This guide to traveling to Mexico Tips is a useful travel resource with everything you need to plan your Caribbean vacation from visa, health, and safety, commute, hotels, tours, food, and more.
Mexico is located in North America (or Latin America) and is one of the most popular beach destinations in the Americas.
Known for its white sand, turquoise waters, pleasant and warm weather, Mayan architecture, amazing cuisine – Mexico is quite a holiday spot. Mexico is ranked as the 7th major destination for foreign visitors, according to the World Trade Organization. So if you are planning a trip to Mexico, you are at the right spot.
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Guide to traveling to Mexico Tips – Things to know before traveling to Mexico Travel Tips
It is not uncommon to associate Mexico with drug cartels, gang wars, tourist traps and deaths, and so on. But as a traveler, you can exercise precaution and avoid those areas. Mexico is also about white sandy beaches, wonderful hospitality, and resorts, and the mind-blowing Mayan Ruins. We definitely encourage Mexico travel we have been there and we would LOVE to visit again.
Just like any place in the world, stay alert, adhere to local warnings, don’t show off expensive items, and don’t travel to dark alleys at night by yourself (or with friends).
Exercise caution while picking a destination in Mexico
Mexico’s extensive coastlines of more than 10,000 km include the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It is a huge country and there are variations in terms of weather, things to see, risks, and other health concerns. Mexico City is the capital of Mexico. It is one of the most densely populated areas in the country.
Keeping yourself updated on travel adversaries. If there is a travel adversary against any region or city in Mexico, avoid traveling there. Here is the current adversary as listed on USA and Canada website
The UNITED STATES > MEXICO TRAVEL ADVISORY
CANADA > MEXICO TRAVEL ADVISORY
Areas in the Rivera Maya region were designed and curated for tourists, they are safe for tourists and to enjoy a beach vacation. Although touristic, you can still get a flavor of the local rituals or cuisines in a guided tour – safe and convenient.
Mexico guided tours are good options to consider if you wish to explore the remote areas and if you are visiting Mexico for the first time. Tours are also great for family vacations and exploring some of the Mayan marvels.
Click to view some of the coolest tours in Mexico
Mexico Tourist Visa
Mexican warmth can be felt in their visa granting process. They are pretty generous when it comes to entering their country. Mexico exempts visa to 65 countries (this includes citizens of the USA, UK, and Canada & Canadian Permanent Residents).
Tourists and business visitors can stay in Mexico for up to 180 days (unlike 90 days for Europe for US/Canadian passport holders). Visitors in transit can stay for up to 30 days.
Mexico also has an EAS process. The Electronic Authorization System (EAS) is an online system, which allows citizens of the eligible countries traveling by air to obtain an electronic authorization to travel to Mexico for transit, tourism or business purposes without a consular visa. It is valid for 30 days and a single entry (also includes countries like Morocco, Ukraine, Turkey).
Travel Insurance for Mexico Trip
It is always important to insure your travels and that includes a country next door too. We flew from Canada to Mexico and took travel insurance in case of medical emergencies, trip cancellations, or delays.
You can also insure your trip. World Nomads Insurance has good reviews for insuring travels all across the globe.
Currency – Buy Mexican Pesos
The national currency of Mexico is Mexican Pesos. US Dollars are widely accepted here – in resorts, tour agencies, restaurants, etc. ATM machines are available in most locations. Credit cards are accepted in stores, hotels, bars, and restaurants.
Conversion: 1 USD = 20 Pesos (approx)
We carried cash (in USD) and used that to make purchases. Any change was returned in Pesos and we used that for the next transaction. Although USD is stronger than Pesos we didn’t notice a big saving when it came to making purchases at fine dining restaurants or souvenir stores especially in the Riviera Maya area as it is a tourist zone.
Mexico Budget Tips
As mentioned, in the Riviera Maya resorts of Cancun (tourist zones) do not expect to save a lot of money if you are planning to make purchases or hit fine dining places.
To save money at the resorts,
- Book an all-inclusive resort with airport transfers and meals all included. You save on food and most restaurants on-site provide Mexican and international cuisines. This is not a super budget option – but a moderate way to vacationing in Mexico – with great accommodation, unlimited food, and access to a pool and private beach.
