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Why I recommend blowing your BA Miles on a holiday in Mexico !

Why I recommend blowing your BA Miles on a holiday in Mexico !

Old Mar 24, 06, 9:57 am
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Why I recommend blowing your BA Miles on a holiday in Mexico !

We have just returned from two weeks in Mexico. This is an excellent way to burn your BA Miles, as there is generally good availability in J and F. It is a 747 (so the best F product and an upstairs for J) and you benefit from a day flight on the outbound and a partially day flight on the inbound. Mileage required is 100k for J, 150k for F (we did F).

Mexico seems to be a generally a misunderstood country from a tourism point of view. I thought I would therefore summarise what we did during our 2 weeks to help anyone planning a similar trip, since I must have spent a good 50 hours or so researching itineraries and hotels. The route we took was similar to that used by most upmarket tour operators.

Stop 1: Mexico City (3 nights)

Hotel: Top choices are the Four Seasons or the JW Marriott. The FS is the better choice by most accounts and is just $249 for a suite at weekends. However, it is not in Polanco, which is the upmarket area where most of the business hotels, restaurants and luxury shops are located (and where there is the heaviest police presence). The Marriott is in Polanco, but is a luxury four star at best. Next to the Marriott are an InterCon, a W and a Nikko if you have points to burn, although none are as well regarded.

Sights to see: the Frida Kahlo museum, the Trotsky museum, the Greenwich Village-style area of Cayoacan (near the above), the Anthropology Museum, Polanco shopping. You can also do a day trip to the pyramids 25 miles north.

Helpful hint: Take the Friday BA flight. Hotel rooms in Mexico City are AT LEAST 50% cheaper at weekends, and the traffic is lighter. Get your hotel to pick you up not cheap ($70 one-way, $100 return) but a lot safer. And believe what the hotels, guide books and indeed the Foreign Office website say do NOT hail a taxi on the street. Go to the nearest hotel and take one of their cars.

Stop 2: Oaxaca (3 nights, flew from Mexico City)

Oaxaca is a lovely small colonial town, with a very laid back feel and lots of interesting shops and galleries. The main hotel is the Camino Real, a converted 16th century convent. We stayed here and it is not bad at all, although the rooms are not huge. You MUST take an interior room the exterior rooms are cheaper but suffer heavily from street noise. Take a day trip to Monte Albarn, the Aztec site nearby the Camino Real does a good day trip for $30 per person that also includes some other sites nearby.

Helpful hint: Internal flights are not cheap. We spent 700 between us for three internal flights. You will not find them cheaper than the Mexicana website believe me, I tried. Business class flights are 2-3 times the price so not worth it, in my view. Neither Mexicana or Aeromexico are in any of the major alliances so no lounge access unless you have a Priority Pass, although you can credit Mexicana flights to an AA account. We stuck to Mexicana flights (all new Airbus planes, most codeshared with Aeromexico) although Click Mexicana (its budget offshoot) flies some routes on Avros if you want to save a few pounds. You will be impressed by the domestic and indeed international terminals at the Mexico City airport.

Stop 3: Merida (3 nights, flew from Oaxaca via Mexico City)

Merida is a bigger version of Oaxaca, although not as pretty. However, the main reason to come here is to stay at one of the fantastic restored haciendas. Five of these are managed by Starwood, and are worth a look if you have points to burn. However, I strongly, strongly recommend that you stay at Hacienda Xcanatun. This is a truly stunning place and - unlike the Starwood properties only a few minutes drive from Merida. We paid $300 for a Master Suite, and I can honestly say that I have never stayed in a better room for less than 200 anywhere in the world. As we left, the Crown Prince of Japan turned up for lunch I kid you not.

There are also chain hotels in Merida, including an InterCon, but youd be crazy not to stay at Xcanatun. The main day trip from Merida is to the ruins at Uxmal, about an hours drive away.

Helpful hint: We hired a car from Avis, picked up at Merida airport and dropped at Cancun. Car hire is NOT cheap we paid $500 for a week, of which $160 was the one-way fee. Only Avis of the majors lets you book a one-way online. The roads are excellent in Yucatan, far better than in Oaxaca or Mexico City. The roads are straight, wide and very empty. Merida has a six-lane ring road around it and was never busy. If I can drive there, anyone can. Cars are manual, not automatic.

