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Mexico

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Mexico (Spanish: México), the United Mexican States (Spanish: Estados Unidos Mexicanos), is a country in North America, lying between the United States of America to the north, and Guatemala and Belize to the southeast. Its extensive coastlines include the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Mexico has unique cuisine, art, archaeology, pyramids, museums, Haciendas, 9,600 km (6,000 miles) of shoreline, superb architecture, weather from snow mountains in the Sierras, to rainy jungles in the Southeast and desert in the Northwest, many golf courses and excellent fishing. Besides that, Mexico is famous for its food, its culture and world class cities like Mexico City and the once poor nation has experienced significant economic growth in the last decades, leading to better services and facilities all around.

Regions

Cities

  • Mexico City - Capital of the Republic, one of the three largest cities in the world, and a sophisticated urban hub with a 700-year history. In Mexico City, you will find everything from parks, Aztec ruins, colonial architecture, museums, to nightlife and shopping.
  • Acapulco - A sophisticated urban beach setting known for its top-notch nightlife, elegant dining, and nightmarish traffic. Many of the older (pre-1990s) concrete structures have suffered tropical decay.
  • Cancún - One of the worlds most popular and famous beaches, known for its clear Caribbean waters, its lively party atmosphere, and its wealth of recreational facilities. During Spring Break it is noted for drinking, sunburns, and debauchery.
  • Guadalajara - A traditional city, capital of Jalisco state, and the home of mariachi music and tequila. Guadalajara is blessed with perpetual spring weather and its colonial downtown is graceful and sophisticated.
  • Mazatlan - Lively Pacific coast town, Mazatlan is a shipping port, a transportation hub with ferries to Baja California, and a beach resort destination with miles of sandy shore. It is a popular Spring Break destination due to its variety of affordable lodging options.
  • Monterrey - A large modern city that is the commercial and industrial hub of Northern Mexico. Monterrey enjoys a dry, mountainous setting and is known for its high-quality educational and transportation infrastructure.
  • San Luis Potosi - Located in central Mexico, a colonial city that was once an important silver producer, but today, relies on manufacturing for its economic base.
  • Taxco - In central Mexico west of Cuernavaca, this nice steep mountain town was once a major silver producer, and now has a strong place in the trade of decorative silver, from cheap fittings to the most elegant jewelry and elaborate castings.
  • Tijuana - Mexico's busiest border crossing for pedestrians and private vehicles, and a long-time bargain Mecca for southern Californians due to its proximity with San Diego.

Other destinations

  • Copper Canyon (Barrancas del Cobre) - An exotic destination for travelers looking for a unique remote adventure! An awesome mountain rail ride -- one of the greatest in the world -- takes you upwards over 2,440 m (8000 feet) on the CHEPE, the Chihuahua al Pacifico Railway. Hiking, horseback riding, birding, and Tarahumara Indians. Copper Canyon, the Sierra Madre and the Chihuahuan desert of Mexico. This area is designed for adventurous individuals who will tolerate some rough travel to get to their point(s) of interest (although the famous train ride isn't demanding at all). Copper Canyon, a magnificent remote wilderness is not likely ever to become a mass market destination.
  • Sea of Cortez - See whale birthings, swim with dolphins, and sea kayak in the warm waters of the Sea of Cortez, along the eastern coast of Baja California, near La Paz. And the sunsets at Puerto Peñasco and San Carlos are not to be missed.
  • Monarch Butterfly Breeding Sites - Protected natural areas in the highlands of the state of Michoacán. Millions of butterflies come to the area between November and March of each year, although numbers have declined sharply.
  • Sumidero Canyon - From docks on the Rio Grivalva (the only major river within Mexico) near Tuxtla Gutiérrez in Chiapas state, tour launches take you into this steep-walled National Park. You'll likely see vast flocks of flamingos, pelicans, and other waterfowl, as well as crocodiles.

Archaeological sites

  • Chichen Itza - Majestic Mayan city, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988 and was voted as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
  • Ek Balam - A reconstructed Mayan site, famous for its unique decorated stucco 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 sites making part of the "Tradición él Bajío".
  • Monte Alban - In the state of Oaxaca, a Zapotec site dating from about 500 BC. A UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Palenque - Mayan city in the state of Chiapas, Palenque famous for its elaborate paintings. Also well known for having the largest tract of rainforest in Mexico located in the same area.
  • Teotihuacan - In the state of Mexico, near Mexico City. Enormous site with several large pyramids.
  • Tulum - Mayan coastal city with spectacular Caribbean vistas. Dates from late Mayan period.
  • Uxmal - Impressive Mayan city-state in the Puc Region, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.

Understand

Mexico is one of the most visited countries in the world. Much of the tourist industry is centered around the beach resorts as well as the altiplano in the central part of the country. Visiting the northern interior allows visitors to get off the beaten path a bit. U.S. American tourists tend to predominate on the Baja California peninsula and the more modernized beach resorts (Cancún, Puerto Vallarta), while European tourists congregate around the smaller resort areas in the south like Playa del Carmen and colonial towns San Cristobal de las Casas.

Climate

Mexico uses the metric system for all measurements. All weather forecasts are in Celsius (°C).

Varies from desert-like regions on the northwest part of the country (cities like Hermosillo, Ciudad Juárez, or Los Cabos), to temperate in the northeastern part (cities like MonterreyNuevo Laredo, Ciudad Acuña). But much of the northern Mexican territory gets rather cold during the winter with average day time highs from 8°C (39°F) to 12°C (59°F), overnight lows average around -4°C (24°F). Snow is sometimes frequent in certain northern places like (the Sierra Madre of ChihuahuaDurango, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and northern Tamaulipas), but can also occur at higher altitudes in the temperate forests in the central part of Mexico. Also, northern Mexico gets very hot during the summer with sudden violent storms in the afternoon, with heavy rain and hail, also an isolated tornado can occur with these storms but rarely, and the temperatures during the day can quickly exceed 39°C (100°F). The Bajío region is semiarid (cities like Aguascalientes, León and Zacatecas). There are temperate forests in the central part of the country (Mexico City, Toluca), and tropical rain forests in the south and southeast regions like (Chiapas, Cancún). The region stretching from Guadalajara to Morelia enjoys what many consider one of the best climates in the world, with daily high temps 21°C to 26°C (in the high 70s and 80s °F) year round. Hurricanes can be common in the coastal cities specially those near the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.

Landscape

High, rugged mountains; low coastal plains; high plateaus; temperate plains with grasslands and Mezquite trees in the northeast, desert and even more rugged mountains in the northwest, tropical rainforests in the south and southeast Chiapas, Yucatán Peninsula semiarid in places like Aguascalientes, San Luis Potosí and temperate coniferous and deciduous forests in the central part of the country Mexico CityToluca.

Holidays

  • January 1: New Year's Day
  • January 6: The Three Wise Men day, celebrating arrival of the Three Wise Men to see and bring gifts to the baby Jesus (not an official holiday).
  • February 2: The Candelaria Day ("Day of the candles"), celebrated in many places around the country (not an official holiday)
  • February 5: Constitution Day (1917)
  • February 24: Flag Day (not official)
  • March 21: Birth of Benito Juárez (1806)
  • April 30: Kid's Day
  • May 1: Labor Day
  • May 5: The Battle of Puebla against the French army, 19th century (not an official holiday)
  • May 10: Mother's Day
  • May 15: Teacher's Day
  • September 1: Presidential Address Day
  • September 15: Grito de Dolores
  • September 16: Independence Day (celebrates the start of the fight for the independence from Spain in 1810, achieved until September 27, 1821)
  • October 12: Day of the Race (not a public holiday)
  • November 2: Day of the Dead (not a public holiday)
  • November 20: Mexican Revolution Day (1910)
  • December 12: Virgin Mary of Guadalupe Day. Not a public holiday, but is one of the most important Mexican holidays
  • December 24: Christmas Eve (not a public holiday, but normally a full non-working day)
  • December 25: Christmas
  • December 31: New Year’s Eve (not a public holiday, but normally a full non-working day)

Easter is widely observed nationwide, according to the yearly Catholic calendar (the first Sunday after the first full moon in Spring). Actual non-working days may shift to the Monday before the holiday, so check an up-to-date calendar.

Time

The 24-hour clock system is used for time keeping. Mexico uses the same four time zones as the contiguous United States, but three of them are only used in peripheral parts of the country.

  • Northwest Zone (UTC-10, corresponds to U.S. Pacific Time): Baja California (state)
  • Pacific Zone (UTC-9, corresponds to U.S. Mountain Time): Baja California Sur, Chihuahua (state), Nayarit, Sinaloa, Sonora
  • Central Zone (UTC-8, corresponds to U.S. Central Time): The rest of the country, except Quintana Roo
  • Southeastern Zone (UTC-7, corresponds to U.S. Eastern Time): Quintana Roo

Almost all of Mexico observes daylight savings time (DST) the same way as the USA did pre-2007, from first Sunday in April to last Sunday in October. This now includes the tropical regions of southern Mexico as well. Communities on the U.S. border, except in Sonora, now observe DST on the U.S. schedule. The entire state of Baja California also observes DST on the U.S. schedule. There will be several weeks each year when the U.S. is on DST, but most of Mexico is not. The state of Sonora south of Arizona, does not observe DST since Arizona doesn't have it either.

History

Pre-Columbian

See also: Indigenous cultures of North America

Among the earliest complex civilizations in Mexico was the Olmec culture that flourished on the Gulf Coast in 1500 BCE. Olmec culture diffused through Mexico into formative era cultures in Chiapas, Oaxaca and the Valley of Mexico.

In Central Mexico the height of the classical period saw the ascendancy of Teotihuacan, which formed a military and commercial empire. It had the largest structures of pyramids built in the pre-Columbian Americas.

During the early post-classic Mexico was dominated by Toltec culture, and the lowland Maya had important areas at Calakmul and Chichen Itza. At the end of the post-Classical period, the Aztecs built a tributary empire covering most of Central Mexico. The Mesoamerican cultural traditions ended in the 16th century and over the next centuries, Mexican indigenous cultures were under Spanish colonial rule. However, contrary to popular misconceptions neither the Maya nor the Aztec culture ever entirely "disappeared" and to this day many Mexicans trace at least part of their heritage to indigenous roots and language such as Nahuatl and numerous Maya tongues are still spoken by hundreds of thousands or even millions of Mexicans. Indigenous elements are visible even today in loanwords in Mexican Spanish, traditional dress, Mexican cuisine, architecture and even religious observances (nominally "catholic" to varying degrees). The eagle and the snake on a cactus depicted on the Mexican flag, for example, refers to an Aztec legend about the founding of Tenochtitlan, the city that now is Mexico City.

Colonial and early independence

Mexico remained under Spanish colonial rule until 1821 when it declared independence under the terms of "Plan of Iguala". After the short lived Mexican empire of 1821-1823 (former Spanish general and independence hero Augustin de Iturbide brievly declared himself emperor but was overthrown after two years) Mexico became a republic with a fragile balance of powers between liberals (allied mostly with urban merchants) and conservatives (allied with the church and big landholders) and Antonio López de Santa Anna became president several times while also being overthrown by his opponents several times thus having eight non-consecutive terms as president as well as five "permanent" exiles.

Independent Mexico

The early Mexican state was anything but stable and Texas (under the leadership of US-American immigrants who wanted to make Texas a slave-holding state of the US) as well as Yucatan seceded at several points with Maya rebels fighting against both the Yucatan independence movement and the federal government in the so called "Caste war".

After Texas gained de facto independence a disagreement as to its southern border (the Nueces river as claimed by Mexico or the Rio Grande as claimed by Texas) led to the involvement of the US in a brief war that ended in a devastating defeat for Mexico (the line about the "halls of Montezuma" in the marines' song refers to the presidential palace in Mexico city that was conquered by the US) and the loss of Alta California (now the US state of California), Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico as well as the definite loss of Texas north of the Rio Grande.

French intervention and Second Mexican empire

In 1861, when president Benito Juarez (see below) suspended the payment of Mexico's debt, France decided to invade the country in order to regain some or all of its money. This was only possible because the United States, which had declared in its Monroe Doctrine that it wouldn't tolerate any European intervention in the sovereign states of the Americas, started its Civil War that same year. After overthrowing the government (though Mexican resistance against the occupiers never ceased) the French installed a Hapsburg prince as emperor Maximilian I to act as their puppet. While the Mexican monarchy had some support among conservatives its days were numbered when the French troops were withdrawn after the end of the American Civil war, and in 1867, Maximilian was executed by firing squad. Cinco de Mayo, which in the US is often mistaken to be "Mexican independence day", is celebrated in remembrance of the battle of Puebla that occurred during the French occupation and was decisively won by Mexican republican forces.

Benito Juarez

Benito Juarez was the first president of indigenous descent in all of Latin America and is one very few figures that is still almost exclusively seen as a positive figure in Mexican history. He was president from 1858 to 1864 and again from 1867 to his death in 1872. His saying "el respeto al derecho ajeno es la paz" (respect for the rights of others is peace) is still frequently quoted.

Porfirio Diaz

Porfirio Diaz, a general during the French intervention rose to power shortly after the death of Juarez and ruled Mexico from 1876 to 1911. While initially willing and able to reform and modernize the country the sheer length of his reign and his corruption led to a lot of unhappiness about his government and in 1911 the Mexican revolution broke out, originally to unseat him from power.

The Mexican Revolution

Under the PRI

Once the dust of the revolution had settled the Revolutionary Institutional Party (PRI [pronounced /pree/] for its Spanish name) became the dominant political force and all presidents before the early 1990s were members of the PRI. They did not however establish a one party state and other parties were still legal and participated in elections, however the success of the PRI candidate (especially at the federal level) was almost always a given. As such political power struggles mostly took place within the PRI with more conservative or left wing factions gaining the upper hand from time to time. In 1988 during a presidential election that was actually close for the first time in decades a computer that counted the votes supposedly crashed and the words with which this was announced "se cayó el sistema" are noted for their ambiguity as they can mean either "the computer broke down" or "the (political) system fell". Nonetheless according to the official result (which was and still is doubted by many) the PRI candidate won a six year term in office just narrowly surpassing the 50% threshold needed to avoid a runoff election. In 2000 the PRI finally lost its first itssidential election when Vicente Fox of the Conservative national action party (PAN) won a narrow victory in a three way race. In 2006 the PAN won again with Felipe Calderon being elected president but in 2012 the PRI returned to power with Enrique Peña Nieto, who promised to end the drug war being elected to the presidency. Whether this proves temporary or the PRI has indeed regained its once dominant status, remains yet to be seen.

Mexico today

Despite problems such as corruption and the drug war in the North (with some areas under de facto control of different cartels), Mexico has grown steadily, and there have been democratic multiparty elections with peaceful transition of power. A fairly stable three party system has emerged: the PAN (conservative) and PRI (centrist, catch all, sometimes leftist) have each won the presidency several times and the PRD (left of the PRI) has been a serious contender in almost all elections.

The drug war is ongoing and some parts of the country are not entirely safe, but the situation has bettered a lot after the 2000s. Generally the North with cities such as Ciudad Juarez notorious for their violence is more dangerous than the south and Yucatan is among the safest regions in Latin America. For more on the effects of the drug war see the stay safe section of this article and the individual region articles.

Get in

Visa and other entrance requirements

According to the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores), certain foreign nationals who intend to stay in Mexico fewer than 180 days for the purpose of tourism or 30 days for business can fill out a tourist card at the border or upon landing at an airport after presenting a valid passport, for US$22. If arriving via air, it is included in the price of the fare. This service is available to citizens of 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, Ireland, Iceland, 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, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago, United States of America, Uruguay and Venezuela (see official list here). Permanent residents of the United States, Canada, Japan, United Kingdom, and Schengen area countries are also eligible for visas on arrival regardless of citizenship.

The current Mexican tourist card is formally known as a Forma Migratoria Múltiple (Multiple Immigration Form), or FMM. It has a perforation that divides the card into two parts, of which the right side asks for some of the same information requested on the left side. At entry, after reviewing your passport and filled-out FMM, the immigration officer will stamp your passport and the FMM, separate the FMM along the perforation and give the right side of the FMM back to you with your passport. Keep the FMM together with your passport at all times. It is your responsibility to make sure the right side of the FMM is returned to the Mexican government at time of departure so that the bar code can be scanned, thus showing that you left the country on time. For example, if you are flying with Aeromexico, they will ask for your passport and FMM at check-in for your flight home, then staple your FMM to your boarding pass. You are expected to then hand the boarding pass together with your FMM to the gate agent as you board your flight. If you lose your FMM during your visit to Mexico, you may be subject to substantial delays and fines before you can leave the country.

Electronic authorization (Autorización Electrónica) for travelling to Mexico is available on the Internet for nationals from Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine. Other nationalities must contact a Mexican consulate in order to find out the requirements for citizens of their country, and may have to apply for and obtain a visa in advance of travel. If you are in need of other information, Mexico has diplomatic offices in the following cities around the world. The consulates in the USA are typically open for business to non-citizens (by telephone or in-person) only from 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM.

If you cross the border via road, do not expect the authorities to automatically signal you to fill out your paperwork. You will have to locate the border office yourself.

The immigration officer at your point of entry into Mexico can also request that you demonstrate that you have sufficient economic solvency and a round trip ticket.

If you do not intend to travel past the "border zone" and your stay does not exceed three days, U.S. and Canadian nationals require only a proof of citizenship. Reentry into the United States generally requires a passport, but a U.S. or Canadian Enhanced Drivers License (or Enhanced Photo ID) or U.S. passport card is acceptable for reentry by land or sea.

By plane

From the United States and Canada

There are hundreds of daily flights linking Mexico to cities large and small throughout North America. This includes legacy carriers such as Air Canada, Aeromexico, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, and Delta, and discount airlines such as JetBlue, Spirit, WestJet, Virgin America and Southwest Airlines. Also to be considered is the Mexican discount carrier Volaris, which operates from several major US cities (including Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Oakland, Orlando, San Diego and Portland) through their hubs in Mexico City and Guadalajara. The other carrier, Interjet also serve Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, San Antonio and Houston. In return, United Airlines/United Express (operated by Express Jet and Skywest) fly to additional cities in Mexico besides GuadalajaraMexico CityCancunPuerto Vallarta and other major beach resorts (which are already served by multiple US & Mexican carriers) such as to Aguascaliente, Chihuahua, Ciudad de Carmen, Durango, Huatulco, Leon/Guanajuato, OaxacaMeridaSan Luis PotosiTorreonTampicoVeracruz and Villahermosa from Houston. Flights to additional Mexican cities are operated by Aeromar on a code-share basis.

As in the United States and Canada, you will have to clear immigration and customs at your first Mexican port of entry, even though that airport may not be your final destination. (For example, many trips on Aeromexico will involve connecting through its Mexico City hub.) You will then have to re-check your bags and go through security again to proceed to your next flight segment.

