Looking for Mexico travel tips to help you plan your Mexican adventure? Look no further.
All of the answers to your burning questions about traveling to Mexico are covered here. These are a mixture of things you absolutely need to know, and those you never even knew you needed.
Better still? They have been written by someone who actually lives in Mexico.
52 Mexico Travel Tips to Know Before You Go
Most tourists are now granted a 180-day visa on arrival
Recently, the Mexican government started really cracking down on monitoring tourists entering and exiting the country. Although the “maximum” allowance for a tourism visa was 180 days, many people would only be granted entry to the country for a week or so.
This strongly impeded some people’s travel plans and caused a lot of anxiety for people planning trips around Latin America. This was, in part, due to an influx of people choosing to work remotely here during the pandemic.
Many people were spending extended periods in Mexico without having the correct visas and work permits. They would enter the country for six months, exit, and re-enter again.
However, as of late 2022, all tourists flying into Cancun and a handful of other Mexican airports are automatically granted 180 days in the country. You no longer have to carry an FMM form.
Instead, your passport will be stamped and the Immigration agent will write the date by which you have to leave Mexico – 180 days from your entry.
The culture and cuisine in Mexico vary from state to state
People often do not realize just how diverse a country Mexico is. For instance, did you know that there are more than 68 different indigenous groups living in the country, and more than 300 different languages spoken?
There are 32 states in Mexico and they often feel like entirely different countries to each other. (At various points in history, the Yucatan state was an independent country!)
The culture and cuisine in the city of Puebla de Zaragoza and the state of Puebla feel more European in nature. While the cultures in Sinaloa and the Yucatan are different entirely.
Many people think of tacos, tortas, and burritos when they think of Mexican food but those dishes are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the delicacies you can find here. Dishes vary from region to region.
In Northern Mexico, people prepare a lot of carne asada – grilled, sliced meat. Puebla cuisine is known for its mole and dishes prepared with poblano chilis.
Yucatecan food is something different entirely. Many Yucatecan delicacies can only be found in the Yucatan peninsula and many of them use recipes and cooking methods that were invented by the Ancient Maya!
Experiencing local holidays can enrich your experience
Different cultural and religious celebrations take place throughout the year in Mexico. Some are celebrated nationwide, while others are only hosted in certain states and cities.
One of the most incredible experiences that you can have in Mexico is to travel during the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations. Mexicans are known for their special relationship towards death – instead of mourning a loved one lost, they celebrate their life and the fact they existed.
Every November, people visit the pantheons (cemeteries) around the country to clean and decorate their loved ones’ graves. Various candlelit processions, events, and parades take place everywhere from Merida to Oaxaca.
People set up ofrendas (altars) in honor of their loved ones. They decorate them with all of the deceased person’s favorite food, snacks, and trinkets.
A new tourist tax is payable in Quintana Roo
Mexico has experimented with various forms of tourism tax over the years. With the changes to the FMM as of 2022 come changes to tourist tax payable for travelers who fly into Cancun.
This new tax, known as “Visatax” is payable before you leave the country. (You can also pay it online in advance before you even arrive).
The fee is 224 pesos per person (circa $12 USD). If you prefer not to pay it online, there are kiosks at Cancun International Airport where you can pay.
Once you do, you will be given a QR code that you can show to get through airport security. Do allow plenty of time as there are often queues at the kiosks. (It often works out much easier to pay online plenty of time in advance).
Check Mexico’s entry requirements
Mexicos entry requirements could be subject to change at any time.
Depending on where you are from, you may be permitted to travel in Mexico for up to 180 days visa-free or you may require a visa. Check your local government’s travel advice in advance of booking your trip.
You will need to fill out an immigration form (FMM) for your trip to Mexico. It is possible to complete this online in advance via the Mexican government website here.
This saves time passing through customs at Cancun or whichever airport you are traveling through. You need to present a physical copy of the form to Mexican Immigration so be sure to print it out if you complete it online.
Otherwise, you will find the form, as well as plenty of pens, scattered around the customs room when you arrive.
Mexico is safe with precautions
Mexico is a safe travel destination, provided that you use common sense and take precautions when you travel. This means not walking around alone at night, researching safe neighborhoods, being aware of your surroundings, and being wary of over-friendly strangers.
In other words, staying safe in Mexico requires the same kind of common sense that you should use when traveling anywhere else in the world. Mexico often gets an unfairly bad reputation as being a dangerous country rife with kidnapping, narcos, and organized and petty crime.
