Visiting San Miguel de Allende: 10 Things to Know Before You Go

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If you’re planning on visiting San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, this travel guide has everything you need to know for your trip. I’ve put together the 10 most important things to know before traveling to to San Miguel de Allende for the first time.  If you’re wondering what the best things to do in San Miguel de Allende are, or the best time to visit San Miguel de Allende, this guide is for you. Is San Miguel de Allende worth visiting?  Absolutely!  Here’s why.

1. What’s the Best Time to Visit San Miguel de Allende?

When planning a trip, a lot of first time tourists wonder what is the best time to visit San Miguel de Allende.

The Best Time to Visit San Miguel de Allende

Here’s the good news: The weather in San Miguel de Allende is mild all year-round.  For that reason, there’s not really a bad time to visit.

However, the best time to visit San Miguel de Allende is November – April. During this peak season in San Miguel, the temperatures are in the 70’s and 80’s and the probability of rain and thunderstorms is much lower.

Another great time of year to visit San Miguel de Allende is during the Christmas, New Year’s, and Easter holidays. If you plan your trip to San Miguel during those peal holiday periods, make sure to book your accommodations well in advance – keep reading for my favorite hotel recommendations!

Insider Tip: My Favorite Times of the Year to Visit San Miguel

March or April: if you visit San Miguel during March or April, you’ll be able to see the gorgeous Jacaranda trees in bloom all over the city.  They are absolutely beautiful!

Día de Los Muertos: visiting San Miguel de Allende during Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is an incredible experience.

Pro Travel Tip: These days, travel can be more uncertain than ever. Check for any COVID-related restrictions at your destination, and never travel without travel insurance! I recommend SafetyWing, because they have flexible + affordable insurance plans, and also cover COVID-related impacts on your trip (not all companies do)!

2. Do You Have to Speak Spanish to Visit San Miguel de Allende?

Anytime you visit a different country, I recommend learning at least a few basic phrases in the local language to show respect for the other culture, and make getting around that much easier.

Having said that, it’s not necessary to speak Spanish to travel to San Miguel de Allende. The city has a very healthy expat community, and the local economy thrives on tourism.

For those reasons, most locals in San Miguel speak at least a little English, so even if you don’t speak Spanish, you won’t have a problem finding your way around.

If You Don’t Speak Spanish, Download a Translation App on Your Phone Before You Go

If you don’t speak Spanish at all, I do recommend downloading a translation app on your phone before you visit San Miguel de Allende, to help with situations when you can’t communicate with someone.

When I went to San Miguel de Allende, this happened a few times in markets and cafes.

In terms of translation apps, I don’t think it gets better than Google translate, so I recommend downloading that before you go!

visiting San Miguel de Allende

3. How to Get to San Miguel to Allende

If you’re planning a trip to San Miguel de Allende for the first time, you are probably wondering which airport to fly into to get to San Miguel de Allende.

Getting to San Miguel de Allende is relatively straightforward, but will require ground transportation after your flight.

There are three airports you can fly in to if you’re visiting San Miguel de Allende, listed in order of proximity to the city: Querétaro International Airport (QRO), Del Bajío International Airport (BJX), and Mexico City International Airport (MEX).

How to Get from the Airport to San Miguel to Allende

There are a few ways to get from the airport to San Miguel de Allende.  You can either take a bus, take a shuttle, or hire a driver or taxi.

How to get to San Miguel de Allende from León (Del Bajío International Airport)

The Del Bajío International Airport is located about an hour and fifteen minutes from San Miguel de Allende.

To get to San Miguel de Allende from Del Bajío airport, I recommend the BajioGo shuttle service, which is about $25 one way.

The other option is booking a private driver for about $75 one way (my recommendation is here).

There is one direct bus service from BJX to San Miguel de Allende, Unebus. The service is limited to one bus per day but you can book your tickets here. A one-way ticket is approximately US $10.

How to get to San Miguel de Allende from Querétaro International Airport

To get to San Miguel de Allende from the Querétaro airport, I recommend the BajioGo shuttle service, which is about $25 one way.

The other option is booking a private driver for about $75 one way (my recommendation is here).

How to get to San Miguel de Allende from Mexico City International Airport

Although the Mexico City International Airport is the furthest from San Miguel de Allende, it is serviced by more frequent flights and more airlines than Del Bajío airport or Querétaro airport.

For that reason, if you fly into Mexico City to visit San Miguel de Allende, it may be easier to find a less expensive flight, or a flight at a more convenient time.

San Miguel de Allende is 3-4 hours from Mexico City. To get there, you can take a bus (reserve your tickets in advance here), a group shuttle, or book private transportation (here’s my recommendation).

Arriving in San Miguel de Allende Late at Night

If your flight arrives late at night, I recommend either hiring a driver to transport you from the airport to San Miguel, rather than booking a bus or shuttle.

