5 Great Tips for Traveling … and Living in Mexico

Browsing Google today, I found these 5 Things You Should Know When Travelling in Mexico.  Even for people living in Mexico or planning to live in Mexico, they are excellent little bits of info since expats always enjoy traveling around the country.  Here are excerpts of each of the 5 points:


1. Not every pyramid is the same

The mind-baffling pyramids, scattered all over Mexico among jungle and ancient settlements, are among Mexico’s top attractions. However, do not assume that once you’ve seen one Mexican pyramid you’ve seen them all! Each pyramid site in Mexico is not only unique in its size, design and structure – but also in its history and origins.  …


2. There is more to Mexican music than mariachis

Mariachi music is synonymous with all things Mexican, and rightly so as it is considered the national music of Mexico. However, it is important to realise that there are lots of other forms of important traditional Mexican music that form part of the colourful history and culture of this musical country. One form of Mexican music you are likely to come across when you travel around Mexico is ranchera music. The word “ranchera” is derived from the Spanish word for farm (rancho) as it was among rural farmers where these folk songs originated. …


3. The Roman Catholic religion is important

Catholicism is the dominant religion in Mexico. This is more than just an interesting fact – it is a must-know for anyone planning to travel to Mexico. … According to the 2010 census, more than 80% of the population of Mexico are of Catholic denomination. For this reason, it is important to show respect for Catholic tradition both inside and outside of churches while travelling in Mexico.


4. Festivals are a year-round occurrence

I don’t think it’s a sweeping statement to say that Mexican’s love a good celebration! At least this is what their impressive calendar of ancient traditional, spiritual and religious festivals would suggest. There are numerous festival celebrations all year round in Mexico both at a local and national level. These include celebrations which worship the patron saint of one’s neighbourhood; regional food, craft, music and folklore festivals; as well as country-wide events such as the Day of the Dead. …


5. The natural environment is highly respected

As the fourth country in the world for biodiversity, Mexico is an attractive place for natural scientists, geographers, marine biologists, nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. With a variety of diverse ecosystems differing from one end of the country to the next, there are all manner of landscapes to explore in Mexico. These highly protected geographical regions range from landscapes comprising volcanoes; rainforests and mountains; to deserts, reefs and sacred limestone wells. [“cenotes”]


Read the rest of this very informative article over there.


-Bea Lozano

Paradise away from Paradise in Mahahual

You live in paradise, you get to see the tropical blue water and put your feet in the sand any day you want.  What a dream it is that you get to reside in a place where people come from all over and spend their hard saved dollars just to spend a little time, leave and remember forever in a photo album.  Yes, it’s very true that we are lucky in that respect and every day we should appreciate the beauty that we are able to wake up to each and every day. But how do people who already live in a vacation destination vacation?  Some might say, no need for vacation but this is a misconception.


Everyone needs to get away every once in a while.  But the amazing thing is that we live in a place where it is so incredibly easy to take off and explore a new paradise without having to save large amounts of money or travel far away. The most wonderful thing about the Riviera Maya is that each area has a unique experience and its personal beauty.  Even if you travel only 15 minutes away you can feel like you have traveled to a completely different place. With that being said, and in lou of Travel Tuesday, I would like to start off my paradise away from paradise series.


The first place I would like to take you is Mahahual in the beautiful Costa Maya region! If you are traveling from Playa del Carmen you are looking at around four hours driving. For those of you who have not experienced this area yet I can assure you it’s a gem.  Mahahual has a bay somewhat like Akumal and is a nice spot for diving and snorkeling.  There you will find pristine blue bay water and beaches filled with palm trees and plenty of hammocks for sheer relaxation.  If you are looking for peace and quiet, this is your spot!  There are quite a few options for places to stay although no major hotels or resorts. Here you can find nice cozy cabanas or smaller rustic but very clean hotel rooms.  It can be nice to get there at an early hour to find a place to stay for a night or two.  Mahahual does not stay open late.


With the exception of Sr. Frogs you will find many bars and restaurants close quite early around 10 pm or so.  So if you are a party goer this may not be your cup of tea.  In any case, during the day Mahahual is moving, small restaurants and cafes are open with great food, baked goods and drinks.  There are some nice beach club options.  Buy some lunch or a couple drinks and you are free to use their loungers or hammocks all day!  You can take a nice walk around and find some nice vendors and places to shop for souvenir type things or Mexican Handcrafts. Keep walking and you will end up at the lighthouse which is a staple of Mahahual.  If you are wanting a little more action head over to Sr. Frogs where they are playing energetic music and promote lots of fun.


