Travel to Mexico

Mexico is a massive country. With almost 2,000,000 square kilometers of land, you will never run out of places to visit in Mexico. While the country is popularly known as Mexico, its official name is the United Mexican States. The official name is only fitting as it is located on the southern portion of North America. With the US-Mexico border just around the corner, you can easily travel between America and Mexico. 

The country has a great variety of environments. About two-thirds of its land is mountainous. Hence, it’s not hard to find camping and hiking spots. You can choose your own adventure. Jungles, deserts, grassy plains, mangrove forests, pine forests, snow-capped volcanoes, farmland, and sandy and rocky beaches are available for you to explore.

On the other hand, Mexico also has the urban life going on. This is evident most especially at the country’s capital, which is Mexico City. Here, you can find modern and cosmopolitan cities complete with day and nightlife.

Because two-thirds of Mexico is mountainous and the remaining one-third is governed by the urban life, you can experience different climates in Mexico. It all depends on its topography. Mexico has coasts on both sides of the country where it is usually hot and humid. These are also where Mexico’s famously beautiful beaches are located. On the other hand, places at higher elevations such as Guadalajara and Lake Chapala are much dryer and more temperate. 

The climate in Mexico City is perfect when you’re traveling to Mexico. It receives a subtropical highland climate. This means that the city experiences warm summers and cold winters. The atmosphere around this area is pretty much what you have been accustomed too. It is not too hot to be considered scorching, but also not cold enough to have to layer up with warm coats. With this, visiting Mexico City won’t be a problem for you!

There are many reasons to plan a vacation to Mexico!

Travel tips for Mexico

Visa Requirements for Mexico

Citizens from select countries are able to enter Mexico without a visa for up to 180 days for tourism or business, or 30 days if in transit. These nationals include all citizens of the European Union, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, select South American countries, and selected Asian countries.

Other visa exemptions include:

  • Citizens of any country who hold a valid visa for, or who are permanent residents of, Canada, Japan, the UK, the US or the Schengen Area.
  • Citizens of any country who are permanent residents of Chile, Colombia or Peru.
  • Residents of French overseas departments and territories, Danish territories, and Dutch Caribbean territories.

Nationals from Russia, Turkey and Ukraine are able to obtain an electronic authorization visa for Mexico. While other nationalities will need to contact their nearest Mexican consulate to apply for and obtain a visa before entering Mexico.

Upon your arrival, all travelers must make sure that you get your Mexico tourist card. You will have to carry it with you during your entire stay. It is also required that you have it presented and stamped on when you’re leaving the country.

Important Cultural Information

Mexico’s culture is rich and full of practices. Not only that it is influenced by the Aztec and Mayan civilizations, but it is also heavily influenced by the European colonization. With that said, the culture in Mexico is as diverse as its people.

As a way of paying respect to their culture, there are a lot of Mexico holidays. Festivals and fiestas are widespread all throughout the country. Whether it is in the big cities or small ones, you are guaranteed to stumble upon one. With that, it’s safe to say that Mexicans highly regard their holidays. Some of the holidays are Independence Day (September 16), Day of the Dead (November 1 – 2), Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12), Semana Santa (Holy Week), Guelaguetza Festival (July) and Fiesta de San Cristobal (July 16 – 25).

Since Mexico is a country where a majority of its people are Roman Catholics, feast days of some religious icons in Catholicism are also widely celebrated.

When you are traveling to Mexico, it’s important that you know their customs and etiquette. When addressing elders or people whom you have a professional relationship with, use the formal pronoun “usted”. To be safe, “usted” is most likely to be recommended for use rather than its slang “tu”. You can also address them as senor (for a man), senora (for a married or older woman), and senorita (for a young woman). The use of professional titles as a way of addressing others is also considered polite.

For greetings, a handshake is the most common one. When you’re meeting a group, it is necessary to greet and shake hands of each person individually. This is considered to be more formal and polite than addressing the group altogether.

While in Mexico City, or in Mexico’s other colonial cities, it is advised to dress more modestly than in the beach destinations. Although they are not really that strict when it comes to clothing, it’s a sign of paying respect to their culture as well. In Mexico City, no one wears shorts. When you are also entering a church or a chapel, you are expected to remove your hat.

