A cultural colossus fit to rival anywhere in Latin America for history, gastronomy and colorful manifestations of indigenous culture, Oaxaca is a complex but intensely attractive city whose majestic churches and refined plazas have deservedly earned it a Unesco World Heritage badge. Lovers of culture come here to indulge in the Mexico of Zapotec and colonial legend. Flowing through handsome yet tranquil streets, life pulsates with an unadulterated regional flavor. See it in the color palate of historic boutique hotels, a meet-the-producer artisan store or an intentionally grungy mezcalería. But what makes Oaxaca especially interesting are its undercurrents. While largely safe and attractive by Mexican standards, snippets of political protest in recent years have lent the city a grittier edge. It bubbles up in satirical street art, bohemian bars and been-around-forever street markets. Trust us: there’s far more to this city than just pretty churches.
The dry season runs from October to April and the wet season from May to September. During dry season days will be mild and can be as warm as the mid-80’s fahrenheit. Nights, however, can be chilly and it can be breezy, even windy, throughout the day. You will need to bring clothing to transition from day to evening. Think layers.
Safety & Security
- Dress modestly and don’t display excessive jewelry or flashy items that call attention to you.
- During the daytime it is safe to walk around the towns and cities on your own. Nevertheless, we recommend walking in groups at night and taking a cab if you’re far from the hotel.
- Don’t drink the tap water
FAQ travel in Oaxaca
- How long can I stay in Oaxaca?
The maximum period of time that a U.S. citizen may stay in México without a formal visa is six months. Therefore your passport, regardless of country of origin, should be valid for a minimum period of six months, however long you intend to stay to avoid any potential problems at the port of entry.
- How important is it that I be able to speak Spanish?
Being able to speak Spanish is not absolutely essential for surviving in Oaxaca, but it certainly helps. Tourism is big in Oaxaca so you will find a lot of people that speak basic English and will be able to take your order or tell you where the bathroom is.
- Is tipping customary in Oaxaca?
Tipping is expected in most parts of Mexico. Service workers typically earn a low wage and rely on tips to earn a decent living. Add 10-15% to restaurant bills (if service charge is not already included), and leave a few dollars or pesos for housekeepers, porters, bartenders and guides.
- What is the Internet access like in Oaxaca?
Wi-fi is common in Mexican accommodations, is mostly free, and is also available in a growing number of restaurants, cafes, bars, airports and city plazas. Internet cafes in Mexican cities are going the way of the dinosaurs, since it’s easy and cheap to purchase a local SIM card with mobile data for your smartphone or device.
- Can I drink the water in Oaxaca?
Drinking tap water isn’t recommended in Oaxaca. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Fill a reusable water bottle or canteen with filtered water; ask your leader where filtered water can be found. It’s also advisable to peel fruit and vegetables before eating.
- What are the toilets like in Oaxaca?
Many tourist sites and restaurants have flushable toilets, although some remote areas may have compostable or drop toilets. It’s a good idea to carry your own toilet paper and soap as these aren’t always provided. Also remember the drainage systems are antiquated so after you use the toilet paper always put it in the waste bin instead of flushing it down the toilet.
- Are credit cards accepted widely in Oaxaca?
Credit cards can be used at most large restaurants, shops and other tourist establishments. Expect to pay cash when dealing with smaller vendors, family-run restaurants and market stalls.
- What’s the currency in Oaxaca?
The Mexican peso ($) is the local currency. We recommend against exchanging money at the bank or airport as the exchange process can be timely. Instead, you can bring pesos from the US or pull out cash from an ATM, which will be faster and easier. Make sure you call your bank to let them know you will be in Mexico. If you would still like to exchange money at the bank once in Mexico, you will need your passport. Don’t exchange money at the airport, as they usually offer an unfavorable exchange rate.
- Can you use ATM’s in Oaxaca?
Internationally compatible ATMs can be found in most of Guatemala’s major cities. ATMs are far less common in rural areas and small villages so have enough cash to cover purchases when travelling away from the larger cities.