Everything you need to know to quickly land, grab your bags, and get on with your stay in wonderful Oaxaca!
Table of Contents
Jump to what you need to know now!
- Where to have a layover
- What to wear and pack before arriving to Oaxaca
- Do you need a visa to visit Mexico?
- What to expect when you land at Oaxaca airport
- Where to get pesos
- How to leave Oaxaca’s airport
- What to do if your bags are lost
Where to have a layover
I don’t recommend flying into Mexico City airport. I’ve never been there, but I’ve heard horror stories about how long it takes to get through customs there. And if that’s just a layover, not your final destination, then you still have to gather up your bags and hurry to your next flight!
On the other hand, Oaxaca is a great place to have a layover if you’re flying into somewhere else, like Puerto Escondido, for example. That’s because customs doesn’t take very long at all here, maybe 30 minutes max?
If you’re coming from the USA and must have a layover before arriving to Oaxaca, it’s best for your layover to be at a US airport, NOT Mexico City.
What to wear and pack before you arrive
👚 Be a savvy traveler and pack a change of clothes, medicine, and immediate toiletries in your personal bag just in case anything happens to your luggage!
😷 As of June 2022, Oaxaca is still strictly enforcing mask wearing… Everywhere, really. Not just the airport. So it’s best to pack some masks, regardless of how you feel about it.
🌡 Depending on the time of day when you land, it may be very chilly or very hot… so dress in layers! (You’ll need to get used to dressing in layers in Oaxaca anyway… Temperatures can vary significantly throughout the day, depending on the time of year.)
To be safe, you should also pack:
- copies of your passport (in a bag separately from your real passport)
- your old passport if you still have one (even an expired passport can get you back into the USA if you get robbed)
- copies of your flight itinerary and return flight
- copies of at least your first stay (with the address)
- copies of prescriptions, preferably with the scientific names of your medicines shown
- your CDC covid vaccine card (and copies, separately) to get you back into the USA easily
- a test kit just in case it’s required to get you home (these regulations change quickly)
- a pen to fill out immigration paperwork
Do you need a visa to visit Mexico?
Depending on what country you’re from, you may need a visa, and you may need to apply for it outside of Mexico before you arrive. Most likely, you can stay for 180 days without a visa, but check the ConsulMex website to be sure.
Short answer: If you are a citizen of, a resident of, or even have a visa from these countries, you don’t need a visa to enter Mexico:
- the USA
- Schengen area
What to expect when you land at OAX
✈ Oaxaca is a small airport, which means no real gates and ramps. Instead, you walk down the ladder from your plane to the pavement.
👮♀️ Then a ton of people will be waiting to show you the way inside. That’s because you’re required by law to go through customs.
📝 On the plane, they should have given you one or two slips of paper to fill out. Be sure to fill those out while you’re waiting in line if you haven’t already. They both have instructions in English and Spanish, so you shouldn’t have any trouble. Having your flight number, passport number, and address of your first stay will be handy here!
🚻 If you need to use the restroom, you can use it right inside the airport, even before you go through customs. Unless you have a traveling companion, you’ll lose your spot in line, but the line moves quickly.
🛂 Inside the airport, you’ll have to show your passport and state that you’re here for vacation (unless you have a work visa, your response should always be that you’re here for vacation).
📅 Be prepared to state how long you intend to stay in Mexico as a whole (regardless of where you travel to). The immigration officer may choose to stamp your papers saying that you can only stay for that number of days, so answer carefully! (This is why you should have copies of your return flights just in case.)
🛏 Mexico City sometimes demands to see travelers’ return flight and accommodations, but that doesn’t seem to be happening anywhere else (as of June 2022). Bring them just in case!
🛄 Then you’ll end up at the luggage holding pen, where you’ll need to find your checked bags. An attendant will help you find them if you tell them what they look like.
💼 Then you’ll have to put all your bags through security again, but this time you shouldn’t have to take anything out of your bags.
📄 Then you’ll have to show the other slip of paper you filled out on the plane or shortly after arrival.
🚨 After that, you’ll press a button. Look overhead for the light to come on. If it’s green, you’re free to go. If it’s red, you’ll be subjected to one last search. The light is randomized to avoid profiling.
At OAX airport
Once you get through customs and immigration and go out of those doors, you’re in the main airport. Here you can use the restroom, eat at the restaurant, or stop by the convenience store over toward the airline check-in area.
This is SUCH a laid-back airport! Compared to touristy places like Puerto Vallarta, where people try to sell you things, get you into their taxi, or trick you into timeshare shenanigans, Oaxaca seems downright peaceful!
However, you may not want to dally long, or you’ll miss the next shuttle out.
Where to get pesos
💳 There are also ATMs at the airport, but I recommend paying for anything at the airport with a credit card.
🏧 Then withdraw cash from the Caja Popular Mexicana on the corner of Manuel Doblado and Vicente Guerrero for the lowest ATM fees! (Note: Always decline conversion at the ATM!)
💸 If you’re looking for cash elsewhere in the city, ask around for the nearest cajera automática (ATM) or look it up on Google Maps.
🤑 Note: HSBC near Llano Park has atrocious fees, so I don’t recommend it.
How to leave Oaxaca airport
If you don’t have a private ride picking you up, here’s what you’ll need to know.
🚕 The bad news:
Unfortunately, the airport taxis have a monopoly on transport away from the airport. I saw a yellow cab dropping someone off and tried to flag him down to pick me up, and he said he wasn’t allowed to.
👍 The good news:
If you’re staying anywhere downtown, the rates for the colectivo are under USD$10!
Simply go up to the giant TARIFAS sign, tell them the address of your stay, pay with credit card, and you’ll be on the next shuttle out of the airport! They’ll call you when it arrives.
More information about taxis and getting around Oaxaca in a later post!
What to do if your bags are lost
If your bags are lost, give the attendant your email, phone, hotel or AirBnB address, and other pertinent information, and they will efficiently track them down for you.
You shouldn’t need to call the airport; they will call you within a few days once your bags show up from wherever you had a layover…
That is, if your phone works in Mexico! Most of the time, if you’re on WiFi, you should be able to receive calls regardless.
If you paid to check your bags with a credit card, contact your credit card company. They may reimburse you a certain amount per day or per bag so you can buy replacements while you wait for its recovery.
Note: Nothing on this blog constitutes legal, immigration, or financial advice.