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Oaxaca City Travel Guide

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oaxaca city travel guide

Get the most out of your trip to Mexico’s vibrant heartland with our Oaxaca City Travel Guide. Must-see sights, local hangouts, and secret spots revealed!

Oaxaca City Travel Guide: quick info

  • 🇲🇽 State: Oaxaca
  • ⏰ Timezone: Eastern Standard Time (GMT-5)
  • ✈️ Airport: Xoxocotlán International Airport (OAX)
  • 💲 Currency: Mexican peso (MXN)
  • ✈️ Cheap flights:
  • 🕝 Average Trip Length: 5-7 days
  • 🛃 Visa: 180 days
  • 🚑 Travel Insurance: Ekta
  • 📲 Best Sim Card: Telcel
  • 🔌  Power plug: Type A (US, Canada)
  • 🪴 Best neighborhood: Centro Historico
  • ✅ Safe areas: Centro, Jalatlaco, Xochimilco
  • 🚕 Taxi app: Didi (no Uber)
  • 🚌 Best Bus Company: ADO
  • 🚗 Best Car Rental: Discover Cars
  • 💵 100 pesos in USD: $5.86 USD
  • 🚰 Tap water: Not drinkable
  • 👩‍🎨 Visitors per year: 1.1 million
  • 🏨 Best hotels:
  • 💳 Credit cards: Some establishments
  • 💵 Cashless: No, still uses cash

Best time to visit Oaxaca City

oaxaca city travel guide

The best time to visit Oaxaca City is between October and March, when the weather is most pleasant and the city comes alive with various cultural events. October kicks off with the vibrant “Day of the Dead” celebrations, a unique experience blending tradition and festivity.

However, there are certain months and seasons that might be more favorable for different types of experiences:

Best time to visit for good weather

The optimal time for pleasant weather in Oaxaca City is from November to March. Temperatures during these months range from 10-27°C (50-81°F), offering a mild climate perfect for outdoor exploration.

Cheapest months to visit

June to September are generally the cheapest months to visit. This coincides with the rainy season and higher temperatures of around 17-30°C (63-86°F), making it less popular for tourists.

High season

High tourist season in Oaxaca City is from December to March, coinciding with good weather and cultural events. Prices for flights and accommodation are typically at their peak.

Low season

The low season in Oaxaca City spans from June to September. Despite the rain and heat, it’s a great time for budget travelers as prices drop and the city is less crowded.

Shoulder season

October and April to May serve as the shoulder months. Weather is moderate, ranging between 12-28°C (54-82°F), and you’ll find fewer tourists and reasonable prices, making it an excellent compromise for travelers.


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Getting there & around

oaxaca city travel guide

Oaxaca City is the capital of the state of Oaxaca, located in the southern part of Mexico. Nestled in the Sierra Madre del Sur mountain range, it is about 460 kilometers (approximately 286 miles) southeast of Mexico City.

The airport that serves Oaxaca is Xoxocotlán International Airport (OAX). There are no direct flights to Oaxaca City from the United States, Canada, or Europe. You still have to stop in Mexico City to get here. The plane ride is only 1.5 hours and is a direct flight.

How long is the bus trip from Mexico City to Oaxaca?

The bus trip from Mexico City to Oaxaca can last up to 7 hours. During day of the dead or major festivals, expect the bus trip to last up to 9 hours. Busses from Mexico City to Oaxaca are comfortable but if you’d like to avail the super VIP luxurious bus, it only travels this route every evening.

How do I get from Oaxaca Airport to the city?

To get to the city or your hotel from Oaxaca Airport, you can pre-book an official airport taxi transportation (from $55 USD). Please note that Uber or Didi are not allowed inside the airport. Although these are cheaper options, you need to go out of the airport to meet your Uber/Didi driver, which is quite a walk.

Getting around Oaxaca City

Oaxaca is definitely a walkable city if you are staying in areas like the Historic Center/Zocalo or Jalatlaco neighborhoods. The streets are safe and pedestrian-friendly. If you are going to other parts of the city, below are the ways to get around:

By taxi: Oaxaca City does not use Uber but uses Didi. Make sure to download this app before your trip! If you are visiting during the busy season and can’t find available drivers on Didi, you can always hail a taxi on the street but make sure to hail yellow taxis as they are safer. On average, a short ride within the city should cost no more than $2.65 USD, while longer trips may range between $5 – $10 USD.

