San Miguel is an extraordinary resource, with something here for virtually everyone.
In fact, with so much diversity, the list below may help help you plan your time.
Well, obviously, but what kind? Well, for one thing, almost everything here is within walking distance, which is a good thing. But streets are mostly cobblestones and sidewalks are narrow. Comfortable shoes are a MUST! They don’t have to be sneakers, although that works, but could be anything with some support and a good rubber sole. I see people in flip-flops (and Mexican girls love high stiletto heels) but I would save them for dress up and not the streets. Cabs, by the way, are inexpensive here (50 pesos or about $2.5) and mostly you will be able to find one wherever you are or within a short walk. And, p.s. many women come here from all over the world and purchase a type of shoe called “San Miguel shoes” which are great for the street. So maybe you will leave with a pair or two.
So if you have pesos when you come, that’s great. But you can come with just dollars because it is easy to get pesos. One option is to use ATM machines at the Jardin (there is sometimes a transaction fee on both sides though, Mexican and US) or you can also Intercam (9:00-11:45 M-F) where we do our banking. It is right in the Centro and does not charge a fee for changing dollars to pesos. A small calculator could also be helpful. Note: Some places do take credit cards, but smaller restaurant and shops may not. This is a cash society. On the other hand, carrying lots of cash is probably not a good idea. A reasonable strategy is to bring some dollars (you can pay for airport transport in dollars) and then change money as you need it. Also, be careful where you carry money. We do not have violent crime here (contrary to what you hear about Mexico) but this is a tourist area and you will want to watch your purse/wallet. I carry a fanny pack or leather strap bag that goes across the body, and I never carry a purse on my shoulder. I do not carry a lot of money at any one time. Also, don’t carry your passport in your purse and make sure you make a copy of it before you leave. Then keep your passport in a safe place and the copy in your suitcase.
3. A jacket, sweater or shawl
Here is the thing that is hard for everyone to understand – it is NOT all that hot here in the summer and not really cold in the winter. Late April and May are usually our hottest months (but dry), December and January are usually our coldest months (it could be 40 degrees in the morning) and all of the time we are cool in the morning and evening , and pleasantly warm in the day. We are at 6500 feet of altitude, so think high desert. I have found that dressing in layers is key. I might start out with a sweater in the morning with a tank top or tee shirt underneath and then ditch the sweater. Then in the evening, usually a shawl or a sweater is sufficient.
4. Sunscreen and/or hat
We are close to the sun at 6500 feet and most days are sunny. Do not make the mistake of thinking that because it is a little cool that you will not burn.
If you have a small folding umbrella, you might bring it. The rainy season is from about mid-June through September and usually what that means is that we might get a brief thunder shower in the afternoon or evening.
6. Bathing suit
There are hot springs and swimming pools around that are fun if you have time and are so inclined. We have beach towels you can use.
7. A few words
Gracias (thank you), Por favor (please), and buenos dias (good morning), buenas tardes (afternoon) and buenas noches (evening). Some Mexicans speak English, particularly in hotels, shops and restaurants, but these phrases go a long way in getting what you need. Mexican culture is very formal, especially in language. I wrote an article on using greetings in Mexico –it is called How it goes in Mexico: Where we work on saving our breath. You can find it at http://howitgoesinmexico.com
8. School supplies
Yes, you read that right. Or used clothing for children, including jackets or shoes. Here’s the deal: it is not possible to be here and turn away from the poverty that exists. We support a number of worthy causes and a number of spontaneous situations (See Burros, Bricks and Bien Estar on our home page for more information) and so every opportunity that we have to encourage people to BRING SOMETHING DOWN, we do so. So if you do not have used clothing to bring, you might go to CVS or Walgreen’s or other similar store and go through the school supplies aisle. There are pencils, crayons, notebooks, school scissors, watercolors, erasers – you name it, we need it. If you have an unused computer, bring it down. We support an organization that will refit it for the Spanish language. A monitor? We need it. Almost anything you have that you are going to throw away – we need it. Here is the very good part of this: you will get a tremendous feeling of satisfaction for sharing what you might have otherwise thrown away AND (here is the icing on the cake) you will have room in your suitcase to fill with Mexican crafts like pottery, silver jewelry, and any number of wonderful and inexpensive handmade goods.
9. Sense of adventure
It has been said that there are no two countries in the world sharing a border that are more different than the United States and Mexico. Language, culture, there is so much here that is different from El Norte. So, good to remember that you are coming to a foreign country. If you have never been to Mexico (or if you have only been to the “beach resorts”) you are in for a surprise. Try things – food, language, experiences. I am sure you will find it fun and interesting!
10. Open heart and open mind
Mexico is a warm, wonderful country. And many of us have not really had an opportunity in the United States to get a glimpse of Mexico’s elegance and culture, particularly when all of the news you may hear about Mexico is bad (see our page on Safety and Security for more information). We may do things a little differently down here (yes, it is true, we do not throw toilet paper in the toilet, among other little idiosyncrasies…) But if you bring an open heart and an open mind, all of the other nine things will take care of themselves! And, if you have any questions, problems, or issues, please just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s how it goes in Mexico, Carol.
Robert and Carol Merchasin
Cinco Flores - Aldama 4 - Colonia Centro San Miguel de Allende, GTO 37700 (US) 510 458 7292