Mexico, a land filled with centuries-old traditions, world-renowned cuisine, incredible natural beauty, and…Mexicans! So who better to give you advice and tips for Mexico travel than a Mexican travel blogger?
¡Hola! I’m Kristina. I’m Mexican and I’ve been traveling and living off and on in Mexico my entire life. Think of me as your translator, cultural interpreter, and personal Mexico travel guide.
If you’re looking for the best travel tips for Mexico, you’re in the right spot! Are you wondering what you need to know before you go to Mexico? Like how to prepare for your trip, things to avoid doing, and maybe some cultural tips for Mexico?
Don’t worry! It’s all covered in this list of things to know about Mexico. Plus, I’m sharing a Mexican’s best advice for traveling to Mexico, like insider tips you won’t find anywhere else (like how to eat tacos the right way).
We’ll go over all the best Mexico travel tips, including essential things to know about Mexico before your visit. Everything from basic Mexican Spanish phrases to planning and safety tips for traveling to Mexico is featured on this list.
Be warned: this article is long, but it’s chock full of useful tips for traveling to Mexico. So feel free to jump to the section you’re interested in.
- Top Mexico Travel Tips
- Safety Tips
- Packing Tips
- Mexican Spanish Tips
- Cultural Tips
- Money Tips
- Transportation Tips
We link to products and services we think are useful for our readers. We may earn a commission for purchases made through some of these links. There’s no extra cost for you and it helps support our work. We really appreciate your support!
Top Mexico Travel Tips
1. Keep Your Mexico Tourist Card Safe
The travel to Mexico requirements for your country of citizenship are one of the most crucial things to know before your trip.
Americans, Canadians, and Schengen Zone citizens require only a Mexico tourist permit and a valid passport to visit Mexico. The Mexico visitors permit’s official name is Forma Multiple Migratoria, or FMM, but some tourists call it a Mexican tourist visa (a misnomer).
You can begin the FMM application process online. If you’re flying in to Mexico, you may get an FMM form on the plane or pick one up at immigration.
Other than the completed FMM form, the Mexican immigration officer might ask for proof of travel for tourism purposes, like hotel reservations or a return flight. You can get up to 180 days in Mexico, but the officer might decide to grant you a shorter stay.
Mexico is currently phasing out paper FMM cards at a few airports and replacing them with an online process. So depending on where you fly into, you may or may not receive a physical FMM card.
If you are driving into Mexico or walking across the border, you must voluntary stop at the border crossing immigration office to get your FMM card.
💡 For more information on the Mexico tourist permit process, read how to get a Mexican FMM card.
Do not lose your FMM card! The FMM tourist permit is proof of your legal status in Mexico and you need to turn it in when you leave the country.
We’ve heard many stories of someone stuffing the card into their passport only for it to fall out and disappear. Don’t let this happen to you! Getting a replacement can be a costly hassle.
➡️ Always keep your FMM in a safe spot, like this RFID-blocking passport holder.
2. Do Not Drink the Tap Water
One of the most important Mexico travel tips is: Do not drink tap water in Mexico!
Although the tap water is supposedly potable in places like Mexico City, most Mexicans don’t drink it.
Mexican households and businesses only use agua purificada, or purified water, for drinking water and ice. The tap water is for showering, washing clothes, rinsing dishes, etc., but not for drinking.
Every town has water purification shops where people refill their garrafones, reusable 20-liter water jugs, with drinking water. They also sell bags of ice made from purified water.
Water quality varies throughout Mexico. To be completely safe, use only purified water for drinking, making ice, and brushing your teeth.
The best way to have guaranteed access to clean drinking water is to pack a water purifier travel bottle for your trip to Mexico.
🚰 With this water purifier bottle, you can fill up on water from the hotel sink or a nearby natural water source like a river or lake.
It removes all pathogens (viruses, bacteria, and protozoa) and it filters out sediment, microplastics, VOCs, PFAS, chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals, flavors, and odors.
Best Water Purifier Bottle
This water purifier bottle is the best for international travel and outdoor adventures like hiking, camping, and backpacking.
You can purify water from anywhere and make sketchy water clean to drink with one press.
3. Mexico is Incredibly Diverse
Ditch the beaten path! Mexico is so much more than just beach front all-inclusive resorts with bottomless margaritas. It’s a huge country with a variety of environments, cultures, and languages.
With its white sand beaches, snowy peaks (Pico de Orizaba is the third highest summit in North America), and sprawling deserts, Mexico is considered one of the most biodiverse countries in the world.
Lush jungles, soaring waterfalls, and endless opportunities for outdoor adventure make Chiapas the ultimate destination for nature lovers.
Known as the place where the desert meets the sea, the Baja Peninsula’s pristine beaches are a dream destination for camping and RVing.
Cozumel Island’s easy access to the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere has earned it a top spot amongst the world’s best scuba diving destinations.
History buffs love exploring the ancient archeological ruins scattered throughout the country, like Chichen Itza, and taking in the sights around Mexico’s vibrant Pueblos Mágicos, or Magical Towns, and numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
With 16 officially recognized languages, Oaxaca offers a deep dive into Mexico’s indigenous cultures and world-renowned prehispanic cuisine.
So hop off that lounge chair and start seeing more of this incredible and diverse country!
Top Mexico Adventure Experiences
4. Get a Mexican SIM Card
Getting a prepaid SIM card is an easy and inexpensive way to stay connected while traveling around Mexico. Especially if you plan to travel Mexico while working online and taking calls.
Even if your current plan does cover Mexico, foreign cell phone providers don’t get priority on networks in other countries. This means your coverage and data speeds are second-rate and slow compared to local users.
Using a Mexico SIM card ensures you’re always given top priority.
For the best coverage, higher speeds, and more data, get a Telcel SIM Card. Telcel is Mexico’s biggest cell phone company and has the largest coverage.
We use prepaid, no-contract Amigo Telcel SIM cards on our unlocked phones. The Amigo Sin Limites plan includes unlimited social media use and free calls and texts to the U.S. and Canada. And having a Mexican number makes it easier to use delivery and rideshare apps, and other local services.
You can buy a Telcel SIM at authorized distributors across the country. OXXO convenience stores sell them for less than 10 USD. Once you purchase the SIM, you need to add-on a prepaid cell phone package either at the store or through Telcel’s Spanish-only website.
Just remember to make sure your cell phone is unlocked! Only unlocked phones can use SIM cards that aren’t from your current provider.
5. Consider Mexico Travel Insurance
Of course, you don’t want to think about everything that can go wrong on your Mexico trip, but it’s always best to be prepared.
When you factor in the cost of plane tickets, hotel reservations, car rental, and day tours, a Mexico vacation can end up being worth thousands of dollars. Most people can’t afford to lose that kind of money.
Travel insurance is a great way to protect your trip investment in case of an emergency. Mexico travel insurance policies vary, but they cover things like lost luggage, trip cancellation, travel delays, and emergency medical care.
Whether you’re snorkeling in Cabo Pulmo or climbing up the Yaxchilan ruins, a medical emergency can really put a damper on your trip.