These are just some of the travel tips Mexico requires you to follow. Again, although they are not unusually strict with it, it’s important that you respect their culture as a tourist.

Banking & Money in Mexico

The official currency in Mexico is the Mexican Peso (MXN). Although this is their currency, American dollars are also accepted in most areas that have tourists in them. At the same time, most high-traffic tourist regions also accept Euros, Canadian Dollars, and British Pounds. However, it’s still more convenient if you pay with Mexican Peso. This will also be beneficial for you to pay with local merchants.

For you to get the best deal for exchanging currency in Mexico, it’s best that you do it at a major bank or ATMs. Here, you can get the real exchange rate. But it’s important to know that not all banks and ATM rates will be equal. You can also find currency exchange kiosks at airports and hotels. But these institutions usually mark up their exchange rate and have additional service fees.

When you are also using cash for payment, make sure that your bills aren’t damaged or torn. Merchants will not accept these kinds of bills.

Major credit and debit cards such as Visa, MasterCard, and American Express are mostly accepted in Mexico. In large cities or tourist destinations, you won’t have a problem charging your purchases to your card. However, if you have a card from a smaller company, only a few merchants will accept these. To be safe, you should do your research ahead of time.

ATMs are common in Mexico. For MasterCard, American Express, Maestro, and Visa, you may use global ATM locators to see the nearest ATM near you. It’s crucial to know that most ATMs in Mexico only accept four-digit PINs. If you don’t have a four-digit PIN, you must speak with your bank before traveling.

Medical Emergency Information

Just recently, Mexico has also changed to 911 for any emergency services. With that, it’s not that hard to call the right authorities to respond to any of your needs. 

Here are other numbers you can call in case of specific emergencies:

  • 074 – Traffic information, roadside assistance and accidents
  • 072 – Citizens’ hotline; can be used to report potholes or pavements that would need repair.
  • 066 – For general crime
  • 089 – To report drug or organized crime activities
  • 066 – To report a car theft

To be sure, you should have travel insurance for Mexico. Make sure to get good travel insurance for Mexico beforehand. Compare options with both WorldNomads and SafetyWing.

Wi-Fi and Internet in Mexico

Finding Wi-Fi hotspots and internet connection in Mexico won’t be a problem for you. Wi-fi spots are widely available across the country. Take note that this is not only for most tourist places, but there’s a strong Wi-Fi presence in Mexico’s rural areas, too.

In case you are looking for public spaces with Wi-Fi access, you can find them in all of Mexico’s airports, coffee shops and bistros, and malls. You can also avail your hotel’s Wi-Fi plans although most of them charge between USD 10 to 20 per day of use. Make sure to set-up a VPN before using public Wi-Fi spots (like ExpressVPN).

You can also opt to use mobile data instead. You can buy a local SIM in most convenience stores such as 7-Eleven and at the airport (or order one online to pickup at the airport). For tourists, Telcel is the recommended mobile service provider. One card costs around 150 MXN, which is around USD 12. This includes 75 pesos credit for calls and SMS. You can also avail of the different data package to cover for your data needs.

For sim cards for mobile phones, it’s easy to get one at the airport, gas stations, newsstands, and grocery stores.

Arrival in Mexico

Majority of the international flights will either arrive at the Mexico City International Airport or Cancun Airport. Most airlines that arrive at the Mexico City International Airport are Southwest Airlines, TACA, AirFrance, Air Canada, Interjet, Cubana de Aviacon, Volaris, and United Airlines, to name a few. For Cancun Airport, most airlines that land and depart from here are JetBlue, Delta, American Airlines, Interjet, Aeromexico, Volaris, and VivaAerobus.

Search for flights to Mexico on Expedia.

You can also arrive in Mexico via train. Via train you will be able to run through the Sierra Madre Occidental between Los Mochis and Chihuahua. Not only that you are bound to arrive in Mexico by this, but you also get to experience the beauty of the country. Also, you have to know that this is the country’s only remaining passenger train.

You can arrive to Mexico via land. If you’re going on a road trip, you are probably crossing the US-Mexico border. But make sure that you have proper identification such as a valid passport or green card. You would also need to secure a vehicle import permit, Mexico Tourist Insurance for your vehicle, Mexico Visa card, and carry your driver’s license around with you at all times.

