In-Depth Travel Guide to Mexico

Use our free Travel Guide to Mexico as a reference tool and ensure you are prepared for your Mexican Vacation. With essential guidelines, unique facts, safety trips, etiquette advice, and much more, all of your questions will be answered with this detailed guide.

About Mexico: Mexico is one of the top tourist spots in the world. What makes this country so popular? It caters to all types of tourists. No matter what demographic Mexico offers amazing scenery, impressive history, fun places to go and incredible beaches to relax on.

Information and Travel Tips for Vacations to Mexico

Entry/Exit & Customs
Taxes & Fees
Medical
Crime
Getting Around
Culture
Safety

Many web sites implore that Mexico is not safe whatsoever. In fact Mexico rates 39th out of 60 countries surveyed for crime per capita. It is true that you must be considerate of your surroundings, but the overall number of problems compared to the number of people travelling to Mexico is not exponential. Review the Safety Tips section of this itinerary for more information.

Mexico's median temperature is 24 to 28C (75.2 to 82.4F). Depending on the altitude you are at the weather can be cooler. Most vacationers stay near the beaches, and should expect this temperature.

Mexico's ecosystem is impressive. They are one of the 18 mega diverse countries of the world. With over 200,000 different species, Mexico has approximately 10-12% of the world's biodiversity. Mexico's ecosystem ranks second in the world, and they rank fourth for overall species. Mexico has devoted 170,000 square kilometers to nature. This is approximately 20% of their total land. Mexico ecosystem is yet another reason to visit this vacation hot spot.

Many are surprised to learn that Mexico's economy ranks approximately 11th out of the world. With so much manufacturing and political changes throughout the late 1990's and new millennia the economy has greatly improved.

Overall Mexico has many interesting things to see, do and learn. Visiting Mexico is sure to be an inspiring and relaxing vacation.

Capital: Mexico City
Time Zone: Mexico has three time zones, Central, Mountain and Pacific.
Languages: Spanish, some English
Power Outlets: North American Non-Grounded , North American Grounded
Currency: Mexican Peso
Credit Cards: All major credit cards accepted
Travelers Checks: Traveler checks accepted
Side of road to drive on: Right
Legal Drinking Age: 18

: : ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS

Note: Tourists and business travelers have the same requirements upon entering. However, for business persons wanting to stay longer than 180 days (6 months) a FM3 permit is required. Tourists may extend their 6 month permit by visiting the Mexico Immigration Office before the FMM permit expires.

Lone Parents and/or Minors:

-As of January 1, 2005 you are not required to provide a notarized letter. However you are required to provide a valid passport that does not expire for a minimum of 6 months from the date of your departure.

Adults:

-A formal Visa is not required for many countries citizens. Citizens from these countries require a permit known as Forma Migratoria Mutiple, or FMM. Visit www.inm.gob.mx/index.php?page/Paises_no_visa to find out if you require a formal visa. The FMM is available at the departure airport, at land boarders and sometimes aboard the airplane.

-The maximum amount of time a visitor may stay in Mexico is for 6 months without a formal visa.

-Immigration authorities reserve the right to allow and/or deny entry to all visitors.

-If traveling by cruise ship you are not required to have a FMM, or visa regardless of which country you are from.

-If traveling through Mexico (ie. Stop over at an airport) you do not require a FMM, or visa provided the visitor remains at the airport and not for more than 24 hours.

-A passport (valid for 6 months after your entry)

-If traveling with a pet; bring a health certificate and proof of rabies vaccination. The health certificate must have been dated within five days prior to your departure date. You are also required to provide an attestation that the pet is free from ECTO and ENDO parasites (or a de-worming certificate).

IMPORTANT: Do not lose you FMM permit as you will have to acquire an exit permit, which costs approximately $40 USD. In the event you do lose your FMM permit you will have to go to the local immigration office and apply for an exit visa. After filling out the required paperwork you will have to go to the bank to pay the fee and then return in order to collect your copy of the FMM. Needless to say, this could cause you to miss your flight if you only realize it at the airport.

