GUADALAJARA TRAVEL TIPS for Mexico’s 2nd Largest City
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Guadalajara is one of the most affordable cities in Mexico to fly into from the United States. Therefore, many people make Guadalajara their first stop on their Mexico journey. If you’re planning a trip to Mexico, Guadalajara should definitely be on your list of places to visit. This vibrant city, in the state of Jalisco offers visitors a rich cultural experience, delicious food, stunning architecture, and fantastic day trips. In this blog post, I’ll be sharing my top Guadalajara travel tips to help you make the most of your trip.
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GUADALAJARA TRAVEL TIP: City Facts
People from Guadalajara are called Tapatios because of the word “tapatío”, which means someone who is hospitable, friendly, and warm-hearted. It’s a term that reflects the city’s welcoming culture and the people’s cheerful and generous nature. I can confirm this from first-hand experience.
Guadalajara is the city of mariachis
Guadalajara is known as the “City of Mariachis” due to its deep roots in the traditional Mexican music genre. Mariachi originated in the state of Jalisco, where Guadalajara is located, and is now recognized as an important cultural heritage by UNESCO. The city is home to various mariachi schools, groups, and festivals, attracting visitors from all over the world. Mariachi music is an integral part of the city’s culture, with musicians often playing in public squares, restaurants, and even on the streets. You can even pay a visit to the Plazuela de los Mariachis- though they only play when you pay them.
The original language of Guadalajara (Nahuatl)
The original language of Guadalajara is Nahuatl, a language spoken by the indigenous people of Mexico, particularly in the central region. Nahuatl has a rich history and cultural significance, and many of its words and expressions have been adopted into Mexican Spanish. Although Nahuatl is no longer the primary language spoken in Guadalajara, it remains an important part of the city’s cultural heritage and is still spoken by some of its indigenous communities.
What to Wear in Guadalajara
I was really curious about this topic before I arrived. It’s always important to be aware of general fashion or cultural trends when it comes to what you put on your body while traveling. However, I found that here in Mexico, anything goes. There are women wearing short skirts, long skirts, pants, flats and high heels. Men wear mostly jeans with a T-shirt or collared shirt- both short and long sleeve. Due to the heat, lots of people wear hats- both caps and sombreros, or wide brim hats.
Tipping in Guadalajara
It is common practice to tip 10% at restaurants.
Where to Exchange Money in Guadalajara
You can find a ton of “Casas de Cambio” right along Calle López Cotilla, right in the centro, beginning at Av. 16 de Septiembre. There will be large signs out front showing the buy/sell rates. I was not asked for my passport to exchange.
GUADALAJARA TRAVEL TIP: Get from the Airport to the Centro
This section will offer the best Guadalajara travel tips between the city and the airport.
The Chapala Plus bus company goes from (near) the airport to the Guadalajara city center. The bus comes to the Oxxo, about a 6 minute walk from the airport. The price should be around 60 pesos. It will drop you off at the Estación Central Vieja.
Taking a taxi from the airport was incredibly easy. I often get nervous about this type of thing because often airport taxis are quite scammy. But here it was a very official operation. After you leave immigration and head towards the exit doors, you’ll pass by car rental companies, and then you’ll see a couple very large signs that say “TAXI.” Head over there to pre-pay for your taxi. You can pay with credit card or Apple Pay.
The taxi from the airport to the city center cost me 360 pesos ($18usd). I personally think it’s worth it to pay for a taxi after an international flight when arriving to a new country.
While I was waiting in line at immigration, I heard a local say “if you cross the bridge, you can find cheaper taxis.” I did not do that, but if you are feeling adventurous, you can try to figure out where that bridge is, and cross it!
Both Uber and Didi ride sharing apps work here in Mexico. You can pay with your credit card, or choose the cash option. They work exactly the same here as they do anywhere else. Input your destination, select your location, and your driver will pick you up. Here’s what you need to know about using these ride share apps to/from the airport. They cannot actually enter the official airport area where the taxis queue. You’ll just need to head over to the nearest Oxxo to the airport, and find your driver there.