- Budget Travel – Staying in an Airbnb or a hostel will save you money. You can eat food in Mexican (local) restaurants which are pretty darn cheap. Local restaurants serve fresh food and are budget vacation options and pay in pesos. If vacationing in Mexico City, it is a good idea to stay close to the city centre in an Airbnb and use the ADO bus to travel and eat at local restaurants.
Our Mexico Budget for 5 days was $300 USD for 2 people. We ended up spending only $200 USD or so mostly in transport, souvenirs, and a tiny bit on food. Most of our sightseeing trips were booked as guided tours, food was at local restaurants or all-inclusive resorts.
Tip: If staying at an inclusive resort, carry loose change (ranging from 1 to 10 USD) to tip porters, servers, tour guides. A little goes a long way.
Learn a Few Phrases in Spanish
Mexicans speak Spanish and you will find it useful to learn a few words/phrases to communicate with them. In resort areas, you’ll find most people speak some English, but you might encounter people in certain areas with no English.
Also, it leaves a good impression when you can say Hola! (hello) in the morning at the breakfast pool or Gracias (thank you) to the helpful porter.
Tip: Download Google Translate or Duolingo app to learn Spanish.
Safety tips for traveling to Mexico: Travel Safety in Mexico
In 2018, there was a travel advisory issued by the US government for 11 Mexican cities (2018). Before our trip to Mexico, we read the travel advisories for Mexico on the Government of Canada and US websites.
Government of Canada website (2019) clearly states “ due to high levels of criminal activity, as well as demonstrations, protests and occasional illegal roadblocks throughout the country” exercise caution. More about preparing and traveling to Mexico in 2020.
There is an alert for certain Northern and Western cities in Mexico that should be avoided. So definitely refer to the travel adversaries before making a move. Of late, news of gang wars has also come to light, where innocent bystanders were caught in the midst.
In our humble opinion, make yourself aware of these warnings, but as long as you stay in a resort or a known Airbnb and avoid unknown areas you should be fine.
We were in Mexico post-hurricane and after the earthquake in Mexico City. We took tours to visit the Yucatan forests in small groups and also walked in and around the resort zone in Riviera Maya, we felt safe.
Tourism definitely helps this country, so prepare yourself with all information. We visited Mexico with an Indian passport and of course, we look like Indians (I could easily be confused with a fellow Mexican who speaks no Spanish – you get the picture).
So as a tourist we didn’t face any issues. Occasionally while strolling the streets of Playa del Carmen people pulled us to listen to their sale-sy pitch for tours, but we had our itinerary all planned out and booked online, so we smiled and walked away.
It is very normal to see police patrolling the highways in the Riviera Maya or 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen. As always, be aware of your surroundings, adhere to local safety instructions in case of emergencies. More on Safety in Mexico
Health Safety in Mexico – Food and Water
Health-wise, in the recent years there have been warnings issued with regards to Zika virus (in 2019 as well) (It is currently listed at alert level 2 which means that travelers should practice enhanced mosquito-bite precautions, particularly at-risk groups like pregnant women or couples planning a pregnancy) and contaminated liquor leading to serious illness and/or death in some cases.
Zika virus alert is under level in most resort towns in Mexico. Read about current seaweed condition in Cancun
Food Safety in Mexico
There are 2 types of restaurants in Mexico – one for locals and one for tourists. Local restaurants are cheaper dining options and will offer traditional Mexicana cuisines. Restaurants for tourists will include both local – Mexican food and international cuisines.
Almost all-inclusive resorts will offer traditional and international cuisine. Some food items might be too spicy for you to consume – consider eating less of those – you don’t want to ruin your vacation.
The food offered in restaurants are overall of good quality. But if you are allergic or can’t consume too cold or too spicy items, then exercise moderation. Read about ordering food in Mexico
Most Latin and Central American dishes are hot and spicy. But with increased tourism, there are variations and meals come with a variety of delicious sauces and less spice. You can also easily find baked goods in most hotels and resorts in Mexico. They are a good alternative if you want to stay clear of spices, oil or are tired of salsa and tacos.
All-inclusive resorts also mean unlimited drinks and alcohol. We can just advise that drink in moderation.
Before our trip to Mexico, newspapers reported that some vacationers from Canada died due to the alcohol offered at one of the resorts. The news story was still under investigation, so we don’t know exactly what went wrong.