While there is no smoke without fire, the dangerous parts of Mexico are confined to border towns and areas where you have no business going as a tourist anyway. Generally speaking, if you don’t go looking for trouble in Mexico, you will not find it.
When you hear negative things about Mexico, remember the importance of keeping everything in perspective. Sure, bad things do happen occasionally.
However, when you consider the fact that 41 million tourists travel to Mexico each year, it puts it all in perspective. Most trips to Mexico are trouble-free.
Mexico is unfairly portrayed in the media, especially in the United States.
Uber exists in parts of Mexico
Uber exists in some parts of Mexico and the locals prefer to use apps like this, as opposed to taking street taxis. In Mexico, you will also find DiDi – an alternative ride app that is often much cheaper to use.
To download DiDi though, you will need to change the settings on your phone and your Apple/Android account (as applicable). Your location needs to be set to Mexico before you will even be able to find the app in the App Store to be able to download it.
These ride apps come with additional security features that you simply do not have if you hail a random taxi on the street. For instance, you can share your ride info with friends and family, you have the driver’s name and number plate and with Didi, you can audio record your route.
In Mexico, Uber operates in Aguascalientes, Chihuahua, Cuernavaca, Guadalajara, Merida, Mexicali, Mexico City, Monterrey, Progreso, Puebla, San Miguel de Allende and Tijuana. It does NOT operate in Cancun, Tulum, or anywhere else in the Maya Riviera/state of Quintana Roo.
Uber does not work at most airports
Although Uber is available in a lot of Mexican cities, it is not available at every airport. It is banned at Cancun International Airport for instance, and only licensed cabs and prebooked transfers are allowed to operate there.
Uber and ridesharing apps are banned at Merida and Puerto Vallarta airports. However, they are perfectly acceptable to use at Guadalajara airport and Mexico City airport (MEX).
If you are traveling somewhere and depend on being able to get an Uber when you land at your destination, make sure that it is permitted at that airport first.
Venture off the beaten path
A lot of people that travel to Mexico stick to the same few places, especially if they are traveling in search of the sun. Destinations like Tulum, Isla Mujeres, Isla Holbox, PDC, Puerto Vallarta, and Sayulita constantly rank at the top of people’s Mexico bucket lists.
While these places are beautiful and popular for a reason, they have been massive victims of gentrification. In recent years, prices have risen dramatically in some parts of the Maya Riviera.
You will often find more tourists than locals and little opportunity to immerse yourself in the “real” Mexican culture and Mexican traditions. So, consider thinking outside the box.
You can craft a Mexico itinerary that combines the popular destinations that everyone raves about (Tulum, Cancun, et al) and the lesser-known ones. For instance, remote Yucatan beaches, the sleepy beach town of El Cuyo, the indigenous villages of Chiapas, or the pueblos magicos of Jalisco.
You cannot drink the water
You cannot drink water in Mexico. At all.
Even locals do not drink it and it is imperative that you purchase bottled water. Generally, the water in Mexico is purified at the source but the pipes and distribution systems are often old, faulty, and damaged and so, the water can sometimes become contaminated on its journey to your tap.
There have been instances of people getting very unwell from the water. You will never really know if it is going to make you sick or not until you try it and it is just not worth the risk.
Most Airbnbs and hotels in Mexico will provide you with some bottled water when you check-in. Some upscale hotels and resorts may have potable water on site.
It is a good idea to purchase a reusable water bottle like a lifestraw before your trip to Mexico. This not only helps you to save on plastic waste but reusable bottles are made in such a way that they keep the water cool in your backpack throughout the day.
You can purchase large, multi-liter bottles of water from convenience stores and supermarkets. Then, fill up your reusable bottle each morning before heading out on a day’s sightseeing!
It’s perfectly safe to have ice in your drinks
Although you cannot drink water in Mexico, you don’t have to worry about having ice in your drinks. Wherever you go, stores and restaurants use pre-packaged ice using mineral water.
It is perfectly safe to consume and won’t make you unwell.
Agua frescas are also safe to drink
Agua frescas are arguably the most popular Mexican drinks you will find in the country. They are made by blending fresh fruit with water, a dash of lime, and a sprinkle of sugar.
You will find a seemingly infinite number of interesting variations of these drinks around the country. Horchata, tamarind, jamaica (hibiscus), lemonade, and orangeade are among the most popular.
Agua frescas are safe to drink too as once again, tap water is never used.
It’s safe to eat salad, fruits, and veggies – with the correct preperation
Don’t stress about the safety of eating salads and vegetables in Mexico. Things like lettuce, spinach, etc will always be washed using clean, fresh water.
