Before you go to Mexico:
Do I need a passport for Mexico travel? Do I need a visa in Mexico, and what's a tourist card? What do I need to drive in Mexico? How much money should I budget for Mexico travel? Do I need shots before I travel to Mexico? Get those answers first with a Mexico travel planning FAQ, or keep scrolling for the rest of the beginner's guide to Mexico travel.
Getting to Mexico:
Believe it: you may find the best Mexico airfare deal from a local travel agent with access to charters which aren't advertised. Try these for cheap Mexico air:
More Mexico travel options:
Lodging in Mexico:
Hostels aren't always the best way to go for budget Mexico lodging -- funky little hotels can be charming and cheap. Ask to see a room before you pay.
Expect to pay less than $20 for a hotel -- less than $10 is totally possible. You can get cabanas on the beach for a few bucks -- a thatched roof and a hammock. Camp for free or $3.
Getting around in Mexico:
Learn about cheap airlines in Mexico.
Taxis are plentiful. Pay about one peso per mile -- negotiate before you get in.
Take the local bus (often called "chicken buses") -- crowded, cheap and safe enough.
Driving in Mexico
Driving in Mexico is a snap -- in fact, it's easier than driving in the US provided you pay attention.
- Mexico buses, cabs
- Mexico streets
Mexico money and budget:
Mexico uses the peso as currency; the exchange rate usually hovers around ten to one.
Don't assume that Mexico will be a super budget destination -- it can be; Mexico resorts like Cancun are as spendy as any, though. You can get by on $25-30/day if you're adventurous.
- Eat street food and buy food in mercados - $2/meal
- Stay in hostels or budget hotels or camp -- $15/less per night
- See a Mexico student travel budget
- Riviera Maya student travel budget
Health, safety and crime in Mexico:
Food is perfectly safe. Health care is remarkably cheap and advanced -- feel safe going to the ER or clinic (I've done it). Carry insect repellent, though malaria's not common.
Mexico is generally safer than some US cities.
- Gals should avoid gypsy cabs (see below).
- Those guys in army uniforms with machine guns are the Federales, there to help keep you safe.
- Mugging is not common.
Where to go in Mexico:
Mexico beaches are fantastic, but there's more to Mexico than sun splashed sand and gin clear water -- the mountains of Mexico offer a whole different world to Mexico visitors: wowser architecture, master craftwork and fab food. Do both with these routes:
- Zihuatenejo/Ixtapa - Patzcuaro
- Hualtulco or Puerto Escondido - Oaxaca
- Acapulco - Taxco
Mexico's Pacific side is about hills and surf; the Gulf offers Veracruz seafood and colonial Merida. Try Tulum on the Caribbean.
Internet and email in Mexico:
Internet cafes are springing up everywhere in Mexico -- I saw quite a few in remote and rural Taxco, for instance. If you bring your own laptop, you can find free wifi -- I found it within my first hour of my last Mexico visit.
Feel okay about carrying your laptop --just keep an eye on it, of course.
Learn about phone calls in Mexico below.
Mexico photo galleries:
Whet your appetite for Mexico travel with a few Mexico photo galleries.
- Mexico "Color" - Photos Featuring Gorgeous Color in Mexico
- Mexico Streets - a Photo Tour
- Photo Tour: College Students in Mexico
- Acapulco Hostel Photo Tour
Final beginner's Mexico travel tips:
More Tips on Getting Around in Mexico
- If you return to your parked car to find the front license plate missing, you've been given a parking ticket -- get the plate after paying the fine at the police station.Waggle your forefinger (think "no-no") if a cab or bus pulls up and you don't need a ride.
- Take cabs from taxi stands -- "gypsy" cab drivers may charge outrageously. The cab-kidnapping stories have some merit...
Quick Tips on Social Life in Mexico
Clubs and booze
You gotta try margaritas, but they're spendy. Booze on a budget: tequila and lime. Don't drink? Say, "No bebo."
- About nightclubs in Mexico
- Prep for a late night -- things jump off around 10-11:00 p.m.
- Expect to spend up to $40 for entrance in resort area clubs; cover usually includes all-you-can-drink.
- Grunge don't usually get it -- dress up and wear shoes to avoid being turned away.
About drugs in Mexico
- Forget about drugs -- don't buy 'em, don't travel with 'em, don't hang with natives who offer to sell 'em: they're clueless.
- Forget what you've heard about prescription drugs -- you need a prescription to buy most drugs in Mexico that are precription drugs in the US.
Quick Metrics Tips
- Celsius: Twenty is nice, zero is ice.
- One mile equals 1.6 kilometers.
- One litre is just over two pints, or a fifth plus 1/2 pint.
Mail and Phone Calls in Mexico
You can buy phone cards good for making calls in Mexico for about $3-5-10 USD in Mexico shops and airports.
- Learn how to make a phone call in or to Mexico and see emergency Mexico phone numbers.
- Learn about international cell, GSM and satellite phones
"Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living."