Visiting a No-tell Motel is a rite of passage for the traveler visiting Mexico. It´s simply a “must-do” for the full orbed traveler. So we had to do it, at least once. We’ve found them to be great places for families traveling with children or pets. They fit with budget-minded travelers who are off the beaten track.
The Catholic Church smiles upon the service a no-tell offers to married couples. In Mexican pueblos, extended families live in close quarters, making it difficult for couples to find necessary privacy. The no-tell fills this niche market.
With its hourly rates and garage entry, the no-tell offers privacy. In fact, most no-tells offer a drive-in check-in. A digital sign indicates the next available room to which the guest drives. After entering the garage, cash payment goes into a wall depository. Add anonymity to privacy. Obviously, not only married couples frequent these establishments. Some earn the stigma of being places of ill repute, thus the colloquialism, “love” motel.
In recent years, these budget motels have done much to raise their image. Many now accept credit cards or cash. Heart shaped beds have been replaced with traditional, high quality mattresses, and many now have rooms intended for families who stay overnight.
Time to find a hotel. On the Mexican toll road between Colima and Manzanillo, the sun was quickly setting as our RV lumbered on with our crew of nine children. With the closest American chain hotel hours away, it was not an option. We knew that other travelers praised the no-tells for their cleanliness, privacy, and value. With some degree of trepidation, we considered the no-tells along the way, overcoming our mental reservations from our first no-tell experience. . .
Our first experience was in Ajijic. With a large population of expatriate Americans and Canadians, one may not expect to find a no-tell within its town limits. When we arrived in the area, water main repairs forced a temporary shut down. We were desperate for a shower. Even the local gym and pool clubs were without water. One hotel we found had water but would charge the full rate plus extra for each child–all for a quick shower. Finally, we approached the in-town no-tell. With its per hour rate, it seemed like this was the best choice for our purpose. We could pay US$8 and get the the whole group showered.
Management had recently changed hands at this lower budget motel. Each room had an attached “garage” that closed with a large, opaque shower curtain. Because of the height of our vehicle, we parked beside the courtyard outside the entrance to the room, marching our crew by pairs to shower and change. The room was old, a bit creepy. Perhaps it was truck driver clean, but there was no chance we would sleep there.
We had the children wear flip-flops. After showering, we sent them back to the RV in pairs. At least that’s what we thought we were doing. Instead, they were making their way to the grassy courtyard. By the time we came outside, the children had assembled themselves in the grass and were singing “Jesus Loves Me” at the top of their lungs. Not exactly the standard music of a no-tell motel.
The owner scowled at us. She must have either thought we had sent our children outside to prosetylze her establishment or that we were child trafficers; I am not sure which. In any case, the receptionist was cordial and the slow-to-start hot water was eventually plentiful.
Our incredible experience came while visiting a drab town in the middle of nowhere special. You will NOT believe what we found INSIDE our motel room.
With its busy railroad switching yard, Tecoman has a working class look and feel. We were driving at night, something not encouraged for anyone traveling in Mexico. Also, the roads were unlit; we had already passed two black cows in the road.
We passed a few no-tells, but they seemed run down and creepy. What to do? Eventually we were drawn in by a well-manicured, well-lit exterior, we thought we would give Los Portales a try. Signage advertised a 12-hour stay for 250 pesos. At today’s exchange rate, that’s US $17 for a room.
Although the digital sign lit up and told us what room to go to, Brent got out of the car and explained that we had children. You don´t have to do that. They do not ask questions, but we wanted to find out if they had larger rooms, adjoining rooms or suites available. Plus, we needed a garage big enough for our over-sized vehicle.
The receptionist took Brent to show him a room with a king bed and a pull out couch, but she kept encouraging us to consider an upgrade to an 8-hour stay with an in-room pool.
The sign said, ¨High class motel¨ We were giddy anyway, and our teens laughed hysterically over that sign. Every time the lady told us in English that we should pay double for a room with a pool inside they started belly laughing in the RV. We all laughed.
Finally, I became intrigued enough that I decided to go with the grandmotherly receptionist to see the room with the indoor pool; Brent stayed with the children. We were curious what she was calling a pool. I thought surely it would be a bathtub, but maybe a jacuzzi.
My jaw dropped open when she opened the door and there was a full size pool in the living room. Even when I saw it, I thought it must be a shared pool, but alas, it was actually a private pool in the room.
There was a king size bed and two couches that could convert to beds. Plus, we travel with our own playpen bunk bed combo, and an extra mattress. Everything was immaculate. The motel provided extra sheets at no additional cost. The suite had two bathrooms that were both well-maintained. At 450 pesos (under US$30), we decided to give it a try; we were not disappointed. Even given our extra height, the spacious garage accommodated our RV with a solid electric door closing behind.
We were greeted with a clean, spacious pool and bath on the first floor. The children were beside themselves with excitement. We checked in at around 10pm and they must have swam in that pool until midnight.
A spiral staircase led to the upstairs sleeping spaces. A switch-operated double skylight was an elegant touch on a starry evening.
(1) The Reputation
Certainly, the anonymity of the place could attract all kinds of noisy activity. Many find, as we did, that the rooms are very sound dampening and conducive to sleep. For families traveling with children, this can be a real plus.
(2) The Inspection
As with any hotel, we inspect the intended room. Those with children should just assume no channels are safe and unplug the TV. For no-tells with “room service”, put the menu out of reach. Some offer non-food items, some of which may also be in drawers.
(3) Bring it all with you
To save on room service (and get as much mileage out of our room rate), we like to bring a Crock Pot and make breakfast on the cheap. With the hourly rate issue, you should not be running out for last minute items. (see below)
(4) The One-Way Exit
At check out time, a friendly radio-toting worker was on hand to do a 30-second inspection. We were cleared for takeoff and the exit barrier raised. Beware–workers assume any exit is a check out.
Whether you are a couple in search of the perfect getaway or a budget-conscious family on the road, with a little bit of homework and discretion, you may find a great value in a no-tell motel / hotel.
Watch this quick video walk through of our excellent stay at a No Tell Motel.
Have you checked out a “no-tell” motel in Mexico?