First Time Traveling to Mexico: Mexico City, Valle De Bravo, Toluca, San Pedro Tenayac

This past Summer, i had the opportunity to visit Mexico for 10 days and here was my trip. I hope it helps some of you all when you visit. If not, it’s at least a good story (i hope).

Trip from June 24- July 4

  • Disclaimer: Obviously, you are traveling at your own risk and there are precautions set up by the US Department of whatever… I’ll include safety tips I learned in this blog as well.

I booked my flight with the Volaris airlines. They’re a Mexican airline, but they were cheap and accessible to me. Their website also has an English version, so feel free to browse and stuff. They have occasional sales, so subscribe to their newsletters! Also, if you call their phone lines, they have services and help you book your tickets in English–this is super convenient for non-Spanish speakers.

Leave 3 hours early for your flight, have breakfast, and then…

  • Tip: Mexico charges $$ to use public restrooms and extra $$ to get extra toilet paper, so carry your own rolls!

Day 1: Head down to Otay Mesa and leave from Tijuana airport and arrive to Mexico City Airport

My boyfriend, 33, (straight up güero who speaks limited English) and I (bilingual Hispanic) got a ride to the Otay Mesa border and took the Crossborder Express down to the inside of the airport.

What is the Crossborder Express

  • It’s an enclosed pedestrian tunnel/walkway that you use to enter Mexico. It’s safe because you don’t have to see anyone outside, you don’t need to waive down potentially sketchy cabs nor face any vendors.
  • You pay a fee to use the enclosed walkway and end up inside the Tijuana Airport. KEEP IN MIND, YOU NEED TO HAVE A VALID PLANE TICKET TO ENTER OR EVEN USE THIS FACILITY.
  • Let me tell you, the US side of this Crossborder Express is awesome, there’s AC and whatnot. As soon as you enter the Mexico side, you immediately feel muggy because it feels like there’s not enough ventilation–at least, that was my experience when i used it in the Summer of 2016. This is not to bash the Mexican side, it’s just honestly what I experienced when I went to visit. It may have changed.

At the end of the tunnel, you’ll meet up with the people who stamp your PASSPORTS and ask if you have VISAS. If you are entering Mexico, you NEED a PASSPORT.

General Information:

 Effective March 1st 2010, all visitors traveling to Mexico either by air, land or sea are required to present a valid (non-expired) Passport or Travel Document from their country to enter Mexico.

  • As far as VISAs go: you can fill out paperwork and purchase these at the merciless USD to Pesos exchange, so i suggest you buy your VISA ahead of time or fork over the $34USD and wait in line 20-30 minutes to purchase yours right after the tunnel. If you show up extra extra early, though (like 3 hours ahead of your flight), you should have enough time.

Cool, so now that you get your VISA and passport stamped, you’re let into the airport. You end up inside. It’s kind of dirty and there’s lots of people everywhere. The Volaris flight was all the way on the opposite end of the end of the Crossborder Express. Depending on who you’re flying with, you’ll have to find and maneuver through the throngs of people at the airport.

Once in line at the Volaris airlines section, there’s various lines to get in line to check in your baggage. Unfortunately, we had a Volaris employee who tried to take advantage of our  presumed, non-Spanish speaking status (aka because she took a look at my very güero boyfriend) and sent us to the Express check-in/bag weighing lane –you MUST pay extra to use this and they don’t tell you until the end.

  • So, my tip is : don’t go into express anythings unless you don’t mind paying extra.

Cool, now that your bag is checked, you’re let into the waiting room. The Tijuana Airport has a decent waiting room while you obviously wait for your flight. It’s pretty packed with people, the bathrooms are decent, and there’s not many food vendor options.

The flight with Volaris: So, i honestly found the airline waitresses to be not very helpful. I had altitude sickness and they were quick to forget to get me a bag–probably because they didn’t make money off of me using their puke bags, so that was kind of rude.

