Guanajuato Travel Guide

For the guests of Guanajuato Vacation Rentals

Vacation Rental Apartments and Houses in Guanajuato, Mexico

Vacation Houses Vacation Suites
(Apartments)
Guanajuato Museums

Chapter 1 - Safety & Survival Tips

This is the first draft of the Guanajuato Travel Guide, which covers some basic survival information. This document will be improved and expanded daily until complete.

Safe Mexico Travel Tips for the Super Paranoid

These three articles provide basic safety information for Guanajuato visitors. These articles written for the Guanajuato Travel Guide have also been published on other web sites (they are copyrighted by the Guanajuato Travel Guide.)

Part 1: Before You Go.

Part 2: Traveling Into and Around Mexico.

Part 3: Visiting Small Towns like Guanajuato.

Survival Tips

Guanajuato topology

Driving and parking: Guanajuato has only four major streets above ground, and an extensive network of confusing underground tunnels. Both the streets and tunnels meander and criss-cross in varios directions; it's very easy to get disoriented. Street parking, either above- or under-ground, is very scarce. There are several public parking garages, but they are generally expensive, charging about 10 pesos per hour; there are no daily or weekly discounts. We do NOT recommend having a vehicle in Guanajuato.

Walking: Guanajuato is a walking town, built in the valleys and on the sides of canyons. The main streets are in the valleys and are the commercial zone of the center; 99% of the houses are in alleyways on the sides of canyons. Most of these alleyways are steep; some are very steep. It's common to encounter dozens or even hundreds of steps to arrive at the destination shop or house. Guanajuato can be a challenging walking environment for the normal visitor - it is painfully difficult for people with walking disabilities.

Night-time walking: Most of Guanajuato's alleyways have streetlights, but the light bulbs are often missing or burned-out. It's a good idea to carry a small flashlight to walk around at night; the stone walkways are often uneven and there may be holes in the surface.

El Pípila Monument

Getting into Town

From the airport - there is no bus service from the airport, but the airport provides a safe, registered taxi service to Guanajuato. You buy your tickets at the booth as you exit the customs area; the cost is fixed, around 400 pesos (about USD$40.00). Unfortunately, the airport taxi drivers are not knowlegable about the Guanajuato streets and tunnels, even less so about the alleyways, and they expect you to tell them how to get to your destination. When you arrive at the designated street corner in Guanajuato, the taxis simply unload your luggage and leave. It's up to you to proceed from there.

From the inter-city bus station - there is very good local bus service (about every 15 minutes) from the inter-city bus station until around 9:00 PM. Look for the buses that say "Centro" on the front. The cost is about 6 pesos. The ride is 20-40 minutes, depending on the route taken. Ask the driver or assistant to tell you when to get-off, otherwise you won't know since there is no signage at the bus stops. Most of the bus stops in the center are underground in the tunnels. See below for detailed directions.

You can also take taxis from the inter-city bus station, day or night. The taxischarge 30 - 35 pesos until 10:00 PM; 40-50 pesos after 10:00 PM. The ride is 20-25 minutes. See below for detailed directions.

By car - driving and parking a personal car in Guanajuato is usually a frustrating experience and is not recommended. Free parking in the streets or tunnels is very scarce and paid parking is expensive. The signage in the tunnels is inadequate and it's easy to get lost. See below for detailed directions.

Public parking -

El Pípila Monument

Getting Around Town

Taxis - taxis circulate continuously throughout the historic center of Guanajuato, including the Presa and Alhóndiga areas. Current fares are $25 Pesos within the town and $30-$35 Pesos to the edges of town. At 7:00 A.M. and 3:00 P.M., the drivers change shifts, so it seems that all the taxis disappear from the streets for about 30-45 minutes; try to avoid these times if you're in a hurry.

Local bus routes - the bus system is a little crazy at first glance, but there is method in the madness. Buses are not numbered nor otherwise uniformly marked by their route - their destinations are usually marked with white glass paint on the front windshield. Often the paint is faded or half-erased. If you have any question about whether the bus is going to your destination, always ask! Since there are just a few streets in Guanajuato, there are just a few basic routes, and a few major bus stops.

