Saturday, February 17, 2024
Mexico travel guide - Travel S helper

Mexico

travel guide

Mexico, formally the United Mexican States, is a federal republic in North America’s southern half. It is bounded by the United States to the north; the Pacific Ocean to the south and west; Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea to the southeast; and the Gulf of Mexico to the east. Mexico is the sixth biggest country in the Americas by total size and the thirteenth largest sovereign nation in the world, covering almost two million square kilometers (over 760,000 square miles). It is the tenth most populous nation in the world and the most populous Spanish-speaking country, as well as the second most populous country in Latin America, with an estimated population of about 120 million. Mexico is a federation composed of 31 states and a federal district that serves as the country’s capital and largest metropolis. Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puebla, Toluca, Tijuana, and León are more metropolises.

Prior to European contact, pre-Columbian Mexico was home to many sophisticated Mesoamerican civilizations, including the Olmec, Toltec, Teotihuacan, Zapotec, Maya, and Aztec. In 1521, the Spanish Empire invaded and occupied the area, which was governed as the viceroyalty of New Spain, from its base in Mexico-Tenochtitlan. Three centuries later, in 1821, after the colony’s Mexican War of Independence, this area became Mexico. Economic instability and many political upheavals typified the turbulent post-independence era. The Mexican–American War (1846–48) resulted in the United States gaining control of Mexico’s vast northern borders, which comprised one-third of its territory. Through the nineteenth century, the Pastry War, the Franco-Mexican War, a civil war, two empires, and a domestic tyranny happened. The dictatorship was deposed during the Mexican Revolution of 1910, which resulted in the adoption of the 1917 Constitution and the establishment of the country’s present political structure.

Mexico has a nominal GDP of $15 billion and a purchasing power parity GDP of $11 billion. Mexico’s economy is inextricably tied to those of its North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) partners, most notably the US. Mexico was the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) first Latin American member, joining in 1994. The World Bank classifies it as an upper-middle income nation, although some experts classify it as a recently industrialized country. Mexico’s economy may grow to be the fifth or seventh biggest in the world by 2050. The nation is seen as a regional power as well as a middle power, and is often referred to as a rising world power. Mexico ranks first in the Americas and eighth in the world in terms of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, owing to its diverse culture and history. With 32.1 million foreign arrivals in 2015, it was the ninth most visited country in the world. Mexico is a member of the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the Group of Eight Plus Five, the Group of Twenty, and Uniting for Consensus, and has been an observer of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie since 2014.

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Mexico - Info Card

Population

126,014,024

Currency

Mexican peso (MXN)

Time zone

UTC−8 to −5

Area

1,972,550 km2 (761,610 sq mi)

Calling code

+52

Official language

Spanish and 68 Amerindian

Mexico | Introduction

Tourism in Mexico

Mexico is traditionally one of the most visited countries in the world, according to the World Tourism Organization, and is the most visited country in the Americas after the United States. The most remarkable attractions in Mexico include Mesoamerican ruins, cultural festivals, its colonial cities, nature reserves and beautiful beach resorts. With a wide variety of climates, ranging from temperate to tropical, and its unique culture – which is a fusion of European and Meso-American – is what makes Mexico such an attractive destination. The peak season for tourism in the country is December and mid-summer, with a brief upswing during the week before Easter and spring break, when many of the beach resorts become popular destinations for students from the United States.

In terms of income from tourism, Mexico has the 23rd high income in the world as well as the highest in Latin America. Most of the tourists coming to Mexico from the US and Canada, then from Europe and Asia. Also, a smaller number visit Mexico from other Latin American countries. In 2011, Mexico ranked 43rd in the world and 4th in the Americas in the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index.

Mexico’s coasts have many stretches of beach frequented by sunbathers and other visitors. On the Yucatán Peninsula, the resort of Cancún is one of the most popular beach destinations, especially among university students during spring break. Just off the coast is the beach island of Isla Mujeres, and to the east is Isla Holbox. South of Cancún is the coastal strip called the Riviera Maya, which includes the beach town of Playa del Carmen and the ecological parks of Xcaret and Xel-Há. A day trip to the south of Cancún is the historic port city of Tulum. In addition to its beaches, the city of Tulum is also known for its Mayan ruins on the cliffs.

On the Pacific coast is the well-known tourist destination of Acapulco. Once the destination for the rich and famous, the beaches are now crowded and the shores are dotted with multi-story hotels and vendors. Acapulco is home to the famous cliff divers: trained divers who jump off the side of a vertical cliff into the surf below.

At the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula is the resort town of Cabo San Lucas, known for its beaches and marlin fishing. Further north along the Sea of Cortés is Bahía de La Concepción, another beach town known for its sport fishing. Closer to the border with the United States is the weekend town of San Felipe, Baja California.

Weather & Climate in Mexico

Mexico uses the metric system for all measurements. For all weather reports, the temperature is in Celsius (°C).

The temperature of the desert regions in the northwest of the country and the temperate zones in the northeast vary, but it must be taken into account that a large part of the northern territory of Mexico becomes quite cold in winter, with maximum average daily temperatures of between 8°C and 12°C, The average nighttime temperature is -4ºC (24ºF) and snow is sometimes quite common in some northern locations (the Sierra Madre of Chihuahua, Durango, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and northern Tamaulipas), which can also occur at higher elevations through the temperate forests of central Mexico.

In addition, northern Mexico is very hot in the summer with sudden violent storms in the afternoon, with heavy rain and hail; an isolated tornado can also occur during these storms, but rarely, and temperatures can quickly exceed 100F (39C) during the day. The region, which extends from Guadalajara to Morelia, enjoys what many call one of the best climates in the world, with daily high temperatures in the 70’s and 80’s (21C to 26C) throughout the year. Hurricanes are common in coastal cities, especially near the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.

Geography Of Mexico

Mexico is situated in the Southern part of North America at latitudes 14° and 33°N and longitudes 86° and 119°W. Almost all of Mexico is on the North American plate, with small parts of the Baja California peninsula on the Pacific and the Coconut Plates. From a geophysical point of view, some geographers count the area east of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec (about 12% of the total area) as part of Central America, but from a geopolitical point of view, Mexico is counted entirely as part of North America, along with Canada and the United States.

Mexico’s total surface area is 1,972,550 km2 (761,606 square miles), making it the 14th largest country in the world in total, and includes approximately 6,000 km2 (2,317 square miles) on Pacific islands, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of California.

To the north, Mexico shares a 2,000-mile border with the United States. The winding Rio Bravo del Norte (known in the United States as the Rio Grande) defines the border from Ciudad Juarez eastward to the Gulf of Mexico. A number of natural and man-made border markers outline the U.S.-Mexico state line west of Ciudad Juárez all the way to the Pacific Ocean. Mexico shares a 871 km border with Guatemala as well as a 251 km border with Belize to the South.

From north to south, Mexico is crossed by 2 mountain ranges called the Sierra Madre Oriental and the Sierra Madre Occidental, and these are extensions of the Rocky Mountains in North America. The country is crossed from east to west in the center with the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt, which is also known as the Sierra Nevada. A fourth mountain range, the Sierra Madre del Sur, extends from Michoacán to Oaxaca.

Most of central and northern Mexico has a high altitude in which the highest peaks are located in the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt.

Demographics Of Mexico

According to the 2010 census, Mexico has a population of 112,336,538 people, which makes it the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world. Between 2005 and 2010, the Mexican population grew at an average rate of 1.70% per year, compared to 1.16% per year between 2000 and 2005.

Prior to 2015, the Mexican government did not ask about the ethnicity or race of its citizens (most recently in 1921). The number of indígenas (indigenous peoples) was narrowly defined as speakers of one of Mexico’s 62 indigenous languages or members of established indigenous communities. For example, the 2010 census found that 14.86% of the population was indigenous. However, since the 2015 census, the government has asked whether a person identifies as indigenous (21.5% of the population) and/or Afro-Mexican (1.2% of the population). These categories are not exclusive, and a person may report both indigenous and Afro-Mexican heritage. Other groups (such as mestizo, white, or Asian-descended) are not quantified by the government.

In 2015, the foreign-born population was 1,007,063. Most of these people were born in the US, and Mexico has the largest number of US citizens living abroad. Following Americans, among the largest immigrant communities are Guatemalans, Spaniards, and Colombians. In addition to Spaniards, the largest immigrant groups are French, Germans, Lebanese, and Chinese. For the United States, Mexico is the largest immigration source. 11.6 million residents of the United States hold Mexican citizenship (as of 2014).

Ethnicity and race

Depictions of the three main castas resulting from the miscegenation of Europeans, Africans, and Native Americans. The pinturas de castas emerged during the Age of Enlightenment and were an attempt to “rationally categorize” the racial diversity of colonial Mexico.

México has considerable ethnic diversity; several indigenous peoples, Caucasians, Afro-descendants, and mestizos are all united under one national identity. The core part of Mexican national identity is formed based on a synthesis of cultures, primarily European and indigenous, in a process known as mestizaje, alluding to the mixed biological origins of the majority of Mexicans.

In 1810, toward the end of the colonial period, the population of Mexico was estimated at about 6 million (based on the 1793 Revillagigedo census and the 1803 estimate of geographer Alexander Humboldt and the 1810 estimate of royal accountant Francisco Navarro y Noriega). From these population estimates, anthropologist Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán estimated the following in terms of race and ethnicity There were about 15,000 “peninsulares” (displaced after independence), fewer than 10. 000 Africans (mostly enslaved, legally freed in 1829), more than one million “Euromestizos” (criollos and individuals of primarily European ancestry, such as castizos), about 700,000 “Indomestizos” (individuals of significant indigenous ancestry), about 600,000 “Afromestizos” (individuals of significant African ancestry, such as mulatos), and about 3. 7 million indigenous peoples. Mexico does not ask about race in its census, in part because it abolished the legal basis of the colonial caste system (based on race and birth) after independence.

A large majority of Mexicans were classified as “mestizos” (between 50% and 67% according to the Encyclopædia Britannica). In modern Mexico, the term “mestizo” is primarily a cultural identity rather than the racial identity it was during the colonial period, resulting in individuals with different phenotypes being classified under the same identity. The term is not widely used in Mexican society, although it is frequently used in the literature on Mexican social identities. Because the term has a variety of sociocultural, economic, racial, and biological meanings, it has been deemed too imprecise for ethnic classification and has been abandoned in Mexican censuses. Various genetic studies have shown that Mexico’s population is not uniform in its genetic composition and that there are significant regional differences. According to the Instituto Nacional de Medicina Genómica, mestizos of European descent predominate on average in the northern part of the country, while mestizos from the southern region are predominantly of indigenous descent; mestizos from the center of the country have a more equal proportion of Europeans and indigenous people, while the highest proportion of Africans has been found in the southwest and in Veracruz. In the Yucatán Peninsula, the word mestizo is even used about the Mayan-speaking population living in traditional communities, since during the caste war in the late 19th century, those Mayans who did not join the rebellion were classified as mestizos.

Estimates of the number of whites range from 10% to 20%, according to the Encyclopædia Britannica. The numbers vary widely because the criteria used to define mestizo can vary from study to study, and in Mexico a certain number of whites have historically been classified as mestizo because the Mexican government defined ethnicity by cultural rather than racial standards. During the colonial period and independence, most European immigration to Mexico was Spanish. However, during the 19th and 20th centuries, significant numbers of non-Hispanic Europeans also immigrated to the country. At its peak, however, the percentage of immigrants in Mexico never exceeded two percent of the total population. Some of these immigrants, along with the non-European immigrants, were expelled from the country during the Mexican Revolution. The northern regions of Mexico have the largest European population and admixture. According to the last racial census in Mexico, taken in 1921, there was no state in Mexico that had a majority “white” population, and in virtually every state in the north, mestizos were the largest population group. The only state where “whites” outnumbered mestizos was Sonora, where “whites” comprised 41.85% of the population and mestizos 40.38%.

