As a tourist destination Mexico has much to offer. There are many well known destinations such as Cancun on the Caribbean Sea, and Tijuana, close to the US city of San Diego and favoured by US visitors for shopping. Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta are another couple of locations that are immediately recognisable as tourist destinations. The Baja Peninsula is a beautiful area with long beaches backed by mountains and countless bays and inlets, ideal for boating and whale watching. These locations and others are well set up with a huge variety of resorts, restaurants and attractions that are very popular for those looking for a no-hassle holiday to relax and unwind.
The capital, Mexico City is huge, crowded, lively, and great fun. One of the worlds largest metropolises, Mexico City offers everything from ancient ruins, cool fusion restaurants, museums, galleries and shopping in abundance. Super modern sky scrapers sit alongside Spanish Colonial buildings and architecture that is some of the most creative in the world.
If something a little more adventurous is to your liking Mexico has plenty to offer just off the main trails. Outdoor adventures in the highlands can be found in magnificent Mexican wilderness areas, while in the more southern parts there are tropical rainforests. Deserts, plainlands and rugged mountains round out the picture of a very diverse landscape. The remnants of ancient civilisations can be explored in many places, one of the best being the Teotihuacan ruins, an ancient Aztec city just 40 kilometres north of Mexico City. Chichén Itzá on the Yucatan Peninsula and Monte Alban are also amazing archeological sites.
Mexico is many things to many people, it is a diverse an interesting destination, offering history, relaxation, adventure and fun no matter what your interest.
Where is Mexico?
Mexico lies at the bottom of the North American continent forming a large part of the “bridge” that joins North and South America. There is almost 10,000 kilometres of coastline on the east and west coasts. To the north is the United States and the southern border is shared with Guatamala and Belize. The eastern coastline lies along the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea while the west borders the pacific. It is a populous country with over 100 million people calling Mexico home. There are also many tourists visiting Mexico each year, in fact it is one of the most visited countries on earth ranked 7th by the World Tourism Organisation.
History of Mexico
Like some of it’s more southern counterparts, Mexico has a long history spanning thousands of years. Early history involved some of the big name civilisations, the Olmecs, Maya, and more recently the Aztecs. The spanish invaded and dismantled the Aztec civilisation in just a couple of years in the early 16th century. Following years of fighting that culminated in independence from Spain in 1821, Mexico went through a period of political instability and periods of repressive rule. During the 1800’s Mexico lost territory to a fledgling United States, and in the early 1900’s Mexico went through a revolution, until it emerged and went through a one party democratic period until 2000 when the country had it’s first ever peaceful change of power.
Mexico Visa Requirements
Be aware there will be a nominal charge for this process so ensure you have adequate funds. Citizens of other countries will need to obtain a visa from their local Mexican embassy or consulate prior to arrival in Mexico. All visitors may be required to show immigration officials proof of return or onward tickets and adequate means of support and accommodation upon entering Mexico .
If you are travelling to Mexico through the United States of America, or if you are transiting in Honolulu or other USA points of entry, you are required to meet USA entry/transit requirements. All visitors are required to have their passport stamped for entry into Mexico. This will avoid problems when the passport is checked by authorities at a later stage during travel in Mexico, and will also ensure that no fine is payable on departure.
Children under 18 years of age who are travelling with only one parent or guardian, regardless of their nationality, are required to present a notarized, written consent of the non-travelling parent or guardian to enter Mexico. Those travelling with children are advised to contact their local Mexican embassy or consulate for further information.
It is advisable to ensure that your passport has at least six months validity when visiting any foreign country.
As entry requirements may change from time to time it is strongly advised that you check with the department of foreign affairs or your local consulate or embassy for the current requirements.
Mexico Travel Health
Mexico has some prevalent infectious diseases including hepatitis, typhoid, tuberculosis and rabies. It is encouraged that you consult your doctor about vaccinations before travelling. All water should be boiled otherwise drink bottled water and avoid ice cubes and raw or undercooked food.
Visitors to Mexico City may experience health problems caused by poor air quality,especialy during the winter months. Visitors with heart, lung or respiratory problems are advised to consult their doctors before travelling. in some places some difficulties may also be caused by high altitude.
Private hospitals in Mexico are of a fair standard in the major cities. Outside major cities facilities can be very limited. Doctors and hospitals expect cash payment prior to providing medical services, including for emergency care. It is advised that travellers take out comprehensive travel insurance in case of serious illness or injury.
Hurricanes can occur from June to November and may be accompanied by landslides, mudslides and flash flooding, even in Mexico City. Mexico is also subject to earthquakes. There are several active volcanoes, throughout the country and although eruptions are very rate visitors should be alert.
