Holidays in Mexico Bad Time to Travel
PUERTO ANGEL, Mexico- “Holiday” is the worst word for a traveler to hear. It is even worse than “canceled,” even worst than “late,” even worst than the dreaded “Hello, my friend.” The sound of the word “holiday” in whatever language I hear it in makes me cringe, as I know what it means: overbooked transport, crowds, higher prices, and full hotels. There is never a more difficult time to travel anywhere in the world than during a holiday, as these are often times when an entire nation has off of work and is traveling with you. It is often not good fun traveling with an entire nation of people.
There are two different types of high seasons for tourism: 1. The general high season when the weather is nice and many foreigners arrive on vacation, 2. The national holiday. Both types of high seasons should be subverted by the budget strapped traveler, but it is the national holiday that presents far more onerous little hoops for the agile vagabond to try to squeeze through.
National holidays mean a nation of people on the road. Fatherland stricken Americans are only offered brief glimmers of what it is like to travel during such a time on the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving, where the busy travel season only last for a couple of days. In many countries, a good national holiday lasts for around two weeks. Imagine Forth of July craziness for half a month and you will have a picture of what it is like to travel through a national holiday in many countries.
I remember traveling through three Chinese New Years in a row when the people of the most populous country on the planet are all on the move in tandem for an entire month. I remember the collection of Semana Santas that I have been through in Latin America. These experiences have taught me that the word “holiday” really means “run far and take cover, hoards of locals in a state of drunken catharsis heading this way fast.”
In Mexico, there are two major holidays: Semana Santa and Christmas. I loath my fate, as I am looking the later directly in the face.
“We have reservations for the twentieth, so you can only stay until then,” the keeper of the Monte Cristo Bungalows in Puerto Angel told me, thus delivering the blow that would expel me from my little hill top paradise and send me and my family bare butt ‘n naked out into the fray.
What the hotel owner really wanted to tell us was that she was exponentially upping the price of our room to suit the inflated budgets of urban Oaxacans on vacation, and our cheap asses had to get out of the way.
The busy travel season for the Christmas holiday in Mexico generally lasts for almost two weeks, starting on December 20th and lasting until the new year. But the week after Christmas is when the hoards fully descend from the hills and invade the beaches. So this morning, my wife, daughter, and I went out to find another place to stay — a refuge to bed down in and let the oncoming holiday storm blow over. We went to Zipolite, a long beach containing two miles of eave to eave hotels. If we could not find a hotel room here, we could not find a hotel room anywhere.
We had the collectivo driver let us off at the east end of the beach, and we worked our way down to the other end — asking at each hotel how much they would charge for a week’s stay. Most hotels told us that we were nuts to think that we could find a place that would rent to us by the week during this season, but we found two somewhat adequate options: one at the far eastern flank of the beach and another at the far west. One was a friendly family hotel who offered us a bare room, a bed, and nothing more for 130 pesos (around $10) per night, and another was a hippy bungalow hotel who offered us five nights at 100 pesos each with the clause that we could renegotiate the price if we wished to stay into the second week of the holiday.
We choose the hippy hotel. It is true that this option may have pillows caked in dread lock grime, but it also has a kitchen — a good thing to have in a town full of tourist restaurants who don’t seem to realize or care that travelers know that a half dollar sized piece of meat tucked away inside a bun should not be called a hamburger.
But for the next five days at least, we will have shelter from the storm.