Oaxaca is one of the prettiest colonial cities in Mexico and a tourism hotspot in the South. The city is famous for its architecture, unique cuisine, and craftsmanship, but it’s also an excellent spot for remote workers. On this basis, here is a complete Oaxaca digital nomad guide.
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Welcome to Oaxaca: One of the Most Beautiful Cities in Latin America
Oaxaca de Juárez – in short, “Oaxaca,” is the capital and largest city of the state with the same name. To clarify, this Oaxaca digital nomad guide covers only the city, not the eponymous state.
The region of Oaxaca was home to various indigenous groups before the Spanish Conquista, including the powerful Zapotec and Mixtec. Both groups fought wars against each other, and the Spanish took advantage of this situation to colonize them.
The Europeans founded Oaxaca de Juárez in 1532 and built a colonial city with municipal buildings, churches, hospitals, and roads.
After the independence of Mexico, the city became the capital of the state of Oaxaca. Benito Juárez, arguably the most influential president in Mexican history, was born here, and in 1872, “de Juárez” was added to the city’s name.
Today, Oaxaca has around 300k inhabitants, and the city’s primary economic sectors are manufacturing, mining, and tourism.
Oaxaca is one of the prettiest colonial cities in Latin America, but there are more reasons to work remotely from here:
- The city is well-connected by bus and plane to other parts of Mexico;
- The cost of living is low;
- The region is super authentic, and it kept its vintage charm; and
- It’s relatively safe, walkable, and clean.
In short, Oaxaca is a suitable city for you if you want authenticity and old-world charm but also tourism and nomad infrastructure.
On the minus side, Oaxaca is small, and it doesn’t have the cultural might of Mexico City, for example. There are, nevertheless, lots of exciting day trip options nearby.
Where to Stay in Oaxaca as a Digital Nomad
The best area to stay in Oaxaca is undoubtedly the historic center. There are two parts that Oaxaca digital nomads should consider: Santo Domingo (north of the Zócalo – main square) and the neighborhood of the Zócalo.
The area around Santo Domingo is beautiful and home to many restaurants and bars. It is, however, relatively quiet as it’s a few blocks north of the buzzing Zócalo.
The southern edge of the Zócalo is full of authentic markets, museums, and restaurants. The neighborhood is a lot more bustling than Santo Domingo. As such, stay south of the Zócalo if you want to be in the thick of it.
Cost of Living in Oaxaca for Digital Nomads
Oaxaca is generally quite affordable as long as you stay away from touristy restaurants and activities. If you shop at local markets and don’t eat in fancy international places, you can easily live for around 1.2k USD here.
On this basis, here is a breakdown of one month of digital nomad expenses in 2021:
- Apartment: 600€ for an Airbnb close to Santo Domingo;
- Food and Drinks: 300€;
- Public Transport and Taxis: 50€
- Tourist Activities: 75€;
- Miscellaneous like hairdressers and Sim Cards: 25€
Total: 1,050€ (~1,185 USD)
The Best Oaxaca Coworking Locations and Coffee Shops
Oaxaca doesn’t have as many coworking spaces as larger Mexican cities, but there is a decent selection of coffee shops with high-speed Wifi in the center. Here are some of the best Oaxaca coworking locations and coffee shops to work from:
- Café Punto Paz: A chilled-out coffee shop next to a bike repair shop close to Santo Domingo;
- Céntrico Cowork: one of the largest Oaxaca coworking spaces with different membership plans;
- Centro de imaginación Oaxaca: a great coworking space a few miles north of the historic center;
- Café Boulenc: a coffee shop with some of the best pastries in the city; and
- Muss Café: one of the most stylish coffee shops in the old town with acceptable Wifi.
The Best Places to Visit in Oaxaca
For culture lovers and foodies, there are plenty of things to do in Oaxaca City. Here are some of the top sights and best places to visit in Oaxaca, Mexico.
The Botanical Garden
The state of Oaxaca is home to a wide variety of plant species, and the Botanical Garden exhibits them in a former colonial palace.
Located right next to Santo Domingo, the Botanical Garden is among the best places to visit in Oaxaca. You can only enter with guided tours, so be there early as these tours fill up quickly.
Benito Juarez Market
If you are looking for some crafts or culinary specialties, the Benito Juarez Market is an excellent location.
You can find everything from local leather goods to mezcal and chapulines (grasshoppers that locals eat) here. As such, the market is one of the top places to visit in Oaxaca for shoppers.