Coming into town from the west - Buses coming from the west (Silao, Marfil and the intercity bus station (Central de Camiones) into the center have four routes:

  • San Javier and Alhóndiga route - They may veer to the left before entering the center tunnels, cross through a short tunnel (NNN) and emerge at Alhóndiga street. At Alhóndiga street, they may go to the right (Alhóndiga route), discharging passengers just north of the Alhóndiga museum, or go left (San Javier route) towards San Javier and La Valenciana.
  • Pozuelos route - They may enter the center tunnels, stopping below the market and next to the Patrocinio parking lot, then turning right through the tunnel (NNN) emerging on Pozuelos street close to the Comercial Mexicana Mega Mall.
  • Embajadores, Pastita, and the Presa route - They may pass through the center underground in the tunnels in route to Embajadores, Pastita, and the Presa, stopping along the way at the market (Mercado Hidalgo,) the Plaza de los Ángeles, and El Jardín. These buses come above ground just before reaching the Teatro Cervantes, pass by Embajadores, and then continue either to Pastita or the Presa. On the surface, they stop at NNN, in front of the Teatro Cervantes, at Embajadores, then at various stops in route along Pastita or the Paseo de la Presa.
  • Cantador route - They may turn right at the TTT traffic circle, passing by El Cantador park, then on to the market (Mercado Hidalgo) above ground, entering the tunnels just west of the market. In the tunnels, they may go right towards the Comercial Mexicana Mega Mall (Pozuelos route), or continue through the center tunnels towards Embajadores, Pastita, or the Presa (Embajadores, Pastita, and the Presa route).

The bus stops along this west to east axis are:

  • In front of the hotel Real de Minas
  • Right after the traffic circle before entering the center tunnels.
  • Below the market, in the tunnels.
  • Below the Callejón del Beso, next to the Patrocinio parking lot.
  • Below the Plaza de los Ángeles.
  • Below the Jardín.
  • At NNN, just after emerging from the tunnels.
  • In front of the Teatro Cervantes.
  • In front of the Embajadores market.
  • NNN
  • NNN
  • NNN
  • NNN
  • NNN
  • To the right of the traffic circle before the Cantador park.
  • At the intersection of NNN and Tepetapa.

The central bus stop is in front of the main market (Mercado Hidalgo,) about 1/2 block to the west of the market entrance.

El Pípila Monument

Security

IDs and Visas - It's a good idea to make photocopies of your passports, visas, drivers license, credit cards and other important IDs and documents that you'll bring on the trip. Leave one complete set of copies back home with relatives or friends. Bring one complete set with you, and one additional copy of your passport and visa. When you arrive in Guanajuato, leave the complete set in a secure location, such as your room or hotel safe. Also leave your passport, visas, other IDs, extra credit cards and cash in the secure location. The vacation rental houses and apartments provides small safes for this purpose. Carry a copy of your passport and visa with you. You should now be able to recover from any loss or theft of these important items.

Personal Safety - The historic center of Guanajuato has very little crime; we hear occasionally of a pickpocket or camera-snatching. The normal prudent care of your day bags, cameras, laptops, etc. as you would do in any unfamiliar city should suffice here. Of course, you should avoid wearing flashy, valuable jewelry. Guanajuato has several neighborhoods that should be avoided at night - none of these neighborhoods are in the historic center or in an area that a traveller would normally visit. These neighborhoods are: El Carrizo, El Cerro de Leones; El Cerro de Cuarto, and El Cerro del Encino.

ATMs - All the banks in Guanajuato have exterior ATM machines that are connected to the international network, with menus in Spanish and English. Exercise the same care in Guanajuato as you would in your own town: make withdrawals during banking hours; don't ask for or accept help from strangers at the ATMs; make sure no-one is watching you enter your PIN. We have not heard of robberies at the ATMs here, and you don't want to be the first!

