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Navigating the Most Popular Neighborhoods of Merida, Mexico

My writing includes my personal travel experiences, destination, history, and cultural information.

Mexico, Merida, Yucatan

Mexico, Merida, Yucatan

Merida on the Yucatan Penisula

Merida, Mexico, located in the Yucatan Penisula is known for many things. Considered the safest and cleanest city in Mexico it has earned the nickname "White City." Merida is known for its cenotes, colorful Mayan culture, and beautiful neighborhoods.

After living as an American ex-pat in Europe for a few years, I relocated to Mexico— Merida to be specific. The relocation was a quick decision but simply put, I was looking to experience a different culture and lifestyle. Some friends were moving to Merida and, in the spur of the moment, I decided to piggyback.

The Design of Merida

Living in a city abroad, typically, the transition is easier if a newcomer settles in the Centro area or at the very least, within a walkable distance. One of the unique things about Merida is the way centers around each neighborhood. Usually, there is a park, a church, restaurants, cafes, an outdoor market, and small indoor markets.

Each of the neighborhoods (to some degree) operates independently and is adjacent to Centro. In the evenings and on weekends, the parks become the hub of neighborhood activity with food and merchandise vendors, music, dancing, and socializing.

Navigating around Merida seems like it should be straightforward, but most newcomers find it a bit confusing. The city is set up on a grid system with numbered one-way streets running parallel and perpendicular.

Addresses are written and spoken using an "x" and "y" to indicate between what cross streets. For example Calle 64 #466A x53 y 55, Centro would tell us the location is on Calle 64 and the specific number is 466A located between Calles 53 and 55 in the Centro neighborhood.

Here are some navigation tips:

  1. Mérida occurs in a grid with mostly numbered streets.
  2. Larger streets have names such as Ave. Cupules, Ave. Itzaes, or Ave. Colon.
  3. The main boulevard in the center of the city, running north and south, is the Paseo de Montejo.
  4. The Periferico is the loop around the city.
This was the market outside my home—Mercado de Santiago.

This was the market outside my home—Mercado de Santiago.

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The blue house was my home in the Santiago Barrio of Merida, Mexico.

The blue house was my home in the Santiago Barrio of Merida, Mexico.

As you watch the video below, I will say in advance that the building facades of the homes and businesses appear run-down. But I can assure you, that once inside, they are all very nice and clean. I remember arriving in Merida and taking in my new city, I felt like I was in the ghetto, and for those first few minutes felt high anxiety. But once I stepped out of the car and into my friend's home—I felt like I was in a luxury five-star location!

The main neighborhoods of Merida are adjacent to Centro area.

The main neighborhoods of Merida are adjacent to Centro area.

Originally, when I settled in Merida, I lived in the San Sebastian neighborhood or barrio. Not having a car, it was further from Centro than I preferred so, after about six weeks, I moved to the Santiago bario which was only about a ten-minute walk from Centro. As you can see from the map above, San Sebastian is not even pictured. I chalked this error up to a rookie mistake.

There are about 12,000 ex-pats living full-time in Merida with most ex-pats living in Centro, Merida Norte, or in the neighborhoods shown on the map above. The big box stores such as Wal-Mart and Costco are outside of the city center and unless you have a car, a private driver is needed. Within each neighborhood, there are small medical clinics with larger facilities located outside of the center.

Walking or Driving?

Merida has a population of over one million but it is a very walkable city. Walking is the easiest and preferred method of getting around in Merida. Most daily needs can be met within the individual neighborhoods. However, if walking isn't in your wheelhouse or if you have a non-walkable destination in mind, Mérida has an extensive and well-organized public transportation system that uses both buses and vans. Taxis, Uber, and Didi are also available.

When I was in need of transportation during my stay in Merida, I used Uber. For the most part, those services were reliable, safe, and inexpensive. However, when I needed transportation I could absolutely count on, for example getting to the airport, I would use a privately booked driver.

Hopefully, this walking tour and explanation of navigating Merida are useful to you. Happy Merida trails!

Until next time, friends, remember, "To Travel is to Live!"

© 2022 Dee Nicolou Serkin

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