Large public gatherings and protests and demonstrations should be avoided as they may turn violent. Foreign nationsals are prohibited from participation in demonstrations. Protests and demonstrations in Mexico are common and have the potential to cause major traffic and pedestrian transport problems.
Most visits are trouble-free, but crime and kidnappings are not unknown. Travellers should be particularly alert in tourist areas and exercise caution when exchanging or withdrawing money.
Poor Road conditions on rural roads around Mexico can present dangers. Additionally the presence of livestock and pedestrians on roads is common and is often compounded by poor lighting and signage.
The emergency number for police, fire or ambulance is 060.
What is Mexico Local Currency?
The currency of Mexico is the peso. It is divided into 100 centavos. Coins are issued in 5, 10 (steel), 20, 50 centavo (brass) and 1, 2, 5 (steel ring, brass centre), 10, 20, 50, and 100 peso (brass ring, steel or silver centre) denominations, however you will hardly ever see coins valued at more than 10 pesos or less than 50 centavos. Banknotes are produced in 20 (blue), 50 (pink-red), 100 (red), 200 (green), 500 (brown), and 1000 peso (purple and pink for the latest issue or just purple for older notes)
ATMs are easy to come by. Do not be surprised to find yourself with a fee for each withdrawal. ATMs in smaller towns can run out of money, so it is a good idea to plan ahead and not leave it to your last Peso to seek out further funds.
In some cases shopkeepers may examine your money and reject anything with rips, so be careful with it and keep it safe.
What is Mexico’s Weather?
Mexico is a large country and lies between two bodies of water, and had a diverse landscape of mountainous areas and plateaus as well as large plainlands so it is not surprising that there are some significant variations around the country in terms of weather. In the high central plateau region, the weather is mild throughout the year, with cooler months from December to March. This includes cities like Mexico City and Guadalajara. The wettest monthsin this region are the summer months, where there will typically be an hour of two of rain per day.
The desert areas in the northern interior are hot by day and cold in the night.
Baja California, situated on Mexico’s pacific peninsula gets hardly any rain. Winters are comfortable and summers are very hot. Some resorts like Cabo San Lucas benefit from a sea breeze.
The country’s central pacific coast, home to resorts such as Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco are hot, sunny and humid almost throughout the year. But in the late summer months, heavy rains can occure with hurricanes. The beach resorts of the Yucatán Peninsula, including Cancun, enjoy similar summers to Acapulco, but suffer even more from hurricanes.
Culture of Mexico
Mexicans have a strong heritage of catholicism and many are still deeply religious and conservative. Churches are seen as very sacred places and visitors should show respect by removing hats, sunglasses and and dress conservatively without showing too much skin.
Mexicans are also a proud people and visitors should be sure to show respect for thier country and culture or else offence may be taken. Do not make the mistake of flouting the law in Mexico, as although corruption has been a long problem with law enforcement, this behaviour is being stamped out and any bribery attempts could land the offender in significant strife.
There are a few things to know about the language also. “Estúpido” means far, far worse than “stupid” in English. While the famous word “güey” is equivalent to “dude” or “mate” among young people, may be considered rude to older generations. The words “gringo” and its synonym “gabacho” are used commonly as are almost considered a term of affection. Many caucasians will be called Guero meaning blonde, and Asians could be called Chino or chinita – none of these are offensive terms and are commonly used.
Mexicans can often be late and have a reasonably relaxed attitude to punctuality, they often run late and this is not regarded as bad manners.
Handshaking is the most common form of greeting. Mexicans regard relationships and friendships as the most important thing in life next to religion and are very hospitable to visitors and friends. Men still commonly exhibit traditional manners by opening doors or giving up seats for ladies, this is common and should be respected.
Tipping is common practice and you will rarely find service charges added to any bills. Many of the staff depend on tips for their livelihood so 15% is expected and 20% if the service has been very good.
What Languages Are Spoken In Mexico?
Despite the fact that there are over 50 languages spoken throughout Mexico, Spanish is the dominant language and used for almost all official and casual communications throughout Mexico. The large variety of indigenous language is generally spoken in small communities of indigenous people, almost all of these will also be able to fluently communicate in Spanish. Some signage and spoken english may be experienced in tourist locations and near the borders but this is about it. Learning a few words of Spanish will go a long way to make any trip to Mexico a more pleasant experience.
The Country code is 52 but long-distance calls are very expensive.
As Roaming agreements exist with a few international mobile phone companies coverage is variable.
Internet is available in all regions, particularly the main tourist areas where internet cafes are common.
