Last updated on November 16th, 2021
Featured image: Looking up at the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico./ Photo by twenty20photos
10 tips to help you find your way to and from San Miguel de Allende
By Carolyn Ray, Publisher, JourneyWoman
My trip to San Miguel de Allende wasn’t my first international trip this year, but it was the first within North America. With its colonial history, temperate climate and thriving cultural scene, it is one of those cities that is small enough to know quickly, yet large enough to satisfy a broad range of tastes and experiences.
Located in Guanajuato, about three to three and a half hours northwest of Mexico City, San Miguel is only a 10-hour drive from the US border, and fairly easy to get to from Canada and other central locations. As a first-time visitor, I uncovered a few tips to help make your first trip to this lively, engaging city easy and fun.
1. Getting to San Miguel de Allende
To get to SMA from the Mexico City Airport, you can take an airport shuttle or a bus. Renting a car was not recommended by anyone I spoke to. I took the Bajigogo shuttle direct from the airport to my Airbnb. This costs $150 USD per person one way or $75 USD per person if there are more than two people. I used it twice and found it safe and easy. The website is a bit hard to use, so try calling the toll-free number if you need clarification on anything. You can also fly into Queretaro Airport and take a 90-minute taxi or shuttle from there.
Mexico’s bus system is also very good. When I returned to Mexico City, I used ETN; another option is Primera Plus. ETN is 535 pesos per person (or $45 USD) one-way from the Esctacion de L’Autobus in San Miguel to Mexico City Norte. You can choose your seat on the bus and it has large, reclining seats, TVs and wifi. Masks are required on the bus. You can also take a bus right from the Mexico City Airport, which I will definitely do next time as the station is right inside the terminal.
Colourful buildings in SMA
2. COVID Testing: To be a good traveller, take a covid test before and after you travel, even if it’s not officially required. This helps ensure you are not bringing the virus along with you to vulnerable people.
In San Miguel, there are several options to get tested. The Rosewood Hotel offers onsite mobile testing by MedexLab. A PCR test is approximately $2000 pesos for a (C$X/US$) with results in under two days. An Antigen test is $550 pesos C$X/US) and results take about two hours.
TIP: Canadians, confirm that you are getting a PCR test as the staff can confuse them, as happened to me. In my case, my daughter was visiting from Canada and needed a PCR test to return home. Two hours after taking the test, she received antigen results, much to our surprise. Since we were at the bus station at the time, we had to return to the Rosewood, where we were assured a new test was not required and that we would have test results in 24 hours. Forty hours later, we were still waiting, and she was unable to check into to her flight. I am forever grateful to the Rosewood Hotel staff for helping me obtain her correct test results, as there was no response at the San Miguel MedexLab testing number. You can also get both rapid tests and COVID tests at the Mexico City airport. For example, Volaris in the Garden Hilton offers 24-hour PCR testing and rapid tests.
3. Shoes: To avoid injury, wear flat, comfortable shoes, no high heels or open-toed shoes as the streets are not paved – they are cobblestoned and rocky. The sidewalks are narrow and you’ll need to navigate walking both on roads and sidewalks. Most people wear flat sandals (not flip flops), low-heeled boots or sneakers. You don’t want to twist an ankle in the name of fashion!
TIP: “Stop by San Miguel Shoes (Reloj and Mesones) for sandals” – Christine
4. Meeting other Solo Travellers: To meet other solo women, find free events and goings-on, look for the weekly edition of QuePasa (in print at the San Miguel Tourism office in the Jardin) or lokkal.com. Many of the hotels have free art gallery openings where you can enjoy wine for a small fee. On Facebook, join: SMAllende Friends or the SMA Social Club.
5. Masks: Masks are worn everywhere by locals, as a traveller please show respect for the community by doing the same. You can buy a KN95 mask at any Farmacia for about 40 pesos.
6. Tipping: I believe we should tip generously to those who allow us the privilege of travel, including staff in bars and cafes, hotels, cleaning staff and guides. I usually round up as much as possible. Bring a coin purse for the smaller denominations like 1, 2, 5 and 10 pesos so you can have those on hand for tipping.
7. Cash or credit: There are several bank machines in the Jardin area. Lineups are usually quite long right in the square so look for a bank machine slightly outside (For example, there is a HSBC on Calle Coreo. Most prices are available in pesos or USD equivalent. Keep in mind that 5,000 pesos equals about US$245. Restaurants, pharmacies and the wine store take credit cards.
Cover of QuePasa’s digital newpaper
8. Accommodations: I generally like to stay slightly outside of the core so that I get a feel for the community. In San Miguel there are some beautiful small boutique hotels that I would love to try, such as Casa de la Cuesta, owned by Bill and Heidi LaVasseur, who also run the Mask Museum. The Rosewood Hotel is the centre of many activities and plays an important role in the community.
9. What to pack: San Miguel is in the mountains, so it’s cool in the evenings and warmer in the daytime. Most people dress casually and wear pants or skirts. I would only wear shorts or lululemon athletic attire if you are doing an active tour of the Botanical Gardens or running in the park. (Also refer to our What to Wear in Mexico article here).
10. Local Transportation: San Miguel is a very walkable city, but there are times you might want to get a taxi or the local bus (There is no subway). If you take a taxi, negotiate the rate in advance. Anywhere within SMA is about 60-70 pesos, but drivers may charge extra outside of Centro. Taxis have numbers painted on the doors, and if you’d like to use that taxi as your own while you’re in town, the driver will be very accommodating if you exchange WhatsApp numbers. The city bus is 8 pesos as well and can be a fun way to experience the city. The main bus station is near the Mercado de San Juan de Dios. I found San Miguel very safe, for walking, even at 5:00 am in the morning when I walked to the Rosewood Hotel my hot air balloon tour!)
FINAL TIP: English is well-spoken but try to use some of your Spanish vocabulary to get around, it will go a long way! I use apps like Spanish Dictionary, Duolingo and Google Translate.
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