: : CUSTOMS INFORMATION

Entry:

-You are required to submit a Customs Declaration upon entry into Mexico. This declaration will list what you are allowed to bring in, or you can review www.aduanas.gob.mx for an up to date detailed list. Be sure to declare anything that is not on the list, as you do not want to have problems upon your arrival.

Departure:

-Allowable items include:
400 Cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250 g of piped tobacco (18 years of age or older);
3 Liters of wine (18 years of age or older);
1 or 2 Liters of Liquor (18 years of age or older);
60cl of perfume;
300 – 500 dollars/euro's of goods (ie. clothing)

IMPORTANT:
-You should verify allowable items with your own countries customs regulations (available at the information desk at your port of departure).
-If you go over the allowable monetary value duties/taxes will be calculated on the whole amount, not just how much you went over the limit.

Prohibited items include:

Uncanned food and derivitaves;
Earth, plants, flowers, etc.

: : SALES TAX AND FEES

Sales Tax:

-A $22.00 USD charge to all tourist and business visitors is charged upon your arrival to Mexico. The money is for the Mexico Tourism Ministry to promote Mexico. This fee is often charged by the airline, and therefore included in your airfare fee. You should double check this when booking.
-Border zones have a sales tax rate of approximately 11%
-The rest of Mexico has a sales tax rate of approximately 16%Airport Taxes:
-Airport taxes are almost always included in your airfare. Verify with your airline before booking
-Airport Embarkation Tax (Departure tax) $18-$29 USD (varies by airport).

This tax is exempt for:
children under the age of 2;
diplomats (except Ecuador);
transit passengers complying with TWOV conditions;
airline crew travelers;
nationals and residents of Mexico.

: : MEDICAL INFORMATION

Bringing in Prescription Drugs:

-Prescription drugs are allowed in Mexico. You must have a doctor's prescription or note indicating that the medicine is needed, the patient's name, and the medication(s) name.

Vaccinations:

-Up to date; Tetanus, Polio, Hepatitis A, and Typhoid.
-If traveling within the Jungle or away from high tourist areas (off the beaten path so to speak) verify with your doctor if any other immunizations are required. Also speak to your doctor about Malaria as there are places in Mexico that it is found.

Hospitals:

American Biologic México
Azucena No. 15, Tijuana, BAJA CALIFORNIA NORTE, 22680 Mexico
Tel: (66) 81-0318

American Hospital
Av. Veracruzana No. 92, Jalapa, Veracruz, 91110 Mexico
Tel: (28) 15-1154

Análisis Clínicos Y Rayos X
Uruguay No. 82-102, México, DISTRITO FEDERAL, 06000 Mexico
Tel: 5 521-2953

Asociación de Médicos Especialistas
Av. Hidalgo No. 6317, Tampico, Tamaulipas, 89339 Mexico
Tel: (12) 27-1212

Atención Medica Especializada de Matamoros
Lauro Villar No. 102, Matamoros, Tamaulipas, 87360 Mexico
Tel: (88) 16-3927

: : CRIME

Note: Beware of parking ticket scams in Mexico. Namely, Cozumel. What happens is you pay for your parking and leave half your parking stub in the window. When you return to your car you will find a ticket for not paying parking and a boot on your vehicle. You will need to find the attendant to pay them right away to have the boot removed. Often the person issuing tickets removes your stub and leaves a ticket even though you paid. The half of the stub that you keep only has the time you payed at, not until. To ensure this does not happen to you make sure you put the stub on the inside of your window with the doors locked and the windows rolled up. If you have your camera you can take a picture of the stub before departing. The ticket for not paying parking is only $20, which is why they have gotten away with this scam, as no one wants to argue over a small amount.

Victims of Crime: Contact the local authorities AND your consulate/embassy (Embassies are listed in this itinerary). Do not rely on third parties such as the hotel to report crimes on your behalf. Always retain a copy of the police report.

