CurrencyThe Peso presently values between 9-10 Pesos to 1 US dollar. Banks generally have the best exchange rates & open at 8:30am or 9:00am, make sure you check what hours they do money exchanges. In addition there are private money exchanges or "casa de cambios" that stay open longer, offering slightly less favorable rates than banks, but the convenience of a quick transaction at almost any time of the day or night. Most casa de cambios are opened 7 days a week and can found around the Zócalo.
The majority of ATMs in Oaxaca are located near the Zócalo. Serfín, Banamex, Bital, Bancomer, Banco Unión are among the banks that provide them. You can only get $1,500 pesos per day, for security reasons.
Most of the larger establishments - from restaurants to shops, will readily accept US currency. The issue in that case will be the exchange rate that they offer; it is advisable to ask first in order to avoid any disappointments. Also, whether paying in Dollars or in Pesos, it is a good idea to carry small bills with you, as it is often difficult for small shops or stands to make change for large bills. This is certainly true as you travel to the more remote parts of the island.
To send and receive money, check out Telégrafos de México Office, located at Av. Independencia and 20 de Noviembre Street. Telégrafos de México is a partner with the U.S.�s Western Union and any Electra. Transfers take one day.
Credit CardsMost of the hotels and more upscale restaurants and shops will accept credit cards, with some or no surcharge. However, you have to keep in mind is that many other establishments - especially smaller ones with lower prices, do not accept credit cards. While you are planning your trip, make sure that you carry - or have access to, enough cash or traveller's checks.
Time & PaceOaxaca is in the Central Time Zone.
It is said that the pace of life is generally slower in Mexico. At times it is true! Due to the hot temperatures in summer months, the residents of this area (Mexicans and Non-Mexicans alike) have learned to slow down and pace themselves - especially when working outside under the sun.Siesta or the mid-day break is a tradition that reflects the necessity of avoiding heat-related fatigue or the afternoon rains. It coincides with the hottest time of day when people retreat to their homes to eat and rest in the shade. You may see businesses closed for "siesta" ranging anywhere between 1:30 pm to 4 pm, while being open till at least 7:00 pm afterwards. However, the growth of the Mexico's resort areas is changing this tradition rapidly. More and more businesses are now opting for a "9 to 5" approach, eliminating the "siesta" times.
CommunicationsYou can call (direct dialing) and fax to anywhere in the world from Oaxaca, using the facilities at your hotel or local "larga distancia" telephone shops. Major US long distance companies have also established Mexican 800 numbers for making calls charged to "calling cards".Internet access is now available in Oaxaca, and some hotels may have access availability for their customers. There are be "Internet cafes" springing up for the convenience of both tourists & locals alike. Please see the Oaxaca Professional Directory.
The airport, "Xoxocotlán" International Airport (OAX), is 5 miles south of Oaxaca City. The airport has a small restaurant in the second floor, souvenir shops, a bar and three rental car agencies. The State of Oaxaca has three international airports: Oaxaca, Puerto Escondido and Huatulco. There is direct international service to Oaxaca City from Los Angeles (via "red-eye").
Travelers normally arrive via connections made in Mexico City, by Mexicana and Aeromexico Airlines. From Oaxaca City there is also service to Villahermosa, Tabasco; Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas; Mérida, Yucatán; and Puerto Escondido and Huatulco.
This allows visitors to Oaxaca to enjoy easy connections to a beach vacation, or to Mexico�s archaeologically rich southern States of Chiapas, Quintana Roo, and Yucatán.
You will need a valid passport or your original birth certificate (US and Canada). It must be presented at the airline check-in. Once on the plane you will be given two forms to fill out - one for immigration (Tourist Visa) and another for customs. There are restrictions as to what you can bring to Mexico......Some of these restrictions are limits for "duty free" and some are absolute, such as fire arms without a permit (not to mention drugs).
Most commonly encountered restrictions are:
- Most food items - especially plants, fruits and seeds.
- Cigars and cigarettes - over 20 packs per person may be subject to duty.
- Liquor and wine - over 2 bottles per person may be subject to duty.
- Controlled substances and drugs - a no no!
- Firearms - only for hunting and must obtain a permit from the Mexican Consulate in advance.
