Before to get off to visit Mexico, get yourself updated about Mexico travel restrictions and discover where & when to go, what to do & see and the best tips to travel smarter in Mexico.
Culture & Traditions
Table of Contents
Each region in Mexico is incredibly diverse: Central Mexico is home to culture capitals like the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan and the bustling metropolis of Mexico City; the south has the perfect beaches of Quintana Roo, and the north has the forested mountains of the Sierra Norte just beyond Oaxaca (and so much more).
Mexican people live with their traditions
At the heart of your Mexican experience will be the Mexican people. A super-diverse crew, from Mexico City hipsters to the shy indigenous villagers of Chiapas, they’re renowned for their love of color and fiestas,traditions and cuisine. You’ll rarely find Mexicans less than courteous. They’re more often positively charming, and know how to please guests.
Paradise for wildlife lovers
Visit Mexico with steaming jungles, snowcapped volcanoes, cactus-strewn deserts and 10,000km of coast strung with sandy beaches and wildlife-rich lagoons, Mexico is an endless adventure for the senses and a place where life is lived largely in the open air.
From Mayan ruins and lush jungles to pristine Pacific Coast surf beaches and the seediness of Tijuana — and everything in between! Discover Mexico City’s vibrant energy and art museums, colonial Pueblos Magicos (magic towns), learn about the Mayan civilization at Chichen Itza, venture in the valleys of La Huasteca Potosina and try delicious tacos, tostadas, and tamales (to name a few items from Mexico’s very long list of traditional dishes).
Best time to travel to Mexico
Mexico is a year-round destination, with most visitors sticking on the whole to the highlands in summer and the coasts in winter. The best time to visit Mexico depends on which part of the country you are visiting and your planned itinerary. While the rainy season is technically June to October, in the north of the country hardly any rain falls, while central Mexico tends to only experience heavy afternoon showers. The weather in Mexico is stormy from September to mid-October, when you can wave goodbye to beach days as heavy rain lashes the coast. December to April are the driest months across most of the country, though you can expect higher prices and crowded resorts. November is probably the best month to visit Mexico, with the rains over, the land still fresh and the peak season not yet begun.
Mexico Visas Requirements
Citizens of the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and most EU countries do not need visas to enter Mexico as tourists for less than 180 days. Other Europeans can stay for ninety days. Non-US citizens travelling via the US, however, may need a US visa.
All visitors, regardless of nationality, need a valid passport and a tourist card (or FMM – Forma Migratoria Múltiple). The only exception applies to visits of less than three days to the 20km, duty-free strip adjoining the US border, into which you can come and go more or less as you please (though you still need a passport or photo ID). Visitors entering by land and passing beyond this Zona Libre (you’ll be sent back at a checkpoint if you haven’t been through customs and immigration) are also required to pay a M$295 derecho de no inmigrante entry fee, payable at a bank. Some land crossings have a bank at the border post, otherwise you’ll need to go to a bank to pay it before you leave Mexico.
Mexico Travel Restrictions post Covid-19
Who can travel to Mexico?
Currently, Mexico doesn’t have any air travel restrictions from any country, although the airlines’ operations are far from being full-fledged. Tourists from anywhere in the world can visit Mexico now without going into mandatory quarantine. There aren’t any rules defying travel by train or ship either.
Since June 1st 2020, the country has introduced a light system which saw the reopening of several states in Mexico in phases. Places flagged as red allow only essential activities, whereas restaurants, hotels, and other non-essential activities are open in a limited capacity in the orange zones. Tourist hotspots such as Mayan Riviera, Los Cabos, and Puerto Vallarta are in the orange zone. Hotels and resorts are operating at a maximum occupancy of 40% instead of the commonly witnessed 85% in the pre-COVID days.
Mexico land border is restricted. It was a joint initiative of both the countries’ government since March 21 and will remain in effect till October 21th, until further notice. This means only lawful citizens of Mexico, people traveling for work, students enrolled at universities, government, and diplomatic travels, military officials, etc. can cross the border via land.
