Mexico Vacations-Good Things to Know for your Vacation

More Americans visit Mexico more than any other international destination, and Canadians are not far behind. It’s no surprise seeing as this country boasts sunny skies, clear warm waters, beautiful weather and a slew of resorts and activities to choose from. In order to make your trip to Mexico a little more enjoyable, there are a few things you should know before taking off. Here are some suggestions on how to make the most out of your vacation to the beautiful country of Mexico.

Entry: Passports and Tourist Cards

Visitors of all nationalities require a valid passport to enter Mexico. Make sure your passport is not set to expire within six months of travel, as this may result in your being denied entry to the country. Visitors will also need a tourist card. These cards are given to visitors at their point of entry, and they give you permission to stay in the country for up to 180 days. The cards need to be filled out and then kept in a safe place, because you will need to show it to authorities when leaving the country. There is a fee of about $25 USD for a tourist card, which is charged when exiting the country, not arriving. It's important to note that most airlines include the cost of the tourist card in the flight. If you are flying to Mexico, make sure you are clear as to whether you have already paid the tourist card fee, and carry proof of receipt; border officials commonly try to force everyone to pay, regardless.

Tequila is not the Only Drink of Choice

We get it, when you travel to Mexico you are going to drink Tequila, and probably a lot of it. But that is not the only choice in this awesome country. Before the fire of tequila there was another beverage fermented from agave nectar: pulque. This ancient liquor has been making a comeback in recent years and those familiar with the drink tell you that it won’t get you intoxicated, well not exactly. While you can sit there and drink pulque for hours, chances are your legs won’t want to work when you get up, but your mind will be clear. Mezcal is another alternative to tequila, a cousin to the popular drink and is meant to be sipped, straight up. Acolytes claim that is a much purer tipple than tequila and that it never betrays you with a hangover, however it’s up to you to test that theory.

Don't Drink the Water

As a general rule, stay away from all tap water in Mexico. It’s pretty simple actually considering locals themselves find the idea of drinking the tap water repulsive. The water is indeed purified at the source but it’s the distribution system that allows the water to be contaminated heading to the tap. Most Mexicans buy water in five-gallon jugs which are delivered to their homes and recycled. If you are staying at a hotel or resort, they should be providing bottled water or large jugs of purified water for you to refill your bottle. This goes for brushing your teeth as well, make sure you are using the purified water. And don’t forget about the ice cubes that are put into your drink at the restaurants, we suggest asking for any drink “without ice” or inquiring if the cubes are made from tap water or purified water.

Learn some Espanola

It is always a good idea to learn the local language when you travel, always. It is no different when you are traveling to Mexico, especially if you are planning on traveling around the country. With the availability of free language programs available, there is no real excuse for not knowing simple phrases. A couple key phrases include dónde está el baño (where is the bathroom), una cerveza porfavor (one beer please), and gracias (thank you). Make sure you have google translate enabled on your phone or have a phrase book handy in order to connect with the locals. Before you know it you will be speaking Spanish to everyone you come across.

There is more to Mexico than you hear but it can still be dangerous

There are drug groups openly battling law enforcement as well as each other in certain parts of Mexico. And the number of tourists murdered here has risen in the past few years. But that doesn’t mean you have to stay away from this country all together, traveling here can be safe. It is recommended to read travel advisories before booking a trip here, as there are some undesirable states, especially near the U.S border. The good news is that the most popular tourist spots are deemed safe to visit. If there is one piece of advice to take with you when you travel to this country, it is to know what car you are getting into, and only get into registered taxis. Use common sense and stay in the safe tourist areas, don’t withdraw large amounts of money from the ATM and don’t wear a ton of jewelry if you are off of a resort.

Mexico is a Nature Lover's Paradise

From the deserts of the north to the tropical forests of the Pacific to the feeding ground of the Sea of Cortez to the pine forests in the Mexican Central Plateau, this is one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world. Mexico is home to the second highest number of mammal species, more than a thousand species of birds and more reptile species than any other country. You know what this means? Visitors should expect to be blown away by nature here. The eastern perimeter of Michoacán state is home to 30 billion butterflies, the winter home of the Monarch butterflies. The mystical state of Chiapas is overflowing with brilliant shades of green and vertical jaw-dropping cliffs. The Caribbean coastline of the Yucatan is home to the 2nd largest barrier reef, littered with manatees, whale sharks and turtles. Copper Canyon, four times the size of the Grand Canyon stands in the heart of the Sierra Madre and offers breathtaking views and incredible adventure opportunities.

