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Thinking of moving to Mexico but not sure about finances. Read our full breakdown on cost of living in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Mexico

In December we spent most of the month in San Cristobal de las Casas (we were in San Cristobal de las Casas from 23 November – 19 December) and, moved to Merida towards the end of the month.

The cost of living in San Cristobal was comparatively cheaper to other places we’ve been in Mexico however that last week or so of the month our costs up.

Eating out was a big expense for us this month with $358.67 of the total falling into San Cristóbal de las Casas and $336.28 over only 11 days in Merida! Oops.

We also spent a significant amount on activities while we took a few weeks off work. The below total for activities includes:

December 2020: Income and Expense Report

Expenses  
Rent (AirBnB Merida, paid in December for 19 Dec – 16 Jan) $1,000.29
Cellphone $20.00
Groceries $151.01
Eating Out $694.95
Activities $577.86
Toiletries/Pharmacy $14.14
Laundry $15.26
Laptop Repayments $91.00
Taxi (San Cris) & Uber (Merida) $50.85
Travel (flight) San Cris to Merida $112.31
   
Total expenses $2,727.67
Income $6,120.71

Note:

Our income and expenses is for x 2 people and is made up of multiple streams (and excludes business expenses such as VAs, other. contractors, software etc.)

All $ mentioned are converted to USD using the latest exchange rate at the time of reporting.

In December our income was made up of:

  • $207.71 Teaching English Online
  • $3,934 Freelance (in December 2 x clients were late paying invoices for work that had been completed to the value of $1,410 which will be transferred to the month it is paid)
  • $1,979 – Part-time employment income

Planning a trip to San Cris? We hope you found this post on the cost of living in San Cristóbal de las Casas valuable – let us know if there’s anything we’ve missed.

While we seem to be the only foreigners in Mexico that don’t rate San Miguel de Allende we still found some activities and things to do that we really enjoyed, and would recommend incorporating into your trip.

Visit the Museo La Esquina (the Toy museum)

Cost: 30 MXN ( $2.25 USD) for adults and 20 MXN ($1.50 USD) for children.
Getting there: The museum is in Centro, a short walk from the main plaza at Calle Nunez 40

We had some spare time so thought we’d stop in and were pleasantly surprised. If you like folk art, or toys the museum is a must see, it is well organised across multiple, floors, generations and styles, with beautiful displays of toys, plus ceramics and other works.

Tres Raíces Vineyard 

Cost: 400 MXN ($19.90 USD) for a taxi – we recommend hiring a taxi for the day or going with a tour. company so you don’t get stuck out there – the wineyard is 30 minutes drive from San Miguel de Allende and there is no Uber here to bring you back.
Plus 400 MXN ($19.90 USD) for tasting 5 x wines
Getting there: Approximately 12 miles out of SMA on the Dolores Hidalgo highway.

You can take a stroll around the vineyard and learn about the process before visiting the tasting room to see what they have on offer, we also chose to have lunch, it certainly wasn’t cheap but the restaurant is set in the middle of the vineyard, with a panoramic view from all of the tables so it was a beautiful setting, that coupled with the delicious food was well worth the price.

La Gruta Spa 

The video of Addison that went crazy on Instagram

Cost: 250 MXN ($11USD) entry free for adults and roughly 80 MXN ($4 USD) Uber. 
Getting there: A quick 10 minute uber out of San Miguel de Allende centro

There are 4 heated pools, spa services and restaurant/bar services but by far the coolest feature at this place is the tunnel that leads to a sauna.

It wasn’t overly busy but there were plenty of kids running around and people coming and going, we went on a weekday and were told it gets packed on weekends, so if you get the option definitely opt for a weekday visit.

Was it a mind blowing must do if you only have a few days in San Miguel de Allende? No, but if you’ve got some time to kill and are a hot pool fan it is a good option.

Cañada de la Virgen

Cost: 39 MXN. ($2 USD) entry on your own or tour with Albert Coffee $50 USD or the equivalent in pesos per person and includes all transport, entry fees, water, Albert as guide through the archeological zone.
Getting there: Approximately 30 minutes drive from San Miguel de Allende centro + a 1 mile (ish) hike from the parking lot to the archaeological site.

Albert is a archeologist from Louisiana who is now a citizen of Mexico and lives in San Miguel de Allende permanently.

It felt a little like we were anthropology students – in a good way!

You can visit the site alone and pay for a visitors ticket on site but without a knowledgeable tour guide, we would’ve missed so much of the unique features of the area from a glimpse into the advanced astronomy that the civilizations of Mesoamerica incorporated into their traditions to the ceremonial acts of burying canines with the dead to act as their guides through to the underworld and other totally macabre but interesting facts.

This site was only re-discovered in the late 90s, excavated and was opened to the public in 2011.

After the tour of the site we went to Zänä for a delicious Prehispanic meal and a short talk with photos of the sun and moon positioning in relation to the pyramid to show how the construction is linked to astronomic markers and the surrounding geography to measure time using the mesoamerican calendar and as a way to predict the eclipse.

