50 things you need to know before traveling to Mexico

Mexico is a dream destination for many! It has beaches and cenotes, it has culture, it has famous monuments and others not so much, it has tasty, diverse and creative food… It has everything we need for a fabulous trip and then some! It is no coincidence that it is one of the world’s best and biggest tourist destinations!

There are few countries where we spent more time than Mexico… We traveled by plane, boat, bus, and colectivos. We know a good part of the country, but Mexico is so extensive and diverse that it’s challenging to truly know the whole country.

Even so, some general characteristics and travel tips are valid for the entire country. Thus, we will present the 50 things you need to know before traveling to Mexico, looking at the people, the tourism, the best travel destinations, the best ways to travel, food, costs, and much more…

things I need to know before traveling to Mexico
Map of Mexico at Castillo de Chapultepec in Mexico City

Mexico and the Mexicans

#1 Located in North America, Mexico is a huge country (the 13th largest in the world) with enormous geographic diversity. Despite this, Mexico borders only three countries: the United States to the north and Guatemala and Belize to the south.

#2 Mexico is a federated state with 31 states (plus the federal district of Mexico City). Some of the best-known and most popular among travelers are Yucatán, Quintana Roo, Chiapas, Oaxaca, Baja California, and Jalisco.

things to know about mexico travel
Iglesia de San Juan Chamula – a church with Maya and Christian influence in Mexico

#3 As we mentioned, it is an incredibly diverse country with deserts, volcanoes, plains, tropical forests, and paradisiacal beaches.

However, one of the most striking characteristics of Mexico is that its central zone reaches very high altitudes. The top of the largest volcanoes greatly exceeds 5,000 meters in altitude, and the metropolitan area of Mexico City is at around 2400 meters.

The highest point in Mexico is Orizaba Peak, at 5,700 meters above sea level.

everything i need to known before traveling to Mexico
Mexico City Volcanoes in Mexico | photo by lucidwaters via Depositphotos

About the Mexicans

#4 With nearly 130 million inhabitants, Mexico is the 10th most populous country in the world and the first whose official language is Spanish. Its capital, Mexico City, is one of the largest in the world.

#5 The Mexican population is very diverse but also difficult to quantify. There are large percentages of indigenous, white, and mestizo populations, however, the percentages vary greatly depending on the criteria used.

There are also small percentages of black Mexicans and Asian Mexicans. But if we look at the absolute numbers, we notice it is a lot of people.

everything you need to know before visiting Mexico
Mexican women making tortillas at the Chaya Maya restaurant in the city of Merida, Mexico

#6 Between about 12 and 23 million people in Mexico are (or consider themselves) indigenous. Thus, Mexico has the largest indigenous population in the Americas.

The indigenous population is widely distributed throughout the country and includes the Nahua (Aztecas), the Mayas, the Zapotecs, and the Mixtecs, among others.

everything about Mexico and the mexicans
Aztec Calendar at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City

#7 Despite all this diversity, practically everyone speaks Spanish.

Thus, it is very useful to speak Spanish or at least a little bit. It helps communication a lot, and people like foreigners who speak (try) their language. With some training, it is pretty easy for us, as we are native Portuguese speakers.

In tourism-related services, there are quite a few people who speak English, but don’t assume that everyone speaks or should do so.

#8 We found contact with Mexicans extremely pleasant. They are naturally super friendly and are always very curious to know where we are from due to our weird, broken, but understandable Spanish. It sounds like Spanish to them; they understand more or less what we say, but it’s definitely not real Spanish.

Apart from a few exceptions in very touristy areas, the sellers are also not too insistent, which makes the whole experience of traveling much more pleasant.

Mexico travel tips
Boats at Xochimilco in Mexico City | photo by lucidwaters via Depositphotos

Weather in Mexico

#9 As mentioned above, Mexico is huge and very diverse. You could write an article (or several) just about the climate in Mexico. The differences between the north and south are enormous, and then there is the issue of altitude.

The west coast and the highlands of the north center are generally arid, but as you go south, it gets increasingly rainy. As for the southern part of Mexico, the climate is already tropical. That is very rainy and high temperatures all year round.

In virtually the whole country, the rainy season is in the summer, and the hurricane season lasts from June to November, with the worst months being September and October, as they are also the hottest.

