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Mexico: 14 days backpacking in Mexico City and Holbox

To the point Discovering the local culture and travelling light in Mexico is possible and even recommended! Discover our 2-week itinerary in the Mexico City area, Holbox and Cancun.

We went to the South several times, all-inclusive, without any worries, since everything was at hand: transportation, lodging, food, drinks, activities, and this, in complete safety.

This time, we were craving something more: to discover the country, the cities, the locals, their traditions, their routines, to live a little like them and to experience a change of scenery during the trip.

We went to Mexico to visit new places and to immerse ourselves in this country that we appreciate very much. To travel light and avoid the current situation of the airports, we went with our backpacks only.

Thanks to the credit card rewards programs explained by Milesopedia, this was a trip with near to zero cost (flights/hotels). Our main expenses were for other transportation, food and personal expenses, which can vary from person to person.

Cities visited in Mexico

We went to Mexico to visit new places and to immerse ourselves in this country that we appreciate very much. To travel light and avoid the current situation of the airports, we went with our backpacks only.

Thanks to the credit card rewards programs explained by Milesopedia, this was a trip with near to zero cost (flights/hotels). Our main expenses were for other transportation, food and personal expenses, which can vary from person to person.

Mexico City Region 7 days
  • Arrival and Historical Center
  • Bosque and Castillo de Chapultepec
  • Archaeological site of Teotihuacán and Basilica of Guadalupe
  • Historical center
  • Cholula and Puebla (excursion booked with Viator)
  • Xochimilco and Coyoacán
  • Tula de Allende
Holbox Island 5 days
Cancun 2 days

Flights

Accommodation in Mexico

Mexico City

We chose the Royal Reforma Hotel for our seven nights in town. The hotel is located in the Zona Rosa neighborhood, near the Paseo de la Reforma, the Insurgientes station of the metro and several bars and restaurants, all of which are open to the LGBTQIA+ community. It is not a luxurious hotel, but it met our needs.

The room was large and comfortable. On the terrace there was a small swimming pool, a bar and a sports hall, as well as a beautiful view of the area. We easily made a change of room due to a problem of internet connection and air conditioning. This stay was paid for with points from the TD First Class Travel® Visa Infinite* Card from the Expedia for TD website.

Holbox

We stayed at the Mayari Holbox Hotel for two nights, a hotel within walking distance of the dock where we disembarked from the ferry, the small downtown area and the main beach. There was a pool on the terrace. The room was simple, but spacious and comfortable. The air conditioning was fine, but the internet connection was poor in many places on the island. This stay was paid for with points from the TD First Class Travel® Visa Infinite* Card from the Expedia for TD website.

We then stayed three nights at theHotel Mystique Holbox by Royaltona Tribute Portfolio Resort to spend my three Bonvoy certificates that were about to expire (we receive a certificate valid for one night’s stay of up to 35,000 points on the anniversary of our subscription to the Marriott Bonvoy® American Express®* Card.*).

It is a boutique hotel, so not very big, with a small pool, a beach restaurant and a small beach club. The rooms are nice and large, well appointed, with the bathroom open. The air conditioning and internet connection were very good. The key to the room is a bracelet, very practical, so that we don’t lose it and so that we can quickly access the room, without having to look for a key that always falls to the bottom of the beach bag.

Cancun

We stayed 2 nights at the simple and inexpensiveHotel Plaza Caribe, located in front of the ADO bus station in Cancun and has a courtyard with a pool. This stay was booked with Booking.

In the surrounding area, we found several good, authentic restaurants for a fraction of the prices of the famous Zona Hotelera, which is, in my humble opinion, overpriced. We are not fans of this city. We stayed there only two days, to be in town the day of our return flight, to avoid any unexpected event.

Our itinerary in Mexico City

Day 1: Arrival and historic center of Mexico City

Once we arrived at the airport in Mexico City, we bought a SIM card at Oxxo (450 pesos for a 4 Gb Telcel card -28 CAD) and then took the subway to the hotel. You also have the option to purchase an Airalo eSim card directly from an application on your mobile phone.

Regarding the subway, the cost is 5 Pesos each trip (about 0.30 CAD) and there are separate cars and platforms for women/children.

After an afternoon in the historical center, we ate in the corner, to have a nice view of the Zocalo (the square of the Constitution).

To reassure you, we always felt safe in all the places we visited. There are policemen everywhere in the streets and in the subway stations.

Day 2: Chapultepec Castle and Museum of Anthropology

We took an Uber to the Bosque (forest) of Chapultepec. Since on Sundays some lanes are reserved for pedestrians until 2pm, we had to disembark before the park entrance and walked to our destination.

We visited the Chapultepec Castle, a hilltop museum with a view of the park and the city. On Sundays, museums are free for citizens and residents. For tourists, the admission was 85 pesos (5.50 CAD) in cash.

The Museum of Anthropology gave us a glimpse of what we were going to see during our trip. For tourists, the admission was 85 pesos (5.50 CAD), paid with the HSBC World Elite® Mastercard® to avoid paying foreign currency conversion fees.

At the end of the day, we took an Uber to the Polanco neighbourhood to see the Soumaya and Jumex museums. Then we took a break at the Plaza Carso shopping center, before ending the day at the hotel pool.

Day 3: Pyramids of Teotihuacan and Basilica of Guadalupe

We went to this archaeological site by bus, which allowed us to manage our time. Because of the pandemic, it was not possible to climb the pyramids.

On the way back, we visited the new and the old basilica, as well as chapels and a belvedere on a hill.

