Transportation to Oaxaca

The fastest, easiest way to get to Oaxaca is to fly there directly from Houston via Continental Airlines — non-stop. The daily flight leaves around 9 a.m. and arrives into Oaxaca about 11:30 a.m. To get there from the east coast, I get to the airport at 4 a.m. (two hours in advance as required for international flights, get on the 6 a.m. flight to Houston, and then, if I’m not totally zonked, have a whole day in Oaxaca. The flight to Oaxaca is on a small regional jet and flying time is about 2-1/2 hours. After landing, a couple of cups of great organic Oaxaca coffee will get me juiced up enough to stay awake until 9 p.m. Summer is hurricane season along the gulf coast and Oaxaca’s big weather is in spring (lots of rain in April-May). The other major airlines will take you to their hub city (Miami, Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta, Charlotte), on a Boeing 737 or MD-80 (which for me, is a bit easier ride in weather) where you will fly to Mexico City (about 2-1/2 to 3 hour flight), have a layover (which you want because you have to clear immigration–which takes about 30-40 minutes), then hop the 1 hour flight on Mexicana or AeroMexico into Oaxaca City. There is a “direct” Mexicana flight from Los Angeles to Oaxaca, but it stops in Mexico City, no plane changing. This last trip, I flew American Airlines, left at 6 a.m. and arrived in Oaxaca at 7 p.m. that evening — still a long day!

When we went in December 2007, my husband decided he wanted to save a couple hundred dollars, so he booked a separate round-trip on US Airways to Mexico City only. Then, he made an advanced prepaid reservation on the first class overnight bus from Mexico City to Oaxaca, which arrived the next morning at 6 a.m. The bus ticket cost about $60USD. He got the last ticket for that bus, so especially during holiday season, it’s essential to make a reservation in advance. This was his itinerary: fly from RDU to St. Louis to Phoenix to Mexico City, arrive at 6 p.m. Get a taxi from the airport to the first class bus station across town to catch the bus leaving at 10 p.m. to Oaxaca. Recline on almost flat bus seats (they give you eye mask, ear plugs and mints) and hope you don’t get seated next to a snorer or someone who keeps lifting the window shades. Sound good? I met a Oaxaquena native and her teenage daughters from Fresno who were visiting relatives over the holidays. I asked her how they got to Oaxaca. They take a bus from Fresno to Tijuana and then there’s a direct flight (via Mexico City) to Oaxaca. Somehow, I think that if you buy the airplane ticket inside Mexico, it’s probably cheaper. We’ve been buying tickets on Hotwire lately and it’s pretty competitive. A couple of years ago, before $100 a barrel gas, you could get a RT ticket for $600 from the east coast. Lately, it’s been closer to $800 and I’ve seen them upwards of $1,000. Another idea we’re looking into is flying to Huatulco and then taking a bus to Oaxaca. We heard from a Canadian that he got a real deal: $200 RT from Regina, Sasketchewan to Huatulco through a travel agent. We wouldn’t want to stay in Huatulco but we certainly wouldn’t mind flying there for that price!

Note: On your return trip to the U.S., make sure you have enough time to clear U.S. Immigration, U.S. Customs, go through Security, and make your connecting flight. My last trip through DFW going through this process took a good 45-60 minutes, what with long lines at immigration, waiting for the bags to be off-loaded from the plane to go through customs, standing in lines there, giving the bags back to the airlines to load onto the next flight, taking off my shoes and unloading my computer at security, using 4 gray plastic bins to contain my coat, my computer, my shoes, my computer bag, my carry-on bag, and the silver bracelet that can trigger the alarm system, trying all the while to remember to turn off my cell phone, take it out of my pocket and put it in my purse, keeping my passport and ticket handy at all times. The plane was late arriving at the gate and lots of people on board didn’t make their connections. Then, it’s a good 10-15 minutes via the tram to get to the connecting gate. Where’s the SkyTram? I think, yikes, how do we keep doing this?

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