You have probably noticed that the layout of this post is different from my previous ones. WordPress has instituted a new editor. I am just learning to use the new features. To see the photos below, which are in what is called a “Gallery”, without the captions overlayed on them, click on an image to go into a slide show.
I will not be posting a seperate blog about my trip from Houston to Mexico. It was just down right uneventful. My friend dropped me off at the airport in plenty of time to make my flight. Hobby airport is still one of my favorite airports, and SouthWest Airlines is still my favorite airline. When I found out that the Best Buy kiosk just outside my gate was honoring the sale prices of the store, I had an impulse buy. I have owned several Bose Sound sports over the years, and continue to buy them because their utility overcomes their shortcomings in longevity. The ones I have been using are the ones with a connecting wire. I had been thinking about getting the ones without the attached wire. I shouldn’t have bought them since they don’t fit into my budget, but I did.
I will wait a while before writing a review of them, but my initial reaction is that they are rather larger than the old ones.
While I was still in Cuenca, I checked into busses from Mexico City to Guanajuato, and was shocked to find that the bus ride was five to six hours. I had to change my flight from Houston to an earlier flight to make sure I arrived at the AirBnb at a decent hour.
The flight from Houston was as nice as all SouthWest flights have been for me. Of all the airlines I looked at SouthWest was the only one that had a direct flight. The SouthWest flight was only two hours and fifteen minutes, the next shortest flight was was nearly six hours. The Delta flight which I could have used my frequent flyer miles on was a whopping 18 hours. Delta had some shorter flights, which were out of my point range. That is why I decided to pay out of pocket for SouthWest. Even with the fee for changing my flight to an earlier one, the total charge for a one way ticket to Mexico City was only $185.
Just in a quick aside, SouthWest is soon going to be flying to Hawaii, in a few weeks. As soon as I find out the prices, I will be able to make the decision of whether or not to go home after my time in Mexico.
Arrival at the Mexico City Airport was uneventful. Customs and Immigration was quick and efficient. Since I check no bags, I was out of the secure area quickly, and made a beeline to the first ATM I saw. All my reading about travel said that the ATMs have the best exchange rates around.
One of my favorite websites for planning my nomad aventure was The Points Guy, it was on Brian Kelly’s (the Points Guy himself) advise that I applied for a Chase Sapphire Reserve card. It has no foreign transaction fees. I have been very pleased with it. Since I stay only in AirBnbs, my ‘rent’ counts as three points per dollar. By the time I am ready to fly to the EU, I will have enough point for my flight. You can use his site to help determine which card is right for you.
Reading various travel blogs, I found that my bank, USAA, has one of the best debit cards around. I checked with the bank and they sure do. They reimburse ATM fees charged at other banks. The first ten times you use the ATM it is free, and $2 after that. The foreign transaction fee is 1%, with no set per transaction fee. Even when I start to have to pay for the ATM usage, that will only be 2% for a $200 exchange, compared to the 3% average exchange fee, which are often added to a set transaction fee. I only exchange a small amount of money. I make as many purchases as possible on my Chase card. Click here for a great article about how to handle foreign currency while traveling.
I forgot part of the Point Guy’s advice on ATMs. He says that you should not withdraw and even amount, like I did. I withdrew 4000 pesos. Had I withdrew 4050 pesos, I would have a small bill to use when no one wants to take a larger one. I lucked out since as soon as I got my wad of larger bills, I went straight to the office for taxi services and bought taxi fare to go across town to the bus station. I handed the lady a 500 peso note and received a nice assortment of small bills and coins with my ticket.
For a lot of good information read click here for an in depth article for using ATMs abroad.
The system of prepaying for your taxi is great. I wasn’t looking forward to negotiating a taxi fare at the curbside. As I exited the terminal, an information person manning the door saw that I was carrying a taxi ticket, and came to intercept me. He looked at my ticket pulled off his half and lead me out the curb and put me into a taxi.
