Less Than 2 Days In Merida, Mexico: How I Got There, Stayed, Ate, My Doctor
Merida, Mexico is a large, vibrant city just a few hundred miles north (and a jog west) of Ambergris Caye, Belize. Over 1 million people. And, at one time, it was one of (if not THE) richest city in the world. Seriously. It’s a sprawling city with a center of cathedrals and crumbling and restored mansions (some like mini-Versailles in Mexico!), cobblestone streets and – and then as you move from the older city center, malls and mega-stores, and huge hospitals.
This is in NO WAY a Complete Guide to Merida (I referred to Adventurous Kate’s 2 Week Itinerary for the Yucatan a few times for suggestions – she actually stayed there for a few months).
This is more an almost-2- harried-days in Merida where my main goal was medical appointments and my #2 goal was to scope out the city for a return visit later this year.
Here are the details:
How I Got from Belize to Merida and the Prices
The border between Mexico and Belize is open. And I will fill you all in on the border crossing procedures/requirements and fees in a few days.
Here is the way that I traveled from San Pedro, Belize to Merida, Mexico.
There are two options that have not been restarted yet since the pandemic.
- The water taxis that run from Ambergris Caye to Chetumal Mexico. I hear that they will start this summer. I’ll let you know.
- The overnight ADO buses that run from Belize City to Merida and another from Belize City to Cancun.
Here is how I went and the price – let’s look at it one way.
Tropic Air from San Pedro to Corozal Belize. It’s shocking to see how little development exists between these two points – just big open stretches of water, coastline, and mostly marshy lagoons. Price: $70US or $140bzd.
I got to ride co-pilot.
Van Service from Corozal to Chetumal Bus Station: On my way to Mexico – the about 10 miles from Corozal town to the border – and then to the Chetumal bus station, another 10-ish mile from the border…I chose a van service. They pick you up at the airport, usher you thru immigration (on both sides), and drop you directly at your end location in Chetumal. I went with Mr. Menzies and his crew – they are fantastic. They make everything SO easy, comfortable and easy. Price: $60US (for up to 3 people, additional fee for more)
You can read: Chetumal, Mexico: Is It Worth Visiting?
And then I took the ADO bus from Chetumal, Mexico to Merida. I bought a ticket at the station (I was about 1.5 hours early) – it cost about $540 pesos. About $27-28USD. Trip 5.5 to 6 hours.
The ADO website is not in English – but it’s pretty easy to figure out for times and prices.
There you go. I left on the first flight from San Pedro (9am), and caught the 1:30pm bus from Chetumal to Merida (make sure to check if there is a time change between Belize/Yucatan) and ta-dah! I was in central Merida, at my hotel by 7pm.
COVID Protocols In Place (Mid-May 2022)
This seems obvious but I see all the time that it is not but…check the COVID protocols when traveling! While Belize is now mask-free (though a handful of govt offices still require them), Chetumal and Merida are wearing masks. Fully. Check the rules!
Where I Stayed
Here’s what I was looking for…central location, good price, air-conditioning. And here’s what I found: Hotel La Piazzetta. Booked on Booking.com. For around $40USD a night.
Hotel cat named Godzilla helping me check in.
It was on a lovely quiet square – my room was everything I needed. And the AC worked. I would certainly recommend this spot. It was about a 10-minute walk to the large cathedral.
But why walk…there is UBER! And the temperature, by about 2pm, was 100 degrees. I had purchased a Mexican SIM card (with the help of my van driver David) for $29 pesos. Less than $2US while in Chetumal. And, man…it was a godsend. I’ll give you all the details soon. But while I did get a Mexican phone number with it – it was the DATA that I wanted. It kept me connected – on the internet – while I was there. So for a handful of pesos…I could zip around Merida via Uber.
I felt like king of the (hot, hot hot) world.
My Doctor’s Info
Merida is a well-known hub for medicine. There are a number of hospitals and a broad range of specials – many types not available in Belize. I was there to meet with an endocrinologist who is affiliated with two hospitals in Merida. He is at one in the morning/early afternoon and then at the second in the evening. It’s pretty amazing (and ridiculously practical for patients) that many doctors in Mexico see patients after 5pm…until as late as 9 or 10pm!
He was able to do an ultrasound himself…quickly. And send me for a slew of blood tests for my thyroid, my hormone levels, and some vitamins and minerals (iron for example).