Stop 4: Chichen Itza (one night, drove from Merida)

Chichen Itza is the most famous Mayan site in the country, and a convenient stop about 200km from Merida. Take the toll road. There are a number of hotels nearby, of which the best is Mayaland. That is not saying much, but it is fine for an overnight stop. You can pass the evening by returning to Chichen Itza (2 mins walk from the hotel) for the sound and light show, which is a bit pants but is free if you keep your ticket from earlier in the day. We got a cheap 78 rate on octopustravel.com.

Stop 5: Beach resort on the Riviera Maya (two nights, drove from Merida)

We ignored Cancun on pure snobbery grounds, and stayed at the new minimalist Esencia resort about 100km south of Cancun (about 200km in total from Chichen Itza, most on the empty toll road). There are many resorts here in all price brackets, so pick one that suits you and your budget. The best one, Paradisa de la Bonita, I think its called, reopens in April post hurricane. There is a Mandarin Oriental resort opening in the Autumn which may be even better.

We dropped our car at Cancun Airport and took the 3.30pm Mexicana flight to Mexico City (arrived 5.30pm) in time for the 8.40pm BA flight back to London.

I hope this gives you a feel for how you can have a decent holiday in Mexico. The best time to go is January to April. During the Summer it rains for 1-2 hours per day and is very hot. You also have the hurricane season from July to December. We did not see a drop of rain during our two weeks, and it was constantly 25-30 degrees centigrade.

Please post if you have any queries and Ill do what I can to answer.
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Old Mar 24, 06, 10:10 am
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Originally Posted by Raffles
Please post if you have any queries and Ill do what I can to answer.
Thank you Raffles ^ you have just given me our holiday destination for next year :-:
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Old Mar 24, 06, 10:16 am
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I've been banging on about this for ages! Done it twice in F with 241, and will do it again ^

Thanks for the detailed report Raffles will try some of those that I haven't done next time.
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Old Mar 24, 06, 11:16 am
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I'd just add to the list of hotels a couple of other gems (which don't earn points, but which provide a more intimate cultural and social experience than the Marriot/Hiltons of the world):

Habita

Condesa DF

W Hotel


In Oaxaca, the Bugambilias hotel is charming, and offers Temazcal massage.

Glad you liked Mexico though. Orale gey!
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Old Mar 24, 06, 11:19 am
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While we're talking hotels, stayed here for my birthday last year - mind blowing. No electricity, just thousands of candles...

http://www.hotelito.com/
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Old Mar 24, 06, 11:38 am
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Ok so the secret's out. You are right, I have to agree Mexico is superb, fantastico, el mejor, particularly if keeping far away from Cancun...and I'm ashamed of myself for trying to hide the fact to keep all those free seats to myself mrs Philco & Philco junior. Mexico City deserves a better reputation in its own right. Now 2 OT questions - how can you fly from Merida to Belize City and what is the little known airline that flies from Merida straight to Oaxaca? I ask 'cos I'll be there in 2 weeks...F of course!
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Old Mar 25, 06, 3:44 am
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Originally Posted by Pyeinthesky
While we're talking hotels, stayed here for my birthday last year - mind blowing. No electricity, just thousands of candles...

http://www.hotelito.com/
Link isn't working for me - can you post the name of the hotel? Sounds great...
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Old Mar 25, 06, 3:48 am
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Too many places to see...

Just a couple of points:

Aeromexico is part of Skyteam, giving some earning options. Though that would mean flying on Skyteam elsewhere - Korean Air or KLM anyone?

The W in Mexico City is part of the Starwood Group, so SPG members can earn and burn.

Thanks for the tips, Raffles.
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Old Mar 25, 06, 7:44 am
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Thanks, Raffles - I had considered Mexico for later this year but changed my mind as we couldn't be away for long enough but I definately want to go soon. Now the dilemma is Mexico or Zanzibar!
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Old Mar 25, 06, 9:08 pm
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Originally Posted by Swanhunter
- Korean Air or KLM anyone?
Korean: Never. I've never heard a good thing about the product (and their safety record is pants) and they don't give miles unless you're giving them a lot of money.