It is important to note that the altitude is vital for the central zones of Mexico. Due to the altitude, cities such as Puebla and Mexico City have mild climates throughout most of the year.

reasons to visit Mexico
Bacalar Lagoon, one of the most beautiful lakes in the world in Mexico

When to travel to Mexico?

#10 The best time to travel to Mexico completely depends on where in Mexico you are going.

If you plan to go to the south, and the beaches, the ideal is to go between February and May. This avoids hurricanes and higher temperatures. Note that in summer the temperatures and humidity are sometimes too high to totally enjoy the place.

If you are planning a trip around Christmas and New Year, note that it will probably be better to go to the west coast and Baja California, as in Yucatan and Quintana Roo the weather is still not ideal.

Best time to visit Mexico
Playa del Carmen in Mexico

Is it safe to travel in Mexico?

#11 Safety is one of the most talked about topics when thinking about traveling in Mexico. And although there are some reasons for this, as there are globally high levels of crime (kidnapping, extortion, and robbery on public roads as well as on public transport), the reality is not as bad as is often presumed.

It is essential to know which regions and states are the most problematic and avoid them. The worst zones in Mexico are potentially very dangerous and should be avoided. You can see here the information updated by the American government.

is it safe to travel o Mexico?
Monument to La Patria in Merida, Mexico.

#12 In practice, you should always pay attention while traveling in public transportation, stations, and other busy places – like everywhere else in the world. Walking at night should also be done with caution.

Overall, our experience in Mexico was extremely pleasant. Initially, we felt some tension because some reports we read were disturbing, but as we got to know the countries, we became more and more relaxed.

Otherwise, we had a perfectly normal life, walked everywhere, and used public transport almost daily. We never felt in danger or in a more tense situation.

About trips to Mexico
Aerial view of Mexico City | jkraft5 photo via Depositphotos

Mexican culture and history

#13 The territory where we find Mexico today has a rich history, with several civilizations that left massive ruins, ancient cities, pyramids, temples, and, of course, unique and fascinating cultures.

Some of the most famous are the Aztecs, Mayans, Olmecs, Zapotecs, and Teotihuacans. It is important to note that these cultures did not all emerge simultaneously nor occupy the entire territory, but they were replacing each other, appearing and disappearing in different regions.

If you like this subject, we strongly advise you to visit the Anthropological Museum in Mexico City. Take at least half a day (or a full day if you like museums) because it’s a whole world to explore!

Mexico culture and history before travel
The National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City is great for learning about Central American civilizations.

#14 The arrival of the Spaniards in America marked a new phase in Mexico’s history. First, the conquest and then the colonization of Mexico. In 1521, Hernan Cortés conquered Tenochtitlán (now Mexico City) and then the rest of the territory.

This phase is marked by the enslavement of indigenous peoples but also by the development of Mexican culture and the formation of the basis for what Mexico is today. The Spanish colony was called the Viceroyalty of New Spain.

Good to know: In addition to territories in America, New Spain also included the Philippines. Therefore, Mexico and the Philippines have a strong relationship and influence.

visiting the pyramids is a must in Mexico
Archeological zone of Teotihuacan close to Mexico City

#15 The Viceroyalty fell in 1821 with the independence of Mexico. The 19th century was very agitated in Mexico, with several wars, coups, and regime changes.

Currently, Mexico is a politically stable country with regular and democratic elections.

#16 One of the best-known things about Mexico is, without a doubt, the drug cartel situation. It is constantly portrayed in movies and series and regularly appears in the news. This is not the article to discuss this issue, nor are we the right people to do so.

However, we have to mention that this is not an issue in everyday life in Mexico, especially for those who are on a trip. Apart from sometimes seeing impressive police devices, nothing else reminds us of this serious social crisis in the country.

how to travel to mexico
Traffic in Mexico City | Everything you need to know before traveling to Mexico

Travel in Mexico

#17 Tourism is one of the essential sectors of the Mexican economy. Before Covid, Mexico received 100 million tourists a year, corresponding to revenues of around USD 25B, or 2% of GDP.

Thus, Mexico is one of the most touristic countries in the world. In 2020, already with the pandemic underway, it received more than 50 million visitors, i.e., the 3rd in the world.

#18 As you would expect, most visitors to Mexico are Americans and Canadians. There are also many Europeans, but no other nationality stands out.

