beach with waves and palm trees

The Ultimate Mexico Travel Guide

What to Know Before You Go

Mexico is so much more than tacos and tequila. It’s a country that dances to its own beat, with a rich tapestry of culture, history, and natural wonders.

I should know because I’m Mexican! I’m Kristina, the Mexican half of the travel writer couple behind Off Path Travels. I love exploring this magical country and helping others discover everything Mexico has to offer. 

From the buzzing metropolis of Mexico City to the white sand beaches of Cancun, and from the ancient ruins of the Mayan civilization to the flavorsome delights of Mexican cuisine, Mexico promises a journey like no other.

This Mexico Travel Guide is your passport to unlocking the secrets of Mexico. We’re covering everything you need to know, including essential information, insider tips from locals, and a Mexican’s top travel advice. 

Vámonos a México to explore a land where every moment is an invitation to live life to the fullest!

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Mexico: At a Glance

  • Capital: Mexico City, or Ciudad de Mexico (CDMX for short)
  • Currency: Mexican Peso (MXN)
  • Language: Spanish and 68 indigenous languages
  • Entry Requirements: US and Canadian tourists only need a passport and an FMM Tourist Permit
  • Electrical Plugs: North American plug types (120 V Type A and Type B)

Why Travel to Mexico?

Delve into Mexico’s rich history as you wander through ancient ruins that stand as testaments to these once-mighty civilizations. Explore the famous pyramids at Chichén Itzá, walk in the footsteps of the Aztecs at Teotihuacán, and admire the intricate carvings at Palenque. 

Immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of Mexican culture as you join in local festivals like Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and dance to the rhythm of mariachi music echoing through the streets. Explore the colorful streets of colonial towns, where each step leads you to hidden gems and encounters with artisans selling handicrafts made with skills passed down by generations.

Prepare your taste buds for a culinary extravaganza as you indulge in the flavors of Mexico. From tasting authentic street tacos filled to savoring the complex flavors of mole sauce, every bite will transport you deeper into the heart and soul of Mexico.

But Mexico is not just about its captivating past and vibrant culture. It also boasts breathtaking natural wonders that will leave you in awe. Dive into the crystal-clear waters of the Sea of Cortez, marvel at the breathtaking coral reefs in Cozumel, and hike through the lush jungles to discover hidden cenotes and towering waterfalls.

Best Places to Visit in Mexico

From the bustling streets of Mexico City to the untouched beaches of the Baja Peninsula, Mexico offers an impressive range of destinations for every type of traveler.

Each destination offers a distinct experience, from the lively atmosphere of Oaxaca City to the historical wonders of the Cakalmul ruins. 

Below is a list of just a few of the best places to visit in Mexico along with the highlights. Each place has its own unique attractions that make them worth exploring during your Mexico travels.

Baja California Peninsula

Located in northwest Mexico, the Baja California Peninsula offers stunning landscapes, including pristine beaches, rugged coastlines, and desert vistas. It’s a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, with plenty of opportunities for beach camping, whale watching, snorkeling, scuba diving, and hiking.


Loreto is a picturesque colonial town on the Sea of Cortez with a rich history. Visit the oldest mission in the Californias, Mission of Our Lady of Loreto. Explore the abundant marine life by the islands in the Loreto Bay National Marine Park, and enjoy activities like a hiking in the Sierra de la Giganta mountains, a boat trip to Coronado Island, and watching blue whales.

La Paz

Located a few hours away from Los Cabos, La Paz offers a more relaxed and tranquil experience. Explore the Malecón promenade, take a boat tour to Espiritu Santo Island for snorkeling and kayaking, visit the famous Balandra Beach, and immerse yourself in the local culture at Mercado Bravo.

Cabo San Lucas

Known for its vibrant nightlife and beautiful beaches, Cabo San Lucas is one of Mexico’s top tourist destinations. Take a sailboat to El Arco, an iconic rock formation at the end of the peninsula, witness humpback whales on a whale-watching tour, enjoy the lively atmosphere of El Medano Beach, and spend a day relaxing at your luxurious resort.


Located a 2-hour drive south of the US-Mexico border, Ensenada is known for its wine region, beautiful coastline, and world-class cuisine. Take a wine-tasting tour in Valle de Guadalupe wine country, see the natural blowhole at La Bufadora, and eat fresh seafood at the Mercado Negro fish market.

