Visiting Lake Chapala
Updated: Sep 29
Thinking of visiting Lake Chapala and Ajijic for the first time? How do I fill in all the documents, get through the airport and make my way to Ajijic? For answers to these questions and more, read on!
You've booked your tickets and made your way to the airport. Your plane takes off and “Yay!” you're inbound to Guadalajara, Mexico! On the plane you'll receive (along with your pretzels and water) an immigration form and 'sometimes' a customs document. (I say 'sometimes' as often they do not have them. If not, you'll need to pick up a form in the baggage area where you collect your bags). Ask your flight crew for the English forms as the hand out Spanish forms as well. Carefully read and fill out both forms on the shaking, jittering plane. You'll want to note here that you are heading to the 'State (estado) of Jalisco', the town you are going to is Ajijic or Chapala, and of less importance, the address of the place you are staying.
Upon debarking the plane and getting to immigration, make sure you enter the Visitors (Visitante) line and not the National (Mexican Citizen) line. Present your immigration card which you filled out out on the plane along with your passport to the immigration official. After much stamping, he'll return to you the bottom (smaller) portion of the immigration card. Make sure you put this in a safe place!! You will need to present the card on your exit from the county and loosing it will cost you money and time.
Next stop, baggage claim area. If you didn't receive a customs form on the plane, then this is the place to find it on one of the tables and fill it out. Collect your baggage (check the tags to make sure it's yours!) and head toward the exit. There you will find a customs official who may or may not ask you some questions. This can be sometimes difficult if the official does not speak much English. But hey, you're off on an adventure, right? After the questions, he or she will take your customs form and then direct you to push a button. This is the famous (infamous?) red light/green light button. If you receive the red, you'll be directed to a table and have your baggage searched. A green, means your good to exit. In either case, everyone's luggage will go through an X-ray machine by conveyor.
So far so good but what's next? How do I get to Ajijic from here? Well, first ask yourself, did you remember to get some pesos from your bank in your home town? If not, did you remember to bring your debit card down with you AND did you remember to tell your bank that you will be traveling to Mexico? There are bank machines at the airport and using a bank machine will offer you a good exchange rate. Keep in mind that the fee to use the machine could be $2-4 depending on the bank. Bancomer machines, in particular, should be avoided for having a very high transaction fee. Enter the amount you want to take out in Pesos. Five thousand pesos is a good place to start your trip off.
In fact, this is a good place to start by saying that ALL prices in Mexico are in Pesos! I know that if you may have been to some of the tourist places along the ocean (Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco, etc) and you may have seen prices in U.S. dollars but (other than real estate) that is NOT the case here in Guadalajara/Ajijic.
With pesos in hand, you're ready to proceed. If you are taking a taxi, then find the Taxi Ticket Station inside the terminal right where you come out from customs. Tell them you are going to Chapala or Ajijic and he'll provide you with at ticket for approximately 500 pesos. Exit through the doors outside the terminal keeping the ticket in plain sight. You'll be spotted immediately by helpful taxi stand attendants and your luggage (along with yourself) will be hustled into a waiting Guadalajara Airport Taxi. (like most airports around the world, Guadalajara's airport taxis are regulated. NO other taxi's are allowed into the airport.
Uber is available also in Mexico but I have heard of many complaints from Uber users so I am not going to recommend this system. Do so at your own risk. It is possible you will save money but you will probably lose time and pull your hair out in the meantime. Most Guadalajara Airport Taxi drivers are familiar with the Chapala/Ajijic area and they are fast, efficient and reliable.
Once in the taxi, tell your driver your destination. It is always good practice to have the address and driving directions written in both English and Spanish and/or have a printed map from Google Maps with your destination marked on it. Roads are confusing and not well marked in Mexico so having this can save you time and simplify your travels especially if it is during the night.
There you have it. Welcome to Lake Chapala! I hope your stay is pleasurable and enjoyable! Once here, be sure to Contact Me and to peruse the blogs in this section and find out more about area restaurants, lifestyle, things to do and so much more. Thanks for reading!