So as a precaution, yes its free alcohol – but drink in moderation, ensure you are eating meals, drinking water, and taking care of yourself. Don’t drink and drive. Don’t let margaritas impair your judgment and please don’t get into a fight.
Travelers usually fight amongst themselves rather than locals here. Please avoid getting into a fight, it just spoils the holiday mood for everyone.
Water Safety in Mexico
Restaurants in Mexico, especially in high tourist zones like Cancun, Mexico City, or Riviera Maya, will offer bottled water or filtered water. Avoid drinking tap water in Mexico in any area. It might be suitable for locals and they might be immune, but you may not. Read about drinking water safety in Mexico.
Best time to Travel to Mexico and what to pack?
Mexico is a huge country and its weather varies by region. These are general weather conditions :
- December – April – The best time to visit, little to no rain. Perfect beach weather
- Late May/June – November – Hurricane season, lots of rain, also very hot
What to pack for Mexico – based on regional variations?
Of course, being a beach destination – carry swim-wears, light cotton clothes, slippers, and comfortable clothes when going out for tours, dressy clothing/ heels for night-outs. In your toiletry bag, carry sunscreen lotions, mosquito repellent, dry shampoo, light moisturizer. Carry an umbrella for sun-protection and go with an open mind & go with the flow!
Yucatan Region – Most popular with tourists. This area is close to the sea and remains warm throughout the year. Expect hurricane season from June to November, so check weather alerts before departing for your trip.
- Carry – Sunscreen, bathing suit, water shoes, stylish beach, and resort wear
Southern and Central Mexico – Warm days and cooler nights. This type of weather is usually quite pleasant to stay outdoors. Expect rains from May to October and low temperatures in December – February.
- Carry – Sunscreen, waterproof light jacket and water shoes, cardigan and scarf
Northern Mexico – Warm and hot summers. Winter months are from late December to January, when you can even see some snowfall on the ground.
- Carry – Sunscreen, light jacket for summers. Warm scarf, cardigan, or thick jacket for winters.
Gulf Region – Close to Cuba. This area is hot and humid for most time of the year. This region is also prone to hurricanes and tropical storms.
- Carry – Sunscreen, bathing suit, sun hat
Mexico’s Pacific Coast – Another area close to the beach! Popular with tourists. Expect weather similar to Riviera Maya – with rains, tropical storms, and hurricanes.
- Carry – Sunscreen, bathing suit, water shoes, stylish beach and resort wear
Power Voltage and Charging electronics – Mexico uses standard voltage which is 110 volts. Their charging plugs are the US and Canada style – 2 flat plugs.
If you are traveling outside of US/Canada, pack a universal travel adapter that will allow you to use electrical items. BUY UNIVERSAL ADAPTER HERE
Commuting and traveling within Mexico Travel Guide
There are many ways to commute to Mexico. It is a good idea to understand these different modes of travel, costs involved, and regulations.
Renting a car and Driving in Mexico
Driving regulations in Mexico are similar to the US and Canada. Ensure you have your valid driver’s license and you are good to rent a vehicle and drive on the Mexico streets and highways.
Brush on the road signage (symbols and language) to follow local traffic rules. Speed limits, no alcohol while driving, seat belt regulation are some of the important things to pay attention to.
Most major roads and highways in Mexico are in good condition and are regularly patrolled by the police. So you are safe on the road.
Paying attention to local rules and staying alert on the road will also keep you safe (similar rules like any other place in North America)
Renting a car in Mexico is also quite feasible. A small size car will cost you $30-45 USD. Ensure you take the car insurance for emergencies.
Although a car is very convenient, we recommend renting and driving only if you are staying in Mexico for over 10 days and are planning to travel far and wide to explore nearby areas like driving from Cancun to Riviera Maya to explore the Tulum ruins or traveling to Merida in Yucatan.
The reason is not safety. The reason is a hassle in finding a parking spot in some of the tourist areas, learning the signage, finding your way, etc. Also because there are cheaper or luxurious options available then driving.
Also, keep in mind that if you are traveling to remote areas than safety becomes a concern. Some rural roads are unpaved and access to stores or restaurants may not be convenient, and risky depending on the area you are going for. Exercise caution and follow the travel adversaries as listed above.
Taking Tours in Mexico
Tours are not cheap but are convenient and you can find affordable options without breaking the bank.