Most tourism in Mexico is resort tourism. Thus, many tourists who visit Mexico go to resorts and stay in resorts, taking some tours nearby.

Where to go in Mexico
Cancun Hotel Zone in Mexico | Photo jdross75 via Depositphotos

#19 Interestingly, in our experience in Mexico, we saw many Europeans traveling, much more than Americans and Canadians.

Our explanation for this is that because we travel as backpackers, we end up seeing more backpackers, and we don’t go to the resorts or more luxurious places that Americans frequent.

#20 Mexicans travel a lot within their own country. In virtually all the tours we did, and in almost all the cities, we met Mexicans who were traveling and wanted to know the culture, history, and landmarks of Mexico.

This left us surprised but also very satisfied. It’s good to know that there is already a middle class in Mexico with enough purchasing power to travel and enjoy getting to know their country and everything it offers.

Best guide to Mexico
Puerto Vallarta beach in Mexico

#21 In Mexico, there are 35 UNESCO heritage sites, of which 27 are cultural heritage, 9 are natural heritage, and 4 are mixed. These are spread across the country, but mainly in the center and south.

For obvious reasons, we won’t list here all the UNESCO sites in Mexico, but some of the best-known include several historical centers (Mexico City, Puebla, and Oaxaca), many pre-Columbian ruins (Monte Alban, Chichen Itza, Teotihuacan), and some wonders (Sian Kaan, Pacific Islands, Butterfly Reserve).

You can see the complete list here.

Best Mexico atractions
Monte Alban archaeological zone in Oaxaca, Mexico.

#22 Alongside the many UNESCO heritage sites, the Mexican government created the Pueblos Mágicos project to make known many of Mexico’s natural, cultural, and historical wonders.

Created in 2001, the project currently has 132 magical pueblos spread across the country. Although this is primarily a marketing initiative, seeing their list and the reasons they were nominated is also an excellent way to look for interesting activities and destinations for our trip.

everything about traveling to Mexico
Catedral de San Cristobal de las Casas in Mexico – One of Mexico’s magical pueblos

What to visit in Mexico

#23 Mexico is huge and has an almost endless number of tourist attractions. It would be impossible to include all the destinations in Mexico in this guide, but we think it is very important to talk a little about the best destinations, the most popular regions, and also some famous landmarks.

#24 The beaches and year-round high temperatures are the main reasons tourists choose Mexico as a vacation destination. In our opinion, the best beaches in Mexico are on the Caribbean coast in Quintana Roo. Some of our favorite beaches include:

  • Playa Delfines in Cancun – excellent public beach in Cancun’s hotel zone
  • Pescadores and Las Palmas beaches in Tulum – in our opinion, the best beaches in Mexico. They are the perfect postcard for Mexico.
  • Mahahual Beach – Excellent beach and very little visited, compared to most on this list;
  • Akumal Beach – Beautiful beach within a protected area where you can also go snorkeling to see turtles.
  • Ponta Esmeralda Beach in Playa del Carmen—In our opinion, it is the best urban beach in Mexico. It has direct access and excellent sand and water.
  • Bacalar – Freshwater beach at Laguna de Bacalar. It has no sand, but the water has unbelievable tones and is very pleasant for swimming all year round.
  • Holbox – An island with paradisiacal beaches, little infrastructure but plenty of accommodation, and a large hippie and hippie chic community. We especially like the beach of Punta Cocos, but there are many things to do in Holbox.
Playa Ruinas, one of the most beautiful in Mexico
Beautiful Tulum beach in Mexico – Playa Ruinas

#25 The Pacific coast also has a lot of beach areas, but these are much more known as surfing beaches than diving/swimming beaches.

The water is warm all year round, but normally, the sands are quite small or non-existent. We were especially disappointed with the city beaches in Puerto Vallarta as they were not at all pleasant. However, there are some stunning and pleasant beaches in this area, such as:

  • Playa Colomitos – a small but beautiful beach south of Puerto Vallarta;
  • Playa Yelapa – Superb beach in the fishing village of Yelapa. Access only by boat. Going to the beach and the village is an experience;
  • Playa Patzcuarito – Deserted beach near Sayulita. It is a beach with long sand, and warm water, but you need to be careful with the relatively large waves.
  • Sayulita Beach – Beautiful urban beach with a long stretch of sand. The sand is a mixture of black and yellow volcanic sand, giving the beach a different look.
  • San Pancho Beach – Another beach with a long stretch of sand, great for walking and enjoying the excellent weather and the water, swell permitting. It is perfect for surfing, but you must be careful with swimming.

