Mexico is such a spectacular travel destination. Visitors to Mexico are regularly wowed by its warm culture, delicious cuisine, fascinating archeological sites, beautiful beaches, and charming traditions.
Yet before packing your bags to enjoy the country’s splendors, there are lots of Mexico travel tips and cultural advice for visitors to be aware of when traveling to Mexico. We regularly see many of the same questions about traveling Mexico within travel forums, nomad groups, and expat chats. So after spending a good part of the past decade traveling across and temporarily living in over half of Mexico’s 32 states, we wanted to publish this in-depth roundup of the best Mexico travel tips to help visitors travel throughout the country.
These Mexico travel tips aim to help prepare for a trip to Mexico by arming travelers with local knowledge, cultural etiquette, and money-saving tips, all with up-to-date info for 2023.
Whether you’re a first-time traveler to Mexico, looking to delve deeper into the country, or even considering Mexico as a place to live as an expat or digital nomad, this article is for you. It’s our hope these Mexico travel tips provide many resources for smooth travels, staying safe, and having fun within this beautiful country!
Travel Tips for Eating and Drinking in Mexico
In our opinion, Mexican food is one of the best cuisines in the world. So be sure to take the opportunity to enjoy it throughout your Mexico travels. But new visitors can take some modest precautions to lessen the risk of getting sick when exploring Mexico’s cuisine.
Also, it’s recommended that travelers to Mexico come with an open mind about the cuisine you’ll find. Understand that Mexican cuisine can be misunderstood and misrepresented when prepared elsewhere around the world. For example, Tex-Mex cuisine can be delicious, but it’s sometimes incorrectly labeled as Mexican cuisine, which can be vastly different. Many first-time visitors to Mexico are surprised by the array of fantastic local dishes that await them.
1) Can You Drink the Water in Mexico?
It is best to strictly avoid drinking tap water in Mexico. There is a risk that water from the faucet contains contaminants, like bacteria, that can cause illnesses such as traveler’s diarrhea. So do not drink tap water in Mexico.
That said, if you’re served a glass of water at a restaurant in Mexico, it’s likely fine to drink. Restaurants only offer purified water. Often patrons will purchase a bottle of water, typically ordered as “agua natural,” in which you’ll receive a bottle of water.
Sometimes complimentary water may be served at restaurants in Mexico too. If so, this water is typically purified water (from a big 5-gallon jug known as a garrafón), not from a faucet. This is completely fine to drink.
So don’t hesitate to drink water at restaurants in Mexico. This Mexico travel tip also extends to water-based drinks, such as limondas and aguas frescas. These water-based beverages are made from purified water in Mexico, so it’s all good. Even street vendors use purified water in their beverages. So drink up and stay hydrated!
2) Don’t Have Drinks with Ice in Mexico?
It’s typically fine to consume ice in Mexico.
There is long-standing advice warning visitors to forgo drinks with ice in Mexico. This is out of an abundance of caution from fear that the ice is made with tap water. But this Mexico travel tip to avoid ice tends to be outdated. In 2023, ice served in Mexico’s restaurants and bars is nearly always made from purified water and is safe for consumption.
Even street vendors selling horchatas and aguas frescas typically make their beverages with purified ice. You can easily tell because of the ice’s manufactured, often tubular, shape. If ever in doubt and want to be extra safe, you can always forgo ice. But doing so is likely unnecessary.
Visitors to Mexico generally should not be afraid of drinks with ice. So have that frozen margarita and enjoy it!
3) Discover Local and Regional Mexican Cuisine!
It can also be helpful to know that much of Mexico’s local cuisine is regional and can even be hyper-local. For example, Yucatan cuisine (e.g., cochinita pibil) is very different than Oaxacan cuisine (e.g., moles). The city of Puebla takes pride in its cemitas (sandwiches), while in Guadalajara it’s the torta ahogada sandwiches that reign supreme. The Veracruz-style fish (with tomato, capers, and olives) found along the Gulf is a much different presentation compared to the Baja-style fish tacos found on the Pacific side of the country. Speaking of tacos, there are so many regional taco varieties in Mexico that there’s even an entire Netflix series to be devoted to it.
Doing a bit of research about the local dishes specific to the state or city you’re visiting can ultimately reward your taste buds.
Here are just a few regional specialties in Mexico to get you started:
- Yucatan: cochinita pibil, sopa de lima, poc chuc, marquesitas
- Oaxaca: 7 moles, tlyadudas, chapulines, quesillo, tasajo, mescal
- Veracruz: pescado a la veracruzana
- Jalisco: Birria, tortas ahogadas, carne en su jugo, tequila
- Puebla: mole poblano, chiles en nogada, tacos arabe, cemitas
- Michoacán: carnitas
- Northern Mexico: machaca, carne asada
- Baja: fish tacos, caesar salad
There are also many famous dishes you can try throughout much of Mexico. Although hailing from Puebla, mole poblano is considered the national dish of Mexico. If visiting during the first half of September leading up to Mexico’s Independence Day, it’s traditional to eat chiles en nogada, often considered a national dish. Of course, there are always tacos, considered by many to also be a national dish of Mexico and can be a delicious idea throughout the entire country!
Our advice: make a plan to eat local. Arrive hungry. Enjoy all of Mexico’s delicious cuisine!
4) Is it Safe to Eat Street Food in Mexico?
Yes, it can be. But follow the recommended hygiene tips.
Whether or not to eat street food in Mexico is a question that always seems to come up and is frequently debated. Ultimately, the answer can come down to personal preference and risk tolerance. Eating street food in Mexico does carry some minimal risk. But it’s a risk that can easily be mitigated.
The CDC suggests that “Street vendors…may not be held to the same hygiene standards as restaurants, so eat food from street vendors with caution.”
Travelers to Mexico can experience an upset stomach when eating street food. Visitors freshly arriving to Mexico on a quick trip may want to proceed with caution as a safeguard to thwart the unfortunate possibility of traveler’s diarrhea. Avoiding street food can be an overcautious yet safe approach to help stay well. But in doing so, you’ll also miss out on lots of yummy food.
While it is possible to get sick from street food in Mexico, the same can be said for restaurants, whether in Mexico or elsewhere. The key to mitigating risk when eating street food in Mexico is ensuring good hygiene is being used by each vendor.
If you choose to partake in the many stalls set up along the streets, here are our best Mexico street food tips to follow:
- Look to see if the person who prepares the food also does the money exchange. If so, watch for gloves to be used to handle cash, with clean bare hands handling the food.
- Avoid stalls with pre-cooked foods sitting out. Choose cooked foods that immediately come off the heat source (pot, grill, etc.).
- Look for vendors with a steady stream of local customers. If they’re willing to wait in line, the vendor likely has a great reputation. And with many customers, the food stays hot and fresh!
- Check for flies around any open food containers. Move on if you see any. Stalls with fresh-cut fruit laying out in the open can often attract flies and are best avoided.
- Consider avoiding foods with raw vegetables or fruits, since they could contain bacteria/viruses or have been rinsed with faucet water.
On a personal note, we regularly (often daily) eat all the delicious street food we can devour in Mexico. During the many years we’ve traveled/lived in Mexico, we did get food illness once. But it was from a restaurant, not street food.
5) Don’t Dip into the Salsa
Upon getting situated at a restaurant in Mexico, crispy tortilla chips and delicious salsas are sometimes brought to the table, complimentary. North of the border, we’re accustomed to dipping into the salsa directly with a chip. But in Mexico, it’s more customary to instead spoon the salsa onto your chip and other food items.
Also, realize that salsas come in varying levels of spiciness. So try a little dab to test it out before piling a heaping spoonful onto your chip, potentially setting your mouth on fire.
Lastly, know that the color of the salsa is not necessarily a good indicator of how spicy the salsa may be. Regardless of whether it’s red or green, all salsas can be made mild or hot depending on the amount and type of chili used.
6) Understanding Meal Times in Mexico
Eating times in Mexico may be different compared to your home country. Mealtimes are much later in Mexico! A big lunch after 2:00 pm and a light dinner after 8:00 pm is standard across much of Mexico.
For visitors to Mexico who are accustomed to eating lunch around Noon, then dinner around 6 pm, you’ll find restaurants may be empty or closed altogether during those times. To adjust to Mexico’s eating times, you may need to alter your eating times a few hours later.
But don’t worry. These traditionally later mealtimes aren’t as pronounced in Mexico’s resort areas catering to tourists. In Mexico’s tourist destinations, mealtimes often accommodate the home preferences of the international crowd. So you may not even notice the later eating hours in places like Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum. Yet elsewhere throughout Mexico, you’ll find restaurants opening later and people dining later.
Here’s what to expect for Mexico mealtimes:
- Breakfast (Desayuno): It’s not unusual for breakfast joints to open after 9 am, with breakfast patrons arriving even later in the morning. During weekends, in particular, breakfasts can act more like brunches.
- Lunch (Comida): This is the biggest meal of the day and typically begins between 2 and 4 pm. Hence some restaurants serving lunch may not open until after 1 pm.
- Dinner (Cena): The night meal is typically eaten between 8 and 10 pm. This is a lighter meal compared to mid-day comida and may consist of something like a plateful of tacos. That said, full dinners are still easy to come by during any evening meal.
7) Tipping at Restaurants in Mexico
It is customary and expected to tip restaurant servers in Mexico. But tipping etiquette in Mexico may be different than where you’re from. In Mexico, expect to tip 10%-15%+ in restaurants.
In no-frills joints and taquerias, a 10% tip can suffice, adjusting upwards based on the service and/or your generosity.
In proper restaurants and/or for great service, a tip of 15% or more is a nice gesture that will be appreciated by deserving wait staff.
8) Ensure the Tip Isn’t Included in the Bill
It’s not common for restaurants in Mexico to add a tip or a service fee to your receipt. But this practice has been known to occur on occasion. This practice is more common in Mexico’s touristic hotspots and when dining in large groups.
Occasionally, restaurants may add in a suggested tip or service fee and will include this in the total. If a restaurant does this, usually it’s in the amount of 15% of the total bill.
In these instances where you see a line item such as servicio (service) or propina (tip), then don’t feel obligated to tip further.
Some diners become aggravated when a suggested tip is on the bill. If so, just know that you can adjust this suggested tip upward or downward if you wish. Personally, whenever we’ve seen a tip already on the bill, we just leave it on to make the tipping process easier, as we tend to tip 15% anyways.
