How To Travel When It’s Ridiculously Hot Outside

How To Travel When It’s Ridiculously Hot Outside

By |2016-07-21T23:57:46-04:00August 19th, 2010|Mexico, Travel Tips & Advice|31 Comments

Hot temperatures

Well, thanks to the wonderful advice of so many of you, I can now say that I’ve finally been spending a significant amount of time away from my computer over the past few days, and as one might expect, I haven’t felt this good in a long while. A few swims in the Caribbean Sea and a handful of abnormally long sleeps seemed to have been exactly what I needed. Even when I sit down to work I find that I’m more motivated and focused now that my body and mind have been allowed to relax a little.

However, it does appear that four straight weeks of staring at my computer all day, every day, and barely going outside during that time, has left me struggling to adapt to one aspect of Mexico – the heat.

Normally, I don’t mind the heat at all and I even tend to visit places such as India and Southeast Asia during their hottest seasons, when the temperatures typically hover around 50 C (122 F) in many parts. But these past few days have been insanely difficult.

After walking two blocks down the road, I’m already wanting to take a nap! Within seconds of venturing outside, I’m drenched in sweat, my muscles don’t want to move anymore and I’ve already chugged down the 1-liter bottle of water I’m carrying around. So do I turn around and follow my desire to just crash onto my bed and remain there for the rest of the day? No way! I certainly don’t want to exchange a habit of 90 hour work weeks for a habit of 90 hour sleep weeks, and so I push on, forcing myself to try and get comfortable in the heat.

Just don’t expect me to visit any Mayan ruins, to hike through the jungle or even walk around Playa del Carmen exploring areas that I’ve yet to explore. But that’s okay, as I can still feel as if I’m traveling and exploring Mexico, even if I don’t visit something that one would find listed in a guidebook or that’s considered a highlight of the area.

While such well-known and even lesser-known sights often play a major role of any travel itinerary, sometimes travel is just about being wherever you are and soaking up the atmosphere of a place. You don’t have to constantly be on the go in order to benefit from your travels, and in fact, I think that it’s almost vital to stop every now and then and just do something simple.

So what should you do when it’s too hot to trek up that mountain, too humid to visit those ruins or too sticky to even think about another day of sightseeing? Here’s some alternatives to consider, most of which I’ve been taking advantage of during the past few days myself:

RELAX WITH THE LOCALS: Chances are, if it’s too hot for you, many of the locals are probably looking for a way to escape the heat as well. So why not join them? Perhaps they congregate in air-conditioned cafes, hole-in-the-wall tea stalls, picnic areas in a local forest, comfy pubs, parks or maybe just a shopping center. Wherever it may be, head on over yourself, start a few conversations and keep from overheating while meeting some new people.

FIND A CINEMA: This is one of my favorite ways to get out of the heat while traveling and more often than not, even if I end up seeing a Hollywood film, I’m bound to have an entirely unique cultural experience. Whether it’s enchilada-flavored popcorn, beer included with the price of admission, plush sofa-seating or having to pass through two metal detectors and a full-body pat down before entering the theater, there’s a good chance that such an outing will prove to be more interesting than just an ordinary trip to the movies. And most of the time, the air inside the theater will be cooler than the air outside!

TAKE A LONG RIDE: Jump in a taxi, a rickshaw, a tuk-tuk, on a train, subway/metro or in a boat, hand over some money and enjoy a leisurely ride to nowhere. Who says you need an actual destination? Negotiate with the driver for an hour’s worth of riding around, so that you can just sit back and observe life around you from a different, and shade-protected, perspective. And then keep track of interesting places you pass along the way, so that on a cooler day (or during a cooler part of the day), you can spend more time exploring without fear of melting. *Perhaps this is only a good idea if you’re in a relatively inexpensive country. The cost of an hour’s taxi tour of, say, London, might force you to end your travels early!

Public pool in McLeod Ganj, India

GO FOR A SWIM: I’m always up for a swim when the temperatures soar, whether it’s in the ocean, a lake, a waterfall or just a public pool. Also, it’s normally quite easy to show up at any four or five star hotel in the town or city you’re visiting, pay for a day pass and make use of their pool and facilities. If you want something more low key (and cheaper), find a smaller hotel or even a hostel with a pool and they’ll often let you in for the day for just a few dollars. And while public pools may seem somewhat nasty at times, they do tend to offer an interesting glimpse into the lives of a local population, and even dangling your legs in the water will cool you down.