The absolute indigenous population of Mexico (26,694,928 persons as of 2015) is growing, but at a slower rate than the rest of the population, so the percentage of indigenous peoples in the total population is nevertheless decreasing. Most of the indigenous population is concentrated in the central and southern states, especially in rural areas. Some indigenous communities have some autonomy under the legislation of “usos y costumbres,” which allows them to regulate some internal affairs under customary law. According to the National Commission for the Development of Indigenous Peoples, the states with the largest percentage of indigenous inhabitants are: Yucatán with 59%, Quintana Roo 39% and Campeche 27%, mainly Maya; Oaxaca with 48% of the population, the most numerous groups are Mixtec and Zapotec; Chiapas with 28%, the majority are Tzeltal and Tzotzil Maya; Hidalgo 24%, majority Otomi; Puebla 19% and Guerrero 17%, majority Nahua peoples; and the states of San Luis Potosí and Veracruz each host a population that is 15% indigenous, majority from the Totonac, Nahua and Teenek (Huastec) groups. All indices of social development for the indigenous population are significantly lower than the national average. In all states, indigenous people have higher infant mortality rates, in some states almost twice as high as the non-indigenous population. Literacy rates are also significantly lower, with 27% of Indigenous children between the ages of 6 and 14 illiterate, compared to a national average of 12%. The indigenous population is in the labor force longer than the national average, starting earlier and staying in the labor force longer. However, 55% of the indigenous population receives less than a minimum wage, compared to a national average of 20%. Many engage in subsistence agriculture and do not receive wages. Indigenous populations also have poorer access to health care and lower quality housing.

The Afro-Mexican population (1,381,853 people, from 2015) is an ethnic group made up of descendants of colonial slaves and more recent immigrants of African origin from the sub-Saharan region. Mexico had an active slave trade during the colonial period and about 200,000 Africans were deported there, mainly in the 17th century. The establishment of a Mexican national identity, most notably since the Mexican Revolution, emphasized Mexico’s indigenous and European past, it passively removed African descent with its contributions. Most of the African population was absorbed by the surrounding mestizo (mixed European/indigenous) and indigenous people through the mixing of groups. The evidence of this long history of blending with mestizo and native Mexicans comprises the fact that 64.9% (896,829) among the Afro-Mexicans were also recognized as being indigenous for the 2015 census. Additionally, a 9.3% of Afro-Mexicans are recognized to speak an indigenous language. The states with the highest self-esteem of Afro-Mexicans were Guerrero (6.5% of the population), Oaxaca (4.95%) and Veracruz (3.28%). The Afro-Mexican culture is strongest in the Costa Chica of Oaxaca and Costa Chica of Guerrero.

Smaller ethnic groups in Mexico include the South and East Asians, who have been present since colonial times. During the colonial period Asians were referred to as Chino (regardless of their ethnic origin) and came as traders, craftsmen and slaves. Filipinos were the largest group, and about 200,000 Mexicans can trace their Filipino ancestry. Modern Asian immigration began at the end of the 19th century and at some point in the beginning of the 20th century the Chinese were the second largest immigrant group. The largest group were the Lebanese and an estimated 400,000 Mexicans are of Lebanese descent.

Religion In Mexico

According to the 2010 census), Roman Catholicism was the main religion, with 83% of the population, while 10% (10,924.103) belong to other Christian denominations. 172,891 (or less than 0.2% of the total) belonged to other, non-Christian religions; 4.7% reported no religion; 2.7% did not report.

Mexico’s 92,924,489 Catholics constitute the second largest Catholic community in the world in absolute numbers, after Brazil’s. 47% percent of them attend religious services weekly. The feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico, is celebrated on December 12 and is considered by many Mexicans to be their country’s most important religious holiday.

The 2010 census counted 314,932 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, although in 2009 the church claimed to have over one million registered members.

Based on the 2010 census, the Jewish population in Mexico is 67,476.  Islam in Mexico is practiced by a small population in the city of Torreón, Coahuila, and there are an estimated 300 Muslims in the region of San Cristóbal de las Casas in Chiapas.

Language In Mexico

There are almost 70 indigenous languages in Mexico, many of which are still in use. However, Spanish is the de facto national language. Spanish is used by almost the entire population and all public communication (signs, documents, media, etc.) is in Spanish. Bilingual signs in Spanish and English may be present at popular tourist destinations.

English is understood by many people in Mexico City and also by some tourism staff in popular tourist destinations, but still most Mexicans do not speak English. Educated Mexicans, especially younger ones, and professional business people are most likely to speak some English. After English, the most popular foreign languages to learn in Mexico are French, Italian, German and Japanese. German, French and Russian may be familiar to some in the tourism industry, but among office workers, police officers and drivers (especially the latter) foreign language skills are virtually non-existent.

Mexico has one of the greatest linguistic diversity: more than 60 indigenous languages are spoken on Mexican territory. These languages are spoken in the communities of these indigenous peoples, which are largely separated from the dominant mestizo society. In any case, the chances of finding a speaker of one of these languages are slim, since only half of the 20% of the indigenous population in Mexico speaks an indigenous language. On the other hand, most of these communities also speak fluent Spanish. Therefore, learning one of these indigenous languages is by no means essential; on the contrary, it is unexpected and will gain much respect from these communities.

Internet & Communications in Mexico

You can make calls from public telephones using prepaid Tarjetas Ladatel phone cards, which you can buy on magazine shelves. The cards can be purchased in denominations of 30, 50 or 100 pesos. The rate for calls to the United States is about US$0.50 per minute. Be careful, these cards are different from the tarjetas amigo, viva or unefon: they are for mobile phones.

In some neighbourhoods there are only a few internet cafés, in others they are very numerous. The usual prices range from 7 pesos/hour to 20 pesos/hour. Currently, most internet cafés offer calls to the US at a cheaper rate than a phone box, mostly via VoIP.

If you have an unlocked GSM phone, you can buy a prepaid SIM card in Mexico and have a local mobile number to use in case of emergency. Telcel offers good coverage throughout the country and you can get a SIM card for 150 pesos with 75 pesos of talk time (send *133# to check available credit). If you have an iPhone, try to get an Iusacell SIM card if you want to use data. You will need your passport to register and the whole process can take up to an hour.

It is often much cheaper than what hotels charge you, and incoming calls can also be free with some programmes. Mexico operates on the same GSM frequency as the United States, 1900 MHz. There is a wireless internet connection in almost every restaurant or hotel in the larger cities.

If you are staying longer than a week and do not have an unlocked phone, it may be a good idea to buy a cheap phone (<$200 MXN) and a prepaid card.

Economy Of Mexico

Mexico has the 15th largest national GDP and the 11th largest based on purchasing power parity. The average annual GDP growth rate over the period 1995-2002 was 5.1%. Mexico’s gross domestic product (GDP) in purchasing power parities (PPS) was estimated at 2.2602 trillion U.S. dollars in 2015 and 1.3673 trillion U.S. dollars in nominal exchange rates. Mexico’s GDP in PPS per capita was $18,714.05. In 2009, the World Bank reports that the country’s gross national income at market prices is $1,830.392 billion, 2nd highest in Latin America after Brazil, and has the highest per capita income in the region at $14,400. Currently, Mexico stands as an upper-middle class country. After the 2001 slowdown, the country recovered and grew by 4.2, 3.0 and 4.8 percent in 2004, 2005 and 2006, even though the country is considered to be far below Mexico’s potential growth rate. Moreover, after the 2008-2009 recession, the economy grew at an average rate of 3.32 percent per year from 2010 to 2014.

Since the end of the 1990s, the majority of the population has been part of the growing middle class. However, from 2004 to 2008, the proportion of the population that received less than half of the median income rose from 17 to 21 percent and the absolute level of poverty increased between 2006 and 2010, with the number of people living in extreme or moderate poverty rising from 35 to 46 percent (52 million people). This is also reflected in the fact that the infant mortality rate in Mexico is three times higher than the average of OECD countries and that literacy levels are in the median range of OECD countries. Nevertheless, according to Goldman Sachs, Mexico will have the fifth largest economy in the world by 2050.

Of the OECD countries, Mexico has the second largest economic disparity between the extremely poor and the extremely rich after Chile – although the country has declined over the past decade as one of the few countries where this is the case. The bottom ten percent in the income hierarchy holds 1.36 percent of the country’s resources, while the top ten percent holds nearly 36 percent. The OECD also notes that Mexico’s budgeted spending on poverty reduction and social development is only about a third of the OECD average – both in absolute and relative terms.

Mexico’s electronics industry has grown enormously over the last decade. The Mexican electronics industry has increased enormously over the last decade. Mexico has the 6th largest electronics industry of the world. It is the world’ s 2nd largest electronics exporter to the US, with 71.4 billion dollars worth of electronics being exported to the US in 2011. Today, electronics represent 30% of Mexico’s exports.

Mexico is the country with the largest production of automobiles in all of North America. The industry manufactures technologically complex components and engages in some research and development activities. Big Three (General Motors, Ford and Chrysler) operating in Mexico since the 1930′ s, and Volkswagen and Nissan build their factories in the 1960′ s. In Puebla alone, 70 industrial parts manufacturers are clustered around Volkswagen. The sector expanded rapidly in the 2010s. In 2014 alone, more than $10 billion in investments were made. Kia Motors announced plans for a $1 billion factory in Nuevo León in August 2014. Mercedes-Benz and Nissan at the time had already built a $1.4 billion factory in the vicinity of Puebla, while BMW was also making a plan for a $1 billion assembly factory in San Luis Potosí. Additionally, Audi began construction of a $1.3 billion factory near Puebla in 2013.

The domestic auto industry is represented by DINA S.A., which has been building buses and trucks since 1962, and the new Mastretta company, which produces the high-performance Mastretta MXT sports car. In 2006, trade with the United States and Canada accounted for nearly 50% of Mexico’s exports and 45% of its imports. In the first three quarters of 2010, the United States has a trade deficit of $46.0 billion with Mexico. In August 2010, Mexico overtook France to become the ninth largest holder of U.S. debt. Commercial and financial dependence on the United States is a concern.

Remittances from Mexican citizens working in the U.S. represent 0.2% of Mexico’s GDP, equivalent to $20 billion per year in 2004, and are the 10th largest source of foreign revenue. In 2008, remittances totaled US$25 billion, according to Mexico’s central bank.

Major players in the broadcasting industry include Televisa, the largest Spanish media company in the Spanish-speaking world, and TV Azteca.

Entry Requirements For Mexico

Visa & Passport for Mexico

According to the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores), some foreign nationals who intend to stay in Mexico for less than 180 days for tourism purposes or 30 days for business purposes can fill out a tourist card for $22 at the border or when landing at an airport after presenting a valid passport. If arriving by air, this amount is included in the ticket price. This service is available to citizens of the following countries: Andorra, Argentina, Aruba, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Bulgaria, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago, United States of America, Uruguay and Venezuela (see official list here). Permanent residents of the United States, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom and countries of the Schengen area, regardless of their nationality, may also obtain a visa on arrival.

The current Mexican tourist card is officially known as the Forma Migratoria Múltiple (Multiple Immigration Form), or FMM. It has a perforation that divides the card into two parts, with some of the same information asked for on the right side as on the left. On entry, after checking your passport and filling in the MMF, the immigration officer stamps your passport and the MMF, separates the MMF along the perforation and gives you back the right-hand side of the MMF with your passport. Always keep the DMF with your passport. It is your responsibility to ensure that the right-hand side of the MMF is returned to the Mexican government at the time of departure so that the barcode can be scanned to indicate that you have left the country on time. For example, if you fly Aeromexico, you will be asked for your passport and MMF when you check in for your return flight, and then your MMF will be stapled to your boarding pass. You must then hand your boarding pass and MMF to the gate agent when boarding. If you lose your DMF while in Mexico, you can expect significant delays and fines before you can leave the country.

Electronic authorisation (Autorización Electrónica) to enter Mexico is available online for citizens of Russia, Turkey and Ukraine. Other nationalities should contact a Mexican consulate to find out the requirements for citizens of their country and may need to apply for and obtain a visa before travelling. If you need more information, Mexico has diplomatic missions in the following cities around the world. Consulates in the United States are usually only open to non-citizens (by phone or in person) from 8:30am to 12:30pm.

When you cross the border by road, do not expect the authorities to automatically signal you to fill in your papers. You have to locate the border office yourself.

The immigration officer at your port of entry to Mexico may also ask you to provide proof of sufficient economic solvency and a return ticket.

If you do not intend to cross the “border zone” and your stay is not longer than three days, US and Canadian citizens only need proof of citizenship. A passport is usually required for re-entry into the US, but an enhanced driver’s licence (or enhanced photo ID) or US passport card is acceptable for re-entry by land or water.

How To Travel To Mexico

Get In - By plane

From the United States and Canada

Hundreds of daily flights connect Mexico with cities and towns across North America. These include traditional airlines such as Air Canada, Aeromexico, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta, etc., as well as low-cost carriers such as JetBlue, Spirit, WestJet, Virgin America and Southwest Airlines. There is also the Mexican low-cost airline Volaris, which currently flies from several major US cities (including Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Oakland, Orlando, San Diego and Portland) via its hubs in Mexico City and Guadalajara. The other airline, Interjet, also serves Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, San Antonio and Houston. In turn, United Airlines/United Express (operated by Express Jet and Skywest) serves other cities in Mexico besides Guadalajara, Mexico City, Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and other major resorts (already served by several US and US-based airlines. Mexicans) such as Aguascaliente, Chihuahua, Ciudad de Carmen, Durango, Huatulco, Leon/Guanajuato, Oaxaca, Merida, San Luis Potosi, Torreon, Tampico, Veracruz and Villahermosa from Houston. Flights to other Mexican cities are operated by Aeromar on a codeshare basis.

