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Guadalajara Travel FAQs–An Intro

Guadalajara Travel FAQs–An Intro

Teatro Degollado

Teatro Degollado

Here’s the place to come for specific information about travel in Guadalajara–the hotels, restaurants, sights, buses, and tours.   These are real questions we have recently answered.   If you don’t see it here, write us at mexicanmemorabilia@yahoo.com!

“I only have one day in Guadalajara–what should I see and do?   I’m traveling with two young girls.”

If you have only one day, you are best off staying right in downtown Guadalajara.  There are tons of things to do there that your girls will love.
Start out with the San Juan de Dios market (AKA Mercado Libertad).  There you will find many of the handicrafts from surrounding towns, including leather, blown glass, sweets like cajeta, and decorations made of chewing gum (?!?).  There are about 100 fondas there where you can eat–goat and shrimp/octopus cocktails recommended.  Don’t miss the bird sellers, and try the drink tejuino, with lime sorbet.
Guadalajara Centro is great for wandering–there are kilometers of traffic-banned pedestrian walkways, full of fountains and flowers and mimes.
La Chata, on Avenida Colon one block south of Avenida Juarez has wonderful food at good prices.  Mole, chiles rellenos, caldo Tlapeno, pozole are all very good.
I like the Hotel Rotunda, one block from the cathedral.  It has a lovely courtyard.  About $50 a night.  Budget digs can be found at Hotel Americas, on Hidalgo about 2 blocks from Teatro Degollado (another must-see, by the way).  Basic but friendy, and starting less than $25.  (Later note:  Las Americas has been torn down for the Pan-American Games).
Around dusk make sure to take the twins to Plaza Libertad, the large plaza between Teatro Degollado and the cathedral.  There is always music and dance going on, and children buy octopus-shaped balloons and let them loose above the subway grates to fly high in the air.  People will be out enjoying the cool of the night past 10pm, and both hotels are just around the corner.  As a matter of fact, everything I’ve mentioned is within a radius of just a few blocks.
You’ll love Guadalajara, and wish you had more time here.

“What can I see in a couple of days?”

You can see a lot in Guadalajara in just a few days.  Many of the attractions are close together, and you can go from one to another.
Outside of downtown, you need more time to visit.  The distances may not be too great, but the traffic can slow you down. Tequila and the distillery tours are well worth the visit.  We went a couple of days ago to the Primavera forest to see the hot river and waterfalls, and had an incredible time.  They are on the road to Tequila.
Tlaquepaque has fabulous shops and beautiful handiwork at moderately high prices.  Tonala is more Mom and Pop artists (in general) but there are still wonderful things to be found there, often at very reasonable prices.  The street markets in Tonala are Thursdays and Sundays–go early, they can get packed.  It is very easy to get to both towns by local bus from Guadalajara.
Chapala and Ajijic are beautiful–great plant nurseries there, too.  Take a tour or a cab–you need a car to get around there and see the sights.
There are good, comfortable buses to Vallarta.  They will take about 5 hours, but pass through beautiful scenery and lava beds.  Guayabitos is a closer beach option.  Much quieter and very attractive.  There are flights from Vallarta to many spots in the US–it may be worthwhile to fly into GDL and out of Vallarta.

“Is there a shuttle bus from the airport to Hotel Tapatia?   If not, how do I get a cab?”

I called El Tapatio (I’m here in Guadalajara) and they say they have no shuttle van service, and that you will need to take a cab to and from the airport.
At the airport you need to go to the cab desk and pay there–El Tapatio says it is $100 pesos.  Then you take your receipt and a cab is waiting for you.  There are no freelance cabs or chance to wrangle a better price.  There are buses, but you really need to know how (walk outside the airport, etc–not possible with luggage!)
The hotel is near the airport–15 minutes if there isn’t much traffic.  It’s an attractive place, but sometimes the air pollution is awful–it is ringed by highways.  It is also inconvenient to Guadalajara (in my opinion!) and you will need to take cabs to get around town.
But after those negatives, let me say you’ll love Guadalajara–it’s an incredible place!  Write us if you have any questions.

“Can I rent an apartment in Guadalajara for a month?”

One possible option is the Apartments Norman, which are smack dab in downtown on Vallarta (the main east-west drag) across the street from Sanbornes and a couple of blocks down.  I haven’t been there recently, but they used to always have have a few large two bedroom apartments available for monthly rent.  They aren’t fancy, but they are a good price you won’t find a more central location.   There are many more apartments throughout town–many of them are listed in English in Craigslist Guadalajara.

“Can I get to Guanajuato from Guadalajara?”

Guanajuato is well worth the visit, but it is very small.  Two or three days is usually plenty.  You may find you have more time to spend in GDL, or you may visit other cities near Guanajuato, like Leon or Queretaro, or even Mexico City.  The bus from GDL to Guanajuato takes 3-4 hours.  The bus station there is outside of town, but there are local buses that will take you in.
December is very pleasant–usually clear with 70 – 75 degree days and nights in the 40s.  Bring a sweater!

“I speak very little Spanish.   Will I be able to communicate?”

Unless you only stay and eat in real high end places, most people’s English will be like your Spanish.  Everyone will be very willing to help, however, and with lots of signs and smiles, communication won’t be a problem.  Speak with respect (speak clearly but not loudly) and with a sense of humor, and you’ll get by.  If you need a more advanced English speaker, young kids and well-dressed teenagers often speak most fluently.  Don’t believe the guidebooks that say “Everyone in your hotel will speak a little English.” It’s not true.
You have some time before you visit.  I’d recommend you learn the numbers, “How much does it cost?”, “Where is the bathroom?”, and a few other phrases.
Visiting a culture with a different language is part of the fun.  Don’t let it intimidate you!