GUADALAJARA TRAVEL TIP: Transportation Within the City
In this section, you will find the Guadalajara travel tips for how to get around this massive city.
Even though Guadalajara is a massive city, I found it to be quite walkable. Make sure you bring good walking shoes to avoid blisters. I found myself walking nearly 20,000 steps per day.
If you’re not in the mood to walk, there are taxis around everywhere and you can easily flag one down. There are also taxi stands near main plazas. I have heard though that if you are staying at a hotel, you should have the concierge call a taxi for you to ensure it is legit and you’ll get the correct prices.
Both Uber and DiDi are used in Guadalajara, though I found DiDi prices to be slightly lower. In both apps, you can add your credit card ahead of time, so the transaction is very quick and easy. Here is a rough list of prices for taking Didi in GDL, from the Plaza de Armas:
To Antigua Estación Central (the old bus terminal): $40 pesos
To Tonalá: $200 pesos
To Tlaquepaque: $80-$100 pesos
You will see several green city buses moving around town. The locals call these “camiones,” which literally translates to “trucks.” I suggest asking the bus driver about your final destination before boarding just to ensure you’re going to the right place. I took a few wrong buses because locals told me the incorrect number. After a while, I started asking multiple people and the bus driver to further reassurance.
There are not obvious bus stops. Locals seem to just know where the stops are. So make sure to ask a local which street corner or store front to stand in front of. This could be a courageous adventure if you’re not comfortable speaking Spanish. The price is $9.50 pesos each ride. You can pay with change by dropping your coins into a slot when you enter the bus. The driver will give you a paper receipt. You can also pay using a reloadable card which can be purchased in any of the train stations.
If you’re planning to take a bus to cities outside of Guadalajara, the two stations are:
Estación Vieja: Buses to nearby areas such as Tequila, Chapala, Ajijic, Mazamitla, etc.
Estación Nueva: Buses to further locations such as Querétero, cdmx, Guanajuato, etc. (Take pink L3 train line directly here)
Guadalajara does have a pretty decent underground train system. There are 3 lines: L1 (red), L2 (green), and L3 (pink). The trains are clean and most have air conditioning. The cost for a one-way ride is $9.50 pesos. You can purchase a ticket in the machines inside each station. Keep in mind that the machine does not give change, so you should make sure to pay with exact change.
You can purchase either a one-way paper ticket, or a reloadable card for $30 pesos. If you think you’ll be taking the train a lot, getting the card will be quite convenient for you. But if you only take it a couple times, stick to the one-way ticket and don’t waste your money.
If you’re planning on heading to some other cities outside of Guadalajara, download the BlaBlaCar app. It’s like Uber, but for inter-city travel. The main point of pick-up in Guadalajara is at the Oxxo next to the Hotel Riu. BlaBlaCar is usually cheaper than the regional buses. In terms of transportation, this is one of the best Guadalajara travel tips I can offer, as BlaBlaCar is much cheaper than long distance buses.
If you’re going to Leon or CDMX, this is a good option. It’s similar to BlaBlaCar, but instead of a private car, it’s a Sprinter van.
GUADALAJARA TRAVEL TIP: Get a Sim Card
If you want to ensure you have data right away as soon as you land, I suggest downloading the Airalo app and purchasing one of the Mexico plans. These plans do tend to be more expensive than local prices, however, it could be worth it to not deal with the stress of having no data. If you buy the cheapest plan, it can hold you over until you’re able to make it to a local provider to get a cheaper sim. You can use my code NICHOL5388 to get $3 off your first purchase.
There are a few sim card providers in Mexico: At&t, Telcel, and Movistar. If you are able to put a physical sim card into your phone, then you should be able to purchase one at an Oxxo (convenience store), a booth in one of the markets, or directly from the company’s storefront. Because I use the iphone 14, there is no sim card tray. I can only use an Esim. Because of that, I needed to go directly to the storefront. I was told At&t is the best option for me, as they offer an Esim option.
At&t is very conveniently located in the city center, just next to the Árbol Adentro statue, near the Rotonda. They had several pay as you go plans. I purchased a 4gb plan for 200 pesos ($10 usd). Once the data runs out, I can top up at any pharmacy, Oxxo, or supermarket. At&t is one of the few companies to offer an Esim option.