We were a little unsure why anyone would go to such lengths to predict an eclipse until Albert pointed out that the higher class folk could use it to show power to people by essentially tricking them into thinking they’d brought the sun back after the eclipse was over.

Add on: Museo de Astronomia Prehispanica (after Cañada de la Virgen)

Archaeo-astronomer Dr. Rossana Quiroz who conducted a decades long study at the site, has opened a restaurant that features native, seasonal ingredients and is based on the symbolism of the Aztec calendar. The added cost is $30 USD per person and includes added transportation and the presentation of her fascinating photographic exhibit.

Free Walking Tour 

Cost: Pay what you want
Getting there: The meeting point is usually in the main plaza

Every city we go to we try and set up a free walking your within a few days of arriving, San Miguel de Allende was no exception.

Booked with Guru Walk we visited the main churches, such as: San Miguel Arcángel parish church, the Purísima Concepción convent, the San Francisco convent and the Orartory of San Philip Neri.

We also visited a couple of art galleries and the artisans market to learn about the different ethnic groups in Mexico.

And got plenty of local knowledge on where to eat and other things to do in San Miguel de Allende.

Mercado de Artesania (Artisans Market)

Cost: Free but take some cash for shopping
Getting there: In centro and well sign posted

Open every day from 9 am until 7 pm. The market is full of handcrafted items with a strong focus on tourist and souvenir type products, but, don’t be put off – there are also gems to be found!

Art Class – Rhoda Draws

Cost: 2700 MXN (about $140 USD) for 4 x classes, includes equipment
Getting there: At cafes around centro

If you have a little more time in. San Miguel de a Allende a sketching class with Rhoda is a great way to see the city and learn a new skill.

You attend 4 classes, each with a different focus of skill to learn and each starting at a differnt cafe or meeting point around the city.

Rhoda’s Sketching Fast & Loose Sketching Techniques are useful to:

  • Capture the essence of a subject
  • Develop strong observational skills
  • Remember travel and other important life memories
  • Use “down time” wisely: waits, cafes, airports, etc.
  • Integrate into other visual mediums (sketchnotes, graphic recording, graphic facilitation and other visual ways of working)
  • Get ‘in the zone’ and stress release!

Sketching Materials

Develop skill in sketching what you see as simply and boldly as possible, using a few very basic art materials.

Rhoda demos techniques suitable for both beginners and intermediates who want to develop more confidence in drawing. As well as skilled artists who need to “loosen up” in order to work faster.

Fábrica La Aurora

Cost: Free
Getting there: A short stroll from the main plaza Calz de La Aurora S/N, Aurora, 37710

Fábrica La Aurora is a an old textile mill that has been renovated and is now home to an abundance of galleries, shops, and cafes with works by local artists in many mediums.

We recommended stopping at one of the cafes for brunch and then strolling the galleries for a chill day out.

Eat Your Way Around the City

With over 300 restaurants in San Miguel de Allende there is no shortage of food options so we’ve narrowed it down to our favourite, and not so favourite spots.

Check out our Restaurant Hits and Misses here

Back Strap Loom Weaving has been practiced since pre-Hispanic times. I gave it go in San Cristobal de las Casas, and let’s just say I won’t be quitting my day job anytime soon!

This beautiful tradition and craft has been handed down generations. 

Depending on the size and intricacy of the design it can take anywhere from days to months to complete a piece.

It’s a fairly simple process and device but is by no means easy! You are essentially creating a grid pattern of interlocking yarns.

A loom is used to facilitate the weaving process, by providing a means of tensioning. 

The artisan usually kneels on the ground to weave. By moving their body, the weaver can control the amount of tension in the warp yarns throughout the weaving process.

The process:

  1. Cotton is threaded onto skeins
  2. Thread is selected with the patterns and colors of the final textile in mind.
  3. Once the thread is rolled, the design is painstakingly layered on the uridora, or warp board.
  4. The artisan establishes the final length and width of the piece. With the blackstrap technique the width is limited so this is usually used for small textiles like belts, bags, table runner, trim etc. 
  5. The warped thread is carefully transferred to the back strap loom.
  6. One end of the loom is tied to a tree, post, or wall. The other end is wrapped around the back of the artisan (hence blackstrap loom)
  7. You can increase or decrease tension by rocking forward or backward.
  8. The entire process and pattern is kept in the memory of the artisan, there are no written patterns or guides used.

No matter where in the world you are, just know there are 10 travel tips you can use anywhere to get the most out of your time there. Make it the best experience imaginable! Don’t look back – after some time – saying, “I wish I had done this and that”.

For this reason, we have created a checklist of things to do for an in-depth look at customs and culture even if you don’t have a lot of time.

Here is our list of 10 travel tips you can use anywhere at every destination.

Let’s go into detail. We’ll use Mexico as an example, as we’ve been living here for several months now! But really, no matter what destination, if you do these 10 things your stay will be so much richer.

1.  Learn the Language

Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to become fluent in all the languages of the countries you visit. Just enough to make a connection with the locals.

Learn to say ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’. Maybe learn how to introduce yourself, and how to order a beer (or anything else). You will see that locals open up whenever you make the effort of communicating in their native tongue!