Best Hotels in Oaxaca Mexico


The state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico is a captivating destination known for its lively indigenous culture, vibrant markets, and stunning natural landscapes. From its rich moles to its agave fields, Oaxaca offers an authentic Mexican experience around every corner.

Oaxaca City

Lose yourself in the colonial streets of Oaxaca de Juarez, a city bursting with color and culture. Explore this UNESCO World Heritage site, with its charming streets, impressive churches, and delicious culinary scene. Wander the ancient ruins of Monte Albán and Mitla which showcase the region’s fascinating Zapotec and Mixtec heritage. Hike the stunning petrified waterfalls at Hierve el Agua. Immerse yourself in traditional arts and crafts in the vibrant markets of Oaxaca, where you can find intricate textiles, pottery, and vibrant handicrafts.

Puerto Escondido

A paradise for surfers, beach lovers, and digital nomads, Puerto Escondido is Oaxaca’s laid-back beach getaway. Experience the thrilling waves at Zicatela Beach, swim in the bioluminescent waters at Manialtepec Lagoon, unwind on the tranquil shores of Carrizalillo Beach, and witness the breathtaking sunsets. Don’t miss the chance to try fresh seafood and immerse yourself in the chill atmosphere.


Huatulco boasts beautiful beaches, lush vegetation, high-end resorts, and an authentic Mexican town. Explore the nine beautiful Huatulco bays, each with its own unique charm and activities, from snorkeling to beachfront restaurants. Discover the vibrant underwater world, relax on the pristine beaches, and savor the delicious local cuisine.

👉 For off-the-beaten-path beaches on the Oaxaca Coast, check out Mazunte and San Agustinillo and Zipolite.

A line of food vendors in Merida, Mexico

Merida and the Yucatan Peninsula 

The Yucatan Peninsula is a captivating region in southeastern Mexico known for its natural beauty and rich cultural heritage. It encompasses the states of Yucatan, Campeche, and Quintana Roo. 

The peninsula is famous for its beautiful beaches, ancient Mayan ruins such as Chichen Itza and Uxmal, freshwater cenotes (natural sinkholes), unique Yucatecan cuisine, and colorful colonial towns.


As the vibrant capital of Yucatan state, Merida offers a mix of colonial charm and contemporary vibrancy. Explore the bustling central square, visit museums and art galleries, and delve into the region’s Mayan heritage. Don’t miss the chance to indulge in traditional Yucatecan cuisine and experience lively cultural events.


A charming colonial town, Valladolid offers a glimpse into Mexico’s rich history and culture. Stroll through the colorful streets lined with colonial-era architecture and explore the bustling central plaza next to the impressive San Gervasio Cathedral. Discover the nearby cenotes, natural freshwater sinkholes, where you can swim and cool off in crystal-clear waters. Immerse yourself in Mayan culture by visiting the nearby archaeological sites of Chichen Itza and Ek Balam


Situated along the Gulf of Mexico on the Yucatan Peninsula, Campeche is a colorful coastal city with a well-preserved colonial center. Its pastel-colored buildings, cobblestone streets, and fortified walls transport visitors back in time. Explore historical sites, indulge at the delicious restaurants, and soak in the laid-back atmosphere.

The Best Beaches in Cozumel

Cancun and the Riviera Maya

Cancun and the Riviera Maya are renowned destinations along the Caribbean Sea on the eastern coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. 

The Riviera Maya is a tourism and resort area stretching south of Cancun down to Tulum. It’s a tropical getaway with white sand beaches, turquoise waters, ancient Mayan ruins, crystal-clear cenotes (freshwater sinkholes), and plenty of other tourist attractions and outdoor adventures.


Cancun offers jaw-dropping beaches and an extensive hotel zone. The city is a bustling tourist destination with a range of all-inclusive resorts, lively nightlife, and world-class dining. It’s a bit too touristy for our tastes, but it’s worth a visit to see some of the area’s most stunning beaches and take the ferry over to the beautiful Isla Mujeres.