Having travel insurance coverage can give you peace of mind and help you travel confidently on your trip to Mexico.
Safety Wing offers travel and medical incident insurance for Mexico and specializes in coverage for digital nomads, remote workers, and longer-term stays.
6. Don’t Flush Toilet Paper
If you’re traveling to Mexico for the first time, you might be surprised by the bathroom situation. Especially the signs asking you not to flush toilet paper.
For the most part, the public bathrooms in Mexico are not like what you’re used to in the U.S. They are generally less well-maintained, may be missing toilet paper, and sometimes charge a fee.
Restroom Signs in Spanish
- 🚾 Restrooms – Baños, sanitarios, WC
- 🚹 Men – “H” for hombres (men) or “C” for caballeros (gentlemen)
- 🚺 Women – “M” for mujeres (women) or “D” for damas (ladies)
Here are a few things you should know before using a Mexican bathroom:
- Men beware! It might take some time to get used to it, but don’t go into bathrooms with an M. The “M” sign on a bathroom door stands for Mujeres (women), not Men. Men’s restrooms have signs with an “H” for Hombres (men) or “C” for Caballeros (gentlemen).
- Always have your own stash of toilet paper. Some gas station bathrooms and public restrooms don’t bother to provide toilet paper. They might not have soap or hand towels either.
- Don’t flush toilet paper! The plumbing in some parts of Mexico is sketchy or extremely old. Most places, including some vacation rentals and hotels, ask you to put used toilet paper in the trash, not the toilet.
- Many public bathrooms have an attendant charging a small fee of around five to 20 pesos to use the facilities. The attendants will hand you a small amount of toilet paper. Don’t be afraid to ask for mas papel, por favor (more paper, please)!
7. Always Use a VPN
Most travelers are unaware of the huge cyber security risks they face when traveling in Mexico or anywhere else in the world.
The majority of people connect their devices to public wifi networks at airports, hotels, and coffee shops without a second thought.
But using unsecured wifi networks to access your bank account or buy stuff online is extremely risky! You’re leaving yourself completely vulnerable to data theft and hackers.
Using a VPN gives you privacy while browsing the internet, hides your location, and encrypts your data to prevent theft. Most VPN services are subscription-based with an app you can download and use on your phone, tablet, and laptop.
VPN stands for virtual private network. It creates a private connection between devices like laptops, tablets, and smartphones and the internet.
Think of a VPN as a secret tunnel between you and the internet that keeps your information secure from hackers, governments, and snoops.
We always use a VPN in Mexico. It not only protects you from hackers, but it can also do other useful things.
By setting your location to your home country, you can access the internet as usual, including seeing websites in your own language and watching your regular Netflix shows. Without this setting, most websites switch to Spanish and you can only watch Netflix shows available in Mexico.
We’ve been traveling full-time for over 5 years and have tried a variety of travel VPN services. Our favorite virtual private network is Nord VPN.
Best Travel VPN
Nord VPN provides a winning combination of reliability, speed, and value.
Plus, they offer a risk-free trial and a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Mexico Safety Tips
8. It’s (Generally) a Safe Place to Visit
With over 66 million international visitors in 2022, this stunning country is generally considered a safe place to visit as long as you take the proper precautions.
And while there are definitely some things to be careful of in Mexico, it’s not nearly as scary as the U.S. media makes it out to be.
You should know that there are certain Mexican states, like Sinaloa and Zacatecas, and areas along the US-Mexico border where cartel activity and violent crime is commonplace.
Non-essential travel to these areas is not recommended and the majority of tourists visit places away from these risky zones.
Most popular tourist destinations, such as the Baja Peninsula and Riviera Maya, have increased security and military patrols to protect visitors from any potential dangers.
In some areas, it’s normal to see military checkpoints with armed soldiers. While this may seem unsettling, it’s a standard procedure and meant to ensure everyone’s safety.
9. Stay Vigilant
You don’t need to stress out about staying safe in Mexico. But some of the most important tips for travelers to Mexico are to stay vigilant and use common sense.
- Stick to using ATMs during the day. Only use ATMs located inside banks or grocery stores.
- When walking at night, stick to well-lit areas and main streets with plenty of other people.
- Avoid walking around alone after 10 pm. If you want to go out late, it’s best to take a taxi or Uber back to your hotel or vacation rental.
An often underestimated part of staying safe on your vacation is to not get too drunk in public. It’s a lot easier to avoid shady situations when you have control of your senses and natural instincts.
Unfortunately, many tourists become easy targets when they’re stumbling around the sidewalk while waving around a thousand-dollar iPhone after drinking too much tequila.
10. Don’t Be Flashy
Dress down and leave the designer handbags at home! Avoid calling attention to yourself by displaying signs of wealth and wearing expensive jewelry.
Keep the pricey cell phones and cameras out of sight when walking around town. It’s okay to take them out for photos but store them away when not in use.
Don’t carry around wads of cash in your wallet. Since Mexico is so cash-based, it is sometimes necessary to have lots of cash on hand.
Basically, do your best not to flaunt your wealth. Even if you don’t consider yourself wealthy, it’s all a matter of perspective. Keep in mind that the average Mexican minimum wage is 11 U.S. dollars per day or less.
11. Watch Out for Petty Theft
When visiting Mexico, one of the most important things to watch out for is petty theft, like pickpocketing. This is probably the most common type of crime against tourists and locals alike.
Keep your valuables secure in crowded areas, such as local markets and festivals, and while riding on public transportation.
The Mexico City metro is a well-known hotspot for pickpockets and there have been a few reports of bag theft by sleeping passengers on overnight ADO buses.
🎒 Using a theft-proof bag helps prevent pickpocketing, bag-slashing, and may even stop someone from stealing the entire thing. Pacsafe and Travelon make high-quality, theft-resistant wallets, purses, bags, and backpacks. I have a small anti-theft purse like this Travelon crossbody purse.
These types of bags are made with slash-proof fabric to stop would-be thieves from quickly slashing the bottom and emptying out the contents of your bag (a common technique). They also commonly feature other security features like locking zippers, hidden compartments, and RFID-blocking pockets.
12. Don’t Drive at Night
If you are driving your own car or renting a car in Mexico, it’s important to avoid driving at night.
While it’s usually best not to drive along unknown roads at night, it’s especially risky in Mexico.
Depending on the area you’re visiting, you can run into a variety of road hazards ranging from cows in the middle of the road to the infamous giant topes (speed bumps).
In places like Baja, the free-range cattle like to lie down on the road’s warm pavement to sleep at night.
Topes, or speed bumps, are typically located along the road just before entering a town to get you to slow down, but they’re also found at crosswalks, curves, and downhills.
The problem with Mexican speed bumps is that they are sometimes unmarked and/or giant. Stories of drivers flying over an unseen tope and damaging their vehicles are very common in Mexico.
Best Mexican Auto Insurance
We use and recommend Baja Bound for Mexican auto insurance. They provide coverage for motorcycles, cars, camper vans, RVs, and more throughout Mexico.