El Pípila Monument

Interaction with Mexicans

Spanish vs. English - If you don't speak at least basic Spanish, your interactions with Mexicans will necessarily be limited to the few English-speaking people in the mainstream tourist industry. The tourist industry not only has sanitized your "Mexico" experience to remove the rough edges (where all the interesting stuff is), but also repackages "Mexico" to fit the incorrect stereotypes that tourists bring with them from abroad. In short, without basic Spanish, you won't see authentic Guanajuato. So, take some classes, and enrich your life.

Social lubrication - Mexican society is more social and courteous, at least at the superficial conversational level, than American society. Greetings are more common, and more effusive and elaborate. Many Mexicans consider Americans, Canadians, and northern Europeans to be cold and uncouth because they don't use these basic social lubricants. Here are the basics:
The occasionWhat to say or doNotes
Greetings in passing with strangers."Buenos dias", "buenas tardes" or "buenas noches".(See the topic below about Understanding time.) You should greet, especially if the other person looks at you. It never hurts to do it always, and it's interesting to see the embarrassment of the Mexicans who should have greeted you, but didn't. Not returning a greeting is rude. This greeting is a weak invitation to further chit-chat.
Greetings in passing with strangers"Adiós"Equivalent to the "buenos ..." greetings, except there is no invitation to further conversation. Usually the person saying "adiós" is in a hurry. Mexicans may also respond with "adiós" to greetings from strangers.
Greetings with friends and acquaintances."Buenos ..." or "adiós"Generally, you are welcome and expected to exchange some chit-chat with people you know. The greeting is usually followed by a kiss feint to the right cheek (woman-to- woman or man-to- woman, NEVER man-to-man.) If you're greeted with "adiós", they're probably rushing somewhere (or giving you the cold-shoulder.)
Taking leave of friends or strangers."Con permiso", "me dió gusto saludarte", "se cuidan" or "cuídate", "hasta luego" or "hasta pronto", "buenos ..."There are too many departure phrases, dozens at least. The appropriate phrases depend on the formality of the situation, age differences among conversants, the degree of respect due, time elapsed since the previous meeting, size of the conversing group, etc. Sorry, this subject is too big for this space - just try what you hear the Mexicans say.
Bumping with someone."Discúlpeme"You are apologizing for the bump. This is a good idea even if the fault was with the other person - you could avoid a confrontation over nothing. You will normally hear a "discúlpeme" in return or a reply dismissing the bump, such as, "no hay cuidado", "no es nada" or "no tenga pena".
Walking between two speakers or very close in front of someone."Con permiso"You are requesting a token permission to intrude into their space. The reply will be something like, "es suyo", "pase", "pasele", "pase usted", or similar that grants permission.
Pushing through a crowd."Con permiso"This is the equivalent of saying "coming through!", and you generally won't receive any response as you squeeze through.
Entering or leaving a restaurant in the presence of other people at tables."Buen provecho"This is the Spanish equivalent of "Bon appetite". You'll say this most often when you are leaving your table to the folks at nearby tables, especially those with whom you may have exchanged chit-chat, greeted as you entered, or make eye-contact as you leave. This is my favorite, as it is the least expected and demonstrates to Mexicans that not all foriegners are socially inept.
... Sorry, under construction!NNNNNN

Personal space and awareness of surroundings - Compared to Americans, Mexicans have a smaller sense of personal space, and a greatly reduced awareness of what's around them. When walking, Mexicans are seemingly oblivious to the people moving around them and therefore act as if the entire common space (sidewalk, passageway, roadway, etc.) is there for their exclusive use. Of course, this produces chaotic results when all the exclusive users collide in the common space every few moments. I can't think of any reasonable way to avoid this chaos - just get used to it.

Understanding time - ... Sorry, under construction!

Beggars - ... Sorry, under construction!

Waiters and tipping - ... Sorry, under construction!

The Goldren Rule - ... Sorry, under construction!

El Pípila Monument

Health Issues

Emergency services - If you become ill or injured in the center of town, don't wait until your situation deteriorates before seeking attention - you may have to make your own way to a doctor or hospital. Keep in mind that most of Guanajuato is walking alleyways where car and ambulances cannot pass. Since the few streets are single-lane, emergency vehicles move at the same speed as the normally congested traffic. In La Plaza de la Paz, in front of the Basílica, is a small hospital/clinic for emergencies and walk-in services. You can also make advance appointments to see a doctor, and to have lab work.