Sometimes the local people don’t speak English, and communication can be quite challenging. What to do? Break the ice in their language to build rapport, and bust out Google translate to bridge any remaining communication gaps.

Wait, can we have two number one must tries?

The restaurants at tourist destinations are often overpriced, and have all kinds of food on the menu – just not the real deal. To really get to know the local cuisine you have to visit a restaurant that only locals frequent. How do know you’ve arrived? A place where the menu is not be written in English is a good sign. Another clue would be a slight feeling of being out of your comfort zone. I can promise it will be a great experience!

“What is your favorite restaurant” or “Where do the local families go for dinner”? These are our go to  questions when we are chatting with locals. Want a fancier dining option? Just ask, ‘Which restaurant(s) do the locals go to when they want to celebrate’. We suggest you add these Q’s to your arsenal, as well, if you are keen on trying some good, and local food.

3. Visit a Local Market

Go where the locals go to buy their groceries. Look at all the things that might be different from what is sold in your country.

In Mexico, go to the market (not the supermarket) to do your groceries, the produce is fresher and (so much) better priced. You’ll also find delicious meals ready to devour at the market and get a real look at local life. Just go, and try everything.

Apprehensive? That’s fine! Remember, they, you, and I have been carried through our respective markets – sometimes kicking and screaming – by our parents. You don’t have to call them mom or dad, but I am positive you can find an AirBnB Experience or tour guide to help calm the nerves. That’s how we got our feet wet with Mercado de Abastos in Oaxaca, Mexico (a 15 block street market known for its variety of goods, and petty crime). Now we feel at ease at any market even though we stick out like a sore thumb!

4. Use Public Transportation

To get to know a city use public transportation, like the locals – busses or Tuk-Tuks or the Metro whatever the popular mode of transport is, use it.

You will have the opportunity to learn how locals move about their city and in many cases navigating a city by yourself helps you get to know the place better.

Sometimes using public transport can be scary at first, but I promise it will be a worthwhile experience. It can be quite complicated too if you don’t have a good grasp of the language (see point one) and really is an experience in itself.

For example:

The public transport in Mexico is vastly different depending on where you are but colectivos (a.k.a Combi: a kind of shared minibus or shuttle) are popular in many small-size cities. They are the perfect (and sometimes only) option for intercity travel between smaller towns. For long distance trips (major intercity or interstate travel) you can travel ADO (the Greyhound of Mexico) at a much less expensive cost than flying – best if you don’t mind slow traveling.

5. Visit a Religious Site

At every destination you visit, there are religious sites. Get to know the culture, a little better, by visiting at least one. It can be a temple, a church, a shrine, or even a religious pilgrimage site.

In Mexico, you’d have to be trying pretty hard to not make your way to a church. Wait, what? Almost every town or city is centred around a church, but each is unique – from the architecture to the religious practice. See our post here about the indigenous villages of Chiapas

6. Participate in a Cultural Activity

​​Most everyone knows, ‘When in Rome’. So, if you have the chance, wherever you are, definitely participate in anything the locals do. Why? Well, it’s best to ‘Do as the Roman’s do’, when the goal is expand your cultural horizons! You know, not only learn and grow, but to blend in.

It can be anything from learning their dancing style to participating in ceremonies like building an altar for Dia de Muertos. Or Zen meditation, tantric yoga, and/or their go to local sport. Cultural festivals will give you a glimpse into the heritage and traditions – don’t miss out!

If you only visit the tourist sites, I am sure that will be a fun trip. But we want you to repeat the traveller’s mantra, “DMO (Don’t Miss OUT)!”

Ask around. The locals will know what kind of places are really worth a visit, and which places might not be.

If you prefer a more guided option, we highly recommend an AirBnB experiences over tour companies as you’ll usually be dealing with/having your experience with a person wanting to show you their slice of the world.

For example

In Merida, Mexico Cenotes (crater filled with water) are a popular activity but if you visit the known cenote sites you are likely to be climbing over people to get in the water – ask around, and blaze the trail less taken.

8. Walk Around Aimlessly

One of the best things you can do to really get to know a place is to walk around, and see where your feet take you. If you only go from tourist attraction to tourist attraction you will miss the most important part: The people living in the place you are currently visiting.

An additional bonus: It’s completely free! Walking around is one of the best and cheapest ways to get to know a place.

Another one of our favourite things to do when we get to a new place is take a free walking tour. Try booking on Guru Walk.

9. Ask About the Daily Routine of a Local

Not only will you have a perfect reason to start a conversation with a local, you will also probably learn something about the culture of the place in the process. Just ask your host or any random person you meet in a bar or on the streets.

A wise post once noted, ‘Get them talking about themselves and their is no limit to what you can learn’ – don’t miss out!

10. Capture all Experiences in Pictures and Text

To wrap up our 10 travel tips you can use anywhere, our advice is to capture all you memories. We write a blog about our experiences, but you don’t have to. You could just write a diary, or use an App. Or fill a scrapbook.

If you do these 10 things at every destination, your trips will be awesome and memorable.  Why? Because you didn’t leave anything undone!

