Mexico has been my home now for almost a year. I’ve learned a lot about this country over those 12 months, although I know I still have SO much to learn. I’ve traveled to several states, enjoyed tons of beaches, eaten A LOT of tacos, and done a lot of research about how to travel Mexico. I’ve decided to compile them all into a huge collection of Mexico travel tips.
I’ve broken down the tips into a few different sections to help you navigate through them and hopefully answer as many of your questions as possible. If you finish reading this post and still want to know more, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer all of your questions about traveling Mexico!
Mexico Travel Tips You Need to Know
General Advice & Weather
1. Not many people speak English unless you’re in a resort area like Cancun or Tulum. If you are traveling to cities or more rural areas, be prepared to get your best Spanish out. I bought this Lonely Planet Mexican Spanish phrasebook before I moved here and it was super helpful when I was still learning the basics.
2. Travel insurance is a must. Most of the hospitals you will encounter as a tourist are private and will ask for your insurance up front before doing anything. I’ve been using World Nomads for the last 6+ years for whenever I go abroad and they are by far the easiest and most comprehensive I have found.
3. While Mexico is mostly warm all year round, there is a wet season during the summer months that may make some places less ideal. It’s kind of unpredictable in my experience. It usually runs from about mid-May until the end of October, with the worst months being September and October. It’s usually super hot and sunny in the mornings, then the thunder and lightening come around 5 or 6pm. Sometimes it rains all day, sometimes it doesn’t rain at all.
4. Mexico City and the regions around it are mountainous and quite high up. Mexico City has an altitude of 7,382 ft (2,250m). You might feel a little bit light headed or get a headache when you first arrive. Just keep hydrated and take things like stairs and hills a bit slower.
5. During the winter months, it’s still pretty warm in the mountain areas. During the day it can still be as warm as 75 degrees Fahrenheit (23 C). It can cool down to around 50 F (10 C) in the evenings though, so you’ll want to pack accordingly.
6. Most people do not need a tourist visa to enter Mexico. The majority of visitors, including US and UK citizens, are given 180-day stamps, but you may have to ask for that when you enter the country, otherwise, they will only stamp you for 30 days. If you want to double check if you are eligible for visa-free travel, check this Mexico Visa page for up-to-date details.
7. Packing for Mexico is pretty simple since the weather is pretty steady throught out the year (except when the rain comes). Here is a comprehensive post on what to wear in Mexico.
Transportation in Mexico
8. I always book internal flights first by checking out Skyscanner.
9. The three cheapest airlines for flying internally are Viva Aerobus, Volaris, and Interjet (in that order usually).
10. Viva Aerobus is like the RyanAir of Mexico. There are no frills, including customer service. When you book through their website they pre-check all of the boxes for extras and you have to go through and un-check everything so that you don’t get charged for it accidentally.
11. Volaris is by far my favorite and I’m usually willing the pay the extra $5 or $10 for the service, the ease of check-in, and how much timelier they are than Viva Aerobus. Volaris flights always include a bag and their website is really easy to use to book flights.
12. Interjet isn’t exactly a “budget” airline, but their prices are great for flying to parts of the US and Central America. You usually get pretty decent service and bags included.
13. AeroMexico is the national carrier and even has its own terminal at the airport in Mexico City. Even though it’s not budget, they have really great prices between Miami and Mexico City and we’re actually flying with them to Costa Rica next month. You always get at least one checked bag included and a meal or snack.
14. Inter-city buses are really cheap and pretty well organized. I’ve written about all of the major bus stations in Mexico City here.
15. The biggest bus company in the country is ADO – you’ll find them in every major city and small town around Mexico.
16. I recommend getting the ADO App so that you can pre-book tickets. Sometimes you can save a little bit of money by booking 24 hours in advance. The App also allows you to use a foreign card, while the website doesn’t (as of writing this at least).
17. You can usually just show up to a bus station and book onto the next available bus. If it’s a holiday weekend then you’ll definitely want to book in advance though.
18. The metro in Mexico City is perfectly safe in my opinion. I take it at least twice a week at different times of day, including at night. There are women only cars, just look for the pink or orange signs that say “mujeres y niños” – women and children. Sometimes it says “damas” instead, which just means ladies. Get the Mapway App for Mexico City – it makes taking the metro SO much easier.