KLM/AF: Are we talking pre or post BA Connect?

Back on topic: How is the security in Mexico in terms of crime against tourists. The place always struck me as a bit dodgy (and I already go to enough dodgy places when I travel for business).
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Old Mar 25, 06, 9:27 pm
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Originally Posted by Internaut
Korean: Never. I've never heard a good thing about the product (and their safety record is pants) and they don't give miles unless you're giving them a lot of money.
I prefer the food in KE J over BA J, and their safety record has improved a lot (though the jury is still out somewhat). Despite (or because of?) having awful seats in J, the 747 upper deck feels more spacious and light and thus more relaxing than BA's. Plus on the LHR-ICN route, through our corporate travel agent at least, KE J was priced competitively with BA WT+. But you're right about the thresholds for the KE program, and I think I'd have preferred to be earning miles and TPs on BA for my trips between the UK and Korea.
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Old Mar 25, 06, 11:41 pm
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Mexico City is wonderful, the second-greatest city in N America after NYC, although personally I would never stay in Polanco (or the equally rich-but-bland Roma, Condensa, etc).

A US$70 airport pickup is a ripoff: the taxis from the prepaid taxi line at the airport, about $12-18 depending on destination, are not the same as street-hailable taxis and are 100% safe. Returning to the airport, the hotel can call you the same type of taxi for slightly less. Around town, don't go to the nearest hotel, go to the nearest sitio (taxi stand), these are near all major intersections and sights. Sitio taxis are tightly licensed and completely safe.

I agree that Coyoacan is the best area of Mexico City; unfortunately there are no hotels close to the action there. So Centro Historico is the most practical area to stay in. There is a substantial police presence there as well, but it does not seem necessary; Mexico City is as safe as any other big city, and Centro is full of life. On weekends, join the dancers on the west side of the cathedral...

There are many excellent hotels in Oaxaca; there is no single "main hotel". I like the Victoria, an older hotel with a good view from a hill on the outskirts of the center but still only a pleasant one-mile walk to the main square. The fried grasshoppers are excellent: buy a US$1 bag at the market. The ice cream in the market is good and there are many unusual flavors.

In Merida, "the main reason to come" is to see what happens there every Saturday night and Sunday. It's a city-wide party, and I don't mean spring break; it's for the local people.

In Mexico, the simple pleasures are the best. For US$50 and up you can get fake food designed to feed the egos of rich Mexicans and the hygiene concerns of tourists. But for US$2 you can get a seafood tostada at the Mercado de Coyoacan, or a turkey sandwich with mole at the Churreria del Morro (join the long line): this is real food refined by real people and by time and culture, and it will astonish your tastebuds. (And no, it probably won't make you sick. Mexico is far cleaner than a decade ago, just eat where others are eating too.) A US$0.70 coffee at the Cafe El Jarrocho, or a US$1 fruit ice at the Nieves de Coyoacan, will also show you that you don't have to spend lots of money to get the best of the best.

Last edited by kalia960; Mar 26, 06 at 1:28 am
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Old Mar 26, 06, 6:55 am
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Originally Posted by Internaut
Back on topic: How is the security in Mexico in terms of crime against tourists. The place always struck me as a bit dodgy (and I already go to enough dodgy places when I travel for business).
The guidebooks tell you that Yucatan is as safe as anywhere, and we had no hassle at all. It seemed safer than similar US areas, to be honest.

Mexico City - the mass ranks of police in the tourist areas seems offputting but we had no real trouble. Not taking street taxis is the only bit of advice everyone gives. The city has major problems (23m people, many of whom do not even have running water all day) but it is massive and you will only be in the good bits.
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Old Mar 26, 06, 8:03 am
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Originally Posted by typical
... their safety record has improved a lot (though the jury is still out somewhat) ...
It's "improved" because they were actually unsuccessful in crashing that 744 at KIX last year?
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Old Mar 26, 06, 8:05 am
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Thanks for the useful information...

I'm thinking about going to MEX on a mileage run at some point - T class fares MEX-SYD route via Europe on BA and are worth lots of status miles on other AAirlines.
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