What other things should people do at a destination? Tell us in the comments!

San Cristóbal de las Casas, the main hub for the state of Chiapas, is somewhere we know we will back to. It is full of beautiful architecture, nature and plenty of culture.

Our top things to do in San Cristobal de las Casa (or San Cris for short): 

Visit the. “José Castillo Tielemans” Market

Want to get a real taste for San Cris, this is where you’ll find it- there is everything from handicrafts to mountains of shrimp, fresh. fruit and vegetables, candles for religious ceremony and more. Whether you are interested in shopping or not we strongly suggest you take at least one stroll through the winding alleys of this market.

Learn from Young Producers

This was the first thing we did in San Cris and was hands down the best tour we’ve had in Mexico.

We explored the techniques of a whole range of artisans and producers – from textiltes to food and alcohol. We learnt what makes them unique from the rest; and were immersed in the handmade scene of San Cristobal.

Along the way we visited:

The market

To get a look at local life, understand how and where the goods we were buying came from.

A recycled paper plant

Here they make paper from plant fiber, recycled or unwanted paper and cardboard and turn it into beautiful woodblock prints, books, notebooks, diaries, you name it. During our visit we learnt about the whole process of how the paper is made and were given a piece to take home with us.

Cheese, chocolate and coffee makers

What more could you ask for really?! Each were different stops and were equally delicious – the amount of cheese, chocolate and coffee we tried was insane!

A pulqueria

If you haven’t heard of pulque before it’s often referred to as the “healthy” alcohol or the drink of the gods. The pre-hispanic drink is another product from the agave, it is fermented which produces a is thick and viscous drink that can substitute as a meal. Its produced and consumed mainly in states of central Mexico, such as Tlaxcala, State of Mexico, Puebla, Querétaro, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Michoacán, Oaxaca, San Luis Potosí but as part of this experience you’ll be taken to a hidden gem in San Cris so you can. try pulque in Chiapas.

Visit indigenous villages

Interesting facts about the villages:

  • they have their own police force
  • the villages rule autonomously
  • they have their own customs
  • they have their own traditional dress
  • they have their own holidays and celebrations

 San Juan Chamula

A village just out of San Cris with a high indigenous population where shamanism is believed in and practised.

In Chamula you’ll inevitably visit the main church where stepping inside is unlike anything we’d ever experienced before. The church is covered in thousands and thousands of candles (literally), with different colours and meanings, and the ground is covered in pine needles. People are huddled in groups, some engaging in sacrificial practices and prayers.

Another interesting site in San Juan Chamula is the cemetery, which doesn’t have colourful headstones or tombs like others you’ll see across Mexico, just mounds covered in pine needs and crosses of different colours signalling the age of the person that has been laid to rest there.

Zinacantán

Another small village close to San Cris with a population that’s 99.1 percent Tzotzil Maya.

As you approach the village from the mountain the slopes surrounding the village are full of greenhouses growing flowers of which the village is famous for.  

In Zinacantan you can witness a more colourful cemetery, 2,700m high with the most amazing view over the town. The Mayans believe that after you die you remain part of the community and from the mountain you can overlook what’s going on.

There is also an option to visit some artisans in Zinacantán, we were lucky enough to visit twice – the first on an AirBnB experience and the second with a friend from San Cris. On our second trip we visited the home of a local family and I was able to try the back strap loom (I don’t think I’ll quit my day job!).

Please note: you cannot take photos in the churches of either Chamula or Zinacantán and you should be very wary of taking photos without permission outside of the church as well, although in  Zinacantán you will be approached a lot to take photos in exchange for cash.

El Chiflon and Montebello Lagos

El Chiflon Waterfalls

A multi-tiered cascade, surrounded by mountains and rainforest.

Advice #1: Bring a change of clothes – you will get wet! Before we started our journey, we grabbed a bite to eat at the on-site restaurant. A bit pricier than San Cristobal but that’s the way it goes when there are no other options.

Advice #2: Do as the locals do, and bring a picnic. There are plenty of places dedicated to just that, or you can find a quaint spot for you. It’s a good walk. I’d say a good km or two (expect an hour long trek).

Advice #3: bring footwear with a grip! Now I saw a guy zooming by in jandals so what you wear is up to you. However, the trail past the first (of 4!) Waterfalls become slippery and uneven. Besides often walking to get that perfect view requires getting dirty; which brings me to –

Advice #4: Bring an extra pair of clothes. So, an hour later (unless you’re Mr. Jandal & enjoy a good speed walk) you will have reach the cherry on top – the 150m waterfall! Where the mist creates rainbows, and the remaining 50m leads to the perfect view towards where you started while drenching you in cascading waters. We did this trip in the winter months so could not jump in the gorgeous river, but –

Advice #5: bring swim gear and a towel.

Don’t feel like walking back? Good, they have several zipline runs (150m, 200m, and 300m) topping @ $200 pesos (~$6 US).

Montebello Lakes

A collection of 52 crystal clear lakes surrounded by pine forest. Here, you can dive into the refreshing blue waters, and even cross in a cayuco (a small, rustic wooden raft).