By bus: The bus system in Oaxaca City is easy to navigate, with multiple routes available throughout the city. You can purchase tickets from vendors at bus stops or directly from the driver when boarding. The fares are incredibly reasonable – ranging from 6 pesos for short distances up to 20 pesos for longer journeys. One of the most popular tourist routes is heading to Monte Alban, an ancient Zapotec site outside Oaxaca City. Buses frequently run throughout the day, costing less than $1 USD each way.

By rental car: Car rental prices in Oaxaca City vary depending on the time of year and the length of your rental. However, be prepared to spend around $25-$30 USD per day for a standard vehicle. If you’re looking for something more luxurious or spacious, expect to pay upwards of $50 per day. Having all the necessary documentation and insurance is essential when renting a car in Oaxaca City. You must present a valid driver’s license from your home country and any required international driving permits.

Things to do in Oaxaca City

oaxaca city travel guide

In Oaxaca City, activity types abound for every kind of traveler, even families traveling with kids! Below are our most recommended things to do in Oaxaca City:

1. Hierve El Agua

These petrified waterfalls offer an otherworldly landscape, capturing the essence of Oaxaca’s natural beauty. Mineral-rich springs feed the falls, providing therapeutic bathing opportunities. The stunning panoramas make for great photography while hiking trails offer an active way to explore.

[See all Hierve El Agua tours]

2. Monte Alban

Monte Alban, a UNESCO World Heritage site is an ancient Zapotec capital. It’s not just an archaeological site; it’s a testament to ancient civilizations. You’ll encounter pyramids, temples, and an astronomical observatory, making it a must-see for history buffs.

[Check prices for Monte Alban tour]

3. Mezcal Tasting

Oaxaca is the birthplace of mezcal, a smoky, agave-based spirit. Tasting sessions often include a tour of a working distillery, where you can learn the production process and appreciate the drink’s complexity.

[Book Mezcal tasting]

4. Textile Artisans Visit

Oaxaca’s textile arts are deeply rooted in indigenous traditions. Visiting artisans provide insights into weaving techniques and dyeing methods. You’ll see first-hand how local craftspeople create intricate, vividly colored textiles.

[Check prices for Oaxacan textile tour]

5. Cooking Classes in Oaxaca City

Dive deep into Oaxacan cuisine by taking a cooking class. You’ll learn to prepare local dishes like mole and tlayudas, often starting with a market tour for fresh ingredients.

[Book traditional cooking class]

6. Oaxacan Street Food and Markets

The vibrant markets are a culinary paradise. From seasoned chapulines (crickets) to mouthwatering tlayudas, the local street food is a must-try experience for foodies.

[See Oaxaca street food guide]

7. Walking Around the City

The colonial architecture, cobblestone streets, and local art galleries make a simple walk through Oaxaca City a visually and culturally enriching experience.

[Check prices for walking tours]

8. Day of the Dead in Oaxaca City

Witnessing the Day of the Dead celebrations offers an unparalleled view into the local culture and traditions around life and death, featuring elaborate altars and festive processions.

[Reserve your spot for day of the dead tour]

9. Alebrijes Workshop

These fantastical, brightly-colored creatures are an iconic Oaxacan craft. Workshops offer a hands-on experience in painting your own alebrije, guided by local artisans.

[Check availability for Alebrijes workshop]

10. El Tule and Mitla

El Tule hosts one of the world’s oldest and largest trees, while Mitla is known for its geometrically patterned ruins. Together, they showcase the natural and historical breadth of the Oaxacan landscape.

[Check prices for El Tule and Mitla tour]

Where to stay in Oaxaca City

oaxaca city travel guide

When looking for the best places or areas to stay in Oaxaca City, always check the hotel distances from the Zocalo/Centro Historico or Andador Turistico. These are the main landmarks in the city where you’ll spend most of your time in. This way, you’ll save on transportation and get around on foot.

Best neighborhoods in Oaxaca City for travelers

Each of these neighborhoods offers a unique flavor of Oaxaca City, catering to different travel styles and interests. Whether you want to be in the middle of all the action, immerse yourself in art and culture, or enjoy a tranquil setting, Oaxaca City has a neighborhood to suit your needs.

