Should You Visit San Miguel de Allende, Mexico?


November 8, 2017 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Mexico



 

2017 Travel + Leisure Magazine’s Best City in the World, San Miguel de Allende, is known as the heart of Mexico. A quaint town situated in the state of Guanajuato, San Miguel is a popular destination for travelers of all ages. But why all of the hype? Why is San Miguel de Allende is so popular?

Mexico is a popular destination for many travelers, and with good reason. The culture is rich, the attractions are plentiful and the cost of living is very budget friendly. But with so many places to visit, where should you go? Which cities should you visit? San Miguel de Allende is a popular choice for travelers. Today we find out why!

 

Things You Should Know About San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

 

Getting to San Miguel

Getting to San Miguel is super easy, and with lots of different options available to you, there is definitely an easy way to get here, no matter where you are coming from.

There are three major airports that service San Miguel. Sadly none of them are in San Miguel, however, with easy connections by bus or car service, your journey from the airport to San Miguel will be a smooth one. Choices include Mexico City, Leon, Queretaro, and Guadalajara. Guadalajara and Mexico City are the two largest airports, and therefore generally offer better flight prices, however, they are 4-5 hours away from San Miguel.

Once you have arrived in Mexico, buses or private cars are the best options for a San Miguel transfer. There are many bus options, however, ETN is our favorite, with great pricing and a very comfortable ride. They are also the only service that allows travelers to book online (using PayPal payment), as other bus lines will only accept Mexican credit cards. Bookings can be made up to 60 days in advance. 

 


Accommodation

Accommodation in San Miguel is varied. From hostels and hotels to Airbnb, there truly is something for everyone. The difficulty, however, is that many venues do not have online booking options, reducing a visitor’s ability to find accommodation from many of the cities best sites.

Furthermore, as San Miguel is a very popular travel destination for Mexicans and foreigners alike, it is critical to book early, to secure the best possible pricing.

Airbnb is very popular in San Miguel and a great way to find budget accommodation. If you haven’t yet tried Airbnb, click here to save $36 off your first night!

 

 

Getting Around

Getting around in San Miguel is relatively easy. The city is very walkable and it is often advisable over driving, due to the amount of traffic in the central area.

Taxis are commonplace and easy to find (look for the green cars!) and the average cost of a journey is 40-50 pesos ($USD2.10-$2.50).

Uber is gaining popularity (download the App here before you go and get a free ride!), however, there are substantially less Uber’s than taxi’s, and during peak times, fares can be triple a regular taxi fare. During off-peak times, however, Uber can be half the cost of a taxi, and has the added benefit of operating through their app, eliminating the need to try and explain your destination for those that do not speak Spanish!

 

Taxis are easy to find in San Miguel – just look out for the green cars!

 

Weather

While much of Mexico swelters in the heat of Summer, San Miguel boasts lovely temperatures year round. Due to the altitude, San Miguel has a very different climate and offers visitors the best of both worlds. During the Summer months, the temperatures can be very warm, however by simply stepping into the shade of a tree or a building, the temperature can drop many degrees, giving visitors a break from the hot summer sun.

 

Average min and max temperatures in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

 

Summer months are also the wet season in San Miguel and rain can be torrential. Average rain is 250mm/month during the summer months, however, rain generally falls late afternoon, allowing visitors plenty of time to explore during the earlier parts of the day.

In Winter, the days are still warm, but the evenings quite cool. Some might say it’s the perfect combination – you can rug up in the evenings and yet still wear light summer clothing during the day!

For further details on San Miguel de Allende weather, please click here.

 

The Cost of Living

San Miguel is known for being an expensive place! And yes, in comparison to many parts of Mexico, it can be. However, when we compare the cost of living in San Miguel to other, more traditionally expensive places, we quickly realize that the pricing is still quite cheap!

If you are after a city that is super budget-friendly, there are certainly places far more cost-effective in Mexico, however San Miguel is still very cheap, compared to many other destinations.

 

Courtesy of Numbeo

 

For full details about the cost of living in San Miguel, we highly recommend this link.

 

13 Reasons to Visit San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

 

Food

Oh, the food!