So just be cautious to check if a suggested tip is listed and included in the total. That way you don’t unknowingly tip double.
Note: do not confuse an added tip with the IVA. The IVA is a mandatory value-added tax that’s usually already included in menu prices. Occasionally, the IVA is listed as a separate line item on Mexico’s restaurant receipts. This is a legit charge and is NOT a tip. You still tip after the IVA.
9) Tips on Interacting with Spanish-Speaking Wait Staff at a Restaurant
In popular tourist areas in Mexico, servers in restaurants may speak some English and may have English menus available. But everywhere else, expect to receive a Spanish menu and waiters speaking español.
Don’t be intimidated. Many visitors with very limited knowledge of Spanish can still achieve communication success in a restaurant by making a little effort, maintaining a polite smile, and knowing a few key phrases.
Here are some tips and phrases to help non-Spanish-speakers in restaurants:
First interaction – drink orders: When a server first approaches your table, it’s probable that he/she is coming to ask for your drink order. Most likely they’ll ask something like ¿Gustan algo de tomar? (Would you like something to drink?).
The verbiage may be different or in rapid-fire Spanish, which you may not understand. So be ready with a response, such as Corona, margarita, Coca-Cola, agua pura, limonada, etc. Drink orders are pretty straightforward.
Ordering the meal: The next interaction will likely be the server asking for your food order. A common phrase that servers use is ¿Qué vas a querer? (What will you want?)
Hopefully, you’ve had enough time to translate the menu enough to pick out something yummy. You’ll simply need to pronounce it. If in doubt or if the server appears to be confused by your (mis)pronunciation, don’t be embarrassed to point to the line item on the menu for clarity. This will help both you and the server to ensure what you want to order is what you actually order.
When your meal arrives: ¡Buen provecho! This is a phrase regularly used in Mexico that means “enjoy your meal.” The server may say this upon delivering your order. People dining within close proximity to you or at communal tables might also say this to you. Respond with gracias. Also, know that it is courteous for you to say buen provecho whenever coming near someone’s personal space while they’re eating.
La cuenta, por favor! This is the most simplistic phrase to ask for the check. And you do need to ask. We’ll cover this more in a subsequent Mexico travel tip.
10) Translate Menus with an Image Search instead of Translation Apps
This travel tip should help non-Spanish speakers to decode a Mexican menu. When deciphering a restaurant menu in Mexico, try using Google Image search rather than Google Translate.
While Google Translate is otherwise fantastic for day-to-day translations in Mexico, it often cannot translate menu items well in Mexico. Instead, searching for the menu item in Google Images will give you a visual depiction of what the menu item is.
For example, one of my favorite foods in the state of Jalisco is “tortas ahogadas.” If you were to use an app to translate it, that would tell you it’s a “drowned cake.” That doesn’t tell you much and isn’t an accurate description.
But if you searched Google Images for “tortas ahogadas,” you’d easily see that it’s actually a sandwich filled with meat (pork) and covered in a sauce. This is not a cake at all!
There are seemingly funny words for many menu items throughout Mexico that will leave diners confused. Heck, burrito literally translates to “little donkey.”
Meanwhile, other food words don’t translate at all. For instance, a taco is a taco. Pozole translates to pozole. There is no translation for most Mexican food items. So if you don’t know what those foods are, translations won’t help you. But searching for photos will!
11) Don’t Hesitate Flagging Down a Server in Mexico
In your home country, you may be accustomed to servers constantly checking up on you. Throughout restaurants in Mexico, if you need something, the responsibility can often fall on the diner to let the server know. And it’s perfectly okay to politely wave over a server.
Need another drink? Some salsa? More limes? Run out of warm tortillas? Don’t hesitate to get your server’s attention with eye contact and/or a polite hand gesture to call them over.
12) Be Sure to Ask for the Check
You may need to put that last Mexico travel tip to use by flagging over the server to ask for the bill.
If you’re from the US, you’re probably accustomed to the bill being brought to the table automatically at the end of any meal. A server in the US will often signal this by asking “Can I get you anything else?” Upon saying “no,” the check comes out. But this exchange does not occur in Mexico.
In Mexico, there is not a culture of flipping tables. Instead, you’re meant to relax and enjoy your dining experience. You leave the restaurant whenever you’re ready. A server in Mexico may feel rude to even make the subtle suggestion that you should depart. So they’ll often just let you be until you request the check.
Even if you’ve completed your meal, the server has cleared the table entirely, and the server has asked if you’d like anything else; don’t expect to get the bill automatically. In most cases, you must specifically ask for the check.
To initiate this transaction, say la cuenta, por favor. That means, “the bill, please.”
13) Know Hours of Alcohol Sales and Ley Seca (Dry Law) in Mexico
Alcohol is typically sold in stores throughout all hours and days across most of Mexico. But there are some notable exceptions to this.
There are a few states in Mexico that do restrict the sales of alcohol to certain hours. Most notable is the state of Quintana Roo (includes: Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, etc.). Hours of alcohol sales in Quintana Roo’s stores are from 9:00 am – Midnight, Monday to Saturday. Booze sales are cut off at 5:00 pm in Quintana Roo on Sundays. The state of Yucatan similarly limits retail alcohol sales on Sundays, prohibiting it after 5:00 pm.
So plan accordingly if you want to enjoy some cervezas back at your Mérida hotel on a Sunday evening. Otherwise, you can still buy alcohol in restaurants and bars.
Additionally, Mexican states and municipalities can enact ley seca (dry law) during specific periods of time. For example, many Mexican states forbid the sale of alcohol around elections. Ley seca has also been enacted during particularly troubling times during the pandemic. If booze is banned in Mexico, there’s usually a reason for it.
14) Can You Drink in Public in Mexico?
Drinking alcohol in public (open container) is technically illegal in Mexico.
That said, drinking alcohol in public is usually tolerated throughout the country, particularly so in tourist areas. It’s not uncommon to see vendors selling to-go drinks in various locales throughout Mexico.
15) Know Restrictions on Bringing Back Tequila and Mescal
If you’re planning to purchase some bottles of tequila or mescal while in Mexico to bring home with you, do know quantities may be restricted by your home country.
🇺🇸 If you’re from the US, those traveling back to the States are generally allowed to bring back 1 bottle (up to 33.8 fl. oz.) of alcohol per person duty-free. You can find the official policy here on the US Customs and Border Protection website. Americans can bring back more than 1 bottle, but you’ll need to claim them. In doing so, you may be required to pay the appropriate import tax on every bottle in excess of 1 liter per person.
🇨🇦 Canadians can similarly carry back one bottle per person. Canada allows for up to 1.14 liters of alcohol, exempt from the special duty rate.
🇬🇧 Brits can bring back up to 4 bottles of spirits per person before having to pay excess duty.
So be sure to check your official government policy before you load up on dozens of bottles to fly home with
16) Travel Tips if Grocery Shopping and Cooking in Mexico
Those who are traveling to Mexico for a lengthy visit may find themselves venturing out to procure groceries to cook themselves. There are a number of tips that grocery shoppers and home chefs may want to be aware of when cooking for the first time in Mexico:
- Get fresh produce at local markets – We find it is usually fresher and much less expensive than in supermarkets.
- Reusable bags – Many supermarkets in Mexico no longer have plastic bags, so come prepared with your own or buy them at checkout.
- Tip the baggers – Supermarket baggers work for tips. Have small change to tip them a few pesos per bag, or perhaps $10-$20 pesos as a generous tip for a full cart.
- Try new things – While you can sometimes find staples you crave from back home, it can be fun and delicious to try local ingredients and foods.
- Learn how to cook authentic local Mexican food – With so many ingredients you’re not accustomed to using, it can sometimes be a little overwhelming to figure out what to do with them all. Attempting to cook traditional Mexican recipes can be a fun way to put all these ingredients to use. For inspiration, we love referencing the English-language recipe site IsabelEats, which has so many delicious and easy-to-follow recipes to try!
17) Properly Wash Fresh Produce in Mexico
It’s a safe move not to eat fresh produce in Mexico without first properly washing it. There is concern that raw vegetables or fruit may contain bacteria or a virus, picked up in the soil or during transportation. There’s a further contaminant risk in tap water, so simply rinsing produce with faucet water may not be enough.
Restaurants in Mexico usually take disinfecting precautions before serving fresh produce, although it’s never a guarantee. So visitors who are very risk-averse or have sensitive stomachs could consider avoiding salads and raw produce while dining out in Mexico.
Meanwhile, those in Mexico who plan to cook at home should take measures to disinfect raw produce before consuming it.
Thankfully there is a product widely sold in the produce section of Mexican supermarkets. The most popular brands we regularly see are Microdyn and BacDyn. These formulas claim to be effective against microorganisms such as salmonella, cholera, and streptococcus.
The directions on these solutions instruct mixing it with a specific ratio of water, then soaking fresh produce for a number of minutes. Cooking vegetables can also be effective in killing harmful bacteria..
Travel Tips for Using the Bathroom in Mexico
There are a few nuances to beware of when the need to use the bathroom arises. A key phrase that many visitors to Mexico already know is: ¿Dónde está el baño? (Where is the bathroom?) That’s certainly helpful!
Yet any newcomers to Mexico should take a minute to familiarize themselves with the following Mexico travel tips to avoid potential embarrassment in the bathroom.
18) Men: Don’t Enter the “M” Bathroom Door!
“M” on a bathroom door is the women’s room in Mexico.
That “M” may signify “Men” where you’re from. But in Mexico, the “M” stands for Mujeres, or “Women”.
In Mexico, men do NOT use bathrooms marked with an M. Instead, men should look for an “H” for Hombres or occasionally a “C” for Caballeros.
Meanwhile, women can look for bathroom doors marked with M for Mujeres or D for Damas.
19) Water Temperature: “C” is Hot in Mexico
Another common acronym mistranslation in the bathroom is with water temperature. A mistake we occasionally hear is visitors turning the shower nob away from the “C” and wondering why the temperature is not getting hot.
That’s because “C” stands for Caliente, which means “hot.” To get hot water, turn the dial to “C.” To get cold water, turn the dial to “F” for Frio, which means “cold.”
20) Don’t Flush the Toilet Paper in Most Places in Mexico
Mexico’s plumbing systems can’t always accommodate toilet paper being flushed.
For visitors staying in a resort or higher-end hotel, it’s likely fine to flush your toilet paper there. But almost everywhere else in Mexico, it’s common practice to toss your used toilet paper in the basket next to the toilet.
