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Old 03-01-2009, 06:33 PM   #39
tricepilot OP
El Gran Payaso
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Joined: Apr 2006
Location: San Antonio
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The Taxi Trick

I’m about to tell you about one of the most powerful tools for touring Mexico that there is. I didn’t invent it, I didn’t perfect it, but I use it all the time. It involves the use of following taxis to find your way into and out of congested cities and/or cities with complicated highway patterns.

Save yourself the headache or worry about getting lost. Hire a taxi, your private tour guide. Never paid more than 70 pesos this whole trip, and that was a lot. Usually paid an average of 30 pesos. Be a part of the economic stimulus, and start to depend on taxis to get where you are going and save time.

It is easier to find your way into the city than out of it, especially if all you are trying to do is find the zócolo. All centers of town have hotels, and they are usually in the Lonely Planet. If they are not on the zócolo, they’re usually one or two blocks off of it. Here in Pachuca, we left the highway and followed signs to the Centro, where the Hotel Emily was located. 9 times out of 10 in any typical Mexico town, you’ll find accommodations on or near the Centro. If your hotel is from the Lonely Planet and isn’t on the zócolo, then use a taxi to find it. It is easier than asking for directions. The taxistas almost expect you.
When you are coming into town, its easy to find the Centro.

Not so fast finding your way leaving town. You can leave by almost any compass direction. Fumble with maps? No thanks. Most maps don’t map the grid you face and only mark the major autopistas and rutas to your next destination. Let the taxi guy do the navigating.

Taxis are always, always, all over the place. Just come to the outskirts of town and get some gas, and you’ll find a half dozen at the pump within 15 minutes. Leaving town, ask the hotel desk to call a cab, or just walk to the street and flag one down. Explain to the driver what you want. When that’s understood, settle on a price. I always pay the driver in advance, so he doesn’t have to stop to collect.

I explain that we will follow behind, so please be careful when crossing traffic lights, please don’t lose us in traffic. I ask them to watch their mirrors, and let them know that we’ll be in a pack right behind. It has always worked, always worked like a charm, and never once have we failed to find our hotel on the way in, or find our autopista/quota on the way out. What’s more, these guys KNOW their cities. You get the top secret, super fast, short cuts in and out. They like bikes too, and it gives them something different to do.

Sometimes the experience is funny. Like entering Coatzacoalcos. We were looking for the hotel Terra Nova, and flagged down a taxi at the Pemex. “Excuse me, do you know where the Hotel Terra Nova is located”…..”Yes, of course”….”Can you take us there?”….”Sure, 30 pesos”….”30 pesos?, let’s go!” With that, we did a quick u-turn with the taxi, went about a ¼ mile, and pulled into the drive for the hotel. Other times, like leaving Puebla or entering San Cristobal, we did so many left and right turns I couldn’t recreate it if my life depended on it. We got in, we got out, super fast. Cheap. Love it.

Forget Bicimapas. Sometimes the autorouting feature worked, but most times not. I like the personal touch, the local knowledge the taxista can provide. Plus, I like helping the local economy. I also like the stress-free feeling and the knowledge that we’re probably saving a ton of daylight by not running rabbit trails. I didn’t need a taxi in San Miguel, I can almost find the Posada de las Monjas by feel alone. But the new, big cities, forget it. Taxi! Over here!

Don’t speak Spanish? You can still use the taxi trick. Find someone to write out the basic request in Spanish for you, just leave a blank for the destination. Make up a couple of these cards, and carry them with you. Even if you don’t plan up front to use a taxi as I’ve described, make up the card anyway. When you get lost and are at your wits’ end, pull out the card to get you home.

Taxis are even useful when you’re buttoned in your hotel, and wondering what to do. Do you like to take a lot of photographs and you have a day to kill somewhere? Hire a taxi by the hour! Explain to the taxi driver that you’d like to see the major sites. He can drive you around and wait while you jump in and out to take your photos. That’s what I did in Puerto Vallarta. Saves lots of time and walking around from one end of town to the other. You don’t want to continually flag down taxis from one destination to the next. Just make sure you agree on the fee ahead of time. And be sure the taxi has air conditioning.

To use a taxi in this way, since you’ll be inside it and not behind it, just use common sense and consider asking the desk to call the cab for you, as a measure of insurance that you are getting a reputable company.

tricepilot screwed with this post 03-01-2009 at 07:42 PM
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