The beaches of Los Cabos in Baja California are also very well known and famous, but we didn’t have the opportunity to go there, so we can’t recommend any.

things to know when traveling to Mexico
Playa Yelapa near Puerto Vallarta in Mexico

#26 Still, regarding the beaches in Mexico, it is essential to note that many do not have public access—or at least it’s complex. Most beaches in the hotel zones are practically private beaches, and only hotel guests have access.

Thus, each person’s experience varies significantly with the resort they choose, not just with the region/city. It is also quite frustrating for those who are not in resorts, as they have limited access to beaches.

This happens in practically all the most famous areas of Mexico, like Cancún, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Puerto Vallarta, and Los Cabos. However, note that all the beaches described above are public and relatively easy to access.

planning a travel to Mexico
Cancun Mexico Resorts | Photo by jdross75 via Depositphotos

#27 Cenotes are another of the most popular attractions in Mexico, particularly in the Yucatán Peninsula. A cenote is an underground chamber that permanently contains fresh water.

There are cenotes of many different types, shapes, and sizes. The most common ones are cave-shaped, semi-open, and open. The cave-shaped ones are newer, while the open ones are older.

The cenotes also have very different sizes, from very small to many tens of meters. Many have crystal-clear water and are great for swimming and even scuba diving.

Cenotes are spread all over the peninsula, and it’s complicated to say which ones are the best. It is possible to visit cenotes from virtually any city in the region, such as Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Merida, and Valladolid.

Note that the cenotes are virtually all private, and we must pay a ticket to enter. Prices vary greatly, from 50 Pesos to 300 or 400 per person.

How to prepare for a Mexico travel
One of the Cenotes in Yucatan, Mexico

#28 The ruins of pre-Columbian civilizations are another of Mexico’s biggest attractions. There are almost endless ruins in Mexico from several different civilizations. Some are very well known, others not so much, but the diversity is immense.

As we mentioned, there were many civilizations besides the famous Mayans and Aztecs, and almost all of them left ruins, pyramids, and times scattered throughout the country. Some of the most famous and popular are:

  • Chichen Itza – Mayan city ruins in Yucatán;
  • Teotihuacan – Ruins of the Teotiuahcan civilization (later, the Aztecs also used them) near Mexico City;
  • Monte Alban – Zapateca city ruins in Oaxaca;
  • Coba – Mayan city ruins in Quintana Roo;
  • Palenque – Mayan Ruins in Chiapas;
  • Uxma- Mayan Ruins in Yucatan;
  • El Tajín – Totonacas Ruins in Veracruz;
  • Tula – Olmec Ruins in Hidalgo;
How to travel in Mexico
One of the 7 Wonders of the World – Chichen Itza in Mexico

#29 Mexico City is one of the biggest cities in the world. With more than 20M inhabitants, its metropolitan area has more than twice the population of Portugal or Greece. Naturally, it is a city with incredible action and life.

The experience of spending a few days in Mexico City and exploring its many neighborhoods, historic areas, and parks is unique in Mexico. In our opinion, anyone who doesn’t visit Mexico City will never really get to know Mexico. Some of the places not to be missed in Mexico are:

  • The historical center includes the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Post Office Palace, the Palace of Fine Arts, the Tile House, Templo Mayor, and the Zócalo;
  • Some of the typical and chic neighborhoods like La Condesa, Roma Norte and Roma Sur, Polanco, and Coyoacan;
  • Huge Chapultepec Urban Park has woods, lakes, museums, street vendors, and much more. We must mention the Museum of Anthropology, one of the most fascinating we have ever visited.
  • Frida Kahlo’s House
things to known before travelling to Mexico
Zocalo in Mexico City | photo by dubassy via Depositphotos

#30 Just south of Mexico City is the city of Puebla, one of our favorite cities in Mexico. It’s a big city, but the historic center is walkable, and with a spring climate all year round, it’s really perfect for discovering its corners that way.

Puebla is also famous in Mexico for its delicious food, with some dishes unique to Mexico, such as mole poblano, Arabic tacos, and above all, chile en nogada. But beyond the typical dishes, it is above all a city where you can eat well practically everywhere.

