San Luis Potosi

Travel Guide North America Mexico San Luis Potosi

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Introduction

San Luis Potosi is one of the 31 states in Mexico. It is located in North-Central Mexico. It is bordered by 9 other Mexican states, making it the state with the most borders with other neighboring states. The northern borders are with Nuevo León and Coahuila; the northeastern ones with Tamaulipas; the eastern ones with Veracruz; the southern ones with Hidalgo, Queretaro, Jalisco, and Guanajuato; and the northwestern ones with Zacatecas.

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Geography

The state lies mostly on the Mexican Plateau, with the exception of the eastern part of the state, where the tableland breaks down into the tropical valley of the Tampaon River (which continues flowing northwestward until it becomes the Pánuco River, which divides San luis Potosí from the north-eastern state of Tamaulipas). The surface of the plateau is comparatively level, with some low mountainous wooded ridges. The Sierra Madre Oriental runs north and south through the state, and separates the Mexican Plateau from the Gulf Coastal Plain to the east. The Sierra Madre Oriental is home to the Sierra Madre Oriental pine-oak forests. The easternmost portion of the state lies on the Gulf Coastal Plain, and covered by the Veracruz moist forests. The eastern part is included in the region commonly referred to as "La Huasteca".

The Tampaón river and its tributaries drain the southern and southeastern portion of the state. The northern and central portion of the state, including the capital, lie on an interior drainage basin which does not drain to the sea.

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Cities

  • San Luis Potosi is the capital and the most populous city of the state. It has an estimated population of 824,229 in the city proper and a population of approximately 1,221,526 in its metropolitan area.

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Sights and Activities

  • Las Pozas, or the Pools, is a surrealistic group of structures created by Edward James, more than 610 m above sea level, in a subtropical rainforest in the mountains of Mexico. It includes more than 32 hectares of natural waterfalls and pools interlaced with towering surrealist sculptures in concrete. Between 1949 and 1984 the affluent eccentric James built scores of surreal concrete structures which carry the names The House on Three Floors Which Will in Fact Have Five or Four or Six, The House with a Roof like a Whale, and The Staircase to Heaven. There were also plantings and beds full of tropical plants, including orchids — there were, apparently, 29,000 at Las Pozas at one time. Massive sculptures up to four stories tall punctuate the site. The many trails throughout the garden site are composed of steps, ramps, bridges and narrow, winding walkways that traverse the valley walls. Las Pozas is near the village of Xilitla.
  • The Cave of Swallows is an open air pit cave in the Municipality of Aquismón in San Luis Potosí state. The elliptical mouth, on a slope of karst, is 49 by 62 meters wide and is undercut around all of its perimeter, widening to a room approximately 303 by 135 meters wide. The floor of the cave is a 333-meter freefall drop from the lowest side of the opening, with a 370-meter drop from the highest side, making it the largest known cave shaft in the world, the second deepest pit in Mexico and perhaps the 11th deepest in the world. Each morning, flocks of birds exit the cave by flying in concentric circles, gaining height until they reach the entrance. In the evenings a large flock of swifts circles the mouth of the cave and about once each minute, a group of perhaps fifty breaks off and heads straight down towards the opening. When they cross the edge, the birds pull in their wings and free-fall, extending their wings and pulling out of the dive when they reach the heights of their nests. Watching this has become popular with tourists.
  • Tamul waterfall. At 105 m, this is the highest waterfall in the state of San Luis Potosi and one of the most beautiful in Mexico, for its height and its famously crystalline turquoise water. Formed by the waters of the Gallinas River at its confluence with the Tampaon, Tamul Falls cascade into the Tampaon River. Just 42 km downstream from the falls, the Tampaon meanders past the ancient pyramid site of Tamtoc. Archaeologists believe that Tamtoc is the northernmost pre-Columbian city with pyramids in Mexico, and some speculate that it could be the place of origin of the Aztecs from which they launched their migration to the Valley of Mexico. The best time to visit the waterfall is during the low water season from July to October, when it is easily accessible.
  • Tancanhuitz de Santos. This town is located 65 km from Ciudad Valles. It is a place full of vegetation that creates beautiful landscapes. The Huehuetlan Sierra creek is located here, which is a natural frontier that divides the huastecas to the south and the nahuatlacos native groups. These two indigenous groups nowadays still preserve their languages, dress and customs from their ancestors. When going down from their communities towards the "tianguis" (street market) every Sunday, women wear their quetzquemaletls (v.-shaped ponchos) that they knit and embroider. The languages spoken here mix Nahuatl, Huasteco and Spanish.
  • Micos waterfalls These waterfalls are famous due to their steep falls in the middle of hills surrounded by vegetation. These waterfalls are located 18 km from Ciudad Valles and are part of Tampaon river, best known as the Micos River. This name was given due to the abundance of spider monkeys that inhabited this area. This river goes down through a large series of falls with a vertiginous acceleration. Rafting through the rapids of this river is a popular activity. At the top of the waterfall there is a scenic viewpoint.
  • Real de Catorce, meaning: Real (a unit of currency) of Fourteen), often shortened to Real, is a village and the seat of the municipality of Catorce. It is located 260 km north of the city of San Luis Potosí, and currently has a full-time population of under 1,000 residents. This 'ghost-town' in the high and dry expanses of northern San Luis Potosí state was once a thriving silver mining settlement. Real de Catorce has long been a pilgrimage site for both local Catholics and Huichol shamanists, and is now being discovered by international tourists drawn by the desert ambience and reputed spiritual energy. The village of Real de Catorce sits on the side of a mountain at more than 2,743m. It is located in the Sierra de Catorce range, one of the highest plateaus in Mexico, where summits may extend over 300 m. These mountains lie in the arid Mexican plateau, cut off from trade winds of the Gulf of Mexico by the high peaks of the Sierra Madre Oriental. The main road to Real de Catorce leaves Highway 62 between Matehuala and San Tiburcio. This is roughly to the east of Real de Catorce, near the town of Cedral. From the main highway there is a 27 km cobblestone road which rises into the sierra, then the 2.4 km long Ogarrio Tunnel which only accepts vehicles one way (with travelers in and out having to wait their turn).