Fruits and veggies in Mexico may contain pathogens that can make you ill, or they may be sprayed with pesticides. So, you need to clean them thoroughly with an anti-microbial soulution, particularly if you are going to be eating the skin.
Microdyn is the main solution used. You can find it in Walmart, Super Aki, and any Mexican supermarket.
Some people prefer to make their own from white wine vinegar. To clean the Mexican fruits and veggies thoroughly, you need to place them in clean water, add a few drops of Microdyn and wait 10-15 mins depending on the amount of things you are cleaning.
Restaurants, museums, and other businesses close on Mondays
Many museums, restaurants, parks, and other tourist attractions are closed in Mexico on Mondays. Most Mexicans work six days a week and only have Sundays off work.
So, it makes sense that places would be open on Sundays to accommodate everyone on their days off, despite the religious importance of the day. (Mexico is a catholic country and a lot of people are religious).
So, Monday is the chosen “day of rest” for a lot of businesses in Mexico. Not all museums and restaurants are closed on this day but a lot are.
This includes the famous National Anthropology Museum in Mexico City and many sections of Chapultepec Park. Check the opening places of places that interest you in advance so you can plan your visit accordingly.
Cenotes are a highlight of any trip to Mexico, particularly if you are spending time in the south of Mexico or you are planning on doing a road trip around the Yucatan peninsula. Cenotes are natural sinkholes that were formed when the Chicxulub meteor smashed into the earth and wiped out the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago.
There are more than 7,000 spectacular cenotes scattered across the Yucatan peninsula. Cenotes are perfectly safe, provided you follow basic common sense around water safety.
Some are “closed” and set inside caves with fabulous caverns, stalagmites, and stalactites. Others are open bodies of water set in the heart of the jungle.
Suytan Cenote is a famous site that you may have seen on Instagram. But there are plenty of other gorgeous, lesser-known cenotes here too – including the Homun cenotes.
Check entrance information before heading to sites
Sometimes you will be checking for information on buses or museum/archeological site opening times and you will find that you simply cannot find much information online. Welcome to Mexico!
Occasionally, Google Maps will display a ruin or a museum as being “temporarily closed” yet there is no official information stating such on the tourism/business website. Try and check in advance of traveling to the site if you can.
Things can close suddenly for maintenance or for bizarre political reasons without warning. For instance, the Dzibilchaltun archeological site in the Yucatan and the Coba ruins in Quintana Roo are frequently closed with no notice due to ongoing arguments between the government and landowners.
You don’t want to trek all the way somewhere, get to the gates, and then find it’s closed. So always do a quick Google of the ruin/site you are on your way to before heading out.
Visit lesser-known ruins and ancient sites
Chichen Itza and Palenque are perhaps the best-known Maya ruins in Mexico. But did you know that Mexico is actually home to more than 200 Mayan sites?
Chichen Itza and Palenque are absolutely worth visiting and should be high on your list of things to see in Mexico. Chichen Itza, in particular, is one of the “new” seven wonders of the world after all!
But one of the best Mexico travel tips? Don’t overlook lesser-known archaeological sites which are just as worthy of your time and often without the crowds.
You can easily squeeze a few additional ruins into your itinerary. Because the sites are so different and filled with history, you never have a feeling of “once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all”.
Mayapan is a great place to add to your radar. The city is considered as being the last great Mayan settlement and indeed, King Kukulkan II and his people relocated here following the fall of Chichen Itza.
The Edzna ruins in Campeche state are so remote that you will often find that you are the only tourist there. Meanwhile, Calakmul, deep in the tropical forest of the Tierras Bajas is one of the largest and most important Maya sites.
Be careful with street cabs
Nobody wants to hear negative things about the country they are planning to travel to but it is important to be realistic when planning your trip to Mexico.
It is typically safer to take a cab using a rideshare app like Uber and Didi in Mexico rather than a street cab. (This is the opposite view to what people often have in other parts of the world but the truth is that there is much more accountability via the app).
Still, in some places where ridesharing apps don’t operate, you really have no other choice than to take a city taxi. If you do, take one from a rank or have your hotel reception/concierge organize one for you rather than hailing one at random.
It is not unheard of for cab drivers to overcharge tourists or take a roundabout route around town to rack up the charge on the meter. But a more sinister problem in Mexico is express kidnappings.
