Category Archives: Free and Cheap

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Mexico City Transportation Guide

Mexico City is a bustling city of 20 million. It is the largest city in North America and attracts a huge number of tourists, expats, and temporary residents. Obviously, a huge city is going to need an approach to getting around easily. So we’ve created this Mexico City Transportation Guide to help you. Regardless of your travel preferences, we cover it all.

Walking

One of the more surprising aspects that I found about Mexico City, is just how walkable it is. With such a large population and urban sprawl, I was expecting much of the city to be difficult to get around. But mistaken we were.

Wide, expansive sidewalks line every street in the city. With a standardized grid layout, it is also easy enough to get from point A to point B with minimal difficulty. There are plenty of streets as well – particularly in Centro Historico – that are completely cut off to vehicular traffic on Sundays.

Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City

The massive plazas,  and numerous avenues, parks, and gardens make Mexico City extremely easy to traverse on foot. The majority of our ventures were taken on foot, and we find this to be a major plus when visiting any city because there is no better way to actually experience a city than to walk within it.

Art along Paseo de la Reforma

It is worth noting however, that despite its obvious European design influence that makes pedestrian life easy – the city is still huge. While walking is usually a good idea, sometimes, the sheer distance between places makes this approach unwise. So while, we recommend walking when you can – sometimes you’ll have to get around through another way.

Festive Skeltons on Paseo de la Reforma

Bikes

As we’ve mentioned before, we love using bikes when traveling. Getting out, and exploring a city on a bike is a wonderful way to get the same experiences you might get from walking, but at a tremendously expedited rate. The White Bikes in Cambodia provided us with an amazing experience.

Mexico City has several different options when it comes to bikes. You can rent bikes, or even use one of multiple bike sharing programs. Here, I’m just going to cover EcoBici.

Bike Problems

Unfortunately for us, we ran into a few issues with the bike sharing  program in Mexico City called EcoBici. It’s not fair to completely lay the blame on the system as we chose the wrong day and time to get bikes. To start with: The Mexico City Marathon was actively going on and we were trying to get the bikes on Paseo de la Reforma. None of the bike stations appeared to be working and we ran into issues.

EcoBici Stand

While we got a card, it didn’t want to actually give us a bike. Going to a kiosk didn’t help, as they were overwhelmed and we were short on time. We only tried to get a single one-day pass, which we never got refunded despite trying to contract them multiple times. Note – EcoBici has a reputation for difficult customer service.

EcoBici

Despite our issues, the program itself seems pretty good on the whole. Had we had more than a few days in the city, we would have made a point to get it to work for us – it was just unnecessary for the rest of our trip.

Info Kiosk for Ecobici

Currently, EcoBici has 444 stations with over 6,000 bicycles. The bikes are very recognizable, with a distinctive red and white paint job. You can see numerous residents utilizing them pretty much everywhere you go. The great thing, is that anyone can use them too – they’re not limited to locals only.

EcoBici Bikes

To use EcoBici as a tourist, you must purchase a card and register from one of a few locations:

  • Station Reader (Must be able to accept credit cards)
  • Kiosk
  • EcoBici Center

You must use a credit card to make the purchase and you can only use one card per bike. You can purchase a 7, 3, or single day use card. A single day card costs $90 MX pesos (~$5). The first 45 minutes are free, and extra charges will incur after that. If you really need to make a longer trip, simply swap out at another bike station.

Metro

Metro - Mexico City

Image courtesy of S●S▲-L●P►Z

The Mexico City Metro system is the second largest in North America behind New York City. Shortened to STC Metro, it is serviced by 195 stations and 12 lines across the city. Stations are both above and below ground.

The STC Metro is efficient, cheap, and accessible – however it can get very crowded during rush hour, and is advisable against using during this time.The first two trains are reserved for women and children, and the rest for the general public.

You need to use a Metro ticket, which you can purchase for MX $5.00 for a single day pass. You can buy multi-day passes depending upon your needs. A single day pass is good for unlimited rides for the day of purchase.

We didn’t use the Metro during our stay, though we considered it. For our purposes, it was ultimately easier to just use Uber.

Bus

There numerous buses throughout the city, and several different types to choose from. Cheap and efficient – they can also get very crowded and uncomfortable at times.

Metrobuses operate via platforms. They run circuitous routes that are pretty easily defined. These are typically red and white in coloring, though pink buses operate too – women only buses. We attempted to utilize them once, but had an issue with getting a ticket and did not spend long trying to fix it due to how busy it was.