  1. Centro Histórico: The Historic Center is the heart of Oaxaca City and an excellent base for travelers. You’ll find yourself within walking distance of major attractions like the Santo Domingo Church and the Zócalo (main square). The area has a wide range of accommodations, from luxury hotels to budget-friendly hostels. Dining options are abundant, and you’ll easily find shops selling local crafts.
  2. Jalatlaco: This charming neighborhood is a quieter alternative to Centro Histórico but still close enough to the action. It’s known for its cobblestone streets, colorful homes, and a slower pace, making it ideal for travelers looking for a more laid-back experience.
  3. Xochimilco: If you’re a fan of arts and crafts, this is the neighborhood for you. Xochimilco is filled with small galleries and artisan workshops. Accommodation options are generally boutique hotels and guesthouses, offering a more intimate setting.
  4. Colonia Reforma: For those who prefer a more modern setting, Colonia Reforma offers wide avenues, shopping centers, and various restaurants. It’s a little farther from the city’s historical sites, but public transportation is readily available.
  5. San Felipe del Agua: Situated in the northern part of the city, this residential area is perfect for travelers seeking tranquility and natural beauty. It’s close to the Sierra Norte mountains, making it ideal for hiking enthusiasts.

Best hotels in Oaxaca City

In Oaxaca City, accommodation options are as diverse as the city’s rich cultural tapestry. At the heart of it all is the Centro Histórico, where luxury hotels offer first-class amenities alongside stunning views of historical landmarks. For travelers on a budget, numerous hostels and guesthouses provide a more economical way to experience the city’s charms.

Boutique hotels are popular in artistic neighborhoods like Xochimilco, offering unique, culturally-inspired rooms. In more residential areas like San Felipe del Agua, you’ll find charming bed and breakfasts that offer a quieter stay.

Alternatively, Colonia Reforma offers modern hotels and serviced apartments, perfect for business travelers or those seeking a longer stay. Here are our top recommended hotels in Oaxaca City that are less than 1 KM away from the center (with nightly prices in USD and star ratings):

Casa De La Asuncionfrom $1759.5/10
Nana Vida Hotel Oaxacafrom $1309.5/10
Casa Antonietafrom $2509.4/10
Ayookfrom $949.3/10
Comala Bed and Breafkastfrom $689.2/10
Hotel Con Corazonfrom $919.4/10
Casa Quiotefrom $2629.2/10
Marialicia Suitesfrom $579.4/10
Majagua Hotel Boutiquefrom $2509/10
Casa Carmen Reformafrom $2739.6/10
Casa Carmen Morelosfrom $2739.7/10

Best restaurants in Oaxaca City

oaxaca city travel guide

There are so many restaurants in Oaxaca City as it is the food capital of Mexico. Oaxacan cuisine is something you need to explore in your travels to Oaxaca and it’s also fairly cheap! Here are the best restaurants to check out (the first 2 are award-winning restaurants):

1. Casa Oaxaca

Elevated by the culinary expertise of Chef Alejandro Ruiz, Casa Oaxaca is an experience in fine dining that combines traditional Oaxacan flavors with modern flair. Dishes like sumptuous mole and perfectly grilled fish shine here. Its rooftop setting offers not just delectable food but also breathtaking views of the cityscape, lending to an ambiance of sophistication and serenity.

2. Criollo

Rooted in the farm-to-table philosophy, Criollo brings a rotation of seasonal dishes that capture the essence of Oaxaca’s landscapes. The atmosphere balances minimalism and warmth, featuring earthy tones and subtle touches of elegance, providing an intimate dining experience.

3. El Destilado

Known for its innovative tasting menus, El Destilado serves up groundbreaking cuisine using local ingredients in imaginative ways. The interior is modern and chic, fitting the restaurant’s avant-garde culinary approach.

4. Los Danzantes

This restaurant is a feast for both the palate and the eyes. With a captivating open courtyard and rustic charm, Los Danzantes serves fusion cuisine that includes locally-produced mezcal and beautifully presented seafood dishes.

5. Ancestral

This is the place to explore indigenous Oaxacan recipes passed down through generations. The dining space exudes tranquility with its native decor and calm tones, enriching the deeply cultural culinary experience.