Playa del Carmen

Still touristy, but less so than Cancun, Playa del Carmen offers the ideal place to base yourself while you explore the Riviera Maya. It’s the perfect blend of stunning beaches, lively nightlife, and rich cultural experiences. Shop on the bustling Quinta Avenida, or Fifth Avenue, relax on the white sand beaches, go for a dip in the cenotes (freshwater sinkholes), and take the ferry to Cozumel Island for a snorkeling adventure.


A vibrant island across the sea from Playa del Carmen, Cozumel is renowned for its stunning coral reefs and abundant marine life. Explore the small town of San Miguel, known for its souvenir shops, restaurants, and lively atmosphere. Relax on Cozumel’s pristine beaches, rent a scooter to explore the island, and wander the San Gervasio ruins.


Unearth the boho-chic paradise of Tulum, where ancient Mayan ruins overlook the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. Explore the architecturally-stunning boutique hotels and beach clubs, splash in the waves and swim in cenotes, dine at the outdoor restaurants, and embrace the laid-back, yet chic atmosphere that permeates this world-famous beach town.

Parque Central Comitan Chiapas Mexico


An off-the-beaten-path paradise, this southernmost state borders the country of Guatemala. The state of Chiapas is a region known for its rich indigenous culture and natural wonders. Explore ancient Mayan ruins in Palenque, witness the cascading beauty of Misol-Ha Waterfall, and immerse yourself in the vibrant markets of San Cristobal de las Casas.

Puerto Vallarta

This vibrant city offers a perfect blend of natural beauty and bustling nightlife on the Pacific Coast. Stroll along the Malecón boardwalk, take a boat trip to the hidden beaches of Yelapa, and witness the magical sunset over Banderas Bay.

Mexico City

Immerse yourself in the vibrant capital city, where ancient Aztec temples coexist with modern skyscrapers. Explore the iconic Zocalo Square, visit the awe-inspiring National Museum of Anthropology, and indulge in mouthwatering street food.

San Miguel de Allende

Known for its picturesque streets and colonial architecture, San Miguel de Allende is a UNESCO World Heritage site and an artistic hub. Discover its art galleries, colorful markets, and historic churches. Attend festivals, explore nearby hot springs, and enjoy the city’s thriving culinary scene.

Off Path Travels at the Palenque Ruins

Best Things to Do in Mexico

Mexico offers a wealth of amazing experiences and attractions for visitors to enjoy. Whether you’re seeking adventure, cultural immersion, or relaxation, there are enough incredible things to do in Mexico to keep you busy for years to come.

Below are just a few of the best things to do in Mexico:

1. Explore the Ancient Ruins

There are a seemingly endless number of pre-Hispanic archeological zones in Mexico with more discovered every year. 

Exploring Mexico’s ancient ruins is a journey back in time into the fascinating history and architectural marvels of ancient civilizations. 

From the iconic pyramids of Teotihuacan near Mexico City to the famous Chichen Itza in Yucatan to the enigmatic Mayan city of Palenque in Chiapas, these protected archaeological sites offer a glimpse into the remarkable achievements of these civilizations.

  • Chichen Itza: Book this popular tour to Chichen Itza to see one of the 7 Wonders of the World in person and stop by Valladolid and Cenote Saamal along the way.
  • Ek Balam: A less-visited yet impressive site near Chichen Itza. Climb to the top of the Ek Balam ruins for breathtaking views over the Yucatan jungle.
  • Tulum Ruins: Perched on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea, the Tulum ruins are some of the most picturesque in Mexico. 
  • Coba: For a jungle excursion near Tulum, visit the highest pyramid in the region at the Coba ruins and take a bike ride around its ancient pathways.
  • Calakmul: Nestled deep in the tropical rainforests in the state of Campeche, the towering Calakmul ruins offer a deep dive into the ancient Mayan world.
  • Uxmal: The Uxmal ruins feature several well-preserved buildings which showcase the architectural brilliance of the Maya civilization in the Yucatan Peninsula. 
  • Palenque Ruins: An iconic archeological site in the jungles of Chiapas, explore royal tombs and intricate stone carvings at the Palenque ruins.
  • Bonampak and Yaxchilan: Hidden within the lush Lacandon Jungle, the ancient Mayan ruins of Bonampak and Yaxchilan are a must-visit in Chiapas. Bonampak boasts some of the best-preserved murals in the country while Yaxchilan features a winding labyrinth to explore.
  • Teotihuacan: Take a tour of the Teotihuacan ruins, just outside of Mexico City, to witness the grandeur of one of the largest prehispanic cities in the Americas. 

