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WINGS Birding Tours – Information

Mexico: Oaxaca at Christmastime

Tour Information

Note: The information presented here is an abbreviated version of our formal General Information for Tours to Mexico: Oaxaca. Its purpose is solely to give readers a sense of what might be involved if they take this tour. Although we do our best to make sure that what follows here is completely accurate, it should not be used as a replacement for the formal document which will be sent to all tour registrants, and whose contents supersedes any information contained here.

IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT THE CANCELLATION AND REFUND POLICY FOR THIS TOUR: WINGS tours are normally confirmed and the tour cost is non-refundable 70 days prior to departure. Because of the difficulty of getting Christmastime flights to Oaxaca, WINGS will confirm this tour and the full tour cost becomes non-refundable 90 days prior to departure.

ENTERING MEXICO: Mexico requires of U.S. citizens a passport valid for at least six months from the date of entry and with a least one blank page for an entry stamp. 

Tourist cards are required and are distributed by your entering airlines. Participants who drive to the trip departure point should obtain their tourist cards at Mexican customs at the border. 

Citizens of other countries may need a visa and should check their nearest Mexican embassy. 

COUNTRY INFORMATION: You can review the U.S. Department of State Country Specific Travel Information at http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country/mexico.html, and the CIA World Factbook background notes on Mexico at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/mx.html.

PACE OF THE TOUR: We will try to be in the field at dawn (about 6:30 a.m.). Most birding sites are about 30 to 60 minutes from the hotels, except for the drive to and from Tuxtepec, which is a day-long trip (with birding stops) on a not especially well maintained road. 

Breakfasts will be picnic-style in the field. Most lunches will be picnics in the field though some will be in restaurants. All dinners will be in restaurants, with the exception of one or two picnic dinners. 

Birding in and around the valley of Oaxaca is from 5,300 to 6,000 feet in elevation. Other than uneven ground and a narrow, scrubby, thorny trail at Monte Albán (where skirts and dresses are not recommended), the walking presents no particular problem. 

The sun can be intense, so have a hat and sunblock lotion. On Cerro San Felipe above Oaxaca City, we will be birding on dirt roads at about 9,000-9,900 feet. Of course, we will be walking slowly, and any steepness would only present a problem for those with bad knees or hips. 

A limited amount of group time will be devoted to cultural events, such as visiting the Night of the Radishes, viewing the calendas, seeing the famous Tule Tree and spending about 1/2 hour each at a couple of markets. Many people find this not enough time to enjoy the rich cultural offerings of Oaxaca at this season and may wish to consider arriving earlier or staying on after the tour on their own. 

The Midnight Mass on the 24th is an attraction for some, Fridays offer a Guelaguetza dance performance, museums and an ethnobotanical garden are popular attractions, and several outlying villages are frequent tourist destinations for their market specialties. 

Arrangements to visit all of these can be made through the transportation company we use or with the travel desk in our Oaxaca City hotel. The Internet is also an excellent resource. 

HEALTH: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all travelers be up to date on routine vaccinations. These include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot. 

They further recommend that most travelers have protection against Hepatitis A and Typhoid. 

Malaria:  The CDC recommends travelers to rural areas in the Mexican state of Oaxaca are at risk for malaria. Our leaders note that they have rarely, if ever, encountered a mosquito at this season on this tour. Please consult your physician. 

Please contact your doctor well in advance of your tour’s departure as some medications must be initiated weeks before the period of possible exposure. 

The most current information about travelers’ health recommendations can be found on the CDC’s  Travel Health website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/mexico

Drinking Water:  In most of Mexico it is unwise to drink untreated water, although bottled drinks are reliable and available and  we will be carrying bottled water and other drinks. 

Altitude:  The Valley of Oaxaca is situated at between 5,300 and 6,000 feet. On Cerro San Felipe we’ll be birding  (slowly) between 9,000 and 10,000 feet. Please consult your physician if you have cardiovascular issues. 

Smoking:  Smoking is prohibited in the vehicles or when the group is gathered for meals, checklists, etc. If you are sharing a room with a nonsmoker, please do not smoke in the room. If you smoke in the field, do so well away and downwind from the group. If any location where the group is gathered has a stricter policy than the WINGS policy, that stricter policy will prevail. 

Food Allergies / Requirements: We cannot guarantee that all food allergies can be accommodated at every destination. Participants with significant food allergies or special dietary requirements should bring appropriate foods with them for those times when their needs cannot be met. Announced meal times are always approximate depending on how the day unfolds. Participants who need to eat according to a fixed schedule should bring supplemental food. Please contact the WINGS office if you have any questions. 

Miscellaneous: Sun in Mexico can be very intense. Please bring adequate protection, including a sun hat and a strong sun screen of at least 15 rating. We have found that with careful eating habits, intestinal problems can be largely avoided. Biting insects and arachnids are seldom a major nuisance although chiggers and biting gnats can be locally numerous at Tuxtepec. 

CLIMATE: Near Oaxaca City and in the mountains early morning temperatures can be quite cold (we have seen frost in the past). By an hour or two after sunrise the temperatures usually become quite comfortable. Midday temperatures usually are warm to hot. We rarely encounter heavy rain, but light rain or mist is possible in some areas, especially on our trip to Tuxtepec. 

At the higher elevations, it can remain cold, damp and windy all day if a powerful cold front is moving through. You should be prepared with clothing layers, including gloves and hat. 

ACCOMMODATIONS: We stay in comfortable hotels throughout the tour, with private bathroom facilities and restaurants. 

FOOD: Breakfasts will be picnic-style in the field, generally consisting of standard cold fare, with yoghurt, cereal, fruit, etc. Most lunches will be picnics in the field consisting of sandwiches, fruit, snacks and cold drinks, although some will be in restaurants. All dinners will be in local restaurants, with the exception of one or two picnic dinners. In general, the food in Oaxaca is excellent, and is often regarded as the pinnacle of Mexican cuisine. Rich sauces, or moles, and local vegetables and side dishes are consistently raved about during the tour.

TRANSPORTATION: Transportation during the Oaxaca Valley portion of the tour is by 12-passenger vans. Those who suffer from motion sickness should bring your preferred medication. Participants should be able to ride in any seat in tour vehicles.

Updated: September 2014