6. Vaca Marina

Specializing in seafood, Vaca Marina delivers on freshness and creativity. Whether it’s finely crafted ceviche or grilled octopus, the flavors are authentic and robust. The relaxed, beach-inspired setting makes it a unique culinary destination within the city.

7. Origen

Under the guidance of celebrated Chef Rodolfo Castellanos, Origen provides a gastronomic journey through modern interpretations of Oaxacan classics. The ambiance manages to be both chic and inviting, making it an ideal spot for romantic dinners or celebratory gatherings.

8. Itanoni

This humble establishment celebrates the age-old staple of Mexican cuisine: corn. From tortillas to tamales, every dish is an ode to this versatile grain. The ambiance is simple and rustic, offering a straightforward, authentic experience.

9. Crudo

If you’re looking for a departure from Oaxacan flavors, Crudo’s Asian-inspired menu featuring sushi and other seafood-centric dishes is a refreshing option. The sleek, contemporary design adds a dash of cosmopolitan sophistication to the dining experience.

10. Boulenc

More than just a top-notch bakery, Boulenc has a broad menu that includes artisanal pizzas and delectable sandwiches. The cozy atmosphere is casual and inviting, with an emphasis on organic, locally-sourced ingredients.

See more Oaxaca resturants guide:

Oaxaca City Travel Costs

oaxaca city travel guide

The cost of traveling in Oaxaca can vary widely depending on your preferences and travel style. Generally speaking, Oaxaca offers a range of options that can accommodate both budget and luxury travelers. An important thing to note is that Oaxaca is still cheaper than other destinations like Mexico City.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the costs for one person. Please note that this is only an example and is based on our personal trips.

Airport Transfer$20–$55 (taxi or shuttle)
Hostel$20–$40 per night
Budget Hotel$40–$70 per night
Mid-range Hotel$70–$150 per night
Luxury Hotel$150–$300+ per night
Street Food$3–$6 per meal
Mid-range Restaurant$10–$25 per meal
Fine Dining$40–$80 per meal
Drinks$2–$10 each
Hierve el Agua Tour$125
Mezcal Tour$140
Cooking class$75
Travel Insurance$40–$100
SIM Card$15 (30 days unlimited)

How much money should you travel with to Oaxaca?

The amount of money you should bring to Oaxaca depends on your travel style, the duration of your stay, and what kind of activities you plan to engage in. Expect to pay around $50-$80 USD per day and approximately $350-$560 USD for a week as the most basic expense (traveling on a budget).

Where’s the best place to get cash in Oaxaca?

ATMs affiliated with reputable banks like Banamex, BBVA Bancomer, HSBC, and Santander are usually the most reliable for withdrawing money. These can often be found in or near bank branches, shopping centers, and busy streets. Some mid-range and luxury hotels have ATMs in their lobbies. While convenient, the fees may be higher than those at bank ATMs.

Oaxaca City Tours

Below are the best tours in Oaxaca City (curated by us!) — feel free to get in touch for a discount.

Travel Safety in Oaxaca City

oaxaca city travel guide

Oaxaca is generally considered one of the safer destinations in Mexico for tourists, but like any travel destination, it is important to exercise caution and be aware of your surroundings. Here are some considerations regarding safety in Oaxaca:

Crime Rates:

  • Violent Crime: Oaxaca has lower rates of violent crime compared to other regions in Mexico. However, it’s still advisable to take standard precautions.
  • Petty Crime: Pickpocketing and minor scams can occur, particularly in crowded tourist areas or markets.

Safe Areas:

  • Most tourist areas like the city center, archaeological sites, and artisan villages are generally safe during the day.
  • Use caution in less populated or poorly lit areas, especially at night.


  • Public transport is usually safe but can be crowded.
  • Taxis are generally reliable; however, it’s safer to use reputable companies or ride-sharing services where possible.


  • Stick to bottled or purified water.
  • Food from street vendors is generally safe, but there’s always a risk of foodborne illness. Look for stalls that are busy, indicating high turnover and fresher produce.

Cultural/Social Norms:

  • Oaxaca is known for its hospitality and warmth. However, it’s important to respect local customs and norms.