2. Wander the Local Markets

Local markets in Mexico are vibrant hubs of culture, colors, and flavors. From bustling urban mercados to small-town tianguis, these market spaces offer an authentic glimpse into Mexican daily life.

As you navigate through the maze of stalls, you’ll encounter a sensory feast of sights, sounds, and aromas. From fresh produce and spices to handmade crafts and textiles, the variety of goods is endless.

Explore the vibrant markets in Oaxaca City like Mercado de Benito Juarez or Mercado 20 de Noviembre which are known for their colorful textiles, pottery, and traditional cuisine. For an authentic village market day experience, visit nearby Tlacolula market on a Sunday. 

Spanning over several blocks, Mercado de la Merced in Mexico City is one of the largest in Latin America. This massive market offers a dizzying array of spices, chiles, and exotic ingredients from around the country, along with enticing street food stalls and vendors hawking their goods. 

Take a tour of the San Juan Market (a Mexico City favorite) to learn more about the local ingredients, taste the food, and gain valuable insights from a local.

3. Taste Authentic Mexican Food

Tasting authentic Mexican food is an absolute must that cannot be missed when visiting Mexico! From the vibrant street food stalls to the charming local eateries to the Michelin-star restaurants, the country offers a range of flavors, culinary traditions, and gastronomic experiences. 

From the seven moles in Oaxaca City to Caesar salad in Tijuana, each region boasts its own local specialties which showcase the diversity and creativity of Mexican cuisine. Indulge in mouthwatering tacos, sip prehispanic Mexican beverages, decipher the complex flavors of mole, feast on fresh ceviche, and savor the colorful salsas and spices.

A fun way to immerse yourself in Mexico’s incredible food scene is to take a local cooking class like this Oaxacan cooking class where you’ll learn to make mole or this Mayan cooking class in Cozumel where you’ll make authentic cochinita pibil. 

4. Sip Traditional Mexican Drinks

Mezcal and tequila hold immense cultural significance in Mexico and are a must-try spirit for any visitor. Both spirits embody the rich history and craftsmanship of Mexican traditions, with each bottle reflecting the unique terroir and production methods of its region, and both are used in ceremonies and festivities. 

Tequila, made exclusively from blue agave, is Mexico’s most famous spirit, known for its smoothness and versatility in traditional cocktails like palomas. For an authentic tequila-tasting experience, take a tequila tour from Guadalajara to the town of Tequila, Jalisco.

Mezcal, on the other hand, is a sometimes smoky and always complex spirit derived from a variety of over 30 agave species, offering a distinctive flavor profile. The state of Oaxaca is famous for its mezcal production. Visit the town of Santiago de Matatlan, known as the “Mezcal Capital of the World,” or take a tour of a mezcal distillery

For non-alcoholic beverages, try one of the many prehispanic corn-based drinks, like atole and pozol, available throughout Mexico, with each region offering a unique version featuring its local ingredients. Or sip on a refreshing traditional agua fresca, an iced fruit drink sweetened with cane sugar.

5. Celebrate Day of the Dead and Other Festivals

Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, is one of Mexico’s most iconic and cherished festivals, honoring departed loved ones and celebrating their lives and memories. This vibrant and joyful event combines indigenous traditions with Catholic influences, featuring elaborate altars, decorative sugar skulls, awe-inspiring parades, and all-night parties. 

Mexico has what seems like an endless supply of local festivals throughout the year, each offering a unique cultural experience. 

From the exuberant Guelaguetza in Oaxaca to the colorful Carnaval celebrations in Veracruz, these festivals showcase traditional music, dance, cuisine, and elaborate costumes, immersing visitors in Mexican folklore and heritage. 

Attending these festivities allows you to witness the joyful spirit, deep-rooted traditions, and important community connections that define Mexican culture.

6. Visit the Many Museums

Mexico boasts a wealth of exceptional museums offering fascinating insights into the country’s rich history, art, and cultural heritage. 

