Oaxaca City is a place that is climbing the list of top Mexican destinations to visit for foreigners and locals alike, seriously, every time there is a holiday break in Mexico I see half of my friends on Instagram fleeing to the quaint colorful streets of Oaxaca city, and now I get why.
Oaxaca City is the Mexican destination of dreams, its small enough for a long weekend, and multifaceted enough to keep even the most curious traveler entertained, whether it is with its world-renowned local cuisine, its rich prehispanic history, the city’s undeniable artistic character, or its one of a kind natural wonders.
But if you are reading this blog, I’m sure you already know what to expect from this beautiful destination, if not, make sure to read our post on why Oaxaca City is one of the best Mexican destinations right now.
If you are more than convinced and want to start preparing for your trip to the stunning Oaxacan capital, this complete guide to visiting Oaxaca City will hopefully answer all of your burning questions, such as, is Oaxaca worth visiting, how many days in Oaxaca are enough, things to do in Oaxaca city, and more.
Is Oaxaca worth visiting?
First things first, is Oaxaca worth visiting? I think that by now we have established that I’m a fan, so the answer is: absolutely!
Oaxaca City has a lot to offer for all kinds of travelers, such as some of the best Mexican food—that even I as a born and raised Mexican have ever tasted— delicious locally grown coffee, charming neighborhoods, lush nature just outside the city, rich history, and a sense of native culture you don’t get to feel in bigger Mexican destinations.
Lucikly Oaxaca City is still a generally underrated Mexican destination, which has allowed the city to keep its small-town charm and local feel, as well as keeping prices low, making it one of the cheapest Mexican destinations to visit.
If you are still not sure if Oaxaca is worth visiting, make sure to check our post on why Oaxaca City is one of the best Mexican destinations right now.
Does Uber work in Oaxaca City?
The answer is, kind of…
The Uber app exists in Mexico of course and will adapt to Oaxaca’s way of operating once you open the app in the city, however, it might look a little bit funny.
Basically what happens is that the Uber app works in collaboration with the local taxis, when you request a driver, the app will call a taxi for you, which might take a little longer than usual since not all taxi drivers are registered with Uber.
Luckily, if you are staying in Oaxaca City Center you would rarely need an Uber unless you are trying to drive somewhere out of the city, where Uber doesn’t work at all, in that case, you will have to request your hotel to call you a good old taxi.
However, if you want to get out of the city for a day trip, the easiest thing to do is to book a tour through an agency, so you don’t have to worry about transportation, most of them pick you up and drop you off back at your hotel door.
How to get to Oaxaca City Center from the airport?
Well well, if Uber doesn’t work outside of the city center how does one get from the airport into Oaxaca City?
Uber might not be available here, but there is something better—okay, maybe not better but definitely cheaper— the “transporte colectivo” option at the Oaxaca City airport.
The “transporte colectivo” is a community shuttle that will take you from the airport into the city center for the very convenient fixed price of 105 pesos, around 5 dollars, it’s safe and clean, and it drops you off right at your hotel door.
When you arrive at the Oaxaca City airport, and get out of the baggage area, keep an eye out for the stand shown in the picture below and share with them the name of your hotel, you will pay—card payment is okay—and they will then indicate you in which line to stand to get into the van according to the route the driver is already following.
Cheap, simple, and efficient.
Should I carry local currency in Oaxaca City?
Oaxaca City is still very untouched by mass tourism which allows the prices to remain very low for the local population to live their day-to-day lives, for that reason the best way to get around is to take out enough cash on the local currency—the Mexican peso.
The price of things will seem very low, so charging just a few dollars to your card here and there might be annoying (and expensive), some establishments will not accept card payments, plus you will have many interactions with street vendors, whether it is for a snack or a souvenir, so having cash on hand will make everything easier.
How expensive is it to visit Oaxaca City?
Oaxaca City is definitely one of the cheapest Mexican vacation spots, with food prices lower than other popular Mexican destinations— you can have a whole meal for under 5 dollars at a typical food market, or you can visit a trendy restaurant with modern takes on traditional dishes, but even then, that would not amount to more than 40 dollars for two people.
To give you another idea, on my first morning there I visited a trendy-looking coffee shop and had a latte and a smoothie bowl made with local fruits for around 7 dollars. So, yes, it’s pretty affordable!
The city is small and walkable so you would normally not spend anything on transportation, except for the transportation to and from the Oaxaca City airport but as mentioned, if you take the “transporte colectivo” is also super cheap.
If anything, where you would spend a bit more money would be on tours and souvenirs, the tours I did ranged from 30-40 dollars, and the most expensive souvenir I got in Oaxaca was a gorgeous handwoven wool rug for around 100 dollars—but that was an exception to my generally low budget trip.
