Travel guide: Why you should go backpacking in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula
Hey guys, sorry it’s been a while since my last post but it’s for good reason. After spending some time back home working I’m off on a new adventure; this time in Central America. Over the last few weeks I’ve travelled around Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula with my best friend. I’ve now joined a tour to cover the rest of this area and we’re currently in Guatemala. I’ve got so much to talk about from the last few weeks, but unfortunately my laptop died along the way- which is why I’ve not been able to write. However today, the very day I find a laptop shop that I was planning on going to, it’s working again! So, to celebrate I thought I’d write a post about my experience of backpacking in Mexico and how it met, exceeded and challenged my expectations in different ways.
The bus rides
Buses are one of the best ways to get around in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and they are always guaranteed fun, organised chaos and I generally found them pretty reliable. You can either get a public bus, Ado bus (these are best for longer journeys) or a Collectivo (mini-van/ local bus service that’s good for getting to more remote locations).
If parts of Mexico ever felt a little touristy then there was nothing like a bus ride to remind yourself what country you’re in. One of my favourite journeys was on the Collectivo in Cozumel where they tried to pack in as many people as possible, pulling in extra stalls between the seats to sit on there was the bus ride to Tulum where I couldn’t open my water bottle and about ten different locals passed it around trying to help me open it.
Eating Veggie is easy
I was a little worried about the food situation in Mexico as traditionally it’s not known as the healthiest cuisine so I thought it might be tricky to get meat-free options. However the main perk of how touristy the region is that eating vegetarian is so easy. Not only were there always veggie options on the menu but there are also loads of specifically vegetarian and vegan restaurants, particularly in Tulum and Playa Del Carmen.
(I’ll do another blog post on my favourite places soon).
The hostels are great
I loved all of the hostels that we stayed in on our trip. They were all very cheap, costing around 200 pesos a night for a bed in a dorm, and they were all clean and usually had a bar, common area and free breakfast. After experiencing such great hostels in South East Asia I was happy to see that Mexico’s hostels definitely matched, if not surpassed these and as usual the hostels were great places to meet other travellers.
The locals are lovely
I usually always find that local people are friendly and helpful whenever I go away but I was taken aback by just how nice people are in Mexico. If you can’t speak Spanish then there can be a bit of a language barrier so it pays to learn a few phrases but they’ll always try to point you in the right direction and help if they can and their enthusiasm for life is infectious. Because we were travelling at Easter there were so many people from other parts of Mexico who had come to the beach for their holidays so we really enjoyed chatting to them and getting recommendations.
Wandering around the backstreets
The nice thing about travelling around The Yucatan peninsula is that no matter how built up the main tourist strips are, a more authentic Mexico can be found in the back streets. We stayed quite far inland from the touristy port area in Cozumel and there were loads of independent shops, little taqueria’s and Breaking Bad style fried chicken places.
It’s easy backpacking
One of the things that I found surprising about travelling around the Yucatan Peninsula was that because it’s so condensed it’s actually easier and hassle free to base yourself in one place such as Tulum, Playa Del Carmen or Cancun and take day trips, rather than having to move about all time. We originally had hostels booked all over the area for the two weeks but ended up cancelling them as we were wasting time packing, checking out, checking in to new places. Most places are easy to visit for the day. For example it’s so easy to do a day trip to Chichen Itza, Valladolid, and the cenotes from any of the cities, and taking a day trip to the islands like Cozumel and Isla Mujeres is the norm rather than the exception.
It’s great for female travellers
No matter how much I try to ignore it, travelling as a woman does pose its challenges sometimes. The good thing about travelling in Mexico is that they’re used to tourists and women travel around freely on their own so its a great place to travel as a woman. There’s also a lot more equality with men compared to travelling in Asia for example, where women are expected to cover up more and conform to certain rules.
Overall Mexico slowly but surely won me over. At first appearances the Yucatan Peninsula can seem touristy, Americanised and slightly tacky but give it some time, move about and you’ll start to see the real Mexico shine through. Sure you won’t love every place you visit, and the country will throw a lot of challenges in your way, but get out of your comfort zone, start exploring, start eating, and start talking, you’ll find yourself falling in love with the vibrancy and the variety of life there.