The Immigration counter is your first stop after you disembark the plane. Here you will have to present your passport (or birth certificate) along with the Tourist Visa you filled out on the plane. Your tourist visa and passport will be stamped to make your
arrival official. (You will need to keep your passport and tourist visa with you at all times while in Mexico - make copies in case you lose your originals) Next you'll proceed to the baggage claim area for your luggage.
Customs is the last step, here you will need to have your Customs Declaration Form handy (the other form you were given on the plane). Recently Mexico adopted a "Red Light - Green Light" system for customs. If you have put "Nothing to declare" on this form, you will be asked to push a button....... If the light is green you can exit without inspection; if the light is red you will be subject to inspection. This is a random system, and therefore there is no way to know whether you will get a green or red light. Consequently you need to be honest on your Customs Declaration and declare anything over and above what is allowed, paying all applicable duties. If you do not, and are caught by a red light, the fines may be very steep. One note, Mexican customs officials may assume you know about the "Red Light - Green Light" system and not say a word. No problem, step up & push the button.
Now that you have fully arrived in Oaxaca, there are several transportation options to get you from the airport to your final destination:
Taxi rates are controlled and it is currently US$? per person to city central from the airport. Taking a private taxi to the airport will be little more expensive. Van transfers are available at more reasonable rates.
Car Rentals reservations can be made at the airport, before arriving or at many of the hotels. Please see "Travel Services" under Travel & Lodging. Car rentals run from US$45-80 daily. Cars, motorcycles and scooters are available for rental.
Confirm your airline reservations at least 24 hours before your return date, and arrive at the airport at least one hour before your departure time. Please also note that when you are checking in at the airport, you will be asked to return your tourist visa to the airline, which will be returned to the Immigration Office.
If you choose to drive your car or a rental car to Oaxaca, please check with a Mexican consulate for all rules & regulations before you leave. A new toll road now arrives from Mexico City/Puebla. Remember Mexican car insurance is mandatory.
First class and second class buses arrive from many cities in Mexico daily. Both bus stations in Oaxaca are some distance from the Zocalo; at least twenty minutes walking. The first class bus station (ADO) is on Calzada Niños Héroes de Chapultepec, north of the center. Taxi fare from the Zócalo is about $10 pesos.
The second class terminal, where you will find a Casa de Cambio (money exchange booth) with good rates daily from 9am - 7pm is west of the center, across from the Abastos Market. Follow Avenida Trujano across Periferico, with the single track railway lines running down the middle.
The train station is still further out, but there is bus service (Col. Reforma/ Santa Rosa / Centro) that will take you close to the railroad station; or you can get there by taxi from Downtown, for about $10 pesos. There is an overnight train from Mexico City to Oaxaca, departing at 7 pm and arriving at 9:30 am. Sleeping compartments are available and there is a dining car.
During your stay in Oaxaca transportation requirements will be dictated by where you are staying and where your intended destination is. Most of the time, you will have more than one option.
Getting AroundUnless you plan to travel great distances or visit remote beaches, taxis and buses are by far the best way to get around. Taxis are plentiful, clean and reliable, and fares are cheap. You can rent a taxi by the hour (minimum 3 hours) for about $60 pesos. Your hotel can call a taxi for you.
There is frequent third class bus service throughout the region which can get you to many of the archaeological sites or villages in the valley. Many visitors hire a driver/guide for an entire day. Please see "Travel & Lodging" and contact Rene Cabrera at Las Bugambilias B&B for contacts.
Rental cars are available from major rental car agencies. They have locations at the airport and throughout town. You can also rent bicycles and explore Oaxaca City.
Tourist InformationOaxaca's chief tourist office (Monday- Friday 9am - 3pm & 6pm - 8pm, Saturday 10am-1pm / Phone: (951) 4-7733 & Fax (951) 6-0984) is inside the Palacio Municipal on Independencia at the corner of García Vigil, opposite the Alameda. You'll find another branch at 5 de Mayo Street on the corner of Morelos (Daily 9am- 8pm / Phone: (951) - 6-4828), open 365 days per year.
Both offices are extremely helpful, with maps, brochures and other handouts, including two free monthly English-language newspapers, the Oaxaca Times and Oaxaca, both of which have topical features and useful events listings.