Mexico City Bus

Image courtesy of So Cal Metro

Double-decker tourist buses also operate around the city. These are more expensive, but a ticket is purchased, you can hop on and off them all day as you please – moving from site to site. Their overall scope is more limited, but still hits a large portion of the city.

Longer haul buses can easily be taken out of Terminal Central de Autobuses del Norte – North Central Autobus Station. The bus station is very large, with an expansive – though disappointing – food court. From here you can get a bus to farther out neighborhoods, cities, sites.

El Norte Station in Mexico City

We took a bus back from Teotihuacan to Terminal Central de Autobuses del Norte, and the bus was very nice. It was crowded at first – I had to sit on the floor even – but it quickly dispersed and made for a more comfortable ride.

On The Bus to Mexico City

We had one check-point while police officers early-on which is a relatively normal occurrence. They count how many passengers – tourists – are aboard, in the event of robberies or other criminal activity. It is not common, but incidents do occur in Mexico – usually at night though.

Taxi

There are several classes of taxi in Mexico City. The most recognizable are the pink-and-white taxis. These are the cheapest of the classes and also the most dangerous. Passengers should verify that the cab has a license plate, registration, and that the driver matches the photo. It is advised to not take these at night.

Pink and White Taxi

There is also the libre cabs. These are metered taxis and will generally not run you more than MX $30 – MX $40 for most rides. These are safer than the the others, but still warrant caution at off-times.

Radio Taxis are higher end than the other classes. They cost a bit more, but are secure. You call in a cab directly to your location via the phone. A dispatcher sends out a driver to pick you up and take you to your location. Safety is not a concern when using these.

You can order a taxi via:

Some Reliable Radio Taxis are:

  • Radio Maxi Seguridad
  • Sitio Parque Mexico
  • Taxi-Mex
  • Taxs Radio Union

We never used taxis personally as we utilized other methods to get around. If you opt for utilizing apps for taxis, then in my opinion you might as well use our preferred service – Uber.

Uber

As usual, Uber was our preferred and most used method of transportation after walking. The ease of use really can’t stated enough. Language barriers don’t really present an issue, and prices are cheap.

There was an issue when getting to Teotihuacan, but that was my own fault – careless mistake putting in the wrong address. We still got there, just slower and more expensive than it should have been.

We used Uber multiple times to get to a few neighborhoods when we wanted to save our legs from excessive walking. Most of our rides came out to under $5. Its immediacy, cost, and widespread use make it a must-use when visiting.

Sign up on Uber using our link to get a a discount on your next trip!

Air

Mexico City is serviced by air via Benito Juárez International Airport [MEX]. 30 domestic and international airlines operate out of the airport, typically handling 100,000 individuals per day. It serves as the primary hub for Aeroméxico, Mexico’s largest airliner. Over 100 destinations, on 3 continents can be reached directly via Mexico City.

Bri at Mexico City International Airport

The airport is a medium size with multiple lounges, food courts, and shopping areas. The airport does feel dated however, and is cramped while at full capacity. We also found the boarding process to be disorganized and little chaotic – though ultimately fine in the end.

Grand Lounge at Mexico City International Airport
Departures Terminal at Mexico City International Airport

Due to MEX’s inability to operate at a higher capacity, a new airport is currently under construction roughly 10 miles north of the airport, east of Ecatepec.

~K~

Mexico City Tenochtitlan Mask Wall

Templo Mayor – Tenochtitlan Ruins – Mexico City

In the heart of Mexico City’s Centro Historico district, the ancient Aztec capital city of Tenochtitlan, lies the ruins of Templo Mayor. Today, what remains is only ruins, but the site was once one of the most important temples in the Aztec Empire. It is now a great look into Aztec and Mesoamerican culture and history in the center of the now bustling Mexico City.

Templo Mayor Ruins and Metropolitan Cathedral

Getting In

Our path to visiting Templo Mayor was part of a much longer and bigger day. Because of the way that we went, it seemed to be far more complicated to get into the archaeological site than it actually is.

We had approached from the west, on the north side of the Metropolitan Cathedral in Zocalo Square. There is an elevated walkway that goes around the north side of the site and offers decent views of the ruins – but it didn’t seem to offer any actual entrances.