STROLL THROUGH A MARKET: Exploring a market at a leisurely pace is an exceptional way to get out of the heat, as long as you find an indoor or covered market! Roam the aisles, talk with vendors, ask questions about the strange things you find and your day will be filled with memorable moments. And remember that markets are not only for fruits and vegetables. I’ve come across massive flower markets, hand-made furniture markets, religious markets as well as markets centered around local artisans, clothes, spices, musical instruments, books and even a beer market that consisted of several hundred stalls where you could sample and purchase a variety of locally-made brews (it was in Germany of course!). The only danger of spending too much time in these markets is that you just might walk out with a funky desk lamp, colorful candle holder, triangular floor pillow, bag of curry powder and a pair of bongo drums, none of which you’ll be able to fit into your backpack/luggage.

SIGHTSEEING: I know that, originally, I mentioned sightseeing as the thing to consider avoiding when the heat is too much for most people to bear, but if you’re not like most people, this might be the perfect time to do your sightseeing. This is even more so the case if you’re the kind of person who isn’t a huge fan of large crowds. As everyone runs for the cafes, you can have a particular sight all to yourself if you don’t mind having your eyes stinging from all of the sweat! Often times, our experiences and connections to a place intensify when we are able to focus on the views, the history, the sounds and the overall atmosphere without having to push our way through noisy crowds.


And finally, there’s one more thing that you can do when you are forced to slow down due to the heat. You can do NOTHING at all. I’ve spent many a day while on the road doing not much of anything, just sitting on a balcony, swinging in a hammock or plopped comfortably on a sofa in the guesthouse I was staying in. If the heat is sucking the energy out of you, there’s no reason to feel guilty about taking a day or two or three off from your itinerary. While you’re resting up, and avoiding a sunburned face and dehydration, you can chat with the staff at the hostel, the family who runs the guesthouse or just other travelers who don’t want to venture into the heat themselves.

There’s no such thing as a wasted moment of travel and you don’t have to be taking photographs or standing in front of the Taj Mahal to consider a day of travel to be a success. So when the heat arrives, just as it has here in Playa del Carmen at the moment, why not take it slowly and focus on some of the simpler aspects of the culture you’re immersed in? There’s no shame in doing so and you just may discover that such experiences prove to be more worthwhile and rewarding than visiting the must-see sights on your list!

Photo: High Temperature

Any other suggestions you’d like to add from experience?

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  1. Priyank February 4, 2011 at 5:30 am - Reply

    Jugos de Chaya, its my current sexiest drink in the world. Followed by sugarcane juice. 🙂

    • Earl February 4, 2011 at 7:27 am - Reply

      Priyank – I’d have to say that Jugo de Chaya is a mighty fine and refreshing drink indeed, and sadly, impossible to find here in Australia right now.

  2. Randall August 25, 2010 at 9:00 pm - Reply

    One thing Filipinos do to beat the heat is to STAY IN THE SHADE! I am always amazed at the number of umbrellas I see while in the Philippines. You can tell where the sun is by which side of the street Filipinos are on.

    A cool Mango shake or a quick shower without hot water (a luxury in the Philippines) will usually do the trick!

    It is amazing how much different the night feels when it has been hot all day. When you feel the coolness of the night, you can appreciate it much more.
    .-= Randall´s last blog ..I’m Homesick For a Philippines Fix =-.

    • Earl August 26, 2010 at 12:06 am - Reply

      Hey Randall – Staying in the shade is without a doubt an excellent way to avoid the heat! Using umbrellas makes a huge difference, although, I prefer the mango shake method of cooling down myself, something I often partake in here in Mexico 🙂

      Hopefully the mangoes are as wonderful in the Philippines as they are over here!

  3. Dave August 22, 2010 at 8:58 pm - Reply

    Good list of tips for escaping the heat when traveling. I am fond of your suggestion to go to the theater. I have really done this and it is a great escape.