Express kidnappings happen when someone is driving a cab and poses as a taxi driver. When the tourist gets in the vehicle, other sketchy people enter and force the tourist to hand over their cash and valuables and withdraw the maximum amount of money from various ATMs.
Sometimes this is done at gunpoint. The main motive is money and there is generally no intent to harm the person but this is no doubt traumatic and absolutely something that you want to avoid.
Take time to visit Pueblo Magicos
As you travel around Mexico, you will see towns that are designated as “Pueblos Magicos”. If you see one nearby, this is definitely a place that you should research and consider visiting.
Pueblos Magicos are charming Mexican settlements that have been recognized by the Mexican government’s Secretary of Tourism for their unique appeal. They may boast unique local gastronomy, breathtaking natural beauty, quaint historic charm, or any combination of the three.
Think of Mexico’s “Pueblos Magicos” status as a sort of Mexican domestic UNESCO recognition if you will. There are currently 132 Pueblos Magicos in Mexico and the list is no doubt set to expand in the future.
Towns must meet certain criteria and lay out an action plan on how they plan to attract and entertain tourists if they want to be considered as Pueblos Magicos. Tulum, Valladolid, and Izamal are perhaps some of the best-known towns to have this accreditation.
Follow your government travel advisory for information
Your government travel advice is an invaluable source of information for anywhere you travel. The UK and USA travel advisory is particularly useful and they are updated regularly.
Some of the wording can be a little stern so take some of what you read with a pinch of salt. Do take heed of the advisory’s state-by-state warning.
The US travel advisory breaks down the various Mexican states into the three categories of “do not travel”, “reconsider travel”, “exercise increased caution” and “exercise normal caution”.
You want to pay attention to the “do not travel” states. These are generally places rife with crime and cartel activity. If you are planning to travel to them, stick to safe areas and be mindful of how you plan to get from city to city.
It is easy to see a doctor if you fall sick
A lot of people associate traveling to Mexico with getting sick. Heck, there’s even a name for it – Montezuma’s Revenge!
Getting sick when traveling in Mexico isn’t a certainty, especially if you make smart decisions about what and where you eat. There are often a variety of factors that contribute to us falling ill when traveling – a change of schedule, jetlag, unfamiliar ingredients, etc.
If you are unfortunate enough to fall unwell, the good thing is that it is easy to get an appointment with a local doctor. Walk-in clinics can be found at various strip malls around the country.
With no prior appointment or medical record, you can simply enter and wait to be seen. Appointments cost as little as $3 and although doctors don’t always speak English, you can typically get by with Google Translate.
If you prefer an English-speaking doctor, your best bet is to go to a private hospital. Appointments here can start from around $25.
Purchase comprehensive travel insurance
It is imperative that you purchase comprehensive travel insurance before your trip to Mexico. You should always ensure that you have insurance before traveling anywhere as you never know what may happen.
As a rule of thumb, try to purchase an insurance plan that has at least a million dollars worth of medical coverage. It is a good idea to purchase a plan that comes with additional features such as repatriation, protection for loss/theft of luggage, protection for expensive electrical items, etc.
With the best will in the world, you never know what may happen when you travel and it is always better to be safe than sorry. Overseas medical bills can be expensive.
Always read the small print when purchasing an insurance plan. Sporting activities are seldom included in standard plans, not even hiking.
When you have purchased your coverage, print out the confirmation, take a screenshot, or write down your policy number. Should you be unfortunate enough to need assistance overseas, this will be the first thing they ask for before offering any help.
Pesos are the correct currency in Mexico
Mexican pesos are the legal tender in Mexico. A lot of people ask whether US dollars and other currencies can be used here.
Generally speaking, you should try and pay in pesos. A lot of areas/businesses will not accept US dollars at all.
Some hotels, resorts, airport transfer companies, and tour operators in tourist areas like Cancun, Tulum, Cabos, and Puerto Vallarta may accept them. But if they do, you will often find that you are not getting a competitive rate and you pay more in dollars.
Change a small amount of currency into Mexican pesos before your trip and withdraw more when you land. $1 USD is equivalent to around 19/20 pesos.
Take care of your money and bank cards
Be mindful of how you manage your money in Mexico. It is a good idea to carry multiple bank cards and leave some in your hotel or in your luggage while you are out exploring.
That way, if you happen to lose a card or your purse/wallet, you know that you do not have to worry about not being able to access your funds. Similarly, you might want to keep an emergency fund of at least $50/$100 hidden deep in your suitcase for the worst-case scenario.