From ancient civilizations to modern art movements, these museums house remarkable collections that captivate visitors. 

Book a guided tour of the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City, which showcases artifacts from Mesoamerican cultures, or tour the Frida Kahlo Museum, dedicated to the iconic artist’s life and work. 

Mexico’s many museums provide a window into the diverse narratives and artistic expressions that shape the country’s identity, making them a must-visit for any cultural enthusiast.

7. Relax on the Beautiful Beaches

Famous for its world-class coastlines, Mexico offers the ideal beach getaway with stunning destinations on both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts.

Within the Sea of Cortez (also known as the Gulf of California), Bahia de los Angeles and San Felipe offer long, sandy beaches with warm lapping waters.

On the Pacific coast, Puerto Vallarta and the surrounding beaches boast golden sands, picturesque sunsets, and vibrant beach culture. 

Further south, the Oaxaca Coast entices visitors with its pristine beauty, incredible surf, and laid-back vibes. 

On the Caribbean coast, the Riviera Maya is renowned for its tropical beaches, including the popular Playa del Carmen and the palm-lined beaches of Tulum. Cancun dazzles with its powdery white sands, while the secluded beaches of Isla Mujeres and the best beaches in Cozumel Island offer tranquil escapes. 

Whether you’re looking for relaxation, fun in the sun, or parties right on the sand, Mexico’s breathtaking coastal destinations cater to every beach bum’s dream.

8. Swim in Underground Cenotes

Cenotes, natural sinkholes formed by the collapse of limestone bedrock, are among Mexico’s most mesmerizing natural wonders. These hidden gems dot the Yucatan Peninsula, offering an enchanting world of crystal-clear freshwater pools beneath the surface.

Visiting cenotes is a transformative experience and an unforgettable opportunity to immerse yourself in the beauty of nature and explore an underground paradise. Snorkeling or diving in these pristine waters reveals a fascinating world full of stalactites, stalagmites, and other unique rock formations. The clear waters allow for breathtaking visibility, making it a haven for underwater photography and capturing unforgettable memories.

Beyond their natural beauty, cenotes offer a refreshing escape from the tropical heat, inviting visitors to swim, cool off, and connect with nature in a serene setting. Some cenotes even boast diving platforms and zip lines for adrenaline seekers to plunge into the refreshing depths.

Book this hidden cenote tour to explore a beautiful cenote near Tulum and swim with sea turtles all on the same day!

Here are two of our favorite cenotes to visit:

  • Dos Ojos Cenote: A mesmerizing cenote near Playa del Carmen. Its name, Dos Ojos Cenote, meaning “Two Eyes,” refers to the two interconnected sinkholes, offering cave divers and snorkelers the opportunity to explore an extensive underwater cave system filled with stunning stalactites, stalagmites, and crystal-clear turquoise waters.
  • Cuzama Cenotes: A captivating cenote complex located near the town of Cuzama in Yucatan. Cuzama Cenotes features a series of three cenotes, connected by an old-fashioned wooden rail system. Ride horse-drawn carts through the jungle to reach each cenote, where you can swim in the refreshing waters and marvel at these unique underground caves.

9. Book a Whale Watching Boat Tour

Embarking on a whale-watching tour in Mexico is an awe-inspiring experience that brings you face-to-face with these gentle giants. 

Mexico’s coastline offers incredible opportunities to witness the seasonal migrations of various whale species, such as humpback whales, gray whales, and blue whales. 

Whether you’re petting gray whales in Baja California Sur or taking a whale-watching tour in Puerto Vallarta, these excursions allow you to observe these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat and see them breaching, slapping their tails, and playing in the sea. 

It’s a thrilling and humbling adventure that deepens your appreciation for marine life and the conservation efforts in place to protect these incredible species.

10. Take an Unforgettable Hiking Trip

With its jaw-dropping landscapes and miles of winding trails, Mexico offers an exhilarating experience for hiking enthusiasts. 

From snowy mountain peaks to lush tropical jungles to cacti-filled desert wonderlands, the country is a paradise for hikers of all skill levels. 

Take an unforgettable trek to Iztaccihuatl Volcano from Mexico City for a high-elevation adventure with stunning views of Popocatepetl, an active volcano, and the Valle de Mexico (Mexico Valley) below.