Note that, as in the US and Canada, you must clear immigration and customs when you first enter Mexico, even if that airport is not your final destination. (For example, many trips to Aeromexico will involve connecting through their hub in Mexico City). You will then need to recheck your baggage and go through security again to get to the next flight segment.

From Australia or New Zealand

Arrive from Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne or Auckland (NZ) and fly direct to Los Angeles with Delta, Qantas, United and V Australia. Air New Zealand offers a one-stop flight from Australia and a non-stop flight from Auckland to Los Angeles. Hawaiian Airlines and Air Tahiti Nui offer one or two-stop flights to Los Angeles from Australia and New Zealand.

Many airlines continue to fly from Los Angeles to Mexico, including AeroMexico/Aeromexico Connect, Alaska Airlines, Volaris, Interjet, United and Virgin America, some of which offer interline or alliance tickets and baggage handling. Other options are available if connecting via another US city. If you have a visa waiver, Mexico is considered part of the United States, which means that if you stay in Mexico for more than 90 days, you must continue south before returning to the United States.

From Europe

Most commercial airlines connect Mexico directly with Europe. There are direct flights to Mexico City (IATA: MEX) and Cancun (IATA: CUN) from Paris (IATA: CDG), London (IATA: LON), Madrid (IATA: MAD), Amsterdam (IATA: AMS), Frankfurt (IATA: FRA). Some airlines fly to both Mexico City and Cancun, while others serve only one and not the other (usually only to Cancun, e.g. airlines from Russia and Italy). Other flights to Cancun from Europe may only be available on a charter basis and some are only available in the winter months (December-February). It is always worth comparing flight offers from airlines and charter companies that can get you to Mexico City or Cancun via many European hubs. The flight time from these cities is always around 11 hours.

Get In - By train

There are four Amtrak stations in U.S. border cities: San Diego, Yuma, Del Rio and El Paso. Mexico is easily accessible from all of these cities. From the Santa Fe depot in San Diego, the tram runs to the California-Baja California border. In El Paso, the train station is just a few steps from the border. However, there is only rudimentary rail service within Mexico, and only one train crosses the border at any point. Plans for change have been put on hold by the current PRI government.

Get In - By car

US car insurance is not accepted in Mexico; however, it is easy to purchase short- or long-term tourist insurance, which includes mandatory liability insurance, theft and accident insurance for your vehicle, and often legal expenses insurance. If you decide to travel to Mexico by car, the website of the Secretariat of Transport and Communications offers free downloadable road maps.

Vehicles registered abroad must obtain the necessary permits before entering Mexico. You can do this at border checkpoints by presenting your vehicle’s title or registration, valid immigration documents and a valid credit card. It is now possible to apply for your vehicle’s import permit online. The licence is only issued to the registered owner of the vehicle, so the paperwork must be in the applicant’s name. Licences are not required for the Baja California peninsula and the northern part of the state of Sonora.

Due to the incredibly high volume of drugs and illegal immigration (to the US) and drug money and weapons (to Mexico) crossing the US-Mexico border, you should expect long delays and thorough searches of vehicles crossing the border. At some of the busiest border crossings, you can expect a wait of 1 to 3 hours.

Get In - By bus

The Mexican bus system would be the most efficient in the world. Buses are undoubtedly the backbone of inner-city individual transport in Mexico, as the number of private car owners is much lower than in the northern neighbouring country and trains are mainly used for freight transport and tourism. Chances are good that you will meet many locals when travelling by bus. There are many independent companies, but they all use a central computerised ticketing system. Fares per kilometre are generally comparable to Greyhound in the United States, but there are more departures and the system serves much smaller villages than its American counterpart. There are many bus companies based in Mexico that have branches in larger cities in the US.

A ticket to a major Mexican city from the southwestern United States can be purchased for as little as $60 round trip (San Antonio TX to Monterrey N.L.). However, these airlines mainly serve Hispanics or Mexicans living in the United States and operate mainly in Spanish.

Greyhound offers tickets from the United States to major Mexican cities with Grupo Estrella Blanca further south of the border, including Monterrey, Querétaro, Durango, Mazatlan, Torreon, Mexico City. It is better (and cheaper) to buy a round-trip Greyhound ticket, as it can be more difficult and expensive to buy a ticket from Mexico to an American destination that is not a major city. From Mexico City, the local bus line (usually Futura) will exchange the Greyhound ticket for their own free of charge.

How To Travel Around Mexico

It is more convenient to travel to Mexico by bus, car or plane. Passenger transport by train is almost non-existent. Except for the Chihuahua del Pacifico train line, which leaves each morning at both ends of the line, one from Los Mochis on the Pacific coast, opposite Baja California, and the other from Chihuahua to the east (just south of El Paso, Texas). They cross about halfway at the Divisadero and Barrancas Copper Canyon stations at an altitude of 2100 m (7000 ft).

Get Around - By car

As a result of a government programme to create infrastructure in the early 1990s, the best roads are toll roads. Toll roads can be relatively expensive (400-800 pesos is common for long journeys), but are much faster and better maintained. First-class buses usually run on toll roads (and the toll is of course included in the fare).

US car insurance is not valid in Mexico, and although Mexican car insurance is not compulsory, it is strongly recommended as any minor accident can land you in jail without it. MexiPass and AAA offer Mexican car insurance.

If you are travelling on Mexican roads, especially near the borders with the US and Guatemala, you are likely to encounter several checkpoints operated by the Mexican military to search for weapons and illegal drugs. If you are from the United States, you may not be used to this and it can be intimidating. However, for honest people, these checkpoints are rarely a problem. Just do what the soldiers tell you and treat them with respect. The best way to show respect when you enter a checkpoint is to turn down your music, take your sunglasses off your face and be prepared to roll down your window. They should also treat you with respect, which they usually do. If you are asked to unpack any part of your vehicle, do so without complaint. They have the right to let you unload completely so they can inspect your load.

Tourists are often warned not to drive on the roads at night. Although bandidos are rare in urban areas, caution is advised in rural areas. It is best to drive only during the day. Cattle, dogs and other animals may also appear unexpectedly on the road. So if you have to drive at night, be very careful. If possible, follow a bus or truck that appears to be driving safely.

The Secretariat of Communications and Transport has recently launched a new mapping tool, similar to those used in the United States, e.g. Mapquest. It is called Traza Tu Ruta and is very useful for finding out how to get to your destination via the roads in Mexico. It is in Spanish, but can be used with a basic knowledge of the language.

Foreign driving licences are recognised and recommended. Speeding tickets are common and to ensure your presence at the hearing, the officer may withhold your licence. You have the right to do this. However, be aware that police officers have been known to withhold driving licences until they receive a bribe.

At petrol stations, make sure the pump is set to zero before the attendant starts filling up so you don’t get charged more than you should. There is only one brand of petrol station (Pemex) and the prices are usually the same wherever you go, so don’t bother shopping around.

Good maps are priceless, and the maps of Mexico included in the “North American Road Atlas” books are more than useless. The maps by Guia Roji are particularly good.

Get Around - By plane

Mexico is a big country and with the low-cost revolution that began in 2005 after the collapse of the CINTRA monopoly, new (low-cost) airlines have emerged and developed, offering competitive fares that rival long-distance bus travel. With the rise in fuel prices, the days of good business may be over, but prices remain reasonable compared to what they were when CINTRA operated Mexicana & Aeromexico as a monopoly before 2005. The main hubs of all or several airlines are in Mexico City, Toluca, Guadalajara, Cancun and/or Monterrey and additional point-to-point services are offered from several other cities.

The main airlines flying to different cities in Mexico are the following

  • Aeromexico/Aeromexico Connect, +52 55 5133-4000 (MX), toll-free: +1-800-237-6639 (US). It is the “national” and “historic” airline with hubs in Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey. It is also a member of the SkyTeam alliance.
  • Aeromar, +52 55 51-33-11-11, toll free: 01 800 237-6627 (MX).
  • Interjet, +52 55 1102-55-55, toll-free number: 01800 01 12345 (MX). The centres are located in Mexico City and Toluca. A member of the One World Alliance, using the membership seat of the defunct Mexicana Airlines.
  • Magnicharters, (DF)+52 55 5678-1000 & 5678-3600; (MTY) 81 2282-9620 & 2282-9621. The centres are located in Monterrey and Mexico City. They used to run only between Monterrey, Mexico City, Guadalajara and Cancun. They have since expanded to other Mexican and American cities.
  • VivaAerobus. The centres are located in Monterrey, Mexico City and Guadalajara.
  • Volaris, +52 55 1102-8000, toll-free number : 1 855 865-2747(US). Centres are located in Guadalajara, Mexico City, Toluca and Tijuana. Since the disappearance of Mexicana in 2010, they have expanded and taken over many of Mexicana’s (now defunct) airport routes and slots in Mexico and the US.

There are also small airlines that operate in certain areas, such as :

  • AeroCalifia, +1 213 928-5692 (US), toll-free: 01 800 5603949 (MX). Operates scheduled regional flights between the Baja California peninsula, Chihuahua, Jalisco, Guanajuato, Sonora and Sinaloa in the northwestern part of the country using Embraer ERJ and Cessna small aircraft. They also offer charter and air taxi services.
  • AeroToucan, +52 952 503-34-11, 109-51-68 (mobile). Flies between Oaxaca City, Huatulco and Puerto Escondido in the state of Oaxaca.
  • Mayair. Operates regional flights from Cancun to Cozumel and Merida and from Villahermosa to Veracruz and Merida in the smaller Cessna facilities.
  • TAR, +52 55 2629-5272. Centre in Querétaro with flagship cities in Guadalajara, Monterrey, Mérida, Puerto Vallarta and Toluca.

Mexicana Airlines had ceased operations in 2010, but technically it has not ceased completely as the company is proactively looking for a suitable investor/buyer to revive the business.

Get Around - By bus

If you travel by bus, please make sure to take the express (first class) buses (directo, sin escalas, primera clase) if available. The first class buses (directo, sin escalas, primera clase) are usually direct lines and are the best option for most people. These buses are comfortable, have toilets and usually show films, which may or may not be in English with Spanish subtitles (or vice versa). Others may even offer a drink and a snack. First-class buses travel longer distances between cities and use toll highways when available. They may stop regularly (semi-directly) at certain bus stops along the route, otherwise they do not stop at all.

Other buses such as the second class buses (economico, ordinario, local) are very similar to the first class buses but travel on secondary roads through towns and villages and stop anywhere on the road if desired. Second class bus routes are usually shorter and it takes much longer to travel long distances (such as from Cancun to Mexico City) with multiple stops and multiple changes, it is not worth the few pesos you save compared to first class buses. They are ideal for more local trips, such as between Cancun and Playa del Carmen, or to somewhere along the highway in between. In other places, they may be more frequent and available than first class, e.g. travelling from Veracruz (city) to Zempoala (town). Some of the second class buses may even be chicken buses (polleros) in rural areas, off the main roads.