Travel Advisories:

  • Always check your country’s travel advisory before traveling abroad. This will provide the most current information related to safety and security.

General Tips:

  • Avoid flashing expensive jewelry, cameras, or smartphones in public.
  • Always keep a copy of your identification and travel insurance separate from the originals.
  • Inform someone you trust about your itinerary and check-in regularly.

While Oaxaca is generally safe, circumstances can change, and it’s always best to be prepared and stay informed. Take normal precautions to safeguard your belongings and yourself, and consider taking out travel insurance for extra peace of mind.

Oaxaca City Travel Blog

⁉️ FAQ: Oaxaca City Travel Guide

Oaxaca City is located in southwest Mexico, about a 6-hour drive from Mexico City. It is the capital of the state of Oaxaca.

The airport that serves Oaxaca is Xoxocotlán International Airport (Oaxaca International Airport). At the time of the writing of this Oaxaca travel guide, there are no direct flights from the USA, Canada, the UK, Europe, and Australia. All flights to Oaxaca stop in Mexico City for at least 3 hours.

It is quite fast to get through Oaxaca airport as it is a small airport. Expect to get through customs and immigration within 30 minutes.

The state of Oaxaca has airports in Oaxaca City, Huatulco, and Puerto Escondido. These three destinations are usually included in the Oaxaca road trip route passing by small towns like Mazunte, Zipolite, and Puerto Angel. To get to Oaxaca City from these coastal airports, it will take about 6 hours.

ABSOLUTELY! Oaxaca is a city full of culture and not many tourists go here yet. When you visit Oaxaca, you will get to experience a different kind of Mexico. Oaxaca is rich in culture, arts, and food, so this is a good destination for those art and history travelers.

ABSOLUTELY! Oaxaca City is a lesser-known destination in Mexico and is still quite cheaper than other destinations in the country. Oaxaca has been awarded as one of the best cities in the world by Conde Nast Traveler.

Oaxaca is becoming popular but it is not as touristy as other destinations in Mexico. It is more touristy during big events like Guelaguetza and Dia de Los Muertos. However, in regular days, tourism in Oaxaca is not as busy yet.

Oaxaca and Mexico City are both unique cities. The only difference is that Mexico City is way bigger than Oaxaca City. When it comes to choosing between the two, it will depend on your city size preference – if you want to chill, choose Oaxaca. If you want a bustling city, then go to Mexico City!

No, Oaxaca is not close to Cancun. You need to fly through Mexico City to get to Cancun from Oaxaca. If you want to do a road trip, the drive is about 20 hours.

No, you do not need a car in Oaxaca City. This is a walkable city and driving a car might be difficult because of parking. The streets are narrow so you will always have to park far – it’s better to walk!

No, there isn’t any train between Mexico City and Oaxaca. The only passenger train in Mexico is in Chihuahua. Other than that, all of Mexico is accessed by car, plane, or bus.

ABSOLUTELY! You can rent a car in Mexico City to get to Oaxaca. The road is pretty safe but the drive is long. If you are confident in driving in another country, this is the best way to see both these cities.

In order to get from Oaxaca to Tulum, you need to go on a domestic flight. Flights from Oaxaca to Tulum are not direct so you always have to stop in Mexico City.

To get from Oaxaca to Puerto Escondido, you can go on a 12-seater plane (30 minutes ride). This is the easiest and fastest way but if you want to travel by land, you can drive to Puerto Escondido from Oaxaca City (6-8 hours). Car rentals in Oaxaca City start at US$25 per day. If you do not want to drive, there is a bus that travels this route multiple times a day.

You can easily spend 5 days in Oaxaca but 7 days is the more ideal and more relaxed. You can also combine this trip with Mexico City for 10 days. Read our Oaxaca itinerary for more information on how many days you should spend in Oaxaca.

The drive to Oaxaca City from Mexico City is already 6-7 hours so it is not possible to do a day trip.

No, Uber is not available in Oaxaca. They use the app called Didi. If you are to hail a taxi on the street, always choose yellow taxis as they are safer.

Oaxaca City does not have a beach but the state of Oaxaca has over 40 beaches. The areas where the beaches of Oaxaca are located are Puerto Escondido, Zipolite, and Mazunte. It is about an 8-hour drive from Oaxaca City.

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