“Any restaurant recommendations?”
In downtown just off Juarez is La Chata.  One of their kitchens is right on the street and you can watch ladies prepare all kinds of Mexican food–all of it good.  Recommended–caldo Tlapeno and flan.

Chai has also arrived in downtown, on Avenida Juarez not far from La Chata.  A fantastic breakfast buffet, lunch salad bar, and sandwiches.  We love Chai.
In the Chapultepec area (great bookstores, Sunday antique market) Mondo Cafe is wonderful, for modern Mexican food (mango habanero chiliquiles and mocha cafe).  You can swim in their coffee cups.  (Recent note–Mondo has closed).  Jarro is super for pancakes (order a side of fruit compote to put on top).
Saturday and Sunday the Chai on Vallarta just west of Chapultepec has a fabulous breakfast buffet (until 2, I think) with fresh baked pastries, fruit, and tons of great food–you can sit on the front patio and watch the world go by.  It is in a colonial house, with lots of artwork–Bohemian and fabulous.
All three restaurants are a few blocks from each other.
In Tlaquepaque, around the corner from the market, Hermanos Rojas has incredible fish and shrimp/scallop/octopus cocktails.  Order limonada (lime-ade made with mineral water), ceviche and marlin tostadas, and a seafood cocktail–nothing like US shrimp cocktails.
“Our hotel is near Chapultepec.  What can we walk to from there?”

The restaurants I mention near Chapultepec will be very near your hotel in Colonia Americana.  It is about a mile (maybe less) to walk to downtown, but it is an interesting stroll.  Many streets are good, but for first timers I’d recommend Vallarta (which is Juarez in downtown (centro)).  You walk past colonial houses and shops, and just before centro you’ll find the University of Guadalajara tower to the north and UdG’s great museum to the south.  The Expiatorio church is near there, too, with an incredible spire of blue glass and characters which come out and rotate around a clock on the hour!
The Chapultepec area is also very attractive–lots of fountains, a photo exhibit is going on now, tons of cool cafes, the antique market…
Welcome to GDL tomorrow! We just entered rainy season, and nights are cool, so bring a light sweater.  You can easily buy cheap umbrellas here if you don’t want to carry them down–or just wait out the rain in a bookstore.  It rarely rains more than an hour here.
“We hear it is quieter to stay in Tlaquepaque.   Are there small hotels there, and can we get back and forth to Guadalajara?”

If you decide to stay in Tlaquepaque, it is easy to get back and forth to Guadalajara.  From the shops in San Pedro Tlaquepaque, just walk downhill until you hit the main drag (there’s a chicken grill on the corner).  From there to the right you will see the road go through an arch.  Walk to the arch, and there are many buses going downtown (they say Centro and cost 4.5 pesos.  Central is not Centro–it is the bus station!)  The most comfortable buses are the Tur–they are tourqouise color and cost 9 pesos.  It is about 20 minutes to Centro.
I’ve seen attractive, small hotels in Tlaquepaque.  I think that after a day or two in Tlaquepaque (the interesting area of which is very small) you may want to look for a hotel downtown, where there is much more to do and see.  There are lots of choices–for example, the Hotel Rotunda is attractive, quite, and a block from the cathedral.

(Recent note:  Our friends Stan and Jose run the best bed and breakfast in the area, Casa de las Flores, in Tlaquepaque.  It is friendly, charming, and unique, and we can’t recommend it highly enough).
“How do I get to the Hard Rock Cafe in Centro Magno from downtown?”

If you are coming from downtown Guadalajara, the easiest way to get to Centro Magna and Hard Rock is to take the ParVial bus (4.5 pesos). You can catch it on Hidalgo–a good spot is by Gonvil bookstore by the Rotunda monument.  You can tell you are in the right place because the bus is electric, and there are lines above, like a trolley.
You will recognize Centro Magno–it is on the left hand side, with a life-size bronze elephant in front, and a huge Hard Rock guitar.  It is an attractive mall–it doesn’t cover much ground but it is several floors, and classy.  It is a few blocks before you get to Minerva.  The bus turns around near Minerva and comes back to downtown.
“How is Day of the Dead in Guadalajara?”

If you are in or near Guadalajara and Tlaquepaque the week before Day of the Dead, make sure you visit Parque Morelos, on the Calzada Independencia, for their “Dead Tianguis,” or street market.  Dozens of stalls appear, seling all the necesities for making a Day of the Dead altar–cut paper, sweets, miniature clay pots, paper mache dolls–it is like a time capsule, and well worth seeing.  The park is in front of the Gigante grocery store, a few blocks north of the San Juan de Dios market.  Make sure you also have a “raspado”–shaved ice with fruit sauce–the park is famous for them.
Most schools make an altar for each classroom in their patio–if you are lucky you may be able to ask to see them (although security is becoming a greater issue).
There is a huge cemetary in Guadalajara, the Panteon de Belen, which is the place to be for Day of the Dead.  It is at the Mesquitan subway stop.
Truth is, most DoD celebration in GDL is in private homes.  If I were you I’d take a couple of days off from visiting here and head over to Patzcuaro, darn the crowds!

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Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.