Executive (ejecutivo) and luxury (lujo) lines cost about 60% more than first class, can be faster, usually have larger seats, and departures are less frequent; they rival business class on an aeroplane and are a good option for older people or business travellers, or for overnight travel instead of a night in a hotel (or hostel). When buying tickets for the bus, the local practice is for the passenger to go to the terminal and buy the ticket for the next available bus to get to the desired destination on first and second class buses, except during peak periods such as Easter and Christmas. During peak periods, tickets can be booked one to two days in advance online or at the station. For second class buses, tickets can be purchased at the station within two hours before departure without prior reservation, or at the price paid to the driver when picked up at the roadside. With the advent of NAFTA, some bus companies now offer services from several US cities to several US states. The main bus companies offering such services are the following

  • ABC (Baja California Buses). Baja California buses that travel across the Baja California peninsula and take Route 2/2D west of Sonora.
  • ADO (Autobuses Del Oriente), +52 55 5133-5133, toll-free number: 01 800-009-9090 They operate the ADO, ADO GL, AU (Autobus Unidos)OCC (Omnibus Cristobal Colon) and Platino bus lines, as well as the Boletotal/Ticketbus.com reservation site. It is an important bus company in the east and southeast of the country, towards the Guatemalan border, in the states of Guerrero, Oaxaca, Puebla, Veracruz, Chiapas, Tamaulipas, Tabasco and the Yucatan Peninsula (Yucatan, Quintana Roo and Campeche). They offer daily trips from Cancun and Merida to/from Belize City via Chetumal and connections with Tica BusTrans Galgos and King Quality in Tapachula for further travel to/from Central America.
  • Autovias, HDP, La Linea, toll-free number: 800-622-22-22. Travels from Mexico DF to the neighbouring Mexican state and beyond to the states of Colima, Guerreo, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Michoacan and Queretaro.
  • Costa Line AERS, +52 55 5336-5560, toll-free number: 01 800-0037-635. Serves mainly the state of Mexico, Morelos and Guerrero from Mexico City. They also operate the Turistar, Futura and AMS bus lines.
  • ETN (Enlances Terrestre Nacionales), Turistar Lujo. They offer “luxury” or “executive” class seating with two seats on one side of the aisle and one seat on the other side, providing more legroom and the option to lie down. They are available in the following states: Aguascaliente, Baja California Norte, Coahuila, Chihuahua, Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Mexico City DF, Michocoan, Morelos, Nayrit, Nuevo Leon, Oaxaca (Coast), Queretaro, San Luis Potosi, Sinaloa, Sonora, Veracruz (Poza Rica, Tuxpan) and Zacatecas.
  • Grupo Estrella Blanca (White Star), +52 55 5729-0807, toll-free number: 01 800-507-5500, operates the Elite, TNS (Transportes Norte de Sonora), Chihuahuanese, Pacifico, Oriente, TF (Tranporte Frontera), Estrella Blanca, Conexion, Rapidos de Cuauhtemoc, Valle de Guadiana and Americanosbus lines. As the largest bus company, it serves much of the north and northwest of the country, including the states of Aguascaliente, Baja California Norte, Coahuila, Chihuahua, Durango, Districto Federal (DF), Guanajuato, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Mexico City, Michocoan, Morelos, Nayrit, Queretaro, San Luis Potosi, Sinaloa, Sonora and Zacatecas, all the way to the US border. They sell tickets for onward travel to the United States from the border with Greyhound Lines (and vice versa).
  • Estrella de Oro (Gold Star), +52 55 5133-5133, toll-free number: 01 800-009-9090. Runs mainly between Mexico City and various locations in the states of Districto Federal (DF), Guerrero, Veracruz and Hidalgo. They are now a subsidiary of Grupo ADO, but also an independent company and brand.
  • Estrella Roja (Red Star), +52 222 273-8300, toll free: 01 800-712-2284. Runs mainly between Mexico City and Puebla.
  • Primera Plus, +52 477 710-0060, toll-free: 0800 375-75-87. Subsidiary of Grupo Flecha Amarilla, which also includes the ETN, Turistar Lujo, Coordinados, TTUR and Flecha Amarilla (2nd class) bus lines. They serve the states of Aguascaliente, Colima, Districto Federal (DF), Durango, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Michocoan, Nayrit, Queretaro, San Luis Potosi, Sinaloa and Zacatecas.
  • Grupo Flecha Roja, Aguila, +52 55 5516 5153, toll-free number: 01 800 224-8452. Operates mainly between Mexico City and various locations in the northern part of the State of Mexico up to the State of Querétaro under the Flecha Roja brand and in the south-eastern part of the State of Mexico up to the States of Guerrero and Morelos under the Aguila brand.
  • FYPSA, +52 951 516-2270. operates mainly between the Districto Federal (DF), the State of Mexico, the States of Oaxaca and Chiapas.
  • Omnibus de Mexico, +52 55 5141-4300, toll free: 01 800-765-66-36. They serve most of central and northern Mexico, including the states of Aguascaliente, Colima, Coahuila, Chihuahua, Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michocoan, Nayrit, Queretaro, San Luis Potosi, Sinaloa, Sonora, Tamaulipas, Veracruz and Zacatecas, up to the US border.
  • Pullman de Morelos, +52 55 5545-3505, toll-free number: 0800 624-03-60. Operates buses in and around Guerrero and Morelos. They operate the Ejecutivo Dorado (Golden Executive), Pullman de Lujo, Primera Clase, Primera Federal and Primera Local (2nd class).
  • Grupo Senda. They serve a large part of the north-central part of the country such as the states of Aguascaliente, Colima, Coahuila, Chihuahua, Durango, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michocoan, Nuevo Leon, Queretaro, San Luis Potosi, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas and Zacatecas, all the way to the US border. From the border, the route continues to the southeastern and central states of the United States: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. They also operate the Turimex and Del Norte bus lines.
  • Zina Bus, Excelencia, Excelencia Plus, +52 55 5278-4721. Runs from Mexico DF to the neighbouring states of Mexico, Guerreo and Michoacan.

No bus company has as large a national market share as Greyhound in the United States, but some have a larger market share in certain regions. There are more than 200 other bus companies and drivers’ unions operating buses not listed above. You will find them when you are there, or you can view (or add to) the articles specific to a region, city or town.

On the other hand, if you travel to a city, you will not find pleasant surprises. You will find one of the most chaotic public transport systems, full of the popular “peseros”. Peseros” are small buses whose colour codes vary depending on the city you are in. Usually, the route taken is written on a cardboard attached to the windscreen or with wet soap and then dried chalk on the windscreen, listing and not numbering the local settlements (neighbourhoods) and points of interest (Wal Mart, Costco, shopping malls, hospitals, universities, etc.) that are served by the route. Unlike many other countries, there are rarely bus stops and you must signal the bus to pick you up and drop you off where you want. You will rarely find a stop button in a pesero; just shout the word “baja!” and it will stop. Fares are cheap and range from about 5 to 8 pesos.

Get Around - By train

There are very few passenger trains in Mexico, with only a few lines running in places like Copper Canyon in the northern state of Chihuahua. This line is also known as the Chihuahua Pacific Railway between the coastal town of Tobolobampo in the state of Sinaloa and the city of Chihuahua through Copper Canyon. In the state of Jalisco, there are two lines connecting the state capital, Guadalajara, with the nearby tequila distilleries in the small town of Amatitlan by the Tequila Express and with the Jose Cuervo distilleries in the city of Tequila by the Jose Cuervo Express.

The latter two, coming from Guadalajara, serve as part of a weekend day trip to the tequila distilleries and then as transport to these towns. In some parts of the country it is possible to board or ride (if you are an adventurer) in freight cars, as many migrants do who travel from Central America to the United States. The prospect of jumping into the wagon is dangerous because of the lack of fastenings, which can lead to falling, being run over by the wheels, being hit by an oncoming train (if you fall in the wrong place) or being robbed by bandits on the way.

Nevertheless, discussions have been held in recent years about expanding mass transit in several cities and high-speed passenger transport, but as of May 2015, no concrete plan has emerged. Currently, Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey have metro and/or light rail services.

Get Around - By thumb

One of the positive aspects of the high oil price is that towing is becoming more common again in Mexico, especially in rural areas. In areas close to big cities, towing is likely to become more difficult and may not be advisable for safety reasons. In village areas, however, it will be very possible and most likely a pleasant experience. Indeed, it has always been difficult for villagers to afford petrol, and nowadays many resort to paying hitchhikers to afford the next ride into town. Baja California, the Sierra Tarahumara, Oaxaca and Chiapas all offer good opportunities for hitchhiking.

Hitchhiking options vary by region. In Mexican culture, hitchhiking is often accepted and it is a common practice among young Mexicans going to the beach for the Easter holidays, although in some cases a financial contribution for petrol is expected as it is relatively expensive. If this is the case, make it clear that you have no money to offer before accepting the trip. If you are willing to pay, trucks often offer lifts for about half the price of a bus ticket. Of course, you can negotiate a better price. On the Yucatán Peninsula, hitchhiking is considered relatively safe and easy.

Destinations in Mexico

Regions in Mexico

  • Baja California (Baja California, Baja California South)
    The western peninsula bordering the US state of California…
  • Northern Mexico (Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Nuevo León, Sinaloa, Sonora, Tamaulipas).
    This includes the vast deserts and mountains of the border states; the “unknown Mexico” mostly ignored by tourists.
  • The Bajío (Aguascalientes, Guanajuato, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi, Querétaro)
    Historical conditions in a traditional silver-producing region
  • Central Mexico (Hidalgo, Mexico City, State of Mexico, Morelos, Puebla, Tlaxcala, Veracruz)
    Centre, around the capital
  • Pacific Coast (Colima, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacan, Nayarit, Oaxaca)
    Tropical beaches on the south coast of Mexico
  • Yucatán Peninsula (Campeche, Chiapas, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, Yucatán).
    Jungle and impressive Mayan archaeological sites, as well as the Caribbean coast. Geographically, it belongs to Central America (the dividing line is the Isthmus of Tehuantepec); culturally, it is closer to Guatemala and Belize than to the rest of Mexico.

Cities in Mexico

  • Mexico City – capital of the Republic, one of the three largest cities in the world and a highly developed urban centre with a 700-year history. In Mexico City you will find everything from parks, Aztec ruins, colonial architecture, museums, nightlife and shopping.
  • Acapulco – A sophisticated city beach known for its world-class nightlife, elegant restaurants and oppressive traffic. Many of the older (pre-1990s) concrete structures have suffered from tropical degradation.
  • Cancún – One of the most popular and famous beaches in the world, known for its clear Caribbean waters, lively party atmosphere and abundance of recreational facilities. During Spring Break it is famous for its alcohol consumption, sunburn and debauchery.
  • Guadalajara – Traditional city, capital of the state of Jalisco and cradle of mariachi and tequila music. Guadalajara is blessed with a perpetual spring climate and its colonial city centre is graceful and sophisticated.
  • Mazatlan – A bustling city on the Pacific coast, Mazatlan is a seaport, a transport hub with ferries to Baja California and a seaside resort with miles of sandy coastline. It is a popular spring break destination because of the variety of affordable accommodation options.
  • Monterrey – A large modern city that is the commercial and industrial centre of northern Mexico. Monterrey enjoys a dry, mountainous environment and is known for its high-quality educational and transport infrastructure.
  • San Luis Potosi – Located in central Mexico, a colonial city that was once a major silver producer but now depends on manufacturing as its economic base.
  • Taxco – In central Mexico, west of Cuernavaca, this beautiful steep mountain town was once a major silver producer. Today it is a major player in the trade of decorative silverware, from cheap fittings to the most elegant jewellery and elaborate castings.
  • Tijuana – Mexico’s busiest border crossing for pedestrians and private vehicles and, due to its proximity to San Diego, has long been the mecca of bargains for Southern Californians.

Other destinations in Mexico

  • Copper Canyon (Barrancas del Cobre) – An exotic destination for travellers looking for a unique and remote adventure! An impressive mountain railway ride – one of the largest in the world – takes you to over 8000 feet in altitude on the CHEPE, the Chihuahua al Pacifico Railway. Hiking, horseback riding, bird watching and Tarahumara Indians. The Copper Canyon, the Sierra Madre and the Chihuahuan Desert in Mexico. This region is for adventurous people who can take a difficult journey to its sights (although the famous train ride is not challenging at all). The Copper Canyon, a beautiful, remote wilderness area, will probably never become a mass destination.
  • Sea of Cortez – Watch whales being born, swim with dolphins and sea kayak in the warm waters of the Sea of Cortez along the east coast of Baja California near La Paz. And the sunsets in Puerto Peñasco and San Carlos are not to be missed.
  • Breeding sites of the monarch butterfly – protected natural areas in the highlands of the state of Michoacán. Millions of butterflies come to this region every year between November and March, although their numbers have declined sharply recently.

Sumidero Canyon – From the banks of the Rio Grivalva (Mexico’s only major river) near Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, excursions lead into this steep-walled national park. You are likely to see large flocks of flamingos, pelicans and other water birds, as well as crocodiles.

Archaeological sites in Mexico

  • Chichen Itza – Majestic Mayan city, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988 and recently chosen as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
  • Ek Balam – Recently reconstructed Mayan site, famous for its unique ornate stucco work and stone carved temples that you can climb.
  • El Tajín – In the state of Veracruz, near the town of Papantla. A UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Plazuelas and Peralta – In the state of Guanajuato, two places that are part of the “Tradición el Bajío”.
  • Monte Alban – In the state of Oaxaca, a Zapotec site dating from around 500 BC A UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Palenque – A Mayan city in the state of Chiapas, Palenque is famous for its elaborate paintings. It is also known for having the largest expanse of tropical rainforest in Mexico in the same region.
  • Teotihuacan – In the state of Mexico, near Mexico City. Huge complex with several large pyramids.
  • Tulum – Mayan coastal city with spectacular views of the Caribbean. Dates of the end of the Maya period.
  • Uxmal – Impressive Mayan city-state in the Puc region, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.