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Events and Festivals

Most of the fiestas of the state of San Luis Potosi are related to the anniversaries of the foundation of municipalities, the celebration of local Roman Catholic patron saints or exhibitions of the most popular produce of the particular region. The majority are observed at the local level and, given that the greater part of the municipalities have few inhabitants, the festivals can be a bit austere.

Local Events and Festivities

  • La Feria Nacional de la Enchilada is an annual event where the entire town of Soledad gets together in their “jardin” which is a small park. The community gathers here where they will find people who come from all over Mexico to sell jewelry, arts, and others. People get to enjoy of their favorite plate enchiladas potosinas and try different ones. Kids get to enjoy the rides, face painting, and small carnival games. At the end of the event people go to the stage where famous artists put on a show for them.
  • Feria de Cerritos. The city of Cerritos hosts an annual "Feria," or traveling carnival in honor of the patron saint, San Juan Bautista for about a week and a half until the main celebration on June 24. This festivity consists of booths that sell artifacts, ceramics, pottery, regional delicacies, food, drinks, games, literature, and small widgets among other things. Rides are also a main attraction of the carnival. A stage is also constructed for shows, regional and national folklore dances, musicians, speeches, and plays. Many tourists come from all parts of the state of San Luis Potosí and other states of within Mexico for this traditional event.
  • Procession of Silence. This is an annual event commemorating the passion and death of Christ. It occurs on the night of Good Friday, starting at the Templo del Carmen, from where it originates and proceeding through the streets of the historic center of the city of San Luis Potosí. Drums and bugles are played as a part of the procession, but participants and spectators do not speak, meriting its name. It is one of the most important celebrations of Easter in Mexico and was declared part of the cultural heritage of the state of San Luis Potosí in 2013.

Day of the Dead

Although the Day of the Dead is also celebrated in many Latin American countries (and also in parts of Europe, Asia and Africa), the Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de los Muertos) is most intensily celebrated in Mexico where it is equal to a National Holiday. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. The celebration takes place on November 1st and 2nd, in connection with the Catholic holidays of All Saints' Day (November 1) and All Souls' Day (November 2). Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting graves with these as gifts. Although it is about the Dead, it is also a celebration where eating and partying both are common as well.