  4. Andi August 22, 2010 at 2:04 pm - Reply

    Great tips!!! And I’m delighted to hear that you listened to us and took some much needed breaks. 🙂
    .-= Andi´s last blog ..Brasil- Day 1 Part 2 =-.

    • Earl August 22, 2010 at 7:21 pm - Reply

      Hey Andi – Of course I’m going to listen to my wonderful readers!! And what a difference it did make!

  5. Liz August 21, 2010 at 11:24 am - Reply

    When I use to live in Cancun in a place with no air conditioner, I use to make fun of my roommates because they would spend at least 3 hrs in the OXXO (the equivalent to the 7 Eleven) doing nothing, because it had air conditionair… but now that I am in a place that it is 110 degrees outside, I feel like doing the same! hahaha

    • Earl August 22, 2010 at 7:20 pm - Reply

      Hey Liz – It’s interesting how we change! And there’s nothing wrong at all with seeking out some cool shelter to escape the heat, even if it’s in a 7-11 🙂

  6. Shannon OD August 21, 2010 at 9:55 am - Reply

    Great suggestions here Earl, one of my favs to beat the heat (and any time really) is to grab my book, get an iced drink and then find a shady tree at a park and settle down to people watch and relax. 🙂 There were times in India where just finding a place in the market or park to sit relax, but still be a part of it, was so needed after a day of sweltering heat!

    • Earl August 21, 2010 at 11:33 am - Reply

      Hey Shannon – That idea of taking a break while still being a part of it all is exactly what I try and do myself. When you mentioned India I thought you were going to say that it was impossible to find a place to sit and relax (which seems to be the case from time to time over there)! But I’m glad that you managed to find a quiet corner and escape the heat every now and then!

  7. Mark Lawrence August 20, 2010 at 4:09 pm - Reply

    266 degrees?! Crap, I thought 106 degrees in Dallas was bad! I love these ideas for when it’s incredibly hot out. Sometimes the best and most enjoyable things are when you take it slow. It helps you’ve got the time to take it slow and relax, and make your way on your own terms. Wow how I wish I had a hammock!
    .-= Mark Lawrence´s last blog ..Taking blogging into the offline world =-.

    • Earl August 21, 2010 at 10:25 am - Reply

      Hey Mark – Taking it slow is essential while traveling, as well as when we’re not traveling of course. Although, it is easier to relax when there are hammocks all around you, practically begging you to lie on them for just a few minutes! With 106 degree temps in Dallas, that sounds like ideal hammock weather to me…

    • Anil August 24, 2010 at 10:13 am - Reply

      I’m with Mark, take it easy and don’t push yourself to exhaustion. I love the heat but like any other weather it’s better to work with rather than against it 🙂
      .-= Anil´s last blog ..Add Dollar Signs To Foreign Prices To Trick Your Mind Into Spending Less When Traveling =-.

  8. Bryce Capodeici August 20, 2010 at 6:48 am - Reply

    Who wants to lay around in a hammock, like that guy, when there is some old kibe to eat on the beach and to get sick from it later that night. That is a good way to experience the local culture as an international traveler… get sick! That is proof that you are trying to adapt to the local habits and culture, right? hehehe

    • Earl August 21, 2010 at 10:14 am - Reply

      Hey Bryce – Yeah, getting sick is not only a good way to experience local culture but it’s a great way to force yourself to relax and take a break from the ‘always on the go’ style of travel. Glad to see you managed to accomplish that down here in Mexico!

  9. Migrationology August 20, 2010 at 6:17 am - Reply

    My absolute favorite activity to do when it is hot is take a swim. Even if the water is hot too, somehow being submerged feels great. I also love getting out of water and not being cold.

    Here in Bangkok I usually take a shower and without drying off stand in front of a fan to get cooled down really fast. Works great before going to sleep!
    .-= Migrationology´s last blog ..20 Detail Photos of Angkor Wat =-.