Dispose of your toilet paper in the toilet-side bin when using bathrooms within local restaurants, local homes, and in public restroom facilities. If not, you run the risk of creating a plumbing problem.
If there’s a little basket next to a toilet, this is a clear signal you should use it to dispose of toilet paper. Don’t flush. If in doubt, just throw it out. Doing so will help to avoid a potentially embarrassing situation.
21) Carry Small Change for Public Toilets in Mexico
Public restrooms in Mexico are typically not free. There is a modest charge, usually ranging from $2-$5 pesos ($0.10-$0.25 USD). In touristic and high-traffic areas, bathroom fees can reach up to $10 pesos (~$0.50 USD).
Upon paying the restroom attendant, expect to receive a small wad of toilet paper and access to the toilets. When exiting, there should also be running water and soap available at the sinks.
Some bathrooms are cleaner than others. Most public restrooms are passable.
22) Can You Brush Your Teeth with Faucet Water in Mexico?
This is a contested question that travelers and expats in Mexico like to debate. Really, the answer depends on each specific locale and your personal tolerance for risk.
In many places throughout Mexico, bacteria or contaminants have been found in tap water after being carried through a series of pipes. But can that water still be suitable for brushing your teeth?
Since you’re not ingesting the tap water, it could be okay. However, it’s still possible to ingest a small amount accidentally. So it’s a safe bet for short-term travelers in Mexico to use purified water to brush their teeth. The CDC generally advises brushing teeth with bottled water in Mexico. In hotels, bottled water is often provided to guests to brush their teeth. Use it.
That said, if you accidentally use tap water to brush your teeth, don’t worry. Many locals and expats brush their teeth with faucet water in many locations throughout Mexico without issue. (Personally, we must admit that we do too.)
But why risk it? Place a bottle of water next to the faucet to help remind you to use it when brushing your teeth in Mexico.
Cultural & Etiquette Mexico Travel Tips
There are cultural differences in Mexico compared to other countries that visitors should be aware of.
23) Make an Effort to Speak Some Spanish
Visitors can find some English spoken throughout touristic hotspots in Mexico. Meanwhile, there is some English spoken throughout Mexico’s bigger communities but that’s never a guarantee. Elsewhere in Mexico, English is seldom spoken by the local population.
If you don’t speak Spanish, it is possible to get by, limitedly. Yet it is our firm opinion that visitors will have a far more fulfilling experience in Mexico by trying to speak some Spanish. We cannot state this Mexico travel tip enough. It’s muy importante! Having some basic knowledge of Spanish will greatly enhance your experience.
Even Mexicans who do speak English still appreciate it when visitors make an effort to speak Spanish. We highly recommend learning some Spanish language or brushing up on the basics before any trip to Mexico. Knowing even a tiny amount of Spanish can really go a long way to enhance a visit to Mexico.
24) Learn These Key Phrases Before You Go
Here are just a few very basic words and phrases everyone traveling to Mexico should know:
- Hello: Hola
- Goodbye: Adíos
- Please: Por favor
- Thank you: Gracias
- You’re welcome: De nada
- Yes / No: Sí / No
- A pleasure to meet you: Mucho gusto
- How are you?: ¿Cómo está?
- How much does it cost?: ¿Cuanto cuesta?
- Excuse me (as if to get past someone): Con permiso
- Sorry / pardon me (on accident): Perdón
- I don’t understand: No entiendo
- Do you speak English?: ¿Habla Inglés?
Ready to learn more?
We like to use Babbel as an easy, fun, and inexpensive way to learn Spanish. With each lesson just 10-15 minutes, it’s something we can always work into the day and the associated app even lets us learn Spanish on-the-go using the app. It’s a great way to brush up before visiting Mexico. Use this link to save up to 60% off your subscription to Babbel!
25) Greetings Are Very Important in Mexico
If nothing else, be sure to learn the etiquette of basic greetings in Mexico. Throughout many Latin American countries, it can be a nice gesture to say buenos días, buenas tardes, or buenas noches. But in Mexico, these greetings are much more than a simple pleasantry.
This courteous exchange is practiced widely throughout Mexico. We always encourage visitors to follow along. When greeting people with a friendly buenos días and a smile, we often notice an immediate change in the other person’s demeanor. It’s sometimes like a switch is flipped or an invisible barrier has been broken. People become at ease and smiles appear on their faces.
It’s polite to greet people when entering a local store or when approaching the cash register. Before asking someone for a price, directions, or any question, try greeting them first. If walking down a quiet street and passing an abuela (grandmother) sitting outside of her home, definitely give her a warm greeting. Use greetings whenever getting on a local bus or taxi.
Of course, it would be weird to greet every single person you cross paths with when walking down a busy street. Yet whenever in doubt, just use a greeting! Use greetings often and generously while traveling in Mexico. Smile too!
Greet people with these phrases, depending on the time of day:
- Buenos días / buen dia – Good morning/day! Use this in the morning and even into the early afternoon (before lunch).
- Buenas tardes – Good afternoon! Use this in the middle of the day and even into dusk hours.
- Buenas noches – Good night! Use this when it’s dark out.
This sign we spotted at a cafe in Guanajuato, Mexico, seems to be a humorous attempt to help train patrons on the courtesies of using greetings.
26) How to Greet Men in Mexico: Handshakes and Fist Bumps
“Mucho gusto” is a key phrase to say whenever meeting people in Mexico. But depending on whether meeting a man or a woman, there’s further cultural etiquette to follow.
For men meeting men, a handshake has always been customary. Yet in post-pandemic Mexico, fist bumps have grown in favor.
For women meeting men in Mexico, a single kiss could be appropriate. More on that next.
27) How to Greet Women in Mexico: Single Kiss
In Mexico, when greeting women, it can be customary to give a kiss on the cheek.
But know that this can be reserved for friends. It would be unusual to kiss a complete stranger you just met, a tour guide, or a housekeeper. So don’t. But a kiss would be appropriate in instances of meeting friends of friends, and other social introductions. Even the female doctor we go to in Mexico greets us with a kiss.
In Mexico, a kiss greeting is a quick peck on the right cheek and it’s a single kiss. Do not do a double kiss on each cheek. This is Mexico, not Europe.
Yet in 2023 post-pandemic Mexico, kissing has gone the way that handshakes have in many parts of the world. As conditions continue to ease, kissing is too.
If unsure if a kiss is appropriate, just let the other person lead and roll with it. This Mexico travel tip simply lets you know what to do if a new Mexican friend does come in for a kiss.
28) How to Dress in Mexico
Mexico’s beach towns can be casual in dress. But people in Mexico’s interior cities tend to dress more modestly and conservatively. In a city or town away from the coast, it may be uncommon to see someone walking around in shorts, a t-shirt, or flip-flops, even when it’s hot outside.
When walking around Mexico’s interior cities, shorts can be a rarity. They are typically worn while exercising or by children, foreigners, and to some extent, young adults. Look around. If you are visiting a place in Mexico where shorts are uncommon, you may want to consider following suit to avoid standing out. Mexico loves jeans. So jeans are always an easy choice to assimilate with the local crowd in Mexico.
But really, Mexicans typically aren’t too concerned about how foreigners are dressed. There’s no law that says you can’t wear shorts in Mexico. It can simply be a nice gesture to make some effort toward cultural assimilation. When friends come to visit us in Mexico’s central interior, we suggest leaving shorts at home. If heading to a beach town, shorts and skirts are just fine.
Definitely cover up when entering Mexico’s many historic churches, whether on the coast or not. This is a matter of respect. Ensure knees and shoulders are covered when entering any religious site.
Otherwise, wear what makes you feel comfortable in Mexico. Definitely be sure to dress for the weather.
Light, airy clothes are highly recommended along the coast and lowlands, particularly so during the late Spring and Summer months that are most hot. Still, consider long sleeves and pants in warm destinations to protect from mosquitos.
Yet it can get quite chilly, particularly at night, in Mexico’s interior cities. Many newbies to Mexico can be surprised to find the need for a good jacket to keep warm. Check the weather for your destination. (More info on weather and the best time to visit in a subsequent Mexico Travel tip.)
29) Tips for Tipping Etiquette in Mexico
Mexico is a tipping culture. But American and Canadian visitors should realize that tipping customs are different, south of the border.
Perhaps the most notable difference that visitors to Mexico may not know is that it’s customary to tip grocery baggers when at supermarkets in Mexico. So be sure to carry some small change with you to the grocery store to show these unpaid baggers some generosity.
Here is a list of tipping guidelines to be aware of when visiting Mexico in 2023:
- Restaurants: generally 10%-15%, consider more for exceptional service
- Bars: $10-$20 pesos per drink, or 10%-15% if running a tab.
- Luggage porters: $20-$50 pesos per bag, depending on the level of hotel and service
- Housekeeping: $20-$50 pesos, for each day, at your discretion. More ($100+ pesos) at luxury resorts.
- Grocery baggers: A few pesos per bag. $10-$20 pesos would be a generous tip for a full cart.
- Taxis: Round-up metered fare to the nearest $10 peso. If fare was negotiated, no tip is necessary but should be considered if provided an extra service. For example, consider $10 pesos per bag if helped with luggage.
- Gas station attendants: $10-$20 pesos. Consider more for a full fill-up with extra services (wash windows, check tire pressure, etc.)
- Tour guides: Depends on tour and service. Consider $50-$100 pesos, per person, for a half-day excursion or $100-$200 pesos, per person, for a full-day tour. Of course, consider tipping more for high-end tours and/or if a guide has really gone out of their way to help you.
Always try to tip in pesos. In touristic areas, you may be able to tip in dollars or euros. If that’s all you have, it’s better than not tipping. But tipping in a currency other than Mexican pesos creates more work for the person since they’ll have the chore of exchanging that money, which also takes a cut.
30) Being Late Is Appropriate Sometimes but Timeliness is Also Important
Mexico can be a relaxed culture and not everything will be on time. Go with the flow!
When to Arrive Late: Punctuality may not always be heeded for social visits or even some events, such as local fiestas. We typically wait to arrive at least a half-hour after posted start times for any local festival in Mexico. Even upon doing so, we’ve been among the earliest guests, watching vendors still get set up. So don’t feel a need to be prompt to any fiestas you’re invited to.