Pssst you may also want to check out our 10 Things To Do in Every Destination.

Teotitlán del Valle is known for Zapotec weaving, using traditional techniques, tools, dyes, and patterns.

If you are interested in the crafts and artisans of Mexico, Teotitlán del Valle, a small Mexican village near Oaxaca city is a must visit.

Teotitlán del Valle is known for Zapotec weaving, using traditional techniques, tools, dyes, and patterns.

We were able to watch and learn about the whole process at Casa Don Juan and, I’ll tell you what, the art of natural dye is impressive, and so is the weaving and machines used to produce these beautiful pieces.

From woven clothing to traditional wool rugs, you’ll find It all in this community.

Zapotec weaving rugs

There is roughly 400,000 Zapotecs, known as the “cloud people”, around Mexico, but they once mostly inhabited the Valley of Oaxaca, where they built ancient cities such as Monte Alban and Mitla.

The Zapotec weaving process

Preparing the yarn 

Most pieces are made from wool – sheep, yak and alpaca but historically agave fibre and cotton were also used. To prepare the yarn the wool is brushed using paddles with wire prongs to get the fibres all laying in the same direction. Once it’s been thoroughly brushed, it is spun on a wheel into a usable yarn.

Natural dye process

The bundles of spun yarn are dyed using a mixture of plants, minerals and bugs, including marigolds, indigo and cactus parasites. After dying the yarn, it is washed in the river to ensure the colour doesn’t run on the final piece.

No two batches will every be the exact same colour adding to the beauty of this technique.

Weaving

The majority of the townspeople work in the weaving industry, and the families usually form co-ops by working on their pieces in their own homes and selling them from a central location. Each family or co-op has their own style, process and patterns when it comes to weaving. They all use Zapotec symbols, which hold special meaning, but the way they are combined is unique to the family. These patterns are blended into every piece from memory, and the techniques have been passed down through the generations!

Popular Zapotec weaving symbols used in the patterns are: 

  • Zapotec Star 
    The four points of the diamond represent elements of earth, air, water and fire.
  • Mountains
    A reminder of the transition of the Zapotec through the mountains, all of them sacred. 
  • Rain water
    One of the most vital elements for the sustenance of life. Signifies renewal, fertility and change. 
  • Cycle of life
    The geometric spiral represents the life cycle according to the Zapotec worldview.

    Each step represents a stage of life, beginning at birth and moving through youth, maturity and then decay, followed by the other world.
  • Clouds
    Zapotec Indians are known as people of the clouds.
  • Agave
    The agave or the maguey as it’s locally known is integral to the central valleys of Oaxaca.

    Both wild and cultivated, this plant offers sweet nectar that can be enjoyed as is or fermented into the local alcohol, mezcal.
  • Leaves
    Leaves of life are collected and help with health, respect, purity and healing.
  • Butterfly 
    The butterfly represents the spirit of the ancestors. When someone dies the spirit becomes a butterfly.

The whole process is time consuming but the finished product is not only beautiful but also helps to preserve the Zapotec tradition, culture and history.

Pro tip: We recommend you stop off at Teotitlán del Valle on your way to the Tlacolula market day.

The best way to get a feel for the city is to go to the local market and the markets in Oaxaca are a full blow event!

Most of the markets in Centro (Central Oaxaca City) are open 7 days a week.

The main Centro markets are:

Benito Júarez

This one is a little mix of everything and you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s part of the 20th November market across the street.

20th November (across the street from Benito Júarez

This is the place to go for good, cheap food!

You can get fresh barbecue meat, just pick your cut and they will grill it for you then and there along with your vegetables of choice, then all you have to do is pick your salsas and grab some tortillas.

There is also a plethora of other food available as well as other products typical to Oaxacan markets.

Both are only one block from the Zócalo, and easy to find, just follow the people and the smell of the food!   

Central de Abastos 

The largest and busiest of all Centro markets is Central de Abastos.

Central de Abastos has much more of a local feel and we’d recommend you go with someone. We aren’t kidding when we say this place is huge and it’s easy to get lost. We went with Javier and it was $25 USD for the both of us.

Here you can get pretty much everything you can think of from fresh food, spices, spiritual herbs and elements, clothes (traditional and western), ceramics and more.

Días de Mercado (Market Days)

Other markets, out of Centro are only open on specific days of the week or at least have more of a presence on their specific market day. At these markets vendors travel in from their towns to sell their wares so there’s plenty of variety.

  • Sunday / Domingo: Tlacolula de Matamoros 
  • Monday / Lunes: Miahuatlán de Porfirio Diaz
  • Tuesday / Martes: Ayoquezco de Aldama 
  • Wednesday / Miércoles: Villa de Etla 
  • Thursday/ Jueves: Zaachila
  • Friday / Viernes: Ocotlán de Morelos
  • Saturday / Sábado: Cuidad de Oaxaca

Tlacolula

The Tlacolula Church next to the market

The one you’ll hear most about and biggest is Tlacolula on Sunday.

Famous for food, the barbacoa goat is a must try at Tlacolula along with churros and fresh bread from the large panaderia section.