Hike through the Sierra Norte near Oaxaca City to explore this pine-filled paradise and learn more about the local flora and fauna or take a multi-day backpacking trip to the Pueblos Mancomunados, or United Villages, of the Sierra Norte mountains.

11. Explore Mexico Underwater

Exploring Mexico’s underwater treasures on snorkeling and scuba diving excursions is like a visit to another (water-filled) universe.

With its crystal-clear waters, vibrant coral reefs, and abundant marine life, Mexico is a haven for snorkelers, freedivers, and scuba divers.

From the world’s second-longest barrier reef along the Riviera Maya to the spectacular Sea of Cortez off the Baja Peninsula, the country boasts diverse aquatic ecosystems teeming with colorful fish, turtles, rays, and even majestic whale sharks. 

You can snorkel in Cabo Pulmo National Park near Los Cabos, dive with bull sharks in Playa del Carmen, swim with whale sharks in La Paz or Isla Holbox, and see the world’s second-largest coral reef, the Mesoamerican Reef, in Cozumel. 

Baja California Sur beach

Best Time to Visit Mexico

Mexico is a huge country with a variety of climate zones including tropical beaches, arid deserts, humid jungles, and snow-capped mountains. This biodiversity means there’s always somewhere beautiful to explore no matter what time of the year you plan your trip. Just make sure to check the weather before you go!

In general, the best time to visit Mexico is during the dry season, from November to April, when the rainfall is minimal and the temperature is cooler. But this is also peak tourism season, which means high prices and crowds, especially during Mexican holidays like Christmas, New Year’s, and Easter.

The shoulder seasons of May to June and September to October are the ideal times to visit for fewer crowds, lower prices, and warmer weather. 

Keep in mind that hurricane season is between August and October on both the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea coasts. If you plan on visiting the coastal areas during this time, consider getting travel insurance that covers unforeseen natural disasters. 

Getting Around in Mexico

Traveling around Mexico is relatively easy, with a variety of transportation options. from domestic flights to colectivos, available for every type of traveler.


Mexico is home to several major international airports with direct flights from the US including Mexico City (MEX), Cancun (CUN), Los Cabos (SJD), Guadalajara (GDL), and Puerto Vallarta (PVR). 

The country also has a well-connected network of domestic flights, making it convenient to travel between major cities and tourist destinations. Aeromexico is Mexico’s largest airline and operates domestic and international flights. While, Volaris is the country’s most popular budget airline which is known for its insanely cheap flight deals.

✈️ Search Skyscanner and Expedia for the best deals on flights to Mexico.

Car Rentals

Renting a car in Mexico gives you the freedom to travel at your own pace, immerse yourself in the culture, and explore off the beaten path. With a car, you can venture beyond popular tourist destinations and discover the authentic charm of Mexico’s diverse landscapes and vibrant towns. 

Just remember to familiarize yourself with these local driving tips and get mandatory Mexican auto insurance coverage.

🚗 Search Discover Cars to find the best car rental deals in Mexico.


Mexico’s extensive bus network connects major cities, towns, and tourist destinations, making it an efficient mode of transportation. Riding a first-class ADO bus in Mexico offers travelers a comfortable, affordable, and convenient way to travel the country while relaxing and watching the scenic landscapes go by.

First-class buses, known as camiones de lujo or autobuses de primera clase, provide spacious seating, air conditioning, onboard restrooms, and sometimes even Wi-Fi and entertainment systems.

🚍 Use Bookaway to buy your Mexico bus and ferry tickets in English.

Taxis and Rideshares

Taxis are widely available throughout major cities and tourist destinations. Taking a taxi allows you to reach your destination quickly and efficiently. Just make sure to negotiate the fare upfront and always use official taxi drivers.

Rideshare services like Uber and Didi are common in some of the larger cities, but not all of them. Some places only offer one or the other, while some destinations have banned rideshares completely. 


In Mexico, colectivos are an extremely popular and inexpensive mode of transportation used by many locals. They are shared transport vans that operate on specific routes, typically within a city or between neighboring towns. They stop to pick up and drop off passengers along their routes and are usually the cheapest way to travel between two destinations.