13. Dial 911 for Emergencies
In case of an emergency in Mexico, dial 911. Like the U.S., 911 is Mexico’s national emergency number. Calls to this number are answered locally and operators can trace your location.
After reporting the emergency locally, you can also contact your country’s embassy in Mexico.
US citizens can call the emergency assistance hotline from Mexico at 800-681-9374 or 55-8526-2561. Dial 1-844-528-6611 to call from the United States.
Mexico established the 911 national emergency number around 2017. This means you might find outdated info in old guidebooks or articles that list other numbers to call.
14. Wear Insect Repellent
When visiting Mexico, it’s important to protect yourself from mosquitos. While most mosquito bites are nothing but a harmless and itchy nuisance, there are several mosquito-borne diseases to be aware of in Mexico.
Dengue, Chikungunya, Malaria, and Zika viruses are all diseases spread by mosquitoes that are found in Mexico. Of these, dengue fever is the most common.
Here are the best ways to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes:
- Use insect repellent containing Picaridin or DEET
- Cover your skin with long-sleeved shirts and pants
- Treat your clothing and gear with permethrin
- Pack a travel mosquito net for sleeping
- Avoid areas with standing water where mosquitos breed
You need extra protection if you’re spending time outdoors in places where mosquitos thrive like the Palenque ruins in the middle of the jungle.
15. Call 078 for Roadside Assistance
Mexico’s national tourist assistance number is 078. There are usually English-speaking operators available to give you all types of helpful information related to tourism.
The same number also allows you to contact the Angeles Verdes, or Green Angels. The Green Angels provide free roadside assistance in many parts of Mexico. They can help stranded travelers with things like changing flat tires, providing extra fuel, or assisting with mechanical repairs.
16. Enroll in STEP
U.S. citizens should sign up for the US State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program when traveling abroad.
Sharing your trip details with the State Department makes it easy for them to locate you in case of an emergency.
They also send you up-to-date security and safety information and travel alerts during natural disasters or civil unrest.
If you lose your passport or need other services, you should contact the local embassy. Here’s a list of U.S. embassies and consulates in Mexico.
17. Stay Away From Drugs
While dabbling in drugs on vacation might seem harmless and fun for some, it’s one of the best ways to get thrown in a Mexican jail or worse, unknowingly get involved with the local drug cartel.
To stay off the police and cartel radar alike, avoid consuming drugs in Mexico, attempting to buy drugs, or going to places where drugs are sold.
18. Choose Safe Foods and Drinks
Getting sick while on vacation sucks! Nobody likes spending a day or two stuck in bed instead of exploring. Traveler’s diarrhea is the most common type of travel-related illness. Although it’s usually not something serious, it can take you out for at least a day.
The best way to avoid getting sick in Mexico is to choose safe foods and drinks and wash your hands often. You’ll see tons of delicious street food stalls in Mexico, but you should only eat at the ones that meet certain criteria.
The CDC food safety guidelines provide a list of safe and risky foods for traveling abroad.
We have our own additional set of tips for eating out in Mexico:
- Pick restaurants and street food stalls with plenty of people. Busy spots are more likely to run through their inventory quickly and they usually have a reputation for good hygienic practices.
- Always make sure the food vendor handles the food and money separately. If there’s only one person in the street food cart, they should use a gloved hand to take cash or ask you to put the money in a specific basket used for payments.
- Never eat salsa (or anything else) that looks like it’s been sitting out all day. Most places set out small bowls of salsa for customers. These run out quickly at busy spots so there’s less of a chance of it being left out for hours.
If you do end up sick, stay hydrated by drinking lots of water. Try sipping on an oral rehydration solution like Electrolit, Mexico’s version of Pedialyte.
We pack chewable Pepto Bismol tablets to treat mild symptoms. For more serious symptoms, we take an over-the-counter anti-diarrheal like loperamide – available at any pharmacy in Mexico.
Mexico Packing Tips
19. Don’t Over Pack
Packing carry-on only makes everything easier when visiting Mexico. There are cobblestone streets to navigate, buses and colectivos to squeeze into, and island ferries to hop onto.
The type of luggage you use really depends on your travel style, but opting for a less bulky is ideal.
We prefer a lightweight carry-on backpack with convertible straps, but you can also get carry-on luggage with wheels.
Although it may seem like you need to bring a lot of stuff, you really don’t. Most travelers usually end up wearing only the most practical and comfortable clothing items during their trip.
One of the best tips for packing light is to only pack enough clothing for one week, even if you’re staying for months.
After the end of the week, just drop off your dirty clothes at one of the many inexpensive wash-and-fold laundry spots in Mexico. They’ll wash, dry, and fold your laundry for you and have it ready for pickup later that same day.
20. Bring a Reusable Bag
Don’t forget to bring a packable, reusable tote bag for your trip to Mexico.
Plastic grocery bags are banned in many parts of Mexico, like Oaxaca City and the Baja Peninsula. You’ll need a reusable tote bag for carrying fresh vegetables from the local produce market or groceries from the supermarket.
This packable crossbody tote bag has a long shoulder strap that makes it easy to carry and it folds down small. Most importantly for sustainable travelers, it’s made entirely from recycled plastic bottles.
Some food vendors are also encouraging people to bring their own cups and food containers for take out. Check out these eco-friendly travel must-haves to see our favorite travel bowls and utensils.
21. Check the Weather
Be sure to check the weather forecast for your trip. Don’t assume it’s going to be hot and sunny when you visit Mexico.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just one giant beach with warm weather. From arid deserts to high mountain areas to tropical rainforests, it’s home to a range of climate zones.
If you’re visiting Mexico in the winter months, pack layers such as a puffy jacket, warm hat, and scarf.
22. Dress Modestly
Mexicans dress more modestly than their northern neighbors. Overall, people that live inland dress more conservatively than those that live along the coasts.
Mexico is a conservative country and most people are not accustomed to seeing a lot of exposed skin.
They usually cover up by wearing jeans, pants, or long skirts even in hot weather, especially in inland areas. Tank tops and shorts are deemed too casual and/or revealing for most people.
While you’ll see foreign tourists in coastal areas wearing tank tops, shorts, and flip-flops around town, it’s not common attire for Mexicans outside of the beach.
Hats, short skirts and shorts, cleavage, and tank tops are unsuitable attire for visiting Mexico’s churches. Although you probably won’t get kicked out if you wear any of these inside a church, it’s seen as a lack of respect and frowned upon.
People in Mexico also dress more formally than in the U.S. For example, most Mexicans wouldn’t dare step out in sweatpants or athleisure wear unless they’re headed straight to the gym.
When going to restaurants, bars, or nightclubs, it’s expected for everyone to dress more towards the formal side. Men wear pants and closed-toed shoes and women are usually dressed up.
23. Bring Reef-Safe Sunscreen
You shouldn’t wear “regular” chemical sunscreen when going into any natural water source or the sea.
The chemicals in these types of sunscreens are toxic to animals, corals, and plants and contaminate the water. It’s so bad that places like parts of Mexico and the state of Hawaii have banned chemical sunscreens.