When to Be on Time: In nearly all other occurrences, prompt timing is observed In Mexico. If you have a dinner reservation, a scheduled tour, or a bus to catch – these instances should happen promptly on time. Don’t be late.
If in doubt, plan to be on time.
31) Don’t Come to Haggle in Mexico’s Markets
Sometimes visitors expect to bargain throughout Mexico’s local markets and stores. In actuality, when shopping in Mexico, bargaining is not the norm. Most often, the price is the price.
In resort-laden places that are obviously selling touristic souvenirs, it may be okay to haggle their inflated prices.
But at local markets, craft stores, and art studios, do not try to bargain down the set prices. It may be offensive to the artist or vendor.
Tips on Traveling to Mexico and Getting Around
Visitors coming to Mexico should arrive armed with their passports and be informed of local Mexican regulations. Travelers need to understand the importance of the FMM card issued to them upon arrival and realize their desired length of stay may not be guaranteed. Having some knowledge of what to expect when entering Mexico can ease travel headaches.
Once in the country, there are lots of options to get around Mexico, ranging from budget domestic flights, luxury buses, Ubers, and even a Tequila Train!
The following Mexico travel tips should help get into and around this big country, the 13th largest in the world.
32) Entering Mexico: In 2023, FMM Cards Are Being Phased Out But the Rules Remain
When flying into Mexico in the past, visitors would always receive an FMM (Forma Migratoria Multiple) card during the flight. It looks like this:
FMM is a legal requirement to enter Mexico and establishes the number of days you are allowed to stay in Mexico. In the past, visitors have been issued a card that’s processed upon going through immigration at your arrival airport in Mexico.
It has always been very important for visitors to keep their FMM in a safe place while traveling in Mexico because it is required when exiting the country. But in 2023, FMM cards are being phased out by instead issuing a stamp directly in your passport with the number of days allowed. Most airports in Mexico are no longer issuing physical FMM cards. So if you do not receive an FMM card upon flying into Mexico in 2023, don’t worry!
But if you are still issued a paper FMM, be sure to keep it safe and with your passport. You may still need it upon exiting.
Also, understand that even though the physical FMM cards are being phased out, the rules behind FMM (pertaining to your time allowed in Mexico) have not changed.
33) You Need Proof of Onward Travel to Mexico
If booking a round-trip ticket to Mexico, you’re covered. This Mexico travel tip does not apply to you.
Yet some travelers and expats want to come to Mexico with open-ended plans. Since Mexico typically allows many nationalities a visa-free stay of up to 180 days, those who have the luxury of time (e.g., retirees, digital nomads, and long-term travelers) may want to travel to Mexico with an unspecified departure date during that six-month period.
But if flying to Mexico one-way, you must have proof of departure plans within that 180-day period. Sometimes authorities don’t ask for it. Increasingly, they have been. Airlines often ask for this documentation too since they must foot the bill to fly you home if Mexico denies you entry for this reason.
It’s best to secure departure plans before you travel to Mexico and have this info printed out. Authorities are simply trying to ensure visitors are not planning to illegally stay in Mexico. Without proof of onward travel, you could be denied entry.
But what if you’re traveling long-term to Mexico and are unsure of your exact departure date? Thankfully there are ways to get around this. For example, one method used is to book a refundable return ticket before flying to Mexico. Then cancel it, or reschedule, after you land.
Most airlines flying to Mexico allow free cancelation within 24 hours of booking. So before heading to the airport, it’s possible to purchase a one-way flight out of Mexico. This allows travelers to show official proof of departing Mexico. Upon landing in Mexico and clearing immigration, visitors can cancel that flight for a full refund. Of course, anyone using a tactic like this will still need to eventually book their departure within the following six months, to avoid illegally overstaying. Such tactics simply allow some added flexibility for those unsure of their departure plans.
34) Know the Immigration and Customs Procedures in Mexico
Passing through immigration in Mexico is easy and straightforward. But there are some things you should know, particularly if not accustomed to international travel.
Tip: Bring a pen on the plane with you, so you can fill out the form while on the plane. Pens are almost never provided by the airlines flying to Mexico. Obviously, you’ll need your passport too.
Immigration forms are available in English, so no translations are necessary. If a flight attendant gives you a Spanish form, ask for one in English. The immigration form requests basic information that you should already know (e.g., name, birthdate, length of stay, etc.)
But you should also come prepared with your accommodation’s name and its address. Be sure to have that info accessible (offline or printed out), so you can fill it out on the plane.
Upon arrival to Mexico, the immigration procedure is often swift. The immigration officer may ask a few simple questions, such as “What’s the reason for your visit?” or “How long are you staying?”
Then you’ll proceed to collect your luggage and go through customs. You’ll be asked to press a button. This button will produce either a green or red light on a traffic signal. It is said to be random. If you get the green light, you breeze through. If you get a red light, you’ll be subject to a more thorough customs inspection.
Then head out of the airport and get ready to enjoy Mexico!
35) Improve Your Odds of Getting a Lengthy (180-Day) Visa-Free Stay in Mexico
If visiting Mexico on vacation for a few weeks or less, this doesn’t apply. You’ll be fine. Skip to the next Mexico travel tip.
Yet long-term travelers desiring a lengthy stay in Mexico should arrive prepared to increase their chances of being allowed the maximum 6-month stay. In the past, Mexican immigration authorities have typically been generous to visitors in automatically granting the maximum length of stay (180 days). Yet in 2023, immigration authorities have been cracking down on this practice, at their discretion. Visitors do not have the automatic right to a 180-day stay. Some tourists expecting a lengthy stay have been disappointed by being granted a few weeks or even less.
Here are some tactics that may help you to secure a lengthy or 180-day stay in Mexico:
- Ensure you calculate the correct number of days when completing your entry form
- If the immigration officer is questioning the length of your stay, appease them by trying to explain your travel intentions as a tourist and offer documentation to prove your length of stay.
- Have documentation of your departure plans (as already mentioned).
- Have documentation of your paid accommodation(s) for the entire length of your stay.
Realize that this may not be necessary, as many visitors are still breezing through immigration with a 180-day stay granted. But for those planning a longer visit to Mexico, it’s always best to be prepared in order to avoid disappointment in being granted a shorter stay than desired. Realize that even with thorough documentation, immigration authorities can still restrict your stay. But having corroborating paperwork should increase your chances.
Meanwhile, visitors who are regularly having lengthy stays in Mexico should consider seeking Mexican residency visas.
36) How to Travel Around Mexico
By land area, Mexico is the 13th largest country in the world! There’s a lot of ground to cover here!
There are many great ways to travel across Mexico. How you choose to get around the country can be a matter of personal preference, distance, budget, and existing infrastructure.
Whether by planes, trains, or automobiles, the infographic below provides a quick primer on the possibilities of traveling around Mexico:
37) Save on Flights to Mexico: Fly into Hub Cities Then Travel Domestically
Mexico has over sixty commercial airports throughout the country, offering prospective passengers an array of options to fly into. For those who have more money than time, it’s logical to seek a flight to your destination city in Mexico.
But those traveling to Mexico on a budget can save a significant sum of money by flying into one of Mexico’s large international airports and then planning subsequent travel from there.
CUN (Cancun) and MEX (Mexico City) tend to have the most attractive fares from locations outside of Mexico. Once in Cancun or Mexico City, you can regularly find domestic flights for around $50 USD, or less, to your ultimate destination in Mexico. It’s an extra hassle to do this, but it can save several hundred dollars!
For example, one-way flights from our home airport (MIA) to Oaxaca usually cost around $600-$800 USD roundtrip and require a transfer. Instead, we fly into Mexico City and then book a separate domestic flight to Oaxaca. Doing it this way, we spend $200 roundtrip to MEX and then about $70 to Oaxaca and back. As two people, this routine saves us roughly a thousand dollars in airfare each time flying from the US to satellite destinations in Mexico. So it’s well worth looking into!
We find these savings regularly hold true whether going to Oaxaca, Queretaro, Puerto Vallarta, Merida, San Miguel de Allende, San Cristobal de las Casas, and other popular regional destinations.
But these significant cost savings do come with come at the expense of significant hassle and risk. Using two different airlines, you’ll need to collect luggage at the connecting airport and then check in to the domestic flight. If the first flight is delayed, you run the risk of missing the domestic flight, which you’d need to rebook at your own expense. So use caution if using this method and plan lengthy layovers or even stopovers. Weigh out the risk-vs-reward for yourself before implementing this money-saving strategy.
38) Using Low-Cost Domestic Flights in Mexico
Mexico has a fantastic network of buses that are great when needing to travel between cities within relatively close proximity. Yet when bus travel times exceed 10 hours or so, it can often be more logical and even more economical to use one of the many domestic flights instead.
As mentioned, fares on Mexico’s domestic airlines are usually quite inexpensive, making travel throughout Mexico very affordable.
The two most popular low-cost carriers in Mexico are Volaris and VivaAerobus.
Personally, we find Volaris to be perfectly acceptable, and particularly so for the price. As for VivaAerobus, we tend to hear more complaints about them. That said, we’ve found VivaAerobus to be fine for a short flight and a cheap ticket on a budget airline. Your mileage may vary.
39) Use Mexico’s Excellent Buses for Domestic Travel
Don’t just consider domestic flights in Mexico. The first-class bus system in Mexico is excellent!
There are premium passenger buses connecting nearly all the major cities and towns throughout Mexico. And we find the level of service on Mexico’s buses is far better than most long-distance bus services around the globe.
On Mexico’s first-class buses, expect big comfy reclining faux-leather seats, complimentary snacks & drinks, and individual seat-back TVs. Traveling by bus in Mexico can be a very nice travel experience! Sit back and watch the Mexican countryside go by.
By Mexican standards, prices on these premium buses might seem a bit steep. But on a global standard, it’s a great value. Expect to pay somewhere in the realm of $750 pesos ($30 USD) for a 5 or 6-hour premium bus trip in Mexico.
There are more economical buses too. Those can be fine for short jaunts. But unless you’re traveling throughout Mexico on a tight budget, we find it’s worth it to splurge for the premium buses whenever available. The premium buses aren’t only nicer, they make minimal stops (if at all) and use toll roads, so you’ll arrive at your destination much faster.
Three of the more popular bus companies to consider using are:
- Primera Plus – Many popular routes throughout Central Mexico.
- ETN – Many popular routes throughout Central Mexico.
- ADO – Most common throughout Yucatan and the southern half of Mexico.