Take photos of your bank cards and back the photos up to the cloud so that you have all of your details should anything happen to the physical cards. Make sure that you have your bank’s mobile banking app downloaded on your phone so that you can easily manage your accounts remotely or IM your bank in an emergency, rather than having to call internationally.
Ensure you have a borderless bank account
Having a borderless bank account is an absolute must when you travel internationally. Fees incurred from withdrawing cash from ATMs on an international debit card, or simply using your debit card for store/restaurant purchases can quickly mount up.
In fact, when you withdraw money from a Mexican ATM, you may find that for a $250 withdrawal, you have fees as high as $20! The fees charged by the Mexican banks and your own country’s bank are substantial in themselves.
Moreover, you are likely to have to agree to an additional access fee of around 50-80 pesos before using the ATM. Add to that the poor conversion rates and the entire experience of using your debit card in Mexico is just unnecessarily expensive.
Avoid this by opening a borderless bank account that offers zero fees on international withdrawals and transactions. Wise, Revolut, and Charles Schwab are all borderless bank accounts to be aware of.
Buses are an excellent way to get around
Public transport in Mexico on the whole still leaves a little to be desired. You may find that you have to make multiple connections even to get to important ruins and tourist sites.
However that being said, connections between major cities are generally pretty good. ADO and Noreste buses run between major tourist cities in Mexico such as Cancun to Merida, Merida to Chichen Itza, and Cancun to Tulum.
Rome 2 Rio is a good resource to use to check the latest bus schedules, routes, and rates. ADO buses are Mexico’s premier bus network and the services are very modern, clean, and comfortable.
ADO buses boast air conditioning, complimentary wifi, and reclining seats. You can use the ADO website and app to purchase tickets.
They are both only available in Spanish but even if you have no Spanish language skills, they are pretty self-explanatory. This way, you can purchase mobile tickets.
You will receive an email with a QR code that you can simply show the driver on your phone while boarding. This will also display your seat number.
Use theft-proof bags and luggage for peace of mind
Mexico can be a safe place to travel but unfortunately, petty crime is still very common. This is often an opportunistic crime and is a particular problem in crowded marketplaces.
Keep an eye on your belongings at all times and if you can, walk with your backpack on your front if you are navigating your way through crowded mercados. A theft-proof backpack can be a good investment.
They are a little pricier than a regular backpack, sure. But they are slash-proof (to prevent someone from cutting your bag open with a knife), waterproof, and have a TSA-approved locking system.
They are both durable and stylish and most companies, like Pacsafe, offer a long multi-year warranty. You can also find theft-proof luggage and fanny packs if you prefer.
You cannot flush toilet paper
The plumbing system in Mexico is not quite as robust as those in other countries. As such, you should avoid flushing paper down the toilet.
There will always be a trashcan located next to the bin and a sign reminding you not to flush paper. It is best to heed this advice as you don’t want to deal with an unpleasant clog in your hotel room.
Don’t be afraid to try the street food
Street food is a huge part of the local food culture in Mexico.
If you avoid it, you are missing a huge part of the Mexico travel experience. Mexico boasts some of the best street food in the world.
Look out for elotes – grilled corn on the cob served slathered in mayonnaise, chili powder, and fresh lime juice. Homemade churros are not to be missed and in the Yucatanm be sure to order marquesitas.
These are crepes that are rolled up like a pita wrap and filled with Queso de Bola (Dutch cheese), Nutella or chocolate sauce.
Use the same common sense when choosing street food places in Mexico as you would anywhere else. If a vendor has a long queue of locals beside it, it is generally a good indication that it is a good place to eat.
Don’t eat at places where meat or fruit has been sitting out or there are flies swarming around. (They probably don’t look appetizing anyway!)
Always carry hand sanitizer and clean your hands before and after eating.
Purchase reef-safe sunscreen
If you are traveling to Mexico, you need to purchase reef-safe sunscreen. Standard store-bought sunscreens contain chemicals and ingredients that are harmful to the natural ecosystems found in coral reefs and cenotes.
Some areas around the Maya Riviera, including Cancun, Cozumel, and Playa del Carmen have enforced a law to ensure that tourists use reef-safe sunscreen when traveling. In other parts of Mexico, like Oaxaca, Puerto Vallarta, and Cabo, this is not regulated.
However, in the interests of being an ethical, mindful traveler, it is a good idea to only use reef-safe sunscreen. Some cenotes in the Yucatan will require you to shower before entry to remove any dirt and dangerous chemicals such as those from sunscreen.