Reef-safe sunscreen, also known as mineral or reef-friendly sunscreen, is made without the oxybenzone and octinoxate in regular sunscreen. These two common UV-blocking chemicals have been shown to cause coral bleaching and may even have negative effects on human skin.
Many tourist destinations in the Yucatan Peninsula and beyond only allow the use of biodegradable, reef-friendly sunscreens.
Popular places in the Riviera Maya that prohibit regular sunscreen include Xel Ha Park, Xcaret Eco Park, Garrafon Natural Park, and Akumal Beach. Some cenotes, like Cenote Dos Ojos, ask visitors to rinse off all sunscreen, hair gel, and lotions before entering the pristine water.
No sunscreen has proven to be 100% safe for the ecosystem. Wearing sun-protective UPF clothing instead of slathering sunscreen all over your body helps reduce contamination.
Best Reef-Safe Sunscreen
This reef-safe sunscreen is our favorite because it rubs in easily and doesn’t burn when it gets into your eyes after swimming or snorkeling.
24. Pack an Umbrella
Surprisingly, an umbrella is one of my most-used items in Mexico. A good travel umbrella does double duty when visiting Mexico.
Not only does it work for keeping you dry in an unexpected rainstorm, but it also shields you from the intense Mexico sun.
It’s common to see people walking around with umbrellas being used for sun protection on hot sunny days. With a portable shade, you’re able to walk a lot longer and explore way more since you’re not getting blasted by the sun’s rays.
☂️ If you’re visiting during hurricane season, be sure to get an umbrella that stands up to strong winds as well as rain. This wind-proof travel umbrella stands up to 75 mph winds without flipping inside out.
25. Get a Surge Protector
Unlike visiting Europe, you don’t need a power converter for your trip to Mexico. The electric sockets in Mexico are the same as American electrical outlets and they are the standard 110 volts used in the U.S.
However, you do need a surge protector for your valuable electronic devices. Unfortunately, the electricity in many parts of Mexico is pretty unstable. It can come and go if there are high winds, heavy rain, or for a dozen other reasons.
Using a surge protector is the best way to protect your phone, laptop, and other expensive electronics from getting fried by unexpected electrical surges.
It’s crucial to check the level of protection when choosing a surge protector. Most don’t provide nearly enough protection for big electrical spikes, but it’s better to have a least some than none.
🔌 This compact surge protector saved my iPhone when it was connected to a sketchy hotel outlet and the fuse popped. It’s small and provides 612 Joules of surge protection to 3 grounded AC outlets and 2 USB charging ports.
For laptops, get this travel surge protector. It has an 18 inch power cord and provides 1050 joules of protection.
Mexican Spanish Tips
26. Learn Basic Spanish
Learning even just a few words in Spanish will help you make more friends and get by easier during your Mexico vacation.
- Hola — hello
- Buenos días —good morning
- Buenas tardes — good afternoon
- Buenas noches — good evening / good night
- Por favor — please
- Gracias — thank you
- Sí — yes
- No — no
- Perdón — sorry
- Con permiso — excuse me
- ¿No hablo español. Habla inglés? — I don’t speak Spanish. Do you speak English?
- ¿Dónde esta…? — Where is…?
- ¿Cuánto cuesta? — How much does it cost?
Common Spanish Travel Phrases
🗣 Prepare for your trip and improve your Spanish skills with this free Mexican Spanish travel phrases PDF. Unlike some of the other Spanish phrase sheets floating around the internet, this one is actually written by a native Mexican Spanish speaker…me!
All of the Spanish words and phrases on this PDF are commonly used in Mexico. Which means you’re not going to accidentally insult someone or cause confusion by using words from other Spanish-speaking countries (see the next tip for an explanation).
27. Mexican Spanish is Unique
Even if you’ve managed to remember a few things from high school Spanish, you were likely taught words and phrases used in Spain.
European Spanish versus Mexican Spanish and the Spanish spoken in other countries in Latin America is somewhat similar to how British English and American English are generally the same, yet they use different words, slang, and phrases.
There are 20 Spanish-speaking countries in the world and each one has its own unique words and phrases.
The most important thing to be aware of is some European Spanish terms that are commonly taught in schools and used by Google Translate are offensive words in Mexico.
🇲🇽 This Mexican Spanish Phrasebook & Dictionary covers the most relevant Mexican Spanish phrases and vocabulary. It also includes essential tips on culture, manners, idioms, and provides a few phrases for sounding like a local.
28. Not Everyone Speaks Spanish
If you’ve spent time sharpening your Spanish skills for your trip, you might be disappointed to learn that not everyone speaks Spanish in Mexico.
Although Spanish is by far the most widely spoken language, there are 68 government-recognized indigenous languages and dialects across Mexico.
The most common indigenous languages are various Mayan, Nahuatl, and other regional languages.
93.8% of Mexicans speak Spanish, 5.4% speak Spanish and indigenous languages, and 0.6% speak only an indigenous language.
It’s normal to hear people speaking languages native to Mexico in states with a high indigenous population like Oaxaca and Chiapas.
Spanish is not the first language for some inhabitants of those states. Keep in mind that, just like you, people from indigenous villages may be struggling to communicate in Spanish.
29. Gringo is Not an Insult
Gringo is not a bad word. It’s simply a name used for people (and things) from the United States.
Mexicans love giving people nicknames — some of which would be considered politically incorrect in other countries — and this is no different.
One of the nicknames that you might have heard before is El Chapo. This is a common nickname — short for Chaparro (shorty) — given to men who are on the shorter side. The nickname for a thin woman is La Flaca (skinny) and a heavyset man is called El Gordo (fatty).
Most Mexicans embrace the nicknames given to them by friends and family and don’t take offense to them.
Anyway, get used to being called a gringo, gabacho, Norte Americano, or Americano. These are all common terms for people from north of the border.
Depending on your physical appearance, you might also get called güero or güera.
Güero is a term used for lighter-colored people, animals, and even produce. It’s commonly used for people with blonde or light brown hair and/or pale skin, but yellowish scorpions and yellow chiles can also be güero.
🥪 If you see a gringa on a menu, try it! In northern Mexico, a gringa is like a quesadilla with ham and is made by stacking two tortillas on top of each other. Similar to a ham and cheese sandwich, but with flour tortillas instead of bread.
Mexico Cultural Tips
30. Go With the Flow
Mexico runs on its own time. Learn to go with the flow and stop rushing. Otherwise, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle.
Mañana (tomorrow) and ahorita (now) are commonly used words that should rarely be taken literally.
People sometimes use these words as substitutes for “later”, “soon”, or “in a while”.
If someone you’re waiting for says ahorita voy (I’m going now), you could be waiting anywhere from another five minutes to over an hour.
If the mechanic says the vehicle will be repaired mañana, it could actually take another week.
31. Respect for Elders and Strangers
Mexicans are very respectful and polite towards their elders. It is considered good manners to let elderly people ahead of you in line, hold the door open for them, or let them take your seat.