From Australia or New Zealand

Fly from Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne or Auckland (NZ) direct to Los Angeles on Delta, Qantas, United, and Virgin Australia. Air New Zealand offers one-stop air service from Australia and non-stop air service from Auckland to Los Angeles. Hawaiian Airlines and Air Tahiti Nui offer one- or two-stop air service to Los Angeles from Australia and New Zealand.

Many airlines continue from Los Angeles to Mexico including AeroMexico/Aeromexico Connect, Alaska Airlines, Volaris, Interjet, United and Virgin America, some of which have interline or alliance ticketing and baggage check through. More options are available if connecting through another USA city. Also, make sure to have a good look at visas beforehand - even just for transit you will need something for USA, and if you get a visa waiver, they treat Mexico as part of the USA, meaning if you stay longer than 90 days in Mexico, you will need to travel further south before returning to USA.

From Europe

Most commercial airlines link Mexico directly from 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 carriers will serve both Mexico City and Cancun while other will only serve one and not the other (usually only to Cancun such as those from Russia and Italy). Additional flights to Cancun from Europe may only be available as charters and some may operate during the winter months (Dec-Feb) only. It is always worth to compare flight offers from air carriers and charter companies who can bring you to Mexico City or Cancun via many European hubs. The flight duration from those cities is always approximately 11 hours.

By train

There are four Amtrak stations on U.S. border cities: San Diego, Yuma, Del Rio and El Paso. Mexico is easily accessible from all of these. From the Santa Fe Depot in San Diego, the trolley runs all the way to the California-Baja California border. In El Paso, the station is a short walk from the border. There are however only rudimentary train services inside Mexico and none crossing any border whatsoever.

By car

American automobile insurance is not accepted in Mexico; however, it is easy to obtain short-term or long-term tourist policies that include the mandatory liability coverage, theft and accident coverage for your vehicle, and often, legal assistance coverage. Should you decide to drive to Mexico, the Transport and Communications Secretariat website has free downloadable road maps.

Foreign-plated vehicles must obtain necessary permits before being allowed into the interior of Mexico. This can be done at the border checkpoints by showing your vehicle title or registration, as well as immigration documents and a valid credit card. It is now possible to apply for your vehicle import permit online. Vehicle permits will only be issued to the registered owner of the vehicle, so the papers will have to be in the name of the applicant. The Baja California peninsula and the northern part of the State of Sonora do not require a permit.

Due to the incredibly high volume of drugs and illegal immigration (into the US) and drug money & weapons (into Mexico) crossing the US-Mexico border, expect long delays and thorough searches of vehicles when crossing the border. At some of the busiest crossings, expect a waiting time of 1–3 hours.

By bus

The Mexican bus system is reportedly the most efficient in the world. Buses are without a doubt the backbone of personal intercity transport in Mexico as private car ownership is a lot lower than in its neighbor to the north and trains mostly serve cargo and tourism purposes. Chances are, you will meet a lot of locals, traveling by bus. There are many different independent companies but all use a central computerized ticketing system. Rates per mile are generally comparable to those of Greyhound in the U.S., but there are more departures and the system serves much smaller villages than its American counterpart. There are many bus companies based in Mexico with branch offices in major U.S. cities with a few such examples noted below.

  • Omnibus Mexicanos
  • Autobus Americanos -- services from Mexico-US as co-brand between Grupo Estrella Blanca and Greyhound Lines.
  • El Expresso
  • Grupo Senda/Turimex
  • TUFESA Bus Lines

A ticket to a major Mexican city from the southwestern U.S. can be bought for as little as $60 round trip (San Antonio TX to Monterrey N.L.). These companies, however, cater mostly to Hispanics or Mexican Nationals living in the U.S. and operate mostly in Spanish.

Greyhound offers tickets from the US to major Mexican cities with Grupo Estrella Blanca further south of the border, including Monterrey, Querétaro, DurangoMazatlanTorreonMexico City. It is best (and cheapest) to buy a round-trip Greyhound ticket since it may be more difficult and expensive to buy a ticket from Mexico to a US destination which is not a major city. When departing from Mexico, the local bus line (usually Futura) will change the Greyhound-issued ticket into its own, free of charge.

By boat

Get around

Travelling in Mexico is most practical by bus, car, or air. Passenger transport by train is almost nonexistent. Except the Chihuahua del Pacifico rail line which pull out every morning at both ends of the line, one from Los Mochis on the Pacific coast, across from Baja California, and the other from Chihuahua in the east (due south of El Paso, Texas). They cross each other roughly midways at Divisadero and Barrancas Copper Canyon stations at an altitude of 2100 m (7000 ft).

By car

Main article: Driving in Mexico

Due to a government scheme in the early 1990s to create infrastructure, the best roads are toll roads. Toll roads can be relatively costly (M$400-800 is common on longer trips) but are much faster and better maintained. First-class buses generally travel by toll roads (and the toll is obviously included in the ticket price).

US vehicle insurance is not valid in Mexico, and while Mexican auto insurance is not required, it is highly recommended, as any minor accident could land you in jail without it. MexiPass and AAA offer Mexican auto insurance.

When traveling on Mexican roads, especially near the borders with the United States and Guatemala, one will probably encounter several checkpoints operated by the Mexican Army searching for illegal weapons and drugs. If you are coming from the United States, you may not be used to this, and it can be intimidating. However, these are rarely a problem for honest people. Simply do what the soldiers tell you to do, and treat them with respect. The best way to show respect when entering a checkpoint is to turn your music down, lift sunglasses from your face, and be prepared to roll your window down. They should treat you with respect as well, and they usually do. If you are asked to unpack any part of your vehicle, do so without complaint. It is their right to make you completely unload in order for them to inspect your cargo.

Tourists are often warned about traveling on roads at night. Although bandidos are rare in more metropolitan areas, err on the side of caution in more rural areas. The best bet is to drive during only daylight hours. Cattle, dogs, and other animals also can appear on the roadway unexpectedly, so if you do have to drive at night, be very cautious. If possible, follow a bus or truck that seems to be driving safely.

Foreign drivers' licenses are recognized and recommended. Speeding tickets are common, and to ensure your presence at the hearing, the officer may choose to keep your license. He is within his rights to do so. Beware though, police officers are known to keep driver's licenses until they are given a bribe.

At petrol (gas) stations, make sure the pump is zeroed out before the attendant begins pumping your gas so that you don't end up paying more than you should. There is only one brand of gas station (Pemex) and prices are generally the same regardless of location, so don't bother shopping around.

Good maps are invaluable and the Mexico maps included in "North American Road Atlas" books are worse than useless. The Guia Roji maps are particularly good.

By plane

Mexico is a large country and with the low-cost revolution that started in 2005 following the break up of the CINTRA monopoly new (budget) airlines had came in and expanded, offering competitive fares that rival bus travel over long distances. With increases in fuel costs the bargain days may be gone but the prices are still reasonable than it was when CINTRA operated Mexicana and Aeromexico as a monopoly before 2005. Mexicana Airlines ceased operations in 2010. Major airlines hubs for all or several of the airlines are in Mexico CityTolucaGuadalajaraCancun and/or Monterrey and additional point to point service from several other cities.

The main airlines providing service to cities within Mexico are:

  • Aeromexico/Aeromexico Connect, ? +52 55 5133-4000 (MX), toll-free: +1-800-237-6639 (US). Is the 'national' and 'legacy' carrier with hubs in Mexico CityGuadalajara and Monterrey. They're 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: 01800 01 12345 (MX). Hubs are in Mexico City & Toluca. A member of the One World Alliance using the membership spot left behind by the defunct Mexicana Airlines.
  • Magnicharters, ? +52 55 5678-1000, +52 55 5678-3600 (DF), +52 81 2282-9620, +52 2282-9621 (MTY). Hubs are in Monterrey & Mexico City. Used to operate only between MonterreyMexico CityGuadalajara & Cancun. They had since expanded to include additional Mexican and U.S. cities.
  • VivaAerobus. Hubs are in MonterreyMexico City & Guadalajara
  • Volaris, ? +52 55 1102-8000, toll-free: +1 855 865-2747(US)FORMAT. Hubs are in GuadalajaraMexico CityToluca & Tijuana. Since the demise of Mexicana in 2010 they had expanded & taken over many of (defunct) Mexicana's routes and airport slots within Mexico & the U.S.

There are also small airlines operating within 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 & Sinaloa in the northwestern part of the country in the smaller Embraer ERJ & Cessna aircraft. They also offer charters & air taxi services too.
  • Aerotucán, ? +52 952 503-34-11, 109-51-68 (mobile)NOCC. Flies between Oaxaca City, Huatulco and Puerto Escondido in Oaxaca state.
  • Mayair. Operates regional flights from Cancun to Cozumel and Merida and from Villahermosa to Veracruz and Merida in the smaller Cessna equipment.
  • TAR, ? +52 55 2629-5272. Hub in Queretaro with focus cities in GuadalajaraMonterreyMeridaPuerto Vallarta and Toluca.

By bus

If traveling by bus, be sure to take the express (first class) buses (directo, sin escalas, primera clase), if available. First class (directo, sin escalas, primera clase) buses are usually direct routes and are the best option for most. These buses are comfortable, have washrooms/toilets and will generally show movies, which may or may not be in English with Spanish subtitles (or vice versa). Others may even offer a drink and a little snack. First class buses travel over longer distances between cities, and use toll freeways where available. They may make scheduled stops (semi-directo) at specific bus stations en-route otherwise they make NO stops en-route. Other buses such as the second class (economico, ordinario, local) buses may be very similar to first class only they travel along secondary highways through cities, towns and villages and stop anywhere along the road on request. Second class bus routes are typically shorter and will take considerably longer to travel over longer distances (such as from Cancun to Mexico City) with multiple stops and multiple transfers, it is not worth the few pesos saved over first class buses. They are fine for more local travel, 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 more available than first class such as going to Zempoala (town) from Veracruz (city). Some of the second class buses may even be chicken buses (polleros) in rural, off the beaten track, places. Executive (Ejecutivo) and Luxury (Lujo) lines cost about 60% more than first class, may be faster, usually have larger seats, and they have less frequent departures; they rival flying business class on a plane and are a good option for elderly or business travelers or overnight travel in lieu of a night's stay at a hotel (or hostel).

When acquiring tickets for the bus, the local custom is that the passenger comes to the terminal and buys the ticket for next available bus going to the desired destination with first and deluxe class buses unless it is during busy travel times such as Easter and Christmas. During busy travel times tickets can be booked one or two days in advance online or at the station. With second class buses, tickets can be purchased at the station within 2 hours of a departure, no advance reservations prior, at the beginning of a route or the fare paid to the driver if picked up from along side of the road. With the advent of NAFTA, some bus companies are now offering service from multiple US cities in several US states. The major bus companies offering these kind of services are:

  • ABC (Autobuses de Baja California). Bus services up and down the Baja California Peninsula and along Hwy 2/2D to western Sonora
  • ADO (Autobuses Del Oriente), ? +52 55 5133-5133, toll-free: 01 800-009-9090. They operate the ADO, ADO GL, AU (Autobus Unidos), OCC (Omnibus Cristobal Colon), and Platino bus lines, and the Boletotal/Ticketbus.com booking site. They are a major bus company in the eastern and southeastern part of the country towards the Guatemalan border in the states of Guerrero, OaxacaPueblaVeracruz, Chiapas, Tamaulipas, Tabasco, and the Yucatan Peninsula (Yucatan, Quintana Roo and Campeche). They offer an once daily trip to/from Belize City via Chetumal from Cancun and Merida and connecting service with Tica Bus, Trans Galgos and King Quality in Tapachula for onward travel to/from Central America.
  • Autovias, HDP, La Linea, toll-free: +1 800-622-22-22. goes from Mexico DF to the surrounding Mexico state and beyond to Colima, Guerreo, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Michoacan, and Queretaro states.
  • Costa Line AERS, ? +52 55 5336-5560, toll-free: 01 800-0037-635. Serves mainly in Mexico state, Morelos and Guerrero from Mexico City. They also operate the Turistar, Futura and AMS bus lines.
  • ETN (Enlances Terrestre Nacionales), Turistar Lujo. They offer a 'deluxe' or 'executive' class seating with 2 seats on one side of the aisle and one on the opposite side with more leg room and an ability to recline into a lying position. They go to Aguascaliente, Baja California Norte, Coahuila, ChihuahuaDurangoGuanajuato, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Mexico, Mexico City DF, Michocoan, Morelos, Nayrit, Nuevo LeonOaxaca (coast), QueretaroSan Luis Potosi, Sinaloa, Sonora, Veracruz (Poza Rica, Tuxpan) and Zacatecas states
  • Grupo Estrella Blanca (White Star), ? +52 55 5729-0807, toll-free: 01 800-507-5500. They operate the Elite, TNS (Transportes Norte de Sonora), Chihuahuanese, Pacifico, Oriente, TF (Tranporte Frontera), Estrella Blanca, Conexion, Rapidos de Cuauhtemoc, Valle de Guadiana and Autobus Americanos bus lines. As the largest bus company they serve much of the northern & northwestern part of the country such as Aguascaliente, Baja California Norte, Coahuila, ChihuahuaDurango, Districto Federal (DF), Guanajuato, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Mexico, Michocoan, Morelos, Nayrit, QueretaroSan Luis Potosi, Sinaloa, Sonora and Zacatecas states, up to the US border. They sell tickets for onward travel to the United States from the border on Greyhound Lines (and vice versa).
  • Estrella de Oro (Gold Star), ? +52 55 5133-5133, toll-free: 01 800-009-9090. operates mainly between Mexico City and various places in Districto Federal (DF), Guerrero, Veracruz and Hidalgo states. They are now a subsidiary of Grupo ADO but also a separate company and brand.
  • Estrella Roja (Red Star), ? +52 222 273-8300, toll-free: 01 800-712-2284. Travels 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 include ETN, Turistar Lujo, Coordinados, TTUR and Flecha Amarilla (2nd class service) bus lines. They serve Aguascaliente, Colima, Districto Federal (DF), DurangoGuanajuato, Jalisco, Michocoan, Nayrit, QueretaroSan Luis Potosi, Sinaloa & Zacatecas states
  • Grupo Flecha Roja, Aguila, ? +52 55 5516 5153, toll-free: 01 800 224-8452. operates mainly between Mexico City and various places in northern part of Mexico state into Queretaro state on the Flecha Roja brand and to the southeastern part of Mexico State into Guerrero and Morelos states as Aguila.
  • FYPSA, ? +52 951 516-2270. operates mainly between Districto Federal (DF), Mexico state, Oaxaca and Chiapas states.
  • Pullman de Morelos, ? +52 55 5545-3505, toll-free: 0800 624-03-60. Operates buses in/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 much of the north central part of the country such as Aguascaliente, Colima, Coahuila, ChihuahuaDurango, Guerrero, Jalisco,Michocoan, Nuevo LeonQueretaroSan Luis Potosi, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas and Zacatecas states, up to the US border. From the border they continue up to the southeastern and central U.S. states of 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. goes from Mexico DF to the surrounding Mexico, Guerreo and Michoacan states

The above are major bus lines traversing much of the country with some crossing the border into the U.S. No bus company holds a large market share nationwide like Greyhound in the U.S. but some do have a greater market share in certain regions. There are over 200 other companies and drivers' unions operating buses not listed in the above which you will find once there or see (or add to) the specific articles of a region, city or town.

On the other hand if traveling within a city, you won't find a pleasant surprise. You will find one of the most chaotic public transport systems full of the popular "peseros". "Peseros" are small buses with varying color codes depending on the city you are in. Usually the route taken is written on cardboard attached to the windshield or with wet and than dried soap or chalk on the windshield listing the local colonias (neighborhoods) and points of interest (Wal Mart, Costco, malls, hospitals, universities, etc.) the route serves and are not numbered. Unlike in many countries, bus stops are uncommon and you are expect to signal the bus to pick you up and drop you off wherever you want. You will rarely find a stop button in a pesero; just shout the word "baja!" for it to stop. Fares are cheap and vary from $5 to 8 pesos approximately.

By train

Passenger trains are very limited in Mexico with only a few lines in operation in places like the Copper Canyon in the northern state of Chihuahua, that line is also known as the Chihuahua Pacific Railway between the Pacific coastal city of Tobolobampo in the state of Sinaloa to the city of Chihuahua, through the Copper Canyon. In the state of Jalisco there are a couple of lines which travel from the state capital city of Guadalajara to the nearby tequila distilleries in the small town of Amatitlan on the Tequila Express and to the Jose Cuervo distilleries in the town of Tequila on the Jose Cuervo Express. The latter two from Guadalajara operate as part of a weekend day tour to the tequila distilleries then as a form of transportation to get to those towns. It may be possible to hop aboard or on top of freight cars in some parts of the country (if you happen to be an adventurer) as many migrants traveling from Central America to the USA are doing this. The prospect of hopping the freight is dangerous due to the lack of restraints which results in falling off, getting ran over by the wheels, getting hit by an oncoming train (if fallen into the wrong spot), or being robbed by bandits along the way.

That being said, there have been talks of expanding suburban rail services in several cities and high-speed passenger services, but no plans have materialized as of May 2015. Mexico CityGuadalajara and Monterrey have subway and/or light rail services.

By thumb

One upside of the high petroleum prices is that hitching is beginning to be more common in Mexico again, particularly the rural areas. In areas near big cities, hitching should be more difficult, and is not really advisable due to security reasons. However, in village areas, this will be really possible and most likely a nice experience. Since villagers have always had a hard time affording gas, and nowadays many are turning to picking up paying hitchhikers as a way to afford the next trip into town. Baja California, the Sierra Tarahumara and Oaxaca and Chiapas all have good possibilities for the hitchhiker. Hitchhiking possibilities vary according to region. Mexican culture is often accepting of hitchhiking and it's a common practice among Mexican youngsters going to the beach in Easter vacations, though in some cases a money contribution is expected for gas because of its relatively high prices. You should make it clear that you have no money to offer before accepting the ride, if this is the case. If you're willing to pay, trucks will often provide lifts for about half the price of a bus ticket. Of course you may be able to negotiate a better deal. Hitchhiking is considered fairly safe and easy in the Yucatán Peninsula.

Talk

See also: Spanish phrasebook

Mexico recognizes nearly 70 indigenous languages, many of which are still in active use. Spanish, however, is the de facto national language. Spanish is used by virtually the whole population and all public communications (signs, documents, media, etc.) are conducted in the language. Bilingual signs in Spanish and English might be available in popular tourist destinations.

English is understood by many in Mexico City as well as by some tourist workers in popular tourist places, but nevertheless, most Mexicans don't speak English. Educated Mexicans, especially younger ones, and professional businessmen are the people most likely to speak some English. The most popular foreign languages to learn within Mexico after English are French, Italian, German and Japanese. German, French, and Russian may be known by some in the tourism industry, but among clerks, policemen, and drivers (most particularly the last) there is basically no such thing as knowledge of foreign languages.

