Let's take a look at various utilities in Mexico and answer some questions you may have about them. I'll be sharing everything you need to know about dealing with water, toilets, and making phone calls in the country.
About Drinking the Water in Mexico
Drinking the water from the tap in Mexico is asking for digestive trouble unless you're going to be there for more than six months and your stomach can get used to the local bugs.
Even then, you may be ingesting parasites and raw sewage that can cause serious illnesses.
Sink water: even the cheapest Mexico hotel will supply bottled water in your room if the tap water is not potable (shouldn't be drunk). If you don't see bottled water in your Mexico hotel room, look for a plaque or sign proclaiming potable tap water; even with that disclaimer, you may prefer bottled water but you can be assured brushing your teeth is safe. If in doubt, ask any of the staff.
Shower water - if you can't drink the sink water, don't let the shower water into your mouth. A partial mouthful of water in Mexico is enough to make you sick. Nothing in the water is going to hurt your external body during a shower.
Tip: remember to buy extra bottled water for your hotel room at night if you're drinking alcohol -- don't be double sick the next day from dehydration *and* drinking the tap water.
About the Toilet in Mexico
If there is a wastepaper basket next to a toilet in Mexico, it means you are to deposit your used toilet paper in the wastepaper basket.
The wastebasket's placement may mean that a septic system is in use which can't handle loads of toilet paper without expensive maintenance. It's tough not to automatically put toilet paper in the toilet in Mexico -- remembering that you could accidentally wreak havoc helps.
How to Make a Phone Call in Mexico
Let's start with the basics: the long distance code in Mexico is 01. If you're calling the United States, first dial 001. To make other international calls, dial 00, and then the country and state and/or city (area) codes.
You can buy phone cards good for making calls in Mexico for 30, 50 and 100 pesos (about $3-5-10 USD), but I recommend just picking up a local SIM card instead. You can get these from any OXXO store, and data/phone calls are inexpensive.
If you experience an emergency in Mexico, these are the phone numbers you'll need to use:
- Police - 060
- Fire department and ambulance - 080
- Highway emergencies - 078
- Tourist security - (55) 5250-0123 (it's meant to be used)
Call (55) 5658-1111 in Mexico for Mexico information (like 411). Use country code 52 if calling Mexico from another country.
Alternatively, you could just top up your Skype account with credit and use that for any calls.
Women: How to Handle Your Period in Mexico
The first thing to know is that just how you can't flush your toilet paper, you also can't flush tampons down the toilet. Instead, you should put them in the same wastebasket used for toilet paper.
You should also stock up on tampons or pads before you leave.
While you should be able to find these easily in stores in the country, you can't count on finding machines dispensing tampons or pads in public bathrooms, including those in hotels or restaurants. Make sure you have your own personal supply, just in case.
Alternatively, look into getting a diva cup for your trip. Menstrual cups save you money, are good for the environment, are discreet and reusable. I highly recommend checking them out if you're going traveling!
This article has been edited and updated by Lauren Juliff.