  • Airplane Food:Don’t buy their food on the plane if you’re flying into Mexico City-it’s shitty and overpriced.  The flight from Tijuana to Mexico City is only like 3.5hours and the Mexico City airport has much more filling and cheaper food.

Once you arrive to the airport you’re good. I ended up meeting up with a family friend, let’s call him Tío Rodolfo. He’s super chill and a Mexico City Native. He also offers tours and can guide you around if you need him to. I can provide his information if you request it.

  • Water: If you have a delicate stomach like i did, don’t drink it unless it is in a bottle. You’ll always see blue Ciel bottles everywhere, I guess they’re like the conglomerate of bottled water down there since they’re owned by the Coca-Cola company and Coca-Cola is LITERALLY EVERYWHERE YOU GO. Coca-Cola like will go over and paint murals outside the stores they stock or something.

I digress, I suggest you take an Uber or walk over to one of the nearest hotels to sleep after dinner. You’ll have an early morning the next day.

  • Fun fact: Mexico charges $ each time you enter/exit a highway/freeway, so be sure you carry small bills

Or stay at a hostel!

  • Taxi Cab Safety: Follow this link HERE, they do an amazing job at explaining this.
  • Uber Safety: Generally, it’s safer to take Ubers over anything because you’re at least in an Uber certified car.

Day 2: Grutas de Tolantongo in the State of Hidalgo!

Grutas de Tolantongo website HERE

Wake up early, like 5am early and hail a cab, an uber, or even my Tío Rodolfo to take you out there. It’s a box canyon that’s about 3-4 hours away from Mexico City. Holy hell, you’ll shit balls at how beautiful this place is. The grottos are astounding.

There’s a small fee to enter the place at $120 MXN, kids under 5 years are FREE. Parking is $20 MXN per day.

Spend the day there. You can also eat there or eat on the way back to Mexico City the same day.

Assuming you’ve gone back to Mexico City…

Day 3: 5am wakeup, have breakfast, and go to see the Aztec Temples at Teotihuacan.

mexico-pyramidsDo things there. Explore. Live. Breathe. Take it all in! Climb the Temple of the Sun and learn stuff. There’s signs everywhere with information on the temple/pyramids.

Buy and BARTER with the vendors, they sell cool whistles and other stuff, but keep in mind that bartering is always welcome. Don’t ever pay full price for this stuff.

  • STAY AWAY FROM THE SILVER! It’s fake, we had a test done on $50USD worth of silver and it all ended up being fake.

Head back to Mexico City to explore the Zocalo! It’s the ideal spot for sightseeing. The architecture is phenomenal here at his town square. There’s a giant-ass Mexican flag that’s absolutely stunning, there’s a cool church, and behind the church, there’s more ruins!

There’s plenty of astounding restaurants on the top floors of buildings where you can look down on the town square. GOR-GE-OUS.

Day 4: Now that the sight-seeing is out of the way, time for some R&R. Head out to Valle de Bravo.

dsc07055Valle de Bravo is a Pueblo Magico, where Mexico’s ritziest come and spend money. There’s a manmade lake and lots of beautiful cobblestone streets with a very “Old Mexico” feel.

  • Tip: The roads out there wind A.LOT. TAKE a few plastic puke bags because these roads are a nightmare!
  • It’s a 3hour trip out from the city
  • Stay at a hostel
  • If you’re shopping the outside vendors, feel free to haggle.
  • There’s plenty of boutiques with souvenirs!
  • If you’re buying Mexican silver here, have them test it, but it will most likely be real since it’s people with money who come to stay.
  • Don’t flush toilet paper down because the pipes are old. My boyfriend ended up clogging a toilet down there and had to be hunted down by the employees to unplug it.

You’ll see a lot of Swedes and Germans here. I believe it’s an old Swedish town.

Eat at Los Veleros Restaurant and ask for their margaritas (to die for!). Also, go down to the lake and go on a lake trip. If you go during the week, the attractions are all cheaper and the boat boys will play the music of your choice.