From the first mouth-watering bite, you will be immersed in an incredible range of delicious dishes. And if you’ve tried Mexican food at home and enjoyed it, just wait until you try the real thing! There really isn’t anything like TRUE Mexican food!

And you just can’t argue with a 10 peso ($USD0.50/$AUD0.70) taco! From delicious steak, tender chicken or mouth-watering pork topped with onion, coriander, and pineapple, you’ll have a new appreciation for Mexican food!

 

 

Tacos with pastor (pork) and Pineapple

 

A noticeable difference for visitors is that Mexicans eat their meals very differently to many other cultures. Breakfast is between 10am-11am, lunch is the biggest meal of the day between 4pm-5pm and dinner is a very light meal, between 8pm-9pm and not much more than sweet bread with a cup of Nescafe!

Another interesting difference in how filling Mexican food is! Despite your best intentions, you may find yourself eating far less than normal!

 

 

Chilaquiles – a very popular breakfast dish – fried tortillas topped with red or green salsa, sour cream, onion, and beans. Often served with a fried egg!

 

Enchiladas – popular in many parts of the world, but extra delicious in Mexico!

 

Another very popular dish in San Miguel is the roasted chickens. The city is home to many chicken stores, the smell from which will make your mouth water. The marinade used on the chicken is absolutely delicious and this dish is a must try while in San Miguel. With kids, there is a big restaurant located south of the city called Pollo Feliz, that is a super popular place to dine. With the largest indoor playground in San Miguel, your kids will be entertained for hours. BUT, you could be faced with two problems… you may not get your kids to eat, and the noise of so many kids and the loud music they play can be a little overwhelming!

 

Pollo Feliz San Miguel

Pollo Feliz San Miguel – a popular restaurant for kids!

 

Pollo Asada – Roast Chicken

 

Another popular local dish, which may take you by surprise is the green chorizo! Yes, green! BRIGHT GREEN!! Green in color because they are filled with green ingredients. With a pork base, they also contain a combination of coriander, green tomatoes, oregano, parsley and sometimes green chile. They are a crazy bright color, but sliced thinly and pan fried, they are soooo good!

 

Chorizo Verde or Green Pork Sausages. So yummy!

 

Streets

When you first arrive in San Miguel, you will immediately notice the gorgeous cobblestone streets. They are a part of the charm of the city and one can’t help but feel the history of the city seeping from the beautiful streets.

It is important to ensure that you pack appropriate footwear when visiting San Miguel. Good footwear is essential and many visitors find themselves struggling to get around as the cobblestoned streets and sidewalks are rather uneven! Getting around in San Miguel is all about practicality, so leave the heels at home!

 

The gorgeous streets of San Miguel. But be warned… bring good footwear!

 

The other part of any discussion on the streets of San Miguel has to be the incredibly narrow streets! The moment you find yourself sitting in the back of a taxi who navigates the tiny streets, some only wide enough for a single car with a few centimeters on either side of the mirrors, is a moment you’re unlikely to forget! But navigate them they do, and they do it with ease.

Another interesting fact is that the majority of streets are one-way!!! So if you are driving, it is vital to keep an eye out for the arrows on buildings as you approach!

And as if narrow, one-way streets are not enough, many streets in San Miguel are incredibly steep, which can be a little unnerving when you first arrive!

 

Buildings

As a visitor to San Miguel, you cannot help but get swept away in the incredible architecture of the city, and of course, the beautiful colors of its buildings. In the inner city area, homes appear as one long facade, separated by color! But within the gates, the variety of buildings within is impressive.

 

 

In the central area, you can enter a large number of the buildings, as many are established as businesses (cafes and the like!), giving you a lovely peek into the world of Mexican homes and buildings. And as you wander the streets, you won’t be the first to try and catch a glimpse through an open doorway, and it’s worth the effort as you may be surprised what lays within!

Buildings feature incredible colors, unique artworks of all forms (hand painted toilet anyone?) and design ideas that we’d never seen before arriving in Mexico.

 

People

The people of San Miguel are amongst the nicest you may ever meet, They are warm, helpful, polite, and so welcoming. Greetings and farewells are always with a kiss on the cheek (and a hug if you know the person) and locals are more than happy to go out of their way to help you.