Accommodation & Hotels in Mexico

A number of hotel chains are represented throughout Mexico, including Palace Resorts, Le Blanc Spa Resort, Best Western, Holiday Inn, CityExpress, Fiesta Inn, Fairmont, Hilton, Ritz, Camino Real, Starwood (Sheraton, W, Westin, Four Points) and many others. Prices have risen considerably in recent years, although most are still cheap compared to similar American or European hotels. The accommodation chains are generally clean and comfortable, which is good for business travellers, but not necessarily for those who want to explore Mexico by themselves. Smaller roadside hotels and motels may not be safe or comfortable. Boutique hotels can be found throughout the country; the price range varies, but all are rich in Mexican tradition, elegance and charm, which is the ideal way to discover the cultural heritage of each state. The book Mexicasa by Melba Levick, which can be found in many libraries and online bookshops, is an excellent source of information. There are also many all-inclusive resorts for those visiting the main seaside destinations.

There is a strong backpacker culture in Mexico and many hostels offer dormitories and private rooms. You can expect to pay between 50 and 150 pesos for a night in a dorm room, often with breakfast included. Hostels are a great place to exchange information with other travellers, and you can often find people who have already visited your future destination. There are a number of websites that allow you to book hostels in advance for a small fee, and this is becoming increasingly common.

The most authentic accommodation can usually be found by asking locals or gringos, especially in small towns. If you are unsure about the safety or condition of the room, ask to see it before you pay. This is not considered rude.

If you have to travel to colder areas in winter, consider taking an electric blanket – because the cheapest hotels have electricity but no heating. And even though it can get quite hot outside in the afternoon, clay and cement are like refrigerators. A kettle is also a good idea, because hot water is not always available when you need it.

If you are travelling with children, use a plastic suitcase (with wheels and a handle) as luggage, which can be used as a children’s bathtub if needed. Economy hotels rarely, if ever, have bathtubs.

Things To See in Mexico

Mexico has 32 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, more than anywhere else in the Americas. Most of them belong to the cultural category and relate either to the pre-Columbian civilisations of the region or to the first cities founded by the Spanish conquistadores and missionaries. Much of Mexico is mountainous, with some mountains over 5,000 metres above sea level.

Things to do in Mexico

Mexico’s warm climate, spectacular nature and long coastline make it ideal for outdoor living, especially water sports.

  • Surfing – Baja California, Vallarta, Oaxaca
  • Sea Kayaking – Baja California
  • Snorkelling – Baja California, Cancun, Cozumel, Isla Mujeres, etc.
  • Diving – Baja California, Cancun, Cozumel, Isla Mujeres, Acapulco, Cabo San Lucas etc. and diving in the cenote caves of the Yucatán Peninsula.
  • Whale Watching – Baja California, Guerrero Negro, Mazunte, Zipolite
  • White Water Rafting – Veracruz
  • Visit to a volcano – Mexico, Toluca etc.
  • Take a ride on the Copper Canyon Railway
  • Enjoy the beautiful coastline and beaches of Oaxaca – Huatulco, Mazunte, Zipolite, Puerto Angel, Puerto Escondido, etc.
  • Take a horseback ride in the Barrancas of Chihuahua
  • Visit the archaeological sites – Chichen Itza, Tulum, Coba, Monte Alban, Calakmul, Palenque, etc.
  • Volunteering – Chiapas or in Xalapa, Veracruz with Travel to teach.
  • Visit the ecological parks – Riviera Maya
  • Trekking and cave painting observation in Baja California – Guerrero Negro
  • Mazunte Sea Turtle Museum

Food & Drinks in Mexico

Food in Mexico

Mexican cuisine is best described as a collection of different regional cuisines rather than a standard list of dishes for the entire country. Due to climate, geography and ethnic differences, we can divide Mexican cuisine into four broad categories, depending on the region:

  • North – Meat dishes, mainly beef and goat. These include cabrito, carne asada (grilled meat) and grilled meats. It is influenced by international cuisine (mainly from the United States and Europe), but retains much of the Mexican flavour.
  • Central – This region is influenced by the rest of the country, but has a distinct local flavour in dishes such as pozole, menudo and carnitas. The dishes are mainly based on maize and with different spices.
  • Southeast – Known for its spicy vegetable and chicken dishes. Caribbean cuisine has influences here due to the location.
  • Coast – The focus is on seafood and fish, but corn-based recipes are also readily available.

Ask for the town’s “platillo tipico”, this is the local speciality that you may not find anywhere else, a variation or the birthplace of a recipe, also bear in mind that most recipes change from one place to another, such as the tamales, which are made with the leaves of the banana plant in the south, and in the Huasteca region the tamales are very large (they are called “zacahuil”), we are OK for a whole family.

Traditional Mexican food can often be very spicy; if you are not used to peppers, always ask if your food contains them. (“Esto tiene chile? Es picante?”).

There are many food carts in the streets of Mexican towns and villages. Travellers are advised to eat in these carts with caution, as the hygienic preparation practices are not always reliable. In doing so, you may (or may not) find some of the most unique and authentic Mexican food you have ever eaten. At these vendors you will find tacos, hamburgers, bread, roasted field corn or elote served with mayonnaise or light cream and sprinkled with fresh cottage cheese, roasted sweet potatoes called camote, and almost any kind of food and service you can imagine.

  • Chicharrón – Fried pork skin. Quite crispy and, if prepared well, slightly greasy. Heavenly spread with guacamole. Or sometimes cooked in a mild chilli sauce and served with eggs.
  • Enchiladas – Soft tortillas filled with chicken or meat, covered with green, red or mole sauce. Some may have cheese melted inside and/or on top.
  • Tacos – Tender corn tortillas filled with meat (asada (strip steak), pollo (shredded chicken), carnitas (fried shredded pork), lengua (tongue), cabeza (beef skull meat), sesos (beef brains), tripa (beef intestine) or pastor (pork with chilli). In the north, flour tortillas are sometimes used. Don’t expect to find the crispy shell of the tacos anywhere.
  • Tamales – corn dough shells filled with meat or vegetables. Tamales Dulces contain fruits and/or nuts.
  • Tortas – Mexican fantasy sandwich. Lightly toasted roll topped with meats such as tacos, lettuce, tomatoes, jalapeños, beans, onion, mayonnaise and avocado. Torta with American-style cold cuts are starting to be found in cities.
  • Huitlacoche – (wit-la-ko-che) A mushroom-like fungus found in maize. This dish is usually an addition to others. Foreigners may find it hard to digest, but Mexicans swear by it. Although most Mexicans like huitlacoche, most don’t prepare it very often at home. It can be found in most markets or shops.
  • Quesadillas – cheese or other ingredients grilled between corn tortillas. Note: heavier on cheese and lighter on other items such as chicken, pork, beans, squash blossoms and others.
  • Mole – A sweet or medium hot pepper-based sauce with cocoa and a hint of peanut on the meat, usually served with shredded chicken or turkey. (“Pollo en mole” and this is known as Puebla or Poblano style). There are many regional moles and some are green, yellow, black and can have a very different taste depending on individual talent or preferences.
  • Pozole – Chicken or pork broth with homemade corn, seasoned with oregano, lettuce, lemon juice, radish, chopped onions, ground dried chilli and other ingredients such as chicken, pork or even seafood, usually served with a side of tostadas, fried potatoes and cream cheese tacos. Very fortifying.
  • Gorditas – cornmeal patties filled with chicharron, chicken, cheese, etc., topped with cream, cheese and hot sauce.
  • Grillo – Grasshopper, usually cooked and placed in another dish like a quesadilla. You can often find them in markets in the state of Morelos and other central Mexican states. It is not common in Mexico City.
  • Guacamole – mashed avocado sauce with green serrano chilli, chopped red tomatoes and onions, lime juice, salt and served with slightly thick (1/8 inch) fried tortilla slices or “totopos”.
  • Tostadas – fried flat tortilla topped with refried beans, lettuce, cream, cream cheese, red tomato and onion slices, hot sauce and chicken or other main ingredients. Consider a corn chip dip, with low-dose steroids, for salsas and as above. Note that in many parts of Mexico you will not automatically get a dish of this type as you would in the United States, although they are starting to appear in resorts that automatically accept American nationals.
  • Huaraches – a larger version (in the shape of a shoe), a gordita.
  • Sopes – a corn cake filled with a variety of ingredients such as chicken, cheese, mashed beans and various hot sauces.
  • Carnitas – roasted pork served with a variety of “salsa” to dry it out with less fat.
  • Chile en nogada – A large green poblano chilli with a beef or pork filling, topped with a white walnut sauce (usually walnuts, called nuez) and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds, which happen to be red. The three colours represent the national flag and the dish is served throughout the country around Mexican Independence Day, 16 September.
  • Barbacoa – sheep or goat meat cooked with maguey leaves in an oven dug into the ground. Think of a barbecue paradise without hickory smoke and ketchup-based barbecue sauce. Served with spices and salsas in corn tortillas and sometimes torta bread.
  • Sopa de Tortilla – a soup made with tortilla chips, usually prepared with chicken broth, plain or with a hint of tomato flavour, and usually sweet and not spicy at all. Usually served with diced avocado and crumbled cottage cheese.
  • Chilaquiles – Tortilla chips with green tomatillo, red tomato or sweet chilli sauce, usually with chicken or eggs on top or inside. It is usually a light dish.
  • Migas – is a typical dish from the centre of the country, which is a broth of chilli guajillo with soaked bread, to which you can add pork bones with meat or eggs.

You can judge the quality of food by its popularity. Do not eat in out-of-the-way places, even if they are restaurants or hotels. Remember that Mexicans have their main meal in the middle of the afternoon (around 3 p.m.), while breakfast or “almuerzo”, a mid-morning affair, is very early in the morning after a very light snack, such as a small plate of fruit or a roll with coffee. However, many Mexicans eat a big breakfast in the morning. Later, in the evening, the meal varies from a very light meal, such as sweet rolls or breads, coffee or hot chocolate, to a heartier meal, such as pozole, tacos, tamales, etc. Plan your meals accordingly and you will have a better idea of the occupancy (popularity) of a restaurant.

Drinks in Mexico

Tap water is harmless, but is generally not recommended for consumption. Some exaggerators even claim that tap water is not suitable for brushing teeth. Hotels usually give their guests one (large) bottle of drinking water per room per night. Bottled water is also readily available in supermarkets and at tourist attractions.

  • Absinthe is legal in Mexico.
  • Tequila distilled from agave (a certain type of cactus).
  • Pulp, ferment from Maguey
  • Mezcal, similar to tequila, but distilled from maguey.
  • Tepache, pineapple-based
  • Snorkel, made from coconut tree

There are also some Mexican beers, most of which are available outside Mexico, including Corona (popular, but not necessarily as popular in Mexico as many foreigners think), Dos Equis (XX) and Modelo Especial.

Lighter Mexican beers are often served with lime and salt, although many Mexicans do not drink beer this way. In some places, beer is served as a ready-made drink called “michelada” or simply “chelada”. The recipe varies from place to place, but it is usually beer mixed with lime juice and various sauces and spices on ice, served in a glass with a salty rim. Another variation called “Cubana” contains the Clamato cocktail, soy sauce, salt and some hot sauce.

Northwest Mexico, including Baja California and Sonora, also produces wines. Mexican wine is often quite good, but most Mexicans tend to prefer European or Chilean imports.

Soft drinks:

  • Chocolate
  • Atole
  • Horchata (rice drink)
  • Agua de Jamaica (hibiscus iced tea, similar to karkadai in Egypt)
  • Licuados de fruta (fruit smoothies and milkshakes)
  • Champurrado (thick chocolate drink)
  • Refrescos (ordinary sodas, usually sweetened and made with cane sugar, not corn syrup as in the United States).

The legal minimum age for drinking alcohol in Mexico is 18, but it is not strictly enforced. In many places, drinking alcohol in public (“open container”) is illegal and usually punishable by one day in jail. Watch out for waitresses and bartenders, especially in nightclubs. If you don’t know how much you are drinking and how much you have already spent, they may add a few extra drinks to your account. Some do, but not all.

Alcoholmeters are widely used in road traffic. Driving under the influence of alcoholic beverages is punishable by 1 to 3 days in prison.

Mexico, especially the southern state of Chiapas, produces excellent coffee. Very popular is the coffee con leche, which usually consists of one part coffee and one part steamed milk. Unfortunately, many places in Mexico that are not cafés serve Nescafe or other instant coffee – you have to look for the right coffee, but it is there.