40) A Trick to Buying Bus Tickets Online in Mexico
Visitors to Mexico can’t purchase Mexican bus tickets online. You must have a local Mexican credit card to do so. Otherwise, you’ll need to buy your bus tickets at a bus terminal or travel agency when in Mexico. This can be inconvenient, seats may sell out, and you can miss online-only promotional bus fares. Thankfully, there is a workaround allowing visitors to purchase bus tickets using their mobile devices.
If you want to purchase your bus ticket online, here’s the trick – simply use the app! The official phone apps for bus companies do accept foreign credit cards even though the websites do not.
This works with the Primera Plus app and the ADO app. Upon the last try, we did not have success with the ETN app.
41) Tips for Using Ubers and Taxis in Mexico
Ubers are found throughout most major cities in Mexico. At last count (Feb 2023), Uber is operating in 67 Mexican cities. Check Uber for up-to-date listings.
Ubers in Mexico tend to be reliable, safe, and very affordable. Since the prices are fixed through the app and the ride is tracked, this greatly lowers the risk of getting ripped off or being taken for a ride around town. Plus, if you don’t speak any Spanish, the app makes it super easy to simply input your address without the need to give verbal directions.
Non-Spanish-speakers should be aware that Uber drivers in Mexico may still have some questions for you. Perhaps they’ll ask if the radio station is okay or if you want air conditioning. Sometimes the driver asks if he should follow the route on the app or if you have a preferred direction. (We default to the app for simplicity).
There’s no need to download a separate app to use Uber in Mexico. Use the same app you use at home. Just ensure you’re able to access data in Mexico to use it (more on that later).
Sometimes Uber wait times may be long, depending on the location. Occasionally an Uber will cancel on you, resulting in having to wait again. While not often, these annoyances have happened more in Mexico than in other countries we’ve used Uber in. Despite that, Ubers have been an overwhelmingly positive experience. You can also consider an alternative to Uber in Mexico, Didi. Or use a taxi.
Taxis are sometimes good options if Ubers aren’t available. But taxis can be a hassle for non-Spanish-speaking visitors. Many taxis throughout Mexico do not use the meter. So you must agree on a price before the ride begins. In highly touristic areas such as Cancun, some taxis may try to inflate prices or other devious tactics to rip you off. Dishonest taxi practices are far less common elsewhere in Mexico, but can still occur.
Personally, we’ve found most taxis to be pleasant and trustworthy. Of course, it all comes down to each individual taxi driver. Still, we prefer Uber when possible for its simplicity and safety (trackable/accountable).
42) Taxis Can Be Easiest When Arriving at Mexico’s Airports
It can be difficult to catch an Uber from the airport upon first arriving. Regulations may prevent Uber pick-up at some airport locations, although this is improving. But you still may encounter a delay in being picked up or confusion on the exact meeting point at the unfamiliar airport you’ve just arrived at.
Instead, using a taxi from airports in Mexico can be the easiest and fastest way to get moving. In most airports in Mexico, ticketing systems make it all easier and help keep taxis honest. Upon exiting the airport terminal, most airports have official taxi and shuttle kiosks. You purchase a ticket there, based on your destination.
You’re then directed to a corresponding taxi rank, where a driver will quickly whisk you away. Simply hand the taxi driver the ticket you purchased and off you go. The driver will still need to know the location and/or address. Non-Spanish speakers should either have this printed out or be prepared to show the address on their phones. Your taxi driver will appreciate that.
43) Tips for Driving in Mexico
If you’re a confident driver, the freedom of having a car in Mexico can be a fun and efficient way to get around some regions. We find the Yucatan peninsula to be particularly conducive to driving in Mexico for those wanting to tour many different places. For example, the Puuc Route makes for an attractive drive, connecting a series of Mayan ruins in the Yucatan countryside!
In other regions in Mexico and big cities, rental cars can be hectic. Traffic, parking, and unfamiliar driving customs are just a few hassles that may be encountered. We often find Ubers and/or public transportation to be more convenient within Mexico’s cities compared to the burden of having a rental car. Weigh your options and your personal preferences.
Car rentals in Mexico can be a good experience and sometimes come at bargain prices. We’ve successfully rented cars from Cancun and Merida for as little as $5/day. Understand that those rates don’t include the required insurance though.
If you do want to drive in Mexico, it’s pretty straightforward. You don’t need an international driver’s license. Your home license should work just fine.
Whether renting a car or driving in from the US, here are some practical Mexico driving tips to follow:
- Stay on the highway. Mexico’s highways and toll roads tend to be great, well-maintained, and efficient for covering longer distances.
- Just be sure to keep cash with you to be able to pay the tolls, as highways in Mexico have tolls to be paid in cash.
- Use map apps with caution in rural areas. Navigation apps such as Google Maps work in Mexico, but they can sometimes suggest poor roads in places not widely traveled. Be skeptical of route options when traveling in rural areas.
- Beware rural roads in Mexico can contain road hazards, such as topes (speed bumps), potholes, and livestock. Be alert.
- It’s widely advised to avoid driving at night.
- Don’t use blinkers to signal you’re passing. They’re used for turns and to indicate it’s safe to pass.
- Carefully obey Mexico’s driving laws such as following speed limits, using seat belts, and not using your phone while driving.
- You can get cited for driving through a yellow light. Yellow lights in Mexico essentially act the same way as red lights. A blinking green light indicates the light will be changing soon.
- Know that turning right on red is illegal in Mexico, although many drivers regularly do it.
- Know that any traffic infraction could get you pulled over by the policia. Know what to do if the police want a mordida.
44) How to Deal with Mordidas – Police Traffic Bribes in Mexico
Police in Mexico have been known to pull over tourists for an infraction (real or made-up) and ask for a mordida. That’s a bribe and it’s illegal in Mexico. It can be scary for travelers to be put in this position and you should know in advance what to do.
If a police officer is ticketing you and suggests payment onsite, here’s what you can do. First, determine whether you may have done anything wrong. If you legitimately didn’t commit the road offense you’re accused of, you can ask to go down to the police station to discuss it with a police chief. This will frequently get you out of it altogether and the officer may just send you on your way.
If you do go down to the station, you can plead your case. Worst case scenario, you’ll have to pay a small fine for the minor traffic infringement you’re accused of. If you were speeding, ran a light, or other a minor infraction, then the police certainly have the right to ticket you. But they may instead suggest paying the officer right there. That’s a bribe.
Proceeding with the bribe may be convenient and seem like an attractive way out of this uncomfortable situation. But doing so is further illegal and also helps to encourage this practice. So it is recommended to go the official route to pay the ticket. Each state has different procedures for paying traffic fines and you can find more info here (in Spanish).
Sometimes when insisting on paying the ticket, the police may even just let you go since the bribe failed and they may not want to deal with the ticketing procedures. Not paying the bribe helps to discourage mordidas.
45) Tips on Getting Gas in Mexico
Gas stations in Mexico offer full service. This means that you do not have the option to get out of the car and pump the gas yourself. An attendant does this for you.
When you arrive at the gas pump, check to ensure the gas meter starts at zero. Upon paying, have small change on hand to tip the gas attendant. $10-$20 pesos is acceptable. If he performs extra services, such as washing your windows, err on the higher side.
46) Where to Find the Best Accommodation (and Deals) in Mexico
You can find accommodation throughout Mexico catering to all budgets. There are many cheap & cheerful hostels to serve backpackers, plenty of luxury beach resorts catering to vacationers, and many mid-range hotels in between.
Hostels in Mexico can be great for solo travelers and those who simply enjoy the hostel vibe. Most hostels throughout Mexico tend to maintain generally good standards, can be socially active, and also offer activities. Expect to pay $5-$30 USD for a bed in a shared room. Popular coastal locations may be even higher.
To find a hostel in Mexico, search Hostelworld.com, We’ve found them to have the largest selection of hostels and prices for Mexico.
Budget and mid-range hotels can be a great option for value-oriented travelers in Mexico. We can often find nice 3-star hotels somewhere in the vicinity of $25-$50 USD per night in most locations throughout Mexico, although many 3-star hotels will be higher. 3-star hotel prices in popular coastal regions and desirable Mexico City locations will likely exceed $50/night, but plenty of options should still exist under $100. Elsewhere throughout Mexico, there are some incredible hotel bargains to be found.
We tend to find the best Mexico hotel deals on:
- Booking.com (Priceline group) and
- Hotels.com (Expedia group).
Booking.com tends to have the greatest selection and often has some of the best Mexico hotel deals too. But it’s worth also checking Hotels.com. In Mexico, we’ve found hotels.com tends to have less properties listed throughout Mexico, compared to Booking. But we regularly find better Mexico hotel deals listed on Hotels.com. It can be worth searching both when looking for hotel deals in Mexico.
Luxury accommodation can be found in most major cities and are in abundance throughout Mexico’s prime beach areas. Mexico’s all-inclusive resorts can be a relaxing, indulgent, and wonderful experience. But you must also realize that all-inclusive resorts can isolate visitors from the many charms found outside the resort’s walls.
Resort prices in Mexico usually cost slightly less than comparable properties in the US and Caribbean destinations, but still cost well into the hundreds per night. Better deals on luxury hotels in Mexico can be found in the off-season and away from the coast.
47) Tips for Airbnbs and Home/Apartment Rentals in Mexico
Rental Units like Airbnb and VBRO can be a good choice for accommodation in Mexico, particularly so for long-term stays and/or for larger groups.
To score an awesome place you’ll enjoy, practice these travel tips before booking a home rental in Mexico:
- It is wise to book rental units as early as possible, since Mexico’s best rentals tend to get reserved well in advance, sometimes leaving undesirable or overpriced rentals for those who waited to book.
- Understand the neighborhood to ensure walkability to local attractions and conveniences, since Mexican cities are often sprawling.
- Check carefully for desired amenities. Some amenities you assume are standard where you’re from may not be in Mexico.
- If wifi is important, ask the host for the speed before booking. WiFi speed varies throughout Mexico.
- Lastly, read reviews very carefully, as this can help weed out any problematic rental properties.
Travel Tips to Stay Safe in Mexico
Is Mexico Safe for Travel?
Short answer: Yes, it can be. Yet traveling anywhere can include some risks and precautions to heed.
Safety is relative and safety in Mexico is a very subjective topic. Mexico often receives a bad reputation for crime and safety concerns. But this reputation is often overblown.