If you prefer an excursion, Viator offers options that combine both locations. If you prefer to venture out on your own, here is the way:

Pyramids :

  • Take the metro to the Autobuses del Norte station;
  • Go up the steps and enter the Autobuses del Norte station;
  • Go left and stop at the second to last counter, the Teotihuacan Bus;
  • Buy your ticket for the pyramids (not for San Juan de Teotihuacán) (104 pesos round trip, cash – 6.60 CAD) ;
  • Boarding is to the left of the ticket counters;
  • Disembark at Gate 2 of the archaeological site and buy your admission ticket (85 pesos, free on Sundays for citizens and residents – 5.50 CAD – in cash).

To return, take the bus at gate 2 and get off at the Autobuses del Norte station.

Basilica:

  • Disembark before arriving at the train station, at the Deportivo 18 de Marzo metro stop ;
  • Take the metro to La Villa/Basilica station. It’s one station after.

Be prepared to walk a long way through the subway stations; they are huge.

Day 4: Historical Center

We toured the historic center of Mexico City at our own pace and ate at the Casa de los Azulejos (House of Tiles), which was worth it both for its beautiful historic house and for the food. This restaurant is part of the Sanborns store.

For a better view of the city, there are two options and we tried them:

  • Latinoamericana Tower, Mexico City’s most famous skyscraper – 170 pesos without the museum visit (10.80 CAD) in cash;
  • Terrace of the Don Porfirio café (8th floor of the Sears store). The panorama of the Palais des Beaux-Arts is beautiful, the smoothies delicious and the place always full.

*The city of Tenochtitlán, capital of the Aztec empire was built in the 14th century on an island in the middle of the lake of Texcoco, where an eagle devoured a snake on a cactus, according to the legend. For several years, there are places that are sinking, such as the Basilica of Guadalupe and some buildings in the historic center. All this is a reflection of urban growth on a swampy landfill. The earth does not support the weight of the constructions and many buildings, churches, monuments and even the streets show unevenness and cracks. Seismic activity in the region also damages buildings. If you think that the buildings in Mexico City are “crooked”, it is not an optical illusion.

Day 5: Cholula and Puebla

We bought an excursion with Viator, to visit Cholula and Puebla, two colonial cities, about 150 km from Mexico City.

The driver and guide were excellent, but I felt like we spent more time on the road than sightseeing.

It gave us a glimpse, but if I had to do it again, I would sleep at least one night in Puebla, because there is a lot to discover in this city.

Cholula has the largest pyramid in the world and Puebla is the most religious city in Mexico with several churches, in addition to being a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Day 6: Xochimilco and Coyoacán

We went for a ride in a trajinera, the famous boat that sails on the canals of Xochimilco in Mexico City.

During the trip, canoes come to offer drinks, food and music (mariachis).

In Coyoacán, we took a quick tour of the historic center, as it was starting to rain and we thought about the impact the rain might have on Mexico City traffic.

The day’s travel was done with Uber. It is possible to go to Xochimilco by subway/commuter train, but it takes two hours of your day (one way).

This activity is available on Viator.

Day 7: Tula

We went to Tula, 90 km from Mexico City, using the UFO bus. From the bus station in Tula, we took a cab to the Toltec archeological site, located 4 km away, to discover the Atlanteans of Tula, four 4.5 m high figures on top of a pyramid.

The UFO counter is to the left of the Teotihuacan counter at the Terminal Autobuses del Norte in Mexico City. Unlike Teotihuacan, OVNI accepts credit cards. The round trip ticket cost 330 pesos (Can$20).

Holbox

Days 8 to 13: Holbox (pronounced "Holbosh")

At the Cancun airport, we took an ADO bus to the downtown train station, another to Chiquilá and a 9 Hermanos ferry to Holbox. It’s a 3-hour trip, including waiting time.

We paid with our HSBC World Elite® Mastercard® 326 pesos for the two bus rides and 220 pesos for the ferry (21 CAD and 14 CAD). In Holbox on the way back it was cash-only. Something important to note is that there are many businesses that do not accept credit cards.

We went to two very beautiful places in Holbox:

  • The sandbanks near Punta Mosquito. During the low tide, we walked several kilometers with water at our ankles. The sandbanks make small beaches in the middle of the ocean.
  • The beach of Punta Cocos, at the other end of the island, a quieter place, because it is a refuge area for birds.

Cancun

Days 13 to 15 : Cancun

We stayed the last two days in Cancun to avoid unforeseen events, such as a broken ferry or a big storm, which could have made us miss our flight home.

The first day was dedicated to quietly vacate the room at the hotel in Holbox, take a 4 wheel cab to the dock, buy the ticket and take the ferry to Chiquilá. Ferry departures are every 30 minutes, alternating between the companies 9 Hermanos and Holbox Express. Once in Chiquilá, we bought the return ticket to go to downtown Cancún with Autobuses ADO after a stop at the Cancún airport.

We took advantage of the hotel’s pool and chose a local restaurant for dinner. The second day was the only day we actually went to the tourist area of Cancun. We spent the day at the public beach Caracol, next to the RIU Cancun hotel.

We chose the ADO bus, since the station was just across the street (105 Pesos – about 6.60 CAD). Since Uber’s can’t pick up passengers at the terminals, it’s rare that they’ll agree to drop you off at the airport.

Suggested activities in Mexico

Here are some suggestions for activities in Mexico with our partner Viator:

Mexico Travel Guide

Here are some travel guides on Mexico that we recommend from the Ulysse bookstore:

Stopover In Mexico
Fabulous Mexico

Conclusion

We are coming to the end of our low budget trip to Mexico. I hope you enjoyed it and that it made you want to discover Mexico City and Holbox.

I had a great time sharing my experience with you; it was like a second trip for me.

Gracias y hasta luego!

Come to discuss that topic in our Facebook Group!

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