Money & Shopping in Mexico

Currency in Mexico

The currency of Mexico is the peso (MXN), which is divided into 100 centavos.

Coins are issued in 5, 10 (steel), 20, 50 centavo (brass; the new 50 centavo coins issued from 2011 are steel and smaller) and in 1, 2, 5 (steel ring, brass core), 10, 20, 50 and 100 pesos (brass ring, steel or silver core), but it is extremely rare to find coins worth more than 10 pesos.

The banknotes are produced in denominations of MXN20 (blue), 50 (pink/red), 100 (red), 200 (green), 500 (brown) and 1000 (purple and pink for the latest issue, purple for the old ones). The latest MXN20, MXN50 and MXN100 notes are made of polymer plastic, and there are several different series of all the notes. There are ten pesos, but they are very rare and no longer issued or accepted.

Old” pesos (issued before 1993) are no longer accepted, but are collected by numismatists.

The symbol used locally for pesos is the same as for US dollars ($), which can be a little confusing. Prices in dollars (in tourist areas) are marked with “US$” or have a two-line “S”. In June 2015, the exchange rate was around 15 MXN for 1 USD. As this exchange rate has generally settled around 13 MXN per USD, vendors and traders often use this exchange rate. Therefore, it is currently preferable to buy with pesos. The U.S. dollar is widely accepted in the far north and tourist areas.

Other currencies such as the euro, the pound sterling and the Swiss franc are generally not accepted by traders, and even banks based in Europe may refuse to accept euros for exchange. On the other hand, they are widely accepted by most banks and exchange offices (“casas de cambio”).

If you are arriving from the south and still have Central American currency with you, try to exchange it as soon as possible, as it is not accepted even by banks outside the immediate border area. Since all Central American countries have the US dollar as their national currency (El Salvador, Panama) or circulate it to varying degrees as a de facto second currency, and since virtually all Central American banks and most banks in Mexico accept the US dollar (usually at better rates than any other currency), it is best to “triangulate” your money from national currency to dollars and dollars to pesos rather than exchanging them directly, which can be difficult and expensive. If you forget to change your money and the banks are closed, street money changers (called coyotes or cambistas) do not have fixed opening hours and often have better rates. Be careful, however, as occasionally foreigners are scammed with fake calculators, wrong exchange rates and counterfeit or expired (and therefore worthless) notes.

Banking in Mexico

If you brought cash in USD or €, the best places to change your money are the arrival airports (like MEX and CUN) where there are already many exchange offices in the arrival hall (where you can also compare some exchange rates and choose the cheapest one) and usually the exchange rate in airports is mostly fair. Be sure to go through customs before looking for foreign currency, because in the Cancun customs area the rate is around 9.6 MXN for 1USD, which is much lower than what the most eager street vendors charge.

If you want to wait longer to get Mexican currency, don’t try to change at your hotel, as the rates there are usually very unfavourable for tourists. However, some hotels offer an exchange service as a courtesy. In this case, it is best to just ask to be sure. You can often find exchange bureaux at strategic locations in most tourist resorts and near the hotel (zones). Exchange rates should not differ much from those at the airport. If you are not familiar with Mexican currency (notes, coins), try to stick to the official exchange offices. In some internationally known seaside destinations such as Cancun and Los Cabos, local merchants are accustomed to the US dollar and often accept it as payment (they even have cash registers and drawers with two currencies). However, it should be borne in mind that the convenience of such “private” money exchange usually comes with a somewhat unfavourable exchange rate.

Credit and debit cards (with Maestro or MC/VISA affiliation) are widely accepted in Mexico. You can use them at ATMs and in most department stores, large restaurants and petrol stations, but make sure you always have enough cash in pesos in your pocket when you are out of town and generally check that you can pay with the card before using it. Small (often family-run) shops often only accept cash. There is usually a 5% surcharge for card payments. Also, you cannot get a lower price if you haggle, unless you pay in cash. Often you can pay half or less by pretending to leave.

While many Pemex petrol stations accept credit cards, especially in busy areas, there are also some that do not; travellers wishing to pay by credit card should always ask the attendant if the card is accepted before starting to fill up.

ATMs are easy to find. Bank of America customers can avoid ATM fees by using Santander Serfin ATMs. Other banks may have similar policies, check with your respective institution. For example, Banamex Bank is part of Citybank/Citygroup, and Bancomer is part of BBVA, which is affiliated with Chase in the US. Ask your bank if it has relationships with Mexican banks and what advantages such an ally can offer. If not, don’t be surprised if you end up paying a fee for each withdrawal. ATMs in small towns can run out of cash; this is sometimes the case. Ask the bank (or local residents) for the best time to use the machine and never wait until the last minute to get cash.

Tipping in Mexico

Tipping in Mexico is similar to that in the United States. It is generally 10 to 15 %.

For meals, a tip of 10-15% is given (this includes fast food deliveries). This tip is usually left by most people in restaurants, although it is not as common in street restaurants or stalls as vendors usually have a tin or box where people leave coins.

It is common to leave a tip on the table after paying, so it is very useful to have some change with you.

It is common for Mexican bars and nightclubs to charge 15% of the total amount (including taxes) directly on the bill. This is illegal in most cases because of the tip tax and because they charge the 15% including taxes. In large groups or nightclubs, bartenders expect customers to put a tip in a cup placed on the table before serving the drinks, so that the service is based on the tip received.

It is also common to tip the person who sometimes looks after the car as if it were a valet; in Mexico these people are often called “viene viene” (literally “come, come”) or franeleros and people usually tip them between 3 and 20 Mexican pesos, depending on the area, although they sometimes ask for larger amounts if the car is parked near a nightlife area.

In medium and large shops like Wal-Mart, there are uniformed helpers, mostly children or senior citizens, who pack the products shortly after the salesperson has scanned them. This role is called “cerillo” (in Spanish: “match”). Often these helpers have no basic salary, so all the money they earn comes from the tips people give them. Most customers give between 2 and 5 Mexican pesos, depending on the number of products. The cerillos also put the bags in the car and if the load is big, they might even help to take it to the car and unload the bags, in which case they usually get more than 15 pesos.

There is no tipping in taxis and buses, except when visiting. In some popular Mexican restaurants, street musicians perform, play and wait for customers to pay something, albeit on a voluntary basis. At petrol stations, workers usually receive 2 to 5 pesos for each tank of petrol. In stadiums, people give a small tip to the person who tells them where to sit. Tips are also given to bellboys, hairdressers and people working in similar services.

Shopping in Mexico

  • Weights are measured in kilograms. Length is measured in centimetres and metres.
  • Continental” measurements are used for clothing and shoe sizes.

Traders can be fussy about the condition of your paper money and may examine it and reject anything that is torn. Try to keep it in as pristine a condition as possible. This seems to be more the case the further south you travel. In any case, you can simply go into a bank with a damaged note and have it exchanged at another bank.

In small towns, traders are often reluctant to give change. Avoid paying with too many large denominations; the best customer has exact change. In rural areas, your “small change” may consist of chiclets or other small goods.

Traders, especially those in small markets (“tianguis”) and street vendors, are no strangers to haggling. Try asking: “¿Es lo menos? (“Is that the lowest price?”). The more rural and less touristy the area, the more likely you are to succeed.

  • Indigenous art When visiting Mexico, you have the opportunity to purchase “old world” style artwork that reflects Mexico’s ethnic diversity. These items include textiles, wood carvings, paintings and carved masks used for sacred dances and burials.
  • Timeshares When you visit the resorts in Mexico (e.g. Cancun, Puerto Vallarta or others), it is more than common to be approached on the street, in bars, restaurants and everywhere with offers of gifts, free car rentals, free nights, free dinners and anything else that might interest you, just to make you attend and listen to a presentation to buy a timeshare. Unless you are desperate, you can ignore the people making you an offer and stay away from these free offers. Although the properties are beautiful, conveniently located and offer many amenities, this is not the place to learn more about timeshares. Do your homework before you even think about buying a timeshare, look at the values on the resale market and understand the rights you are buying and the future costs. It can be difficult, if not impossible, to find out about free listings.
  • Cars It is definitely worth going there and importing a car, even though importing to EU/US standards is the hardest part. The recommended cars are the Ford Fusion (like the British Ford Mondeo, but higher spec) and the Chrysler 200 (the 2.4 model is worth it). Volkswagens can be much better equipped than their European or North American counterparts. The Passat sold in Mexico is NOT the same car as in Europe, and it is much bigger, but the engines are the same as in Europe, except for the 2.5 petrol.

Festivals & Holidays in Mexico

Holidays in Mexico

  • 1 January: New Year’s Day
  • 6 January: Magi Day, celebrating the arrival of the Magi who see the baby Jesus and bring him gifts (this is not an official holiday).
  • 2 February: Candelaria Day (“Day of the Candle”), celebrated in many places in the country (not an official holiday)
  • 5 February: Constitution Day (1917)
  • 24 February: Flag Day (unofficial)
  • 21 March: Birth of Benito Juárez (1806)
  • 30 April: Children’s Day
  • 1 May: Labour Day
  • 5 May: the Battle of Puebla against the French army, 19th century (not a public holiday)
  • 10 May: Mother’s Day
  • 15 May: Teachers’ Day
  • 1 September: Presidential Address Day
  • 15 September: Grito de Dolores
  • 16 September: Independence Day (celebrates the beginning of the struggle for independence from Spain in 1810, which was achieved by 27 September 1821).
  • 12 October: Race day (no public holiday)
  • 2 November: Day of the Dead (not a public holiday)
  • 20 November: Day of the Mexican Revolution (1910)
  • 12 December: Day of the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe. Technically unofficial, but it is one of the most important Mexican holidays.
  • 24 December: Christmas Eve (not an official holiday, but usually a full holiday)
  • 25 December: Christmas
  • 31 December: New Year’s Day (not an official holiday, but usually a full holiday)

Easter is celebrated throughout the country according to the annual Catholic calendar (the first Sunday after the first full moon in spring). Actual holidays can be moved to the Monday before the holiday, so check an up-to-date calendar.

Traditions & Customs in Mexico

Mexicans have a somewhat relaxed sense of time, so be patient. It is common to be 15 minutes late.

When someone, even a complete stranger, sneezes, you always say “¡salud! (“to your wishes” or, more literally, “to your health”): otherwise it is considered rude. In rural areas, especially in central Mexico (Jalisco, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, etc.), a sneeze is followed by the pious “Jesús te bendiga” (May Jesus bless you).

The vast majority of the population is and has been traditionally Catholic, and this faith is still widespread among Mexicans of all socio-economic classes. However, missionary activity in the United States has created a large Protestant community, and there seems to be an Evangelical or Pentecostal church in even the smallest towns. One of the largest Jehovah’s Witness communities in the world is also in Mexico. Smaller communities, such as Mormons and Jews, also live in small concentrated areas throughout the republic. Irreligious people are a small minority, even compared to Mexico’s northern and some southern neighbours, and are found mostly among the upper middle class and highly educated urban population. Saying you don’t believe in God can simply be ignored or lead to long discussions or even attempts at conversion, depending on who you meet.

In many ways, Mexico is still a developing country and attitudes towards LGBT travellers can sometimes be hostile. However, Mexico City and the state of Coahuila have legalised same-sex marriage, and the Supreme Court has ruled that such marriages must be recognised by all states in the rest of the republic, tacitly legalising same-sex marriage throughout the country (provided the marriage takes place in Mexico City). Just as it is not fully accepted in rural areas of the United States or Canada, it is not accepted in rural Mexico. But in the cities, the atmosphere is much more relaxed. The south of Mexico City is the best place when it comes to tolerance.

When entering a church, always remove your sunglasses, caps or hats. Wearing shorts is rarely a problem, but always wear a sweatshirt or jumper to the waist to avoid showing too much skin, which could be disrespectful in these places. However, outside of beaches or northern areas, shorts are very rarely worn by Mexicans on the street and therefore draw more attention to you and make you stand out as a foreigner.

Respect the laws of Mexico. Some foreigners believe that Mexico is a country where laws can be broken and police can be bribed at any time. Corruption may be widespread among Mexican police officers and public figures, but since it is a problem that Mexican society has only recently recognised and is working to solve, it is considered extremely disrespectful for foreigners to behave in a way that they expect this easy corruption, and could therefore be used by the police as an excuse to “teach you a lesson in respect”. Remember that offering a bribe to a public official can get you into trouble.