Mexico has one of the richest diversity of languages, with more of 60 indigenous languages spoken within the Mexican territory. These languages are spoken within the communities of these indigenous peoples, who are largely segregated from mainstream mestizo society. In any case, the probabilities of finding a speaker of any of these languages is small, since only half of 20% that comprises Indian population in Mexico speaks indigenous language. On the other hand, most of these communities are fluent in Spanish as well. Therefore learning any of these indigenous languages is not indispensable at all; quite the opposite, unexpected and will gain a lot of respect from these communities.

See

There are 32 UNESCO world heritage sites in Mexico, more than anywhere else in the Americas. Most of them are in the cultural category and relate to either the pre-Columbian civilizations in the area or to early cities established by the Spanish conquistadores and missionaries. Much of Mexico is mountainous with some mountains rising higher than 5,000m over the sea level.

Buy

Currency

The currency of Mexico is the peso, denoted in Mexico as "$" (ISO code MXN) and in Wikivoyage as "M$". It is divided into 100 centavos. Prices in US dollars (in tourist areas) are labeled "US$" or sport an S with a double stroke.

Coins are issued in 5, 10 (steel), 20, 50 centavo (brass; new 50-centavo coins issued from 2011 on are steel and smaller in size) and 1, 2, 5 (steel ring, brass center), 10, 20, 50, and 100 peso (brass ring, steel or silver center) denominations, but it's extremely rare to find coins valued at more than 10 pesos.

Banknotes are produced in 20 pesos (blue), 50 (pink-red), 100 (red), 200 (green), 500 (brown), and 1000 (purple and pink for the latest issue, purple for older issues) denominations. The most recent 20, 50 and 100 peso bills are made from polymer plastic, and there are several different series of all banknotes. Ten-peso notes exist, but are very rare and no longer issued and accepted.

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

Merchants may accept US dollars at a lower exchange rate. US dollars are widely accepted in the far north and in tourist locales elsewhere.

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

If you arrive from the south and still carry Central American currency around try to exchange them as soon as possible, as outside of the immediate border area not even banks will accept them. As all Central American countries either have the US dollar as their national currency (El Salvador, Panama) or have it circulating to varying degrees as a de facto second currency and virtually all banks in Central America and most banks in Mexico accept US dollars (usually at better rates than any other currency) your best bet is to "triangulate" your money from local currency to dollars and from dollars to pesos rather than exchanging them directly, which can be difficult and expensive. Should you have forgotten to exchange your money and the banks are closed, street money changers (called coyotes or cambistas) don't have fixed opening hours and often have better rates. Be careful however, as they do from time to time rip off foreigners with bogus calculators, wrong rates and counterfeit or outdated (and thus worthless) bills.

Banking

If you have brought cash in US dollars or euros, the best places to change your money are at an arrival airport (such as MEX and CUN), where many money exchanges are located already in the arrival hall (where you can also compare some exchange rates and choose the most convenient) and, normally, at airports, the exchange rate is usually fair. Be sure to pass through Customs before looking for foreign exchange as inside the customs zone in Cancun the rate is far lower than what the greediest street vendors ask for.

If you would like to wait until later to obtain Mexican currency, try not to change at your hotel, as the rates there tend to be extremely disadvantageous for tourists. However, some hotels provide exchanges as a courtesy, in this case it is best to ask just to make sure. Often, you can find money exchanges at strategic places in most touristic destinations and near the hotel (zones). The exchanges rates should not differ drastically from the ones at airport. If you are unfamiliar with Mexican money (bills, coins), try to stick to official foreign exchange booths. In several internationally popular beach destinations like Cancun and Los Cabos, local merchants are accustomed to U.S. dollars and will often accept them as payment (they even have dual-currency cash registers and drawers). However, do bear in mind that the convenience of such “private” money exchange usually comes with a slightly unfavorable exchange rate.

Credit and debit cards (with Maestro or MC/VISA affiliation) are widely accepted in Mexico. You can use them at ATMs as well as in most department stores, bigger restaurants, gas stations, but be sure that outside cities you always carry sufficient cash in pesos in your pocket, and generally verify the possibility to pay with card before consumption. Smaller (often family run) businesses often accept only cash. Most of the time, an extra 5% when paying with card is added. Also, you cannot get lower prices if you haggle unless you pay cash. Often, you can pay half or less by acting like you are leaving.

While many Pemex stations accept credit cards, especially in locations that have heavy tourist traffic, some do not; travellers who intend to pay by credit card should always ask the attendant if the card is accepted before pumping begins.

ATMs are easy to come by. 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 owned by Citybank/Citygroup, and Bancomer is owned by BBVA, who is related to Chase in USA. Ask to your bank if they have relation with Mexican banks, and the advantages that such ally can provide. Otherwise, do not be surprised to find yourself with a fee for each withdrawal. ATMs in smaller towns can run out of currency; sometimes this is a regular occurrence. Check with the bank (or locals) about the best time to use the ATM and never wait until the last minute to get cash.

Tipping

Tipping in Mexico is similar to the United States. It is usually from 10 to 15%.

Meals have a 10% to 15% tip (this includes fast food deliveries). This tip is usually left by most people in restaurants, although it is not so common in street restaurants or stands, where the tenders usually have a can or box where people deposit coins.

It is generally common to leave a tip on the table after paying and therefore having small change is very useful.

In Mexican bars and night clubs it is often seen that they charge directly into the bill the 15% of the total amount (taxes included). That is illegal in most cases because of the imposition of the tip and because they calculate the 15% with taxes included. In large groups, or in nightclubs the barmen expect the customers to deposit their tip in a cup left on the table before serving the drinks so the service they give is in function with the tip they received.

It is also customary to give a tip to the person who sometimes guard the car as if they were valet parking; in Mexico these people are often called "viene viene" (literally: "comes, comes") or franeleros and usually people give them M$3-20 depending on the zone, although they sometimes ask for bigger sums of money when the car is left close to a night life area.

In medium and large retail stores such as Wal-Mart there are uniformed helpers, usually children or the elderly, who bag the products just after the clerk has scanned them. This role is called cerillo (Spanish for "match"). It is common for these helpers to not have a basic salary, so all the money earned is from the tips people give them. Most customers give M$2-5 depending on the number of products. Cerillos also put the bags in the cart and if the load is large they can even help bringing it to the car and unloading the bags; in these cases, they normally receive more than M$15.

Tipping is not expected in cabs or buses, except when it is a tour. In some populated Mexican restaurants wandering musicians enter, play, and expect the customers to pay something, although this is voluntary. In filling stations, the workers usually get M$2-5 for every gasoline load. In stadiums people give a small tip to the person who shows the place where they should sit. Tips are also given to bellboys, barbers and people that work in similar services.

Shopping

  • Weights are measured in kilograms. Length is measured in centimeters and meters.
  • For clothes and shoe sizes, the "Continental" measurements are used.

Merchants can be picky about the state of your paper money and may scrutinize it and reject anything with rips. Try to keep it in as pristine condition as possible. Reputedly, this is more the case the farther south you go. In any case, you can easily enter a bank with some damaged bill to get it exchanged into another one.

Merchants are often reluctant to make change in smaller towns. Try to avoid paying with overly large denominations; the best customer has exact change. In rural areas, your 'change' may consist of chiclets or other small commodities.

Merchants, specially those in small markets ("tianguis") and street vendors are no strangers to haggling. Try asking "¿Es lo menos?" ("Is this the smallest price?"), The more rural and less touristic the area you're likely to have more success.

  • Indigenous Art A visit to anywhere in Mexico will give one the opportunity to buy art made in the "old world" manner that reflects the diverse ethnicity of Mexico. Included in these articles would be textiles, wood carvings, paintings and carved masks that are used on sacred dances and burials.
  • Timeshares When visiting the resort cities of Mexico (e.g. CancunPuerto Vallarta or similar), it is more than common to be approached on the streets, in bars, in restaurants and anywhere with offers of gifts, free rental cars, free nights, free dinners, free anything that may appeal to you, just for visiting and listening to a presentation to buy a timeshare. Unless you are severely desperate for something to do, you may want to ignore those making the offer and stay away from those free offers. While the properties are very nice, great locations and plenty of amenities, this is not the place to learn about timeshares. Do your homework before even thinking about buying a timeshare, see what the values are in the resale market and understand the rights you are buying as well as the future costs. Collecting on the free offers may be difficult, if not impossible.
  • Automobiles It's certainly worth going over and importing a car back from there, although importing it to the EU/US standards is the hard part. Recommended are the Ford Fusion (like the British Ford Mondeo, but more upmarket) and the Chrysler 200 (the 2.4 model is worth it). Volkswagens can be substantially better-equipped than European or North American counterparts. The Passat sold in Mexico is not the same car as in Europe, and is substantially bigger, however, engines are the same as in Europe, except for the 2.5 petrol.

Do

The warm Mexican climate, spectacular nature and long coastline make the country great for outdoor life, especially water sport.

  • Surfing - Baja California, Vallarta, Oaxaca
  • Sea Kayaking - Baja California
  • Snorkeling - Baja California, CancunCozumelIsla Mujeres, etc.
  • Scuba diving - Baja California, CancunCozumelIsla MujeresAcapulco, Cabo San Lucas etc., and cave diving in the cenotes of the Yucatán peninsula.
  • Whale Watching - Baja California, Guerrero Negro, MazunteZipolite
  • White Water Rafting - Veracruz
  • Visit a Volcano - Mexico, Toluca etc.
  • Take a ride on the Copper Canyon Railway
  • Enjoy the beautiful coast line and beaches of Oaxaca - Huatulco, MazunteZipolitePuerto AngelPuerto Escondido, etc.
  • Go for a horseback ride in the Barrancas de Chihuahua
  • Visit the archaeological sites - Chichen Itza, Tulum, Coba, Monte Alban, Calakmul, Palenque, etc.
  • Volunteering - Chiapas or in XalapaVeracruz with Travel to Teach.
  • Visit ecological parks - Mayan Riviera
  • Trekking and viewing cave paintings in Baja California - Guerrero Negro
  • Sea turtle Museum Mazunte

Eat

See also: Mexican cuisine

Mexican cuisine can be described better as a collection of various regional cuisines rather than a standard list of dishes for the whole country. Because of climate, geography and ethnic differences, we can classify Mexican cuisine broadly in 4 great categories according to the region:

  • Northern - Mostly meat dishes done mainly from beef and goat. This includes Cabrito, Carne Asada (Barbecue) and Arrachera. Is influenced by international cuisine (mostly from the United States and Europe), but it retains the essential Mexican flavor.
  • Central - This region is influenced by the rest of the country, but has its own well-developed local flavor in dishes such as Pozole, Menudo and Carnitas. Dishes are mostly corn-based and with different spices.
  • Southeastern - Is known for its spicy vegetable and chicken-based dishes. Caribbean cuisine have influences here because of the location.
  • Coast - Has a strong emphasis on seafood and fish, but corn-based recipes can be easily found as well.

Ask for the "platillo tipico" of the town, which is the local speciality that may not be found elsewhere, a variation, or the birthplace of a recipe, also consider that most of the recipes change from place to place, like tamales, in the south are made with the banana plant leaves, and in the Huasteca region tamales are very big (There are called "Zacahuil"), one is OK for a complete family.

Traditional Mexican food can often be very spicy; if you are not used to peppers, always ask if your food includes it. "(¿Esto tiene chile? Es picante?)."

There are many food carts on the streets of Mexican cities and towns. Travelers are advised to eat from these carts with caution, as hygienic preparation practices are not always reliable. In doing so, you may (or may not) find some of the most unique and genuinely Mexican dishes you've ever had. From these vendors, you may find tacos, burgers, bread, roasted field corn or elote served with mayonnaise, or a light cream, and sprinkled with fresh white cheese, roasted sweet potato called camote, and almost any kind of food and service you would imagine.

  • Chicharrón - Deep fried pork skin. Quite crunchy and if well-prepared slightly oily. Heavenly spread with guacamole. Or sometimes cooked in a mild chili sauce and served with eggs.
  • Enchiladas - Chicken or meat stuffed soft tortillas covered with green, red or mole sauce. Some may have melted cheese inside and/or on top.
  • Tacos - Soft corn tortillas filled with meat (asada (steak strips), pollo (shredded chicken), carnitas (fried shredded pork), lengua (tongue), cabeza (meat from cow skull), sesos (cow brains), tripa (cow gut), or al pastor (chili, pork, beef cut from a spit). In the north sometimes flour tortillas are used. Do not expect the crispy taco shell anywhere.
  • Tamales - corn dough shell with meat or vegetable fillings. Tamales Dulces contain fruit and/or nuts.
  • Tortas - Fancy Mexican sandwich. Bread roll that is grilled lightly, meat fillings are same as tacos, lettuce, tomatoes, jalapeños, beans, onion, mayonnaise and avocado. One is beginning to find tortas with the American styled cold cuts available, as well, in urban areas.
  • Huitlacoche - (wit-la-ko-che) A fungus, much like mushrooms, found in corn. This dish is usually an additive to others. Foreigners might find it hard to stomach but Mexicans swear by it. Although most Mexicans love huitlacoche, most do not prepare it in their own home very frequently. It can be found in most markets or stores.
  • Quesadillas - Cheese or other ingredients grilled in between corn tortillas, heavy on cheese and lighter on other items such as chicken, pork, beans, squash flower blossoms and such.
  • Mole - Mild to medium chili based sauce made with cocoa and a hint of peanut over 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 vary greatly in flavor depending on the artistic talent or preferences involved.
  • Pozole - Chicken or pork broth with hominy corn, spiced when served with oregano, lettuce, lemon juice, radish, chopped onion, dried ground chile and other ingredients such as chicken, pork, or even seafood, usually served with a side dish of tostadas, fried potato and fresh cheese tacos. Very fortifying.
  • Gorditas - corn patty stuffed with chicharron, chicken, cheese, etc. topped with cream, cheese and hot sauce.
  • Grillo - Grasshopper, usually cooked and placed inside another dish such as a quesadilla. It is frequently found in markets in the state of Morelos and other central Mexico states. This is not common in Mexico City.
  • Guacamole - crushed avocado sauce with green serrano chile, chopped red tomato and onion, lime juice, salt, and served with somewhat thick (1/8 inch) fried tortilla slices or "totopos".
  • Tostadas - fried flat tortilla topped with fried beans, lettuce, cream, fresh cheese, sliced red tomato and onion, hot sauce, and chicken or other main ingredient. Think a corn chip dippers, on low dose steroids, for salsas and as above. You do not usually get a plate of this automatically in many parts of Mexico as you would in the US, although they are starting to show up in resort areas that cater to US nationals automatically.
  • Huaraches - a bigger (think shoe-shaped) version a gordita.
  • Sopes - corn patty topped with a wide variety of ingredients such as chicken, cheese, mashed beans, and various hot sauces.
  • Carnitas - deep fried pork meat served with a variety of salsa", to get them dry with less grease.
  • Chile en nogada - A big green Poblano chile with a beef or pork apple stuffing, covered with a white nut (usually walnut, known as nuez) sauce and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds which happen to be red. The three colors represent the national flag and the dish is served nationwide around Mexican Independence Day 16 September.
  • Barbacoa - Sheep or goat meat cooked with maguey leaves in an oven made at a hole in the ground. Think BBQ heaven without the hickory smoke or catsup based BBQ sauce. Served with condiments and salsas in corn tortilas and sometimes in a torta bread roll.
  • Sopa de Tortilla - tortilla chips soup usually of chicken broth, plain or with a touch of tomato flavor, and usually mild and not at all hot. Commonly served with diced avocado and fresh crumbled white cheese on top.
  • Chilaquiles - tortilla chips with a green tomatillo, or red tomato, or mild chili sauce, usually served with chicken or eggs on top or within. Usually a mild dish.
  • Migas - is a typical dish in the center of the country which is a guajillo chile broth with soaked bread, which you can add the pork bones with meat or eggs.

You can measure the quality of food by popularity; do not eat in lonely places, even if they are restaurants or hotels. Consider that Mexicans eat their main meal in the middle of the afternoon (around 3 o'clock), with breakfast or "almuerzo", a mid-morning affair after a very light something, like a small plate of fruit or a roll with coffee, in the very early morning. Although, many Mexicans have large breakfasts in the morning. Later, at night the meal varies from very light, such as commonly sweet rolls or breads, coffee or hot chocolate, to heavy dinner, such as pozole, tacos, and tamales. Schedule your meals accordingly and you will get a better perspective on the gauge of how busy (popular) a restaurant is.

Drink

Tap water is potable, but generally not recommended for drinking. Some exaggerated people even claim that tap water is not good for brushing teeth. Hotels usually give 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 specific type of cactus)
  • Pulque, ferment made from Maguey
  • Mezcal, similar to tequila but distilled from Maguey
  • Tepache, made from pineapple
  • Tuba, made from coconut palm tree

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

Lighter Mexican beers are often served with lime and salt, though many Mexicans do not drink beer in this fashion. In some places you will find beer served as a prepared drink called "Michelada" or simply "Chelada". The formula varies depending on the place, but it's usually beer mixed with lime juice and various sauces and spices on ice served in a salt rim glass. Other variation called "Cubana" includes Clamato cocktail, soybean sauce, salt and a little bit of hot sauce.

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

Non alcoholic beverages:

  • Chocolate
  • Atole
  • Horchata (rice based drink)
  • Agua de Jamaica (hibiscus iced tea, similar to karkadai in Egypt)
  • Licuados de fruta (Fruit smoothies and milkshakes)
  • Champurrado (Thick chocolate drink)
  • Refrescos (common sodas, generally sweet and made with cane sugar, not corn syrup as in the United States).

The legal drinking age in Mexico is 18, but not strictly enforced. In many places, consumption of alcohol in public ("open container") is illegal and usually punishable by a day in jail. Be aware of waitresses and barmen, especially at night clubs. If you are not aware of your consumption and how much you already spent, they can add a few more drinks to your account. Some do this, not all.

Alcoholmeters are widely used in driving roads If drinking, always have a designated driver. Driving under the influence of an alcoholic beverage will result in 1 to 3 days in jail.

Mexico, especially the southern state of Chiapas, produces excellent coffee. Café con leche, usually one part coffee to one part steamed milk, is very popular. Unfortunately, many places in Mexico that are not cafés serve Nescafe or other instant coffee - you may have to search for the good coffee, but it's there.

Learn

The most important Universities in Mexico include the UNAM, ranked 73rd worldwide, and the best in Latin America. Its main campus is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Murals in the main campus were painted by some of the most recognized artists in Mexican history, such as Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros. IPN (Instituto Politécnico Nacional), ITESM (Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, located in Monterrey but with branch campuses in many other Mexican cities) the Iberoamerican University (Universidad Iberoamericana, part of the Jesuit University System) and Universidad Anahuac

Most of the government-funded universities on mayor cities (state capital) have short courses on history, gastronomy and cultural subjects, most of them are almost free. Other places are the "Casa de la Cultura", (house of culture) that are historical buildings used for cultural related activities (music concerts, theater, paint and other exhibits, they also have "talleres" (workshops).