The reason is that a private driver will wait for you if there are any flight delays. If you are booked on a group shuttle or bus, they’ll leave without you! Being stranded at an airport at 2:00am with no plans is not something any traveler wants to experience.

Another option if you have a nighttime flight arrival to San Miguel is to plan on spending the night in a hotel close to the airport. Here are a few recommendations for hotels close to airports that serve San Miguel de Allende:

León (Del Bajío International Airport): Try the Homewood Suites next to the airport for plenty of space to stretch out before visiting San Miguel de Allende.

Querétaro International Airport: The One Querétaro Aeropuerto is your best bet.

Mexico City International Airport: The Courtyard Marriott Mexico City Hotel is a straightforward hotel but is perfectly located right next to the Mexico City Airport, so it’s perfect for staying over a night if needed.

parroquia in san miguel de allende

4. If You’re Visiting San Miguel de Allende, Pack Light and Save Extra Space in Your Suitcase

One tip I always give first timers to San Miguel de Allende is to make sure you leave extra space in your suitcase!

San Miguel de Allende is a shoppers paradise, and I guarantee that you’ll find plenty of art, handcrafts, and clothes that you’ll want to take home with you.

Seriously – there are so many things to buy in San Miguel de Allende that I filled an entire second suitcase on my way home!

So make sure that you don’t stuff your suitcase to the gills on the way there, so that you have plenty of room in your bag for all of your souveniers from Mexico.

5. The Best Way to Exchange Currency and Get Pesos in San Miguel de Allende

If you’re visiting San Miguel de Allende for the first time, it’s important to know that you’ll need some cash while you’re there.

architecture in SAN MIGUEL de allende mexico

The local currency in San Miguel de Allende is Mexican Pesos.  I recommend having some pesos on hand with you when you visit San Miguel de Allende.

Why You Should Have Mexican Pesos On Hand in San Miguel de Allende

Most places in San Miguel de Allende will allow you to charge a credit card in either dollars or pesos, but in markets or smaller shops, they may only accept cash, or have a credit card minimum.  So it’s a good idea to have pesos on hand in cash.

You’ll get the best exchange rates if you withdraw pesos from an ATM in Mexico.  These rates will be far better than the ones that you’ll get if you use a kiosk at the airport, so avoid airport currency exchange kiosks at all costs!

The Best Credit Card to Use for Travel in Mexico

I recommend bringing a credit card to San Miguel de Allende, but make sure it’s the right one!

Many credit cards charge extra fees for charges made in international currency.  That’s the last thing you want!

I personally have the Marriott Bonvoy Amex which is the best credit card out there in terms of racking up Marriott points that can be used for hotels or flights. I highly recommend it!

6. Is San Miguel de Allende Safe?

Many first time visitors to Mexico worry about San Miguel de Allende safety. It’s a valid concern given how often reports of drug cartel-related crime appear in the US news.

The first time I went to San Miguel de Allende I was a little concerned about safety. I am a female traveler and was planning to travel to San Miguel de Allende solo, so I wasn’t sure if traveling solo to San Miguel de Allende as a woman would present any issues.

Safety in San Miguel de Allende in 2022

The good news: I had no problems with personal safety in San Miguel de Allende! Even walking back to my accommodations at night after dinner, I felt perfectly safe.

Don’t forget that there is a large percentage of expats living in San Miguel, and that the city thrives on tourism as its primary industry. If expats and tourists didn’t feel safe in this city, they wouldn’t come – therefore it is important to the city to ensure that visitors feel protected.

Of course, it makes sense to use precautions when traveling to San Miguel de Allende, as you would anywhere. Don’t flash expensive jewelry or cash, take only marked taxis or Ubers, and keep an eye on your purse.

rooftops at sunset in San Miguel de allende

7. Where to Stay for Your First Visit to San Miguel de Allende

If you’re going to San Miguel de Allende for the first time, you are probably trying to figure out exactly where to stay!

In summary, the Centro (or “Central”) part of San Miguel de Allende is incredibly walkable, so it’s easy to get around.  For your first visit to San Miguel de Allende, I recommend staying at a hotel or Airbnb in the Centro neighborhood.

Where to Stay in the Center of San Miguel

No matter exactly where your accommodation is located, you will be within a 20 minute walk to all of the main things to see and do in San Miguel de Allende.

San Miguel has a variety of choices for accommodations, but here are a few of my favorite picks:

Best Luxury Hotel: The Rosewood.  Hands-down.

Best Rooftop Pool: Hotel Matilda

Best Boutique Hotel: Mesón Hidalgo

Best Budget Option: Casa Carly

doorway on insurgents in San Miguel de allende

8. Enjoy Coffee, Drinks, or Dinner on a Rooftop

One of the best tips I can give you for your first time in San Miguel de Allende is to make sure you see the city from a rooftop terrace, restaurant or bar.