For an approximation of cost: The initial visit (with ultrasound) was $800 pesos. (About $40US) The second visit for the reading of results and my prescription, same price. The blood tests were about $2450 pesos. About $122.50USD. So altogether (without prescription cost) – $4050 pesos or a bit over $200US.
Dr. Manzanilla is fantastic – he was born in Belize and speaks English and Spanish. And his specialty is the thryoid. Recommend for sure! It’s just very comforting to have an action plan AND a doctor that I can email/WhatsApp as needed.
(5 second refresh if you are new here: I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis last summer in Belize – from a GP, Belize has no endocrinologists in the country – but my thyroid levels have been low but ok. I wanted a second opinion from a specialist.)
What I Ate
Now, let’s focus on the main reason that I will return. The food. And to visit my friends who actually live there…like Sue and Steve who own a beautiful looking bed and breakfast (look at this place!)
Side note: Since I’ve lived on Ambergris Caye, I’ve had a number of expat friends (10+?) move from AC to Merida. For the convenience, access to good medical care, the city and culture, and food…
Back to food: Once I started reading reviews and travel websites and getting recommendations from friends, I realized that a day and a half wouldn’t even scratch the surface of the amazing food scene in Merida.
My favorite spot:
I could have ordered 101 things. The latte was fantastic…
the avocado toast on incredible sourdough with ricotta and vinaigrette and salad was even better…
and I was so happy later on the bus, that I’d grabbed a pistachio croissant to go.
I also loved this next spot.
Tacqueria De La Union – another really small restaurant that served delicious simple food. A few dips and tacos.
I tried the Sikil Pak – a warm sauce/salsa of mashed pumpkin seeds and roasted tomatoes served with thick crunchy corn chips. It was like smokey hummus. Delicious.
Here’s a recipe that sounds just about right.
Let me try to translate a few of these – Lechon de horno: Oven-suckling pig…yum. Castacan is a special type of pork belly from a pig that only feeds on corn fodder. Next time I need to bring friends and order one of each…or more.
And a few tacos. The Conchita Pibil was TO DIE FOR. You can pick tacos, polcan (a thick corn tortilla cut open like a pita and stuffed), torta (a sandwich) or panucho (which is like a Belizean salbutes – served on a disk of fried corn tortilla)
I couldn’t finish all this food…
And lastly, another breakfast place called Cafeteria Pop. They have a large inside room – that was fully packed with locals when I arrived. I was ushered to the pretty back garden where I had delicious chaya and eggs.
Everyone in Merida speaks Spanish, obviously.
The first thing I learned was that my Spanish is AWFUL…even worse than I thought. That made me even more thankful for Uber. You punch in the address and name of the spot you want to go and…there is no need for communication between you and the driver.
The second thing I learned is that while some of the Uber drivers and restaurant staff did speak a bit of English (WAY better than my Spanish), in general, it’s not much. It’s best to be prepared. Google translate is the best! Also Google Maps…good LAWD how did we live before the internet?
I need to learn to count higher than 10. Having people write down prices…it’s kinda embarassing.
Cooling down for a bit in a shop.
Merida is HOT. Yes…like Belize is hot but it’s inland and it’s a city…and, add in that you are wearing a mask outside right now AND that it is the hottest time of the year, and…woof. Be prepared. Duck into cafes and bars and paletarias often…and when in need, call the Uber! Check the weather and, like the locals, try to stay off the streets in the afternoon. Things cool down beautifully in the morning and at night.
Notes for my next trip
I’ve already started a list of places that I want to eat – both fancy and simple. Like Apoala for Oaxacan and Yucatan food and Micaela Mar y Lena for seafood, SOCO Norte for brunch and I want to find my favorite Chilaquiles and…then there’s El Catrin…
But here’s what I am going to do first and foremost. Take a very touristy bus trip around town. There are different neighborhoods, and different areas that I want to explore and I find, in cities, these trips can really give you a good lay of the land. Allow you to target spots you want to return to – plus you can get one of those trips where you jump on and off…
And then, after a few days, explore outside of the city. There are incredible cenotes and Maya sites, flamingos, and haciendas – many of which are fantastic looking luxe boutique resorts now.
I’m excited to get back.
Please please please send me any and all suggestions you have. Por favor amiga.
Here’s What I Was Doing
One Year ago: Weekend Photos and Returning to An Old Favorite (look how pretty the beach looked!)
10 Years Ago: Flying with Tropic Air to San Pedro Sula, Honduras