If you want comfort and luxury, tour operators and hosts will ensure they pick up and drop off from your resort or hotel to sightseeing areas, making exploration affordable and timely.
Even on a private tour of 1-2 people, they are safe. Some tours will also take care of food/meals and you can request to be taken or shown Mexican local restaurants (that are cheaper and authentic).
There are tours that take you to witness shaman acts to interiors of Mexican villages – whatever you prefer to explore in this wonderful nation.
ADO buses connect major cities in Mexico and also take you to and from resort towns to tourist sights. They are SAFE. They are comfortable and are equipped with air conditioners and entertainment options. If you are traveling with luggage, ADO buses make the journey comfortable.
It is a budget mode of travel in Mexico. A bus ticket will be around 70-90 pesos depending on the distance. It is recommended that you purchase tickets (or book them) ahead of time. There are bus stations located near resort towns as well.
Colectivos in Mexico
Colectivos are minivans that transport a small group of people from one place to another. (Also called collectivos). They are the cheapest mode of transportation in Mexico.
The typical fare will be 30-40 pesos. You can’t book it online. You will have to flag a Colectivo, pay the fare once you disembark the vehicle. Payment is taken in cash and pesos are preferred.
Colectivos are safe. They are local means of travel too. Mexicans use it to get home and to work.
For colectivos to work for you, you need to know where you are going. Even if it’s in broken English/Spanish, let them know where you want to go. Understand the fare – what you will pay in Rivera Maya or Mexico City is different from Oaxaca.
Pay them once you reach the destination. Do not carry huge baggage with you, as space will be tight (remember it is a cheap mode of travel and locals use it). Avoid getting on a colectivos in the morning or evenings when offices start and close, colectivos could be crowded.
Colectivos start operating as early as 04:30 am. You will find colectivos on the Riviera Maya highway, near resort areas, bus stations, city centre, practically everywhere.
Taxis in Mexico
Taxis are a good option to travel within Mexico as well. They are safe. The resort can arrange them for you. Pick up and drop off to the exact location is possible.
Taxis are charged for the entire ride. So if you are traveling with kids or are a big group, taxis might be cheaper and convenient as compared to a colectivo. If the colectivo is near about full, it can only take 1-2 more, the rest of the group/family will be behind.
Plus you have to pay per person in a colectivo, rather than for the whole ride. Also, consider the convenience and comfort of travel.
Note: For airports, it is wise to book airport transfers. Safe and cheaper to travel.
Accommodation Options in Mexico
All-inclusive stays are the most popular type of accommodation in Mexico beach areas. Airbnb comes second. A typical 7-night stay with return flights costs approximately 1100 USD per person, double occupancy 3.5-star hotel)
All-Inclusive versus Airbnb
With Airbnb accommodation, you can live in a villa for $40 USD a night or get an amazing place by a beach.
But I think, there is a beauty in staying in an all-inclusive. In my experience, in an all-inclusive (even 3 stars in Mexico) they treat you like royalty. Food, access to the pool anytime or the beach, security, and the easy pick-up for tours ~ it can save you money and the experience is different if you always take bed and breakfast or 3-star hotels elsewhere in the world.
Try an an-inclusive once, if you visit Mexico. A typical all-inclusive, 3-star starts at 100 USD a night, double occupancy. You can score a great holiday package in the off-season or when clubbed with an airline ticket. Read our review on the Gran Porto Resort in Playa del Carmen, where we stayed in.
Places to visit in Mexico – Traveling to Mexico Tips
Keeping safety in mind, here are some of the top regions and cities/towns to pick for a Mexico Vacation based on your interest.
Yucatan Peninsula/Parts of southern Mexico
Probably one of the MOST popular areas in Mexico due to massive coastline, beaches, and great resorts. There curated areas for tourists here. The corridor from Cancun to Tulum also called the Rivera Maya – is located at the Yucatan. Here are some of the places to visit in the Yucatan area.
- Playa del Carmen – One of the most popular holiday options in Mexico. Playa del Carmen is home to a safe traveler’s paradise, close to the ruins, adventure sports like the Xcaret, great all-inclusive resorts, fine dining, and shopping. Read Best Things to Do in Playa del Carmen
- Tulum – Slowly welcoming tourist to live in Tulum for a Mexico Vacation other than visiting the ruins
- Mayan Ruins in Yucatan – Chichen Itza, Coba, Ek Balam. Read about exploring the Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza and Tulum.
