Traveling to Mexico is an exciting adventure! Mexico offers many unique cultural experiences and has some of the most beautiful natural wonders in the world. Before you go, however, there are some practical tips you should know that will help ensure your trip is a success.
Languages that are Spoken in Mexico
Spanish is spoken throughout Mexico. However, the government actually recognizes 68 official languages, most of which are indigenous. In areas with high tourist traffic, many locals will speak English, however, it is beneficial to learn some basic Spanish for navigating the country and interacting with locals.
Currency in Mexico
The currency in Mexico is the Mexican Peso ($ / MXN). Check the currency conversion here. Certain areas like Cancun and Cozumel, which are frequently visited by American tourists, will also accept USD for cash purchased. However, they decide on the exchange rate and these are almost always incredibly inflated, meaning you will be spending much more than if you were to pay in pesos.
Paying with Cash or Card in Mexico
While most places will accept either cash or card, some smaller shops only take cash. ATMs are widely available and easy to find but may have a small fee. Cards are usually required for reservations and car rentals.
Tipping Culture in Mexico
Tipping is usually appreciated but not required. The tipping culture in Mexico has been influenced by a large number of American visitors, so more touristy areas may have a higher expectation for this, however, it is not customary the same way it is in the US. However, if you feel really happy with the service you have received, you can always give a little extra. After all, a little kindness goes a long way. As a rule of thumb, 5-20 pesos is enough to show your appreciation for services like parking attendants and grocery store baggers. When it comes to tipping for tour guides and restaurant services, 10-15% of the total bill is pretty standard.
Drinking Tap Water in Mexico
It’s best not to drink tap water in Mexico. While in some places the water is treated, by the time the water reaches the tap, there is plenty of opportunity for contamination. So better to be safe than sorry! Using tap water to brush your teeth is ok, but otherwise, stick to filtered water or bottled water and make sure the cap is sealed when you buy it. Try to avoid drinks with ice as these can occasionally be made with tap water. If you need to wash fruit or vegetables, you can soak them in a watered-down iodine solution to minimize the risk of getting sick.
Plug Types in Mexico
Mexico uses both A and B plug types. When you buy a plug, it’s best to either get a universal adaptor or an A plug type, as these can be used countrywide.
Visas for Mexico
For the majority of tourists, you can receive a tourist visit on arrival for 180 days. Although, you won't always automatically be given that long as the Mexican government is starting to crack down on people staying long-term. If you are planning to stay for an extended time, tell the customs agent how long you will be in the country so your entry stamp will cover your entire stay. To see the requirements for your country, check the Mexico government travel website here.
Travel tip: Keep the paper slip you get at customs! You will need to pay a fee if you don't have it when leaving the country.
Safety in Mexico
Mexico has a reputation for being an unsafe country due to the Cartel. Most, if not all, of the dangerous areas, are not places that you are likely to be visiting anyway. In 2021, a few incidents occurred in heavily populated areas like Cancun and Tulum, but this is quite rare. Mexico relies very heavily on tourism, so your safety is a high priority for the authorities. Like anywhere else, stay aware of your surroundings and don't leave valuables unattended. Crime is more likely to occur in bigger cities, so ensure you know which areas are best to avoid during your visit, especially after dark. Any time you take public transport, stay alert, so you don't fall victim to petty theft.
We lived on Cozumel Island for 5.5 months and never had an issue. In our opinion, this is one of the safest spots to visit in Mexico as it's disconnected from the mainland.
The emergency phone number in Mexico is 911.
Medical Care in Mexico
The cost of medical care in Mexico is relatively low, especially when compared to the United States. But, with that being said, if you need to see a specialist, things can add up quickly. Although the cost is cheaper, it is still wise to have travelers' insurance to cover you for an unplanned event.
Traveling to Mexico can be an amazing experience. With a little preparation and knowledge, you’ll be sure to have a safe and enjoyable trip. Have fun and enjoy the unique culture and wonderful sights of Mexico!