How to travel in Mexico
Puebla Cathedral in Mexico

#31 Oaxaca is another top destination in Mexico. It is a city with many and varied points of interest, from its colonial architecture, colorful houses, and typical Mexican food to events throughout the year.

Among the events, we have to highlight Dia de los Muertos. Dia de los Muertos is celebrated throughout Mexico, but it is especially important in Oaxaca. That is why, every year, thousands of Mexicans and foreigners flock to Oaxaca the week of November 2nd to celebrate and honor the dead.

In addition to the city’s attractions, Oaxaca is also the base for two of the most spectacular monuments in Mexico: the ruins of Monte Alban (our favorite ruins in Mexico) and Hierve el Agua (a petrified waterfall that only exists in two places in the world).

Independent travel guide to Mexico
Hierve el Agua (a petrified waterfall that only exists in 2 places in the world) near Oaxaca, Mexico

#32 The state of Chiapas in southern Mexico is one of the poorest in the country, but it is also one of the most captivating. It is a mountainous state with immense natural wonders, cultural attractions, and impressive monuments.

If you want to visit a breathtaking region of Mexico outside the usual and popular beaches of the Yutacan, we advise you to include Chiapas in your itinerary. Some of the places not to be missed are:

  • Canyon de Sumiedero;
  • El Chiflon Waterfalls;
  • Montebello lakes;
  • Ruins of Palenque;
  • Center of San Cristobal de las Casas;
  • Church of San Juan de Chamula and its shamanic and syncretist rituals.
Everthing about Mexico travel
Canyon de Sumiedero in Chiapas Mexico

#33 In addition to all the destinations and activities above, Mexico has dozens of beautiful cities with colonial buildings, colorful houses, and streets full of charm. Some of them are well-known, while others are a little less.

Two cities we haven’t even mentioned yet were considered among the best destinations in the world in 2022: San Miguel de Allende and Mérida. Still, there are many others, such as Querétaro, Guanajuato, Valladolid, and San Luis de Potosi, among others.

San Miguel de Allende is located in Guanajuato, north of Mexico City, and is a real-life fairy tale. It is extremely popular with American expats and Instagrammers due to its beauty, safety, and activities.

Mérida is the capital of the state of Yucatán and is considered the safest city in Mexico. It was one of the first places we visited, and we liked it so much that we decided to stay for a few more days.

In addition to the brightly colored houses, colonial architecture, and imposing buildings, Mérida is also perfectly located to visit many attractions such as ruins, beaches, cenotes, and natural parks.

Mexico travel tips
Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico

Eat and Drink in Mexico

#34 Based on pre-Columbian food but with a huge culinary influence, Mexican food is one of the best-known and most popular in the world.

The creativity and diversity of Mexican dishes are fascinating and unforgettable. This is especially true when we note that the essential ingredients of traditional Mexican cuisine are relatively few: corn, beans, and chiles.

It’s very difficult to find a Mexican dish without one, two, or usually even these three ingredients. Other widely used indigenous ingredients include cacao, coffee, avocado, tomato, pumpkin, and vanilla.

Things to known before going to Mexico
Oaxaca Market is the ideal place to eat

#35 One of the surprising characteristics (there are exceptions, of course) of food in Mexico is that it uses little salt and, in addition to chiles (and there are many diverse ones), is relatively unseasoned. It is often the sauces that give the food its flavor and spiciness.

However, be careful because sauces are usually very hot (really!). Interestingly, when they are not spicy hot, they are often sweetened.

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Top Tip

We strongly advise you to always confirm that the sauce you will use or order is spicy. If they say just a bit, it’s too spicy for us. If they say yes, we learn not to risk it…

Things to known when visiting Mexico
Cochinita Pibil suckling pig made in the underground oven) one of the traditional dishes of Yucatan

#36 Some of the best Mexican food dishes include:

  • Chile en Nogada – Originally from Puebla, it is a typical dish that is eaten mainly around Mexico’s independence day.
  • Mole Poblano – Typical sauce from Puebla made with dozens of ingredients.
  • Bírria – Stewed meat typical of Jalisco. Originally goat, but there are lots of other meats, too.
  • Sete Moles de Oaxaca – Seven different original sauces from Oaxaca, some famous for having chocolate. They are served with meat, usually chicken.
  • Pozole – Delicious soup of Aztec origin with corn, tortilla, and chicken.
  • Cochinita Pibil – typical Yucatan dish based on shredded stewed pork.
  • Enchiladas – tortilla chips dipped in spicy sauces and stuffed with vegetables and meat.
  • Chilaquiles – Typical breakfast with tortilla, egg, and a delicious sauce.