Take walking tours to get your bearings in new places
Taking a walking tour is a good way to get your bearings in a new town or city. Opt to do one soon after arriving in a new city in order to get a lay of the land.
Walking tours provide more historical context and help you to stumble across places that you may not have found independently. They also mean that you have a local expert on hand to ask any questions that you may need.
A local guide can advise you on the best places to eat, drink and hang out in the area.
You may want to take a tour that follows a particular theme. For instance, a street food tour may interest you if you consider yourself a foodie, or a market tour with a cooking class.
Know the best times to travel to each area
Mexico is a pretty good year-round travel destination and the temperatures are pleasant in most parts of the country, whatever time you travel. That being said, because Mexico is so vast, the weather conditions vary significantly from one part of the country to another.
Winter in Mexico runs from December to April and is considered the dry season. In the southern parts of the country, it gets very wet, humid, and rainy from May until October with the threat of hurricanes in the late summer months.
Prices are often higher during the dry season, with popular hotels along the Riviera Maya often booked to full occupancy and crowds of tourists occupying some areas. From December to April, you can expect warm, balmy days and temperatures of around 28-30 degrees Celsius.
From May onwards, it does get very hot and humid. But if you don’t mind contending with occasional rain showers, prices can be cheaper at this time and there are far fewer tourists.
Check the specific weather conditions for the particular part of Mexico you plan on traveling to. For instance, in Central Mexico and areas like San Cristobal de Las Casas, it can be downright chilly during the winter months. You will absolutely need a jacket, especially in the evenings.
Domestic flights are a convenient way to get around
Mexico is vast. While renting a car and taking buses are good ways to get around within states, if you are planning on visiting various states during your itinerary, you will need to take domestic flights.
Fortunately, the country has a well-developed and extensive network of domestic airports and airlines. Mexican airports offer the same amenities as you would expect anywhere else in the world – restaurants and stores, wifi, air conditioning, and ATMs.
Aero Mexico, Viva Aerobus, and Volaris are among the main Mexican airlines.
Viva Aerobus is not as bad as people make out
Viva Aerobus is a budget airline and they are to Mexico what Ryanair or Wizz Air is to Europe, or what Spirit and Frontier Airlines are to the United States.
They often get a bad rep but they get you from A to B. Sometimes, you will find that their flights are delayed and people will often warn you against using them.
Mexican budget airlines are fine if you manage your expectations and accept that it will be a no-frills experience. You may find that sometimes Viva Aerobus is your only option for a certain route so it’s either go with them or don’t visit that destination.
Leave your designer gear and expensive items at home
Your physical appearance may make it obvious that you are not from Mexico but at the same time, you don’t need to draw unnecessary attention to yourself as a tourist. In other words, don’t wear expensive jewelry, have flashy cameras around your neck, or wear designer labels.
About 44% of the population in Mexico lives below the poverty line. Most people here are very friendly, welcoming, and hospitable to tourists.
But you don’t want to draw unnecessary attention to yourself as a tourist or look like someone has money. You won’t see people flashing their brand labels in Mexico so leave these items at home.
Purchase a door stopper with an alarm
A good safety item to have in Mexico and practically anywhere is a door stopper with an alarm. If you are staying in an Airbnb, you don’t really know who has access to your accommodation besides you.
Similarly, although hotel break-ins are rare, the risk is never zero. A wedge doorstop can prevent someone from getting in your room and if they do, a loud siren will sound.
These items are portable and do not require any wiring. They will easily fit into the bottom of your suitcase.
Make a realistic Mexico travel budget
It’s a good idea to make a budget before you set out on your Mexico trip. Although Mexico on the whole is a lot more affordable than the US, Canada and other global destinations, costs are continually rising.
Tourist areas like Tulum, Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, and Los Cabos are particularly expensive. You will get a lot more bang for your buck if you travel to more off the beaten path destinations in Mexico.
You could easily get along on less than $40 a day if you stay in hostels and eat a lot of street food or prepare meals yourself. In the Yuctan, you can easily find a budget hotel room for $25 a night.
In Guadalajara, Puebla, Campeche City, and Merida, expect to pay around $50 a night. If you want to visit tourist areas, dine out a lot, and rent a car, a budget of around $120 a day is more reasonable.
Always budget a little extra so you have an emergency fund if necessary.
Be aware of Mexico travel groups and forums
There are a lot of excellent Facebook travel groups dedicated to exploring Mexico. These can be good places to ask for advice from people that live in Mexico or have traveled in the country extensively.