The view of the city from above is absolutely spectacular, and you will surely be missing out if you skip this part of visiting San Miguel.

The Best Rooftop Cafes and Restaurants in San Miguel de Allende

For a rooftop coffeeshop in San Miguel de Allende, I recommend Kibok.  For drinks at a rooftop bar in San Miguel, I recommend Bekeb.

And for dinner at a rooftop in San Miguel de Allende, you absolutely MUST try Quince.  You won’t be disappointed!  Make sure to book reservations in advance.

parroquia at sunset

9. Enjoy a Day Trip from San Miguel de Allende

There’s plenty to see in the city of San Miguel if you’re going there for the first time.  After a few days in the city, though, it is also worth doing a day trip from San Miguel de Allende to get a taste of the broader region.

If you decide to venture outside of San Miguel de Allende, what you should do depends on your tastes.  

A few of my favorite recommendations for day trips from San Miguel de Allende are:

Wine Tasting at a Winery Near San Miguel de Allende

Visiting a winery makes for a great day trip from San Miguel de Allende. I recommend Tres Raices, which is about 30 minutes outside of the city.

Enjoy lunch on their covered patio!

To be on the safe side, I recommend getting a driver to take you wine tasting in San Miguel de Allende, and my recommendation for a driver is here.

Horseback riding in San Miguel de Allende

Another popular activity in San Miguel de Allende is horseback riding. There are many options, but I would recommend Rancho Xotolar.

Visit One of the Natural Hot Springs

Many tourists who visit San Miguel de Allende also visit one of the many natural hot springs that are outside the city. Check out Los Senderos for starters.

One of the best things to do in San Miguel de Allende is soak in the local culture by seeing some live music or attending a gallery opening.  There’s ALWAYS something interesting going on in this city!

The best way to find out what’s going on in San Miguel is by picking up a copy of Atención, San Miguel’s local newspaper.  Atención has a section called “Que Pasa?” (Spanish for “what’s happening”).

el charco del ingenio

The Que Pasa section lists all of the fun events that are going on in San Miguel de Allende for the week.  And if you don’t speak Spanish, the events are all listed in English, too.

The Atención publication is sold in almost all convenience stores in San Miguel, but you can also read it online, and check out the online version of Que Pasa here.

What to Pack for San Miguel de Allende: Bring the Right Shoes!

When you’re thinking about packing for San Miguel de Allende, there is one thing that I recommend you bring for your trip. And that is comfortable shoes!

Why You Need Comfortable Shoes in San Miguel de Allende

As much as I love my heels and wedges, I was warned ahead of my trip to San Miguel to leave these at home.  And I couldn’t agree more.

If you visit San Miguel de Allende, you will do a TON of walking.  It is the easiest way to get around the city’s compact center.

The streets in the center of San Miguel are all uneven cobblestone, so the possibility of twisting an ankle or falling because you have the wrong shoes on is a real one!

cobblestone street in San Miguel de allende

The Best Shoes to Pack for San Miguel de Allende

In terms of what to pack for San Miguel de Allende, you will absolutely need sneakers or other comfortable walking shoes.  

I prefer my walking shoes to be stylish, so you can check out my post on stylish walking shoes for some suggestions.

Is San Miguel de Allende Worth Visiting?

When I returned from traveling to San Miguel de Allende, a lot of people asked me if San Miguel de Allende is worth visiting.  My response was always the same: YES!  Put it on your must-see list!

Why It’s Worth Visiting San Miguel de Allende

Visiting San Miguel de Allende is such a unique experience from visiting other tourist destinations in Mexico. The city is brimming with art, culture, history, food & wine. It’s a traveler’s dream!

Although San Miguel de Allende is an established vacation getaway for locals, particularly from Mexico City, the destination is still somewhat off-the-beaten path for international tourists. So I recommend visiting it before it becomes even more popular.

In addition, traveling to San Miguel de Allende is still reasonably priced, especially when you compare it to large cities in Europe. For that reason, it is absolutely worth it to visit San Miguel.

What is so Special about San Miguel de Allende?

San Miguel de Allende is a city like no other in Mexico. But what makes San Miguel so special?

The city center of San Miguel de Allende (Centro Historico) was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008.

The city is significant in Mexican history because of its role in the Mexican War of Independence, and the preservation of colonial-era architecture in this part of the city were two important factors in its designation.

In addition to San Miguel’s rich cultural heritage, the city has a modern twist to its cobblestone streets in the form of world-class boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants. It truly is a mix unlike anywhere else in Mexico, and absolutely worth visiting.

There You Have it – Everything You Need to Know Before Visiting San Miguel de Allende!

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visiting San Miguel de Allende Mexico for the first time

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