19. If you want to know the best way to get around Mexico City, you can read my huge post about transportation in Mexico City.
20. There are some trains in Mexico City, but I have never taken one and they don’t connect to major cities.
How Much it Costs to Travel Mexico
21. Mexico can be as cheap or as expensive as you make it. The resorts and all inclusive places are as expensive, if not more so, than a similar vacation in the US.
22. I usually stay in an Airbnb when I’m traveling Mexico, eat street food, and do a lot of touring by foot. If you want to book a tour, you will pay usually in USD and it can cost anywhere from $25 to $150 for a day tour of a nearby attraction.
23. I wrote a post about how much it costs to travel Mexico City here.
24. You can expect to pay a minimum of $35 a night for a private home or apartment on Airbnb in most places around Mexico. There are a few exceptions like that time we only paid $16 a night in Merida for a 2 bedroom house.
25. Street food is incredibly cheap. You can have a taco for as little as 7 pesos (about 30¢). Meals at a Comida Corrida or Economica (small Mexican restaurants) can range from 50 pesos ($2.50) to 100 pesos ($5). These usually include a main, a drink, and a dessert.
26. If you want to really save and you are staying somewhere that has a kitchen, you can get groceries from a local market or a weekly Tianguis. For a week’s worth of groceries, I usually spend about 800 pesos ($40) which is for both myself and my boyfriend.
27. Beers from a convenience store cost about 15 pesos (75¢) while in a restaurant or bar you can pay between 40 pesos ($2) and 80 pesos ($4).
28. If you want to go to a more “upscale” restaurant in a major city like Mexico City or Guadalajara, a main meal will cost about 200 pesos ($10). These types of restaurant in the more resorty areas like Tulum or Puerto Vallarta can be as expensive as restaurants of the same quality back in the US.
30. Renting a car is pretty cheap in Mexico. I’ve only done it once, but it was during the busy Easter period and I still got it for $10 a day including daily insurance. I always check on Expedia first, they seem to have the lowest prices in Mexico that I’ve found.
What to Eat in Mexico
32. Okay, seriously though, every region in Mexico has incredible food and you should definitely sample everything from market stall fruits to funny-colored drinks, tacos, tortas, pambazos.
33. If you’re coming to Mexico City, I’ve written a complete guide to eating street food in Mexico City. It lists not only all the foods you need to try, but the best places I’ve found to get each one.
34. When you’re in the Yucatan you need to have pibil (top it with plenty of pickled red onion!), sopa de lima, queso relleno, chile relleno, Panuchos, Salbutes, and poc chuc. Everything in this region is so packed with flavor and spice. Just beware, the people of the Yucatan LOVE a habañero chili.
35. If you go to Puebla, you need to have mole poblano – it’s the most famous mole outside of Mexico and it is by far my favorite type. Chiles en Nogada is also a hugely popular dish that comes from Puebla. It’s a battered and fried poblano pepper covered in a walnut sauce.
36. Oaxacan is the place to go if you’re a foodie and want to sample some of the best cuisine in the country. Barbacoa, basically the best thing I’ve ever eaten, comes from Oaxaca. It’s usually slow cooked lamb or goat that is so tender and juicy you’ll need a baby wipe to wash yourself after you finish eating (trust me, it’s worth it).
37. Try some chapulines if you’re brave. These are a Oaxacan delicacy, but you can find them all over the country. Chapulines are roasted grasshoppers which are usually tossed in some type of spice.
38. Try some mezcal. This is also from Oaxaca, but there are tons of places to try it in Mexico City, too. Mezcal is made from the same plant that tequila is made from, but tequila is kind of like champagne or port, it has to come from a certain region of the state of Jalisco and be made a specific way in order to be called tequila.
39. If you’re walking down the street and you see a big pile of corn cooking or some corn on the cob being grilled, stop immediately and order some. Elote is the corn that’s off the cob and is cooked up with chilis, lime, and paprika. Then they put it in a cup with mayo and it is indulgently delicious. Sometimes there’s cheese involved.