View from Airbnb in Cozumel

Mexico Travel Tips

Here are a few essential travel tips for Mexico to know before you visit:

1. Mexico Travel Requirements

Ensure you have the necessary entry documents for traveling to Mexico. Visitors from countries like the United States and Canada, and the Schengen zone do not require a visa and can enter Mexico with a valid passport and an FMM tourist permit. Check the specific entry requirements for your country and ensure your passport has at least six months of validity remaining.

2. Don’t Drink the Tap Water

Avoid drinking tap water in Mexico! Stick to purified water for drinking and brushing your teeth. Many areas have questionable water coming from the tap and it’s best not to risk it. Use purified water from garrafones, 20-gallon water bottles commonly used throughout Mexico, or pack this water purifier bottle that lets you drink from anywhere, including the hotel tap.

3. Get a Mexico SIM Card

To stay connected, consider getting a prepaid Mexico SIM card for your mobile phone. Local prepaid SIM cards come with affordable plans with a few gigs of data. You can add on data as needed. Plus you get the convenience of receiving local calls and the ability to use navigation apps while exploring the country.

4. Carry Mexican Pesos

It’s always best to carry cash and use Mexican pesos for your transactions. While most larger cities have plenty of ATMs and businesses that accept credit and debit cards, some smaller towns have neither. You’ll find businesses in touristy areas that accept payment in US dollars, but paying in the local currency usually gives you better exchange rates and saves you money.

💵 Check out this guide to using money in Mexico for detailed information on currency exchange, ATMs, and tips for handling money during your trip.

5. Use a VPN to Avoid Data Theft

Protect your online security by using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) when connecting to public Wi-Fi networks like those at your hotel, cafes and restaurants, and the airport. Having a VPN turned on safeguards your personal information and prevents data theft or unauthorized access to your devices.

6. Learn Basic Spanish

While many Mexicans speak at least some English in tourist areas, knowing a few basic Spanish phrases can go a long way in connecting with locals and improving your daily interactions.

🗣 Get this Mexican Spanish Phrasebook or download our free printable Spanish Travel Phrases PDF (written by a native Spanish speaker…me!).

7. Avoid Car Rental Scams

Renting a car in Mexico is a fantastic way to explore the country freely, but you need to watch out for the infamous Mexico car rental scam. This happens when car rental agencies advertise insanely low-priced deals, like 1 or 5 USD per day. Once you’re at the rental counter, they add on all the extra fees and the cost for mandatory Mexican insurance which brings up the total a significant amount.

A flamingo taking flight on the boat tour in Yucatan Mexico

Is Mexico Safe?

Mexico is generally a safe destination for travelers, but it’s always important to take precautions to ensure a smooth and secure journey. Like many other countries, it has varying levels of safety and crime depending on the region and the specific circumstances. 

While Mexico does face some security challenges, it is important to note that millions of tourists visit the country each year without incident. Popular tourist destinations and resort areas, like the Riviera Maya and Los Cabos, generally have heightened security measures in place to ensure the safety of visitors. 

When traveling to unfamiliar areas in Mexico, you should remain vigilant and follow common-sense safety practices. This includes being aware of your surroundings, avoiding isolated and dark areas, using reputable transportation services, and watching out for theft and scams. 

By staying practicing vigilance and respecting local laws, you can have a safe and enjoyable experience in Mexico.

Consider Mexico Travel Insurance

Of course, you don’t want to think about everything that can go wrong on your Mexico vacation, but it’s always best to be prepared. 

Getting travel insurance for Mexico protects yourself and your investment during your trip. A good insurance plan provides coverage for medical emergencies, trip cancellations or interruptions, and compensation for lost or delayed luggage. 

With comprehensive travel insurance, you can travel to Mexico with peace of mind, knowing that you have financial protection and support if any unforeseen events occur.

Safety Wing offers travel and medical incident insurance for Mexico and specializes in coverage for digital nomads, remote workers, and longer-term stays.

A dirt road in Sian Kaan near Tulum, Mexico

What to Pack for Mexico

When packing for your Mexico adventure, remember to pack light and always check the weather before your trip. Bring plenty of layers for high-elevation destinations like San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas and breathable clothing for hot and humid areas like Puerto Escondido in Oaxaca.