While land borders remain closed for non-essential travels, tourists have been flying by air to visit Mexico.
Do I need to quarantine after I reach Mexico?
Travelers are allowed to enter the country without any quarantine regulations. When you enter the country, the officials posted at the airport terminals will monitor your health, along with the regular temperature screening. Cancun International Airport even has thermographic cameras that detect fevers in travelers. If you show symptoms, you may be asked to quarantine or return to your home town.
In preparation for worst-case scenarios, a few hotels have also been keeping designated rooms for quarantine purposes, should the guests get infected and need to be isolated.
For Covid Tests, you will find now in every cities, many places to get your Covid test before heading home.
Getting around Mexico
Public buses (also known as camiones) are the most common way to get around in cities and towns. These vans are also the cheapest, costing no more than a few pesos per trip.
Mexico City and Guadalajara also have subway systems. One-way tickets for the subway and the bus system are around 5 MXN ($0.25 USD). In Mexico City you’ll have to buy a rechargeable smart card for 10 MXN ($0.50 USD) at any station and then add credit to it.
Taxi fares start from 16 MXN ($0.85 USD) in most cities and then are 20-25 MXN ($1.05-1.30 USD) per kilometer. Uber operates in 30 cities in Mexico.
If you’re travelling/backpaking around Mexico, buses are the most efficient form of long-distance transport. Most of Mexico is served by buses. On longer journeys, make sure to take an express bus (called a “directo”) if you can as they are much faster and stop less. A bus from Puerto Vallarta to Guadalajara (5.5 hours) costs around 480 MXN ($25 USD). A bus from Cancun to Mexico city (15 hours) costs around 1,450 MXN ($75 USD).
Some of the biggest and most reliable bus companies include:
- Primera Plus
- Estrella de Oro
- Omnibuses de Mexico
- ETN (Enlaces Terrestres Nacionales)
Most cities will have a central bus terminal from where all long-distance buses depart. You can show up to buy your ticket, or research routes and ticket prices via each company’s website.
To save time on your trip, consider flying. The route from Cancun to Mexico City by air starts around 720 MXN ($37 USD) and only takes 2.5 hours. A one-way fare from Mexico City to Guadalajara is about 905 MXN ($47 USD). Even a flight coast to coast from Cancun to Puerto Vallarta is just 1,695 MXN ($88 USD) one way. Make sure you check the airline often as fares varie depending on the period of the year.
Aeromexico is the biggest airline in Mexico, but low-cost carriers are becoming more popular. These include:
Driving in Mexico requires care and concentration, and almost inevitably involves at least one brush with bureaucracy or the law. You can drive with a international driving license but sometimes your own driving license is enough. Hitchhiking is possible, but with a lot of precautions and not alone. Visit Mexico driving will give you more freedom.
Renting a car in Mexico is often an extremely good way of quickly seeing a small area that would take days to explore using public transport. Always check rates carefully to make sure they include insurance, tax and the mileage you need. Daily rates with unlimited mileage start at around US$50; weekly rates usually cost around the same as six days. In some resorts mopeds, motorbikes and even golf carts are also available for short distances.
You can buy a Mexican SIM-card to get a Mexican number for your own handset, but this involves registering your identity (so you’ll need a passport, and you may need to go to the phone company’s main office). Make sure your mobile works before you leave the store. The best operators are Telcel or Movistar.
Where to go In Mexico
This incredibly diverse country stretches from the deserts and canyons of the north to the grand colonial cities and town of the centre and the Maya ruins, beaches, mountains and jungles of the south. As Mexico is a vast country, it’s more sensible and rewarding to concentrate on one or two sections of the country when planning your travel, depending also the length of your stay. Here are some of the best places to visit Mexico.