Other Events and Festivals

  • Grito de la Independencia - September 15th is Mexican Independence Day! A massive celebration involving plenty of singing, dancing and fireworks takes place in the Zócalo. Everyone here awaits an appearance from Mexico's president who rings a bell from a central balcony of the Palacio Nacional overlooking the Zócalo. The president then shouts out the Grito de Dolores, or the Cry of Dolores which was Father Hidalgo's famous call to arms against Spanish rule in 1810.
  • Dia de la Candelaria. Candlemas is held February 2nd and commemorates Jesus being introduced into the temple 40 days after his birth. This nationwide celebration sees many different ways of celebrating and many towns in San Luis Potosi State hold processions, bullfights and dances. Of course, plenty of delicious, traditional foods are served during Dia de la Candelaria as well.
  • Carnaval is held in late February or early March throughout San Luis Potosi State and all of Mexico. This big party is meant to celebrate the 40 day penance of Lent. Carnaval always takes place during the week or so prior to Ash Wednesday, 46 days before Easter Sunday. Mexicans celebrate this holiday with fireworks, food, dancing, parades, dancing and drinking.
  • Semana Santa, or Holy Week, is a huge celebration which starts on Palm Sunday. This is a very popular time for Mexicans to take a short break; as a result, it seems most of the country is on the move, with buses and hotels often booked out. As for the celebration of Semana Santa, expect colorful processions and many masses at churches everywhere.
  • Día de Nuestra Seňora de Guadalupe, or Day of our Lady of Guadalupe, is held December 12th. There is a week-long build up to this religious celebration in honour of the Virgin who appeared to the indigenous Juan Diego in the year 1531. Since then, the Lady of Guadalupe has been Mexico's religious patron and her veneration is very significant. It is traditional for young boys to be dressed as a Juan Diego and for young girls to be dressed in indigenous garb and brought to a special mass, held at many churches throughout the country.
  • New Year's Eve. Mexicans celebrate New Year's Eve or locally known as Año Nuevo, by downing a grape with each of the twelve chimes of the bell during the midnight countdown, while making a wish with each one. Mexican families decorate homes and parties, during New Year's, with colors such as red, to encourage an overall improvement of lifestyle and love, yellow to encourage blessings of improved employment conditions, green to improve financial circumstances and white to improved health. Mexican sweet bread is baked with a coin or charm hidden in the dough. When the bread is served, the recipient whose slice contains the coin or charm is believed to be blessed with good luck in the new year. One can expect a lot of firecrackers, fireworks and sparklers being fired. At midnight there is a lot of noise and everyone shouts: "Feliz año nuevo!" People embrace, make noise, set off firecrackers, and sing Auld Lang Syne.
  • Cinco de Mayo is an annual celebration held on May 5. The date is observed to commemorate the Mexican Army's victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla, on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza. The victory of the smaller Mexican force against a larger French force was a boost to morale for the Mexicans. A year after the battle, a larger French force defeated Zaragoza at the Second Battle of Puebla, and Mexico City soon fell to the invaders.

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Weather

The mean elevation is about 6,000 ft ensuring a temperate climate for the most part. The state lies partly within the arid zone of the north, while the southern half receiving a more liberal rainfall through the influence of the Nortes, which deliver significant amounts of rain. San Luis Potosí features a semi-arid climate (BSh) under the Köppen climate classification. Its high altitude makes the city experiences only a handful of hot days each year. While the climate exhibits noticeably cooler (January and February) and warmer periods (April and May) of the year, temperatures are relatively consistent throughout the course of the year. San Luis Potosí receives, on average, 392.1 mm (15.44 in) of precipitation annually, mostly seen from May through October. Snowfall is a rare occurrence. The last recorded snowfalls occurred on January 1967, December 13, 1997, December 2011, March 2016, and December 8, 2017.