In Mexico, almost everything is done via Facebook and so you might even be able to find short, medium, and long-term accommodation options here too. Similarly, if you are traveling solo, you can easily make a post in one of these groups and find like-minded travelers to grab dinner or hang out with.
Some useful Mexico travel Facebook groups are detailed below.
- Backpacking Mexico
- On the Road in Mexico
- Female Travelers in Mexico
- Mexico Travel Community
- Foreigners in Mexico
- Digital Nomads Mexico
- Expats in Mexico
Pack a comprehensive travel medikit
Pack a comprehensive travel medikit for your trip to Mexico as you never know what may happen. You can purchase pre-packed medikits that contain all of the essentials like gauze, bandaids, scissors, alcohol wipes, etc.
Then, you can add your own medications as required. Rehydration sachets and pills such as Immodium are a good idea in case Montezuma’s revenge decides to strike. Painkillers such as ibuprofen and paracetamol can never go amiss.
Buy a Mexican sim card when you arrive
A Mexican sim card is a good way to stay connected during your trip. Fortunately, they are very cheap and easy to pick up.
You can buy a Telcel sim card from any OXXO, 7/11, or Mexican convenience store and you do not have to complete any paperwork or show any identification. For 200 pesos ($9.75), you can get 3GB of data, unlimited social media usage, and unlimited calls and texts within the Americas for 30 days.
Be smart about your social media use
Be conscious of your social media use when you travel, especially if you are traveling solo and especially if your profiles are set to public. It can be tempting to share all of the exciting things that you are up to on your Instagram in real-time but the reality is that you never know who is watching what you are doing.
People can easily find you through geotags and hashtags. Keep your friends and family informed of what you are doing but post your public updates only after you have left somewhere.
Solo travelers can feel safe here too
Just like Mexico on the whole is not as “dangerous” as people make out, solo travelers can feel comfortable here too. Mexico is such a major tourist destination and thousands of people travel here alone.
You will not stand out as a solo traveler and you won’t find that you attract uncomfortable attention as a result of being alone. People working in hotels, tour companies, buses, etc have seen it a thousand times before.
Obviously you need to use more common sense when you are alone – like watching your alchol intake, not wandering alone down quiet, shady-looking streets or from bars at night. But never think that Mexico is too dangerous for solo travelers.
This entire site has been written by a solo female traveler that has traveled to 10+ states alone.
Hiring a car is a great way to get around
Renting a car in Mexico is not as intimidating as it may seem. Opting to do so gives you a lot more freedom and flexibility in your schedule.
Public transport in Mexico can be okay if you just plan on traveling around touristy areas like the Yucatan and Quintana Roo or taking day trips from Mexico City. However, if you have a car, you do not have to adhere to bus times.
Better yet, you can stop off at charming remote villages, haciendas, cenotes, and ruins that may have been difficult to get to otherwise. It typically costs between $15-25 a day to rent a car in Mexico depending on the season and where you are picking your car up from.
Driving in Mexico is not as chaotic as you may envisage. In fact, you could say that a lot of drivers in Mexico are extra cautious because nobody wants to have to deal with the police if they don’t have to. Penalties for speeding, not wearing seatbelts, dangerous driving, etc, are steep.
Download offline maps
It is a good idea to download offline map apps such as Maps Me when traveling in Mexico, especially if you are planning on driving.
Most parts of the country have 4G coverage and 5G does exist in a few limited areas around major cities. However, there are also definitely places where there is no data or phone signal whatsoever.
You can be on a remote country road en route to a Mayan ruin and realize that you have completely lost all signal and cell service. While road signs are easy enough to follow, nothing beats having a GPS so be sure to download an offline map before your trip.
Try to learn a little Spanish
Most people in Mexico speak little to no English. Along the Riviera Maya and in the Yucatan, you will find that some staff in tourist businesses speak a little English but your conversations with people will be very limited.
It may not be realistic to expect to obtain any level of fluency before your trip. However, learning a little Spanish is always appreciated.
Even just learning simple phrases like good morning (“Buenos dias”), good afternoon (“Buenos tardes”) and goodnight (“Buenos noches”) is polite. Duolingo is a great free app to help you learn useful Spanish words and phrases in advance of your trip.
You may also find it useful to carry a small Spanish phrasebook.
Download Google Translate
Google Translate can be a lifesaver in situations where you are struggling to communicate with people who do not speak English when you have limited Spanish. The translations may not be perfect but they help get the message across.
You can simply type out the sentence that you are trying to translate, watch it get translated to Spanish, and then hold the phone up to the other person.
