As suggested in commentaries about touring the villages of Oaxaca, renting a car in Oaxaca has its downsides. Since it’s important for tourists visiting Oaxaca to see the sights in the central valleys, a summary of the alternatives can be a useful tool when budgeting both time and money.
The alternatives to renting, are hiring a tour guide or accredited driver, hopping in a taxi, reserving on a tour bus, taking colectivos, or using the second class bus system. The first option is usually the most expensive. But one should consider, for each option, the quality of service one can reasonably expect and the extent to which it will be personalized, security based on reputation of the individual or company and vehicle type, and the amount of time one has at his or her disposal and the choice and optimum number of sights one wishes to visit.
Tour Guides and Drivers in Oaxaca
Hiring a tour guide or driver with experience taking tourists to the sights in the central valleys of Oaxaca is the best option for those who can afford it, and / or for those who will only be in Oaxaca for a few days and want a full, quality, cultural experience. The professional should be bilingual, He should have routes in mind for recommending in advance, depending on the list of priorities, interests and passions with which he is provided by the prospective client.
Tour guides and drivers have pre-established relationships with management at various sights, as well as with the craftspeople, which ensures that the client’s experiences proceed smoothly and positively. However, the expert should be amenable to taking clients to any other specific workshop or sight not on his agenda or regular routes, without question. He should also always respect the client’s wish to spend as much or as little time at a particular stop, or to omit or add sights. Of course this is necessarily subject to time constraints and any prior arrangements which have been made to attend a particular sight pursuant to wishes previously expressed by the client.
As part of providing value-added service to the client, the guide should be able to make recommendations regarding confirming that prices for particular crafts are within an acceptable range, but he should not be called upon to negotiate on a client’s behalf. Relaying offers and translating is one thing, but being asked to become part of the purchase process is not part of his job, and he should not be expected to assume that role. On the other hand, the fact that he is recommending certain workshops should be a good indication that he believes that the prices being charged are fair.
The tour guide or driver should also be willing to provide advice and assistance regarding packing and shipping of purchases. He should be able to take the client to establishments to purchase packing materials, and to shipping facilities such as DHL, FEDEX, Mailboxes Etc, and AREEM. Finally, he should be willing to follow up when a shipment is delayed or a purchase arrives damaged.
The Cabbie as an Alternative to a Tour Guide or Driver
Using a taxi driver for touring the towns and villages in the central valleys of Oaxaca is generally more economical than hiring a guide or an accredited driver, sometimes less than half the cost. And there are some cabbies who come recommended by hotels and bed & breakfast lodgings. But there are other considerations which ought to be pondered prior to committing.
Is the taxi driver’s English up to snuff? Is the mechanical fitness of his vehicle at the same level one would expect from a comparable driver in Canada or the United States? Is his vehicle insured? Has there been an opportunity to discuss options well in advance of that morning you plan to head out on the tour? Does the individual have a track record that you’ve been able to confirm?
Those travelers with a working knowledge of Spanish, and who have done their homework and know exactly where they want to go, and are confident that their wishes will be met with the taxi driver’s compliance, should do just fine. But one should not expect to receive value-added service from a cabbie. On balance he hasn’t been trained to provide it. If an issue arises, or an opportunity to do and see something different and spectacular presents itself, he may not be up to the task. And if follow-up at the conclusion of the tour or after the vacation is required, it’s doubtful you’ll have an effective, reliable means of communication.
Guide and Driver, Taxi, and The Rest
With a tour bus one can count on predictability, without personalized service and without the ability to exercise choice. Colectivos and second class buses, while the most economical, do not afford any guarantees whatsoever – not all that attractive when it comes to a short vacation, with the next trip to Oaxaca to see missed sights and opportunities, not in the foreseeable future. If one has the luxury of being able to afford a guide / driver, go for it.