Motels de Paso vs Hotels

In the USA and Canada, the line between a motel and a hotel is sometimes blurry.  This is not the case in México; here they are distinctly different.  Hotels frequently do not have secure parking; motels always do.  Hotels usually cost more than motels, sometimes much more.  Hotels often have restaurants, motels almost never do.  Many motels can be found on the highway near a town or city, while hotels are usually located near the city center.  But the big difference is in the purpose of each.

Some background:  In México it is common for two, three, or even four generations to share the same house, sometimes even the same bedroom.  In such a situation, it is difficult for a couple to find a private time to be intimate.  Motels provide a place for couples to get together when they have no other place to do so.  They are not brothels.

The proper name of these establishments is Motel de Paso, but the more common name is just motel.  It always will have a covered garage attached to each unit.  The cover may be a regular garage door or it may be a heavy canvas curtain.  The facility is complete walled off from the outside except for a single entrance/exit which is staffed 24/7.  This combination provides very good security for your car.  Units are typically not rented in 24 hour blocks like hotels, but rather in shorter blocks -- anywhere from 4 to 8 hours.  Some of them are rather plain and not very expensive, some are truly elegant and priced accordingly.  Prices typically range from US$15 to $25, more for an up-scale place.

Some will have a snack bar, perhaps tacos and hamburgers in the evening.  Some will have room service with orders being placed in a through-the-wall delivery compartment so the delivery person does not see who is inside.  They will almost always be immaculately clean -- their client base is local folks not travelers, so they must be clean and respectable to succeed in the community.

These motels will not have a swimming pool nor a children's play area.

Would a tourist want to stay in one of these places rather than a hotel?  Perhaps.  While these places usually rent for a shorter time block than a traveler might want, most are willing to negotiate a discount for a longer stay, although a discount is not always available on weekends which tend to be a motel's busiest time.  They provide excellent security for a cost that is usually a good bit less than a downtown hotel with comparable secure parking, and they may be more convenient to the highway.  Most accept pets; hotels are almost always pet unfriendly.

A couple of examples:  When I first arrived in Lerdo, my house was not quite ready for occupancy, and my friend's non air conditioned house was too hot for me, so I checked several hotels in the area.  The least expensive I could find was US$65 per night -- nice but a budget buster.  My friend took me to the neighborhood motel which normally rents an 8 hour block for US$15.  After a bit of talk, they agreed that I could stay there for 10 days at the rate of US$15 per day payable daily in cash.  The place was pretty plain, but it had a good air conditioner, a comfortable bed, a convenient location, and they accepted my dog.

A lady cyber friend says "motels are the single best value in Mexico when traveling.  What's not to like about secure parking, dog-friendly, endless hot water, many towels, absolute discretion, and television that usually includes CNN.  I have never felt more secure when driving alone than in a motel de paso and my dog has never been a problem."

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