Most places have programs for foreigners to learn Spanish, or even study a whole degree. There are some other courses where you can learn traditional Mexican activities such as handcrafts. The tuition at a public school is rarely over US$200.

There are Spanish language schools throughout Mexico. The city with the most schools is Cuernavaca, with more than 50 schools. OaxacaSan Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato also offer a number of schools to choose from. Prices vary; however, most schools are very reasonably priced. Many schools can arrange homestays with local Mexican families.

Work

Working may require a work visa, which is difficult to get if you just want to freelance for a short time.

Many important headquarters are located throughout the main cities of Mexico. Top Mexican corporations such as Televisa, Bimbo, Cemex, Telmex and Vitra are often willing to hire professionals who are native English speakers as much of their business is developed alongside North American corporations.

Native English speakers can pick up work as English teachers. The upside is that English speakers with no knowledge of Spanish are sought after, because they will force their students to practice English. The downside is that salaries are somewhat low.

Sleep

A number of hotel chains are available 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. Rates have risen considerably, though most are still reasonable compared to similar U.S. or European hotels. Chain accommodations are usually clean and comfortable, good for business travelers, but not necessarily for those wanting to experience Mexico itself. Smaller hotels and motels along the roadside may not be safe or comfortable. Boutique hotels are found all over the country; price range varies but all of them are rich in Mexican traditions, elegance and charm, the perfect way to experience the cultural heritage of each state. A great source of information is Melba Levick's book Mexicasa, found in many libraries and online bookstores. There are also many all-inclusive resorts for those visiting the major beach destinations.

There is a large backpacker culture in Mexico, and there are many hostels offering dorm accommodation and private rooms. You can expect to pay between M$50 and 150 for a night in a dorm, often including breakfast. Hostels are a fantastic place to share information with fellow travelers, and you can often find people who have been to your future destinations. There are a number of internet sites that allow you to book hostels in advance for a small fee, and this is becoming an increasingly common practice.

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

If you are going to be in cooler areas in the winter consider bringing an electric blanket, a sleeping bag or extra clothes, as there is power, but no heat in the cheaper hotels. And although it may get quite hot by afternoon outside, adobe and cement are like fridges. An electric tea kettle is also a good idea, as hot water might not be available when you want it.

If you're traveling with children, use a plastic case (with wheels and a handle) as luggage, and it can be used as a bathtub for the kids if necessary. Budget hotels rarely, if ever, have bathtubs.

Stay safe

The nationwide emergency number is 911.

In most of the cities, location is very important as security changes from place to place. Areas close to downtown (centro) are safer to walk at night, especially on the "Plaza", "Zócalo" or "Jardín" (main square) and areas nearby. Stay in populated areas, avoid poor neighborhoods, especially at night, and don't walk there at any time if you are alone. Vicious beatings have been reported at resorts by people who have travelled alone, so stay alert for any suspicious-looking individual. If you wish to visit one of the slums, you should only go as part of a guided tour with a reputable guide or tour company.

Since 2006 violence related to drug cartels has become an issue; see drug traffic issues below.

Political violence in Chiapas and Oaxaca has abated, and is far less of a threat than drug related crime. However, keep in mind that Mexican authorities do not look approvingly on foreigners who participate in demonstrations (even peaceful ones) or voice support for groups such as the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional and its leader, Subcomandante Marcos, even if their images and slogans are commonly sold on t-shirts and caps in markets.

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

If you ever find yourself in trouble with the law in Mexico, the punishments are a lot more severe than in many other countries.

Beggars are not usually a threat, but you will find lots in urban areas. Avoid being surrounded by them as some can pickpocket your goods. Giving away two pesos quickly can get you out of such troubles (but may also attract other beggars). Most poor and homeless Mexicans prefer to sell trinkets, gum, sing, or provide some meager service than beg outright.

In other cities, such as Guadalajara and Mexico City, are safer than most places in Mexico. However, caution is still recommended.

Drug traffic issues

Understand that the country is going through a transitionary period. Past president Felipe Calderon waged war on the drug cartels, and they have waged war in turn against the government (and more often, among each other).

Some Mexican northern and border cities such as Tijuana, Nogales, Nuevo LaredoChihuahua, Culiacán, Durango, and Juárez can be dangerous if you are not familiar with them, especially at night. Most crime in the northern cities is related to the drug trade and/or police corruption. However, since law enforcement figures are so overwhelmed or involved in the drug business themselves, many northern border towns that were previously somewhat dangerous to begin with are now a hotbed for criminals to act with impunity. Ciudad Juárez, in particular, bears the brunt of this violence, with nearly a fourth of Mexico's overall murders, and travel there requires special attention.

Away from the northern states, cartel related violence is centered in specific areas, including the Pacific Coast states of Michoacán and Guerrero. However, exercise caution in any major city, especially at night or in high crime areas.

For the most part, tourists and travellers are of no interest to the drug cartels. Many popular tourist destinations like OaxacaGuanajuatoLos CabosMexico CityPuerto Vallarta, Cancún, Mérida and Guadalajara are largely unaffected by this, simply because there are no borders there. Ciudad Juárez is a primary battleground in the drug war, and while 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 rarely surprising, the drug violence's new victim is Monterrey. The city at one point was crowned the safest city in Latin America, and the hard-working environment and entrepreneurial spirit was what defined the city for most Mexicans. Today, it has been the latest city to fall into the hands of the drug gangs, and deadly shootouts exist even in broad daylight. People have been kidnapped in very high profile hotels, and while the city is still not mirroring Ciudad Juarez, it does not lag far behind.

Strangely, Mexico City is the safest city in this issue, and people go there to seek refuge from the border violence because many politicians and the military are there.

Consumption of drugs is not recommended while you are in Mexico because although possession of small amounts of all major narcotics has been decriminalized, consumption in public areas will get you a fine and will most likely get you in trouble with the police. The army also sets up random checkpoints throughout all major highways in search of narcotics and weapons. Drug consumption is also frowned upon by a large percentage of the population.

Advice for the beach

Jellyfish stings: vinegar or mustard on the skin, take some to the beach with you.

Stingray stings: water as hot as you can bear - the heat deactivates the poison.

Sunburns: Bring sunscreen if going to beaches because you might not find it available in some areas.

Riptides: Very dangerous, particularly during and after storms

Public transportation

When in major cities – especially Mexico City – is better to play it safe with taxis. 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"). Also taxis can be stopped in the middle of the street, which is OK for most of the country, but particularly unsafe in Mexico City.

As chaotic as it might be sometimes, the subway (Metro)[1] is the best way to move around in Mexico City: it's cheap (5 pesos for a ticket as of May 21, 2014), safe, has a large network covering almost anywhere you'd want to go in the city and it's extremely fast, compared to any on-street transportation, since it doesn't have to bear with the constant traffic jams. If you've never been in a crowded subway, avoid peak hours (usually from 6-9AM and 5-8PM) and do your homework: check first what line (linea) and station (estacion) you want to go to and the address of the place you're trying to reach. Your hotel can give you this information, and maps of the subway system are available on the internet and at the stations. Most stations also have maps of the vicinity.

Avoid taking the subway at late hours of the night, but during the day many stations are patrolled by police officers and the subway is safer than taking the public bus, your major concern in the subway are pickpockets; so keep your important belongings and wallets in a safe place.

A word of caution for people who are used to European or major American subway systems that operate around the clock: Even in Mexico City the last subway leaves around midnight with service only resuming in the early morning. Taxis are priced accordingly, and you should keep your wits about when moving around during that time.

If you are travelling by bus do not put your valuables in your big bag in the storage room of the bus. If the police or the military controls the luggage they might take out what they need. Especially in Night Buses when passengers are most likely asleep. The use of a money belt (worn underneath the clothes and out of sight) is highly recommended.

Driving

  • All distances on the signboards and speed limits are in kilometers.
  • Gas is also sold by the liter, not by the gallon, and it's a little bit cheaper than in the United States. (remember: 1 U.S. gallon = 3.8 liters)

If driving in from the USA, always purchase Mexican liability insurance (legal defense coverage recommended) before crossing the border or immediately after crossing. When you are paying for your temporary import permit (for going beyond border areas), often in the same building there are several stalls selling Mexican auto insurance. Even if your American (or Canadian, etc.) insurance covers your vehicle in Mexico, it cannot (by Mexican law) cover liability (i.e. hitting something or injuring someone). You will probably spend time in a Mexican jail if you have an accident without it. And even if your own insurance does (in theory) provide liability coverage in Mexico—you'll be filing your claim from behind bars! Don't risk it, get Mexican auto insurance.

Never drive above the speed limit or run stop signs/red lights as Mexican police will use any excuse to pull over tourists and give you a ticket. In some cities you can police can not give you a ticket, but they might warn you. The fine for speeding could be as much as US$100 (1870 pesos), depending on the city.

As of April 2011, police across the country are cracking down on drunken driving, particularly in Mexico City, the larger cities and the beach resorts. There are random checkpoints throughout the country in which every driver has to stop and take an automated inebriation test. If you fail, you will end up in a Mexican prison. If you wouldn't drive drunk back home, don't do it in Mexico.

You will mostly find beggars and windshield cleaners in some red lights; having your windows closed at all times is especially recommendable in some areas of Mexico City. The windshield cleaners will try to clean yours: a strong and firm "NO" is suggested.

Natural disasters

Natural disasters in Mexico include hurricanes and earthquakes.

Stay healthy

Some parts of Mexico are known for travelers' diarrhea, often called "Montezuma's Revenge" (Venganza de Moctezuma). The reason for this is not so much the spicy food but the contamination of the water supply in some of the poorer zones in Mexico. In most of the small towns that are less industrialized, only the poorest Mexicans will drink tap water. The best policy is to only drink bottled or purified water, both of which are readily available. Be sure to specify bottled water in restaurants and avoid ice (which is often not made from purified water). Just like in the USA, in most major Mexican cities the water is purified at the cities' water company. In most restaurants in these poor zones, the only water served comes from large jugs of purified water. If you get sick, visit your local clinic as soon as possible. There is medicine available that will counter the bacteria.

Medicine in urban areas is highly developed, public hospitals are just as good as public hospitals in US, and just as the American public hospitals, they are always full. It's recommended going to private hospitals for faster service.

Before traveling to rural areas of Mexico, it might be a good idea to obtain anti-malarial medications from your health care provider.

It is strongly advised that the traveler be sure that any meats they are consuming have been thoroughly cooked due to an increasing rate of roundworm infections, particularly in the Acapulco area.

Along with the risk for malaria, mosquitoes have also been known to carry the West Nile virus. Be sure to bring an effective insect repellent, preferably one that contains the ingredient DEET.

The rate of AIDS/HIV infection in Mexico is lower than in the US, France and most Latin American nations. However, if you plan on having sex, be sure that you use a latex condom to reduce your risk of contracting or spreading the virus.

As with any western location, cases of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome have been reported throughout Mexico. This is an acute, rare (but often fatal) illness for which there is no known cure. The virus is believed to be present in animal feces, particularly feces from members of the rodent family. Therefore, do not wander into animal dens and be especially careful when entering enclosed spaces that are not well ventilated and lack sunlight.

Vaccination against Hepatitis A & B and Typhoid fever is recommended.

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

In remote areas, carry a first aid kit, aspirin, and other related items are sold without medical prescription.

Respect

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

When anyone, even a total stranger, sneezes, you always say "¡salud!" ("bless you!" or more literally, "your health!"): otherwise, it is considered rude. In rural areas, particularly in the Mexican heartland (Jalisco, ZacatecasAguascalientes, etc.), the even more pious "Jesús te bendiga" (May Jesus bless you) will follow a sneeze.

The great majority of the population is and traditionally has been Roman Catholic, and there is still a strong following of this faith among Mexicans from all socioeconomic backgrounds. However, missionary activity from the US has made for a sizable Protestant community, and even the smallest towns seem to have an Evangelical or Pentecostal church. One of the world's largest communities of Jehovah's Witnesses also resides in Mexico. Smaller communities, like Mormons and Jews also live in small concentrated areas throughout the Republic. The irreligious are a small minority compared even to Mexico's Northern and some of its Southern neighbors and they are found mostly among college-educated urban dwellers of the middle and upper middle class. Saying you don't believe in God may simply be shrugged off, or could incite lengthy discussions or even attempts at proselytizing, depending on who you meet.

In many respects, Mexico is still a developing country, and attitudes towards LGBT travelers can at times be hostile. However, Mexico City and the State of Coahuila legalized same-sex marriage and the supreme court ruled that these marriages must be recognized by all states in the rest of the republic, thus tacitly making same-sex marriage legal in the whole country (provided the wedding takes place in Mexico City). Just as it is not wholly accepted in the rural United States or rural Canada, it is not accepted in rural Mexico. But within cities, there is a much more relaxed atmosphere. Southern Mexico City is the best place in terms of tolerance.

When entering churches, always take off any sunglasses, caps or hats. Wearing shorts is rarely a problem, but still wear a sweatshirt or sweater to your waist to avoid showing too much skin, which could be disrespectful in such places. However, away from the beaches, or northern areas, shorts are very rarely worn by Mexicans on the street and thus will attract more attention to you and make you stand out as a foreigner.

Respect Mexico's laws. Some foreigners feel that Mexico is a place where laws can be broken and the police bribed at all times. Corruption may be common among Mexican police and public figures, but since it is a problem that Mexican society has recognized and has been trying hard to fix, when foreign nationals behave in a manner which shows expectancy of this easy bribery, it is considered extremely disrespectful, and so it could be used as excuse for the police to give you "a respect lesson." Remember, offering a bribe to an official could get you into trouble.

Like in other countries; politics, economics and history are very delicate issues, yet in México they are also considered good conversation pieces when conversing with foreigners. Just like in Europe, Canada and the US, Mexico's democracy is vibrant and diverse, and people have a variety of opinions. As Mexico only recently became a true viable democracy, however, there is an eagerness on behalf of Mexicans to share their opinions and political ideas with you. Common sense applies like it does in your country: if you don't know enough about Mexico's political landscape, ask as many questions as you like but avoid making any strong statements.

Many US citizens (and to a lesser extent other foreigners) make careless mistakes in conversations with Mexicans. Mexicans, while strong and hardy people can be very sensitive people when it comes to their country. Avoid saying anything that will make it seem as if you think Mexico is inferior to your home country. Do not assume that because you are a US citizen, you are an immediate target for kidnapping, since the vast majority of victims are Mexicans. Do not be overly cautious, especially if you have hosts that are taking care of you and know where to go and not to go. It will just insult your host and they will assume you do not respect Mexico or that you do not trust them.

Avoid talking about Mexico's flaws. Avoid talking about illegal immigration to the US, the drug trade, or any other contentious issue; Mexicans are well aware of their country's problems and want to forget about them once a while. Instead, talk about the good things of Mexico: the food, the friendly people, the scenery. This will make you a very good friend in a country that can seem menacing to take on by yourself.

While overt racism may not be apparent, as a general rule, wealth and social status are historically tied to European ancestry and skin color. Mexican society is sharply divided by social class, with the rich, middle class, and poor often living very separate lives, and can have very distinct cultures. Social practices or tastes of one social group may not be shared by all classes. Clubs, bars, and restaurants may cater largely to one crowd or another, and a wealthier person or tourist may feel out of place or received unwanted attention in a working class cantina; a poor looking person may be blatantly refused service or get unfriendly stares at an exclusive establishment.

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

Do not be offended to be called a "güero(a)" (blonde) and its diminutive form "güerito(a)" (blondie), as its a common way for the average Mexican citizen to refer mostly to Caucasian people, including white Mexicans. The words "gringo" and its synonym "gabacho" are used regardless of the actual nationality of the tourists and should not they be taken as offensive nouns. Actually, they are often used as terms of endearment.

If you are East Asian, you will be referred to as "Chino(a)" (Chinese) and its diminutive form "chinito(a)" regardless of whether you are Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese, Filipino, Korean, etc. Exceptions are in the capital, Mexicali, and in Monterrey, where a decent-sized Korean community does exist.

If you are black, "negro(a)" or "negrito(a)" may seem harsh, especially if you are from the US, but it is not a swear word. Although there are few black people in Mexico in many regions of the country (except in on the east and west coasts in the south), Mexicans, especially the younger generations, are not hateful. In fact, a revolutionary who later became the second president was a man of mixed European and African descent, Vicente Guerrero.

Historically, all Middle Easterners were referred to as "turcos" (even if they were from Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, etc.)

If you try to use your Spanish to address people be careful about the use of "tú" (informal, friendly, and called tutear; which is a verb, to call someone "tú") and "usted" (formal, respectful) forms. Using "tú" can be demeaning to people, since this is the form normally used for addressing children or close friends. For foreigners, the best way to deal with the "tú" and "usted" problem is to address people using "usted" until invited to say "tú", or until addressed by the first name. Doing so will look perhaps a shade old-fashioned but always respectful, while doing otherwise can be pretty rude and embarrassing in some situations. Always use the "usted" form to a law enforcement officer (or other person of authority), even if he may use the "tú" form to talk to you.

Use "usted" unless the person is genuinely your friend, the person is under 16, or the person tells you explicitly to use "tú".

People address each other depending on their social status, age and friendship. To refer to a woman always call her "señorita" (Miss) unless you are sure that she is married, then you call her "señora" (Mrs). When talking to an older man use "señor" irrespective of his marital status. If you want to call a waiter address him as "joven" which means "young man". You may call someone by his professional title ("ingeniero", "arquitecto", "doctor", "oficial", etc.). Actually, Mexican people will use the "tú" and "usted", "first name" or "surname" depending on their relationship, and the code is not easy to learn.

While the word "güey" is equivalent to "dude" or "mate" among young people, it is still considered extremely vulgar among people older than you. This abrasive term of endearment is used only between people who have achieved a certain level of trust, so avoid using it.

In Mexico "estúpido" means far, far worse than "stupid" in English.

Due to the highly matriarchal nature of Mexican culture, the combination of words "tu madre" (your mother) is cacophonous and taken offensively by residents, regardless of age or gender. If you must use it, remember to replace it with "su señora madre" at formal situations or the sweeter "tu mamá" at informal ones. Never ever use strong language when talking to a woman.

This may refer to male chauvinism, which is falling out of favor, but is still noticed and tolerated in small towns, or cities that receive considerable amounts of rural migrants. It can be defined as a male's strong desire for and skill of the domination and imposition of will, on a wife, sister, or any close female. It can also be identified by a strong desire to prove courage through showy bravado and status through a following of yesmen and henchmen. While it is usually not directed towards visitors, it can be in a variety of strengths. It is best to pretend not to notice it and move on.