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Getting There

By Plane

Ponciano Arriaga International Airport (IATA: SLP, ICAO: MMSP) is an international airport located at San Luis Potosí, San Luis Potosi, Mexico. It handles national and international air traffic for the city of San Luis Potosí. Destiantions from and to the state include: Mexico City, Monterrey, Cancun, Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta, Santiago de Queretaro, Houston and Tijuana.

By Car

Several Federal Mexican Highways enter into San Luis Potosi from points all around Mexico including highways, 57, 62, 63, 69, 70 and 85. The state also has an extensive road network, like the rest of the country. Most of the roads are paved in urban areas and highways. Some small towns, however, have cobblestone streets

By Bus

Buses of all classes enter into San Luis Potosi from neighboring states and beyond. First and second class buses serve the routes from further afield, while simpler buses move about the state on lesser roads serving the smaller villages and ejidos.

For an overview of schedules and connections, check thebusschedule.com. Also check out rome2rio.com.

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Getting Around

By Bus

Every city and town in San Luis Potosi has bus service from points within the state and beyond. First and second class buses traverse every major road and almost all secondary roads. Local bus service (often aboard old school buses) pick up the slack and serve even the smallest village. Buses are frequent and reservations are not needed; just show up at the bus station and purchase your onward ticket or, especially in smaller villages, simply flag the bus down en route. The holidays of Christmas and especially Easter see much of Mexico on the move - consider planning your bus travel ahead of time during these holidays.

For an overview of schedules and connections, check thebusschedule.com. Also check out rome2rio.com.

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Eat

The foods eaten in what is now the north of Mexico have differed from those in the south since the pre-Hispanic era. Here, the indigenous people were hunter-gatherers with limited agriculture and settlements because of the arid land. The region's distinctive cooking technique is grilling, as ranch culture has promoted outdoor cooking done by men.

The ranch culture has also prompted cheese production and the north produces the widest varieties of cheese in Mexico. These include queso fresco (fresh farmer's cheese), ranchero (similar to Monterrey Jack), cuajada (a mildly sweet, creamy curd of fresh milk), requesón (similar to cottage cheese or ricotta), creamy semi-soft queso menonita, and fifty-six varieties of asadero (smoked cheese).

Another important aspect of northern cuisine is the presence of wheat, especially in the use of flour tortillas. The area has at least forty different types of flour tortillas. The main reason for this is that much of the land supports wheat production, introduced by the Spanish. These large tortillas allowed for the creation of burritos, usually filled with machaca, dry shredded beef) which eventually gained popularity north of the border.

The variety of foodstuffs in the north is not as varied as in the south of Mexico, because of the mostly desert climate. Much of the cuisine of this area is dependent on food preservation techniques, namely dehydration and canning. Dried foods include meat, chiles, squash, peas, corn, lentils, beans and dried fruit. A number of these are also canned. Preservation techniques change the flavor of foods; for example, many chiles are less hot after drying

Other types of Mexican food found throughout San Luis Potosi include:

  • Tacos are by far the most prevalent food in Mexico and come in many varieties and regional variances. Here, tacos are more often served on corn tortillas instead of wheat. Flour tortillas are the norm in the northern states of Mexico. Beef is also the meat of choice for tacos here,
  • Mollete is an open faced sandwich consisting of a bolillo roll smothered in refried beans and melted cheese.
  • Carnitas are slow braised meats usually bought by weight. These often come with tortillas to wrap the meat in. Any meats cooked in this fashion are always tender and very rich in flavor.
  • Cabuche is the flower from the biznaga cactus. this edible flower is a delicacy in San Luis Potosi state. There are many dishes this flower can go into and many ways to prepare it on it's own.
  • Chiles en Nogada - this dish is meant to represent the Mexican flag's 3 colors; red, white and green. The red portion of this dish is a garnish of pomegranate seeds, the white from a cream sauce and the green from poblano chili pepper.
  • Huitlacoche is a fungus that grows on organic corn ears due to the lack of anti fungal chemicals introduced to the crop. When cooked and added to certain dishes huitlacoche is very earthy in flavor.
  • Pozole - Choose either red or green pozole. This corn and chile based soup is very tasty and is served at many comedors and loncherias in marketplaces throughout Mexico.
  • Rosti-Pollo - Roast chicken is a hugely popular meal in Mexico and represents an astounding value for travelers on a budget. Order a whole, or half chicken. Each order comes with french fries, unlimited tortillas and salsa.
  • Birria Stew - Birria is typically goat meat but many establishments prepare it with beef. The broth is a tomato and chili based one although it is not too spicy. Fresh diced onions and cilantro always accompany birria stew as a garnish. Of course, unlimited corn tortillas are served with each bowl.