40. There are tons of fruit stands everywhere in Mexico where you can get sliced up mango, jicama, watermelon, or papaya. If you want it in pure form, make sure to ask for it “sin salsa,” without sauce. Otherwise, they’re going to put sugar and cayenne pepper, and a bit of Valentina hot sauce on it. The same goes for stalls that sell chips.
41. Want to try something strangely delicious? If you go past a stall that is selling Doritos out of a bag or you see a sign that says “Dorilocos,” order it. They’ll open up the bag and dump in all kinds of sauces. It’s salty and a little bit sweet and I still feel enormous guilt whenever I finish a bag of it, but damn is it good.
42. If you make it down to Chiapas, you’ll be sure to find Nucú, also called chicatana. They are a Chiapas delicacy, oversized queen ants that are full of eggs. You usually find them done the same way as chapulines, roasted, salted, and topped with lime and chile. Do as the locals do and hold the ant by the head and chomp on that juicy butt.
Shopping in Mexico
43. One of the first things to know about shopping in Mexico is that haggling isn’t really the done thing. If you are shopping at a market stall or in a touristy area and you plan to buy more than one thing from that person, you can negotiate for a slightly lower price, but for the most part, it’s quite offensive.
44. The exception to this is at tourist sites like Chichen Itza or other super-touristy places. Assume that whatever price they quote you is absolutely absurd. We bought a souvenir from Chichen Itza and were originally quote 1,500 ($75) pesos. We bought it in the end for 500 pesos ($25). Luke still thinks we overpaid.
45. As you travel around Mexico you’ll start to see a lot of the same types of souvenirs. Silver is very popular, and the best comes from Taxco (so be sure to ask where it comes from!). I’ve found the best prices for these types of souvenirs to be at markets in Mexico City or other larger, less touristy cities.
46. If you go to Chiapas, definitely get chocolate and coffee. Coffee from Chiapas is all organic, shade-grown (which is better for your health, the environment, and the farmer!), and super duper delicious.
47. If you go to Guadalajara or somewhere around Jalisco, you should definitely get yourself some small batch tequila. Make sure it says 100% agave on the label.
48. If you go to the Yucatan, you can buy a locally made liquor there called Xtabentun. It’s made of anise seed and honey and was said to be a drink of the Mayans.
49. Alebrijes are brightly colored creatures, usually a mixture of different animals, that come from the Oaxaca region, although you’ll see them all over the country. They are usually very thin and delicate, carved from wood and painted all different colors.
50. You’ll see plenty of wool blankets around the country. The towns in the state of Oaxacan are best known for their textiles and intricate weavings. Head to the markets in Oaxaca City where many people come from the smaller towns to sell their pieces.
51. Coral is a popular souvenir along the Caribbean coast. Please avoid buying black coral. It is heavily endangered and actually illegal to sell.
52. Clay handcrafts are incredibly popular all over the country thanks to the abundance of it throughout Mexico. You can find everything from carvings to pottery, religious decorations, to replicas of Aztec and Mayan artifacts. The black clay is the most famous (and most expensive) and comes from Oaxaca.
Tourist Destinations in Mexico
53. Mexico is a huge country and getting around is a slow process. Make a list of the things that you really want to see, or plan to come back over time to see different regions on each trip.
54. My two favorite books for planning trips around Mexico have been the Lonely Planet Mexico book and Mexico City: An Opinionated Guide for the Curious Traveler.
55. There are so many great places to Explore in the Yucatan. I wrote a two week Mexico itinerary for the Yucatan region and it details all of the best sites to see on a trip to the area. Don’t forget Chichen Itza!
56. You could easily spend an entire week or more exploring Tulum. There are so many cenotes (natural pools), Mayan ruins, and beautiful beaches to enjoy.
57. Mexico City deserves at least a week for all of its museums, restaurants, street food, and parks. Here is a one week Mexico City itinerary.
58. Copper Canyon in Chihuahua has been on my Mexico bucket list all year. Copper Canyon is wider and deeper than the Grand Canyon and has an incredible train journey through it. This post from Expert Vagabond shows how awesome it really is.