As in other countries, politics, economics and history are very sensitive topics, but in Mexico they are also considered good topics of conversation when talking to foreigners. As in Europe, Canada and the United States, Mexican democracy is dynamic and diverse, and people have a variety of opinions. However, since Mexico has only recently become a truly functioning democracy, Mexicans are eager to share their opinions and political ideas with you. As in your country, common sense applies: if you are not sufficiently familiar with Mexico’s political landscape, ask as many questions as you like, but avoid making too strong statements.

Many US citizens (and to a lesser extent other foreigners) make careless mistakes in their conversations with Mexicans. Mexicans, although strong and robust, can be very sensitive people when it comes to their country. Avoid saying anything that might give the impression that you think Mexico is inferior to your home country. Do not assume that just because you are a US citizen that you are an immediate target for kidnapping, as the vast majority of victims are Mexican. Do not be overly cautious, especially if you have hosts who care about you and know where you should and should not go. This will only offend your host and they will assume that you do not respect or trust Mexico.

Avoid talking about Mexico’s shortcomings. Avoid talking about illegal immigration to the US, drug trafficking or other contentious issues; Mexicans are well aware of their country’s problems and want to forget them from time to time. Instead, talk about the good things about Mexico: the food, the friendly people, the scenery. This will make you a very good friend in a country that can seem threatening if you take it on alone.

Although overt racism is not evident, in general wealth and social status have historically been linked to European ancestry and skin colour. Mexican society is strongly divided by social class, with the rich, middle class and poor often living very separate lives and may have very different cultures. The social practices or tastes of one social group are not necessarily shared by all classes. Clubs, bars and restaurants may largely cater to one group or another, and a richer person or tourist may feel crowded out or receive unwanted attention in a working-class canteen; a seemingly poor person may be blatantly turned away or stared at with unpleasant looks in an exclusive establishment.

There are many words in the country according to ethnic origin:

Do not be offended if you are called “güero(a)” (blonde) and its diminutive form “güerito(a)” (blondie), as it is a common way for the average Mexican citizen to refer mainly to white people, including white Mexicans. The word “gringo” and its synonym “gabacho” are used regardless of the actual nationality of the tourists and should not be considered offensive terms. In fact, they are often used as terms of affection.

If you are originally from East Asia, you are called “Chino(a)” (Chinese) and its diminutive “chinito(a)”, whether you are Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese, Filipino, Korean, etc. The exceptions are in the capital Mexicali and Monterrey, where there is quite a large Korean community. The exceptions are in the capital Mexicali and in Monterrey, where there is quite a large Korean community.

If you are black, “negro(a)” or “negrito(a)” may sound harsh, especially if you are from the United States, but it is not a bad word. Although there are few black people in many parts of Mexico (except on the east and west coasts in the south), Mexicans, especially the younger generation, are not hateful. In fact, one revolutionary who later became the second president was a man of mixed European and African descent, Vicente Guerrero.

Historically, all people from the Middle East were called “Turks” (even if they came from Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, etc.).

When trying to use your Spanish to address people, be careful to use the forms “tú” (informal, friendly and “tutear”; which is a verb to call someone “tú”) and “usted” (formal, respectful). Using “tú” can be humiliating for people because it is the form normally used to address children or close friends. For foreigners, the best way to deal with “tú” and “usted” is to address people as “usted” until they are asked to say “tú” or until they are addressed by their first name. This may seem a little old-fashioned but still respectful, while the opposite can be quite rude and embarrassing in some situations. Always use the “usted” form for a law enforcement officer (or other authority figure), even if they may use the “tú” form to speak to you.

Use “usted” unless the person is really your friend, is under 16 or explicitly tells you to use “tú”.

People talk to each other based on their social status, age and friendship. To address a woman, we always call her “señorita” (miss), unless we are sure she is married, in which case we call her “señora” (woman). If you are talking to an older man, use “señor”, regardless of his marital status. If you want to address a waiter, call him “joven”, which means “young man”. You can address someone by their job title (“ingeniero”, “arquitecto”, “doctor”, “oficial”, etc.). In fact, Mexicans use “tú” and “usted”, “first name” or “last name”, depending on the relationship, and the code is not easy to learn.

Although the word “güey” is synonymous with “buddy” or “pal” among young people, it is still considered extremely vulgar among older people. This dismissive expression of affection is only used between people who have reached a certain level of trust, so avoid using it.

In Mexico, “estúpido” means much, much worse than “stupid” in English.

Due to the strongly matriarchal nature of Mexican culture, the word combination “tu madre” (your mother) is cacophonous and considered offensive by residents, regardless of age or gender. If you must use it, remember to replace it with “su señora madre” in formal situations or with the softer “tu mamá” in informal situations. Never use strong language when speaking to a woman.

This can refer to male chauvinism, which is losing popularity but is still perceived and tolerated in small towns or in cities that receive significant numbers of rural migrants. It can be defined as the strong desire and ability of a man to dominate and impose his will on his wife, sister or any other woman close to him. It can also be identified by his desire to prove his mettle through overt bravado and his status through a series of yes-men and henchmen. Although it is not usually aimed at visitors, it can have a variety of merits. The best thing to do is to pretend not to notice and move on.

Another type of machismo that can stem from the same desires but does not have anti-social connotations is male politeness towards women. This is expressed by standing up when a woman enters a room, opening or holding open a door, giving a preference or right of way, giving up a seat, offering a hand when descending a steep flight of stairs, etc. It is a form of male politeness towards women. It is usually reserved for older women or women of great power, merit and social standing. Refusing such kind gestures is considered arrogant or rude.

Culture Of Mexico

Mexican culture reflects the complexity of the country’s history through the mixture of indigenous cultures and Spanish culture transmitted during the 300 years of Spanish colonisation of Mexico. Exogenous cultural elements were incorporated into Mexican culture over time.

The Porfirian era (el Porfiriato), in the last quarter of the nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth century, was marked by economic progress and peace. After four decades of civil unrest and war, there was a development of philosophy and the arts in Mexico, promoted by President Díaz himself. Since then, cultural identity, as accentuated during the Mexican Revolution, has been based on mestizaje, the core of which is the indigenous (i.e. Amerindian) element. Considering the different ethnic groups that made up the Mexican people, José Vasconcelos, in his publication La Raza Cósmica (The Cosmic Race) (1925), defined Mexico as a melting pot of all races (thus expanding the definition of mestizaje) not only biologically but also culturally.

Literature

Mexican literature has its precursors in the literatures of the indigenous colonies of Mesoamerica. The most famous pre-Hispanic poet is Nezahualcoyotl. Modern Mexican literature was influenced by the concepts of Spanish colonisation of Mesoamerica. Among the most important colonial writers and poets are Juan Ruiz de Alarcón and Juana Inés de la Cruz.

Weitere Schriftsteller are Alfonso Reyes, José Joaquín Fernández de Lizardi, Ignacio Manuel Altamirano, Carlos Fuentes, Octavio Paz (Nobel Prize), Renato Leduc, Carlos Monsiváis, Elena Poniatowska, Mariano Azuela (“Los de abajo”) und Juan Rulfo (“Pedro Páramo”). Bruno Traven writes “Canasta de cuentos mexicanos” (Korb mit mexikanischen Erzählungen), “El tesoro de la Sierra Madre” (Der Schatz der Sierra Madre).

Visual arts

Post-revolutionary art in Mexico has found expression in the works of well-known artists such as David Alfaro Siqueiros, Federico Cantú Garza, Frida Kahlo, Juan O’Gorman, José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera and Rufino Tamayo. Diego Rivera, the most famous figure of Mexican muralism, painted The Man at the Crossroads at Rockefeller Center in New York, a huge fresco that was destroyed the following year because it contained a portrait of the Russian Communist leader Lenin. Some of Rivera’s murals are on display at the Mexican National Palace and the Palace of Fine Arts.

Mesoamerican architecture is best known for its pyramids, which are the largest structures of their kind outside of ancient Egypt. Spanish colonial architecture is characterised by the contrast between the simple and solid construction that the new environment required and the baroque ornamentation exported from Spain. Mexico, as the centre of New Spain, built some of the most famous buildings in this style.

Cinema

Mexican films from the golden age of the 1940s and 1950s are the greatest examples of Latin American cinema, with a huge industry comparable to Hollywood of those years. Mexican films were exported and shown throughout Latin America and Europe. Maria Candelaria(1943) by Emilio Fernández, was one of the first films to win a Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1946, the first time the event was held after World War II. Famous Spanish-born director Luis Buñuel shot some of his masterpieces in Mexico between 1947 and 1965, such as Los Olvidados (1949) and Viridiana (1961). Famous actors and actresses from this period are María Félix, Pedro Infante, Dolores del Río, Jorge Negrete and the actor Cantinflas.

More recently, films such as Como agua para chocolate (1992), Cronos (1993), Y tu mamá también (2001) and Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) have succeeded in creating universal stories around contemporary themes and have received international recognition, for example at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. Mexican directors Alejandro González Iñárritu (Amores perrosBabelBirdmanThe Revenant), Alfonso Cuarón (Children of MenHarry Potter and the Prisoner of AzkabanGravity), Guillermo del Toro, Carlos Carrera (The Crime of Father Amaro), screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga and photographer Emmanuel Lubezki are among the best-known filmmakers of our time.

Some Mexican actors have managed to make a name for themselves as Hollywood stars. These include Ramon Novarro, Dolores del Río, Lupe Vélez, Gilbert Roland, Anthony Quinn, Katy Jurado, Ricardo Montalbán and Salma Hayek.

Media

There are two major television companies in Mexico that own the four primary networks that broadcast to 75% of the population. These are Televisa, which owns Canal de las Estrellas and Canal 5, and TV Azteca, which owns Azteca 7 and Azteca Trece. Televisa is also the largest producer of Spanish-language content in the world and also the largest Spanish-language media network in the world. Grupo Multimedios is another media conglomerate that broadcasts Spanish-language programming in Mexico, Spain and the United States. Telenovelas have a great tradition in Mexico and are translated into many languages and seen around the world with well-known names such as Verónica Castro, Lucía Méndez and Thalía.

Music

Mexican society enjoys a wide range of musical genres, which shows the diversity of Mexican culture. Traditional music includes mariachi, banda, norteño, ranchera and corridos; in everyday life, most Mexicans listen to contemporary music such as pop, rock, etc. in English and Spanish. Mexico has the largest media industry in Latin America and produces Mexican artists who are well-known in Central and South America as well as in parts of Europe, especially Spain.

Famous Mexican singers include Thalía, Luis Miguel, Juan Gabriel, Alejandro Fernández, Julieta Venegas, Jose Jose and Paulina Rubio. The singers of Mexican traditional music are : Lila Downs, Susana Harp, Jaramar, GEO Meneses and Alejandra Robles. The most popular groups are Café Tacuba, Caifanes, Molotov and Maná, among others. Since the early 2000s (decade), Mexican rock has experienced great growth both nationally and internationally.

According to the Sistema Nacional de Fomento Musical, between 120 and 140 youth orchestras from all states are affiliated to this federal agency. Some states, through their state agencies in charge of culture and the arts – the Ministry or Secretary or Institute or Council of Culture, or in some cases the Secretary of Education or the State University – sponsor the activities of a professional symphony or philharmonic orchestra so that all citizens can have access to this artistic expression in the field of classical music. Mexico City is the most intense centre of this activity, hosting 12 professional orchestras sponsored by different entities such as the National Institute of Fine Arts, the Secretariat of the Federal District of Culture, the National University, the National Polytechnic Institute, a Delegación Política (Coyoacán) and private companies.

Cuisine

Mexican cuisine is known for its intense and diverse flavours, colourful decoration and variety of spices. Most of today’s Mexican dishes are based on pre-Columbian traditions, especially those of the Aztecs and Mayans, combined with the culinary trends introduced by the Spanish settlers.

The conquistadors eventually combined their imported diet of rice, beef, pork, chicken, wine, garlic and onions with pre-Columbian indigenous foods, including corn, tomatoes, vanilla, avocado, guava, papaya, pineapple, chilli, beans, pumpkin, sweet potato, peanut and turkey.

Mexican cuisine varies from region to region due to climate and local geography, ethnic differences between indigenous inhabitants and because these different populations were influenced to varying degrees by the Spanish. Northern Mexico is known for the production of beef, goat and ostrich meat, as well as meat dishes, especially the famous Arrachera Cup.

Central Mexican cuisine is largely made up of influences from the rest of the country, but it also has its authentic ingredients, such as barbacoa, pozole, menudo, tamales and carnitas.

Southeast Mexico, on the other hand, is known for its spicy vegetable and chicken dishes. The cuisine of southeastern Mexico also has a Caribbean influence due to its geographical location. Veal is common in the Yucatan. In the states bordering the Pacific Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico, seafood is often prepared, the latter being famous for its fish dishes, especially veracruzana.