If you feel rude, just say “Lo siento” (I’m sorry). You can also play the translation out as audio.
Always carry cash
Cash is King in Mexico. Although a lot of restaurants, stores, and businesses in large towns and cities do have POS machines, not everywhere does.
When you get to smaller towns and villages, you will find that cash is your only payment option. Some small towns, like Rio Lagartos, do not even have ATMs.
So, make sure that you withdraw enough money to last you a while when you leave the cities to head towards more remote areas. Road tolls, archeological site entry fees, cenote entrance fees, tour guides, parking fees, etc all need to be paid in cash.
Apply for temporary residency if you want to stay longer
If you want to spend longer than six months in Mexico, you may want to consider applying for temporary residency. This is a good idea even if you don’t see yourself staying in Mexico indefinitely.
Historically, could easily live in Mexico on a tourist visa and simply run across the border every six months. Mexico is cracking down on that now and it is better to do everything above board if you are planning on sticking around.
It is relatively easy to obtain residency in Mexico provided that you meet the entry requirements. You need to apply at the Mexican embassy/consulate in your own country and prove economic solvency.
Specifics vary depending on where you are from. However, generally, you need to prove that your income/pension earns you more than $2100 a month after tax and that you have at least $40,000 USD in savings.
People often use Facebook for short to medium-term accommodation
If you are planning on staying in Mexico for several months or longer term, it is worth noting that a lot of people use Facebook marketplace for advertising and searching for accommodation. You can often find better deals on the marketplace than you can via real estate websites that are often targeted toward foreigners.
A lot of dueños (landlords) don’t even bother to advertise on real estate websites, they just depend on the Facebook marketplace, a sign outside the property, and word of mouth. Obviously, you need to use some common sense with finding property and handing over money for something you found on the internet.
A lot of rentals are also posted in Facebook groups in various cities. Do be sure to sense check any prices that you are quoted with locals and expats.
Sometimes people quote foreigners an inflated price and assume that they don’t know the going rate. Be careful of gringo tax!
Note the additional fees for Airbnbs in Mexico
Airbnb offers tourists the opportunity to “live like a local” in the various places they visit around the globe. However, disgruntled hotels becoming unhappy about competition from Airbnb in Mexico has led to the introduction of additional hospitality taxes on Airbnb.
In the Yucatan for instance, you will be charged an additional 5% tax on your booking for “Impuesto Sobre Hospedaje”. Airbnb can still be a good choice if you want to be self-catered, but do keep in mind that the additional taxes, Airbnb service fees and cleaning fees can add a fair bit to the total cost of the rental.
Wifi quality varies from one area to another
For the most part, wifi is pretty good in Mexico. The vast majority of hotels, hostels and Airbnbs here have speedy wifi that is plenty fast enough for working online, streaming videos, etc.
Most coffee shops and restaurants also have free, password-protected wifi available for their customers. In places like Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Mexico City and Merida, you will see a lot of people working remotely from their computers without difficulty.
The only places where you may have an issue are on Isla Holbox in Quintana Roo, and in Oaxaca. If you are working remotely in Mexico or having fast wifi is imperative for you, you can always check with your Airbnb host/hotel in advance of travelling to make sure that the internet speed is good enough.
Ask them to do a speed test and then send you a screenshot of the results. Most Mexican airports also have free wifi, although it sometimes comes with a time limit.
Protect yourself against mosquitoes
Mosquitoes can be a nightmare in parts of Mexico – especially in the hot, humid Caribbean and Pacific coasts, and especially close to bodies of water. Some mosquitoes carry dengue fever and zika virus is a risk in this part of the world.
However, your chances of contracting an illness are slim. (Take it from someone who has lived here for almost two years and has been virtually eaten alive at some points!)
Bites are more of an annoyance than anything else, although it can be painful, irritating and make you feel unwell if you get a lot of bites. Repellent is a good idea, as is travelling with relief cream and anti-histamines.
If you are particularly susceptible, or you will be spending a long time travelling in Mexico, it is a good idea to buy some plug-in repellants. You can slot these into the plug socket next to your bed.
The filters need changing each day but these are pretty effective. It’s not common to find hotels equipped with mosquito nets or window covers – even in jungle areas.
Final thoughts on these Mexico travel tips
Do you have any additional concerns about planning a trip to Mexico? I live in the Yucatan capital of Merida and I’m happy to help out with any of your questions or concerns.
Feel free to reach out to me if you need anything and I will get back to you ASAP. Safe travels and enjoy Mexico! Buen Viaje! xo