When speaking to people noticeably older than them, people they don’t know well, or in professional settings, Mexicans use the formal and respectful pronoun usted (you) instead of the informal and more casual tú (you).
If you are unsure about using usted versus tu, err on the side of caution and use usted. Of course, you don’t need to worry too much about these formalities if you don’t know much Spanish. People will know you are just learning and will appreciate any effort you make to speak their language, even if you don’t speak to them formally.
When talking to locals, you should speak to them using one of the following courtesy titles:
- Señor – sir or gentleman
- Señora – madame or lady
- Señorita – miss or young lady
32. Greeting with a Kiss
Don’t be surprised if someone you just met kisses you on the cheek! Mexican culture is very affectionate and the standard greeting in Mexico is a kiss on the cheek. It’s really more of a quick cheek-to-cheek situation while making a kissing or “mwah” sound.
Depending on the situation, you might greet someone with a handshake or a kiss on the cheek. Most men greet each other with a handshake or a pat on the back type hug which begins with a handshake.
Work relationships usually stick to using handshakes, at least in the beginning.
But if you are meeting your sister-in-law for the first time, you should probably greet her with a kiss on the cheek. If you are meeting your sister’s boyfriend, and you are a woman, it is perfectly normal to say hello with a kiss on the cheek.
33. Check Opening Hours
The standard opening business hours in Mexico vary a bit depending on the location. Places are usually open from Monday through Friday or Saturday from around 8 or 9 am to 5 or 6 pm.
Some places close for a few hours between 1 to 3 pm for lunch.
For the most part, businesses are closed on Sundays. Sunday is considered family day in Mexico and most people take time off to spend it with their loved ones. Sometimes businesses will close on Mondays or Tuesdays instead of Sundays, but this usually applies to restaurants.
If a food stand or produce vendor gives you their operating hours, don’t be surprised if you arrive only to find the business is closed during the posted opening hours. Most small business owners will adjust their opening and closing hours according to their needs. It’s normal for these types of places to open up a few hours later or close early.
Archeological zones and museums managed by INAH (National Institute for Anthropology and History) have their operating hours posted online, but they aren’t always up-to-date. It’s best to call INAH for the latest info or stop by the location to ask in person before visiting. Keep in mind that ruins and museums usually stop allowing entry about an hour or so before closing time.
Most INAH museums, such as the Mexico City’s National Anthropology Museum and the Oaxaca Cultural Museum, are closed on Mondays.
34. Mexican Holidays
It’s helpful to check if your trip to Mexico lines up with any national or regional holidays. If so, you might consider rescheduling your trip because hotel and airfare prices will be higher than usual.
If you are lucky enough to be in Mexico on a holiday, be prepared for big celebrations. Many businesses and banks close down, tourist destinations get packed, and festivities can go on for days.
Here’s the official list of Mexican national holidays:
- Año Nuevo (New Year’s Day) – January 1
- Día de la Constitución (Constitution Day) – February 5
- Cumpleaños de Benito Juarez (Benito Juarez’s Birthday) – March 21
- Viernes Santo / Semana Santa – Good Friday / Easter Week
- Día del Trabajo (Labor Day) – May 1
- Día de la Independencia (Independence Day) – September 16
- Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) – November 2
- Día de Navidad (Christmas Day) – December 25
35. Mexico Can Get Loud
With barking dogs, blaring music, crowing roosters, random fireworks, and vendors with loudspeakers, the decibel levels in Mexico can get off the charts.
Of course, the noise level really depends on the region you’re visiting and if it’s a holiday or not.
You can spend a quiet night under the stars while camping in Baja along the shores of Bahia Concepcion. Or you can spend a sleepless night in Oaxaca during the Day of the Dead, where the joyous celebrations can last through the morning and into the next evening.
Even if you’re staying in a residential area, you may end up with neighbors with roosters and dogs in the backyard, or they might throw an all-nighter while you’re there.
In Mexico, it’s not customary to call the police if there’s a loud party in your neighborhood. You either join the festivities or throw your own party the following weekend. Nobody will complain!
🎧 As a light sleeper, I find it easiest to fall asleep by playing my white noise travel app and wearing my noise-canceling Sony headphones. Be sure to pack noise-canceling earbuds or headphones and a travel earplug kit!
36. Ask Locals for Advice
Don’t be afraid to say a few holas and make some new amigos, or friends!
Mexican people are always the best source of information and advice about the best things to do and places to eat.
When we arrive at a new destination, we always chat with the locals. Using this technique, we’ve found the most amazing places, like Lagos de Colon, and delicious hole-in-the-wall restaurants that we otherwise would’ve never known.
37. Use Facebook and WhatsApp
Since many Mexican businesses, including restaurants, tour companies, and hotels, have little to no internet presence (especially in less touristy areas), it can be difficult to find essential details online.
Instead of paid websites, many businesses use free Facebook pages to share information and establish themselves online.
If you’re looking for a business and you can find it on Google, check on Facebook. Nine times out of ten, it’s going to have a Facebook page. Restaurants use Facebook pages to promote their daily specials and post their menus, while tour companies and hotels often have their most up-to-date contact details on their Facebook page.
If you need to communicate with a business, it’s usually best to do it via WhatsApp. While this may seem strange to you, it’s completely normal to do business through WhatsApp in Mexico.
We’ve used WhatsApp to make campground reservations, inquire about the availability of car parts at AutoZone, chat with our vacation rental hosts, hire private drivers for tours, and much more.
38. Ask Before Taking Photos of People
You should always ask permission before taking photos of people, especially in more remote areas of Mexico.
In many parts of the world, including some villages in Mexico, people may consider it extremely rude, invasive, or even terrifying to have their pictures taken. Some people also believe the camera steals a part of their soul.
The indigenous town of San Juan Chamula in Chiapas is a perfect example of a place where you need to be incredibly respectful when taking photos.
Photography is strictly prohibited inside their famous sacred temple. And many Tzotzil people aren’t exactly thrilled about having their photos taken up close.
Legend says that they once kicked a foreign tourist couple out of their town after they attempted to take photos inside the temple.
Mexican Food Tips
39. Taste Mexico’s Regional Specialities
You’ve probably already eaten tacos, burritos, and enchiladas, but there’s so much more to Mexican cuisine beyond these country-wide staple dishes. Prepare to get your mind blown!
From Northern Mexico’s carne asada and fish tacos to Oaxaca’s world-renowned moles and tlayudas, Mexico has an incredibly delicious variety of cuisines. The local geography and climate, level of colonial or indigenous influence, and history of immigration have created distinct gastronomic regions throughout the entire country.
Here are just a few of Mexico’s most famous regional dishes and ingredients to try.
- Baja Peninsula: Caesar salad, fish tacos, grilled lobster, and aguachile
- Northern Mexico: Carne asada, machaca, burritos, chilorio, and queso menonita
- Yucatan Peninsula: Cochinita pibil, panuchos, sopa de lima, and achiote paste
- Jalisco: birria, tortas ahogadas, pozole rojo, and tequila
- Puebla: cemitas, mole poblano, chiles en nogada, chalupas, and cecina
- Oaxaca: mole negro, tlayudas, chapulines (grasshoppers), quesillo, and mezcal
👉 For more info Oaxaca’s world-renowned cuisine, check out our guide to where to eat and drink in Oaxaca.