When you are traveling by ship or boat, you are most likely going to go to Port of Manzanillo first before heading towards the City of Mexico.

Areas of Mexico

The main areas that you will likely visit when travelling to Mexico are listed below.

Mexico City

Known to be its capital and center for urban activities, Mexico City is one of the most famous places in the country. There are a lot of activities and things you can do in Mexico City. You get to enjoy not only the modern and cosmopolitan life, but you’ll also get to see the Aztec ruins and the famous Frida Kahlo Museum. The large central square, Zocalo, is also located in the heart of Mexico City. There are various activities you can do in the city. You can visit their city zoo at the Chapultepec Park and visit some historical works and art that heavily influenced Mexico’s culture at the Museum of Modern Art and National Museum of Anthropology.

Cancun City

Are you tired of the buzzing streets and highly populated areas of Mexico City? Head to Cancun City. Cancun is a city that lies on the Yucatan Peninsula and borders the Caribbean Sea.

There are a lot of things you can do in Cancun. Some include beaches and lively nightlife. In Cancun city, it’s not just about the modern way of life and partying. There’s a more traditional downtown area which is El Centro and Zona Hotelera. During spring break, students from universities usually flock towards this place.

Enjoy swimming, snorkeling, and diving at Cancun’s Underwater beauty. Sailing and jet-skiing are also two of the common water sport activities in the Cancun area.

Chichen Itza

Mexico is filled with culture and tradition. Once you are done exploring the city and beach life, you can move to explore the excavated ruins of the large Maya city. It is located in Chichén Itzá. It’s archeological beauty simply draws you to this place. There is also another site in the city which you can visit. This is known as the Sacred Cenote.

Merida

If you think you have not had enough of the rich Mayan culture of Mexico, then this place is for you. Merida is the capital of the Mexican state of Yucatan. Here, you can see the rich Mayan and colonial heritage Mexico has.

The main tourist attraction in Merida is Plaza de la Independencia. The Merida Cathedral and Iglesia de la Tercsera Orden are two of the places you can visit here. It has both the colonial-era churches that are built using the relics from the ancient Mayan temples. Aside from museums and architectural infrastructures, you can also experience how rich Mexican cuisine is in Merida.

Guadalajara

A Western city located in Mexico which is known for its tequila and mariachi music. Experience Guadalajara’s historic center with colonial plazas and landmarks such as the Teatro Degollado and the Palacio del Gobierno.

Transportation in Mexico

If you want to get around Mexico, buses are the way to go. These are the main public transportation when it comes to long-distance travels. For more extended trips, there are premium buses that allow you to experience extra comfort at an additional cost. You can book your seats in advance to avoid the hassle of waiting in line.

Taxis are also standard in Mexico. They usually run either on a meter or the price can be negotiated with the driver. Another form of a shared taxi is a colectivo. It’s either a car, van, or pick-up which can accommodate several individuals. Colectivos can stop anywhere along the route to drop off or pick up passengers.

Accommodations in Mexico

Since Mexico is a touristy country, finding a place for you to sleep won’t be a problem. Whether you’re around the coast line or in the cities, you are guaranteed to have a place to stay at. For most areas located along the coast, there are Mexico beach hotels you can choose from. Villas and resorts are also widespread in these locations. In cities, hotels, boutiques, and inns are also the most recommended lodging options. 

Since Mexico hosts festivals and fiestas all year round, you should book your rooms in advance to avoid such hassles. We recommend looking for accommodation on Booking or Agoda.

What to Eat and Drink in Mexico

Skip the fast food chains and try local Mexican food. There might be a lot of Mexican restaurants you can try in other countries, but it’s only in Mexico that you can experience their authentic cuisine. 

You should not leave Mexico without trying these foods:

  • Chilaquiles – lightly fried corn tortillas that are cut into quarters and topped with green or red salsa.
  • Pozole – pre-hispanic soup
  • Tacos al pastor
  • Tostadas
  • Chiles en nogada
  • Elote
  • Enchiladas
  • Mole
  • Guacamole
  • Tamales

It’s highly recommended to try out Mexican food that isn’t usually available in your country. At least, this time around, you can taste something new and foreign to you.

Are you a vegan? Check out our guide for vegan travel in Mexico.