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Drink

Beer

Mass produced Mexican beers tend to be a bit less sweet than their American counterparts. All in all, Mexican beers are quite good and go very well with Mexican food. Microbrews are starting to pop up in big cities and certain varieties are distributed further afield. Many bars catering to a hip clientele will feature imported beers from throughout the world

Montejo, Leon, Victoria, Superior, Carta Blanca and Estrella are national brands that can be difficult to find at times depending on where you are in Mexico. Lately, both Tecate and Indio brands have become the most widely distributed beers next to Corona. Many of the beers mentioned are brewed by Mexico's brewery powerhouses - Modelo and Cuauhtemoc.

One of the traditions in Mexico is to add lime to beer, adding a pleasant acidity. Another popular way to drink beer in Mexico is to mix it with lime, tomato juice, spices and assorted chili-based sauces. This drink is known as a Michelada and is very popular in hotter climates throughout Mexico and actually makes for a very refreshing concoction.

Tequila

Tequila is the signature firewater of Mexico and nearly all of it hails from the state of Jalisco. Here, small agave plantations and larger haciendas churn out a staggering number of brands. Of those brands, there 5 varieties of tequila:

  • Oro, or gold is possibly the poorest quality of the lot. That gold color this variety is known for is artificial and this tequila really burns the throat. It is best used in cocktails and margaritas.
  • Plata is also known as Blanco and represents the next lowest quality of the 5 varieties but tastes better than the Oro variety. This is unaged and the flavor is much less complex, making it suitable as a mixer rather than a shot for sipping.
  • Resapado means rested and this variety is aged for up to 9 months. Flavor profiles become more complex and respado makes for a good introductory sipping variety. Expect a clean, sharp taste with a subtle peppery finish.
  • Aňejo. This aged variety, conditioned in oak barrels for up to 1 year, is very smooth and sweet. Many people enjoy this variety as an aperitif, or even an after dinner drink. Certain brands of aňejo represent a very good value, especially considering the amount of nuanced flavors created by each distilleries' aging techniques.
  • Extra Aňejo, or vintage, is a relatively new variety. This is aged for 3 years, often using other types of barrels aside from the traditional oak ones. This is best sipped neat. Extra Aňejo has boosted the craft tequila market in Mexico.

Mezcal

  • Mezcal can sometimes be as high as 60% alcohol, so enjoy this drink with caution! Mezcal is made from 1 of around 20 different species of agave, some of which can take decades to mature. Only once will a mature agave sprout the flower whose sap is fermented to make this potent potion. Some varieties include:
  • Minero is distilled in clay pots and is a very high quality variety. Subtly smoky in flavor and very smooth.
  • Arroqueňo tends to be a subtly sweet-tasting Mezcal. Many find this to be the most pleasant variety. The flavor begins a bit bitter but quickly finishes sweet and warm.
  • Joven means young, and this variety is simply unaged and therefore a little bit rough.
  • Tobalá is named for an actual variety of agave plant, grown in mountainous regions.

Pulque

Pulque has been enjoyed since well before the Spanish conquest of Mexico but has enjoyed a resurgence in the last decade, especially among the hip crowd. Pulque is simply the fermented sap of the maguey plant. The end result is a very thick, cloudy drink with a slightly acidic taste. This viscous liquid is often given artificial fruit flavoring to improve it's overall uninspiring taste, however many pulque drinkers are purists when it comes to quaffing this strange alcoholic beverage. In Mexico, pulquerias - bars exclusively serving pulque - offer a real authentic drinking experience and many feature roving musicians ready to play a tune for the merry patrons. Pulque has an alcoholic content between 4% and 6%.