You’ll find some of the best food and homestyle meals at local markets throughout Mexico. Some of our favorite food stalls to visit are located in the vibrant Oaxaca City markets.
🌱 While many of the country’s traditional dishes contain meat and dairy, there are still plenty of options for eating vegetarian and vegan food in Mexico.
40. Think Beyond Margaritas
With or without alcohol, Mexicans love a good beverage. From aguas frescas to palomas, there’s always a variety of delicious drinks on the menu.
As a Mexican travel blogger, one of my missions in life is to get tourists to lay off the Coronas and margaritas.
Mexico has so many traditional beverages! It’s a shame to miss out on tasting them by only sticking to what you know.
Here are the top Mexican beverages to quench your thirst:
A refreshing, cold drink made by blending fruit or other ingredients with water and sugar – the most common flavors are jamaica (hibiscus flower), tamarind, and horchata.
A tangy lemonade made with freshly squeezed lime juice, sugar, and either agua natural (flat water) or agua mineral (sparkling water).
Café de Olla
This traditional Mexican coffee is made in a clay pot with ground coffee beans, cinnamon, and unrefined cane sugar.
Mexican Hot Chocolate
Made with ground cacao beans, sugar, almonds, cinnamon, and either water or milk. Oaxaca makes some of the best Mexican hot chocolate around.
Atole and Other Corn-Based Drinks
There are many variations of corn-based drinks, each with a few different ingredients. Some of the most well-known are atole, pozol, tejate, and champurrado.
Made exclusively from Blue Weber Agave plants, it’s made in four styles according to age: joven, reposado, añejo, and extra añejo. The vast majority of tequila is produced in the state of Jalisco, where tequila-tasting tours are available.
Tequila is traditionally served in caballitos tequileros with a side of lime wedges and salt.
Mezcal is made from over 30 different types of agave plants which can be harvested in the wild or grown in farms. It’s served in traditional mezcal glasses or natural jicaras with a side of orange slices and sal de gusano, or agave worm salt.
If you want to see just how different each agave’s flavor profile is, take a Oaxaca mezcal tour to Santiago de Matatlán – better known as the Capital of Mezcal.
Keep in mind that Tequila and mezcal are for sipping, not shots. It’s customary to sip both of these spirits slowly, sometimes while enjoying a cold cerveza on the side.
🍹 For more insider info on what to drink in Mexico (including traditional cocktails and regional spirits) and tips on how to order beverages in Spanish, check out this Ultimate Guide to Mexican Beverages.
41. Caliente Does NOT Mean Spicy
If you don’t have a tolerance for spicy food ask for sin picante to order your meal without chiles, or hot peppers.
Many tourists seem to believe caliente means “spicy” in Spanish, but it does not. Caliente is the word for “hot”, as in temperature hot, in Spanish.
We’ve seen many a confused waiter’s face when foreign tourists tell them they don’t want their tacos served hot.
If you do want your food spicy, order it con picante or que pique. Picante, picoso, pica, enchila, and enchiloso are all variations of words used to describe something spicy.
🌶 One of the mildest chiles is jalapeño (ha-la-PEH-nio), and some of the spiciest are habanero ( ah-bah-NEH-ro) and chile de arbol. Salsa verde is traditionally a mild green salsa, while salsa macha is usually very spicy.
42. Tortillas are Used Like Utensils
Tortillas are a staple at most meals in Mexico. At restaurants and homes alike, tortillas are usually heated up and placed in a basket or cloth and set on the table to accompany the food.
Fresh, warm tortillas are pliable and soft. Mexicans use tortillas in many different ways, including tacos and totopos (tortilla chips), but they’re also used as utensils.
You can take a piece of the tortilla and use it to sop up broth or grab a chunk of food. It’s also normal to tear it in half (or keep it whole) and make an impromptu taco with any combination of the food on the table that you’d like.
If you’ve never tried fresh tortillas before, you’re in for a delightful surprise. They taste a thousand times better than the pre-packaged commercial tortillas sold in U.S. grocery stores.
Mexicans either make their own tortillas at home with a tortilla press or buy them at the corner tortilleria (tortilla shop) where they’re made fresh daily.
43. Hardshell Tacos Don’t Exist in Mexico
This may be one of the most obvious Mexico travel tips for some, but if your idea of a Mexican taco is the yellow, hardshell variety that comes in a colorful box with sombreros, forget about it!
American or Tex-Mex-style hardshell tacos don’t exist in Mexico.
The closest thing to a hardshell taco is a taco dorado. It’s a tortilla filled which is typically filled with potatoes or meat and deep-fried until it’s golden and crispy.
They are absolutely delicious! If you get the chance to try tacos dorados, I guarantee you’ll never go back to eating hardshell tacos.
🌮 Speaking of tacos, the right way to eat a taco is to hold it upright with your elbow up while tilting your head sideways and placing the taco in your mouth. Never tilt the taco on its side to eat it or everything will spill out!
44. It’s Okay to Order a Drink with Ice
Con hielo o sin hielo? “With ice or without ice?” is a common question asked by servers at restaurants frequented by foreign tourists. The servers at these places will ask if you want ice because sometimes people send back drinks served with ice, presumably because they think they need to avoid it.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s usually fine to order your drink with ice in Mexican restaurants. No reputable restaurant wants to risk using dirty water for ice and possibly getting their customers sick.
Established, popular restaurants don’t make their own ice from tap water. The ice is made from purified water at ice stores called hieleras, bagged, and then purchased by restaurants and bars. Large establishments, like resorts and chain restaurants, usually have their own ice machines with water filtration systems.
Of course, use your best judgment depending on the situation and location. But we have never ordered a drink without ice due to this, and we’ve yet to get sick from ice in Mexico.
45. Say Buen Provecho
Buen provecho is the Mexican equivalent of France’s bon appetit. It’s a salutation used for a person that’s about to eat, or already eating.
Buen provecho loosely translates to “enjoy your meal”. It’s used by servers once the food arrives, friends dining together, and even strangers passing by your table.
It’s good manners to say buen provecho to other diners at your table before beginning to eat or if you walk by someone eating.
The response to a buen provecho is usually a simple gracias, igualmente (thank you, likewise).
46. Asking for the Bill
In Mexico, you need to ask for the bill once you’re finished dining. Do not expect your server to automatically bring the bill!
To ask for the bill, say “la cuenta, por favor” or make eye contact with a server and motion with your hand signal in the air like you’re signing something.
It’s normal for people to sometimes enjoy long meals, two to three hours, at restaurants. Servers are used to people taking a pause after entrees while they chat and decide if they want dessert, after-dinner drinks, or both!
Unlike in the U.S., servers will not automatically bring you the bill as soon as you finish your last bite. If a server did that in Mexico, it might be taken as they are trying to get you to leave and considered rude. For times when you’re in a hurry, ask for the bill before you finish eating.