Another type of machismo, which perhaps stems out of the same desires but does not carry any of the antisocial connotations, is male courteousness towards women. This is manifested in standing up when a lady enters a room, opening or holding a door, conceding preference or rights of way, giving up a seat, offering a hand when stepping down from a steep step, etc. It is generally reserved for older women, or women of great power, merit, and social stature. Rejecting these types of friendly gestures is considered arrogant or rude.

Connect

You can call from public phones using prepaid tel. cards tarjetas ladatel, bought at magazine stalls. Cards can be purchased in M$30, 50 or 100 denominations. The rate to call the US is roughly equivalent to US$0.50 per minute. Beware these are different than tarjetas amigo, viva, or unefon: they are for cellphones.

Some areas have only a few internet cafes; in others, they are plentiful. Common fees vary from M$7 to M$20 per hour. Most of the internet cafes offer calls to the US for a better rate than a payphone, usually via VoIP.

If you have an unlocked GSM phone, you can buy a prepaid SIM card in Mexico and have a local mobile phone number for use in cases of emergency. Telcel provides good coverage throughout the country and you can get a SIM card for M$150 with M$75 talk time (send *133# to request 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 may take up to an hour.

It is often far cheaper than what hotels will charge you and incoming calls may also be free under certain schemes. Mexico operates on the same GSM frequency as the United States, 1900 MHz. There is an Internet wireless connection in almost every restaurant or hotel in the big cities.

If you're staying for over a week and don't have an unlocked phone, it might be a good idea to buy a cheap (less than M$200) handset and buy a prepaid card.

Go next

To Belize

There are bus services available from Chetumal to Belmopan.

To Guatemala

Over Tenosique, La Palma, by boat on the river Rio San Pedro to Naranja (Guatemala). This route is not used by many and still has a touch of adventure. Stay firm when negotiating over the price. Absolutely important! Make sure you get your passport stamped before you leave Naranja or you might catch one of the rare buses back and take a walk through the jungle as the emigrations office is part up the river between the Mexican border and the village.

To the United States of America

The U.S. generally requires a passport for entry. A few express ID cards and trusted traveler cards are also acceptable. U.S. and Canadian citizens seeking entry or reentry by land or sea may use an Enhanced Driver License in place of a passport. U.S. permanent residents need their permanent resident card and may need the passport from their home country.

Foreign nationals entering the United States without a permanent resident stamp, including those on the Visa Waiver Program, typically receive an I-94 Arrival-Departure Record or I-94W Visa Waiver Arrival-Departure Record upon arrival in the United States. So long as the I-94 has not expired, you can use it to reenter the United States with your passport; however, if you hand it in upon exit, you will need to obtain a new card if your visa allows another entry or, if on the Visa Waiver Program, pay a fee of about US$6 to reenter the United States.

Unless you are not going to return to the United States, keep your I-94 when leaving the United States of America or you will have a difficult time getting back in, and if your visa is limited to a certain number of entries, you may need to use another entry.

Visa Waiver participants cannot reset the 90-day counter unless they leave the Western Hemisphere, so ducking into México will not allow you another 90 days.

The Amateur Traveler talks to Sarah Menkedick about her adopted home town of Oaxaca Mexico. Sarah talks about her love for this sunny tropical city with both colonial and pre-columbian roots. Oaxaca has recovered from its political troubles but tourism is still down so this may be the perfect time to explore its markets, sample its food, marvel at its ruins, and relax in its public square. Sarah's top three reasons to come to Oaxaca are all food: mescal, mole and chile.
The Amateur Traveler talks to Anna Laura about her home city of Mexico City. We will talk about food, museums, architecture and history. We will puzzle about why the tourists stay in the Zona Rosa and we will tell you where they should go including Coyacan and Xochimilco. We will climb the world's third largest pyramid and eat street food. Discover this huge, bustling, diverse city. 20 million Mexico's can't be wrong.
Agave_ITR_MainImage.jpg The holidays are generally all about pork on sugar on booze. This year, try countering those indulgences by eating a little cleaner when you can. There are tons of great restaurants around the country that practice sustainability, pay attention to the seasons, and source humanely raised meat. After all, that's what eating healthfully is about. Here now, a roundup of some of those restaurants.

This map is sponsored by Agave In The Raw—an organic sweetener from the core of Mexico's blue agave plant and a healthy alternative to processed sugars. Head this way for recipes and more. >>

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Hear about travel to Mazatlan, Mexico as the Amateur Traveler talks again to Craig Zabransky about this Mexico seaport. Mazatlan is on the west coast of Mexico.

There’s no place like home. When you’re travelling, there’s no need to go without a home: you can create a comfortable environment wherever you’re staying, whether that’s a hammock, a dorm bed or a luxury hotel. But perhaps the easiest way to get that homey feeling is through housesitting — looking after someone’s home and pets while they’re away.

To listen, hit play below or find episode 311 in iTunes, Stitcher or Soundcloud:

Housesitting is a great way to immerse yourself in a destination and live like a local, whether you’re a long-term traveller looking for a way to slow down or a short-term traveller looking for an alternative (and cheap) form of accommodation.

Pinterest pinPin me on Pinterest!We first got into housesitting when we were back in New Zealand for the first time since we started traveling. We were sharing a flat with another couple, but when our friends Robyn and Chris asked us to look after their house and cats for a month, we decided that a month’s rent could go a long way on the road. Four years later, we were planning another trip home and had just started to look at places to live when our friend Glenys emailed to ask if we’d look after her house for a few weeks, right in the middle of our stay. If we said yes, we’d have to piece together accommodation for the other four or five months we planned to be in the country. We said yes.

In the end we did five housesits during that time, ranging from ten days to six weeks. We filled in the gaps by staying with Craig’s parents in their beachside apartment, which we also looked after while they were in Europe. Most of our housesits were at friends’ houses (or on one occasion, a farm) but we did join Trusted Housesitters, a website of housesitting opportunities, which furnished us with the chance to look after a small dog over Easter.

There wasn’t much call for housesitting during our year in Spain, but when summer came, we realised that housesitting would be the perfect solution for filling up the four unplanned months before our trip to Mexico. I reactivated my Trusted Housesitters account and started applying. Soon we had two sits lined up: two weeks in Berlin and five in The Middle of Nowhere, UK. We were excited: we’d have a place to stay and some temporary pets, and we could buckle down and get some work done.

visit the Brandenburg gateOur housesit might have been on the outskirts of Berlin, but we still got to see a lot of the city during our stay.

We’ve had some great experiences with housesitting, it’s a great choice for travel accommodation. So, why housesit?

1. You’ll go places

Many hotels and hostels are located in the city centre, near the main attractions. This is convenient for a short break, but it means that a lot of visitors only see one side of the destination. By staying in a local person’s house, you’ll probably be in a part of the town or city that most tourists don’t visit, and you’ll see a whole different side of things.

Our housesit in Berlin was located in the outer suburbs, and our second one was in a town we’d never heard of and never would have visited if we hadn’t agreed to housesit there. But it’s great: we walked by the river every day, we attended all sorts of local events, and there were lots of charming villages to visit.

2. You can live like a local

Seeing the sights are important while travelling, but it’s also awesome to experience normal life in your destination. While housesitting, you’ll see how local people live, and you can live like them too: shop in the same supermarkets, eat in the same restaurants, watch the same TV. While in the UK, we enjoyed cooking dinner then settling in for an evening of Netflix: it’s cultural, right?

Slow travel: housesitting is a great choice.Housesitting is a great way to slow down while travelling.

3. You get some love (and give it back)

As a child, I had a very intelligent and not very pleasant pet cat, and I was scared of dogs… I wasn’t exactly an animal lover. Craig often talked about how much he missed having a dog while travelling, and I didn’t understand. Now I do. Housesitting has brought me into contact with some truly lovely animals who express their love and excitement in hilarious ways. Plus, looking after them is good for me: I can’t give in to laziness and stay in bed until midday if the dog needs to be fed and taken out.

4. You save money

For many people, not having to pay for accommodation is the most important aspect of housesitting, and of course it’s important — the money you’re not spending on a hotel can be used for more travel! However, housesitting is about more than just saving some cash — try it yourself and see.

Gorgeous beach view with pohutukawa tree in new zealandWe were just steps away from this view on one of our housesits.

How to housesit?

  • Get started: Ask your friends and family if they need a housesitter.
  • Join a website or two. We recommend Trusted Housesitters, but there are other options out there that might be better for your geographical location.
  • Make a great profile.
  • Apply for lots of sits. Make sure they’re suitable for you: if you don’t like dogs, don’t apply to look after a great Dane.
  • Keep in contact with homeowners during the application process and beyond.
  • Make detailed notes about how to look after the house and pets.
  • Look after the house better than you’d look after your own.
  • Have fun!

Sounds on this episode were recorded during our road trip in Mexico. To listen, hit play above or check in iTunes, Stitcher or Soundcloud.

We use Trusted Housesitters to find housesits, and you can too. Get 10% off your membership by using this link.

Tacos, burritos, enchiladas, quesadillas, nachos, guacamole… Any story about Mexico has to be mainly about the food. I thought I’d had Mexican food before, I thought I knew what it would be like — I was wrong. Mexican food has completely surpassed my expectations.

We enjoyed trying the originals of all the foods we’d eaten before, and trying new ones like panuchos, flautas, … We discovered the joys of aguas frescas (fresh fruit juices mixed with water), did a beer tasting to find the best Mexican beer (Montejo was the clear winner), and sampled Mexican wine. We ate pastries and candied fruits in San Cristobal, coconut shrimp in Campeche, ceviche in Cancun. It has been a delicious time.

Pin me on Pinterest!Pin me on Pinterest!Of course, we didn’t spent all our time eating, we also found time for a few activities.

Playa del Carmen and Cancun

Our flight from London went smoothly and Craig, Janine and I arrived at Cancun airport in the middle of a late afternoon rain shower. It was still drizzling when the bus deposited us Playa Del Carmen, where we eventually managed to check into our hotel (it’s hard when the staff hide on the roof) and had a delicious taco dinner before turning in.

Our plan to explore Playa Del Carmen was hindered by the heavy rain showers that the heavens treated us to throughout the day, but we did manage to visit the beach and have a quick wander through town before getting drenched once again. Our friend Ange had arrived in the middle of the night, so we caught up with her, ate more tacos, discovered aguas frescas for the first time, and hung out by the pool.

The next day we had to make our way to Cancun, where we’d be staying for the next week. Ange’s family has a timeshare back in NZ and they kindly let us transfer one of their weeks to a resort in the hotel zone of Cancun. We’re not big on resorts, but our tranquil Sunday by the pool was one of the most relaxing days we’ve had this year.

Cancun seems to be built around excursions: to Mayan ruins, to theme parks, to other cities; we were hounded by people selling tours whenever we ventured into the main hotel strip. In the end, we caught the ferry to Isla de Mujeres for a day at the beach, explored the El Rey Mayan ruins right in the hotel zone, and did the Xenotes tour. Cenotes are pools that were originally part of underground rivers that are revealed when the bedrock above collapses; we visited four different ones and did activities like ziplining, kayaking and rappelling into the pools. It was a great day.

Linda and a cenote in MexicoZip lining into a cenote: epic.

Apart from these excursions, Craig and I spent a fair amount of time working, and we filled the evenings with Downton Abbey and the Jinx.

Road trip!

I really, really hate hiring cars. Something always seems to go wrong, whether it’s unexpected charges, inscrutable toll systems, or me misreading the speedometer and racing through England twenty miles above the speed limit (true story). However, since four of us would be travelling together, we decided that the flexibility a car would give us was worth the stress. As predicted, when the others went to pick up the car, magic charges were added that increased the price significantly, and within two kilometers we discovered Mexico’s secret weapon: potholes. Don’t worry, it didn’t take us long to recover the hubcap and get on our way again.

Our first stop was the beautiful city of Valladolid, which we explored in a circular fashion while trying to find our hotel, which was not where Google Maps thought it should be. This was to become a recurring theme. We’d planned to spend two nights there, but after visiting a small local museum, doing a tequila tasting, and seeing the Mayan chocolate museum, we were ready to move on.

Mayan ruins

The next day was a big one: Chichen Itza, which is perhaps the most famous of the Mayan ruins. We got there early to beat the heat and crowds — an excellent decision! It was crazy to think of people a thousand years ago walking these now-abandoned streets; playing the first-ever ball game; being sacrificed in the sacred cenote.

Chichen Itza was pretty impressive.Chichen Itza was pretty impressive.

Later in the trip we visited two other major sites: Uxmal, where the sun beat down on us as we climbed one of the pyramids; and Palenque, where a guide took us into the jungle to show us some of the 18 hectares of unexplored ruins that surround the comparatively small excavated site. After a half-hour walk past walls and over jungle-claimed pyramids, the guide pointed out a still-functioning swimming pool and the aqueduct that fed it, then casually suggested we climb through the ten meter long aqueduct tunnel. We said yes — and it was awesome. After that, the excavated ruins were still impressive, but climbing them didn’t have the same frisson of adventure as our jungle tour had.

Jungle tour in a href=Jungle tour!

Back to the road trip

After Chichen Itza, we spent three days in Mérida, where everything we wanted to do was closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. No worries: the city put on entertainment every night in the main square, right outside our hostel in fact, and we created our own adventures in the form of a tour of the city’s banks and a quest to find a Mayan medicine woman who sold us a particular herb that Janine was looking for.

On Wednesday we delayed our departure in order to visit the Mayan museum, where we filled in some of the gaps in our knowledge about Mayan culture. There was a particularly useful map showing where Mayan ruins were located throughout Mexico and when they were built: during the pre-classic period (2000BC-250AD), classic (250-900AD), or post-classic (950-1539AD). There are a lot of ruins!

That afternoon we visited Uxmal then continued on to spend a night in Campeche, a colourful walled city on the coast. The highlight there was walking through the streets and on the walls, and heading to the beach for a long swim. We also tried Campeche’s signature dish, coconut shrimp. Verdict: delicious.

Campeche's beautiful streets.Campeche is pretty, am I right?

Difficult drives

The drive from Campeche to Palenque was long and potholed, and at one point our GPS tried to take us across country (we declined). We were staying in thatched-roof huts near the Palenque ruins, which was a nice change from hotels and hostels. We spent almost the entire day at the ruins, which were our favourite so far, then had a delicious late lunch that included banana stuffed with beef.

If I’d thought the previous drive was difficult, the next day’s drive to San Cristobal de las Casas was something else. Ange and Craig did a spectacular job of negotiating the potholes, but we were all pretty exhausted when we arrived and found ourselves in the middle of a procession. Luckily, the receptionist had a great recommendation for dinner: we sipped wine, picked at a platter of food, and said “no thanks” every minute or so to the vendors who approached us selling everything from food, to toys, to blouses.

San Cristobal is a great place just to walk around; it’s full of life and beautiful buildings. We all agreed that it was our favourite place on the trip so far. Sadly, our time was running out, so we only had one full day there: we filled it with street food, a visit to the Na Balom museum, and an evening of tapas.

San Cristobal cathedral.San Cristobal cathedral.

Leaving town was harder than expected: the toll road was blocked by protesters, and our attempt to join the road further down was a failure. We ended up taking the long way through the jungle; twice the way was blocked by crowds of locals who demanded money to let us pass. We gave it to them.

It was a long day of driving, as was the next — although the roads were a lot better compared to those in the jungle! We made our way through Ciudad del Carmen, on to Xpujil, and spent a lazy afternoon by the lagoon at Bacalar. Our last leg of the trip took us to the Tulum ruins and on to Punta Maroma (near Puerto Morelos), where we stayed at the Amarte Maroma hotel and Craig and I made the most of the fantastic internet to get some work done (a router per room, talk about luxury!).

It seems like our three weeks in Mexico have sped past, and we’re sad to be leaving… though it won’t be for long! We’re off to Cuba for a fortnight, and then we’ll be back in the land of enchiladas. Yum.

Thanks to Xenotes and Amarte Maroma for providing their products to us.

Vibrant colours, friendly people, classic cars rattling down potholed streets, interesting geology, amazing beaches. Rum. Cigars. Music. Cuba is spectacular.

The country’s turbulent history has left it stranded in time in some regards: there are only 21 cars per thousand residents, pay phones are still a major form of communication, the Internet is almost completely absent. A visit to Cuba means cutting yourself off from the world a little (or a lot) — it’s a full immersion experience.

Pinterest pinPin me on Pinterest!Tourists are a major source of income for the country in general and for local people in particular; sometimes we felt like walking wallets as everyone wanted a share of our money. We were constantly saying no to offers of taxis, meals in restaurants, drinks in bars, erotic services. It’s understandable though: while the socialist government makes sure everyone has the bare minimum to survive, locals don’t have a lot of luxury. The tourist dollar is a way to supplement the average salary of less than US$20 a month.

Despite this, we found Cuba to be very reasonably priced: we stayed in casas particulares (local houses that rent out rooms) rather than hotels, and picked up snacks from street vendors rather than always eating out. Transport was the big expense, but didn’t break the bank, tours weren’t too expensive either, and a mojito in a bar could cost as little as US$2.

To listen, hit play below or find episode 312 in iTunes, Stitcher or Soundcloud:

Where is Cuba?

Cuba an island nation in the Caribbean Sea. The main island is the largest in the Caribbean, and the country also includes thousands of smaller islands as well. The US and the Bahamas are to the north, Mexico is to the west (Cancun is a 45-minute flight from Cuba’s capital, Havana) and Jamaica is to the south. A chain of Caribbean islands stretches off to the east, starting with Hispaniola, the island which houses both Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

A tiny bit of Cuban history

Cuba was inhabited by various mesoamerican tribes until 1492, when Christopher Columbus landed and claimed it for Spain. After 400 years of Spanish rule, it was briefly ruled by the US after the American-Spanish war, and gained independence in 1902. The twentieth century was a turbulent one, most notable for the Mafia invasion during American Prohibition followed by the 1959 revolution which overthrew a dictator and brought in Fidel Castro as leader of a now-communist society.

This revolution saw all land holdings over 400 hectares appropriated by the government, with no compensation given to the landowners. Since a huge proportion of the land seized belonged to US citizens, the USA was understandably angry and not only stopped all trade with Cuba, but also prohibited its citizens from visiting the country. President Obama has recently overturned the embargo, so Americans will be able to legally visit very soon. This, along with the loosening of restrictions for Cubans to start small businesses means that change is on its way to Cuba — visit now if you want to see a society on the brink of change.

Cayo Jutia beach CubaCuba is pretty great for beaches.

Get to Cuba

Some cruise ships stop at Cuba, but there aren’t any ferries at present to other countries. This will be changing soon when US Americans have free movement to Cuba; we found several websites advertising ferry services from Florida, which will start operations as soon as it’s permitted.