Prospective visitors to Mexico must understand that movies, tv shows, news, and other media often paint a dangerous depiction of Mexico that is unrealistic and/or showcases a tiny slice of Mexico that most visitors never encounter. In reality, Mexico is widely a very friendly country rather than a crime-ridden place to be afraid of.
Understand that millions of people visit Mexico each year and the vast majority experience no safety issues. Anecdotally, we personally have always felt safe traveling in Mexico. Most first-time visitors agree that Mexico is far safer than their preconceived notions and that the level of safety can feel about the same as in the US.
That said, it would also be naive to portray Mexico as a crime-free paradise. Although not particularly widespread, crime can and does occur in Mexico. Beware that petty theft, such as phone snatch-and-grabs or pickpocketing, does happen on occasion. Such occurrences can be even more common in some of Mexico’s larger cities and busy touristic areas. It can always be a good idea to be vigilant and aware of your surroundings, but without being overly paranoid.
Also, Mexico’s increasing homicide rate cannot be ignored. But those stats should be put into context for visitors. Most homicides in Mexico are targeted, very rarely directed at or even involving tourists. Of course, every once in a while there has been a horrifying headline that splashes across the news cycles. Potential visitors must realize such incidents are infrequent, which is exactly why it makes the news. It’s uncommon, shocking, and newsworthy.
Mexico’s tourism industry is a major contributor to the country’s economy, and the government has a strong interest in ensuring the safety and well-being of visitors.
During eight years of living/traveling within over half the states throughout Mexico, we’ve never experienced or even witnessed any petty crimes. That said, we’ve known people who have fallen victim to crime. It can happen in Mexico, just as crime can occur all around the world.
48) Crime Prevention Tips to Stay Safe in Mexico
Some tips to stay safe from crime in Mexico:
- Stay away from bad neighborhoods (which are generally easily avoidable)
- Research your destination to understand any safety risks, dangerous areas, or recent crime
- Be aware of your surroundings.
- Keep personal items close & secure, particularly in crowded places.
- Don’t flaunt wealth.
- Keep valuables at home or in a hotel safe.
- Don’t wander around unknown areas late at night.
- Don’t buy drugs.
- Basically, use common sense.
Simply take the same modest precautions that are widely advised when traveling anywhere. Using common-sense tactics can go a long way to staying safe in Mexico.
It’s always a good idea to review up-to-date travel warnings and guidance from your home country, before your trip to Mexico. Below are official links to travel warnings put out by the countries that most commonly visit this website:
- 🇺🇸 US Department of State – Travel Advisories for Mexico
- 🇨🇦 Canada Official Travel Advisories for Mexico
- 🇬🇧 UK Foreign Travel Advice for Mexico
- 🇦🇺 Australia Smart Traveller Full Advice for Mexico
- 🇳🇿 New Zealand Safe Travel advisories for Mexico
- 🇫🇷 France ministère de l’Europe et des Affaires étrangères: Mexique
- 🇩🇪 Deutschland Auswärtiges Amt: Reise- und Sicherheitshinweise für Mexiko
- 🇳🇱 Nederland Reisadvies Mexico | Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken
49) Don’t Be Distracted: Talk, Gawk, or Walk
Here’s a real safety travel hazard in Mexico – walking! When roaming around a busy street in Mexico, there tends to be a lot going on. It’s easy to become preoccupied and walk right into a hazard.
In Mexico, you’ll encounter uneven sidewalks, busy traffic, oncoming pedestrians, tripping hazards, a random hole in the ground, and so much more. Pay attention!
It’s so easy to become distracted by admiring a mural, a bustling market, an interesting passerby, an enticing street food vendor, or any number of sights you may not be accustomed to seeing. In these instances, simply step aside and soak it all in.
Also, step aside if using your phone, checking a map, or chatting with a friend. All too often have we seen distracted walkers in Mexico take a spill and run into people while roaming the city streets. The level of distraction can intensify after a few tequilas, so be careful out there!
A friend living in Mexico once told us, that you must choose to either “talk, gawk, or walk.” This sage advice with a rhyme can help to be mindful when exploring Mexico on foot.
50) Practice Earthquake Safety in Mexico
Mexico is one of the most seismically active regions of the world. In recent times, there is an average of about one strong (or higher) earthquake occurring each year in Mexico. From 2010 to 2019, there were a total of 10 earthquakes in Mexico above 6.0 magnitude on the Richter scale.
But only portions of Mexico lie in areas of high seismic activity. Mexico’s southern Pacific Coast states (e.g., Oaxaca, Guerrero, Chiapas) have been very active in recent times. Mexico City has experienced some notable earthquakes too. Meanwhile, the Yucatan and much of northern Mexico rarely experience a tremor.
If you’re traveling to an earthquake zone in Mexico, it can be a good idea to familiarize yourself with earthquake safety. Know where your hotel’s emergency exits are. Be sure to have an understanding of how to react if an earthquake unexpectedly strikes.
This SkyAlert app (for Android, for iPhones) gives us some peace of mind. It’s an earthquake app, specifically for use in Mexico, that sends out instant notifications when earthquakes are detected. It may give you a few extra seconds to react before the shaking begins.
51) Know the Threat of Hurricanes in Mexico
The country of Mexico sits in a region that is prone to occasional tropical storms and hurricanes. Visitors should be aware that the Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, and Mexico’s Pacific hurricane season is from May 15 to November 30, with the peak season of hurricanes being most active running from August through October.
Don’t necessarily avoid traveling to Mexico’s coastline during hurricane season. There are often no storms brewing during this time. Just be aware hurricanes can and do occur during the late summer and early fall time frame.
If traveling to Mexico during these more active months, it’s wise to keep an eye on any tropical developments. Hurricanes tend to form in advance to give a limited warning of a potential threat within a few days of arrival. Check the National Hurricane Center in the days before traveling to Mexico for warnings of any impending storms. If there is a potential hurricane threatening the area of Mexico you’re planning to travel to, it would be wise to consider canceling or postponing the trip.
Also, because Mexico is such a large country with much coastline, the threat of hurricanes tends to be localized. Understand the locality of any looming storm. For example, if there’s a hurricane barreling towards Puerto Vallarta in the Pacific, it will not have any effects on Cancun and the Caribbean coast. Again, Mexico is a very large country.
52) Prevent Mosquito Bites to Avoid Dengue Fever and other Diseases
Mosquitos are more than an annoyance in Mexico. They can carry diseases, such as dengue fever. It’s a safe idea to take precautions to avoid getting bit in the first place. In areas of Mexico where mosquitos are common, be sure to apply mosquito repellent and/or wear long-sleeve shirts and pants.
Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne illness found in Mexico. According to Mayo Clinic, “Mild dengue fever causes a high fever and flu-like symptoms. The severe form can cause serious bleeding, shock, and death.”
During 2019 and 2020, Mexico saw an increase in dengue cases. And although the number of confirmed and suspected dengue cases in Mexico lessened in 2021, dengue cases rose again in 2022. There were over 12,000 confirmed dengue cases in Mexico last year, and a total of nearly 60,000 probable cases.
Dengue fever cases tend to be most prevalent in Mexico during the latter half of the year, usually peaking around October. So visitors may want to take extra precautions during these more active months. But those in areas of Mexico with mosquitos can catch dengue throughout the entire year.
The Mexican government updates a weekly dengue report (in Spanish) regarding the prevalence and locations of dengue cases. So you may want to take a glance at the report to see up-to-date dengue conditions for your Mexico travel destination(s).
In 2023, zika and chikungunya are almost non-existent in Mexico. Last year Mexico only saw 12 zika cases and 12 chikungunya cases. To see if the situation has changed since the time of publishing, you can check Mexico’s government’s up-to-date report for zika and the chikungunya report (both in Spanish).
Malaria isn’t much of a concern in Mexico since most of the country is not a malaria zone. The CDC currently recommends prophylaxis (such as antimalarials) only for the state of Chiapas and a southern portion of the state of Chihuahua. See CDC for up-to-date malaria info and advisory.
Be sure to pack some good mosquito repellent. Personally, we really like this Picaridin Insect Repellent that has proven very effective for us yet is DEET-free, non-greasy, fragrance-free, long-lasting, and has very good prices on Amazon. To go all-natural, we also sometimes use Repel’s Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent.
53) Understand Mexico’s Covid Restrictions, Requirements, and Safety in 2023
Last year pandemic conditions in Mexico evolved, as they have throughout much of the world. While a number of government-imposed restrictions did exist in Mexico from 2020 to 2022, those restrictions in Mexico have since eased.
Visit coronavirus.gob.mx (and translate to English) for complete information about Mexico’s current recommendations, guidelines, and more. You can also view the official stats and map Mexico publishes to gauge the current level cases in your travel destination.
Wearing masks is no longer required throughout Mexico. That said, many Mexicans still choose to wear masks. Additionally, certain businesses may ask visitors to wear masks. If so, plan accordingly and act respectfully. It can be a good idea to come to Mexico with a few masks, just in case.
When flying into or entering the country, Mexico currently does not require proof of vaccination, negative Covid test results, or quarantine requirements. A simple health screening questionnaire gets you in.
Before departing Mexico, be sure to check the current requirements for the country you’re returning to or your onward travel destination. Most countries, including the US and Canada, no longer require proof of a negative upon returning from Mexico. But check up-to-date policies for the country you’re flying to from Mexico, to ensure no test or other documentation is needed.
If you ever do need to get tested while visiting Mexico, you can find Covid testing sites throughout the country. Covid tests are usually available at medical labs, and pharmacies throughout Mexico. No insurance is needed but do bring identification.
54) Sick in Mexico? The Quick & Easy Way to See a Doctor: Pharmacies!
If you become ill while in Mexico with something not-too-serious, such as a stomach bug or common cold, knowing this travel tip will help get you on the mend. Many of the popular pharmacy chains across Mexico have a doctor on site who can help diagnose your symptoms and write a prescription for any medications or antibiotics that may help you to feel better.
We’ve used these pharmacy doctors many times throughout Mexico and have found these visits to be super quick, easy, comprehensive, and inexpensive. There’s no appointment necessary for walk-in visits. Often these consultations are free (no cost), simply paying for the prescription medication and an optional tip jar on the doctor’s desk to thank them for their complimentary service. On other occasions, there’s been a very minimal charge (e.g., $30 pesos, ~US$1.50) for a visit. Usually, you can find these doctors through a separate door/entrance attached to the pharmacy building.