There are a couple of interesting things I would like to note about this particular area.  This is a normal and popular cruise ship stop and most of its visitors actually come from the cruise ship.  This little town of Mahahual caters very well to Americans and foreigners so much in fact that it’s even hard to find change in pesos.  Everyone will speak English and they prefer that you pay and receive change in American dollars.  Not to worry however if you only have pesos. They can accommodate as well.  When it is low season and not as many ships are sailing the little town can feel fairly deserted.  So if you are searching total serenity try picking a time when you know the season is low.  In any case, you will find this hidden paradise to be a beautiful option for an escape.  For those of us who live in the Riviera Maya we must remember to take advantage of some of the beautiful places that are surrounding us.  Having a change every once in a while can be refreshing.


If you have a favorite paradise away from paradise we would love to hear about it.  Find us on facebook and reply with key phrase “Paradise away from Paradise”.


It’ the simple things in life that can take our breath away


Sail your worries away, you’re on vacation!


-by Thomas Lloyd



“Where the Streets Have No Name …”

Have you ever wondered what Bono was singing about in that song?

Maybe I haven’t discovered any in depth meaning to life from U2’s music, but I sure have found a few places where the streets have no name.


Consider this working-class community right next to downtown Playa del Carmen:


Just two years ago or so, they put up street signs on the 3 main roads.  The little side streets still have no road signs.  Sure, the streets do have names, but you won’t find them marked in any way – and, for the most part, people don’t use the names or often even know what they are.  Landmarks are the way to go.


Now take a look at this place in Chiapas:

Here, you might actually have trouble finding any name – official or otherwise – for this road!


So, living in Mexico, you will most certainly find places where the streets have no name.  But, unlike Bono, I’m sure you actually will find what you’re looking for.

by Thomas Lloyd

Mexico Insurance Kit

The Pricing Factor – The Even Cheaper Parts of Mexico

Retirement living in Mexico

The colonial town of Valladolid – not far from Cancun, Playa or Merida

Here’s something that may or may not surprise you; regardless of which retirement location you choose in Mexico, regardless how low the cost of living, there are probably many parts of the country that are even cheaper!


So, why don’t you pack up and move to one of those places?


Well, the answer to that is usually fairly obvious; the more popular expat and tourist locations usually have more modern services, more people that speak English, better airport and highway access, etc. And they’re already so much cheaper than what life back home was.


Yet, there are several benefits to these very low-priced parts of Mexico.




While you’re home base will be Playa del Carmen or Puerto Vallarta, you can hop on a nice coach bus or rent a car and head out to visit nearby villages. The cost of everything from hotels to icecream to taxis will be low, even compared to the surprisingly los prices you were just getting used to in your new home town. For example, about 2 hours from Playa del Carmen is the charming – yet all but unknown – town of Valladolid.


retirement living in MexicoThis makes it easy to spend retirement years traveling, seeing new sights and having new experiences, even if you’re on a tighter budget. One couple who headed out for a trip through some of these quieter villages told me that there full vacationing expenses – hotel, bus, restaurants, etc., – cost them less than their regular expenses would’ve been for the same amount of time back in Canada. Mind you, this couple likes to “rough it” a little, but they fully enjoyed all aspects of the trip.


Affordable Help


One of the many advantages of retiring in Mexico is that you can afford to hire a maid, a gardener, a handyman for maintenance, etc. and not bust the budget. People coming into the more economically thriving areas from the villages are part of what makes this possible. For them, even the wages which already seem surprisingly low to us seem quite high. Many of them send part of their wages back to the farm where the cash goes a long, long way.


Of course, we want to give back to our new communities and not take advantage, but paying the going wages or a bit higher will go a long way for these people. Hiring them offers a double benefit; it’s good for you since it offers you a more comfortable lifestyle for a much better price. It’s good for them because it gives them access to cash and a better life that otherwise they wouldn’t have.


So, yes, there are most certainly places in Mexico that are cheaper than the expat town you chose. No, they probably wouldn’t be appealing for you to live in, and yes, there are ways which you can both enjoy the benefits of the low costs there and contribute to the lives of those who live there.


-Thomas Lloyd

Mexico’s Two Caribbean Islands are Among the Best in the World

There are experiences which are created and planned – like Disney World.  Some of these have their charm, but what you experience is exactly what a team of marketing experts in an office building somewhere (these days perhaps in Hong Kong, or maybe Beijing?) decided you will experience – nothing more, nothing less.


Other experiences are not planned or created – they simply happen.  The place you are, the people your with and what you see and feel while you’re there is well beyond the control of any corporation or travel agency.  Yes, planning is an important part of getting there and making the most of your visit, but the experience itself is defined by your own personal reaction and many random factors shaped by geography, nature and cultures that have developed over centuries.


Isla Mujeres and Cozumel – Top Islands in Mexico and the World

This is the case with two of the world’s favorite islands, Mexico’s two Caribbean islands, Isla Mujeres and Cozumel.  Recently, both have been ranked among the top islands in the world, for example, Isla Mujeres in TripAdvisor and Cozumel by Scuba Diving magazine. (Here is also a nice blog post of a traveler sharing their experience on Cozumel.)