You’ll also find plenty of handicrafts here including flax weaved goods such as baskets and mats, shoes, a dizzying array of traditional aprons as well as all the other usual suspects.

Ocotlán

We also visited Ocotlán, the Friday market. The town of Ocotlán is home to a beautiful baby blue church and the market was filled with beautiful flowers, especially Marigolds as we were visiting during Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) – read about the significance of the cempasúchil (marigolds) and Dia de Muertos here 

Frida’s Kitchen

Make sure you stop at La Cocina de Frida (“Frida’s Kitchen”), and grab a bite to eat – we had a mole tasting plate and it was delicious!

Getting to the Días de Mercado (Market Days)

The cheapest want to get to any of the markets is to take a colectivo (a shared van, kind of like a bus), a colectivo will cost roughly 25 pesos per person each way. You’ll need to ask your accommodation which colectivo stop is closest to where you are staying. As we are traveling during covid we used a private driver – Luis for both Ocotlán and Tlacolula. Utilising a private driver will also enable you to make stops at other points of interest along the way that you may have missed. After Tlacolula we visited Teotitlán del Valle famous for Zapotec weaving.

Luis is $350 pesos per hour and is best contacted by Whatsapp +52 1 951 118 4534

For somewhere that doesn’t grow a lot of cacao itself, Oaxaca punches above its weight in the chocolate department.

It’s mostly consumed in a drink but there are plenty of blocks around too.

Check out this Oaxaqueño Chocolate recipe and tutorial if you’re interested in making your own. There’s nothing like peeling your own cacao to make you really appreciate the work that goes into your sweet treat.

Ingredients:

  • 500 gr. cacao
  • 400 gr. sugar
  • 1/4 slice of cinnamon
  • 15 almonds

Directions:

  1. Roast the cacao for 25 minutes over a hot flame.
  2. Let it cool and peel all the cacao.
  3. Blend the cacao with the almonds and cinnamon.
  4. Blend again adding the sugar.
  5. Pour into your moulds and let cool.
  6. Mix 2 pieces in 1 lt. of hot milk or hot water.
  7. Enjoy a hot chocolate.

Thinking of moving to Mexico but not sure about finances Every month we share the cost of living in Mexico with a full breakdown.

In November we spent most of the month in Oaxaca, and honestly, given the amount we ate out in Oaxaca, November isn’t as bad as I thought! Check out restaurant reviews for Oaxaca here.

Expenses
Rent $621.00
Cellphone $30.18
Groceries $116.05
Eating Out $624.82
Activities $307.98
Toiletries/Pharmacy $30.10
Laundry $14.83
Laptop Repayments $91.00
Cold weather clothes $45.36
Overnight Bus Oaxaca to San Cris $92.00


Total expenses $1991.14
Income $4.848.83

Note:

Our income and expenses is for x 2 people and is made up of multiple streams and excludes business expenses such as VAs, other. contractors, software etc.

In November our income was made up of:

$663.69 – Teaching English Online
$2214.02 – Freelance (in November 3 x clients were late paying invoices for work that had been completed to the value of $2,076.20 which will be transferred to the month it is paid)
$1972.12 – Part-time employment income

All $ mentioned are converted to USD using the latest exchange rate at the time of reporting.

We also did a healthy dose of shopping this month that we have chosen NOT to include on our report in order to keep its accurate but for transparency sake the shopping, including shipping to New Zealand came to $1,100 and was things for our future home that we wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else – Zapotec rugs, art etc.

We hope you enjoyed reading about the cost of living in Mexico, stayed tuned for next months report.

Don’t get bogged down with how many different Authentic food experiences you can have. We were in Oaxaca City for 4 weeks and have tried some of the best restaurants on offer – also many nights of Little Caesars – and hope our experiences help inform yours!

Itanoni – Gotta family-sized appetite?

Great food for the family! The food is affordable,  nearly American-sized portions, and delicious. Best of all, you get a complete view of the kitchen – perfect for authentic Oaxacan IG/TikTok clips! I would say this place is perfect for eating delicious Oaxacan cuisine – on a budget!

Levadura de Olla Bold with a dash of quaint

We went here on an AirBnB Experience and it was the highlights of that tour! This place is all about reviving traditional Oaxacan Recipes and invigorating them with modern flavors. You must try the Stone Broth Soup!

Pan:am – Consider it Brunch’d 

  • Waffles w/berry jam: good & tasty  – 🍓 Jam put it over the top!
  • Molletes w/cochinita pibil (marinated pork): As delicious as is simple. 
  • 🍊Orange  Juice
  • Limonada 
  • Latte
  • Total: $364pesos ($17.85US)
  • Atmosphere: Music reminds me of the kind 60s rock you’ll hear in a diner. Hip! The spacing is well done, but you will always see people in your peripherals – yeah, there are a lot of people. True sign of a good restaurant, right? The food is good and well priced. Not all that hungry? Most meals have the option to cut the standard portion in half w/significant reduction in price.

Boulenc – Absolute must attend!