If you’re paying with a card, the server will bring a handheld terminal over to the table to complete the transaction in front of you. They will ask if you’d like to add a tip before running the card. If you forget (or prefer), you can always leave a cash tip afterward.
Mexico Money Tips
47. Pay in Mexican Pesos, Not Dollars
When visiting major tourist destinations like Los Cabos, Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, you’ll see prices listed in U.S. dollars.
Touristy restaurants and souvenir shops post prices in dollars because it’s easier for tourists to figure out how much things cost. But not knowing how to convert pesos to dollars comes at a price!
It’s better to pay in Mexican pesos, not dollars. If you do pay in dollars, always ask for the tipo de cambio (exchange rate) first or look for a sign with their dollar-to-peso exchange rate.
If the business uses a bad exchange rate, you’ll overpay if you use dollars instead of pesos.
Some restaurants even have two menus: one in English with prices listed in U.S. dollars, and one in Spanish with pesos. Now, this doesn’t always mean they have different prices if you pay in dollars, but depending on their exchange rate, they might!
You should generally avoid paying in dollars. If you get are quoted a price in U.S. dollars, ask for the price in Mexican pesos and compare. While accepting U.S. dollars is permitted, it’s illegal for businesses to only take dollars and not accept Mexican pesos.
If you are out of pesos in cash and away from an ATM, you can usually use your travel credit or debit card to pay and get a better exchange rate than the one offered at businesses.
💰 For more Mexico money tips, check out our article on how to use money in Mexico.
48. Get a Good Travel Credit Card
Getting a travel credit card and a travel-friendly debit card is pretty much life-changing for frequent travelers.
A good travel credit card, like American Express or Chase Sapphire, can provide trip insurance for delays and stolen luggage, car rental insurance for damages, extra reward points for travel-related expenses, and many other benefits.
Fees from international transactions made with regular credit cards, like a Wells Fargo Visa, can add up quickly. Most travel credit cards don’t charge extra fees for purchases made in other countries.
We use Chase Sapphire as our main travel credit card and highly recommend it. They have tons of travel benefits, don’t charge foreign transaction fees, and even give you a yearly credit to use for travel.
While some U.S. banks have sister banks in Mexico where that don’t charge you ATM fees, who wants to walk around looking for the right ATM to use during their vacation?
We use Charles Schwab for our travel debit card because you never have to worry about pesky ATM service fees – which can get crazy high in Mexico! They magically reimburse all foreign ATM fees at the end of the month.
Once you have your cards, don’t forget to contact them and tell them about your trip! Otherwise, your international purchases might get flagged as fraud and declined.
49. Know the Current Exchange Rate
It’s extremely important to check the exchange rate before your trip to Mexico. It usually stays around 18 to 22 Mexican pesos per U.S. dollar, but it fluctuates daily.
Knowing the current rate helps you figure out how much things cost in your country’s currency. You’ll also know if you’re being charged the right amount or paying too much for something, especially if you’re paying in U.S. dollars in Mexico (usually a no-no).
We download and use currency converter apps like My Currency Converter or Xe Currency when visiting other countries. You can also check current foreign exchange rates online, but an app is easier to access quickly when you’re trying to check prices.
50. Always Carry Cash
Cash is king in Mexico. You should carry some cash with you at all times because not everyone accepts cards.
Most large chains, like Oxxo convenience stores or Chedraui grocery stores, do take credit and debit cards. But mom-and-pop shops, street vendors, tour guides, taxis, and smaller restaurants are usually cash-only.
In areas with little-to-no cell service, like some parts of Baja California and Baja California Sur, almost all the businesses in town are cash-only.
If you want to have a few Mexican pesos on hand before your trip (a smart idea), the most practical and economical way to get pesos is to buy them from your bank. Some banks will even mail foreign currencies straight to your home.
If you’re driving to Mexico, you can stop at currency exchange shops on either side of the border. If you’re flying in, you can also go to the currency exchange stalls at the airport.
51. Keep Small Bills and Change Handy
This is one of my most useful Mexico travel tips: try to have a mix of coins and small bills on hand. From buying a freshly baked pan dulce to tipping the gas station attendant a few pesos, you’ll find use small change incredibly often on your Mexico vacation.
But for some reason, it can be difficult to pay using larger bills for small purchases in Mexico. And by larger, we mean 200 peso bills, about 10 USD, and up.
Many store clerks will say they don’t have change and ask you for a smaller bill. We’re not sure if it’s actually so common to run out of change or if they just want to avoid giving out precious change whenever possible.
Either way, try to get change whenever you can so you have a good selection of lower denomination bills and coins for tipping and making small purchases.
52. Tipping in Mexico
Mexico has a big tipping culture. There are many situations where it’s customary and a tip is expected.
Basically, if in doubt, leave propina (a tip).
Obviously, everyone has their own tipping habits. We think it’s important to keep in mind your purchasing power when visiting Mexico. Leaving behind even just a few pesos can make a big difference when the national minimum wage is about 11 USD per day. Even if it’s not expected or customary, a tip is always appreciated and well-received in Mexico.
Below are a few examples of when you should tip in Mexico.
Most people leave a 15 to 20 percent tip when dining at restaurants. Although 10 percent seemed to be the norm for some people years ago, the standard has been shifting to a minimum of 15 percent, with 20 percent for good service. Tipping at bars is usually five to 10 pesos per drink.
It isn’t customary to leave a tip at street food carts, market food stalls, and fondas (low-cost eateries). But we usually leave a few pesos on the table if we linger around or require more than one visit to our table.
The tipping culture at Mexico hotels is similar to the U.S. You should tip the bellhop between 20 to 50 pesos for bringing your luggage to your room.
For housekeeping, it’s best to leave a daily 20 to 50 pesos tip or more if your room is overly messy. Tipping each day instead of at the end of your stay ensures that the person who cleaned your room gets the tip.
Some all-inclusive resorts have a no-tipping policy, but many guests tip anyway. It’ll help get you extra fast service from the bartender at the busy pool swim-up bar.
Mexican supermarkets usually have a senior or teenage grocery bagger whose sole income comes from tips after bagging people’s groceries. Most people give them a few coins or spare change. We like to give them at least five to 10 pesos, and more if they’re bagging a week’s worth of groceries.
Gas stations in Mexico are full-service and a gas attendant fills up your tank for you. Although a tip is not expected for only a gas fill, we do tip a few pesos and it’s always appreciated. You should tip them five to 10 pesos if they clean your windshield, and a bit more for checking the oil.
Tour guides will expect a tip at the end of your activity. For group day tours and boat excursions, tip your guide 10 to 20 percent.
You’ll find some busy city blocks that have people that’ll wave you down, show you an open spot, and help you park your car. They’ll keep an eye on your car in exchange for a small five to 10 peso tip, more if you have them wash it.
53. Don’t Haggle With Artisans
Although bargaining for a lower price is somewhat common in Mexico, it’s not always appropriate.
Some people consider Food market vendors might give you a discount for buying a kilo of tomatoes instead of just one or two. Or you might get away with a lower price per unit if you’re buying 15 cheaply-made trinkets as souvenirs for your friends back home.
