Guadalajara (GDL) is Mexico’s 2nd largest city. If you have been to Puebla or Guanajato or Mexico City or San Miguel de Allende, I caution you to taper your expectations down. GDL is visibly run down. Unlike those other cities where things are in good or great repair, GDL, it appears lacks the funds to keep things in fine shape. From the first ride from the airport, you get a sense of the industrial ambiance of the city, graffiti is mercilessly sprawled everywhere except in the very center of the city around the Cathedral - presumably, because of the large presence of police there. Step a few blocks from this core part of the center and as you travel via a less than stellar Tapito Tours double decker bus, you cannot help but, notice the patched up work on buildings, trash, unkept gardens. No consistency as you may be used to in the other places I mentioned.
The best way to tour in and around GDL is through the Tapito Tour buses as that is the only cost effective option. For a city of this size, it is unusual that there is no competition for them. They offer 4 routes, one bus takes you to Zapopan, another does the GDL city route, another take you to Tlaquepaque and the fourth one, takes you from Tlaquepaque to Tonala. For $MX 140-160 (160 when tourists abound), you can ride all four routes within 6 hours without exiting the bus. Sadly, no multi-day discount passes. Seriously, Hop On/Hop Off needs to come to town unless they are the ones that own Tapitio Tours!
GDL City - instead of the bus tour, get a map from the Tourist Info - sorry, available only in Spanish! But, you can still easily manage. Walk the center of the city - 2 days of six hour trips of 1 day of eight hours if you have abnormal energy. See my www.instagram.com/ArtByPino to see sights I recommend.
Tonala - Remember, you have to catch the bus from Tlaquepaque - given the bus schedule and what I needed to cover, I did not go the ceramic museum which is renowned. On Sundays and Thursday, thousands of vendors converge in Tonala and sell everything for lower prices - everything that you might buy from elsewhere in GDL. So, good spot to go shopping if you have a long list.
Tlaquepaque - A delightful place to visit, high-end artisan shops, and, I mean high—end. Clearly, their Customers are the upper class of the Mexican society and foreigners. I found their prices intimidating and instead bought a couple of things from street side artisans who make their crafts in front of you. Independencia Avenue is the one you want to walk down. Lots of great food and drinks and entertainment. Safe. Surrounding, fine places to eat, coffee, the works.
Zapopan - Basilica is the main draw there. The art museum across looks nice but, given the ridiculous bus schedule of Tapito Tours - 15 minute break or wait 2 hours and 50 minutes for the next bus - I opted to skip the museum.
All in all, I would still recommend visiting GDL and surrounding areas - separate post coming up in a few days on that - just so that you can get an experience of some of the finest buildings, museums and, art. People - as in the rest of Mexico - are a charm, warm, friendly. The legend about Guadalajara women being the most beautiful in Mexico failed to live up to its reputation. But, then again, as a learned wise person stated, beauty is in the eye of the beholder...
Here, I am assuming that you do not have someone that can drive you to the Reynosa REX airport and that you are like me, wanting to catch a low cost flight from the Mexican side of McAllen - City of Reynosa.
It is best to catch a bus from the McAllen Bus Terminal for $5 to the Reynosa Bus Terminal or have someone drop you off a the Hidalgo International Bridge and walk across. Either way, once you reach the Mexican side of the bridge, their Customs will scan your baggage for contraband, especially, guns. If they find one or ammunition, enjoy a life in their prison. They are no-nonsense about it.
If you take the bus, you will be asked to get off the bus and couple of helpers will take your luggage to the scanning area and then help load it back on the bus. $1 tip per bag is decent. Then, it is a 5 minute ride to the bus terminal. Depending on the hour of the day or night, take a taxi from the bus terminal to the airport - $MX 200 or Uber for less. Same process for the return journey.
I do not recommend buying the bus pass offered by VivaAerobus when you book a ticket online as depending on the time of your flight, it may not be practical and the wait for the shuttle can be long. Their bus pass runs about $MX 130 from McAllen to Reynosa airport, for about $MX 180 more, you can travel on your schedule cutting your time from 3 hours to less than an hour.
Same in Guadalajara - instead of buying the VivaAerobus pass online for $MX130, as soon as you exit the terminal, to your right, catch the VivaAerobus bus and pay $MX70 to the driver.
THERE ARE NO VISAS REQUIRED for travel into Mexico. In all these years of travel, not a soul has asked for any such documents. When boarding flights, only a government issued photo ID - DL or Passport is good. Upon return and flying into Reynosa, they do check your immigration status at the airport, by the Mexican Immigration. I show my US Passport and all is good. Not sure why they check upon coming into Reynosa but, not when you travel to any other place in Mexico. When traveling by bus, no checks whatsoever on the Mexican side. Only when you cross into the US, US Border Patrol requires a passport or a birth certificate and a photo ID and in that instance, a strong suggestion that you get a passport.
As of this blog post, the currency exchange rate was $1 = 18.80 pesos.