They share the wide, soft white beaches and turquoise water of the Caribbean Sea – some of the most beautiful in the world.  They share the heritage of the ancient Mayan people and the warm, welcoming culture of their descendants.  They share warm, sunny weather all year round, and excellent diving access to the world’s second largest barrier coral reef.


Retire in Mexico - Islands

And, by geographical luck, they are located about an hour away from each other.  Either can be accessed quickly from the Cancun International Airport


Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres is a tiny island just of the coast at Cancun.  Coming directly from the bustling city of Cancun (where the ferry leaves) – which is quickly becoming the largest on the Yucatan Peninsula, and a cosmopolitan hub for travel and international events – the difference is like day and night.


You feel like you’re arriving to a different world.  Yes, the climate and the beaches are the same, but suddenly you’re in a quiet place, a sleepy island where time hasn’t seemed to go anywhere in the past few decades.


Retire in Mexico - IslandsCozumel

Cozumel is has ferry access from Playa del Carmen.  In addition to diving in the reef, there is deep-sea fishing, boating, sight-seeing, Mayan pyramids, golf and much more.  One of the ideal ways to spend a day on Cozumel is to rent a scooter or a motorcycle (there are Harley rentals!) and just tour the island enjoying the warmth of the open air.  The freedom to simply explore and discover the jungle, the ancient ruins and relaxing beaches at your own leisure is truly a unique experience.


Cozumel also has a small city (about 80,000 – a bit smaller than Playa del Carmen.)  In this city you can enjoy the shops of knickknacks, artwork and handicrafts.  There are also excellent restaurants, including many that sell the local catch of the day – fried fish is a local specialty.


Experience Life

Yes, on both Isla Mujeres and Cozumel you can buy tours, you can plan your day and decide what you want to see.  But here, these are only tools to make it easier to find a unique experience that is shaped by the place and its culture that you will not find anywhere else.


-by Thomas Lloyd


Awa Condos Playa del Carmen

Wouldn’t You Love to Ride a Train to the Beach … in Mexico?

Many Americans and Canadians love riding trains.  While the use of practical trains for commuting is returning, far more interesting are the tour trains that run through picturesque locations with beautiful scenery and stopping at interesting little towns.


Why We Love Trains So Much

For myself, I remember riding a train through the countryside back home, seeing the fields and forests roll by, and also the pictures of the trains running through tunnels in enormous mountains, or following a river through a green valley.  I never rode on those ones, but I always wanted to.


Here in Mexico, up in the north of the country, in the state of Chihuahua, there’s the Copper Canyon train with splendid views of rivers, cliffs and forests.  There’s also the Tequila Valley train offering scenery and tours of the communities in Jalisco where the famous liquor was invented.


What about a Train to the Beach … or Mayan Pyramids?

Retire in Mexico - train

Here’s some good news that you may have heard about.  There are currently plans to build a train across the Yucatan Peninsula, going from the beaches in Playa del Carmen to the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza, the colonial towns of Valladolid, Merida and Campeche, arriving to the beach once again.  I think there may also be plans for a route out to Progreso.


That would be a simply beautiful train ride!


Besides the practicality of another reliable and low-priced way to travel across the peninsula, the views would include the lush, green jungle, the ancient pyramids, all but forgotten Mayan towns and the romance of Mexico’s colonial cities.


When Will We Get the Yucatan Train?

It’s hard to say when this train will actually come into existence.  The plan has been around for a while, and it’s been put on hold several times.


Retire in Mexico - train

The good news is that the plan was approved and endorsed by Mexico’s new President, Enrique Pena Nieto, in December, his first month in office. In just a few months, this President has established a reputation for getting things done – quickly and efficiently.  He has already modified the constitution, begun drastic improvement of the country’s education and started economic reform that has given international observers and investors confidence that the country’s annual growth will soon increase to 7% (up from the current 4%.)


When this President says there’ll be a train in Yucatan, it gives me confidence that there really will be.


Since starting a new train route requires infrastructure, planning and millions of dollars of investment (about $1.5 billion to be exact), it’s not something that happens over night.  In April the states in question held meetings to begin making plans.  The bidding for the private contract is expected to start at the end of this year.


Let’s Hope …

Personally, I love the idea of riding a train across the Yucatan. I’m really hoping that this becomes reality!


-by Thomas Lloyd


Awa Condos Playa del Carmen

Papadzules – Yucatan’s Delicious Version of Enchiladas

Most people have heard of enchiladas.  However, fewer people know about the variation of this dish on the Yucatan Peninsula called papadzules.