We walked the entire outer boundary of the ruins, but with no luck. At one point, we thought we found the entrance, but it actually turned out to be the exit. The exit is surprisingly more elaborate and conspicuous than the entrance. Most likely, it served as the entrance at one time.

Not the entrance to Templo Mayor

Regardless, the actual entrance to Templo Mayor is on the south side of the compound, and can easily be accessed via the east side of the Metropolitan Cathedral.

We were wearing shawls and hoods, not because it was cold – but because of pretty bad sunburns we received the previous day at Teotihuacan.

Kyle at Templo Mayor
Briana at Templo Mayor

Need To Know

  • Address: Seminario 8, Centro Histórico, Cuauhtémoc, 06060 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
  • Hours: Tuesday – Sunday: 09:00 – 17:00 / Closed Mondays
  • Cost: $70 Pesos (~ $4 USD) for adults. Free for children under 13, Mexican students and educators, and seniors.
  • No food, water, or umbrellas are allowed – free stowage is provided at entrance.
  • Photography is allowed.

Entering the Ruins

Templo Mayor archaeological site

Once you exit the entry building, you arrive to the ruins of Templo Mayor itself. We broke this up into two different viewing times: once before, and once after visiting the Templo Mayor Museum. This may not seem intuitive at first, but it actually does serve a purpose.

We entered a small, elevated walkway and explored the ruins some. There are plaques, but upon initial viewing, you don’t walk away with much understanding. But this is okay! It piques your interest for the monster to come that is the Templo Mayor Museum.

Kyle and Briana at Templo Mayor

History of Templo Mayor

Legend says that the Aztecs were in search of a location to build their city. In a vision, the king was told to found their city when they found an eagle perched on a cactus with a snake. The next day, that is what they saw. The city of Tenochtitlan was founded sometime around 1325 CE with the main temple built at the site the eagle was seen.

Rediscovery

The site is a very large and robust archaeological site, still undergoing excavation today. On some days, you may even see archaeologists hard at work to recover more artifacts. Much of the site is buried beneath the Metropolitan Cathedral, Zocalo Square, the Palace, and other colonial buildings.

Archaeologists Working at Templo Mayor

However, in 1978, electric workers came across the massive stone monolith while digging. Work stopped, and a special study ensued from 1978 to 1982 to determine if the site was worth studying. At the end of the study, it was deemed a very well preserved and intact site, which lead to the demolition of 13 buildings. The ruins remain as found, with small artifacts housed in the adjoining Templo Mayor Museum.

Modern sewer pipe in the ruins of Templo Mayor

The coup-de-grace of Templo Mayor is the massive pyramid that once stood 200 feet tall. It went through seven different construction phases, each phase building a new pyramid atop the old.

Staircase ruins at Templo Mayor

Spanish Conquest

When the Spaniards arrived in 1519, lead by Hernan Cortes, they saw the seventh phase of the pyramid. It was topped with two temples: one to Huitzilopochtli – the god of war and sun; and one to Tlaloc – the god of water. They were impressed at the number and grandeur of the temples, but were revolted at the beliefs of the Aztecs and human sacrifice.

Ruins of Templo Mayor

In 1519, the Spaniards began a war against the Aztecs that would rage on in bloody conflict until Tenochtitlan fell in 1521. Cortes ordered the destruction of the city – and of the temple – and began the construction of a Mediterranean style city built in its place.

The site of Templo Mayor quickly fell to nothing more than memory as the Spanish and later Mexican governments continued to build atop the site. It would remain mostly forgotten until its rediscovery in 1978.

Templo Mayor Museum

Templo Mayor Museum Entrance

We entered the museum, not knowing what to expect. We had thought it would be rather small – but we were wrong. The museum is rather large, although compact, and is very well curated. You can easily dedicate 2 – 3 hours wandering it’s four floors and eight exhibition rooms. It even has a small gift shop.

Room 1: Historical Background

This room provides an overview of the history of the site and it’s discovery.

Tlaltecuhtuli monolith on display at Templo Mayor Museum
Model of Zocala Square and Templo Mayor

Room 2: War and Sacrifice

This room showcases artifacts relating to the violence of the Aztecs. Funerary offerings, skulls, and weapons adorn the room.

Skulls and Bones at Templo Mayor
Stone Carved Skulls at Templo Mayor Museum

The fired clay statue of Mictlantecuhtli shows the god of the underworld with his liver hanging out and skin removed.