GUADALAJARA TRAVEL TIP: Health and Safety
Drinking Water in Guadalajara
Like the rest of Mexico, DO NOT drink the tap water. Unfortunately that means you’ll be spending money on purchasing a lot of plastic water bottles. If you’re staying more than a couple days, I suggest buying the 5L bottles to keep at your accommodation and fill up each day from that bottle. I did not see fillable water stations in Guadalajara, like I did in Playa del Carmen where they are on nearly every street corner
I really didn’t want to spend money on water, nor did I want to use 2-months worth of plastic bottles. So this time I opted to try something a little different: The LifeStraw. This Guadalajara travel tip is sure to save you money, and the planet a few less plastic bottles. My friend teased me when I said I was going to try this, but I can confirm that after one week of drinking almost entirely tap water filtered through my LifeStraw water bottle, I haven’t been sick one single time. My stomach feels just fine.
Using the Toilet in Guadalajara
If you’re staying in a nicer hotel, it is highly likely you can throw your toilet paper in the toilet. However, if you’re staying somewhere more local, you’ll see there is always a bin next to the toilet. This is for your toilet paper. It’s a hard habit to break at first, but you’ll get used to it quickly enough.
All public restrooms will cost you, though the prices vary. I’ve seen public toilet costs range between $5-$25 pesos. Make sure to keep coins on you at all times for this reason.
This is not just a Guadalajara travel tip, but a Mexico travel tip.
Crime in Guadalajara
Despite being the second largest city in Mexico, Guadalajara is considered relatively safe for visitors. While some areas may experience higher levels of crime, the city as a whole has a lower crime rate than other major Mexican cities. As always, it’s important to take necessary precautions when traveling. I personally never felt unsafe while in the city at all.
I was told that in the Colonia America neighborhood, which is quite trendy and calm, that theft occurs much more often than you might expect. Exactly because it feels calm, people tend to let their guard down, making it easier for thieves. Make sure to always lock up your bike, be aware of your surroundings, and keep your bags in sight.
GUADALAJARA TRAVEL TIP: Jalisco Foods to Try
A raspado is like an icy in a cup (crushed ice). You can choose your syrup flavor, or even mix a few together. It’s a very cooling desert on a hot, hot day in Jalisco! This is one of the best Guadalajara travel tips for a hot day! Delicious.
You will see stands for this all over the city. It’s a drink made from corn, topped with lemon flavored crushed ice. In the town of Tequila, you can even get it mixed with beer, with incidentally tastes a bit better than the original, in my opinion. However, just be aware that it is made with ice which more than likely came from tap water. I got one to try, but decided against finishing it all, just to be on the safe side.
You can find these all over. Fresh squeezed orange juice, carrot juice, etc. Nothing better than a fresh juice in the hot weather.
Horchata is a refreshing and sweet beverage made from ground rice or nuts, water, and sugar. It’s a popular drink all over Mexico, and of course in Guadalajara too. It is delicious and the perfect accompaniment with your meal.
This is a drowned sandwich. It looks exactly like it sounds. A baguette filled with chunks of pork, and then smothered with a red sauce. I got one to try because it is typical of the region, however, I didn’t love it. I prefer my sandwiches dry! 🙂 But if you ask a local, this is one of the Guadalajara travel tips they will give you.
This is a thin cut of steak in the center of a plate, surrounded by guacamole, tomatoes, a flauta, rice, and beans on all sides. They have these all over, however, I tried it at La Chata, which I highly recommend. There is always a line around the door, but it is worth it.
Tacos al Pastor
You absolutely must eat street tacos. You’ll see stands everywhere. They are both easy on the wallet and fantastic to the pallet.
GUADALAJARA TRAVEL TIP: Enjoy
While Guadalajara may be the second largest city in Mexico, it did not feel unsafe to me at all. I spent about 72 hours in the town center and was able to see quite a lot. However, I did stay for a while longer in the Jalisco state because I enjoyed it so much. I hope you found this post about Guadalajara travel tips very helpful!
While you’re in Jalisco, why not check out:
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