Of course, if you have a more serious ailment, you may want to seek appropriate treatment. But the doctors found in pharmacies can be a helpful and easy way to be seen and treated quickly.
55) Why Travel Insurance Is Important for an International Trip to Mexico
While Mexico can be generally safe, you never know what may occur. Possibilities include earthquakes, canceled flights, hurricanes (June-Nov), car accidents, lost baggage, your phone falling in the water, your camera getting lost or stolen, rental car damage, etc. Or you could just get sick while on vacation.
The most serious possibility would be a medical emergency or major accident, in which you’d need extensive hospitalization and/or medical evacuation back to your home country. Your medical insurance back home almost certainly would not cover such a catastrophic event in a foreign country. This is why travel insurance coverage can be so important when traveling to Mexico, or anywhere.
Travel insurance will have you covered so that you don’t incur the high cost of these unfortunate possibilities. We never roam around Mexico without travel insurance. The type of travel insurance you use may depend on the type of trip, expenses, and the amount of coverage you seek. We have personally used all three of these travel insurances during different trips to Mexico. Get quotes for your trip, review the coverage, and see what may work best for you:
- Safety Wing – A cost-effective solution for travel medical insurance, with minimal coverage, used by many digital nomads and long-term travelers. Get a quick quote.
- World Nomads – More coverage, can be particularly good for medium-term travels, shorter trips to Mexico, those without any existing travel insurance coverage, and those who partake in adventure activities (for which special coverage can be extended). Get a quick quote.
Money Tips and Ways to Save in Mexico
Those unaware of payment nuances in Mexico can squander travel funds on unnecessary fees and charges. It pays to know how to get low conversion rates from your home currency to the Mexican peso.
The following Mexico travel tips will help to maximize your pesos and reveal other financial practicalities throughout the county.
56) Pay in Pesos – Beware of Prices in USD
The local currency in Mexico is the Mexican Peso (MXN). Prices you encounter should always be listed in Mexican pesos. Most all businesses in Mexico only accept payment in pesos.
When in highly touristic areas of Mexico, some establishments may accept USD but will often inflate prices. Take caution of shopping at places with prices listed in US dollars. These shops are clearly geared towards international tourists and priced accordingly.
57) Learn the Conversion and a Trick to Easily Calculate in Your Head
The conversion rate for the Mexican peso is constantly changing. Check xe.com for the current rate for your currency.
For those visiting Mexico from the US, there’s a simple math trick that will allow you to easily convert Mexican pesos (MXN) to US dollars (USD) in your head. To get a rough estimate of the cost in USD:
drop a digit and divide by two.
For example, let’s say you see a price listed at $200 pesos.
Removing the last digit (0) brings you to $20, then divide by two = $10 USD.
So $200 pesos is roughly $10 USD. It’s not exact, as today’s rate shows that $200 pesos is $10.88 USD. But it’s close enough to be able to do the rough math in your head without having to break out your phone to calculate the cost of something.
58) Use Credit Cards in Mexico, But Also Carry Cash
Common credit cards (e.g., Visa, Master Card) are widely accepted in Mexico at places like hotels, restaurants, supermarkets, and chain stores.
But smaller stores and street vendors typically only accept cash. So it can always be a good idea to carry some pesos on you.
59) When Paying with Credit Card in Mexico – Select Pesos
Small shops and street vendors typically only take cash, in pesos. Yet most larger shops, hotels, and restaurants in Mexico will accept common credit cards (e.g. Visa, MasterCard). If using credit cards in Mexico, ensure your bank/credit card has a 0% international fee. Many do. If your card does not, you may want to consider getting a new credit card before your trip.
Occasionally when using credit cards in Mexico, the credit card reader will recognize it’s a foreign card and offer to perform the currency conversion in your home currency (e.g., US Dollar). With most credit cards, it’s best NOT to accept this. When accepting the rate from your home currency, the exchange rate tends to be inflated. Instead, choose to pay in pesos, allowing your credit card to perform the conversion. If your credit card has a 0% international conversion fee, selecting pesos will be in your best financial interest.
60) How to Get Pesos in Mexico
To get pesos in Mexico, the main two options are:
- at ATMs, or
- change your home currency at currency exchanges.
Typically, ATMs will give the best exchange rates when changing your home currency to pesos. But this depends on the ATM and also any fees or international rates that your home bank may charge. More on that next.
If not using ATMs, you can find currency exchanges, known as “casas de cambios.” They’re located when exiting Mexico’s airports, in large cities, and in touristic areas. Mexico’s currency exchanges usually have no flat fee. Instead, they perform the conversion at an inflated rate. That said, we’ve noticed that currency exchanges in Mexico do tend to offer better rates and lower fees compared to those in the US. So if you’re going to exchange cash, it could prove best to wait to do it in Mexico.
If planning to exchange money in Mexico, realize that it can also be uncomfortable and risky to carry large sums of cash around. Hence, ATMs can be a preferable way to periodically get pesos, one transaction at a time.
ATMs are widely found throughout Mexico at banks, convenience stores, and elsewhere. Usually, ATMs can prove to be the most inexpensive option for converting your money to pesos, but you need to know a few tips when using these cash machines!
61) Get a Good Exchange Rate at Mexico’s ATMs
ATMs in Mexico usually charge a fee, which could range from $20 pesos (US$1) on the low end to $100+ pesos (~US$5+) on the high end. If you’re making ATM withdrawals often, it could prove economical to shop around to find a low-fee ATM.
Use ATMs at banks in Mexico. ATMs located at banks tend to give a fair exchange rate that’s very close to the actual rate that day. ATMs at stores and elsewhere tend to carry higher fees and/or exchange rates.
Also, understand that your home bank may charge international fees. Before departing on your trip to Mexico, inquire what international fees or conversion rates your bank charges. If your bank’s fees are high and you’re on a long trip to Mexico, consider opening a checking account with a bank that has no international fees at ATMs. We use a Charles Schwab checking account, which carries no ATM fees, no int’l fees, and even refunds any fees the ATM charges.
62) Decline the Conversion Rate at Mexico’s ATMs
To further save on Mexico ATM fees, accept the transaction fee but decline the conversion rate. Mexico ATMs will always ask you to accept the transaction fee. You must accept this transaction fee to continue.
Yet some ATMs in Mexico will also ask you to accept the conversion rate. This is a poor rate. You can, and should, decline the conversion rate. This allows your home bank to make the conversion, which should be a much more favorable rate.
Just to reiterate, accept the transaction fee, and decline the conversion rate!
63) Break Big Bills Whenever You Can
As of 2020, Mexico has a new $1,000-peso note (approximately US$50). This $1,000-peso note is the largest bill you’ll encounter. If you happen to get one, you’ll likely have an extremely difficult time breaking it into smaller change. More common is a $500-peso bill, worth about US$25. This too can be difficult to break. Many vendors in Mexico don’t have change for a $500-peso note.
If making a larger purchase (hundreds of pesos), be sure to use large bills to break them.
Use these big bills whenever you can to get smaller denominations. Chain convenience stores (such as Oxxo and 7-11) tend to be better stocked with change, so can be opportune places to break a large bill even with smaller purchases.
Otherwise, visitors to Mexico can repeatedly find themselves in situations where they’d like a drink ($10 pesos) or to use a public restroom ($5 pesos), with only a $500-peso note to pay for it. It won’t be accepted.
Don’t use your small change unless you need to or have accumulated an abundance of it. You’ll want to try to hoard as much small change as possible for the small purchases you’ll undoubtedly be making throughout Mexico.
Practicalities and More Mexico Travel Tips
“How do I use my phone in Mexico?” “Should I avoid traveling to Mexico during the rainy season?” “What should I pack for a trip to Mexico?” These are practical questions that come up often that we’re happy to answer. The following Mexico travel tips should prove helpful in preparing for your trip!
64) Using Plugs and Electrical Outlets in Mexico
Do you need a power adapter in Mexico?
Mexico uses type-A (two-prong) and type-B (three-prong) outlets. This is the same as is used throughout the US and Canada. The standard voltage is 127 V. So if you are charging devices in Mexico brought from elsewhere in North America, you’ll be fine – no adapters are needed.
That said, it’s very common throughout Mexico to only encounter the two-pronged variety (type-A) outlets. So those with three-prong plugs may run into issues. Some visitors simply remove the third prong, known as the ground prong. Although effective, electricians warn removing the third prong can pose a safety hazard. Consider a 3-Prong to 2-Prong Adapter Converter.
If you’re traveling to Mexico from Europe, Asia, Australia, etc., be sure to pack a travel adapter so you can charge your electronics.
65) How to Use Mobile Phones with Data in Mexico in 2023
Having data on your mobile phone in Mexico can prove extremely helpful. It will allow you to get directions, translate important info, find a good restaurant, discover things to do, connect with other people, or post on social media to show your friends how awesome Mexico is.
But you need data. There are many different options to have mobile phone connectivity in Mexico. Here are three common ways to get data on your phone in Mexico:
- Using your home phone & SIM to roam while in Mexico
- Switch to a no-contract carrier with free roaming in Mexico to arrive connected
- Buy a local SIM card after arriving in Mexico
66) How to use locked (in a contract) phones on roaming in Mexico, short trips
Contact your carrier before your trip to weigh your options. Some unlimited plans may already cover usage in Mexico, so you may have nothing to worry about. But other phone plans may hit you with exorbitant roaming fees.
Be sure to understand your Mexico coverage and any associated roaming costs of your phone plan. Before you depart for Mexico, consider adjusting your plan to best meet your needs while in Mexico. Some carriers offer packages you can add that provide coverage in Mexico. Once you have a roaming plan in place in Mexico, ensure the network settings on your mobile device has roaming switched to the on position.
67) How to Use Phones in Mexico and Arrive Connected
If your phone is eSIM compatible, then the quickest, easiest, and least expensive way to get data in Mexico is to get an eSIM plan online. Airalo is a trusted eSIM provider to travelers to Mexico and their plans start for as little as $8 (1 GB). It’s an easy setup process that you can do before you depart for Mexico to arrive connected.
If you don’t have an eSIM-compatible phone, you can still change your physical SIM card to one that has inexpensive month-to-month plan that allows free roaming in Mexico, just so long as you have an unlocked phone (no-contract).