"066" is the emergency contact number across Mexico.

Criminal Offences:

Criminal penalties in Mexico do tend to be more severe than those in Canada or the USA. While in Mexico you are subject to their laws. The legal procedures vary from state to state. Mexico is required by international law to notify your embassy, however they can delay this. If arrested you must immediately notify them of the country you are from and request they contact your embassy.

If traveling to Mexico with a Criminal Record:

If you have a criminal offense from your own country and would like to visit Mexico it is at their discretion to allow you in. Mexico does not share criminal information with the US, Canada, etc. It is unlikely to cause a problem as long as you are not wanted for a crime and have already served your sentence. If you have been accused of something, but have not gone to trial, and do not have a travel ban you should also be fine for travel. If traveling through or over the United States of America and you have any type of criminal record it is up to the US if they will allow you through or over their country. If worried, you should contact the local immigration offices of the countries that affect your travel and verify before booking a ticket.

: : TRANSPORTATION

Driver's License:

A valid driver's license from your country is required to drive in Mexico.

Driving Your Own Car:

Note: If traveling within the "Border Zone" (20 km of the US/Mexico border) or "Free Trade Zone" (including Baja California Peninsula and the Sonora Free Trade Zone) you do not have any procedures to comply with.

Upon entering Mexico you must go to the Customs Office at the border (for all vehicles including RV's) and apply for a temporary vehicle permit.

You must provide the following paperwork (have two photocopies and the original on hand):
-Valid proof of foreign citizenship (ie. passport, birth certificate);
-The appropriate immigration form (ie. FMM - see Entry/Exit Requirements section of this itinerary. Apply for this before applying for a temporary vehicle permit);
-Document certifying the legal ownership of the vehicle (ie. valid vehicle registration certificate);
-Credit contract from the financing institution or invoice (within 3 months if the vehicle is not paid off);
-Leasing contract (if the vehicle is rented or leased);
-Employee letter of permission (if the vehicle is owned by a company);
-Valid driver's license issued outside of Mexico;
-International credit card issued outside of Mexico;
-You must return your temporary permit upon departing from Mexico;

Insurance:

Driving and vehicle insurance must be Mexican. Insurance from your country is not recognized by the Mexican government and/or police.

Car Rental:

-In order to rent a car in Mexico you must have a valid driver's license from your own country, a working credit card, and be a minimum of 25 years old.
-You will be charged a 15% tax (or more, as during high seasons the tax goes up).
-You will also be charged between 20 and 40% extra if you are late delivering the car.
-You are required by law to have valid insurance from a recognized Mexican insurance company.
-As with all car rentals inspect the car before driving away. Make notes (take pictures if possible) of any scratches, dings, etc while in the presence of the car rental worker. It is preferable to have the car rental worker sign something attesting to the condition of the car.

Taxi:

-Taxis are a rather inexpensive way to travel; especially compared to countries like Canada, USA, and England.
-In Mexico City it is preferable to have your hotel, restaurant etc. call a cab for you as opposed to hailing them on the street (especially after dark). If you choose to hail a cab you must be able to speak basic Spanish and/or know where you are headed.
-In most other areas of Mexico it is safe to hail a cab on the street.
-Some taxis (mainly in the cities and tourist areas) charge by zone and/or have meters. You do not need to worry about the meter being fixed as there are strict guidelines and testing in Mexico. In other areas there is no meter and you should decide on a price before departure.
-When traveling in Mexico you will note that there are several separate types of taxis:
-Independent taxi drivers IN Mexico City are white with a red stripe OR newer ones are burgundy & gold.
-Independent taxi drivers outside of Mexico City have different colored cabs and are considered the cheapest transport. However, if you do not speak Spanish you may find it difficult and/or get overcharged.
-Airport taxis are the only ones allowed to pick you up at the airport and cost more than the regular city taxi. Charges are incurred by zone.
-Sitio Taxis are co-operative taxis and considered the most trust-worthy. When calling a cab you would call a taxi co-operative or rank. There are also special stands where these cabs are located. They will normally price a fare over the phone.
-Hotel taxis have stands outside the hotel. In some cases the hotel may own their own taxi fleet. This is usual with upscale and expensive places to stay. These cabs are usually more expensive however they offer upscale service, with air-conditioning and English speaking drivers.