  • Shakshuka: The sauce was sweet, the bread perfect, and cream cheese put it over the top.
  • English Muffin: this is a sandwich, and the highlight here is the bread. Don’t get me wrong the eggs and cheese 🧀 are tasty as well.
  • Bahn Mi: don’t let the fact it’s completely vegetarian deter you – it’s perfect. The pickled carrot 🥕 makes this sandwich a crunch fest.
  • x 2 Dos Equis
  • Limonada Mineral
  • Total: $364pesos ($17.70US)
  • Atmosphere: This place is packed – Always! But there is a good use of space. I’d say the vibe is hipsteresque: You will see all types of people – mostly tourists – and the music is as cool as it is current, yet somehow not mainstream. Making the above scrumptious meal is just the side-hustle. They make delicious bread (pan) 🍞 first and foremost. In fact, their bakery (next door) has even more customers!

Zandunga – Dinner is served!

  • Grilled vegetables: quite nice 
  • Beef Empanadas: nice and crunchy👌
  • Red & Black mole chicken enchiladas: highlight of the meal – mole was smooth and rich!
  • x 2 Agua Tamarind
  • x 2 Ixtepec Cocktail (jarabe especiado, pineapple 🍍 juice, lemon 🍋, and mezcal)
  • Total: $755pesos ($37.46 US)
  • Atmosphere: Great. Smartly dressed beautiful people. The music is lively – even the rendition of Drake Hotline Bling instrumental was thoroughly Mexican! The food arrived ASAP. The staff were attentive, but knew only a little English.

Pitiona – Go for the vibes; stay for the food!

  • Tostada de Jaiba (crab 🦀 taquitos): Crunchy and the crab was succulent. Dynamite appetizer!
  • Gorditas de Tripa: Thick, grilled and crunchy corn 🌽 tortilla with the “filling” piled on top (instead of inside). The filling was thinly shredded, fried and chewy intestines. Delicious, but may not be for everybody!
  • Tacos de Lechon (pork taco 🌮): It was perfect! Thick cut of pork w/chopped chicharrón (aka crackling) sprinkled on top and a hint of guacamole. Truly the dinner’s highlight; personally, a bit more guacamole would have cut through fat. Unfortunately, this was part of a taco of the day option – I’m not sure this meal will be available on your visit.
  • Albondigas en pipian (shrimp 🦐 meatballs on a bed of mole): The mole was new to me and not my favorite, but I do not want to dissuade you from trying. To be clear, I loved its rich flavour, but could not appreciate the gritty texture. The huge chunks of shrimp and thinly sliced zucchini was the saving grace. 
  • Gasnate: Both my wife and I loved it. Very sweet but not overbearing. Only negative, small portion – it’s not the best option for sharing.
  • x 1 Beso apasionado: 
  • x 1 Limon 🍋 Margarita: 
  • x 2 Limonada 
  • Total: $1,426 Pesos ($70 US)
  • Atmosphere: This place feels fancy, and the people are dressed to impress. And it should, this is one of the most aesthetically beautiful restaurants I‘ve had the pleasure of dining at in Oaxaca City. Whether you eat inside or on the terrace, you will enjoy light music and feel the intimacy – spacing was well done here. There are several different areas on the terrace that provide a different view of the city as well as a sense of VIP, but all areas have a magnificent view of Templo de Santo Domingo!

Casa Oaxaca – Night of laughter and merriment

  • Squash blossoms filled w/ricotta: light, fresh and tasty! Small dish that will leave a powerful impression.
  • Paddle cactus 🌵 and watermelon 🍉 salad (Nopales Salad): beetroot was earthy, and the watermelon clashing w/citrus flavors were spot on!
  • Yellow Mole (vegetarian): Scrumptious! Veggie patties perfect for absorbing the flav-tastic sauce, the veggies were perfect but the broccoli 🥦 stole the show.
  • Suckling Pig 🐖: The veggies, pork, and mole were cooked to perfection. 
  • x 1 Xocontstle Cocktail (pineapple🍍, tuna, mezcal)
  • x 1 Verde es Vida Cocktail (cucumber 🥒, mint, mezcal)
  • x 1 Dos Pasiones Cocktail (passionfruit, apple 🍎, mezcal)
  • x 1 Limonada
  • Chocolate Sierra: A mountain of chocolate well worth the climb – chocolate crisps, rich chocolate ice cream, crunchy cacao nibs, and mint flakes
  • Total: $1,523.00pesos ($74.00US)
  • Atmosphere: we recommend you make a reservation. We were seated immediately, but it seems like you may have a sincere case of FOMO if you’re after a joyous social night. We were seated away from the lively music 🎶 and jubilant laughter coming from the area upstairs. However, this may be a blessing for those seeking a more intimate evening. People were spaced far enough away to be outside our peripherals! The staff were attentive, created a salsa at our table, and spoke English well. 

Los Danzantes – Did somebody say Je Ne Sais Quoi? 