This will allow you to have access to data from the moment your plane touches down, with no need to deal with exchanging SIM cards once in Mexico. You can keep your US number. We have used each of these US-based no-contract plans in Mexico and have been pleased:
- Simple Mobile has monthly no-contract plans with free roaming in Mexico (and 16 Latin Am countries), unlimited talk, text, with plans that start at $25/mo that include 3 gb of data.
- Google Fi works in Mexico (and all over the world), and costs $20 + $10 for every GB used
Once you have a plan that works in Mexico, ensure your network settings have roaming switched on. Also, do note that these plans are not intended to be used in Mexico indefinitely. So carriers will terminate your service if they notice you are using the SIM card outside of US for an extended period of time (e.g., several months).
68) How to Get a Local SIM Card in Mexico
If you have an unlocked phone, taking a longer trip, want an MX number, and cheap rates, then getting a local SIM card in Mexico is your best option.
After arriving, buy a local Mexican SIM card with a no-contract plan. Upon arrival in Mexico, you can buy a SIM card at local convenience stores, such as Oxxo. The phone carrier Telcel is the most common option throughout Mexico.
We regularly use TelCel and have been satisfied. They have no-contract monthly plans ranging from $200-$500 pesos (US$10-$25) depending on your data needs.
Setting up a Telcel SIM card is not a seamless process. But it’s moderately easy if you have some understanding of how your phone works and know a little Spanish. If you happen to purchase from a particularly friendly store clerk, they may even help you to set up your SIM card.
69) Best Apps to Download when Traveling to Mexico (2023)
Here are some apps that may prove helpful while in Mexico. Prepare for your trip and download before you go:
- Google Maps – discover places, get directions – free (Android, iPhone)
- Google Translate – translate signs, menus, conversations, everything – free (Android, iPhone)
- Babbel – Learn and practice Spanish – subscription based, get up to 60% off your subscription
- Uber – popular rideshare and food delivery app – pay for service (Android, iPhone)
- Didi – this is an alternative to Uber – pay by service (Android, iPhone)
- Rappi – Popular grocery and/or food delivery in MX – pay by service (Android, iPhone)
- WhatsApp – Widely used in MX to communicate – free (Android, iPhone)
- SkyAlert – Earthquake alerts, be warned, free/paid versions (Android, iPhone)
- MoveIt – Helpful for public transit in MX – free (Android, iPhone)
- transportation apps – download apps for your airline(s) and bus companies
- UnitConversion – Converts pesos, metric, and more – free (Android)
- Life360 – Location sharing app so family/friends know you’re safe – free/paid (Android, iPhone)
- NordVPN – Private internet connection, access location-dependent sites – paid check current promotions
70) Plan for Monday Closures in Mexico
When planning activities and things to do in Mexico, beware of Mondays. Most museums are closed on Mondays throughout Mexico. Be sure to use the other six days of the week to delve into Mexico’s art, culture, and history.
Additionally, some archeological sites and other attractions use Monday as a day off. A few restaurants may also close on Mondays. Research open time in advance so that you can plan accordingly.
71) Leave Extra Room in Your Luggage
From local glassware to tequila to pottery to sombreros to piñatas, there are lots of fun Mexican souvenirs you may want to buy and bring back with you.
Be sure to leave some room in your luggage to take back mementos from your trip to Mexico!
72) Plan Around Holidays in Mexico
There are several important holidays in Mexico to be aware of. If your trip to Mexico coincides with a holiday, understand that some businesses may be closed, and services could be limited.
You may also want to do some research on local festivities happening in the Mexico destination you’re visiting. Día de Indepencia (Independence Day) and Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) can be particularly festive throughout Mexico!
Here are Mexico’s official national holidays occurring each year:
- Jan 1: New Year’s Day, national holiday celebrating the new year
- Feb, first Monday: Constitution Day, national holiday commemorating the drafting of the constitution
- March, Monday closest to 21st, national holiday celebrating President Benito Juárez
- March-April: Easter Week, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday are public holidays.
- May 1: Labor Day, national holiday for a day off work
- Sept 16: Independence Day is a national holiday, with fiestas beginning the night before
- Nov 2: Día de Muertos is the national holiday, with more festivities in the days preceding
- Nov, third Monday: Revolution Day celebrates Mexico’s 1910 revolution
- Dec 25: Christmas is observed
Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is not a national holiday in Mexico. Rather, May 5th is celebrated locally in Puebla to commemorate the Mexican army’s victory over the French during the Battle of Puebla.
And for more about Día de Muertos, be sure to check out our guide for the 10 Best Things to Do for Day of the Dead in Mexico City.
73) Best Time of Year to Visit Mexico
The best time to visit Mexico is greatly dependent on the location you’re visiting and what you want to get out of a visit.
Winter & Spring: High season in Mexico’s coastal areas spans from December to April. This is also Mexico’s dry season. Rain is infrequent and temperatures are pleasantly mild. Yet this beautiful weather brings an influx of visitors and higher prices. Snowbirds linger to escape the harsh winters of their home climates. Spring break can be a particularly popular time as families and college students descend into Mexico.
Summer: May is the hottest time of year for many locations in Mexico. To avoid the intense heat at this time, consider visiting Mexico’s highlands. Although it can still get quite warm in the afternoons, nights and mornings remain cool. Thankfully the rains in June-November offer some reprieve to hot temperatures in the lowlands even if the humidity increases. Summer is the rainy season for much of Mexico. Just know that the “rainy season” doesn’t mean it’s raining all day every day throughout Mexico. Plenty of sun comes through too during this time. Meanwhile, tourist crowds and prices can vary over the summer, depending on the location.
Fall can be a nice time to visit Mexico. It’s low season throughout most of Mexico (exception: during Día de Muertos). Fall is also a good time to avoid tourist crowds as temperatures begin to transition milder again. But do be aware that early fall lies within the peak of hurricane season. Personally, we tout late Fall (November and into early December) as an ideal time to visit Mexico. Everything is lush and green. Chances of rain decrease significantly and temperatures cool. Tourist crowds and prices are both low in many parts of Mexico during this time.
To get an idea of the typical weather of the Mexico destinations you’re considering, search weatherspark to see average temperatures, precipitation, and more.
74) What to Pack for Mexico
You likely already know the travel essentials you require such as your personal preferences for clothes, toiletries, and a camera. Here are some items specifically for Mexico to consider adding to your luggage:
- Light, dry-wicking clothing is an absolute must if visiting Mexico’s lowlands, particularly in the late spring and summer months.
- Jackets and warm clothing are needed if venturing to Mexico’s highlands, including Mexico City. Some Mexico newbies are surprised to learn it dips down into the 50s F / ~13°C each night, even during the summer.
- Mosquito repellent. Pesky mosquitos are around in Mexico and can carry viruses. You can go for the heavy-duty stuff with DEET. But we find this natural Repel Lemon-Eucalyptus repellent works well, isn’t as harsh on your skin, and better for the environment (particularly if you’re going in the water).
- Biodegradable sunscreen is very important to bring if you plan to swim around coral reefs or Yucatan’s cenotes. Regular sunscreen can cause damage, kill fish, and add chemicals to the freshwater. Pack biodegradable sunscreen, which can be difficult to find in Mexico. This Alba Botanica Hawaiian Sunscreen SPF 45 is a great choice on Amazon, has consistently great reviews, and is inexpensive.
- Mask & snorkel – Mexico has some great opportunities to snorkel along the coast. Plus snorkeling at cenotes in the Yucatan are a completely different underwater treat. This US Divers Mask is an excellent quality for its inexpensive price.
- Don’t forget a wide-brimmed hat & sunglasses. Keep that sun off your face and out of your eyes.
- Reusable shopping bags – Long-term travelers to Mexico should consider packing some reusable shopping bags since many supermarkets in Mexico no longer use plastic bags.
- Face masks – Even though most government mask mandates in Mexico have been lifted for public places, some businesses may still require masks, many Mexicans still use them, and mandates could come back if situations change. So it may be wise to pack a few premium face masks to have on hand.
- Travel surge protector + power strip: Outlets in Mexico can sometimes be few and inconveniently placed. If you’re traveling with multiple phones, cameras, and other devices to charge, then this Belkin 3-Outlet SurgePlus Charger can be very useful in Mexico since it turns one outlet into three, plus includes two additional USB ports. This allows five items to charge from the same outlet and also protects your electronics from power surges.
- A Travel Guide Book: For more background information about Mexico and location-specific travel advice, you may want to grab a guidebook. We like the Lonely Planet Mexico Travel Guide, recently updated for 2022.
For a more complete packing list, be sure to check out our Ultimate Travel Packing Checklist for more packing tips and 100+ recommended items to take with you to Mexico.
75) Why You Should Read up on Mexico’s History before Your Visit
Mexico has such a complex history. Those who are even moderately interested in history and/or anyone spending any significant amount of time traveling across various locations should absolutely consider learning more about Mexico’s fascinating history. It will greatly enhance a visit, providing a better understanding of Mexico’s culture.
It can be very worthwhile to spend just a few hours learning more detail about Mexico’s history before arriving in the county. This should also include a refresher on the history of Mexico’s pre-Hispanic civilizations, such as the Aztecs, Olmecs, and Mayans. Doing so will lend to a far better appreciation of the intricacies and wonders of Mexico’s many ancient sites.
History of Mexico is a fantastic primer on Mexico’s history, spanning from its ancient empires to the birth of modern-day Mexico, to the Mexican revolution and so much more. It’s all packed into an easily digestible 85 pages. (Order the paperback on Amazon or listen to the audiobook for free with a 30-day trial of Audible.)
Even More Mexico Travel Tips?
Hopefully, these Mexico travel tips have been helpful in planning a getaway. We realize there’s a lot packed into this lengthy post. So if you skipped around, consider bookmarking this page and coming back to reference it again.
Also, for suggestions of where to travel and things to do, be sure to check out our entire Mexico archive.
Also, do you have your own favorite Mexican travel tip? Feel free to post it in the comments section below! Or if you have any questions about traveling to Mexico that weren’t answered, please ask! We’d love to help you if we can.
Lastly, enjoy Mexico. ¡Buen viaje amigos!
I salute your guide… so informative and friendly written at the same time (i laughed many times with your expressions!). Thank you very much for covering all those topics, BUT… what about us smokers? Is it allowed to smoke out publicly? How about on the beach, with a cold frape sorry… a beer (the Greek woke up in me) in hand? Given there is an ashtray of course, so i don’t have to sadly “burry” each finished smoke in the sand 🙂