The Best Museums in Oaxaca
Oaxaca has several museums where you can learn more about the history of this fascinating region.
In this context, the Museo de las Culturas (ex-convent turned history museum), the Rufino Tamayo (indigenous art), and the Museo de Textil (textile) should feature on your Oaxaca itinerary.
The Most Impressive Churches in Oaxaca
Oaxaca has numerous stunning churches, but three are unmissable: the Santo Domingo de Guzman Temple, the Metropolitan Cathedral, and the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad.
The Zócalo Square and Colonial Center
Every major Mexican city has a main colonial square called Zócalo, and Oaxaca is no different. Around this square, you’ll find lots of colorful architecture and striking colonial buildings.
Start around the Andador Turistico (tourism street) and take a bus tour or simply soak in history by getting lost in the grids of beautiful colonial streets.
Mezcal Bars and Tlayuda Restaurants: Culinary Specialities of Oaxaca
Made from maguey plants, mezcal is one of the most famous Mexican spirits.
Oaxaca is the world capital of mezcal, and there are countless small bars where you can savor some local liquor. In this context, I recommend La Querencia Mezcalería, a laidback bar with just a few tables and a large selection of local mezcal.
Aside from mezcal, the most famous Oaxacan dish is the tlayuda, a closed taco/pizza hybrid filled with different ingredients. You can find it in almost every local restaurant or from street vendors.
The Best Day Trips From Oaxaca
There are lots of worthwhile day trips from Oaxaca.
In this context, the Monte Alban Archaeological Zone is the former capital of the Zapotec Civilization.
Located on top of a mountain, it has lots of temples and small pyramids.
I recommend this tour for less than 50 USD. They take you to Monte Alban as well as a monastery and craft workshops.
Alternatively, Hierve el Agua is another incredible day trip from Oaxaca. Around two hours away, these hot springs allow you to swim in different minerals and are famous for their unique geological properties. You can book tours to Hierve el Agua in the city or online.
There were several disputes with rural communities, but after a long closure, the site reopened in November 2021.
Oaxaca Digital Nomad Guide: FAQ
To complete this Oaxaca digital nomad guide, here are a few frequently asked questions and miscellaneous things to know.
Sim Cards and Connectivity
Any Oaxaca digital nomad will wonder about SIM Cards and Wifi.
You can buy a SIM Card at every OXXO convenience store. They have their own brand, and you pay 200 MXN (~10 USD) for 9 GB of mobile data. Alternatively, Telcel is another recommendable brand. Both use the same network, and the coverage is generally decent.
Internet speed varies heavily in Oaxaca. You can find world-class internet in some coworking spaces, coffee shops, and Airbnbs, but it’s hit or miss. Always check with your Airbnb host to avoid unpleasant surprises.
How to Get to Oaxaca
Oaxaca has a small international airport with flights to every major Mexican city – as well as some US hubs. The low-cost airlines Volaris and VivaAerobus fly to Mexican cities for low rates. If you have a higher budget, the flag carrier AeroMexico also flies these routes.
Alternatively, you can reach Oaxaca by bus from Mexico City and other large Mexican cities. The bus terminal is located at the edge of the historic center and is easily accessible. ADO is a recommendable company for long-distance buses across Mexico.
If you want to get to Puerto Escondido or other places on the coast of Oaxaca State, read my Puerto Escondido guide.
How to Get Around Oaxaca
In the center, you can walk almost anywhere. If you need to get further out, you can hail a yellow taxi (not recommendable late at night) or a Didi.
Uber doesn’t operate in Oaxaca, so Didi is usually your best bet.
There are also local combis (collective buses). They usually have their destination printed on the window. Just hail them on the street and tell them when you want to get off.
When you go to touristy places in Oaxaca, you’ll be able to communicate in English, but that’s not the general state of affairs. As such, it’s highly recommendable to learn basic Spanish as an Oaxaca digital nomad.
Oaxaca Digital Nomad Safety
Safety in Mexico is always a combination between subjective feelings and actual dangers. Oaxaca is statistically is a relatively safe city for Mexican standards.
During the day, you shouldn’t have any trouble as long as you use common sense. At night, it’s best to use a taxi and don’t walk around except for the main streets.
The Best Time to Visit Oaxaca
Oaxaca is relatively warm throughout the year, but it never gets scorching.
The high tourism months are June and August, December and January, and Día de Muertos in September. If you want great temperatures with fewer tourists, visit during April, May, October, or November.