So if you are a traveler on a budget but don’t want to compromise on the quality of your trip, Oaxaca city is the perfect place, the food is incredible and super affordable, and even if you are not on the tightest budget, all that extra money that you save on food can very easily go into more souvenirs. Win-win!
Do people speak English in Oaxaca City?
As with any other Mexican destination, you will probably find that younger people at trendy establishments, like bars and coffeeshops, will probably speak some level of English, but for the most part, Oaxaca City has a very local environment, meaning that the average person here will not speak any English, for that reason it would be helpful to know some basic Spanish phrases to get by.
Before you panic, please remember that Mexican people are very warm and welcoming and are always excited to receive people that want to experience their culture, so surely, there will always be someone close by ready to try to guess what you need with signs and gestures.
Can you drink the water from the tap in Oaxaca City?
The answer is nope, you should not drink water from the tap in Oaxaca City, instead, buy some water bottles from OXXO, our most common corner store, they are everywhere.
How many days in Oaxaca do I need?
To explore Oaxaca City you could take two to three days to get a good feeling of the City Center and explore the main attractions at a leisurely pace, you could even fit a day trip in those two days.
However, for a more comprehensible trip with two day-trips included, I would recommend four to five days in Oaxaca City to get the chance to see other attractions outside of the city, such as Monte Albán, Hierve el Agua, or the Mitla archeological site.
Where to stay in Oaxaca City?
Because of the lack of Uber accessibility in the outer areas of the city, Oaxaca City center is the best place to stay to be able to easily move around and explore at all times of the day.
When looking for a hotel in Oaxaca City aim for hotels closer to the Church of Santo Domingo and Zócalo since these areas are well-lit at night and have a police station close by.
If you are looking for the perfect boutique hotel in Oaxaca City, I would highly recommend AYOOK, a beautifully designed small hotel just at the edge of the Historic Center, with Mexican-contemporary minimalistic rooms, and the best hotel breakfast I ever had—even my Mexican mother was impressed by their chilaquiles!
Is Oaxaca City safe?
As with any other city in the world, common sense and some level of street smartness will get you a long way; don’t walk too late at night in dark streets, keep your wallet close to you, keep your phone in the front pocket, look both ways before crossing, stay mostly within the center of the city where streets are well lit and you will be fine—but again, this applies to everywhere.
Best things to do in Oaxaca City
Now that we have covered all the basics, let’s get down to planning, what do you do once you arrive at your destination?
8 best things to do in Oaxaca City:
- Historic Center of Oaxaca City
- Church and convent of Santo Domingo
- Andador Turistico
- Mezcal tasting
- Mercado Benito Juarez
- Jardin etnobotánico
- Mercado de Artesanias
- Barrio de Jalatlalco
To get more detailed information on all of these as well as a few bonus ideas, make sure to check out the post on 10+ Essential things to do in Oaxaca City, Mexico.
Best day trips from Oaxaca City
- Hierve el Agua: One of two sites in the world with petrified waterfalls
- Mitla archeological site: Zapotec ceremonial site
- Monte Albán: Remainings of one of the most important Mesoamerican cities and the Zapotec capital
- Teotitlán del Valle: Small village that is known for its production of handwoven wool rugs
Best restaurants in Oaxaca City
- Café Brújula: Local specialty coffee shop with a few locations around the city
- Oaxaca en una taza: Known for their Oaxacan hot chocolate and pastries
- Gudelia Arte Café Boutique: Coffeeshop reuniting the old school Oaxacan way of making coffee with new modern techniques
- Muss Café: Trendy cafe in a hotel, offering unique fruit bowls, egg plates, and great coffee
- Boulenc: Upscale quality brunch at great prices in an airy cafe, a must in Oaxaca!
- Zandunga Sabor Istmeño Centro: Beautifully designed restaurant with a modern take on local cuisine
- Tacos Roy: The tacos al pastor with the most delicious tortillas I ever had!—Oaxaca is known for its corn.
- Restaurante el Andariego: Traditional dishes served inside a hotel, it got recommended to me by locals.
- Mercado Benito Juárez: A indoor market with lots of food stands frequented by locals
- Mezcalogia: Cozy mezcal bar, offering mostly straight mezcal and a few mezcal-based cocktails
- La Mezcaloteca: Terrace bar offering a variety of cocktails and beers, a great spot for a good weather day
- Salón de La Fama: Unpretentious corner bar with a very local feel
Where to shop in Oaxaca City
- Marías arte y diseño: A boutique shop filled with tons of local brands, from ceramics to linen clothing, to books and postcards
- Antiga by Vianney Mendez: A curated shop with some great made-in-Mexico clothing brands
- Once in Oaxaca art studio: A charming art studio in the vibrant Barrio Jalatlalco, offering hand-drawn postcards of local sights
I hope this guide to visiting Oaxaca City answers all of the questions you might have about planning a trip to this vibrant city.
Are there any points that I am missing in this post? Let me know in the comments and I will gladly add them to this guide.