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Monterrey: Insiders’ tips for visiting Mexico’s northern business hub

From Monterrey native Carlos de Leon, general manager of Puerto Vallarta's Hotel Catedral; Jose Luis Anaya, owner of Monterrey's Photofolio; and Mark Ackerman, national sales manager for Hertz Corporation in Mexico City

What is the most important advice you'd give to a visitor?

Carlos De Leon: As at any large urban center, I do not like the rush-hour traffic. If I could advise something, plan ahead and you will not waste your precious time. If you rent a car, review your routes with your concierge before you leave the hotel. [If possible,] stay close to the area where you will be attending your meetings. Monterrey is a large city. Therefore, managing your distances will benefit your entire stay. The locals are service-oriented, and they will provide you with detailed information if you ask for instructions. If you are driving, do not forget to carry a map.

Jose Luis Anaya: Finding English-speaking business people is not a problem. Like in any big city, avoid non-tourist areas. All taxis are metered and safe. You can change money in hotels or at the many money-exchange places.

Mark Ackerman: Mexico is very much a relationship country. Be friendly; demonstrate an appreciation of the city and country. If you have some downtime, try some of the better restaurants, walk around the Macroplaza downtown where locals congregate.

Speaking of restaurants, which ones do you recommend?

De Leon: A must-visit is San Carlos (great traditional Northern Mexico and Mexican food), which has two locations (Monterrey and San Pedro - Valle); Pangea in the elegant Del Valle zone is one of the best; and also a couple of great options nearby are El Granero (a business must) and the Hawaii. If you want to blend in with the locals, you must try La Nacional, a traditional cantina with great dishes and a refined bohemian atmosphere.

Anaya: Typical regional food can be found at El Papalote (there are several of them, moderate price range) and Hawaii (international menu, more expensive). Cabrito (baby goat, a specialty of Monterrey) can be found at El Rey Del Cabrito (can be grilled, served with sauces or baked).

Ackerman: El Gaucho and El Mirador, but there are many more. The traditional local dish is cabrito al horno, or roasted goat.

What about hotels - do you have preferred business hotels in Monterrey?

Anaya: What's good is that there is a range of acommodations to suit every budget, from Holiday Inn Express to luxury hotels such as the Quinta Real and Ancira Hotel downtown.

De Leon: The Habita Hotel and Safi Royal Luxury Valle. But if I need to stay close to downtown, then the Sheraton Ambassador (a true classic) and the Gran Hotel Ancira.

Ackerman: Camino Real, Quinta Real, Safi and, if you are into old-style hotels, the Ancira, in downtown.

So what is your favorite thing about about the city?

Ackerman: Living in Mexico City, traveling to Monterrey gives me the opportunity to see another part of Mexico. I always enjoy listening to a northern Mexican accent. "Regios," as people from Monterrey are called, take their beef seriously, as most northern Mexicans do, so the dining is very good unless you´re a vegan. Above all, as Mexico´s industrial city and due to its proximity to the U.S., the tempo of the city is a notch or two above Mexico City in the business environment.

De Leon: Monterrey is a fast-paced metropolis that combines all the conveniences of a modern city - excellent shopping; all types of cultural expressions, such as concerts, art exhibitions, sports, theater and gorgeous museums ranging from Mexican history to modern and contemporary art; and a wide variety of eco-tourism activities. The whole city is surrounded by mountains.

Anaya: Monterrey is a nice, modern city with a lot of options for accommodations, depending upon where your business is located. Near the hotels are plenty of restaurants and shops, and business centers where businessmen can rent an office for a meeting for hours or a day or two.

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