Mictlantecuhtli statue recovered from the ruins of Templo Mayor

Room 3: Tribute and Trade

This room covers the important role of trade and commerce throughout the Aztec Empire. Merchants were extremely important in the Mexica culture. They would often serve as communication links between cities, and assault of a merchant was seen as an act of war.

Aztec ceremonial mask found at Templo Mayor

Room 4: Huitzilopochtli

This room is dedicated to the god Huitzilopochtli, the god of war and human sacrifice.

Huitzilopochtli statue recovered at Templo Mayor

Room 5: Tlaloc

This room is showcases the god Tlaloc, the god of water. It was believed that rain was the result of breaking pots in the heavens. The shattering of ceramic was believed to be the sound we know as thunder.

Room 6: Flora and Fauna

Animals and plants were an important part of Aztec and Mexica life. This room covers the different species of importance in the cultures of the regions including: jaguars, dogs, eagles, crocodiles, and hummingbirds.

XOLOITZCUINTLI taxidermy dog at Templo Mayor

Room 7: Agriculture

Part of the success of the Tenochtitlan was the innovative agricultural practices. The city was built on a lake, and food was grown on chinampas. Chinampas were floating platforms built of reed, wood, and filled with soil.

Important plants grown were:

  • Maize
  • Beans
  • Squash
  • Chili
  • Tomato
  • Amaranth

Room 8: Historical Archeology

The final room documents the colonial times of city, and it’s transition from Aztec to Spanish to Mexican.

Each room had an interactive video display. However, most were not working when we went – much to the dismay of a security guard.

Interactive Templo Mayor Museum Display

Returning to the Ruins, with New Understandings

After completing our long run through the museum, we returned to the ruins outside. With a now far greater understanding of the site, we could now better appreciate what we were looking at.

Cat walk through Templo Mayor Ruins

Most of the ruins remain open to the elements. But a few sections have permanent roofs. These sections contain important relics or areas such as rooms.

The walkways in this area are far longer and more extensive than the initial ones. As well, they get lower, so you can start to get a better scale of what it was like to walk among the temples.

Chacmool at Templo Mayor Ruins
Covered Ruins of Red Room at Templo Mayor
Carved Snake Head and Eagle at Templo Mayor

After many hours, we made our way out of Templo Mayor. If you didn’t leave anything at the entrance then you can simply exit through the main exit – otherwise, just backtrack to the entrance to gather your things!

Carved Snake head at Templo Mayor
Templo Mayor Ruins with Metropolitan Cathedral in Background

View of Silicon Valley from Gurdwara Sahib Sikh Temple San Jose California

Visit Sikh Gurdwara Sahib Temple in San Jose

The city of San Jose, California has many hidden gems within the valley. Often overshadowed by it’s neighbor San Francisco, some of the great places can become ignored. What this really means though, is that you can have a more intimate experience where you won’t be beleaguered by tourists. We recently stumbled upon the Sikh Gurdwara Sahib Temple, and it is fantastic.

A Sikh Temple Overlooking the Silicon Valley

First and foremost, one should note that Gurdwara Sahib is an active Sikh temple. It was founded in 1985 by the then growing Sikh community. In 1995, leaders bought land outside of the city to begin construction of what would become the largest Gurdwara in North America at 90,000 sq ft.

Kyle and Briana in front of Gurdwara Sahib

Visiting Gurdwara Sahib

We really had no idea about the temple. Briana managed to stumble upon it as a picture on the internet, and instantly our thoughts were, “We have to go there.” With a little research, we soon knew what we needed to know.

The temple stands above the valley, about halfway up a mountain at 3636 Murillo Ave San Jose , CA 95148.

The drive is simple enough to make, and the temple is so prominent that you cannot miss it when you pass by.

Gurdwara Sahib Sikh Temple

There is plenty of parking, and unless you are visiting during a morning prayer, you should have no difficulty finding a spot.

Enter Gurdwara Sahib, a Place of Worship

At first, we weren’t really sure how to go about visiting. We enjoyed the front fountain and the views of Silicon Valley before us. This spot is a great selfie-spot, and attracts many people. Luckily, the friendliness of the families and worshippers quickly made us feel comfortable enough to proceed in.

Briana posing by the fountain
Fountain view of Silicon Valley

The front building is where you should enter. In here you will find a place to store your shoes, divided into men’s and women’s areas. I wasn’t aware of this, and actually stored my shoes in the women’s section – luckily it didn’t seem to be a big deal.