 

 

Mexican people are happy people. In US culture, “she who dies richest wins!” But in Mexico, “she who dies happiest wins!” a value that creates a very different, and happy, approach to life. This value comes through very clearly in all aspects of the way they live and interact with us as visitors.

 

It is said that Mexicans don’t like “Gringos”, a word that we always thought meant “white tourist”. But here in Mexico, the word Gringo is specifically given to people from the United States. While there is some negativity towards “Gringos”, I feel like it is less so here, as the locals tell me they are “used to them”. However, it is very important that “Gringos” respect the people of San Miguel, their culture, and way of life. It is the obnoxious, demanding visitors, that give Gringos a bad name!

 

Language

If learning Spanish is a goal, there is no better way to do so than by immersing oneself in a Spanish speaking country, and the people of San Miguel are incredible teachers. From the taxi and Uber drivers, housekeepers, gardeners, and the friends you’ll make, the local’s appreciate the effort to learn and are incredibly patient.

Having said all of that, there is a small amount of English spoken by some locals (particularly Uber drivers), that can help make your stay easier, if you do not speak Spanish.

 

Celebrations

Mexicans love a good celebration, and they sure do know how to throw a good party! It seems that every day there is a parade, a fireworks display, church bells or some other type of festivity going on in San Miguel.

 

 

For visitors, it can be someone overwhelming, because locals are not concerned with what time of day it is (fireworks at 4 am anyone?), but it is a part of the culture and a party of the city that is very endearing. If the loud noise is a concern for you, you may like to stay outside of the central city area.

 

Another day, another celebration, another fireworks display behind the Parroquia!

 

Another way to look at the noise is to realize that it specifically means that someone, somewhere is celebrating! And with so much seriousness in the world, you may just find the constant reminder to be happy has an impact!

 

Decorated streets – a sure sign of a celebration

 

Weather

The weather here in San Miguel could be described as close to perfect! Unlike many parts of Mexico that swelter in the extraordinary heat throughout the year, the altitude of San Miguel creates a very different experience!

In Summer, it gets very hot, however, a quick step into the shade and the temperature drops significantly (the shady side of the sidewalk is very popular!) In Winter, the nights are quite cool, but the days are still beautiful and warm, giving you the best of both worlds.

And in the wet season, the rains are incredible. In San Miguel, the average rainfall is closer to 250mm/mth in the wet season, or closer to 500mm/mth in a very wet season! But be warned. The streets are not designed to handle the amount of water that falls and they flood very easily. Streets will be filled with water making accessibility very difficult. Best to stay inside during and immediately after the rain.

 

After only about 30 minutes of rain!

Culture

There are many differences between Mexican culture and those of the US, UK, Australia and other similar cultures, and Mexico is often described as being 50 years behind the times. But what does that mean? Simply that the values that we held dear half a century ago, are still a huge part of Mexican culture today. From gas attendants still pumping fuel, using titles for those older than ourselves (Señor & Señora for Mr & Mrs), to a much slower pace, reminiscent of a time gone by, Mexican values are something that much more “established” countries are now lacking!

Another noticeable difference is the distinct lack of needing to be “the best”. Other cultures are so incredibly competitive, yet here in Mexico, happiness is the end goal, even at the expense of earning a dollar.

A few more observations:

  • Respect is highly prevalent, and the elderly are incredibly well cared for by their family. Most wouldn’t dream of putting their elders into a home, and family members pitch in to care for them.
  • Life is slower, and with happiness as the goal, people take the time to enjoy the many celebrations that occur in the city.
  • Rules and regulations are clearly not as prevalent, and interestingly not at the expense of safety. Seatbelts are far less popular, seeing a pickup driving down the highway full of people in the back is common, and locals don’t appear to need to be heavily regulated, to behave like decent people and to keep themselves safe.

 

Markets

 

If you love a good street market, then San Miguel is the place for you! With so many to choose from, you are sure to find whatever it is you need (or don’t need!) From the massive Tuesday market, where you can buy just about anything, to the numerous fresh food markets, art markets, clothing markets and more! Plus, by purchasing from them, you are supporting the local people!

 

The Artisan Markets in San Miguel

 

The Tuesday market is a regular attraction for visitors and locals alike. No matter what you are after there’s a good chance you’ll find it there, and if not, you’ll enjoy a great local meal while you’re there.