Day 5: Take a trip to San Pedro Tenayac

This quiet pueblo is very quaint and cute. The people there are super helpful and always ask you questions about yourself. There’s a lot of Mexican-Americans here because I encountered the younger generation to speak English (or maybe a lot of people were on vacation at the same time I was). I believe we were told on various occasions by a lot of these individuals that they had come over to the USA to visit Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Orange County. So that was nice that they know parts of the USA. Sadly, a good chunk of them were working here and were deported down there by sheer bad luck, they would tell us stories, but they were never hateful towards Americans. Be prepared to hear Trump jokes…

There’s paragliding and zip lines on the way to this place. It is 20 minutes away from Valle de Bravo. If you ask around, the locals can guide you on how to climb up to the Three Kings “Tres Reyes” mountain tops. The sights are astounding. If you visit during the dates I provided, they  have a week long festival going on and little markets and things you can shop at. Be sure to check out their First Fridays for cool souvenirs and artesian items. Grab a michelada and ask about their horse races and fireworks at night! They’re crazy fun!

Safety wise, only thing i can say here is that there are times when the town goes quiet due to occasional blackmarket happenings as soon as the sun goes down. Same goes for Valle de Bravo. Due to the proximity of the state of Michoacan, which has a lot of cartel activity (if you’ve been keeping up with the news as of late), sometimes not much goes on at night,  and locals will advise you to keep indoors. Personally, i never felt in danger because it’s not really my business to be a vigilante or to get involved in drugs while i’m on vacation, and I never saw anything going on. Plus, i’m broke as shit, so I didn’t have gold dripping from my neck and wrists.

However, people will know when “the others” (aka drug dealers) are in town, and stare when things are happening. It’s all very hush, hush and word of mouth. For the most part, tourists are left alone because it would be very stupid of them to mess with tourists because they bring in revenue. Just be careful, don’t go down deep alleys dark at night. If you see blacked out cars, obviously stay away from them. You wouldn’t go to LA’s South Central alleys at night, would you? Same thing applies here.

Whenever danger is high, though, there’s always Mexican Military. You can keep an eye out and gauge what’s going on by the amount of military.

  • Cab service: Don’t feel threatened if the cab drivers here don’t have ID’s, they’re all very nice and if anything, ask for cab driver, Armando or Mando. He’s the best in this small town or he will set you up with the best. I believe he has his own taxi cab business there. He was super professional and really stood out. The reason the cab drivers here don’t have ID’s is because they’re so far away from any big major city to purchase or even develop ID’s.

San Pedro Tenayac is full of hidden waterfalls. It’s probably the most lush and green places i’ve ever been. It’s truly a hidden gem and it’s really nice that it isn’t hit by tourists other than maybe a passerby town as the country’s elite go to vacation to Valle de Bravo.

Aside from the occasional drug dealer that will leave tourists alone, the other downside is that sometimes locals don’t take care of the rich land that they have here. You’ll occasionally see litter on the hikes to hidden waterfalls, which is a shame.

Grab a beer at the town center near the church. Lots of cutesy shops and places to grab bites.

Day 6: Back to Valle de Bravo

Discover more eateries! Or visit the Velo de Novia–it’s a nice, flat walk through the forest where you see a nice cascade at the end. There’s always military here to keep the tourists safe from narcos. They’re nice and helpful.

Day 7: Toluca

img_0045Toluca is a very modern town. There’s honestly nothing really “Old Mexico” special about this place in my opinion. It’s totally a yuppie town. There’s a mall, there’s a lot of modern day conveniences, lots of museums, a badass Cosmovitral botanic garden with crazy beautiful stained glass, but Toluca is also a good place to go grab some coffee and eat or get a feel for 1st world country conveniences.

Day 8-9: Back to Valle or go Hike the Tres Reyes in San Pedro Tenayac

Day 10: Catch a cab from Armando and his cab boys back to Mexico City

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