Post office hours are Mon-Fri 0900-1700. Some larger branches open on Saturday morning for a reduced range of services. In Mexico City, the Correo Mayor (main post office) opens Mon-Sat 0800-2100 and Sun 0800-1900.
Mexico Transport Options
Many international travellers arrive in Mexico via the United States. If driving in from the USA, always purchase Mexican liability insurance before crossing the border or immediately after crossing. If your American (or Canadian, etc.) insurance covers your vehicle in Mexico, it cannot (by Mexican law) cover liability. TIt is advisable to drive during daylight hours only as various animals can often wander onto the road unexpectedly, so if you do have to drive at night, be very cautious and try to follow a bus or truck that is driving safely.
Mexico is a large country and the low-cost airfare revolution that started in 2005 means that travel by air is often ridiculously cheap if you book in advance. The main full-service airlines are Mexicana, Aero mar, Aero Mexico and Aviacsas. Major regional carriers include Aero California and Avolar, which mainly flies between western destinations.
When in major cities especially Mexico City the best options are to phone a taxi company request that your hotel or restaurant call a taxi for you or pick up a Taxi from an established post (“Taxi de Sitio”).
The subway is also a great way to get around Mexico City as it is cheap and safe. It’s extremely fast but avoid peak hours (usually from 6 – 9AM and 5 – 8PM). Also avoid taking the subway at night, but during the day many stations are patrolled by police officers and are safer than taking the public bus.
Generally speaking toll roads are the best roads when travelling by car. First-class buses generally travel by toll roads. Be aware that when on travelling Mexican roads, especially near the borders with the United States and Guatemala; one will encounter checkpoints operated by the Mexican Army.
If travelling by bus, be sure to take the express o first class buses. First class buses are usually direct routes and are the best option for most. On the other side if travelling within a city you will find one of the most chaotic public transport systemson earth. Bus stops are uncommon and you are expected to signal the bus to pick you up and drop you off.
Mexico Travel Tips
Mexico Local Food
Mexican cuisine is one of the most popular and commonly found cuisines in the world. But to experience it in its country of origin will be one of the best experiences you have there. The varying geography, weather and ethnic differences give rise to 4 with distinct variation of the mexican flavours we know and love.
In the North they mostly most dishes are prepared with either beef or goat meat. It is influenced by international cuisine (mostly from the United States and Europe), but it retains the overarching Mexican flavours.
The Central region is influenced by the rest of the country, but it has its well developed local flavour in dishes such as Pozole, Menudo and Carnitas. Dishes are mostly corn-based and with different spices.
The South-East is known for its spicy vegetable and chicken dishes with Caribbean influences.
On the Coast the food features plenty of seafood, but corn-based recipes can be still easily found as well.
Mexican food, in particular the traditional fare away from tourist centres can be very spicy with the liberal use of peppers (chillies), you have been warned!
You will no doubt recognise many of the traditional forms used for serving the foods: Enchiladas, Tostadas, Tacos and the like but you will also find many that do not make it far from their homeland.
Tap water is generally not recommended for drinking. Hotels usually give guests a bottle of drinking water per room per night. Bottled water is also readily available in supermarkets and at tourist attractions.
There are several Mexican beers, most of which are available outside Mexico such as Corona, Dos Equis, Modelo Especial another popular Mexican alcohol is Tequila, distilled from Agave (a specific type of cactus).
The legal drinking age in Mexico is 18. In many places, consumption of alcohol in public is illegal.
Mexico, especially the southern state of Chiapas, produces excellent coffee.
Mexico Local Timezones
Mexico uses Daylight Saving.
Central Standard Time: GMT – 6 Daylight saving time (GMT – 5 from 2am first Sunday in April to 2am last Sunday in October).
Mountain Standard Time: GMT – 7 Daylight saving time (GMT – 6 from 2am first Sunday in April to 2 am last Sunday in October).
Pacific Standard Time: GMT – 8 Daylight saving time (GMT – 7 from 2am first Sunday in April to 2am last Sunday in October).
120 volts AC, 60Hz. American two-pin (flat) plugs are usual.
Mexico Dutyfree Limits
Generally speaking, you may import goods that are for personal use. In addition, you may also bring the following good without incurring customs duty (For visitors over 18):
• 3l of alchoholic drinks (wine, spirits or beer)
• 400 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 1kg of pipe tobacco.
• Perfume or eau de toilette or lotions in amounts reasonable for personal use
• A photo, movie or video camera for non-residents and up to 12 unexposed rolls of film or video cassettes.
Uncanned food, pork or pork products; Some fish or fish products; plants, fruits, vegetables, flowers, seeds (except if special permit is obtained prior to arrival) and their products; insecticide. Firearms and ammunition need an import permit.
Archaeological relics may not be exported.