Note that in addition to being globally creative and delicious, Mexican food is also regional. Many regional dishes are practically only consumed in one city or state.

best foods to eat in Mexico
Mexico’s national dish – Chile en Nogada

#37 In addition to traditional and regional food, street food is also extremely popular. Mexicans and tourists alike love to eat on the street, whether for taste, convenience, or price.

Every city has several food vendors, usually close to parks, the Zócalo, and public transport. In Mexico City, the quantity and diversity are overwhelming.

Some of the best-known street foods in Mexico include:

  • Corn tortillas
  • Tacos with different types of meats
  • quesadillas
  • burritos
  • tamales
  • tostadas
  • pies
  • marquesitas
  • Elotes and Esquites
what foods o eat when traveling in Mexico
Tacos – the most famous street food in Mexico

#38 In addition to the many typical dishes of Mexican cuisine, there is also a massive variety of drinks. Some are extremely well known, others not so much.

Mexico’s two most popular alcoholic beverages are tequila and mezcal. Both are made from Agave, but tequila can only be made from a specific species of Agave, while mezcal is made from several species.

Tequila is extremely popular outside Mexico, namely in the USA, while mezcal is much more prevalent in Mexico, particularly in Oaxaca, where it originates.

In addition to these drinks, in Mexico, we can also find many traditional drinks, such as:

  • Atole – a delicious hot drink made from nixtamalized corn.
  • Chocolate – in Mexico, chocolate is mainly served as a hot or cold drink.
  • Coffee – Mexico is a significant producer and consumer of coffee.
  • Água Fresca – fruit juices diluted in water. They are usually very sweet.
  • licuados – fruit juices with yogurt or milk.
  • Micheladas – Alcoholic drink based on beer, lemon, salt, and Tabasco.
Mexico food and drinks
Sweet bread with hot chocolate in Oaxaca City, Mexico

Money and costs of traveling in Mexico

#39 The official currency of Mexico is the Peso, and the exchange rate is around 1 USD for 18-20 Pesos (2023). It’s a variable exchange rate, so confirm the exchange rate before you travel. A substantial variation in the exchange rate can cause a significant increase or decrease in travel expenses.

Some places accept USD (euros are more difficult, but they may also work out). However, we strongly advise against doing so. The exchange will always be highly unfavorable.

#40 We suggest that you always carry cash (pesos), as many stores do not accept cards or charge an extra fee for using them. If the store accepts cards with no additional fee, we suggest you use them to reduce the withdrawals you need to make.

It is not difficult to find ATMs (cajeros) in most tourist places or big cities; however, ATMs always charge a withdrawal fee. So, always raise the maximum amount possible to minimize these costs.

Money and costs of travel Mexico
Eco-resort zone in Tulum, Mexico

How much does it cost to travel to Mexico

#41 This is always one of the most challenging questions to answer, as it depends significantly on the type of tourist you are and the activities you are looking for.

That said, we will share our general expenses with you, knowing that we are backpackers and had a long trip (more than two months), staying several days at each destination, which reduces our daily expenses a little.

So, traveling as a couple, we spend an average of around 90 Euros per couple or 45 per person per day. Here, we include all our expenses except for travel insurance (as it is annual) and travel in and out of the country.

We consider Mexico a relatively affordable country to travel to, but much more expensive than Southeast Asia. We also think it would be a little cheaper, particularly regarding transport and activities.

Tours and entrance fees to some monuments and museums are more expensive than we expected. Street food is exceptionally cheap, but restaurant food is not so much. It is not expensive, they are simply average prices in Portugal, for example. Accommodations are pretty cheap, whether they are local accommodations or hostels. Resorts are obviously very expensive.

Mexico travel costs
Lagunas de Montebello National Park in Mexico

How are tips in Mexico?

#42 Tips, or propinas as the Mexicans call them, are not mandatory but are part of the country’s culture, probably due to the strong influence of Americans in tourism.

