Where to Rent for a Oaxacan Vacation – Urban v. Rural Hotel / B & B
When planning to vacation in Oaxaca, in a hotel or b & b, it’s important to know the advantages and disadvantages of downtown versus suburban or rural accommodations. When vacationing in Oaxaca, travelers in their twenties and tourists with only two or three days to spend for a visit, tend to prefer downtown accommodations, close to the zocalo. After all, walking from the hotel or bed & breakfast to downtown sights is easy, and proximity to the best Oaxaca restaurants is not an issue. But lodgings in the suburbs or nearby towns and villages can provide distinct advantages over downtown Oaxaca accommodations.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Downtown Oaxaca Accommodations
Proximity to almost everything in the centro historico is the major advantage of staying at a hotel or b & b in downtown Oaxaca. You can go out in the morning, have lunch, and then go back to the hotel for a snooze before dinner. And of course walking home from the restaurant is easy. One is in the midst of a quaint, colonial Mexican city.
Taxis are unnecessary to get to and from any major attraction in downtown Oaxaca, though some tourists don’t see it that way.
Bu there are downsides to lodging in the downtown sector of Oaxaca:
- NOISE: While suburban and out-of-town accommodations have their noisy moments, downtown Oaxaca these days has significant road construction, bus traffic, and horn honking. Many hotels and b & b lodgings are perfectly quiet, especially the fancy hotels with thick walls. A room back from the street is preferred, regardless of the lodging type in downtown Oaxaca. Fiesta-time can be particularly noisy with bands blaring, fireworks and reveling to the wee hours.
- POLLUTION: Without enforcement of emissions regulations, car, truck and bus exhaust fumes can be problematic. And since the downtown core of Oaxaca is generally at a lower altitude than the suburbs and many villages, and enclosed by buildings, it feels hotter downtown, without breezes; the pollution sticks. Traffic is stop-and-go most hours of the day, even without road construction. Many businesses close for siesta from roughly 2 – 4 pm, when many shopkeepers go home; meaning that there are twice as many rush hours as one generally encounters in the US or Canada – more traffic during more hours.
- INTANGIBLE: Staying in downtown Oaxaca means that aside from touring the craft villages and other out-of-town sights, there is very little opportunity to simply “get away from it,” meaning the constant bombardment of stimuli, be it street vendors, traffic, noise and pollution, or crowds; though of course it’s nothing compared to the downtown sectors of large New World cities.
Suburban and Out-of-Town Oaxaca Accommodations Aren’t Perfect Either
Lodging in a suburb or neighborhood such as Reforma, Loma Linda, San Felipe or Guadalupe Victoria; or out-of-town in Huayapam, Tlalixtac, Etla or Teotitlan del Valle, similarly has pluses and minuses.
The major downsides to lodging outside of downtown Oaxaca are:
- NOISE: The types of sounds and noises one hears while lodging outside of downtown Oaxaca are different, and yes, sometimes disturbing late at night and early in the morning. There are dogs, roosters and donkeys; and every type of goods and services vendor with car top loud speakers blaring messages and jingles, and honking horns – hawking tortillas, propane, fruit, buns and pastries, water and more. If staying near a valley, sounds echo, particularly disturbing when fireworks go off or there are late night parties; but remember that downtown is not immune to late-night fireworks and music either.
A word to the wise: Regardless of whether your hotel is in downtown Oaxaca or in the hinterland, bring along a pair of earplugs, just in case. Southern Mexico by and large lacks enforcement of noise bylaws.
- GENERAL INCONVENIENCE: One generally must take a bus or taxi, or walk, to get back to the hotel or bed & breakfast, or to get downtown for that matter. However, many b & bs and hotels offer rides downtown or private bus shuttle service, greatly reducing the inconvenience. While there are grocery stores and restaurants in the outlying areas, the selection is not that great. However, there are in fact numerous small convenience stores and night-time taco stands serving delectable full meals and snacks. As well, there are some extremely good restaurants outside of the downtown core, patronized by even downtown Oaxaca residents: Mambo Italiano, Caldo de Piedra, restaurants in the suburban hotels, etc.
Lodging Outside of Oaxaca City Proper Has Its Advantages
But for many, such as the more seasoned travelers, those with the luxury of being able to have an extended visit to Oaxaca, or vacationers who want a more laid-back experience, suburban and village accommodations hold a definite allure:
- RELAXATION: Suburban accommodations often have walking, hiking and nature trails nearby, rarely found downtown. The air is cleaner and fresher.
- CULTURAL EXPERIENCE: One actually feels part of a Mexican neighborhood, rather than as a tourist amidst throngs of other tourists and merchants marketing a product or service at every corner. Suburban accommodations provide for a bit of both worlds, lodging away from the hubbub and in a “real” Mexican setting, yet one is only a short drive or walk to all the action.
Choose Carefully, But Rest Assured: Urban, Suburban or Rural, It’s Hard to Go Wrong
Due diligence is the key, so as long as the visitor to Oaxaca does a bit of homework and investigation, and asks prospective hosts the right questions. The decision then becomes easy.