Palm-fringed beaches, chili-spiced cuisine; steamy jungles, teeming cities; fiesta fireworks, Frida’s angst: Mexico conjures up diverse, vivid dreams. And the reality lives up to them.
PASSPORT & VISAS
U.S. and Canadian citizens do not need a visa to travel to Mexico; instead, a Mexico Visitor’s Permit (FMM) will need to be filled out in place of a visa. It is simple to form: pick one up from the check-in counter at the airport and fill it out on the airplane before you land or you can acquire one at all land border crossings. If the airline you are traveling with does not have any forms at the check-in desk or onboard the plane, don’t worry, you can get one when you land in Mexico and fill it out before you line up to have your documents checked and stamped by the officials at the airport.
Mexico charges a fee to all tourists and business visitors arriving in the country. The fee is approximately US$22, and the money collected is handed to the Tourism Ministry to promote Mexican tourism.
Mexico’s currency is the Mexican Peso. There are one hundred Mexican cents (centavos) to every peso.
The symbol for the Mexican Peso is $. To distinguish this from the Dollar, you sometimes see it presented as MX$ or the value with the letters “MN” after it, e.g. $100 MN. The MN stands for Moneda Nacional, meaning National Currency.
Mexican Banknotes are printed in denominations of 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1,000 pesos. The most commonly seen and used are the 50, 100 and 200 peso notes.
To help people feel more comfortable about traveling to Mexico, in July 2009 tourism officials implemented a plan whereby visitors to the capital receive medical aid and assistance in case of an emergency.
The city’s elevation and air quality should be of concern to you if you have any allergy or asthma issues, through various environmental initiatives have improved air quality to the degree that you’re unlikely to notice it. Initially, the change in elevation may affect your breathing, sleep patterns, digestion, and alcohol tolerance. Take it easy, drink lots of water, and lay off the cocktails.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of Americans travel to Mexico for their holidays, just as the British travel to Spain. Most Americans travel to Mexico’s beaches, resorts, colonial cities, archaeological sites, and other well-established tourist places. Many of them don’t immunize themselves for these trips. Do you need to? Probably not, but the choice is a personal one and you should speak with your doctor if you are uncertain.
When you are traveling in Mexico, you must take extra care when drinking water, or fresh beverages that may have tap water added to them. Also, check the ice—ask if it was made with tap water especially in more rustic establishments and rural areas. Salads can also be dangerous if they have been rinsed with tap water; so again, the rule is: if in doubt, ask first! All main hotels and good restaurants use purified water throughout.
Tipping is common in the United States: it is almost second-nature and practiced frequently at most service establishments. In many European countries, it is not so common or customary to tip people for services.
In Mexico, not only is it customary, it is expected and appreciated in return for good service.
All commercially produced beverages, including bottled and tinned water, fizzy drinks, wine, beer, spirits, etc. will be perfectly safe for you to drink.
Our suggestions for daily tipping are the following:
Drivers: $ 2.00 to $ 5.00
Tour Guide: $ 10.00 to $ 20.00
House Keepers: $ 2.00
Porters: $ 2.00
According to statistics released by the Bank of Mexico, over 25 million foreigners visit Mexico for business and leisure trips (if you count the number of land-crossings—most of which remain within the border ‘free’ zone—the total number of foreign visits increases to over 80 million). The majority of visits to Mexico remain trouble-free and the violence brought about by the ongoing drug war situation has left tourists, foreign business visitors, foreign expatriates, and most Mexicans largely unaffected.
Mexico’s electricity system is the same as that of the USA: 120 V; 60 Hz. Any electrical equipment you carry with you that operates at the higher (240v) rate will need to be dual-voltage (e.g. hair dryers). A lot of electrical equipment (like video cameras, digital cameras, laptops) that operate on low voltages via a product-specific adapter will happily cope with dual voltage—check the adapter and the device instructions to be sure.
Plugs in Mexico are the same as in the US; two flat prongs; and some have a third, circular prong for the earth, and small adapters can be sought locally for these too if the plug you want to connect into doesn’t have the third (earth) prong socket. People visiting from the U.S.A. do not need to bring socket adapters as the plug fittings in Mexico are identical to those in the U.S.A.
Mexico’s tropical climate calls for sundresses and sandals, shorts and lightweight trousers. Dinners are informal, but most resorts will expect men to wear collared shirts in the dining room, with no swimsuits allowed in the more formal restaurants. Bring workout wear if you plan to make use of the resort’s gym or take a yoga or aerobics class. Leave your expensive jewelry at home, and keep valuables in your room’s safe.