Restaurant tips can either be included as a “service” or requested afterward. If you pay with a card, you are usually asked if you want to add the amount to the payment or leave it in cash. 10% is an average tip amount.

In addition to restaurants, tipping guides are also customary, especially when they provide good service.

How to tip in Mexico
Beach on Hallbox Island in Mexico

How to travel in Mexico?

#43 On our trips around Mexico, we used public transport exclusively, mainly buses, both short-distance colectivos and long-distance buses.

Both colectivos and urban transport are quite cheap and often excellent options for saving money. We found them completely safe in the cities where we used them, and we never had any problems.

On the other hand, long-distance transport is not cheap, with many trips costing 50-75 Euros per person. Yes, the distances are long, but the prices are not lower than in Europe. Sometimes, they are even more expensive.

things o know before traveling to Mexico
Ría Celestún Biosphere Reserve in Mexico

#44 Because bus trips are so long and expensive, it sometimes pays to fly. Mainly because there are several low-cost airlines in Mexico (Volaris and Viva Aerobus), and virtually all major cities in Mexico have an airport.

When planning your itinerary, we advise you to check available flights to the areas you want to visit. If the distances are long, it’s probably worth flying.

For example, we flew from Mérida to Toluca (near Mexico City) or from Puerto Vallarta to Querétaro. It was cheaper and much faster.

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These low-cost companies usually have very cheap flights but charge high amounts for luggage. Include all expenses in the calculations you make.

Planning a trip to Mexico - things to know
Downtown Merida Mexico

#45 Since our trips were always long, we chose not to rent a car and always used public transport. Besides being our favorite way to travel, it’s less stressful. Sure, it takes away some flexibility, but it’s also much cheaper.

As we don’t drive or rent a car, we can’t give first-person tips, but from what we’ve seen, driving in Mexico isn’t particularly complicated. Mexicans are sometimes impatient, but if you have experience driving abroad, you shouldn’t have any significant problems.

We advise against renting a car if you plan to stay in cities, especially in Mexico City. Then the car is useless, and the best thing is to use the metro and Uber. They are easy, safe, and cheap.

#46 Renting a car can be great for anyone planning to travel around the Yutacan and Quintana Roo states. The roads are quite good and the distances, although relatively long, are easy to reach by car.

On the other hand, if you have little time, it is an excellent way to visit several destinations faster and at a much lower cost than organized tours.

How to organize a trip to Mexico
Colorful streets in San Miguel de Allende

Other things I need to know before traveling to Mexico

Do I need an adapter for Mexico?

47 The electricity inputs in Mexico are type A and B with voltage 120V and frequency 60Hz. These are the US, Japan, and China electricity outlets. Therefore, if you come from Portugal, Europe, or Brazil, you will need an adapter.

If you need an adapter, we recommend this universal adapter.

everything I need to know before traveling to Mexico
Snorkeling tour that allowed you to see Turtles in Mahahual, Mexico

How is the internet in Mexico?

#48 We advise buying a prepaid data SIM card when you arrive in Mexico. They are cheap, easy to carry, and have a reasonable network. It works very well in cities, but in remote areas, there will probably be more problems with the connection. But there is nothing you can do about it, the country is enormous.

We buy the Telcel card as they are reputed to have the best network. It also has excellent tourist rates for 7, 18, and 30 days. We were pretty satisfied.

Accommodations usually have WIFI in public areas and rooms, but we always advise you to confirm before booking. Finally, we advise against relying exclusively on public WIFI as they often do not work.

Mexico travel tips - Internet
El Chiflon Waterfalls in Chiapas Mexico

Do I need a visa to enter Mexico?

#49 As Portuguese, we did not need an entry visa for trips of less than 180 days; however, a passport valid for more than six months beyond the end of the trip is required.

At the entrance, they can also ask for your departure ticket, information about your stay, and even proof of means of subsistence for your stay in Mexico. Although the limit is 180 days, the agent can grant a shorter visa. You can see detailed information here.

Mexico travel information
Playa Escondida in Sayulita Mexico

Bonus – Mexico Travel Guide

#50 Our recommended travel guide for Mexico is Lonely Planet Mexico 17.

Alternatively, if you are considering traveling around Guatemala, Belize, and Yucatan, we highly recommend this guide, which includes all three regions.

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