If you love the beach
Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum are considered to be the heart of the Mexican Caribbean where a traditional indigenous life sits side by side with massive tourist attractions! The outstanding beaches, warm tropical weather, and amazingly clear waters, mayan culture and cenotes are huge attractions for many tourists. You will enjoy these vibrant cities and amazing archeological mayan pyramids. A closer look reveals hidden beaches and inexpensive taco stands frequented by friendly cancunenses.
Between tantalizing desert landscapes, lush oasis and rich marine life, Baja California is one of the most appeling places to visit in Mexico. Its human history is rich and fabulous seafood. Among the most magical sights in Los Cabos is the annual grey whale migration from December to April. Spot the magnificent creatures at the Laguna Ojo de Liebre, just off Guerrero Negro, or the lagoon near San Ignacio.
Acapulco and Pacific Coast
The journey north from Acapulco to Puerto Vallarta, some 800km along the Pacific coast, is defined by lattractive beach life at its finest. There’s history here, but it’s the stunning sands studded with palms, the bars on the beach, lagoons and cute villages that dominate. Separating these stretches of wild, untouched coastline are some of the most popular and enjoyable resorts in Mexico.
If you love culture and traditions
Mexico City, though a nightmare of urban sprawl, is totally fascinating, and the capital of the nation in every way – artistic, political, cultural. It is one of the world’s mega-cities, with over 25 million people occupying a shallow mountain bowl at over 2400m above sea level. Spreading out beyond the federal district which is supposed to contain it, the city is at once edgy and yet laid-back at the same time. Around the city lie the chief relics of the pre-Hispanic cultures of central Mexico: the massive pyramids of Teotihuacán and the main Toltec site at Tula.
The state of Oaxaca is one of the most ethic places to visit in Mexico. The state capital, encloses much of what the region has to offer. Nowhere else in the country are the folkloric fiestas, the markets so colourful or the old languages still so widely spoken. There are indigenous traditions in the towns that long predate the Spanish Conquest; yet the city can also offer modern dining, lovely accommodation and exciting nightlife.
Mexico’s second city, easy-going Guadalajara is packed with elegant tall buildings and animated little squares. One thing no visitor should miss is hearing mariachi in its home town, specifically at the Plaza de Los Mariachis. Outside the city, the land is spectacularly green, rich and mountainous, studded with volcanoes and lakes, most famously Laguna de Chapalas.
If you like nature
East of Mexico City is the elegant city of Puebla, known for its colonial architecture and fine cuisine. Only a couple of hours by bus from Mexico City, with glorious views of snow-capped Popocatépetl and Ixtaccíhuatl on the way. Puebla has a remarkable concentration of sights, including a fabulous cathedral, a “hidden” convent, museums and grand mansions, while the mountainous surrounding country is in places startlingly beautiful.
La Huasteca Potosina
Hidden in a large valley 4 hours East of San Luis Potosi, La Huasteca Potosina will amaze you with its rivers, powerfull waterfalls and natural rock pools. An abundance of aquifers has made this area into a natural water park for all those who want to inject a bit of adrenaline into their daily lives. If you have heard waterfalls roar and have convinced yourself, you need to visit these blue rivers of Mexico.
Chiapas is the perfect destination for travelers looking beyond the tourist trap beach resorts that line Mexico’s coasts. With its stunning natural beauty, long-preserved indigenous heritage and picturesque colonial towns, Chiapas truly is a must-visit state. Forested Chiapas is the site of some of the region’s most spectacular Mayan ruins—at Bonampak, where intricate murals are preserved, and at Palenque, which is located in a national park
If you like diving
Cozumel is a year-round scuba diving destination on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, known for its easy drift dives with stellar visibility, vibrantly colored sponges, and marine life like turtles, nurse sharks, and rays. It is one of Mexico’s best dive destinations, boasting a great assortment of diving and marine life.