Don’t forget the essentials like a sun hat and sunglasses, comfortable shoes for exploring, and a swimsuit to enjoy the beautiful beaches and cenotes.

  • Quick-Drying Towel: This lightweight travel towel packs down small and dries extremely quickly. It’s a must-have for beach days, cenote swims, and soaking in hot springs.
  • Reef-Safe Sunscreen: Protect your skin and Mexico’s delicate ecosystems with a reef-friendly SPF. Several popular attractions, like Xcaret Eco Park, and cenotes in the Riviera Maya prohibit the use of regular sunscreen. It’s important to bring your own biodegradable SPF. When swimming and snorkeling, we use a combination of UPF rashguards and this reef-safe sunscreen to minimize our impact on the environment. 
  • Insect Repellent: Pack a reliable bug spray (we use this Picaridin insect repellent spray) to keep mosquitoes and diseases at bay. Dengue fever is one of the most common mosquito-borne diseases in some parts of Mexico. 
  • Water Purifier Bottle: For access to clean drinking water wherever you go, get a water bottle that purifies sketchy water by removing pathogens, chemicals, heavy metals, and bad flavors. With this water purifier bottle, you can drink from the tap at your hotel or even a nearby river with just one press.
  • Plug Adapter and Surge Protector: Mexico uses North American plug types (Type A and Type B) like the ones in the United States. Pack a universal travel adapter to charge electronics if you’re visiting from a country with different style plugs. We carry a travel surge protector to protect our expensive electronic devices like laptops and smartphones from unexpected power surges (a common occurrence in some buildings). 
  • VPN for Travel: Protect yourself from data theft and hackers alike while using public wifi at your hotel or the airport with a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Using a VPN gives you privacy while browsing the internet hides your location, and encrypts your data to prevent theft. We recommend Express VPN and we use it 24/7 in Mexico.
  • Travel Insurance: Don’t forget to get comprehensive travel insurance for Mexico that covers medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and lost luggage. It’s always best to be prepared for the unexpected!

Travel Guide for Mexico FAQs

Is it safe to drink tap water in Mexico?

It’s generally recommended to drink bottled water in Mexico to avoid the risk of stomach upset. Stick to bottled water for drinking and brushing your teeth.

Do I need a visa to visit Mexico?

Many nationalities can enter Mexico for tourism purposes without a visa. Check with the Mexican embassy or consulate in your country to confirm the specific requirements based on your nationality.

What is the legal drinking age in Mexico?

The legal drinking age in Mexico is 18 years old. However, some establishments may enforce a higher age limit, especially for the consumption of alcoholic beverages.

Is it customary to tip in Mexico?

Yes, tipping is customary in Mexico. In restaurants, a tip of around 10-15% of the total bill is customary. For other services, such as taxis or hotel staff, a small tip is appreciated.

Are there any specific customs or etiquette I should be aware of in Mexico?

Mexicans are generally warm and friendly people. It’s customary to greet others with a handshake or a kiss on the cheek (for women). Politeness and respect are highly valued, so saying por favor (please) and gracias (thank you) goes a long way. When visiting religious sites, dress modestly and avoid disruptive behavior.

Can I use my cell phone in Mexico?

Most international cell phone providers offer coverage in Mexico. However, be sure to check with your provider regarding roaming charges and data plans to avoid unexpected fees. Alternatively, you can purchase a local SIM card or use Wi-Fi hotspots available in hotels and cafes.

Are there any specific safety precautions I should take when using public transportation?

While public transportation in Mexico is generally safe, it’s wise to take precautions. Avoid displaying valuable items, especially in crowded buses or subway trains. Keep your belongings close and be aware of your surroundings. If possible, use official taxi stands or rideshare services for added security.

Can I use US dollars in Mexico?

While US dollars are accepted in some tourist areas, it’s advisable to have Mexican pesos for everyday transactions. Exchange currency at banks or authorized exchange offices for the best rates. Carry smaller bills for convenience, as some establishments may not accept large denominations.

What are some popular souvenirs to buy in Mexico?

Mexico is known for its vibrant crafts and artistry. Popular souvenirs include traditional textiles, pottery, silver jewelry, colorful hand-woven rugs, and handmade masks. Explore local markets and artisan workshops for unique treasures to bring back home.

Mexico Travel Articles

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