calling code: +52
Local time: = UTC -5h to – 8h
Capital City: Mexico City