 

The Tuesday Market – home for pretty much anything you could want to buy!

 

Popular markets include:

  • Tianguis de los Martes (Tuesday Market) is a massive market on every week and well worth a visit. Located on Salida a Queretaro near Plaza Luciernaga
  • Mercado Plaza Guadalupe is a long stretch of markets that operate every day and have a big mix of clothing, and hardware. Located on Calle Guadalupe in San Rafael
  • Mercado San Juan de Dios is another large market that operates daily and has a mixture of clothing, homewares, fruit and vegetables and food stalls. Located just off Canal near the intersection with Calle Guadalupe.
  • Mercado de Artesanias is the perfect place to find mementos and gifts to take home with you. The market is full of Mexican (and specifically San Miguel) arts and crafts and runs for many blocks. Located near the corner of Calz de la Luz and Hidalgo and continuing through to Colegio. This market culminates in a huge fresh food market where you can buy the best fruit smoothies (licuados de frutas) you may ever find.

 

Art

San Miguel is known for its art. From the stunning street murals of Colonia Guadalupe (a suburb of SMA), the beautiful Artisan Markets, to the local nicknacks and souvenirs, there is something very special about the craft in San Miguel.

 

The beautiful handpainted skulls of San Miguel.

 

As you wander the art markets, you can watch vendors hand painting their clay molds. Or, you could choose to visit one of many art galleries in the Centro area where you will discover some of the most beautiful artwork you’ll ever see – there really is something for everyone in San Miguel.

 

The colorful fabrics of San Miguel

El Jardin & The Parroquia

In the center of San Miguel, you will find el Jardin. The center of town and home to the stunning Parroquia is a popular meeting place and the center of many celebrations in San Miguel.

 

 

The trees in el Jardin are meticulously pruned into a beautiful round shape, creating not only a lovely garden setting to meet with friends but a beautiful, almost artistic masterpiece in the center of town.

 

 

The Parroquia truly is the heart of San Miguel, and with its stunning pink facade and huge towers, it is little wonder that this church is so popular!

 

Day of the Dead

One of our favorite celebrations here in San Miguel was Day of the Dead. More than just enjoying the celebration, we enjoyed getting to understand the way Mexicans view death and the afterlife.

 

 

Locals believe that life begins at death. That death is not a time of sadness, but the time at which you move to the land of the remembered (or land of the dead), and life truly begins. It is said that there are three parts to life – 1) the time here on earth 2) the time after passing and 3) the time when no-one here on earth is around to remember the deceased, the final being a truly sad moment.

Each year, families gather to remember ancestors that have passed. They create altars to celebrate the life of the deceased and to invite them back to celebrate Day of the Dead.

 

Day of the Dead Markets, with stall after stall selling sugar skulls, and other sugary treats. All a part of the offerings left to help the dead return to celebrate.

 

In San Miguel, Dia de los Muertos is part of a 5-day festival, with streets teeming with people dressed as Catrines and Catrinas (skeletons)! You know you are in Mexico when it is completely normal for every third person walking the street to have skeleton facepaint!

 

The Day of the Dead Parade in San Miguel

 

el Jardin, the center of town becomes full of Catrinas and Catrines (the popular figure associated with Day of the Dead) and sidewalks were fully decorated with ofrendas (offerings), to help the dead return for the celebrations.

 

 

To better understand Day of the Dead, and the way Mexicans view the afterlife, the animated movies “The Book of Life”, along with the brand new Disney Movie “Coco” are excellent resources for children and parents alike!

 

Worldschooling Hub

San Miguel de Allende is a popular place for tourists, and equally as popular for Worldschooling Families. At any time there is a large congregation of Worldschoolers in San Miguel and it is a lovely community to be a part of. If visiting for any length of time, you are welcome to join the San Miguel de Allende Worldschooling and Homeschooling group on Facebook, where world schoolers come together, make friends and plan outings.

 

Summary

San Miguel is an incredible place to visit, or to base yourself for travel around Mexico. The people are wonderful, the climate is perfect and the world schooling community is very welcoming. If you are traveling through Mexico, San Miguel should most definitely be on your bucket list… but be warned, you may never want to leave!

 

 

 

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