- Yucatan Peninsula, about 3 hours drive from Cancun or Merida depending on which direction your coming from.
- The main highway to the national park (Chichen Itza) is a toll road, you can take a longer ride there if you wish without tolls, but that road is a two lane road and takes about an hour longer to get to your destination (it is also generally safer on the toll road).
Best way to travel there:
- This trip I chose to take a tour bus, saving me the headache and aggravation of renting a car and having to drive myself, initially I wasn't sure about this choice as I have done the drive to 'Chichen' a couple of times before, once on the two lane road and again on the toll road. I will say it now and repeat it later; "take the tour bus". You can always modify your choice later, later in the post I will share tips and tricks while on the tour, to make your time more enjoyable.
- Turns out this was the best choice ever, I didn't appreciate being on a schedule per se, but it was well worth it overall. I ended up seeing a new spot that I wouldn't have seen otherwise (Vallioid) and to top that off I was able to dive into a very large fresh-water Cenote (sinkhole, sounds worse in English, but it was a lot of fun and a 'must-do').
Things to think about prior to travel:
- A trip to Chichen Itza takes pretty much the whole day (6 hours total driving), eat before you go and bring lots of water.
- Depending upon the time of year you go, be prepared with an umbrella or rain poncho, the weather is variable and can change quickly.
- Bring a camera and video cam (be prepared video-cams are subject to an extra tax of 4 dollars, but if you take video on a digital camera it is not subject to the tax, go figure. note: I used my flip camera and didn't get a surcharge).
- Bring comfortable shoes, if you are there with a tour you will be walking for about 3 hours.
- Wear comfortable clothes, it is always hot and humid in this area (I like to wear good 'wicking' clothes, keeps me nice and comfortable no matter the weather).
Things that have changed:
- The amount of people in the park has grown exponentially (this time I went on Thursday, early in the low-travel season and it was still packed), for instance the first time I was there (late 80's
- They no longer allow people to the top of any of the objects (pyramid, ball park, temple of 1000 warriors or observatory amongst the notable things that used to be open to walk on, around and on top of. This was particularly saddening, as one is not truly able to appreciate the size of many of these things unless you have some reference point (the human body being an interesting one). The even removed the chains from the steps of the main temple, ensuring nobody is climbing to the top. :-(
Tips and tricks:
- Just because you came with a tour guide, doesn't mean you have to stay with a tour guide, make sure you know your bus number and time to meet, then walk on your own, discover all you can.
- The vendors inside of the park are actually there illegally, if you don't buy from them you are not supporting their illegal livelihood... if you do decide to buy from them, you will probably get a cheaper price for your goods, but again... are propping up bad behavior, choice is yours.
- I wouldn't buy any wood items, even from the reputable folks, unless it is made of cedar (and you know that how?) due to the cheaper wood being prone to termites, which you would be bringing back to your house AND after a year those pesky termites will have eaten your item, leaving it rotten and not looking as good as when you purchased it.
- Purchase items made of the local stone, this will ensure a good price as well as supporting local artisans, things like silver (plata), gold (oro) or stones like obsidian are not from this area, they are imported from other parts of Mexico and Central America. But hey, if you want to... go ahead and buy, you are still putting money into the local economy, even if you are not buying their goods. :-)
- Culturally, it is good to bargain for any items (no, not at WalMart or eateries, but just about anywhere else is a go), my strategy is this:
- Have a 'number' that your willing to pay, ready before you engage in conversation
- Ask the vendor what their lowest price is (hint, this is only the start of the discussion and it is usually the highest price they feel comfortable asking for)
- Respond with a number about 33-50% lower than what your willing to pay (don't worry, this is your start of the bargaining cycle)
- The vendor will tell you that they cannot do it, it is too low, they are unable to feed their family (etc, etc) and they will supply you with another number, lower than their initial number, but far more than your initial number.
- You can then choose one of two tact's, either give them your walk-away number (the price your willing to pay) or give them another number in the 20% range of your walk-away number. If you choose the first, be prepared to actually walk away (or pretend to do so), if you want to play some more, then choose option 2 and have fun with it.
- It is likely you will end up paying what you wanted to, unless it wasn't reasonable for that item.
Happy travels, Ken