Visiting Monte Alban without a tour. Includes a detailed guide of how to get there, current prices, things to see inside, and where to eat.
Visiting Monte Alban – Ruins Near Oaxaca City
We’ll admit, visiting Monte Alban wasn’t initially on our radar. We had decided to travel to Oaxaca City in between two house sitting assignments, but mostly because we’d heard such good things about the food in Oaxaca. Once we were in Oaxaca City, though, we quickly learned about Monte Alban and it seemed like a really interesting archaeological site.
Because we travel on a tight budget, we started researching how to get to Monte Alban and found a few options. Some were definitely out of our price range. In the end, we decided to go on our own, the same way we visited Teotihuacan without a tour.
How To Get To Monte Alban From Oaxaca City
Visiting Monte Alban is one of the most popular Oaxaca City day trips. Monte Alban is only about a 25 minute drive southwest of Oaxaca City. But how do you get there? Well, there are a few options and they all vary in price.
- Monte Alban Tour – There are plenty of tours to Monte Alban. You can get them online but you’ll also see tour agents offering tours as you walk around town. We’ve seen them sell for $35 and up, per person.
- Take a taxi – There are no ride sharing services in Oaxaca City, but you can easily find a taxi. With that being said, getting a taxi to Monte Alban would be fairly easy, however, getting a taxi back into town would be difficult.
- Hire a private car – Similar to a taxi, you could hire a private car. The difference is that you would schedule ahead of time your pick up and drop off times.
- Rent a car – There is a parking lot at Monte Alban so you could drive there yourself with a rental car. Rental cars in Oaxaca City run for about $25 and up, per day.
- Take a bus – “Autobuses Turísticos” has a bus that leaves every hour at the top of the hour for Monte Alban. Tickets are 90 MXN ($4.50) roundtrip, per person.
As you can see, there are a few ways to get to Monte Alban from Oaxaca City. We chose to take the bus since it was the most budget-friendly.
Bus To Monte Alban From Oaxaca City
Tickets for the bus to Monte Alban can be purchased at the Hotel Rivera, on the corner of Calle 20 de Noviembre and Calle Aldama. The bus company has their own desk in the lobby of the hotel. We had actually gone to the hotel the day before to ask questions. It was in the evening, though, so no one was at the desk. The hotel receptionist told us that they couldn’t help us and to come back at 8 AM when someone would be at the desk.
So, we went back the next morning which was a Saturday. We arrived early and sat on the empty chairs next to the desk. A man arrived just after 8 AM. We bought two bus tickets for 180 MXN ($9) and we paid in cash. We didn’t ask if they accepted credit cards, but to be safe we suggest having cash on you. If possible, try to have the exact amount, since it’s sometimes difficult to get change.
Next, the man walked us three blocks to Autobuses Turísticos, on the corner of Calle Díaz Ordaz and Calle Francisco Javier Mina. That is where we would actually be getting on the bus. There were already a few people waiting. The bus pulled up around 8:15 AM. Everyone got on quickly and we left shortly after. We made a few stops along the way and picked up other passengers. We arrived at Monte Alban at 8:45 AM.
Just a side note, there is little room between seats on the bus. Mark, who is 6’2″, couldn’t sit straight and had to have his knees in the aisle. Overall, though, the bus ride went well. It was clean and we felt completely safe.
Things To See When Visiting Monte Alban
The bus dropped us off in the bus parking lot (the same place where you’ll get picked up later). After walking uphill a few minutes we arrived at the entrance. They didn’t open until 9 AM, though, so we had to wait a few minutes. There are vendors selling hats, souvenirs, and crafts in front of the entrance, so you can always spend some time there if you get in before Monte Alban opens.
Once we were allowed in, we got our admission tickets at the ticket window. Admission was 85 MXN ($4.25) per person, so 170 MXN ($8.50) for two people. At the entrance, you’ll also find tour guides that you can hire for an hour or two. Many speak English. We’re not sure how much they charge, since we chose to do a self-guided tour.
There are signs throughout the site that offer information on the history of the various buildings. The signs are in Spanish, English, and what looked like an indigenous language. If you’d like to know more about the history of Monte Alban before you visit, we suggest reading this Britannica article on Monte Alban.
We really enjoyed visiting Monte Alban at our own pace. We walked around the site for about 2.5 hours. There are pyramids, plazas, a court for playing the ball game tlachtli, underground passageways, and about 170 tombs. There were also impressive stelae (some were replicas) that had inscriptions and carvings. The most well-known are the Danzantes figures, which are believed to represent sacrificed individuals, probably captives of war.
Our favorite experiences were climbing to the top of the different platforms. The views were pretty incredible and you could really appreciate the people and culture that created this historic site.
Monte Alban Restaurant, Museum, And Gift Shop
You might be hungry after visiting Monte Alban, so we recommend stopping by their small restaurant. We went there to get a snack while we waited for the next bus back into town. They have coffees, shakes, finger foods, and light snacks. The cafe also has nice views. We got a quesadilla to share and two sodas. That came out to 240 MXN ($12).
There is also a museum and gift shop. The museum was closed, but we were able to peak inside from the doorway. We weren’t sure why it was closed, but hopefully it reopens soon because it looked like they had some interesting artifacts. The gift shop has some nice items too, including books, shirts, stickers, and colorful alebrijes.
Additional Things To Know Before Visiting Monte Alban
Here are some additional things to keep in mind before visiting Monte Alban:
- Food is not allowed inside. Normally, we travel with snacks so we don’t spend extra money but Monte Alban has strict rules about that. If you still want to bring snacks, wait until you are in the parking lot to enjoy them.
- Water is ok to bring inside, and there are trash cans to throw away your finished bottles. Don’t litter!
- Wear sunblock and a hat.
- Get there early; you’ll avoid the crowds and the heat.
- Be prepared for vendors/hawkers to try and sell you stuff. If you’re not interested, politely say “No gracias” and keep walking.
- If you’re going to be taking a lot of pictures and videos on your phone, bring an external charger for your phone.
- The bus picks up in the same parking lot where you get dropped off. It picks up every hour on the half hour. We got on the 12:30 PM bus and arrived back in Oaxaca City just after 1 PM.
Total Cost Of Our Day Trip To Monte Alban
So what was the total cost of visiting Monte Alban without a tour? Below is the breakdown of what we spent for two adults. Stuffed monkeys pay nothing! 😉
– Two roundtrip bus tickets: $9
– Two Monte Alban entrance fees: $8.50
– Quesadilla and two sodas: $12
Our total cost for the day was $29.50! And if we hadn’t eaten anything, it would’ve only been $17.50.
Final Thoughts On Visiting Monte Alban
Visiting Monte Alban was a highlight of our trip to Oaxaca. These ruins might not be as famous as some of the others around Mexico, but they are still impressive and worth a visit. We’re also glad we were able to visit Monte Alban without a tour. We were able to take our time and save a bit of money.
Would you like to visit Monte Alban? If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below. 🙂
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