Shoe locker in Gurdwara Sahib

Then, we took the fresh linens called rumaals provided to cover our hair. Both men and women are expected to cover their heads. Men wear a turban, while women wear it as a shawl. But as a visitor, the only important thing here, is to do your best and cover it. If you aren’t sure, there should be an attendant or someone who will help you.

Covering up for Gurdwara Sahib

As well, there is a poster on the walls that will instruct you on exactly what you need to know.

Gurdwara Sahib Instructional Poster

Be aware that you should dress conservatively here. Wearing pants, and covering up your shoulders and knees should be fine though. We saw a few people who were wearing shorts, but you should err on the side of respect.

Interior of the entry hall at Gurdwara Sahib San Jose

Chants and Songs of Praise

We then proceeded through the back doors of the front building, leading to a covered walkway lined with flowers, that brought us to the main prayer hall. The prayer hall is huge. Upon opening the doors, you are greeted to the welcoming, yet completely foreign sound of Punjabi singing.

Flowers at Gurdwara Sahib
Prayer Hall of Gurdwara Sahib Sikh Temple San Jose

Sitting down, you find that the floor provides you with the softest carpet. It’s very easy to simply sit and listen here. On the wall opposite the entrance, there are large projection screens that show what is being sung with English translation. It is a nice touch that provides context to visitors such as us who have no clue to what is going on.

Who are Sikhs?

Sikhs are followers of the Sikh faith based on the teachings of Guru Nanak. The faith is a relatively recent religion that developed out of persecution in the Punjab region of what is today northwestern India and northeastern Pakistan around 1520 CE.

The Travels of Guru Nanak

Sikhs believe in one God, who is omnipresent. They are very tolerant of other religions, with a basic belief that all religions are worshipping the same God, just through different interpretations. The important emphasis is to have a union with God, to provide service to the community, and to promote justice and equality.

The Three Pillars of Sikhism

Of course, this is only an incredibly brief summation.For the curious, check out a far more in depth explanation here. Or, ask a Sikh! San Jose is home to a very large Sikh population, many of whom will be glad to provide further insight.

Quick Facts:

  • 5th largest religion in the world
  • Sikhs have been in the United States for 100 years
  • 99% of all people wearing turbans are Sikh
  • 700K Sikhs live in the United States
  • 25 million Sikhs practice world wide

View through the arch

Familial Hospitality and Delicious Food at the Langar Hall

Now I must admit, that a significant reason why I wanted to visit Gurdwara Sahib was the Langar Hall. What is the Langar Hall? It’s the food hall. Present at all Gurdwaras, Langar Halls provide food to anyone who visits, free of charge.

We exited the prayer room after listening for about twenty minutes. In the back right of the complex is another large room – the Langar Hall. You grab a metal tray, get in line, and get served absolutely delicious food.

Interior of Langar Hall Gurdwara Sahib

As per the religion, the food is vegetarian. It is also traditionally Punjabi. For those unfamiliar with what that means, it’s simply Indian food that you are most likely familiar with – with the exception of chicken tikka, that is actually British. We were served a thali set of Aloo Matar, curried beans, roti, rice pudding, and a sour yogurt curry I can’t identify. It was incredibly delicious and filling.

Thali Plate in the Langar Hall

Now, while the food is free – we suggest that you leave a donation in the donation box as we did. We feel that the Sikh community is very humble, and expected nothing of us, while offering us extraordinary hospitality – the least we could do was donate. Another option, is that you can volunteer to serve there as well.

We sat on carpets on the floor to eat. Ultimately, we were welcomed to the temple and we truly enjoyed the experience and the food. The food does change day to day, so we cannot tell you what you will get when you visit. Just be sure not to take more than you can eat.

Langar Hall Dining Carpet

Closing Sunset

We made our way out of the temple just as the sun was beginning to set. This was Briana’s primary desire for visiting. As we had seen before when we arrived, the fountain overlook provided for excellent views.

Sikhs watching the sunset
Looking towards home
Briana Looking over Silicon Valley
View of Silicon Valley and Spider

After the sun disappeared behind the Santa Cruz mountains, we made our way to the car and drove home. The Gurdwara Sahib temple is a wonderful place to visit in San Jose.

Check their website for hours and day to day events.

~K~

Kyle wearing a bandana