Other Drinks

  • Chamoyada is a sweet and spicy type of shaved ice, or raspado or Mango sorbet, prepared with chamoy. It is a part of Mexican cuisine, and is also common in regions of the United States with significant Mexican-American populations. The drink is usually sweetened with mangoes or apricots. It is essentially a combination of chamoy sauce, shaved ice, chili powder, and fruit chunks. In certain variations, a whole fruit popsicle, or paleta, is added to the drink and mixed with the shaved ice. The drinking straws served with chamoyadas also often have tamarind candy on the outside. Chamoyadas do not contain any dairy products. The different flavors of chamoyadas can include fruits like mango, lemon, guava, tamarind, pineapple and strawberry.
  • Champuraddo is a warm and thick chocolate-based drink, prepared with either masa de maíz (lime-treated-corn dough), masa harina (a dried version of this dough), or corn flour (simply very finely ground dried corn, especially local varieties grown for atole); piloncillo; water or milk; and occasionally containing cinnamon, anise seed, or vanilla. Ground nuts, orange zest, and egg can also be employed to thicken and enrich the drink. Atole drinks are whipped up using a wooden whisk called a molinillo (or a blender). The whisk is rolled between the palms of the hands, then moved back and forth in the mixture until it is aerated and frothy.
  • Liquados are a Latin American handmade blended beverage similar to smoothies, made with milk, fruit, and usually ice.They are also sometimes called "preparados" (meaning "prepared"). Licuados and other fresh fruit juice drinks are ubiquitous throughout Mexico. They are sold by street vendors, and in special licuado shops, restaurants, and fruterias (restaurants specializing in fresh fruit).
  • Aguas Frescas, (Spanish for "cool waters", or literally "fresh waters") are light non-alcoholic beverages made from one or more fruits, cereals, flowers, or seeds blended with sugar and water. Some of the more common flavors include tamarind, hibiscus, and horchata. Aguas frescas are sold by street vendors, but can also be found in bodegas (convenience stores), restaurants and juice bars.
  • Atole, also known as atol and atol de elote, is a traditional hot corn and masa-based beverage of Mesoamerican origin. Chocolate atole is known as champurrado or atole. It typically accompanies tamales, and is very popular during the Christmas holiday season (las Posadas).
  • Café de olla is a traditional Mexican coffee beverage. To prepare café de olla, it is essential to use a traditional earthen clay pot, as this gives a special flavor to the coffee. This type of coffee is principally consumed in cold climates and in rural areas. In Mexico, café de olla is made with ground coffee, cinnamon, and piloncillo (known as panela in other countries).
  • Jarritos is a popular brand of soft drink in Mexico, founded in 1950. Jarritos is made in fruit flavors and is less carbonated than popular soft drinks made in the United States or Canada. Many Jarritos varieties are naturally flavored. The word jarrito means "little jug" in Spanish and refers to the Mexican tradition of drinking water and other drinks in clay pottery jugs. Produced in Mexico, they are sold throughout the Americas.

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Sleep

As is typical with all of Mexico, accommodation options in San Luis Potosi run from budget hotels and hostels to fancier lodges and resorts. Every city and town caters to the traveler as many people traverse the country by bus and often find themselves staying overnight along the way, especially on long-haul routes. Because of this, many hotels can be found around bus stations and in small towns those accommodation options will extend well beyond the transportation terminal. You will find an accommodation type to suit any budget in San Luis Potosi.

Many hotels in Mexico (and San Luis Potosi) list their prices at the front desk and haggling for a reduced rate for a stay of a few days or more is acceptable. Many hostels have become more expensive than hotels, especially for a couple traveling together. It is very common to find clean, safe, comfortable and centrally located hotels for 200 pesos. Wi Fi is almost always available at these hotels and sometimes cable television and air conditioning are included. Prices for these same types of hotels are at least double on the Baja Peninsula. It is also acceptable to ask to see a room before paying. Ask to see another room if the one shown to you doesn't suit you. Street noise is a problem in Mexico (and San Luis Potosi is no exception); rooms facing the road can be very loud. Ask for an internal-facing room if possible. Hot water is often an issue in Mexico and may only be available during certain hours.

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This is version 12. Last edited at 21:29 on May 16, 19 by road to roam. 34 articles link to this page.

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