The Taxi driver was very talkative, but spoke no english. He worked with me to get the most out of my limited spanish. The drive was a little crazy, reminding me of taking a taxi through Beijing. It was around lunchtime and the traffic was quite heavy. At the station, I took out my phone and check to see what bus lines the owners of the AirBnb had advised me to take. The had indicated two luxury bus lines. I looked up from my phone and saw that the desks for both were right in front of me. I picked the one, which had their routes posted on the wall behind them. I figured that if my pronunciation of Guanajuato was too bad, I could just point.
I was able to book a seat on a bus leaving in 30 minutes. As soon as I had my ticket, I messaged the AirBnb owner to let them know what bus I would be on.
I was a little apprehensive about the bus station. Not that it was like a bus station in the US. There were no bums sleeping on benches, panhelders, or shady men looking for runaways. (When I was in my twenties and looking like a teenager, I can’t tell you how many friendly men wanted to help me when I got off a greyhound.) I was just worried about finding the right bus. Though I was to go out gate two, when it was about 10 minutes until my bus was scheduled to leave, I could see through the plate glass window that there were a number of busses at the curb. None of them read Guanajuato on the front. It was the same sort of worry I have with trains in Europe. So many trains so close together.
Once I was able to get through security screening, dangling a bag with a huge empanada and a bottle of water from my wrist, which I had purchased in the station, I started asking where my bus was. Nobody spoke any english. It took me three tries with three different people before I was able to understand that the bus sitting in front of me going to Leon was going to leave and my bus would park there. Reassured, I waited until a bus pulled up displaying Guanajuato writ large in bright lights above the window.
There was a perfunctory security check of my shoulder bag before I was able to turn my backpack over to the driver, who stowed it under the bus, and handed me a claim check. I found my seat and was disappointed that there was no fold down table in the seat back in front of me. Other than that the seats were like comfortable train seats. All in all, I was quite surprised to find myself sitting on the bus, heading out of the city only an hour and a half after landing.
After eating my food, more to get it out of my way, than because I was hungry, I took out my iPad and attempt to play a game. It wasn’t long before I realized that the bus was bouncing too much for any manual dexterity to be had. I put it away and listened to podcasts from my phone, using my old earphones since I hadn’t had time to set up the ones I bought in Houston. I spent the five and a half hour ride looking out the window watching the scenery roll by. I must have been very tired, because, not only did I fall asleep for a while, but I didn’t bother to take photos.
When I got of the bus in Guanajuato and retrieved my bag, a man pointed the exit out to me and told me not to pay more than 80 pesos for a taxi. Outside, I negotiated 70 pesos. Later the owner of the AirBnb told me that I should have not paid more than 50 pesos. That got me thinking: Did the cab driver say setenta centavos or did he say cincuenta centavos? I suspect he said cincuenta, and thought the extra was a tip. Right now Pesos are 20 to the dollar, so that would have been an appropriate tip. Of course I wouldn’t have tipped him because he didn’t handle my bag. Call me a tight wad, but you try living on my budget.
I found my AirBnb at the end of a narrow alley, flanked by two residential buildings. The owner was waiting for me. She is a very nice lady, who owns a regular BnB and at least two more AirBnb units. She showed me around. The place was just as it was presented on AirBnb’s website. She gave me so much information that not a whole lot sunk in. I was too tired to go out to look for food, though she had given me directions to the Mega market and to a local restaurant. She wasn’t sure if the the restaurant was open since it was feast day of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe.
I called via Viber back to the States to let my friend know that I was arrived safely, before finding a canister of oatmeal and making a bowl. I had the little bag of pretzels that I had been given on the flight down. I ate them with some chocolate, which had traveled with me from Ecuador. Between the two my stomach was calmed down enough for me to go to bed. This is getting to be a habit of mine, to nosh on airline snacks upon arriving at my new location so I can sleep.