Sea of Cortez
The scuba diving in the Sea of Cortez and La Paz is all about sea lions, whale sharks, manta and mobula rays, dolphins, huge schools of fish and fascinating underwater macro life. La Paz, Cabo Pulmo, Loreto, and the northern Sea of Cortez all have excellent diving.
The cenotes of the Yucatan are an experience you have to try at least once as a divers. There are more than 7 000 cenotes in the Peninsula so make sure you choose the best cenotes to dive!!!
Travel Budget in Mexico
If you’re backpacking Mexico, you will spend at least 860 MXN ($48 USD) per day. This budget will get you a hostel dorm, street food and self-cooked meals, local transportation, and a few attractions each day.
On a more mid-range budget of about 1,567 MXN ($85 USD) per day, you will stay in a budget hotel, eat at local restaurants, visit more attractions, take public transportation per day but also a few taxis or Ubers.
A luxury budget will cost you at least 5,960 MXN ($310 USD) per day and up. You will stay at a four-star hotel, eat out for all your meals, have plenty of drinks, take taxis everywhere, and do some guided trips.
Mexican Food & Drinks
The basic Mexican diet is essentially one of corn (maíz as a crop, elote when eaten), supplemented by beans and chiles. These three things appear in an almost infinite variety of guises.
Beans (frijoles) are almost always served with food. You’ll find corn in soups and stews such as pozole (with meat). Mexican vegetables include nopales, which are prickly pear fronds (the fruit being a tuna).Tortillas torn up and cooked together with meat and (usually hot) sauce are called chilaquiles. In the north, especially, you’ll also come across burritos (large wheat-flour tortillas, stuffed with anything, but usually beef and potatoes or beans). Corn flour, too, is the basis of tamales which are a sort of cornmeal pudding, stuffed, flavoured and steamed in corn or banana leaves.
They can be either savoury, with additions like shrimp or corn kernels, or sweet when made with something like coconut. Seafood is almost always fresh and delicious, especially the spicy shrimp or octopus cocktails which you find in most coastal areas (coctél/campechana de camarón or pulpo), but beware of eating uncooked shellfish, even ceviche
The basic drinks to accompany food are water or beer. If you’re drinking water, stick to bottled stuff (agua mineral or agua de Tehuacán) – it comes either plain (sin gas) or carbonated (con gas).
Refrescos are on sale everywhere. Far more tempting are the real fruit juices and licuados sold at shops and stalls displaying the “Jugos y Licuados” sign and known as jugerías or licuaderías. Aguas frescas – flavoured cold drinks, of which the most common are horchata (rice milk flavoured with cinnamon) and agua de arroz (like an iced rice-pudding drink), agua de jamaica (hibiscus) or de tamarindo (tamarind).
Coffee and tea
A great deal of coffee is produced in Mexico, especially the state of Veracruz, as well as in the traditional coffeehouses in the capital, you will be served superb coffee. In its basic form, café solo or negro, it is strong, black, often sweet (ask for it sin azúcar for no sugar), and comes in small cups. White is café cortado or con un pocito de leche.
Distilled from the cactus-like agave plant and produced mainly in the state of Jalisco, is the most famous Mexican spirit, usually taken with lime and salt, or a chile and tomato chaser called sangrita, but añejo or reposado tequila (aged in the vat), should be sipped straight, and not wasted in cocktails such as margarita (tequila, lime juice and triple sec – considered a ladies´ drink).
Basically the same thing as tequila, but made from a slightly different variety of plant, the maguey, and is younger and less refined.The belief that the worm in the mescal bottle is hallucinogenic is based on confusion between the drink and the peyote cactus, which is also called mescal.
A mildly alcoholic milky beer made from the same maguey cactus, is the traditional drink of the poor and sold in special bars called pulquerías. The best comes from the State of Mexico, and is thick and viscous – it’s a little like palm wine, and definitely an acquired taste. Unfermented pulque, called aguamiel, is sweet and non-alcoholic.
Mexico best things to do
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