There is no Youth Hostel in Veracruz City but there are many inexpensive hotels or lodgings known as Casa de Huespedes (guest houses).
Last year I started my 7-month bus trip from Montreal to Argentina by staying in Veracruz about a month and a half, to learn some Spanish and have more fun and security on the road.
For the first month, I rented a large room in nearby Boca del Río for 2,000 Pesos a month. It was in a big house at the beach end of the street, in a residential and restaurant area away from the commercial sector. My room was one of three on the second floor (independent entrance to upstairs and to each room.) and was flanked by a huge terrace. The other two rooms only got rented to seasonal workers a few times so the place was very quiet. The price included Cable TV, use of the hand-washing laundry facilities and clothelines, two Queen-size beds and essential furniture, and a good size bathroom.
I bought a 2-burner stove and a bar fridge (for hot chocolate in the morning and beer the rest of the time.) An extremely safe place, with the owner living on the ground floor.
Fondest memory: When the Gulf Coast was hit by Hurricane Stan, Boca del Rio got more flooded than it already is after a heavy rainfall and it became unbearable. Also, it was soon boring for me since I'm not a beach nut, although I love living by the sea.
I moved into an inexpensive hotel in the Centre of Veracruz, El Real Caribe, for 3,500 Pesos a month. This isn't expensive but there are many hotels that are way cheaper. My room was called The Penthouse, being the last floor or the hotel, with a small circular stairway to reach the roof and even higher, the large square observatory over the city and the Gulf. It had Cable TV also, but I couldn't hear a thing for the bus noise on the street. The main problem was that as nice as the General Manager was, he didn't manage broken fixtures or plumbing. And I had a lot of cleaning to do to make it livable. Here's a picture of one of the two bedrooms.
I brought in my stove and fridge from Boca. It was great to be right at the heart of the action! After only 2 weeks, however, I knew enough Spanish to hit the road to Argentina so a Mexican friend kept my stuff in storage and I left on October 28, 2005. I only returned to Veracruz mid-August this year and found an apartment in a better neighbourhood, much more quiet and clean.
Here they also rent by the month, starting at 5,500 Pesos, fully-equipped and furnished. Watch out when landlord include Cable TV and Internet connection in the monthly rental price. Those are often pirated and totally unreliable. Deal with the Cable company, which is also the ISP. Excellent service at affordable prices. And get into the swing of things on the right foot by being generous with the concierge, even if you never ask her for a thing... she has the magic wand and she knows how to use it!
This is a GREAT drive! I would highly recommend renting a vehicle and driving if you feel comfortable in foreign countries. We rented a suburban and took the autopista (toll road) via Puebla and Orizaba to Veracruz. It was about 6 hrs, and a beautiful drive through the mountains once you get past Puebla. The toll roads are in good condition and I wouldn't have any hesitation doing this drive DURING THE DAY even for two women. The goats, horses, and cows tied to the side of the road, the people occasionally darting across it, and the very slow moving vehicles in the right lane...all part of the atmosphere. These are curvy mountain roads past Puebla, so be sure to be well rested and at your best (don't drink and drive!) The roads are good and it's easy to get a sense of security, but keep in mind that if one of those goats gets loose, a person darts across at the last minute, or the 20 mph vehicle in the right lane decides to move in front of you... you'll need to react quickly. It's not like driving in the US in that respect,, so watch your speed. But if you have a sense of adventure and want to really see the country, go for it!
Fondest memory: A fond memory of the drive back from Veracruz was stopping at this Pemex station and going into the restaurant / store next to it. They had traditional candy and it was all very rustic. I checked to see if they had coffee, and lo and behold there was a high end commercial expresso maker! I had one of the best capuccino's ever in this little place, where I'd never expect to find one.
Favorite thing: ....and maybe my expectations were too high. We had a bad hotel experience, and that might have colored my opinion as well. But honestly if I had a choice of going to Veracruz or say, Morelia or Merida, I would choose either before Veracruz. The hotel we stayed in, the Fiesta Americana, was supposedly the nicest in Veracruz. It's a tell tale sign to say that there were almost no employees that spoke english. I think that Veracruz has become more of a local vacation spot, maybe. I speak pretty decent spanish, so I was fine. My husband, though, was really lost there. Veracruz is by no means a hovel, but I'd give it 3 out of 5 stars on it's own merits.
Favorite thing: Veracruz is definitely the city of street vendors. Sitting in a café at the zócalo we were approached by sellers every 20 seconds!! They sell sweets or ice cream of CDs or they tell the future from reading your hands or they measure your blood pressure or they try to sell you a boat or they wanna give you an electric shock. Unfortunately nobody was able to tell me about the use or significance of a little electricity while sitting in a café… I enjoyed these nights at the zócalo A LOT!!!
Favorite thing: Veracruz probably has one of the best zocalos in all of Mexico. The grounds are meticulously upkept, and it shows!! With the restaurants that line the outside walls of the townsquare, you can sit in an outside cafe, enjoy a fantastic meal, and just watch the people go by. Very relaxing!