- Merida – The largest city in the Yucatan. You can also take a day trip to Merida from Playa del Carmen.
Southern and Central Mexico
Leaving Mexico City, let’s look at these Mexico destinations in the central and southern parts of the country.
- Chiapas – Chiapas is another state in Mexico located in the southernmost part of the country. Chiapas is different from the popular beach areas of the Rivera Maya. It is filled with colonial architecture tracing to the ones in Seville Spain. Chiapas is safe overall for tourists and is perfect for those wanting to skip the highly rated and visited parts of Mexico to a little offbeat. All other traveling tips for Mexico remain the same for Chiapas as well – check any alerts before traveling, avoid unknown parts of the state, etc. Using these tips you can select the right destination for Mexico vacation that is safe, make preparations in terms of visa, currency and budget, hotels, and packing checklist for traveling to Mexico.
- Oaxaca – Oaxaca is one of the largest states in central/southern Mexico. It is known for its Spanish colonial architecture and Mayan ruins in Mitla. Visit the state’s capital for great cuisine and sightseeing.
- Teotihuacan – Teotihuacan is located northeast of Mexico’s capital city. It comprises of a huge archaeological complex which was once upon a time a pre-Columbian city. The Temple of Quetzalcoatl, the Pyramid of the Moon, and the Pyramid of the Sun, Museum of Teotihuacan Culture are some of the sightseeing spots to explore in Teotihuacan.
Capital Mexico City
Mexico City is the capital and one of the largest cities in the country. This place is a must-visit to learn about Mexico’s modern history, visit museums and castles, live the local – hustle-bustle life, and more. You can also take a number of day tours/ day trips to explore the countryside from here. Accommodation for all budget ranges is available in Mexico City.
Northern Mexico is one of the most neglected parts of the country from a tourism standpoint. Rural and unknown, deserted areas may not be safe to travel to, in Mexico. There are 2 places that you can visit. But exercise caution as per usual.
- Los Cabos – Los Cobos is a beach destination and many travelers love the pristine beaches and resort town. In the past though, there had been instances of looting of tourist buses/tourists. After such incidences, local authorities had increased tourist protection and patrolling of the areas. We are not saying that you avoid this town, but ensure you view the travel adversary as things could change, sometimes very suddenly. One of my closest pals have been to Los Cabos after theft incidences and she did mention that patrolling is very high, to ensure tourist safety.
- Cooper Canyon
West Coast Mexico
- Puerto Vallarta – Little known resort town/hamlet of Puerto Vallarta is a beach, sun, and fun haven. Very safe for tourists just like the Riviera Maya area – read an itinerary for Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Maya. Westjet and Air Canada run a lot of special deals for all-inclusive deals for Puerto Vallarta.
- Baja California – Baja California is in the northern and westernmost parts of Mexico. Although safe to visit and many Americans visit the area from the west coast, not all areas are equally safe for tourists. Tijuana is the largest city in Baja California and also the MOST dangerous cities not only in Mexico but according to Citizens Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice, it is the most dangerous in the world. However, many travelers have found the city to be safe to explore, especially in the city centre area where they can try out craft beers and amazing tacos. Tijuana is a border town and so pictures show that it is a little run down and dirty. Unfortunately, we have not been to Tijuana, so can’t give verdict if it’s safe to go or not. If you are planning to go, refer to the current travel adversary as listed above.
Mexico is an amazing country to visit and unwind! Hope you found this post helpful for your trip planning. We will be covering more of the Americas especially South America countries of Chile, Brazil, and Peru – so stay tuned.
Exploring more of the North/Latin Americas – Mexico, Dominican Republic, Belize, Jamaica will give a sense of what to expect in the southern area. But these listed countries in Latin America are much easily accessible and cheaper to visit as well.
Have a great time in Mexico <3
Additional Reading – Traveling to Mexico Tips
- Planning to visit a cenote and dive – read this guide
- Cruising to Mexico? Read this post
- Read about Backpacking in Mexico – an Itinerary
- Turtles in Akumal – add them to your Mexico trip
- Read about Mexico Experience from another traveler.
- Get the neighborhood guide to Mexico City for accommodation
Traveling to Mexico Tips