This means that you’ll almost certainly arrive by air, and probably into Havana. The easiest way to get into the city is by taxi, which costs 20-25 CUC. Until recently, passenger flying out of Cuba were charged a 25 CUC departure tax: this was abolished on May 1, 2015.

A car in Trinidad, a href=The best way to get around Cuba is by taxi… and that might mean a car like this one.

A word about money in Cuba

We read a lot about Cuba before heading there, and most of the articles dwelt heavily on the country’s dual currency system. It’s nowhere near as hard to grasp as these articles will make you think — don’t worry about it!

The currency you’ll be using the most is the convertible peso, or the CUC. It’s pegged 1:1 to the US dollar, so one CUC is the same as a US dollar — easy, right?

The other currency is the moneda nacional (MN or CUP). One CUC is worth 24 MN, and it’s definitely worth carrying some of these, in a separate wallet if possible. You can use them to buy street food like pizza, pastries and sandwiches, as well as drinks and ice cream from vendors or fruit from street carts. If you don’t have any MN on you, many vendors will accept CUC and give change in MN — just make sure to give the smallest denomination possible as they won’t have change for 20 CUC.

Many government-run shops will now accept both currencies and display prices in both CUC and MN. Apparently the dual-currency system is on its way out, but this might take some time!

A typical Havana street. A typical Havana street.

Getting money in Cuba

It can be a challenge to get your hands on Cuban cash. It’s not transferable outside of the country, so you’ll have to wait until you’re there to get it, and that often means standing in ridiculously long lines. The information below was correct as of mid-December 2015.

We decided to rely on plastic, and had no problems withdrawing cash from the ATM at the airport using a Visa debit card. There are ATMs on the departures floor and at the exchange office outside Arrivals. (Turn right out of the door, and — if no-one is using the ATM — talk to the security guard to skip the queue.)

Our Visa Debit worked everywhere, however, most regular debit or MasterCard debit cards don’t work at all, and US cards won’t work either. You can also withdraw from a Visa credit card, but you’ll get charged interest immediately on the amount you take out so it’s not an economical option.

There’s a 3% fee on all ATM withdrawals and currency exchanges, so when we withdrew 800 CUC at the airport, it cost us US$824 plus our normal bank charges.

The other way is to bring cash and change it at a bank or cadeca exchange office. Don’t bring US dollars as there’s an extra 10% tax on them: pounds, euros and Canadian dollars are your best bet. Be prepared to wait in line, usually outside the office: a security guard allows one person to enter at a time.

Trinidad CubaGoing to Cuba can feel like going back in time.

Where to go in Cuba

Havana

Havana seemed to be crumbling around us, with many buildings in a bad state of repair and piles of rubbish decorating the streets. It’s an interesting place to wander around; though — we used an app to explore the main sights but didn’t go into any of the museums. Make sure to see the Capitol building, the pleasantly asymmetrical cathedral, the Castillo de Real Fuerza fortress, and the Partagas tobacco factory. Walk along the malecón (seawall) and buy snacks from the peso shops of street vendors using moneda nacional. We did a tour of one of the tobacco factories, which was very interesting, though quite short. Tickets cost 10 CUC and you have to buy them from any one of the big hotels in the city centre, not from the factory itself.

Viñales

Viñales has boomed in recent years to become a tourist hub. Almost all of the houses are casas particulares and budget street food is hard to come by. It’s worth a visit though: do a tour of the national park on foot or by horse to see tobacco and coffee plantations, visit a cave and swim in a small lake. It’s also a good base for heading to one of the beaches on the northern coast: Cayo Levisa and Cayo Jutias are both around 60km and 90 minutes drive away. Going to Cayo Levisa means hopping on a day tour as going independently is a lot more expensive; we chose Cayo Jutias as it was a little cheaper to get there and seemed less commercial and more laid back.

Viñales, CubaViñales, Cuba

Trinidad, Cienfuegos and Santa Clara

Just an hour or two away from each other, these three colonial cities are all worth a visit. We spent two days each in Trinidad and Cienfuegos, and just visited Santa Clara for the Che Guevara memorial. Trinidad was great for the nightly outdoor concerts at the Casa de la Musica, and Cienfuegos charmed us with its beautiful colonial buildings and seaside location.

Other destinations in Cuba

Twelve days isn’t enough to scratch Cuba’s surface. We limited ourselves to the western side of the island due to time constraints, but there’s plenty to see on the other side as well. We’ve heard that Santiago de Cuba and Guardadlavaca are interesting cities, and there’s snorkelling, scuba diving and hiking opportunities all over the place. There’s no overnight hiking possible: everything we found out about required a guide, a park fee and only comprised 4-15km loops (1-4 hours, maximum hiking time).

Eating in Cuba

Rumours of terrible food in Cuba didn’t match our experience there. Perhaps because new private restaurants have a financial incentive to ensure customers enjoy their food and come back for more, we found the food to be pretty good, on the whole. There was certainly a lot of rice and beans, but in almost every restaurant we could choose from chicken, pork, beef, shrimp or lobster, and side dishes of vegetables were also available. For variety, we had the occasional hamburger or pasta dish, and bought snacks from street stalls in moneda nacional.

As well as eating in restaurants, we also had dinner in our casa particular at least once during each stay. We found the food to be excellent in each case, and the price (7 or 8CUC per person) to be fair. If you’re travelling solo, prices may be a little higher to offset the labour-to-income ratio.

Drink and smoke

Cuba is famous for rum, and for good reason — it’s fantastic. We stuck to Havana Club, the best quality of the brands available, and also the brand you’re most likely to find in bars. Choose from white rum (3 year old) or barrel-aged darker varieties, such as our favourite, the Añejo 7 años. Our cocktail of choice was the mojito, but the daiquiri was also created in Cuba if you want to try it out.

We don’t smoke as a rule, but a few puffs on a Cuban cigar is an experience worth having. Buy your cigars from a temperature-controlled store if at all possible, and never buy on the street. You can tour the cigar factory that produces Partagas, Romeo y Juliet and Cohiba in Havana and see the more casual way cigars are rolled in the tobacco plantations near Viñales.

A tobacco farm in Viñales, a href=Visit a tobacco farm while you’re in Viñales, Cuba.

Get around

The Viazul buses provide a comfortable journey between Cuba’s main cities, but places are limited in high season and you’ll need to buy your tickets (in person) a day or two in advance. Your other option is to hire a car and driver, which we found to be the most convenient way to travel as we were a group of four. Prices are similar to what you’ll pay for the bus, though you might be able to negotiate a small discount if you’re lucky.

Solo travellers can book a seat in a car travelling in the direction they’re heading, though drivers might try to cram four people in the backseat to earn more money. You can ask for advice at the Infotur office in each city, or your casa particular host might have a contact for you.

Classic car in a href=Cuba is full of awesome classic cars.

Warnings

Most Cubans earn less than US$20 per month, which isn’t really enough to live on. Tourists represent a chance to earn more, and while many people have legitimate businesses, others make a living through scams. Jineteros (touts) are a constant issue: they get a commission if they take you to a casa particular or restaurant, so you’ll end up paying more than you should if you show up somewhere with one in tow. Some restaurants seemed to charge different prices depending on the day, and Craig was once charged three times as much as he should have been for a lemonade by a waitress who wanted to line her pockets. It’s hard to avoid all the scams all the time, even for experienced travellers, so be prepared to be ripped off at least once during your trip.

Final thoughts

Cuba is a fascinating country that’s slowly incorporating capitalist values into its socialist system. You’ll undoubtably be frustrated by its contradictions, but it’s definitely worth a visit.

To listen, hit play above or check in iTunes, Stitcher or Soundcloud.

Mexico podcast pinPin me on Pinterest!Mexico is one of those countries that has a million symbols to define it — tacos, sombreros, pyramids, moustaches, guacamole, Frida Kahlo… everyone pictures something when the word Mexico is mentioned. Some of these images are, of course, more representative than others. We wanted to find out which of these icons reflect what Mexico is really like.

To do this, we headed off on a road trip through the Yucatan Peninsula with our friends Ange and Janine. We soon left behind our starting point of Cancún in the state of Quintana Roo, and visited Valladolid, Chichen Itzá, Izamal, Mérida, UxmalPalenque, and San Cristobal de las Casas. On the whole, it was a great route that we can recommend if you’re planning a Mexico road trip.

To listen, hit play below or find episode 314 in iTunes, Stitcher or Soundcloud:

Where is this, exactly?

Imagine Mexico is shaped like a hook, with the point off to the right of the main part of the country. We started at the pointy bit and made our way south and west towards the curve of the hook, then turned around and came back to where we started. We passed through the Mexican states of Yucatan, Campeche, Tabasco (quickly) and Chiapas.

Why do a Mexico road trip in Yucatan, Campeche and Chiapas?

Mexico might call you for a variety of reasons, but you’ll stay for the food. We loved trying all the different types of tortilla-based cuisine and hunting out options that had nothing to do with flatbread. Some highlights were seafood in Campeche and a delicious banana stuffed with beef in Palenque.

Of course, culture is a big drawcard too, especially if you are interested in history. We visited three Mayan ruin sites and a fantastic Mayan museum, and felt like we only touched the surface of this amazing society. I’d love to learn more!

Chichen Itza was pretty impressive.Chichen Itzá is one of many Mayan ruins in this area

Geology fans will love the cenotes, underground pools that were apparently used by the Mayas for human sacrifice. Actually, cenotes are great for everyone — many are open to the public, and for a fee you can have a swim and cool off on a hot day.

Get there

We flew into Cancún, but there are lots of international airports to choose from, depending on where you want to start your trip. Mérida is a good option, and Mexico City could be a good entrance point — you can take a bus or internal flight to your preferred starting point.

You can also enter by bus from the United States, Guatemala and Belize.

Plane flying in blue sky. We recommend arriving by plane.

Get around Mexico

Since there were four of us travelling together, we hired a car and split the costs. This was more expensive than we would have liked, though it still came in at less than US$20 per person per day including tolls and petrol, which seems reasonable for the amount of flexibility it gave us. Not having to find transport from bus stations to hotels was a definite luxury!

Be aware that tolls can be quite expensive and roads are often in a very bad state of repair. If you’re not confident about avoiding potholes, driving might not be your best option. You may also have to pay bribes to police officers or protestors, which can be quite stressful.

If you’re travelling alone or as a couple, or just not interested in driving, the bus network is excellent and fairly priced, though not cheap: around 100 pesos per hour of travel. We used ADO for a couple of trips and found it comfortable and convenient, though there are other bus companies to choose from, depending on where you’re going.

You could also consider ride-sharing. Mexico’s BlaBlaCar network is extensive, and we had a positive experience travelling from Monterrey to Querétaro. Just make sure to choose people with good references and let friends or family know what you’re doing.

Jungle tour in a href=Exploring the jungle-covered ruins at Palenque was a highlight of our Mexico road trip.

Valladolid

Valladolid is a lovely old city that’s a good starting point for a trip to Chichen Itzá. One night is enough to see what it has to offer, which includes an old convent, a Mayan Chocolate Museum, and a shop that offers tequila tastings.

Chichen Itzá

The most famous of the Mayan ruins in Mexico is certainly worth a visit, though its popularity is also its liability. Get there early to beat the crowds, many of which are coming all the way from Cancún on bus tours. Parking costs 30 pesos and the entrance fee is currently 224 pesos. Guides are available for 600 pesos for a one-hour highlights tour, though we used a free audio-guide app and showed ourselves around instead.

Izamal

The yellow town is certainly worth a stop, for its colourful buildings and many ruins. Wander around and enjoy the atmosphere and climb a pyramid or two for an excellent view of the town.

Izamal, Mexico's yellow city.The convent at Izamal.

Mérida

Mérida was one of the highlights of our trip, and it’s worth spending a few days here. Music events are put on every night in the main square, which is often packed with locals, tourists, and food stalls. Parking can be an issue, though, so choose a hotel with parking if you’re driving. Also be aware that most attractions are closed on Monday, and many on Tuesday too, so plan your visit for later in the week if possible.

We enjoyed the Mayan museum on the outskirts of town, it’s great for getting a good overview of Mayan culture — which will definitely be part of any trip to this part of Mexico.

Uxmal

Uxmal was another fantastic ruin, conveniently located not too far from Mérida. Prices were similar to Chichen Itzá but it wasn’t as crowded; we decided to show ourselves around rather than hire a guide.

Campeche

Campeche is so proud of its colourful houses that its car licence-plate symbol is a collection of brightly coloured buildings. You’ll love wandering around admiring the city, and can get a good view by walking along the city walls. The main square is a nice place for a drink in the evening, and there are various light shows to see after dark. The one we saw was a little underwhelming though!

Campeche's beautiful streets.Campeche is pretty!

We headed out to the beach on our last morning in town, and had what was possibly our best meal of the trip at a restaurant called Playa Gaviotas: coconut shrimp, fish, beef, beer, and a collection of tapas that came free with the drinks.

Palenque

It’s a long drive from Campeche to Palenque, but these ruins are worth the effort. The entrance fee is only 64 pesos, and the excavated section warrants several hours of exploring. However, a lot of the site hasn’t been excavated and is still covered by the jungle. You can hire a guide to take you into this part, which we did — it was awesome! Seeing a Mayan swimming pool and climbing through an ancient aqueduct made the 1000 peso price tag (for the group) seem quite reasonable.

Exploring the jungle in a href=Exploring the jungle in Palenque.

Cascadas de Agua Azul

The “Blue water waterfalls” weren’t blue when we were there, but it was still a pleasant stop. There’s a small entrance fee into the complex, which includes a long series of small waterfalls with swimming spots in between, and a variety of handcraft stalls and small restaurants. It’s a good place to stop for lunch and a refreshing swim.

San Cristobal

Although the drive in is long and bumpy, and the highway was closed when we wanted to leave, the journey to San Cristobal is worth the effort. This colonial town will charm you with its pleasant atmosphere, colourful streets, and many, many churches and plazas. It is a tourist hotspot, which means you’ll have to deal with street vendors and touts, but it was one of our favourite stops on our journey.

The Na Balom museum is worth a visit to learn about local tribes and the anthropologist couple who worked with them last century.

What else?

After San Cristobal, we stopped for a night in Frontera and ran through Ciudad del Carmen, and also made an overnight stop in Xpujil before relaxing by the Bacalar lagoon for a night. Unfortunately, though, we couldn’t do everything on our road trip through Yucatan, Campeche, and Chiapas — there are many more ruins to see and tacos to eat, and we couldn’t do it all. So, it’s over to you… have a good trip and let us know how it goes!

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Felices fiestas! Happy holidays! It’s strange that, just ten days into the new year, both Christmas and New Year’s Eve feel so remote, like they happened a long time ago. Perhaps it’s because I’m so excited about 2016 and am looking forward to everything that this year has to offer.

Pin me on Pinterest!Pin me on Pinterest!We’ve just arrived in San José, Costa Rica, after a full month in Mexico. It’s been a month of work, time with friends, Star Wars, and using the sharing economy; with stays in Monterrey, Querétaro, San Miguel de Allende, and Guadalajara, as well as visits to Guanajuato and Tequila. Not to mention our Christmas and New Year’s celebrations. Slow, in other words!

Monterrey 

In order to be allowed to enter Cuba, we had to have tickets out — and all the flights out on the dates we wanted were quite expensive. We ended up choosing the cheapest option and flying into Monterrey in the north of Mexico, with vague ideas of onward flights or long bus journeys to Guatemala. Then one day I sent a Facebook message to our friends Pete and Dalene: “We’d love to see you sometime, hopefully our paths will cross in the next year or so,” and they replied: “Are you going to be back in Mexico for awhile? We head in a few weeks…”

One thing led to another, and in the end we decided to stay in Mexico and celebrate Christmas and New Year’s Eve with them in San Miguel de Allende.

First, though, we had to get out of Monterrey, which wasn’t our cup of tea at all — just too smoggy. We booked a Blablacar and thoroughly enjoyed our onwards journey with a pleasant guy called Axa. He was heading to Querétaro, close enough to San Miguel to meet our needs, and we decided to spend a week there rather than rushing on. Good decision. Querétaro is a fantastic city with a comfortable, local feeling and lots of great restaurant options. Our AirBnb host Roberto showed us around the first night we arrived, and Pete and Dalene showed up not too long after us.

Mexican foodThe food in Mexico is just so good.

Querétaro

Our week in Querétaro was great: full of work days and fun evenings. We went to the cinema to see the new Star Wars movie (so good!) and in the process tried Uber for the first time. (By the way, if you sign up to Uber and use the code craigm5124ue in the promotions tab you get a free ride and so do we… That’s what I call the sharing economy.) We also discovered the joys of gorditas, ate tacos and churros, and generally had a great time.

San Miguel de Allende 

Too soon it was time to say goodbye to Querétaro’s charming cobbled streets and make our way to San Miguel de Allende. We’d organized an apartment rental (with the help of the amazing Talon Windwalker) and spent our first afternoon with the apartment’s owner, Athea, who showed us around her neighborhood and amused us with YouTube videos.

We weren’t the biggest fans of San Miguel; it just seemed a little too much like a Disney idea of a Mexican village. However, we loved spending time with Pete and Dalene, mostly playing a card game that certainly wasn’t called Soily when we first started playing it but was by the time we left.

Taco stand in a href=San Miguel de Allende was great for tacos!

Mexican fiestas!

Christmas Day was a low-key affair at Pete and Dalene’s place; Talon and his son joined us for a delicious dinner, games and a bit of piñata-whacking — the sparklers we bought weren’t a success, though. We also saw in the new year at their place, with tacos and fireworks; it was a lovely end to a great day. Well, for me anyway. Craig was having problems with an eye infection and Dalene wanted to work, so Pete and I headed off to the botanic gardens to admire the local flora and rock formations. We stopped for an artisanal beer on a rooftop terrace, and on our way home let ourselves be drawn to a mobile food vendor’s stand that was selling beer-like drinks in enormous chalices. I’d been putting off trying a michelada, which is more or less beer with a spicy sauce added, because they just sounded so disgusting, but the customer who explained this particular one to us was so enthusiastic that we ordered a couple on the spot. And who’d have thought that spicy beer with seafood could be so good?

Linda and Michelada in a href=Yep, that’s a shrimp in my beer.

Guanajuato

Craig’s eye was still playing up a couple of days later, so he stayed behind while I headed to Guanajuato with Pete and Dalene — what a beautiful place! The highlight was climbing to the viewpoint to look out over the city, and eating chilaquiles in their favorite restaurant.

View of a href=Guanajuato is pretty!

Guadalajara 

It’s not the best reason for going somewhere, but we headed to Guadalajara just to catch a flight. Sadly, we had a lot of work to do, so we didn’t see too much of the city, but we did head out for dinner twice with my language exchange friend Omar and his wife Maribel. It was great to finally meet Omar after knowing him online for almost seven years, and we got on even better in person than we had online.