Public Transit:

Public transport is by far the cheapest way to travel through Mexican cities. Most tourist areas and cities have public transport. Some even have metro/subway systems. Mexico has a population 111 million people, so you can be sure that finding the right bus can be tricky. It is best to speak with the front desk at your hotel and get directions before going anywhere.

: : CULTURAL INFORMATION

Motto:

The Homeland is First

Smokers:

Smoking is only banned in public places such as restaurants.

Wardrobe:

There are no requirements or dress code in Mexico. Although one should use common sense. If going to a restaurant it is not appropriate to wear a bathing suit.

Etiquette:

- 95% of Mexicans are Catholics and deeply religious. Keep this in mind when speaking with or around locals.
- You may greet people with a handshake, no matter the gender. Women may touch each others' forearms.
- The people from the cities and ocean areas tend to be loud, while those in rural areas are more soft spoken and quiet.
- There is a fair amount of touching between people in Mexico, no matter the gender.
- It can be considered rude to back away while someone is speaking to you.
- In rural areas it can be considered rude to look someone directly in the eyes, while in the cities and around the ocean it is not.
- Children are expected to look down when in trouble.
- It is expected to be late for social gatherings but not business meetings.
- Working women are accepted in Mexico's high populated areas.
- Mexicans using a kissing noise or "psst" to grab another's attention is not considered rude.
- When indicating the height of something with your hands keep your hand sideways with your thumb at the top. Only use your palm down if it is in reference to an animal.
- It is considered rude to stand around with your hands on your hips or in your pockets.
- Using you index and middle finger as a V on either side of the nostril is considered an obscene gesture.
- Having a closed fist and raising your arm to a 90 degree angle is a threatening gesture.
- Jeans and casual attire are not appropriate for business meetings. Men generally wear dark suits, and women dresses/skirts with matching heeled shoes.
- In business titles are very important. You should always address some by Mr. or Ms., and their surname until they tell you otherwise.
- It is good etiquette to have your business card in Spanish on one side.
- Arrive promptly for business meetings, but expect to wait up to half an hour before leaving the reception area. It is common to have 15 minutes of small talk before beginning.
- It is appropriate to bring a small gift (usually something from your own company) for your first business meeting. It will probably be opened in front of you.
- If invited to someone's home it is appropriate to bring flowers (except marigolds and/or red flowers of any type), spirits, wine, or chocolate.

Tipping:

At bars, restaurants and snack bars in large hotels verify your bill first to see if there was a service charge. Wait staff at restaurants usually receive 15-20%. Bartenders receive 1$ a drink, or 10% of the bill in total. Bathroom attendants receive about $0.50 to 1$. Taxi drivers usually don't receive tips but if they are helpful you may tip 10% of the fare. If you hire a driver 5$ a day in tip is standard.

: : TRAVEL AND SAFETY TIPS

Always walk like you know where you are going, even if you don't. This means keep your back upright and eyes straight ahead. When asking for directions keep your voice low so others don't know you are lost.-Take precautions. Do not wear a lot of jewelry or conspicuous clothing while travelling to avoid being a target of crime.

Be cautious when taking a taxi and always look for the appropriate documentation which should be posted in eyes view. Never take a cab from the airport that is off by itself.

If your hotel or resort recommends staying on their property you should follow these precautions.

Never leave valuables in a soft material. The seam can easily be cut. Often the crime takes place long before it is noticed. This applies to purses, bags and luggage.

Do not invite strangers to your hotel room.

Do not agree to meet strangers by yourself. Even those you consider new friends and fellow tourist's.

Plan for the unexpected, this includes extra money and medication that is required should your stay be extended.

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