Even people who have arrived to the better known tourist centers like Cancun or Playa may not know about these since these places tend to be dominated by a variety of Mexican food from throughout the country as well as international.  In the rest of the Yucatan Peninsula they are common every day food, so anyone who’s been to Merida, Valladolid or Campeche is more likely to have seen or tried them.


Like enchiladas, they are made with rolled up tortillas.  Instead of chicken inside, they have hard boiled eggs.  On top, they have a green sauce made out of pumpkin seeds.  There may be a bit of tomato sauce as well, and some additional hard-boiled eggs.


The flavor is mild and pleasant, and it’s unlikely that they will “take getting getting used to.”  For me, they’re not among my favorites, but they’re definitely a nice change when we go out on a  road trip to the more distinctly Mayan regions of Yucatan.


If you get the chance to try them, you should feel privileged; apparently the name originally meant something like “food of the lords.”


– Bea Lozano


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Let’s Go to Valladolid, Again! Gallery Part 3 – Monastery

Yesterday and the day before I posted some pictures of the main square and various sights around town in Valladolid, a beautiful, quaint and very non-touristy colonial Mayan town in Yucatan. (See Let’s Go to Valladolid, Again! Gallery Part 2 – Around Town.)


Something you’ll note if you go to Valladolid, as is the case with many colonial and old European towns, it’s surprising how many churches and chapels there are in a town that you can probably walk across in half an hour (and I don’t mean just the downtown – that’s from one end of town to the other!)


On Monday, I put up some pictures of the main church.  Today I am going to share some pictures of the town’s large monastery (which I believe is still used as a monastery, which is rather rare for colonial Mexican monasteries and convents) and the surrounding neighborhood:


Retirement Travel in Mexico


Retirement Travel in Mexico


Retirement Travel in Mexico


Retirement Travel in Mexico


Retirement Travel in Mexico


It’s rare to find a town that is so charming and authentic, yet almost completely undiscovered that is so close to major tourist centers like Playa del Carmen, Cancun, Merida and Chichen Itza (in fact, it is smack dab in the middle of all of these, and only between 30 min and 2 hours away from each of them.)  This is truly an undiscovered gem and great place for retirement travel in Mexico.

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Let’s Go to Valladolid, Again! Gallery Part 2 – Around Town

Yesterday, I shared some pictures of Valladolid’s main church and town square. (See Let’s Go to Valladolid, Again! Gallery Part 1 – Church & Town Square.) Today, I’m going to continue with pictures of various scenes from around this charming, colonial Mayan town.  As I said yesterday, the town is not touristy, but it gains it’s charm from being more of the “real Mexico” with old-time shoemakers, local butcher shops tended by mustached men with cowboy hats and meat cleavers and the like.


First of all, the hotel where we stayed.  All of the hotels are smaller, local, colonial inns that are as charming as the town itself:


Retirement Travel in Mexico


Retirement Travel in Mexico


And now, just some random scenes from around town:


Retirement Travel in Mexico


Retirement Travel in Mexico


Retirement Travel in Mexico


Retirement Travel in Mexico
(By the way, anyone who knows Mexico will know that “Palacio de Hiero” is an nice, modern, upscale department store – I wonder if they had permission to use the name?!)

Retirement Travel in Mexico


Retirement Travel in Mexico


Retirement Travel in Mexico


Retirement Travel in Mexico


Retirement Travel in Mexico


Tomorrow will be the final post in this series with pictures of the monastery.


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Let’s Go to Valladolid, Again! Gallery Part 1 – Church & Town Square

I love the colonial, Mayan town of Valladolid.  I’ve written about it before (Mexico Retirement Places to See – A Quaint, Colonial Mayan Town.)  It’s definitely a place I can see myself visiting more often when I retire, since it’s just such a relaxing and beautiful place to be.  Valladolid is small but it as nice restaurants, cafes and hotels.  It’s very inexpensive, even by Mexican standards, and it’s completely safe.


Part of the reason for this is that it’s off the radar for tourism.  In fact, it’s rare to find international tourists or even larger-scale national tourism, although a handful of tour buses now make stops as tour providers realize how charming and appealing the quiet, unaltered life of this authentic Mayan town is.


I went back again a few weeks ago, and got more pictures, which I’ll share over the next three days.  Today, I’ll share pictures of the main church and the town square.  First, the church:


Retirement Travel in Mexico


Retirement Travel in Mexico


Retirement Travel in Mexico


Retirement Travel in Mexico


Retirement Travel in Mexico


Now, some scenes of the lovely town square at night (some of which include the church):


Retirement Travel in Mexico
(A little blurry, but, hey, night shots are hard!)

Retirement Travel in Mexico


Retirement Travel in Mexico


Retirement Travel in Mexico


And finally, a couple of shots during the day:


Retirement Travel in Mexico


Retirement Travel in Mexico


Tomorrow, I’ll share some pictures of random items from around town, as well as the hotel we stayed in.  Enjoy!


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