    • Earl August 21, 2010 at 10:11 am - Reply

      Hey Mark – Going for a swim is absolutely one of the best ways to deal with heat, although your shower/fan method is a much better idea than jumping into the Chao Praya river over there in Bangkok! I used to go to a small hotel across from MBK Center, down a small lane, that has a great pool and charged only 100 Baht for a day pass…

      Sorry, I have to run…off to the beach for a swim!

    • Randall August 25, 2010 at 9:03 pm - Reply

      Yeah, Mark, I think we (Americans) have forgotten many ways to stay cool because we insulate ourselves from reality!!

      I would like to visit you in Bankok someday soon! Love your blog.
      .-= Randall´s last blog ..I’m Homesick For a Philippines Fix =-.

  10. Maria Staal August 20, 2010 at 12:38 am - Reply

    Great tips, Earl! I personally am partial to doing nothing when it’s hot. When I was in Australia it was 40 C for a while. Luckily I was staying with friends and we just hang around inside the house watching test cricket on tv for five days. Perfect!
    .-= Maria Staal´s last blog ..My Manuscript Is Being Critiqued =-.

    • Earl August 21, 2010 at 10:06 am - Reply

      Hey Maria – Test cricket, now that’s another tool to help one relax! It’s quite easy to get sucked into a match and then suddenly you realize you didn’t get off the sofa for nearly a week. But when its 40 C outside, that’s not such a terrible way to spend your days…

  11. Mike August 19, 2010 at 6:21 pm - Reply

    266F?!? Seems like global warming is really hitting some parts of the world hard ;-p

    • Earl August 21, 2010 at 10:26 am - Reply

      Hey Mike – 266 F is no joke! Apparently, the situation is much worse than we imagined!

  12. Erin August 19, 2010 at 5:51 pm - Reply

    I kind of wish I had that problem right now! I’m missing the heat. I would vote for alternating between swimming in the sea and a shady hammock.

    I definitely agree that taking time out to do nothing is a good idea when travelling. One of our favourite memories is hanging out on the verandah of our homestay in a Keralan backwaters village chatting with our hosts and other travellers, and watching the world go by. We have never been more chilled out.
    .-= Erin´s last blog ..Our Favourite Tropical Islands- Part 2 Fiji =-.

    • Earl August 21, 2010 at 10:00 am - Reply

      Hey Erin – Sometimes we do just need to chill out completely. Rarely do we get the chance to do that when we’re at home, but I believe it’s healthy for us to do every now and then. And traveling offers the perfect opportunity to fully relax from time to time!

      Sorry about your cold weather…perhaps you could put a hammock up in the living room to try and trick your brain into believing its a bit warmer 🙂

  13. Michael Hodson August 19, 2010 at 4:35 pm - Reply

    Water, water, water!! When I was going through the Sudanese and Egyptian desert in July of last year (dumb timing) it was well over 50 degrees C everyday. Incredible heat. We were all drinking 4+ liters of water every day. If you start to feel thirsty, it is starting to be too late — thirst is a sign that mild dehydration has already set in. Drink!!

    Then find a shady place and have a beer.

    • Earl August 21, 2010 at 9:51 am - Reply

      Hey Michael – I absolutely agree. The key is to stay well ahead of the dehydration when you’re traveling in such hot places, and water is the way to do that. We should drink a liter of water before even going outside when the heat is so strong.

      And I was actually just reading through some of your posts from the Africa stage of your adventure last year…amazing stuff. I love your style of travel and look forward to reading some more.

  14. rose August 19, 2010 at 4:18 pm - Reply

    … I suppose you try bikram yoga, too : )

    And catching up on book-reading is always a good way to spend the day, especially if there is a hammock nearby!

    • Earl August 21, 2010 at 9:40 am - Reply

      Hey Rose – A book and a hammock is more than enough to avoid the heat. It’s just convincing yourself that it’s ok to lie in a hammock all day while traveling that can be the tricky part!

      • rose August 21, 2010 at 10:05 am - Reply

        Yes, well – if you spend a good part of your life travelling, or travel for extended periods, then the same applies while travelling as back home – you need days off! Sometimes you need to explore other things than little alleys, good restaurants and beaches… a book, another person’s thoughts & experiences, your own creative abilities (try drawing or writing just for fun) or even your own body and mind (try meditation…). Exploration has no limits!

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