Visiting Lake Chapala
Updated: Nov 23
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!
First off, check your passport expiry date. Make sure that is is valid past your return date. For visitors from other countries, check the regulations. It may be that your passport needs to be valid for 3 to 6 months past your return date.
Visitors from the U.S and Canada do not require a Visitors Visa ahead of time. Your tourist visa cost is incorporated into your flight ticket. However, if you are traveling from other countries, you may be required to obtain a Visitors Visa prior to your arrival. Be sure to check.
Finally consider getting travel health insurance. If you are from the U.S, Medicare will cover your bills for emergency stabilization in the hospital and in general, procedures are very inexpensive in Mexico, but for peace of mind we always recommend you obtain some travel health insurance for the unexpected. Canadians can pay up front and claim back when filing their taxes. Visitors from other countries should check their own government policies.
After all these preliminaries, you can go ahead and book your tickets to Guadalajara, Mexico. Once on the plane you'll receive (along with your pretzels and water) a customs document. 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 form as they hand out Spanish forms as well. Carefully read and fill out the form on the shaking, jittering plane.
Upon debarking and getting to immigration, make sure you enter the Visitors (Visitante) line and not the National (Mexican Citizen) line. Have your passport ready to show to the immigration official. (Passports are now stamped in Guadalajara and the old system of using the immigration card is a thing of the past)
Note: As of 2022, Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta and Cancun are undergoing a pilot project to eliminate the tourist visa card. If you are flying directly into one of these destinations from outside the country you do not be receiving the tourist card. Your passport will be stamped and the amount of days you will be given for a tourist visa will be written in your passport by the immigration official. This is usually 180 days.
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 $2-5 depending on the bank. Enter the amount you want to take out in Pesos. Five thousand pesos will be good to start your trip off.
Remember, ALL prices in Mexico are in Pesos! I know that in some of the tourist places along the ocean (Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco, etc), USD is accepted commonly, and you'll often see prices in U.S. dollars, but that is NOT the case here in Guadalajara/Ajijic.
With pesos in hand, you're ready to proceed. The best way to get to Ajijic is by Airport Taxi. You will see them as soon as you exit the 'secure' area of 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 460 pesos. (Note: They also accept USD at the Taxi stand). Exit through the doors outside the terminal and proceed to your right, 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!
Michaela & Ricardo are your FULL SERVICE Real Estate Agents. Along with our Retirement Seminars, our over 20 years of combined experience Lakeside, and our network of area Professionals, we help guide you to from beginning to forever in your Retirement Journey to Lake Chapala, Mexico.