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Things to Do and See in Mexico

There are a lot of Mexico City tours that you can join. However, these are the top things you should do and places you should see in Mexico.

Get artsy in Mexico City. Of course, what would your tour be without exploring Mexico’s capital? Visiting museums is part of the many daily trips from Mexico City. However, you can do more than just visit the museums in this place. You can also do some art yourself! It’s also a bonus when you come across a festival or fiesta around the city. The place is full of colorful masks and costumes.

Taste legitimate Tequila. The best place you can drown in tequila all day is at Amatitan. This is where Mexico’s national drink originated from. Before leaving Mexico, you can’t afford to miss visiting the town of Amatitan. The place is undeniably touristy with shops and stalls filled with tequila and other spirits. You can also go tequila tasting in Jalisco with this day tour from Guadalajara.

Witness the Day of the Dead. If you’re traveling to Mexico around the end of October to the first week of November, then see the festivities of the Day of the Dead. When the whole world mourns for their loss, in Mexico, the dead are something that should be celebrated. You cannot afford to miss the sights of anything related to corpses in floats in Mexico City!

Feel the Mayan magic at Yucatan. Since Mexico’s culture includes the Mayan heritage, you should not pass on visiting its heritage sites. Yucatan, which is considered to be the most famous Mayan site, houses the step-pyramids that the Mayans built in their times.

Check out our guide on how to plan an epic Baja California vacation as well as a full list of things to do in Cabo San Lucas. We’ve also got all the details for checking out Copper Canyon, visiting Teotihuacan, Kohunlich and Guadalupe Canyon.

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Shopping in Mexico

You can shop to your heart’s content in Mexico! Mexico is one of the few places in the world that has a variety of shopping places. From malls to market areas, Mexico has got it all for you.

The La Lagunilla is known to be the largest market in all of Mexico. It’s a dazzling traditional market which is excellent for tourists. You can shop for clothes, furniture, souvenirs, and even indulge in Mexico’s famous street food.

However, if you prefer to shop at luxurious designer shops, then Paseo de la Reforma 222 is the perfect place for you. The Reforma 222 is one of the tallest buildings in Mexico. The mall has designer brands like Zara, Dior, Bershka, and the like. It’s also one of the most popular and best malls to shop in Mexico City.

One of the quirkiest places in Mexico to shop is at Artes Galeria y Antiguedades. You can find stretches of benches filled with handicrafts and artworks. If you are looking for an authentic Mexican souvenir you can take home, then this is the perfect place for you to find your loot. Other recommended shopping areas in Mexico are Pueblo Serena and Ambarte.

Mexico’s Nightlife

If the purpose of your travel to Mexico is to experience the nightlife the country has to bring, then you are in luck. All-nighters and night parties in Mexico are a part of their usual scene. For you to get the best out of your nightlife experience, you should definitely go to the Republica del Distrito Club.

Located at Polanco, one of the poshest areas in Mexico City, it’s possible that you might rub elbows with several celebrities and A-listers every now and then. For a different club experience, you can choose to go to Mama Rumba. Be ready with your best Latin Salsa moves as the songs that are usually played in this place.

However, if you just want a chill night out with some cocktails and great ambience, then Jules Basement is the place for you to go. No pressure for dancing whatsoever!

Safety Tips for Mexico

If you are using walking day tours or instances when you have to take public transportation, you should not wear flashy jewelry. Pickpockets and petty theft are also common in most tourist areas. Bring only what you need for your trip. Avoid bringing your gadgets like laptops or expensive cameras just to be safe. At the same time, you should also avoid driving alone, especially at night.

Some tourists prefer joining a tour for safe travel in Mexico. Tour operators like GAdventures and Intrepid Travel offer great Mexican tours that are sometimes viewed as safer than traveling on your own.

Conclusion

Mexico is a country mixed with both traditional and modern practices. Until this day, the cultures of Mayan and Aztec civilization can still be seen in the people and places of Mexico. If you are travelling to Mexico, make sure that you check whether there are fiestas or festivals you can participate in. In this way, you can experience everything that Mexico has to offer you. From its culture, practices and traditions to its food, you will experience it all when you visit this country.

Make sure that your trip to Mexico includes both the beaches and city life to experience both worlds. Don’t be shy with trying out all of the different Mexican foods either!

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