Guadalajara, in the state of Jalisco, Mexico, is a great town. It’s filled with what many Mexicans say is the most beautiful women in Mexico, has lots of great cultural options, and is also the world capital of tequila. As Mexico’s second largest city (6 million), there is a lot to do there, but it till feels surprisingly chill and is fairly walkable. It also has a little bit of an alternative vibe to it, with a large hippie, metalhead, gay, and student population.
Flights come in to Guadalajara’s airport (GDL). Once you get there you can either take a taxi into town for around 100-150 pesos ($8-12) or a bus to the old bus station and then a cheaper cab into the center. Another option is to fly to Puerto Vallarta (PVR) and take a bus. It’s a long ride (4-5 hours) but the Mexican buses are very comfortable and cheap and it may be worth it as sometimes a PVR ticket will save you hundreds.
As in the general rule in Latin America, the central downtown area of Guadalajara is not one of the nicer parts of the city, but it is much nicer than other big Latin American downtowns such as Guatemala City or Managua. It’s fairly clean and it is pretty much totally safe though as long as you keep your wits about you and is a good place to stay if you want minimize expenses. In downtown, otherwise known as the Centro Historico, there are plenty of cheap hotels that are easy walk-in choices. Expect to pay 200 pesos and up for a cheap single room and 300 and up for a double. Remember also that you will have to pay the difference in price if you come home at night with unexpected company.
Hotspot: Cafe Andre Breton is a French cafe a couple block north of Juarez at Huerto. Good French bistro food and live music make this a good downtown option.
Taxis are plentiful and cheap in Guadalajara, around 7 pesos the initial meter drop and maybe 5 pesos per kilometer onwards. You can get anywhere you need to go really for 100 pesos or less in the metro area. Just make sure the driver uses the meter (el taximetro) or you bargain ahead of time. I’ve been in a cab a couple times where they tried to rip me off with the meter a meter than ran artificially fast, so keep your eye on it and if it seems to be going really quickly, get out. Generally speaking if the meter is above 10 or 12 pesos in the first couple blocks you’re getting scammed. The vast majority of taxi drivers in town are honest.
The main drag in Guadalajara is Avenida Juarez/Vallarta, which runs east-west. The places to go out in Guadalajara are all pretty much west and northwest of the center, so start out heading west on Juarez. A kilometer or two west is the enormous University of Guadalajara, and that’s a good place to start if you’re youngish- there are plenty of bars and cafes around there.
My favorite bar in the area is El Primer Piso, which is a jazz bar on Pedro Moreno and Escorza. It’s a very lively scene on weekends with good food and some excellent live music. Make sure to reserve a table ahead of the time on weekends.
A little further is my favorite area- the Chapultapec area. It’s a main north-south street and there are lots of bars and coffee shops in the area. Check out Lopez Cotilla and Libertad streets which are one and two blocks south of Juarez.
A couple hotspots in the area:
Starbucks- Lopez Cotilla and Chapulatpec. My office in Guadalajara (I’m writing this from there), it’s a great place to hang in the afternoon and work and talk to girls that come in. You can sit outside and just enjoy the view.
Black Sheep- On Libertad 3 blocks east of Libertad. Cool smaller bar, a little hipster sometimes. For me Libertad is the best street for meeting youngish hippie/hipster artistic types.
La Paloma- Cafe on Lopez Cotilla 5 or 6 blocks west of Chapultapec. 2 for 1 cocktails all day every day, and pretty good food. It’s an excellent place to pick up more business type professional girls, and great for cougars. My favorite happy hour pickup spot.
To the northwest is the suburb of Zapopan, where a lot of the real money in town is, and boy is there some great tail to be found out there. There is a new mall called Centro Commercial Andares which is just crawling with rich daddy’s girls/professional girls/cougars/trophy wives with blonde hair and fake boobs. It’s an excellent place to work, but dress up and look your best. Guadalajara’s top shelf quality is there.
A good thing about Guadalajara is that there seems to be a surplus of women in town. Add to that a large gay population and it’s a very good scene for single guys. English is not that common here unlike the more touristy places so speaking Spanish here is a real advantage. One other word of caution- Guadalajara is a fun town but not a 7 day party location. Don’t chase the night here on Sun-Wed, there just isn’t going to be anything going on, especially on Sundays. Just go to the mall or the coffeeshop during the day, get numbers, and save your energy for the weekend.
A side note: There has been some recent drug war related violence in Guadalajara. The media of course has overhyped this and generally speaking Guadalajara is 100 times safer than the border towns these days, but keep an eye on the situation before you plan your trip.