But you should not try to haggle when buying handicrafts and textiles from skilled artesanos, or artisans. It’s basically devaluing their work and an insult to their artistry.
Some of the incredibly intricate and one-of-a-kind textiles made by Mexican artisans take weeks or months to make with skills passed down by generations.
The undervaluing of artists’ beautiful work has gotten so bad that the Mexican government started a campaign to discourage people from haggling and paying local artisans less than they request for their works of art.
Mexico Transportation Tips
54. Ride the First-Class Buses
Mexico only has one passenger train for tourists located in Copper Canyon. But instead of a country-wide train network like those in Europe, Mexico has an excellent bus system to get around from city to city and state to state.
One of the best and largest bus companies in Mexico is ADO (pronounced AH-deh-oh). ADO Buses provide first-class bus service throughout central and southern Mexico.
We’ve taken ADO buses countless times (including crossing the border from Belize!) and highly recommend them.
If you’re trying to get from the Cancun airport to Playa del Carmen or Tulum, the easiest, cheapest, and most comfortable way is to ride a first-class ADO bus.
Taking an ADO bus is a great option for budget travelers because you can save money and time by taking the overnight bus between long distances such as Huatulco, Oaxaca to San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas instead of paying for a hotel and spending an entire day on the bus.
🚌 Check out our Complete Guide to Mexico’s ADO Buses for everything you need to know before booking your ticket.
For bus and ferry tickets across Mexico, you can easily book online in English with Bookaway. You can also buy tickets in person at the local bus or ferry station or through the companies’ Spanish-only websites.
Mexico Bus & Ferry Tickets
With Bookaway you can easily compare and book train, ferry, and bus tickets in English online for Mexico and other destinations across the world.
55. Take a Mexico Road Trip
Don’t be afraid to hop in your car and drive south or rent a car in Mexico. Traveling Mexico by car in an amazing experience!
Driving in Mexico allows you to get off the beaten path and explore places most tourists never see. Areas like the Baja Peninsula and the Yucatan Peninsula are especially road-trip friendly.
Taking a classic Baja road trip is a must-do, bucket-list adventure for many travelers.
Renting a car in Cancun and roaming around the Yucatan in a car gives you access to incredible hidden cenotes, less-visited Mayan ruins, and colorful colonial towns.
Wherever you go, don’t forget to bring a Mexico road map (we have this Nat Geo map) and download Google Maps offline. The cell phone reception is spotty in more rural areas so be prepared! This is especially true in areas like Baja California where it’s common not to have cell phone service outside of major cities.
56. Avoid the Mexican Car Insurance Scam
If you’re renting a car in Mexico, avoid falling victim to deceptive pricing by car rental companies.
The Mexican car rental “scam” is not really a scam, but more of a misleading pricing practice that some rental agencies use.
Here’s how it works: You book a Mexican rental car online for an insanely cheap rate of 3 USD a day. Once you go to pick up the car, you find out that the quoted rate does NOT include Mexican insurance. Since it’s required by law, you must pay an extra daily fee for Mexican liability insurance to rent the car.
So how do you avoid the car rental scam in Mexico?
- Use a reliable car rental company, like Discover Cars, that makes it clear what’s included in the rental quote.
- Always read the fine print for your car rental in Mexico contract.
- If Mexican liability insurance, also called Third Party Liability, is not included in the total cost, calculate an extra 10 to 20 USD per day.
🚙 Check out What to Know Before Renting a Car in Mexico for more money-saving tricks and essential Mexico travel tips for driving.
Best Mexico Car Rental
Discover Cars offers the best car rental deals. When you reserve a car through Discover Cars, you get no hidden fees, 24/7 customer support, and free cancellations.
57. How to Get Cheap Flights in Mexico
Volaris Airlines is the Mexican equivalent of Spirit Airlines in the United States. It’s Mexico’s most popular budget airline. They have domestic flights for much less than AeroMexico.
Volaris is known for its insanely cheap deals, like one-way tickets for as low as 20 USD. The best way to keep track of these is to sign up for their newsletter.
One of the top money-saving Mexico travel tips is to spend less on your airfare by booking a flight to San Diego, California, and then buying a cheap flight on Volaris from Tijuana (just south of the border) to your Mexican destination.
Once you arrive at the San Diego airport, take the shuttle to the Cross Border Xpress (CBX) bridge entrance on the United States side of the border. The bridge crosses the US-Mexico border and leads directly into the Tijuana Airport in about 15 minutes. It’s incredibly easy and saves tons of money.
Note that you must have an outgoing flight booked from the Tijuana International Airport to use the CBX bridge.
58. Don’t Rely on Uber in Mexico
There are big cities, such as Tijuana and Mexico City, where Ubers are available and commonly used. But for the most part, you won’t find Uber in many parts of Mexico, including smaller towns.
Sometimes the Uber app shows the service is available in your city, but it’s not reliable. For example, we used an Uber in La Paz to go out for dinner and everything worked as usual. But when we tried to get one for the return trip, there were zero available and we had to walk in the dark. They weren’t just busy, there were actually no Ubers working at night in the entire city.
Even if Uber is widely used in the city you’re visiting, they might not be allowed to pick up or drop you off at the airport or your hotel.
59. Take Colectivos Like a Local
Colectivos are one of my favorite insider Mexico travel tips. They are shared transport vans common throughout Mexico. Colectivos are the cheapest public transportation method available to travel around Mexico on a budget.
The colectivos may look a bit different depending on where you are. In the Riviera Maya, they use white passenger vans, while on Oaxaca’s Pacific coast, they are pick-up trucks with sun shade and some benches in the truck bed.
You can use colectivos to get from one side of town to the other, to go from city to city, or you can have them drop you off or pick you up anywhere along the road.
We ride colectivos to travel to all kinds of places normal buses don’t go. We took a colectivo from the charming town of Comitan to the stunning Lagunas de Montebello (think Mexican Lake Tahoe) in Chiapas. We also hop on colectivos in Playa del Carmen and Tulum to explore the beautiful beaches in between.
60. Set the Taxi Fare Before Riding
Taxi drivers are known for overcharging tourists pretty much anywhere you go in the world, and Mexico is no exception.
To avoid getting scammed, always agree on the fare before getting in the taxi. You can sometimes find the standard taxi fares online or on display next to the local taxi stand.
It’s useful to do a bit of research online to get at least a vague idea of taxi prices before you arrive at your destination.
FAQs: Traveling to Mexico Tips
Final Tips on Traveling to Mexico
Mexico is a beautiful and diverse country with an abundance of cultural, historical, gastronomical, and natural treasures for visitors to explore.
By following these tips when traveling to Mexico, you’ll have the insider info needed to make the most of your Mexican vacation and create wonderful memories that will last for years to come.
Remember to drink only purified water, always carry cash, and stay vigilant of your surroundings to ensure a smooth journey.
But above all, remember to have fun and enjoy your trip to México!
Looking for more tips for traveling to Mexico?