  • Mogo Mogo (fried plantain stuffed w/stew): Rich tomato 🍅 sauce. The beef and plantain combination made for a sweet stew. It cut through the sauce’s creamy richness. Playful!
  • 🥥 Coconut Shrimp w/rice in sweet and source sauce: The shrimp 🦐 was huge! The shrimp 🍤 was crunchy! The shrimp was strong with the coconut 🥥! Personally, I thought the sweet and sour clashed with the coconut shrimp, but it completely compliments the rice 🍚. An absolute pleasure!
  • New York fillet (400g) w/potato 🥔 terrine: It was Medium Rare, and my wife ordered Medium Well. So, I ate it. Yeah my cholesterol is uh terrible! If we talk about what we ordered: definitely loses a point because she doesn’t like her steak pink or bloody. If we are talking about what we got: Succulent! The accompanying potato terrine and salad 🥗were good.
  • Pork ribs in a bed of apple 🍎 & plantain puree: very nice! Loved the tenderness of the meat 🍖 – talking fall off the bone. The apple-plantain flavors made everything spot on – not too sweet, not too smokey. Don’t let the look fool you – it’s good!
  • Chocolate cascade (lava cake): Decadent! Great sharing portion. Vanilla ice cream 🍨 mixed well with the berry jam. Together they blended well with the gooey chocolate and cake.
  • x1 Elegant stranger:
  • x1 Limonada
  • Total: $1,828 Pesos (~$91 US)
  • Atmosphere: This was the 2nd or 3rd most expensive place we ate in Oaxaca City – it is perfect for a dinner date, or small group for after work drinks. The food, vibes and décor make for a perfect place to get dressed up and unwind. Spacing was well done, but there will be people all around you – couples dressed up and groups dressed smart. I suggest you make a reservation – almost guarantee it will be packed. We didn’t, but were able to leave a name and number. We were called 15 or so minutes later. Are you a tourist? I recommend requesting Omar as your waiter. He was delightful – whether anecdotes about Mexico; meal choices; or future tourist destinations!

Criollo – Now that’s smancy. No! The epitome of Fancy.

  • Ground beef garnacha w/picked onions: Crunchy! Deliciousness! Wish I could have had more!
  • Cheese ball on a bed of jalapeno puree: My wife was over the moon when this arrived. Basically, a deconstructed jalapeno popper – the cheese 🧀 cut right through the spiciness!
  • Lentil soup 🍲 w/tomato 🍅 and crispy potato: Great! Potato was crunchy and loved the flavors.
  • Cochinita Pibil: the empanada crust was crispy, and the marinated pork left a lasting impression!
  • Soft Shell crab 🦀 w/chickpea puree: Highlight of the night! The puree was creamy except for a few un-mashed chickpeas, which provided a balancing texture. I’m a seafood junkie and the crab did not disappoint!
  • Plantain and chicken smothered in yellow mole: All three make for a winning combination – great blend of sweet and savory! 
  • Chocolate cake w/chocolate ice cream and bananas: Good. Aside from the presentation, nothing really stood out.
  • x1 Tangerine Margarita
  • x1 Grapefruit Mezcalita 
  • x1 Limonada
  • Total: 2,580 Pesos (~$120 US)
  • Atmosphere: This place is fancy – best fine dining experience in Oaxaca city!  Beautiful and open courtyard – be sure to dress warm during the winter months – on a clear night you will be sure to see stars 🌃. Speaking of attire, dressing smart is the way to go! Criollo has a 7-course tasting menu that changes daily. This means there are at least 7 new reasons why you should dine here; although your reasons will be different than mine, you can still look forward to intimate music, an attentive wait staff and a dynamite drink menu. Yes, the price is steep! That’s why I recommend this place for an expensive date, family celebration/special occasion, or tourist must do! Remember, the meal will be unique, and the experience unforgettable.

Honorable Mentions

Everywhere we go we are told the places you just have to try. These are the places we just could not get to, but hope you try!

  • Tacos de Lechon – small shop that makes the best street-style pork tacos!
  • Marco Polo – A seafood lover’s delight
  • Memela Ladies – The stand is unnamed. It’s called this because sisters have been making dynamite Memelas for 3 generations. Street stand near the San Augustin church
  • La Hormiga (The Ant) – Tortas stand. Makes the best sandwiches in Oaxaca City!
  • Quinta BravaDelicious food!  We took a cooking class and it was a fantastic experience. Dedicated Chef! The restaurant is under construction currently. 

Places you can skip

El Destilado – Intimate Setting w/beautiful decor. The bar food was a miss. Best for a drink!

Gozobi – The food was good, but not great. There is a large terrace, but facing the wrong direction. Decent drink menu. You will have a nice meal. It’s just, nothing WOW’d me here – even the prices were middle of the pack. 

MezzaLuna – Big swing and a Miss!

  • Pesto Fettuccini: the flavors were not right and it was cold
  • Lobster Ravioli: tasty and creamy, but cold as well.
  • Caesar Salad: good. Nothing to write home about.
  • Margarita
  • Limonada
  • Total: $854pesos (~$41US)
  • Atmosphere: This place has a beautiful atmosphere. There were few highlights of this dinner outing: The terrace view was great.  The staff were kind, attentive, and spoke English well. The music was that kind of café jazz that adds without being intrusive. Sadly, our experience failed to live up to the reputation. 
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