Guadalajara cathedral MexicoWe did at least manage to see Guadalajara cathedral.

Tequila

The highlight of our stay in Guadalajara was undoubtedly our day trip to Tequila. Omar and Maribel picked us up early so we could have breakfast in the market before meeting their friend Carmen and joining a tour of the Jose Cuervos distillery. After a wander around town, we made our way to an enormous bar on the outskirts of town for “jarritas” (jars of alcohol) and spent two hours slowly sipping our enormous tequila-based cocktails and becoming more and more merry. This week I read that adults laugh on average only 17 times a day (compared to kids, who average 400 times). Well, we blew that number out of the water in Tequila.

Jarritas in a href=Those jars were full of deliciousness.

It’s been a great month, full of truly excellent people and beautiful places, and we’re looking forward to returning to Mexico someday. For now, though, it’s time for Costa Rica and Panama!

Join the sharing economy

We’re really into the sharing economy at the moment: we use AirBnB all the time, occasionally jump in a Blablacar, and have just discovered Uber. Use these codes when you join, and we both get benefits:

Uber: Enter the code craigm5124ue in the promotions tab to get your first ride for free. AirBnB: Use this link for $20 off your first stay.

Pin me on Pinterest!Pin me on Pinterest!Exotic birds chirp in the trees, which are currently being buffeted by strong winds. I’ve just bought milk, cheese and yogurt from a woman who stops by every few days to make sure we have all the dairy we need. A small dog refuses to understand that he’s not supposed to be in the house and whines pitifully when I put him out…again.

This is our life in Santa Fe, Panama, where we’re halfway through a three-week housesit, and where we’ve just agreed to spend six months later in the year. Rural life is suiting us so far: we’ve made some new friends and established a good routine, and the three dogs and one cat we’re looking after have accepted us as adequate substitutes for the humans they really love.

Gorgeous views on the way to a href=One benefit of an early flight: gorgeous views on the way to Costa Rica.

Getting to Central America

Getting here was less of a hassle than we’d expected, though it certainly took a long time! From Guadalajara, Mexico, we hopped on an early-morning flight to San Jose, Costa Rica (and weren’t asked for proof of onward travel, despite my considerable stress over this point). On arrival we changed some pesos to colones at a terrible rate of exchange and caught the bus into town; an early arrival meant plenty of time to explore the city that afternoon.

Green church in San Jose Costa RicaSan José did have some pretty buildings… like this church, the iglesia La Dolorosa.

We weren’t enamoured with San Jose, and it’s a pity that we didn’t have time to see more of Costa Rica. As it was, we spent just two days in the country before hopping on a bus to David, Panama.

The Costa Rica/Panama border

We’d read a lot about crossing the border between these two countries, and while it’s certainly worth having your documents in order, we found it easier than expected. We paid our $7 departure tax at the bus station before we left San Jose, and were surprised to discover a $1 entrance tax to get into Panama — luckily we had a small stash of greenbacks with us! We weren’t asked for proof of funds or onwards tickets, but signs everywhere indicated that both of these were essential, so we were glad to have printed them out in advance.

There was an hour-long wait on one side of the border and a half-hour one on the other; we were taken into a small room with our luggage and the other travelers on our bus to engage in some communal form-filling. Although the process was long, it all went smoothly, and we arrived in David no worse for the wear.

David was just a stopping point on our journey; we didn’t see much of it even though we stayed for two nights. From there, we caught a bus to Santiago and another to Santa Fe, where John the homeowner collected us from the centre of town.

Bermejo waterfall in a href=Bermejo waterfall.

Home

John and Janet had some friends staying with them, so our first couple of days were full of company and excursions: we went out for dinner twice, headed out on a night hike up a local hill, swam in a nearby river. It was sad to say goodbye to them all on Saturday, though we stretched it out as long as possible by heading into Santiago to have a final lunch together.

Back home, we settled into a routine of work and dog-walking, interrupted by visits from Janice providing us with milk and cheese and the fish guy selling fish off the back of his truck, plus conversations with Victorio, Janet and John’s employee. We’ve also spent a bit of time with Kim, Denny, Avril, and Derek, who are all local expats: first an evening of dinner and Farkle (a hilarious dice game), later a hike to the Bermejo waterfall.

Group hiking in PanamaOnce again, all the women were wearing blue shirts…

We’re already feeling at home here, which is great, because this will be our home for a good six months later in the year. It’s quite different from the bases we’ve chosen in the past, so should be an adventure in itself!

Lonely Planet Mexico (Travel Guide)

Lonely Planet

Lonely Planet: The world's leading travel guide publisher

Lonely Planet Mexico is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Explore the ancient Maya world, go horse-riding through fragrant pine forest, and experience Mexico City's hopping cultural scene; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Mexico and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet Mexico Travel Guide:

Color maps and images throughout Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss Cultural insights give you a richer, more rewarding travel experience - history, cuisine, ancient ruins, culture, arts, landscapes, nature, customs, etiquette Over 120 maps Covers Mexico CityVeracruz, Yucatan Peninsula, Cancun, Isla Mujeres, Campeche, Chiapas, Oaxaca, Central Pacific Coast, Tijuana, the Copper Canyon, Northern Mexico, Baja California, Northern Central Highlands and more

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet Mexico, our most comprehensive guide to Mexico, is perfect for both exploring top sights and taking roads less traveled.

Looking for a guide focused on CancunCozumel and the Yucatan? Check out Lonely Planet CancunCozumel & the Yucatan guide for a comprehensive look at all this region has to offer.

Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet, John Noble, Kate Armstrong, Stuart Butler, John Hecht, Anna Kaminski, Tom Masters, Josephine Quintero, Brendan Sainsbury, Andy Symington, Phillip Tang, Lucas Vidgen

About Lonely Planet: Since 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel media company with guidebooks to every destination, an award-winning website, mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveler community. Lonely Planet covers must-see spots but also enables curious travelers to get off beaten paths to understand more of the culture of the places in which they find themselves.

Mexico-Expatriate Insights (Mexico Insights Book 1)

George Puckett

Have you ever dreamed of pulling up stakes and moving to Mexico after retiring? Have you considered Los CabosPuerto PenascoPlaya del CarmenChacala, Lake Chapala, CuernavacaLa PazSan FelipeRosarito Beach or Tepoztlán?This book was initiated as a result of reading a question from a reader in a blog somewhere. She wanted to know why she should move to Puerto Unknown Mexico. She didn’t know anyone there, but it interested her. I knew nothing of Puerto Unknown or Playa Faraway Mexico.If she wanted to know, then others might want to know - and they might have questions about other places in Mexico. So I sent out invitations through several channels seeking people who would be interested in writing about their various communities. The response was great. As a matter of fact, I had to set a limit of ten articles. But this book is about more than just articles on those ten (10) communities.What else is included in this book? In addition to wanting to know about different areas, retirees and potential retirees we heard from had an interest in knowing about owning real estate and financing real estate. A frequent question was, “If they bought a property in Mexico, would Title Insurance be available?”We attempt to address some of these concerns in Part 2 of the book, which we refer to as, “The Expatriates Essential Knowledge Base.”Many Expatriates are also interested in taxes. What are their tax liabilities? Will they have to pay income tax on their US income? If they earn money in Mexico, will the US tax them on that income? Included is an interesting article by Don Nelson, an Expatriate/Attorney/CPA. Don answers many of these questions. The book also has some general information on becoming a Mexican citizen and dual citizenship. We are not attempting to answer all of your questions about living in Mexico, but wanted to give you a general understanding of the topic. There is also contact information in the book should you need additional information. Please Note: A fee may be required/incurred for more detailed information."Never quit Dreaming or trying to make your Dreams reality.

Mexico CIty: An Opinionated Guide for the Curious Traveler

Jim Johnston

Mexico City, as one of the largest metropoli on the planet, can overwhelm even the most adventurous visitor. Thankfully, Mexico City: An Opinionated Guide for the Curious Traveler lends a thorough, guiding hand to help make the visitor's stay outstanding. Written by a longtime resident who knows the city inside and out, this travel guide delivers detailed walking tours of the city that include the most popular tourist sights as well as lesser-known spots. Johnston knows where to stay, what to do, and where to eat: everything from authentic market food to sophisticated Mexican cuisine.What began as a collection of notes to share with good friends is now available to every newcomer looking for a joyful, memorable stay in Mexico City. "This is the guidebook that I want. Wonderfully written, airtight information, organized in the smartest possibly way. I can't imagine a better Mexico City guide for these times."-Tony Cohan, author of Mexican Days and On Mexican Time" Johnston is the friend you wish you had in every great city, toting you from palace to museum to park but never missing the exquisite pastelería, the grand hotel lobby or the clean public bathroom."-San Francisco Chronicle

Mexico (National Geographic Adventure Map)

National Geographic Maps - Adventure

• Waterproof • Tear-Resistant • Travel Map

With its rich cultural history, numerous ecosystems and vast biodiversity, Mexico is one of the most visited countries in the world. National Geographic's Mexico Adventure Map was created for adventure travelers with its unparalleled detailed and convenience. The north side of the map includes Tijuana and the Baja California peninsula, the Gulf of California and nearby parts of the U.S. with such cities of as El Paso, San Antonio and Dallas. The map's south side shows Mexico CityAcapulcoGuadalajaraMonterrey and the neighboring countries of Belize and Guatemala as well as the western half of Honduras.

A user-friendly index of states, cities and towns will help you quickly locate your destination. The clearly mapped road network, complete with distance markers and designations for limited access, toll and divided highways as well as secondary and other smaller roads, will help you plan your route. In addition to the content of traditional road maps, also displayed are hundreds of cultural, ecological, historical and recreational points of interest, including many that are outside of major tourist hubs. Some of these pinpointed places are national parks, nature reserves, monuments, fortresses, archeological sites, caves and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. With such an abundance of specialized content, this map is the perfect compliment to any guidebook.

Every Adventure Map is printed on durable synthetic paper, making them waterproof, tear-resistant and tough — capable of withstanding the rigors of international travel.

Map Scale = 1:2,425,000Sheet Size = 37.75" x 25.5"Folded Size = 4.25" x 9.25"

THE MEXICO EXPAT RETIREMENT AND ESCAPE GUIDE: The Tell It Like It Is Guide to St: FREE BOOK: Retire in Antigua Guatemala

Claude Acero

This new and extended guide will answer you all the questions before relocating to Mexico. It will let you discover the country of "eternal holiday and eternal summer" at your own pace before you even get there. This guide will help you: Get all the essential up-to-date trends, personal stories from expatriates, an insight of the mentality of the “Mexicano", profound immigration information, small business ideas for Mexico, real estate knowledge, info on importing products to healthcare, basically all the essential information you need to start over in Mexico. Furthermore, you get a deeper understanding of the culture and local business manners, a grasp for the lay of the land and nevertheless, in-depth information for “evaders". Included is a FREE BOOK: Retire in Antigua Guatemala This is an exciting, off-beat read written by a real expat; go for it now, this book will help you in many ways!

Mexico: Mexico Travel Guide: 101 Coolest Things to Do in Mexico (Mexico City, Yucatan, Los Cabos, Oaxaca, Cancun, Guanajuato, Guadalajara, Puebla)

101 Coolest Things

Your Ultimate Guide to Mexico Travel! Forget those long and boring guidebooks! 101 Coolest Things to Do in Mexico cuts out the nonsense and gives you all the essential information for traveling in this gem of the Americas, from Mexico City to Cancun, and Los Cabos to Oaxaca. You’ll learn all of the most amazing things to see, eat, buy, and do from museums to restaurants, festivals to parties, ruins to adventure activities! Why You Need 101 Coolest Things to Do in Mexico We tell you the things that other Dublin travel guides don’t. Here’s a snippet of what you’ll learn from the book. - the very best things to shove in your pie hole, from street food staples like tacos al pastor to 100 year old restaurants - the best shopping so that you can take a little piece of Mexico back home with you, whether that’s in the form of handcrafted pottery or a bottle of mezcal - incredible festivals, whether you want to get to grips with Mexico’s mariachi culture, or you’d prefer to dance all night to electronic music on a beach - the coolest historical and cultural sights that you simply cannot afford to miss from Frida Kahlo’s House to the largest pyramid on the planet - outstanding experiences in nature from whale watching on the coast of Sayulita to free-falling into a cave - and tonnes more coolness besides! This is the best value guide to travel in Mexico out there. Get your copy NOW!

Mexico Classic [Tubed] (National Geographic Reference Map)

National Geographic Maps - Reference

National Geographic’s wall map of Mexico is one of the largest and most detailed maps of the country. The signature Classic style design uses a bright, easy-to-read color palette. This map features thousands of place names, accurate political boundaries, national parks including Cumbres de Monterrey National Park, biosphere reserves including El Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve, archeological sites including the ruins of the Yucatan Peninsula, and major infrastructure networks such as roads, canals, ferry routes, and railroads. Mexico's diverse terrain is detailed through accurate shaded relief, coastal bathymetry, and symbolism for water features and other land forms. Elevations of major peaks are expressed in both feet and meters, and depth soundings are expressed in fathoms.

The map is packaged in a two inch diamater clear plastic tube. The tube has a decorative label showing a thumbnail of the map with dimensions and other pertinent information.

Map Scale = 1:4,370,000Sheet Size = 34.5" x 22.5"

Mexico

Cliff Hollenbeck

A photographic essay through the country's distinct regions captures the vibrant essence of Mexico, its people, and culture.

Exercise a high degree of caution; see also regional advisories.

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provides credible and timely information in its Travel Advice. In the event of a crisis situation that requires evacuation, the Government of Canada’s policy is to provide safe transportation to the closest safe location. The Government of Canada will assist you in leaving a country or a region as a last resort, when all means of commercial or personal transportation have been exhausted. This service is provided on a cost-recovery basis. Onward travel is at your personal expense. Situations vary from one location to another, and there may be constraints on government resources that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide assistance, particularly in countries or regions where the potential for violent conflict or political instability is high.

More than 1.9 million Canadians travel to Mexico each year, the vast majority of them without incident.

Northern states (see Advisory)

Shootouts, attacks and illegal roadblocks may occur without warning. Criminals especially target sport utility vehicles and full-size pickup trucks for theft and carjacking along highways. Avoid inter-city road travel in the northern states.

Travel to and within Ciudad Juarez poses particular challenges and requires extreme caution.

Exercise a high degree of caution when travelling in the city of Monterrey, avoid movement after dark and stay within the suburb of San Pedro Garza García.

South-Western states (see Advisory)

Criminal activity has significantly increased in the states of Jalisco, Guerrero and Michoacán. Illegal roadblocks and demonstrations have been reported on a more frequent basis. The deterioration of the security situation is particularly noticeable in the rural areas of Guerrero and Michoacán. The rapid expansion of vigilante militias is troubling, and there have been instances where such groups have fired at vehicles that did not adhere to their roadblocks.

Organized crime

In northern Mexico, particularly along the border with the United States, organized crime and urban violence affect security. Confrontations between organized criminal groups and Mexican authorities continue to pose a problem. This has led to an increase in illegal roadblocks, robberies, kidnappings and carjackings, including in the city of Monterrey.

Heavily armed gangs have attacked travellers driving through MatamorosReynosa, and Nuevo Laredo in the state of Tamaulipas but also on several highways in the states of Nuevo León, Coahuila, Durango, and Sinaloa. Violence related to organized crime has increased in the states of Guerrero (including Acapulco), Sinaloa (including Mazatlán), Morelos, Nayarit, Michoacán, San Luis PotosiVeracruz, and Zacatecas, and Jalisco.

In some parts of the country, military and federal police forces have been deployed in efforts to combat organized crime and improve security conditions. They maintain a visible presence patrolling the streets, setting up roadblocks, and conducting random vehicle checks. Armed clashes between security forces and criminal groups do occur in certain areas without warning. You could get caught in the crossfire.

Crime

Crime rates in Mexico are high. Arrest and detention rates are low and contribute to high levels of criminality.

If you are the victim of a crime, report it immediately to the Agencia del Ministerio Público nearest to the crime scene. No criminal investigation is possible without a formal complaint to Mexican authorities.

Complaints must be made in person before leaving Mexico. You must present photo identification. It is especially important to report the loss or theft of your identification documents - both to Mexican authorities and to the nearest Canadian consular point of service in Mexico - in order to protect yourself should the documents later be misused.

Law enforcement and police presence is often lacking near the border with Guatemala, particularly in the state of Chiapas.

Theft

Theft - including armed robbery, purse snatching, and pickpocketing – is common in Mexico. You should be aware of your surroundings at all times, even in areas normally considered safe, and take precautions to secure your belongings and minimize your risk of becoming a target for thieves. Blend in, avoid wearing or carrying expensive jewellery, and carry only small amounts of cash. Keep your luggage secure at all times. In resort areas, leave your passport and valuables in your hotel safe, not in your hotel room or on the beach, while you are swimming.

Foreigners have been targeted in assault and robbery incidents, which are often violent. Victims have been followed after exchanging or withdrawing money at airports, currency exchange bureaus (casas de cambio), and automated banking machines (ABMs). Avoid withdrawing or exchanging money in public areas of the airport. If a financial transaction is absolutely necessary, ensure only small amounts are involved and execute the transaction before exiting the customs area.

Withdraw or exchange money at ABMs or exchange bureaus during daylight hours only, and inside reputable hotels and malls rather than on the street. Always conceal the keypad when entering your personal identification number, even if nobody else is around. Keep your credit card in sight when paying for goods and services.

Assault

Incidents of physical and sexual assault against foreigners have been reported, in some cases implicating hotel employees, taxi drivers, and security personnel. Avoid walking after dark, especially alone, and avoid deserted or under-populated areas. You should only frequent bars and nightclubs as part of a group and avoid separating from the group. In cases of sexual assault, police authorities will require a medical examination.

Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum, or cigarettes from new acquaintances, as they may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery. Avoid excessive alcohol consumption, and do not accept invitations or rides from strangers or recent acquaintances, as this can make you a more vulnerable target for criminals.

Demonstrations                                             

Demonstrations and protests occur regularly. Avoid large gatherings and demonstrations, which could erupt into violent incidents at any time. Participation in political demonstrations by foreigners is prohibited and may result in detention, expulsion, and the denial of future entry into Mexico. Demonstrations and roadblocks occur regularly in the states of Guerrero, Michoacán and Oaxaca.

Kidnappings                                                     

Kidnappings, including the kidnapping of Canadian citizens (and contractors working for Canadian businesses), do occur in Mexico, affecting primarily persons working in rural areas, located outside the areas of stronger institutional control of police and government authorities.

Kidnappers target both the wealthy and middle class. Foreigners are not specifically targeted but may be perceived as being wealthy.