59. You can visit a few beautiful cities in the state of Guanajuato in one trip. San Miguel de Allende is one of my favorite places in Mexico that I’ve been to. The city of Guanajuato is packed with history, culture, and colorful buildings. Leon is also a really cool city worth a few days of your time.
60. Head to Puebla for a few days from Mexico City or stop there on the way to Oaxaca. Eat mole, take in the volcanoes that surround the city and head to the Great Pyramid of Cholula, Pirámide Tepanapa. This pyramid is actually the widest in the world. The whole town of Cholula is worth a visit.
61. Guadalajara is meant to be an awesome city. It’s the second largest in the country and is the birthplace of both tequila and mariachi music. So if you want a city experience that’s packed with culture, this is a great place to head.
62. For a truly off the beaten path trip, check out Morelia in Michoacan. Jessica over at Curiosity Travels wrote about her time in Morelia and what a great experience it was and I’ve been intrigued ever since.
63. While you’re in Mexico City you definitely need to check out Teotihuacan. These pyramids are absolutely incredible and were once home to a civilization that is even older than the Aztecs.
64. San Luis Potosi is a place that doesn’t get enough credit. The city and state with the same name are both home to a lot of history and some seriously awesome natural beauty. A trip to this region wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the Cascada de Tamul.
65. Oaxaca is a state that people rave about. There’s the amazing food to eat in Oaxaca City, the beautiful beach town of Puerto Escondido, and amazing history in Mitla, Tule, Matlatan, and the Teotitlan Valley. There’s also a site of ruins that looks incredible called Monte Alban.
66. I am so ashamed that I haven’t been to Chiapas yet. It is really high on my list and there are so many beautiful places to explore. The two that I’m dying to get to are the colonial city of San Cristóbal de las Casas and Sumidero Canyon where you can explore the canyon from the base of it, in a boat.
Heath & Safety in Mexico
67. I’ve said it before and I stand by it, Mexico is a safe place to travel.
68. Always read about a specific destination before you go. Lonely Planet guidebooks have great information about keeping safe in different places. All of the places I’ve listed above are well touristed. Using tour companies are a great way to see a lot of Mexico while ensuring you and your things are totally safe.
69. In larger cities, the biggest concern is likely to be pickpockets and petty theft. Leave your expensive things at home (or in a safe in your hotel room). Don’t carry tons of cash or any credits cards on you if you don’t have to. Keep your passport in a safe at your hotel or in a safe place, but there is really no need to carry it around with you during the day.
70. I heard more about the Zika Virus before moving to Mexico than I ever have since I’ve been here. While it is a minor concern, it’s not something that should stop you from visiting Mexico. Wear bug spray in the evenings and cover your legs when the mosquitos are out. The main places are down South in the jungles of Chiapas and along the coasts during the wet season (summer months).
71. I’ve never had a case of Moctezuma’s revenge here in Mexico (stomach problems). I eat street food almost every week, I have ice in all of my drinks, and I drink water in restaurants. I have never had a moment’s bother with my stomach and the only time I have ever heard of a friend having a problem was when they ate fried chicken that they bought from the grocery store which no doubt had been sitting out under a hot lamp all day long.
72. Drink bottled water. The tap water isn’t really great anywhere in the country. All restaurants use filtered water, so don’t stress.
73. Private hospitals in Mexico are clean, have very high standards, and are relatively inexpensive if you’re used to US prices. That being said, emergency care can cost thousands of dollars without insurance. Get yourself travel insurance if you’re going to be doing any length of travel in the country. World Nomads truly is the only company I ever use.
74. You can get almost anything from a pharmacy. From the contraceptive pill, to pain killers, to things that will clear up a rash. Pharmacists in major cities often speak a small amount of English and you can try to explain what your problem is with Google Translate if required. This is always the first place you should go if you’re not feeling well.
75. Be smart. Use common sense. Don’t put things in your back pockets. Use a purse that has a zipper. If you feel uncomfortable or like you’re in a situation you don’t like, remove yourself from it immediately.
Have I missed anything? Do you have any other questions about traveling to Mexico? Let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer all of your questions about Mexico in a frequently asked questions post soon!
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