Much of what you hear (and fear) about Mexico is unfounded. Where we travel in Oaxaca is as safe as any place on Earth. Below are some frequently asked questions about safety, food, logistics, money and language - along with our responses.
Q: I've heard it's dangerous to eat ice and drink water in Mexico. Is this true?
A: You can eat, drink and have ice without illness, so long as you follow simple rules: "If you can peel it, you can eat it" and "If it is cooked, dig in." Your guide will advise you if something is risky. The venues at which our group eats and drinks together are safe. Even small restaurants/bars buy their ice from reputable companies. Do bring some Pepto-Bismal tablets as they are great preventative medicine when you are unsure about a food item. Some travelers ask their physician for medicine to bring along as well, although it is rarely needed.
Q: I've also heard Mexico is dirty.
A: The good news is that bathrooms in the city are quite clean and you don't usually have to buy or bring your own toilet paper anymore. The not-so-good news is that there is some litter and street art, aka graffiti. However, it's no more prevalent than in any other big city. Mexicans have a habit of sweeping and mopping their floors each morning as well as their front stoop and the street -- so it's funny that this type of rumor ever got started!
Q: Will I be safe walking around in the city?
A: Oaxaca is as safe as anywhere else. Use common sense regarding choices about where to go and what time of day or night you walking. If you feel nervous, simply wander where there are plenty of other people about. It's best to leave your fine jewelry at home. Making a show of one's wealth is an invitation to thieves no matter where you travel. We also recommend you let the tour guide or another group member know of your plans before you go off on your own.
Q: Do I need to bring travelers' checks?
A: No. Do bring some pesos if you can get them from your bank ahead of time. Once you are in Mexico it is simple to get pesos with your debit card. Restaurants, shops and vendors in the city often take credit cards.
Q: If I buy a large item, can I ship it back home?
A: Absolutely. FedEx works very well from Oaxaca. However, it is relatively expensive.
Q: Has Mexico become more expensive over the years?
A: Yes & No. Prices for food and drink are quite a bit lower than in the States. Textiles, pottery, and other types of folk art are very reasonably priced. You can bargain for a lower price if you wish. Most vendors will negotiate. That said, Oaxaca and internet are good friends, so many vendors know the worth of their goods and things are higher than they were in the 80s :).
Q: If I travel alone, will it be possible for me to share a room?
A: Please alert us if you would like to share the expense of a room with another traveler. We will try to accommodate you.
Q: Is it mandatory to attend all the scheduled tour activities?
A: Not at all. This is YOUR trip, so join in or opt out as your whims direct. Of course you'll miss something fabulous... but there will be future tours!
Q: Will there be other available activities aside from the ones offered by your tour?
A: There are always daily options for personal enrichment, including meditation, yoga, reflections and special classes. We are happy to help you access Spanish language or cooking classes upon request.
Q: Can I customize an experience in Oaxaca?
A: Any group with at least eight people can request a particular set of dates and itinerary with Open Heart Tours. We will bring on the fun!
Q: I don't travel often. Can you direct me as to the best options for flights?
A: If requested, we'll happily advise you on the best flight options and meet you at the Oaxaca airport when you arrive.
Q: I don't speak Spanish. Will I be okay in Oaxaca?
A: There are always interpreters available during the tour. We also provide "Survival Spanish" lessons upon request.