Doctors - ... Sorry, under construction!

Dentists - ... Sorry, under construction!

Pharmacies - There are multiple pharmacies scattered throughout town, it seems every 3-4 blocks in the center. ... Sorry, under construction!

El Pípila Monument

Where and What to Eat

Water - Guanajuato has treated water but the age and condition of the water system makes the water unreliable for drinking without further safeguards, such as filtering, boiling or disinfectant drops. You should also use purified water for brushing teeth and making ice. The vacation rental houses and apartments do provide filtered water.

Street food - In general, you should avoid eating at any of the street-side kiosks. The quality of the food ingredients and the cleanliness of the preparation varies from very poor to just adequate. Even though the food may look and smell great, the lack of running water for basic hygiene makes street food very risky.

Fruits and Vegatables - If you prepare your own food, you should disinfect all fruits and vegetables, especially lettuce and leafy vegetables and any vegetable or fruit grown close to the ground. Disenfectant drops are readily available at the Comercial Mexicana and many small stores. Disenfectant drops are provided in the vacation rental houses and apartments .

Restaurants - Use common sense in choosing a restaurant - if the rooms and tables are clean and the waiters are neat and professional in their service, it's more likely that the food preparation will be hygenic as well.

El Pípila Monument

General Tips

Heat and air conditioning - Guanajuato houses have neither heaters nor air-conditioning units, as the weather is moderate and they have been rarely needed. Likely a symptom of recent global climate changes, the fall and winter months of November through March have been much cooler in the last 2-3 years. The thick walls of the houses in the center of town conserve the cold throughout the day, although the outside temperatures on sunny days are very pleasant. In the months of December through February, you will need warmer clothes to wear indoors. Due to the high altitude of the city, the air is very dry during the winter; you will want to bring skin creams.

Mosquito protection - In the late afternoons, around 5:00-6:00 PM or when the temperatures begin cooling, you should close all the doors and windows to keep out mosquitoes. If you have mosquitoes in your bedroom at night and you're unable to catch them, you should use the small repellent appliances with the disposable pads. These are very effective at repressing mosquitoes. The repellent appliances should be plugged-in where they are not close to your face, nor close to anything flammable. These repellent appliances are available in the super market for $30 to $40 Pesos. They are provided in the vacation rental houses and apartments.

Public Bathrooms - Many of Guanajuato's entrances to the tunnels have public bathrooms, and there are a few others scattered about. The current cost is three pesos and none are very hygenic. Here is the list:

Plaza de los ÁngelesTunnel entrance on street side of plaza
El JardínTunnel entrance
El BaratilloTunnel entrance
El Jardín ReformaWest side of the front stairway
El Mercado HidalgoTunnel entrance on west side of the market
Plaza de la PazEntrance to tunnel in front of the Palace
Templo de BelemEntrance to the Capilla de Criptas on west side of church entrance
Museo de las Momias At exit of Museum
Monumento a El PípilaSouth side of monument
Upper funicular mallSouth side of mall
Mercado de EmbajadoresMain market building
Esplanada de la AlhódigaTunnel entrance on west side of the large stairs
Estacionamiento Hotel Real de MinasParking lot building, first floor
Estacionamiento VIPsPublic parking lot building, basement floor
Estacionamiento El PatrocinioPublic parking lot building, basement floor
Mesón de San AntonioFirst floor
Callejón del BesoTrinket store at corner of Callejón El Patrocinio and Callejón del Beso
Hotel Santa FeSneak-in through parking lot on Calle Truco.
... Sorry, under construction!

Noise - Mexicans are very noisy folk, and tolerate more noise than most visitors are used to. From roof dogs barking day and night, to car horns, to screaming in the streets, to artillery-sized fireworks, there is very little you can do to avoid the noise. If you are sensitive to noise, bring comfortable ear-plugs or -baffles for sleeping.

El Pípila Monument

Contact Information Home Page

Copyright 2010 Guanajuato Travel Guide. All Rights Reserved.