Express kidnappings, i.e. attempts to get quick cash in exchange for the release of an individual, occur frequently in large urban areas. The most common practice involves thieves working in cooperation with, or posing as, taxi drivers. The thieves force victims to withdraw money from ABMs with their debit or credit cards in exchange for their release. Victims are sometimes held overnight so that a second withdrawal up to the victim's daily bank withdrawal limit can also be made the following day. Avoid hailing taxis on the street and instead call a reputable taxi company or use the taxi services located at a major hotel.

A common scam throughout Mexico is 'virtual' kidnapping, where a perpetrator identifies a person who is temporarily unreachable by cell phone or email, and then contacts that person’s family claiming that they have kidnapped their loved one, and demanding an immediate ransom for their release. When the family members cannot reach their loved one in Mexico, they may assume that the person has been kidnapped, when in fact they are simply unreachable. Perpetrators may use social media sites to gather information about potential victims.

Any kidnapping, real or virtual, should be reported to the police as well as to the Embassy of Canada in Mexico City or the nearest Canadian consulate.

Scams

Criminals posing as police officers approach tourists and ask for their passports or for foreign currency.

Legitimate police officers have extorted money from tourists or arrested tourists for minor offences or traffic violations. If this occurs, do not hand over your money or your passport. Instead, ask for the officer’s name, badge and patrol car number, the location of the arrest, and the written fine payable at a later date. Should you feel the fine cannot be justified, proceed to the nearest Agencia del Ministerio Público or Tourism Office to file a complaint.

Do not divulge personal information to strangers either in person or over the phone. Virtual kidnapping by telephone is a common practice in Mexico. Should you receive a call from someone demanding payment for the release of an arrested or kidnapped family member, remain calm, note the phone number of the person calling, hang up, and report the call to local police. Scam artists have also gathered information on luggage tags in hotel lobbies and later convinced guests to give them their contact information in Canada. Afterwards, they have called parents of travelling Canadians to report that their child has been detained or hospitalized and have requested that money be wired to Mexico. If this occurs, parents or friends should request the name and number of the caller and contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa (see Help Abroad).

Road safety

Avoid road travel at night between cities throughout the country. Toll (cuota) highways are safer than secondary highways. Overnight, ensure that you only stop in major centres, at reputable hotels or secure campsites.

Road conditions vary and can be poor in some areas. Dangerous curves, poorly marked signs and construction sites, roaming livestock, slow-moving or abandoned vehicles, and other obstacles pose hazards.

Mexican driving styles and road safety standards are very different from those in Canada. Police do not regularly patrol the highways. Be prepared for drivers that fail to observe speed limits, indicate lane changes, or stop at red lights. Pedestrians should be extremely cautious at all times. Fatal hit-and-run accidents occur. Keep your car doors locked and the windows rolled up, especially at traffic lights, where you can be a target for criminals.

In the event of a vehicle breakdown or roadside emergency, a highway patrol service offered by the Mexican Ministry of Tourism (SECTUR), called the Green Angels (Angeles Verdes), provides free assistance on all major toll highways from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. In case of an emergency, dial 078 or the toll-free number in Mexico, 01-800-006-8839.

Public transportation

Although public transportation is relatively safe, take precautions in airports, bus stations, and the Mexico City metro, which are often very crowded and popular areas for pickpockets. Avoid travelling during rush hour if you can.

Canadians have been robbed on buses, usually at night. Keep an eye on your luggage, money, and personal documents at all times. Bus accidents occur frequently due to speeding, poor road conditions, and mountainous terrain. You should travel during daylight hours and on first-class buses only.

Hitchhiking is not a common practice in Mexico and is not recommended.

Taxis

You should only use hotel taxis or taxis based at designated stands (sitios). In Mexico City, all government-authorized taxis have licence plates starting with an A or a B. Taxis from designated stands have both the logo of their company and the plate number stamped on the side of the car. Always ask the dispatcher for the driver's name and the taxi's licence plate number, model, and colour.  When arriving at Benito Juárez Airport in Mexico City, you should only use airport taxis, after prepaying the fare inside the airport. Ask to see the driver's official identification.

Air transportation

Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

General security information

Monitor local news sources on a regular basis to learn about events that could affect your personal safety. Leave your itinerary and contact information with friends or family in Canada.

On beaches, take posted warnings about swimming conditions seriously. Many beaches are not supervised or do not offer warnings. When in doubt, consult hotel staff.

Ensure that the recreational activities you choose are covered by your travel insurance or by a local insurance policy, and that sporting and aquatic equipment is safe and in good condition, especially for scuba diving. Many operators do not conduct regular safety checks. Canadians have been involved in accidents in the past where operators of recreational vehicles such as scooters and watercrafts demanded compensation in excess of the value of the damage caused to the vehicle or equipment.

Exercise caution when standing close to balcony railings, as falls have resulted in deaths and injuries.

Height standards for balcony railings in Mexico can be considerably lower than those in Canada.

For emergency services, dial 060 or 066.

Health

Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
Vaccines

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.

Influenza

Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.

Measles

Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
 

Rabies

Rabies is a disease that attacks the central nervous system spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from a rabid animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).

Typhoid

Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives, or with weakened immune systems. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should consider getting vaccinated.

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Risk
  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of vaccination is not required to enter this country.
Recommendation
  • Vaccination is not recommended.
Food/Water

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

In some areas in Central America and Mexico, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in Central America and Mexico. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!

Cholera

There have been cases of cholera reported in this country in the last year. Cholera is a bacterial disease that typically causes diarrhea. In severe cases it can lead to dehydration and even death.

Most travellers are generally at low risk. Humanitarian workers and those visiting areas with limited access to safe food and water are at higher risk. Practise safe food and water precautions. Travellers at high risk should get vaccinated.

Travellers' diarrhea
  • Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
  • Risk of developing travellers’ diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
  • The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.

Insects

Insects and Illness

In some areas in Central America and Mexico, certain insects carry and spread diseases like American trypanosomiasis (Chagas disease), dengue fever, leishmaniasis, malaria, onchocerciasis (river blindness), and West Nile virus.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.

Dengue fever
  • Dengue fever occurs in this country. Dengue fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases it leads to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.  
  • Mosquitoes carrying dengue bite during the daytime. They breed in standing water and are often found in urban areas.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine available for dengue fever.

Malaria

Malaria

  • There is a risk of malaria in certain areas and/or during a certain time of year in this country.
  • Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by mosquitoes. There is no vaccine against malaria.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in well-screened, air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider sleeping under an insecticide-treated bed net or pre-treating travel gear with insecticides.
  • Antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling. See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss your options.

Animals

Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Some infections found in Central America and Mexico, like rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


Person-to-Person

Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.


Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

Medical services are easily available in large cities but limited in remote areas. Standards of patient care differ from those in Canada and vary greatly among medical facilities, especially in beach resort areas.

Private hospitals and clinics offer good-quality care but are generally expensive and expect payment in advance. Many will not agree to deal directly with medical insurance companies. Be prepared to pay for treatment yourself and then request a refund from your insurer If medical services are required, contact your tour representative or the closest Canadian government office to obtain a list of reputable facilities or physicians in the area.

Medication

Pharmacies in main cities carry most medicines. It is advisable to consult a physician before purchasing medicine manufactured in Mexico. If you take prescription medication, bring along an adequate supply and a copy of the prescription. Ensure that both the generic and trade names of the drug are stated.

To determine whether a particular medication is controlled in Mexico and requires a prescription from a doctor, consult the Mexican Federal Commission for Protection Against Health Risks (in Spanish) and the Embassy of Mexico in Canada.

Medicine cannot be mailed by courier services from Canada.

Health tips

When travelling to Mexico City, you may experience health problems caused by high altitude, in addition to problems caused by air pollution, which is at its peak during the winter months. Individuals with heart, lung, or respiratory problems should consult their doctor before booking their trip.

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and detention page and our Overview of the criminal law system in Mexico for more information.

Illegal activities

Penalties for breaking the law in Mexico can be more severe than in Canada, even for similar offences.

Penalties for drug offences are very strict, and convicted offenders can expect lengthy jail sentences.

You should avoid any involvement with illegal substances or those who deal with them. You should also avoid borrowing a vehicle or picking up hitchhikers; drivers are legally responsible for their vehicle's contents, as well as for the legal status of passengers and the items carried by passengers.

The Mexican government strictly enforces its laws concerning possession, entry, and trafficking of firearms. Anyone (including foreign armed forces personnel) entering Mexico with a firearm or ammunition without prior written authorization from Mexican authorities is subject to imprisonment. It is also illegal to enter the country with certain types of knives. You can obtain a complete list of forbidden items and import permit requirements from the Embassy of Mexico in Canada.

It is illegal to drink alcoholic beverages in non-designated public areas. The minimum age at which people are legally allowed to purchase or consume alcoholic beverages is 18 years old.

Participation in political activities (such as demonstrations) by foreigners is prohibited and should be avoided, as it may result in detention, deportation, or the denial of future entry into Mexico.

It is illegal to possess archaeological artefacts or to export such items from Mexico.

Dual citizenship

Dual citizenship status may limit the ability of Canadian officials to provide consular services. Consult our publication entitled Dual Citizenship: What You Need to Know for more information.

Customs

Tourists are allowed to bring in their personal effects duty-free. Failure to declare personal effects will result in their confiscation and a fine. Mexican customs provides information regarding entry into Mexico by air or land. When carrying more than US$10,000 or its equivalent in other currencies, cash, cheques, money orders, or any other monetary instrument, you must declare the amount exceeding US$10,000. Failure to make this declaration is against Mexican law and often results in detention.

If you wish to donate goods, contact the Embassy of Mexico in Canada before sending or importing goods to Mexico in order to fulfill the importation permit requirements.

Identity documents

Mexican authorities require that the names indicated on your identity documents (generally your passport) be identical to those appearing on your birth certificate before issuing official documents, such as marriage certificates, immigration documents or Mexican passports. Many Canadians have encountered significant difficulties due to this requirement, as middle names are often left off Canadian identity documents. If you plan on residing in Mexico or dealing with Mexican Civil Registry, you should obtain a Canadian passport that will meet Mexican requirements.

Vehicles and Boats

Canadian driver's licences are valid in Mexico. The police sometimes ask foreigners to show identification and proof of their legal status in Mexico. You should always carry valid photo identification, your passport, visa, and other documents. Leave a certified copy of your vehicle registration with relatives or friends in Canada.

a) Rentals

The contract for a rental vehicle must be in the traveller's name and include a full description of the vehicle.

b) Company-owned vehicles

You must produce proof of employment and of the vehicle’s ownership by the company.

c) Importation

Mexico has very strict rules regarding the entry of foreign vehicles and boats. Do not enter Mexico without having obtained the proper importation permit and car/boat insurance. Without a permit, you may be fined and have your vehicle seized. Contact the Embassy or a consulate of Mexico in Canada to verify the latest regulations and requirements regarding vehicle and boat importation. Complete information is available from Aduana México.

Motor vehicles

If you wish to travel beyond the border zone (20 to 30 kilometres from the U.S. border) with your car, you must obtain a Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit (Solicitud de importación temporal de vehículos). The permit can only be obtained at the port of entry or online at Aduana México before crossing the border into Mexico.

You are only allowed to bring one vehicle into the country at a time. Those travelling with a recreational vehicle are not entitled to tow a second vehicle unless it is registered in the name of an accompanying traveller. The second vehicle should not exceed the weight limit of 3.5 tons. It is the owner’s responsibility to obtain the permit through the Banco Nacional del Ejército, Fuerza Aérea y Armada or Aduana México 10 to 180 days before departure. Permits can also be obtained at one of the Mexican consulates located in Austin, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Bernardino, Albuquerque, Denver, and Phoenix, or at a customs office located along the U.S.-Mexico border or, in some cases, within an authorized border zone. Watch for signs indicating customs checkpoints and Banjercito Bank locations (where permits can be issued and cancelled).

If you stay beyond the date indicated on the Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit, your vehicle may be seized.

When leaving Mexico, you must return your Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit in person, along with the vehicle with which you entered the country, to any customs office at the border so that the permit can be cancelled. Keep a copy of the cancellation documents. Neither the Embassy of Canada in Mexico City nor the Embassy of Mexico in Ottawa can return these permits on behalf of Canadian citizens. It is not permissible to mail your permit to the border point. As long as the permit remains in effect, you will be unable to import another vehicle into Mexico. You may be able to cancel the permit on a future visit to Mexico if you enter at the same border point with the same vehicle; however, a fine may be imposed.

In cases where the permit holder cannot exit the country with the vehicle (for example, in case of death or sickness), the person driving the car out of Mexico must be a foreigner with a valid tourist card and have documentation to prove the relationship with the car owner, such as a marriage or birth certificate.

Boats

It is the owner’s responsibility to obtain the importation permit through the Banco Nacional del Ejército, Fuerza Aérea y Armada or Aduana México 7 to 60 days before departure. Permits can also be obtained at one of the Mexican consulates located in Austin, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Bernardino, Albuquerque, Denver, and Phoenix.

Further information and online application forms can be found at Banco Nacional del Ejército, Fuerza Aérea y Armada (available in English and French).

d) Purchasing/selling

Foreigners who wish to purchase a car in Mexico must hold either temporary or permanent residency in Mexico, be able to pay vehicle taxes, and obtain Mexican licence plates. If you are interested in buying a car, consult local authorities.

It is illegal to sell your imported vehicle in Mexico. If you do, your vehicle may be seized and you may be subject to a fine and deportation.

Insurance

Canadian automobile insurance is not recognized in Mexico. You must obtain additional insurance at the Mexican border. Full coverage is recommended, including coverage for legal assistance. Automobile insurance is much more expensive in Mexico than in Canada. Many local drivers do not have any form of car insurance.

For more information on Mexican driver's permits, vehicle inspection, road tax, or mandatory insurance, please contact the SECTUR at 1-866-640-0597 (toll free from Canada).

Accidents and fines

In case of an accident or theft of your vehicle, you should immediately obtain a police report from the nearest police station (Ministerio Público) and present it to the Mexico City customs office (Aduanas) in order to cancel the Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit no later than five days after the incident. If you are involved in a traffic accident, you may face serious legal problems, including imprisonment. You could be taken into custody until responsibility for the accident is determined and all penalties are paid. If you do not have Mexican liability insurance, you could be prevented from leaving the country until all parties agree that adequate financial satisfaction has been received. Depending on the extent of injuries or damages, drivers may face criminal charges. Motor vehicle insurance is considered invalid in Mexico if the driver is found to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the accident, or if the driver has no valid driver's licence.

If you receive a fine for a driving infraction in certain parts of the country, the issuing police officer is obligated by law to retain your driver's license or registration until the fine is paid. Expect delays in recovering the document.

Driving restrictions

In order to reduce air pollution, time and day restrictions are imposed on driving in Mexico City as well as other regions of the country. Based on licence plate numbers, there is at least one day each week and one Saturday per month when driving is forbidden. This applies equally to permanent, temporary, and foreign plates. These regulations are strictly enforced. Offenders face heavy fines and temporary confiscation of their vehicle.

A supplementary driving restriction has been implemented in Mexico City. Vehicles without plates from the State of Mexico (Estado de México) or the Federal District (DF) are not allowed to circulate from Monday to Friday from 5 a.m. to 11 a.m. For more information, consult the Mexican Ministry of the Environment (in Spanish). An exemption to this driving restriction may be obtained for cars with foreign plates by requesting a permit, the Pase Turístico (tourist pass), which is granted either for two periods of seven days or one period of 14 days in a six-month period. In order to obtain the tourist pass, you must register at Pase Turístico (in Spanish).

Real estate

You may acquire real estate in Mexico. However, you should consult a lawyer, as real estate transactions, laws, and practices can be complex and differ considerably from those in Canada. Choose your own lawyer or notary and avoid hiring the one recommended by the seller. Mexican real estate agents are not licensed or regulated.

Research potential property purchases carefully, as irregularities occur, most frequently title challenges, which may result in litigation and possible eviction. Trusts do not guarantee that the purchase is legitimate. Visit the local Property Registry (Registro de Propiedad) and ask to see the property registry to confirm the name of the last owner and the fact that the property is free of any mortgage.

Time-share agreements

Reports of problems with time-share arrangements (including cancellation of contracts and fraudulent sales) have increased. Be prepared for the possibility of being approached by persistent time-share representatives on the street, as well as at the airport or on the way to your hotel. Be prepared for common pressure tactics, such as being told that promotions are only valid for that day and being offered free tours, meals, gifts, or alcoholic beverages.

Before purchasing a time-share, gather as much information as possible, research the properties, and even get a legal opinion. If you do decide to buy, be sure to carefully review the contract. Anything not included in the contract will not be honoured. Only provide your credit card if you are certain you wish to make the purchase.

Cancellation of contracts: Time-share companies have requested that their clients sign a waiver that prevents them from cancelling the contract. Such practices are illegal. Mexican law stipulates that consumers are legally entitled to cancel a time-share contract without penalty; however, the cancellation must be done within five working days starting from the day following the original date of purchase. Cancellations of contracts must be done in writing and must be presented directly to the time-share company. Keep copies of all correspondence.

Fraudulent sale of time-shares: Companies and individuals may approach you claiming to have a buyer for your time-share and asking you to pay taxes beforehand. After payment of the so-called "taxes", Canadians have discovered that their time-share was never sold. If you experience any difficulties with a time-share company, you should immediately contact the Mexican Consumer Protection Agency, the Procuraduría Federal del Consumidor (PROFECO).

Renting

Rental agreements between two individuals in Mexico are considered a private matter and are not regulated by the government. Should you encounter difficulties with a rental agreement and wish to take legal action, you will be required to obtain the services of a Mexican lawyer.

Money

The currency is the Mexican peso (MXN/MXV). Automated banking machine services are available throughout the country. Canadian debit and credit cards are widely accepted; however, Canadian currency and traveller's cheques are not. Some Canadians have recently reported that they were unable to withdraw cash from automated banking machines using Canadian debit cards. Consult with your bank before you travel.

There is a limit to the amount of U.S. dollars that both residents and foreigners can exchange in Mexico, depending on your immigration status in Mexico. Although the rule does not apply to Canadian dollars, some financial institutions, hotels, and currency exchange bureaus are not making the distinction.

Climate

Hurricane season

The hurricane season extends from mid-May to the end of November, and may affect both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts. The National Hurricane Center provides additional information on weather conditions. Follow regional weather forecasts, and the advice and instructions of local authorities.

Rainy season

The rainy season extends from June to November, and flooding and mudslides occur during this time.

Transportation routes may be affected. If you are planning to travel to possible affected areas, contact your airline or tour operator to determine whether the situation could disrupt your travel arrangements.  Exercise caution, monitor local news and weather reports, and follow the advice of local authorities.

Seismic activity

Mexico is located in an active seismic zone. For further information, consult Mexico’s National Seismological Institute (in Spanish).

Some volcanoes in Mexico are active. You may obtain updated information on the status of volcanoes from the Volcano Observatory or from CENAPRED (in Spanish).