In modern times, other world cuisines have become very popular in Mexico and have adopted a Mexican fusion. For example, sushi in Mexico is often prepared with various mango or tamarind-based sauces and very often served with soy sauce mixed with serrano chilli or supplemented with vinegar, habanero and chipotle peppers.

The best-known international dishes include chocolate, tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, burritos, tamales and mole. Regional dishes include mole poblano, chiles en nogada and chalupas from Puebla; cabrito and machaca from Monterrey, cochinita pibil from Yucatán, tlayudas from Oaxaca, as well as barbacoa, chilaquiles, milanesas and many others.

Sport

Mexico City hosted the XIX Olympic Games in 1968, the first city in Latin America to do so. The country also hosted the FIFA World Cup twice, in 1970 and 1986.

The most popular sport in Mexico is club football. It is generally believed that football was introduced to Mexico in the late 19th century by miners from Cornwall. In 1902, a five-team league was formed with a strong British influence. Mexico’s best clubs are America with 12 leagues, Guadalajara with 11 and Toluca with 10. Antonio Carbajal was the first player to play in five World Cups and Hugo Sánchez was named the best CONCACAF player of the 20th century by the IFFHS.

The professional Mexican baseball league is called Liga Mexicana de Beisbol. Although it is generally not as strong as the United States, the Caribbean countries and Japan, Mexico has nevertheless won several international baseball titles. Mexican teams have won the Caribbean Series nine times. Mexico has signed several players to Major League teams, the most famous being Dodger pitcher Fernando Valenzuela.

In 2013, Mexico’s basketball team won the Americas Basketball Championship and qualified for the 2014 World Basketball Championship, where they reached the playoffs. As a result of these results, the country won the rights to host the 2015 FIBA Americas Championship.

Bullfighting is a popular sport in the country and almost every major city has bullrings. Plaza México in Mexico City is the largest bullring in the world, with 55,000 seats. Professional wrestling (or lucha libre in Spanish) attracts many people, with national promotions such as AAA, LLL, CMLL and others.

Mexico is an international power in professional boxing (several Olympic boxing medals have also been won by Mexico at amateur level). Vicente Saldivar, Rubén Olivares, Salvador Sánchez, Julio César Chávez, Ricardo Lopez and Erik Morales are just some of the Mexican fighters who are counted among the best of all time.

Among the best-known Mexican athletes are golfer Lorena Ochoa, who was number one in the LPGA world rankings before her retirement, Ana Guevara, former 400-metre world champion and 2004 Olympic silver medallist in Athens, four-time Olympic medallist Fernando Platas and taekwondo fighter María Espinoza, Mexico’s most decorated woman at the Olympic Games.

Stay Safe & Healthy in Mexico

WARNING
Affected regions : Baja California Norte, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Guerrero, Michoacán, Nuevo Leon, Sinaloa and Tamaulipas.

Most of those killed in drug-related violence since 2006 have been members of transnational criminal organizations. The Mexican government is making significant efforts to protect visitors to major tourist destinations.

Recreational areas and tourist destinations in Mexico are generally unaware of the levels of drug-related violence and crime reported in the border region and in areas along major smuggling routes. Nevertheless, crime and violence are serious problems and can occur anywhere.

Stay Safe in Mexico

Government travel report

Since 3 October 2016, the emergency number for the states of Baja California, Coahuila, Colima, Chiapas, Chihuahua, Durango, Guanajuato, Morelos, Nayarit, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla, Quintana Roo, Sonora, Tlaxcala and Zacatecas is 911. The rest of the country still uses the old emergency number: 066. In January 2017, the whole country will start using 911.

In most cities, location is very important as safety changes from place to place. Areas near the city centre (centro) are safer at night, especially the “Plaza”, “Zócalo” or “Jardín” (main square) and adjacent areas. Stay in populated areas, avoid poor neighbourhoods, especially at night, and do not walk there at any time if you are alone. People travelling alone have reported violent attacks in seaside resorts, so stay alert and avoid suspicious people. If you want to visit one of the slums, only go there on a guided tour with a reputable guide or tourism company.

Since 2006, violence related to drug cartels has become a problem; see below for issues related to drug trafficking.

Political violence in Chiapas and Oaxaca has decreased in recent years and is a much smaller threat than drug-related crime. It should be borne in mind, however, that the Mexican authorities do not look favourably on foreigners participating in (even peaceful) demonstrations or supporting groups such as the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional and its leader Subcomandante Marcos, even though their images and slogans on T-shirts and caps are often sold in the markets.

As in any city, do not wave cash or credit cards around. Use them discreetly and put them away as soon as possible.

The Mexican legal system was until recently governed by the Code Napoléon, but if you run afoul of the law in Mexico, the penalties are much harsher than in many other countries.

Beggars are usually not a threat, but in urban areas you will find a lot. Avoid being surrounded by them, as some of them may steal your property. Giving two pesos quickly can get you out of this kind of trouble (but may also attract other beggars). Most poor and homeless Mexicans prefer to sell jewellery, chew gum, sing or offer some kind of service rather than beg.

In other cities, such as Guadalajara and Mexico City, security is greater than in most other places in Mexico. However, caution should be exercised.

Understand that the country is in a phase of transition. Former President Felipe Calderon waged war against the drug cartels, and they in turn waged war against the government (and more often against each other).

Some cities in the north and on the border of Mexico, such as Tijuana, Nogales, Nuevo Laredo, Chihuahua, Culiacán, Durango and Juárez, can be dangerous if you do not know your way around, especially at night. Most crimes committed in the northern cities are related to drug trafficking and/or police corruption. However, because law enforcement is so overwhelmed or involved in drug trafficking themselves, many northern border towns that started out somewhat dangerous are now hotbeds where criminals can operate with impunity. Ciudad Juárez in particular bears the brunt of this violence, accounting for almost a quarter of all murders in Mexico, and trips to the scene of the crime require special attention.

Outside the northern states, cartel-related violence is concentrated in certain regions, especially in the states of Michoacán and Guerrero on the Pacific coast. However, caution is advised in any major city, especially at night or in high-crime areas.

Note that tourists and travellers are largely of no interest to the drug cartels. Many popular destinations such as Oaxaca, Guanajuato, Los Cabos, Mexico City, Puerto Vallarta, Cancún, Merida and Guadalajara are not affected by this phenomenon, simply because there are no borders. Ciudad Juárez is currently one of the main battlegrounds in the war on drugs, and although foreign travellers are not often targeted here, the presence of two warring cartels, many small opportunistic gangs and armed police and soldiers has created a chaotic situation to say the least.

Although hardly surprising, Monterrey is the new victim of drug-related violence. Once crowned the safest city in Latin America, it is the working environment and entrepreneurial spirit that has defined the city for most Mexicans. Today, it is the latest city to fall into the hands of drug gangs, and deadly shootings take place even in broad daylight. People have been kidnapped from high-profile hotels, and while the city is not yet a mirror image of Ciudad Juarez, it is not far from it.

Strangely enough, Mexico City is the safest city in the area and people go there to protect themselves from the violence at the border because many politicians and military people are there.

Drug use is discouraged in Mexico because although possession of small amounts of all major drugs has been decriminalised, use in public places will result in a fine and will most likely get you into trouble with the police. The military has also set up random checkpoints on all major highways to look for drugs and weapons. Drug use is also frowned upon by a large part of the population.

Tips for the beach

Jellyfish sting: Vinegar or mustard on the skin, take something to the beach.

Stingrays: Water as hot as possible – the heat deactivates the poison.

Sunburn: Bring sunscreen with you when you go to the beach as it is not available in some areas.

Riptides: Very dangerous, especially during and after storms.

Public transport

In big cities – especially Mexico City – it is better to play it safe with taxis. The best options are to call a taxi company, ask your hotel or restaurant to call a taxi for you, or take a taxi from a landline (“taxi de sitio”). Taxis can also be hailed in the middle of the street, which is acceptable in most of the country, but particularly dangerous in Mexico City.

As chaotic as it can be at times, the metro is the best way to get around Mexico City: it’s cheap (5 pesos for a ticket as of 21 May 2014), safe, has an extensive network covering almost anywhere you want to go in the city, and is extremely fast compared to all road transport, as it doesn’t have to endure constant traffic jams. If you’ve never been on a crowded metro, avoid the rush hours (usually 6am to 9am and 5am to 8pm) and do your homework: First check which line (linea) and station (estacion) you want to take and the address of the place you want to reach. Your hotel can give you this information, and metro maps are available on the internet and at the stations. Most stations also have maps of the surrounding area.

Avoid taking the metro late at night, but during the day many stations are patrolled by police and the metro is safer than the public bus. Your biggest worry on the metro is pickpockets, so keep your important belongings and wallet safe.

A word of warning for those used to European or American metro systems that operate 24 hours a day: Even in Mexico City, the last metro leaves around midnight and service does not resume until early morning. Prices for taxis are correspondingly high and you should be alert if you are travelling during this time.

When travelling by bus, do not put your valuables in the big bag in the storage room of the bus. If the police or the army check the luggage, they can take out what they need. Especially on night buses when passengers are mostly asleep. The use of a money belt (worn under clothes and out of sight) is strongly recommended.

Driving

  • All distances on signs and speed limits are in kilometres.
  • Petrol is also sold per litre, not per gallon, and is slightly cheaper than in the United States.

If you are entering the country by car from the USA, you should purchase Mexican liability insurance before or immediately after crossing the border (legal protection coverage recommended). When you pay for your temporary import permit (to leave the border area), it is common for several booths in the same building to sell Mexican car insurance. Even if your US (or Canadian, etc.) insurance covers your vehicle in Mexico, it may not (under Mexican law) cover liability (i.e., if you hit something or hurt someone). If you have an accident without this insurance, you will probably spend time in a Mexican jail. And even if your own insurance (theoretically) covers your liability in Mexico, you’ll be filing your claim behind bars! Don’t take any chances, take out Mexican car insurance.

Never exceed the speed limit or run stop signs or red lights, as Mexican police will use any excuse to stop tourists and give you a ticket. In some cities, the police cannot give you a ticket, but they can give you a warning. The fine for speeding can be up to US$100, depending on the city.

Since April 2011, the police have been cracking down on drunk driving throughout the country, especially in Mexico City, the big cities and the beach resorts. There are random checkpoints all over the country where every driver has to stop and take an automated test for drunk driving. If you fail, you will end up in a Mexican jail. If you don’t want to drink and drive home, don’t do it in Mexico.

At certain red lights you will mainly find beggars and window cleaners; in some areas of Mexico City it is especially recommended to always close your windows. Window cleaners will try to clean yours: a strong and firm “NO” is recommended.

Stay Healthy in Mexico

Some areas of Mexico are known for the travellers’ diarrhoea often referred to as “Venganza de Moctezuma” (the revenge of Montezuma). The reason is not so much the spicy food, but the contamination of the water supply in some of the poorest areas of Mexico. In most small, less industrialised towns, only the poorest Mexicans drink tap water. It is best to drink only bottled or purified water, as both are readily available. Be sure to specify bottled water in restaurants and avoid ice cubes (which are often not made from purified water). As in the United States, water in most major Mexican cities is purified by the municipal water company. Most restaurants in these poor areas only serve water from large jugs of purified water. If you get sick, go to the local clinic as soon as possible. There are medicines to fight bacteria.

Medicine in the cities is highly developed, the public hospitals are as good as the American public hospitals, and just like them, they are always full. It is recommended to go to private hospitals for faster service.

Before travelling to rural areas of Mexico, it is advisable to get anti-malarial medication from your doctor.

Travellers are strongly advised to make sure that the meat they eat is thoroughly cooked, as roundworm infections are on the rise, especially in the Acapulco region.

Besides the risk of malaria, mosquitoes are known to transmit the West Nile virus. Be sure to take an effective insect repellent with you, preferably one containing the active ingredient DEET.

The AIDS/HIV infection rate in Mexico is lower than in the United States, France and most Latin American countries. However, if you plan to have sex, make sure you use a latex condom to reduce the risk of getting or spreading the virus.

As in every western country, cases of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome have been reported in Mexico. It is an acute, rare (but often fatal) disease for which there is no known cure. The virus is thought to be found in animal faeces, especially those of rodents. Therefore, do not venture into animal burrows and be especially careful when entering enclosed spaces that are not well ventilated and lack light.

Vaccination against hepatitis A and B and typhoid is recommended.

If you are bitten by an animal, assume that the animal was carrying rabies and seek medical attention immediately.

In remote areas, a first aid kit is required and aspirin and other similar items are sold without a doctor’s prescription.

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