Buses are Safe...and Cheap!

If you are planning on making your way around different parts of the country, we suggest hoping on a bus. Not only are they safe and cheap but they generally run on time. Hop on one of the executive or first-class buses for a great experience that includes air condition, reclining seats and movies. These generally run on express routes and can take you from Cancun to Chichen Itza for under $20. Second class buses normally make more stops, perfect for those who are looking to make local stops. Buses here are a great way to avoid the touristy tours and sight-see independently.

Mexico is filled with UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Mexico Vacations-Good Things to Know for your Vacation

Mexico has 28 cultural sites, 5 natural sites and one mixed site of UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites, more than any other country in the America’s. Chichen Itza is perhaps the most well-known of these sites and no one will argue that these ancient ruins are awe-inspiring, but there are so many more sites to discover in this country. The historic center of Mexico City and Xochimilco is home to five Aztec temples, the largest cathedral on the continent and floating gardens. The islands in the Gulf of California are loaded with high cliffs, sandy beaches and brilliant turquoise waters. The Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is located on the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula and is home to tropical forests, mangroves and marshes, along with a large marine section, and is home to over 300 species of birds. The Monarch Butterfly Reserve is where the billions of butterflies call home in the wintertime and is located 100 km northwest of Mexico City. There is so many natural wonders, ancient ruins and historic cities that deserve a visit when you are here.

It is Important to Know the Weather

Mexico experiences a different kind of climate in its different parts. On the mainland, the low-lying regions have an arid climate, whereas the northern, high-lying regions tend to be colder. On the other hand, the northernmost part of the Baja Peninsula that lies on the Pacific coast has a more Mediterranean climate, while the southern part that faces the Sea of Cortez experiences an arid climate.

Moreover, La Paz and Cabo, which lie to the extreme south of the Baja Peninsula, have a desert climate, and from Tampico region down to Cancun, one experiences a tropical climate. The humid climate and climbing temperatures are especially uncomfortable in the summer months. How you will stay cool in this country is by wearing natural fabrics such as linen and cotton, or your bathing suit- although we don’t suggest leaving the resort in just a swimsuit. Many locals will wear long pants made out of linen as it allows the body to breathe. Stay away from polyester.

As a Non-Mexican, You Will be Easily Identified

Most Mexican towns and cities have a fairly homogeneous population, and hence, as an international tourist, you will be quite easily noticed. The way you look, the way you dress, the manner in which you talk, etc., will all make you easily stand out, and people will stare at you on the streets with curious eyes. Taxi drivers may be eager to take you places, and beggars may also target you. While it is good to be a little careful and cautious in such situations, it is worth mentioning that most of these people are just curious, and may not be harmful.

There are Numerous Assumptions About Americans and Westerners

Mexico Vacations-Good Things to Know for your Vacation

At some places, especially in smaller towns (unlike bigger cities like Mexico City), you might find that people will assume certain things about you on their own. More often than not, many of these assumptions just tend to be stereotypical images of Americans and Europeans that they might have built on from movies and television shows. For instance, they may think that since you are an American, you have a lot of money. While some of these assumptions may seem to be outrageous, it is a good idea to try to change such opinions by behaving just as you normally do.

There Are Several Tourist Traps Out There

Mexico is known for its numerous tourist traps, and unless you are very alert and careful, it may be very difficult to recognize a trap. Foreign tourists, especially Americans and Europeans, are often overcharged while shopping on streets, or approached by strangers with tempting offers. Unless you are absolutely sure about people you are interacting with, it is advisable to turn down all such offers politely, and not to trust strangers, irrespective of whether or not they seem to be genuine. It may also be a good idea to have a local Mexican host, who you can trust, in order to escape getting trapped into such scams.

Mexico is a Food Lover's Dream

We understand that everyone thinks Mexico and immediately thinks tacos, but come on people, that is clearly not the only food in this country! Mexican cuisine is indeed so good that UNESCO has put it on the cultural heritage list. Make sure to visit the stalls in the markets where you will find succulent dishes at every turn, think meat with purple corn topped with avocado ice cream. It is a must to try mole when you visit Mexico and enjoy the rainbow sauce of bitter chocolate and spice that often accompanies it. Each region in this country is known for its own local specialties. In the Yucatan make sure you try the slow roasted pork with bitter orange marinade and lime soup, also called the cochinita pibil. And for dessert, one word- churro- a fried dough covered in sugar and cinnamon, found all over the country.

Mexico Vacations-Good Things to Know for your Vacation
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