I tried (and failed) to pull off a Oaxaca City vacation during COVID
Thank you for writing! Oh yes… that Oaxaca trip was a little bit unexpected. I went there in September for a road trip from Puerto Escondido, San Jose, then Oaxaca City, and that was a really funny experience since I ended up staying in.
Fortunately, I have some good friends currently living in Oaxaca City like @wsetravel and @lostboymemoirs. You can get in touch with them about the current situation but I will still share my personal experiences here so you’d know what to expect.
I also called a few hospitals for information about COVID testing in case you need it. This info is updated and I will keep updating it as we go. Such a strange time we are living in!
Good luck and I hope you make it! Feel free to contact me via Instagram if you have more questions.
I live in Riviera Nayarit where COVID travel bans are more relaxed (we live a very normal life here but with a curfew) so when I came to Oaxaca City, I did not expect it to be crazy strict with a lot of stuff. If you are not familiar with the Mexican terrain, rules also vary by state (think USA) so Mexico has very confusing travel bans.
I ended up in a situation for the same reason that full-time travelers like me end up in stupid situations: travel. In the middle of August, when everyone was still in denial about COVID, I planned a trip to Oaxaca City with some friends and did not do any research. First, I missed my flight to Puerto Escondido (which is the first leg of this Oaxaca road trip). Second, there was hurricane Laura which decided to arrive while I was in the mountains of San Jose del Pacifico (2nd leg). These instances deserve a standalone blog post but anyway, this has nothing to do about COVID. My point is, travel is different now and we need to adapt and change the way we travel.
After Puerto Escondido and San Jose, I finally made it to Oaxaca City (last leg) hoping that something will materialize. Then everything was closed……..
Is Oaxaca City open for tourism?
Ethnobotanical Garden? CLOSED. Hierve El Agua? CLOSED. All the instagrammable places are closed, let’s just put it that way. What was left for me to do was to explore the Oaxacan food culture which was also one of the goals for this trip. Food in Oaxaca is a tourist attraction as they have the best gastronomic scene in Mexico.
What I’ve observed is how Oaxaca City COVID rules are very strict. In some Mexican towns like where I live, you can freely walk the streets without a mask. You only need to put it on when entering establishments but in Oaxaca City, I was stopped by the police for not wearing a mask on the street. He did not fine me, it was just a warning.
[01 February 2021 Oaxaca City COVID update]: As I strive to give you more information about traveling in Mexico, I always make sure the information in this blog is updated so I called some friends in Oaxaca City to ask how they are doing right now in terms of tourism. Some Oaxacan towns are still closed. Pyramids have opened but only letting in 400 people per day and you have to go in the morning – nothing after 11:00 am. Some government-funded museums and art galleries are closed because of lack of funding.
In easy saying, you can still enjoy your Oaxaca City vacation with moderate to strict restrictions but if you really want to go, exploring Oaxacan food in Oaxaca City is your best bet.
Oaxaca City COVID Update
Now on to the facts. What you need to know that the state where Oaxaca City is in is called Oaxaca. If you are particularly looking for information about Oaxaca City, you can Google “Oaxaca City” or “Oaxaca de Juarez.” These search terms will give you more information about the city instead of using just “Oaxaca” in your search.
The Mexican government put a color code in every state to determine restrictions. They update it every two weeks (federal/state governments) together with Mexico’s Ministry of Health.
- Green: you can resume normal activities with precaution, almost no restrictions
- Yellow: limited activities
- Orange: limited activities with ‘stay at home’ orders mandated
- Red: you can only go out when it’s essential
If you are planning to visit other places in Mexico, you can see all the states color code here. The state of Oaxaca is in ORANGE and has 34, 853 cases all over the state. 10, 162 of those confirmed cases are from Oaxaca City. They update the excel sheet daily and you can see that here. It’s in Spanish but they’re just city names and numbers so you don’t really need a translation.
Where to get a COVID test in Oaxaca City
The USA and Canada (who are very fond of visiting Mexico) have enforced a mandatory COVID test from everyone entering these countries. In Mexico, COVID tests are not cheap (neither free) so if you are going back to the USA from Mexico, you now need to add a COVID test to your travel budget. I can see this happening in many countries this year.
The funny thing is that Mexico does not have a fixed price for tests. It depends on the hospital but the range is between $100 – $300 USD for PCR. Apparently, Oaxaca City has the cheapest COVID test in the country. I know this because I do destination marketing for the state of Nayarit and I am well-connected with hospitals here. Oaxaca’s tests are really cheap!
Before scheduling an appointment, make sure to get in touch with the airlines you are flying with. Ask them what kind of test do you need as there are three types. Whether you need a PCR, antigen, or antibodies, it will all depend on the US state you are flying to. Again, the USA has very confusing COVID test type requirements but the airline should be able to give you more information.
Below are the hospitals and testing centers where you can take a COVID test in Oaxaca City.
Salud Digna is all over the country and you can schedule a COVID test through their website. The website is only in Spanish and I called them today to say that they should have an English version since most of the people who need a test are foreigners. Since there is no direct contact with Salud Digna and I am not sure how often they are checking the website forms, it can take days for them to respond and approve your appointment (again, a very inefficient booking system) but they have the cheapest test in Oaxaca City, which is also the cheapest in the country.
PCR: $950 MXN ($47 USD) / Antigen: $250 MXN ($12 USD) / Antibodies: $160 MXN ($8 USD)
Their website is also in Spanish but I called them today to ask about bookings. You only need to schedule an appointment if you are taking a PCR test. You can walk in with antigen tests. If you don’t speak Spanish, schedule your appointment by calling +52 951 514 0635. You can do the test from Mondays – Saturdays from 7:00 am – 3:00 pm.
PCR: $1,500 MXN ($74 USD) / Antigen: $700 MXN ($34 USD)