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MEXICO TRAVEL GUIDE
Hello, my name is Gwen, and here is my Mexico travel guide for solo travel over 40, including budget, safety/female and eco-travel tips, photographs and interesting posts for your Mexico travel planning.
BIENVENIDO A MÉXICO!
Mexico – the 14th largest country by landmass and the 11th most populous. Mexico is home to tequila (the country’s official drink), mariachis, El Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), beer, the inventors of the birth control pill and color TV, Salma Hayek, chocolate, white sand beaches and beautiful coastal resorts, the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza – a 7thwonder of the world, margaritas, professional wrestling, 59 varieties of corn, Plaza de Toros – the largest bullfighting ring in the world, telenovelas (soap operas), Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, and, of course, tacos, tortas, tamales and tostadas (a.k.a. “Vitamin T”).
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Explore attractions, airline, and transportation options now to get the best deals and fun in Mexico.
LANGUAGES IN MEXICO
The official language is Spanish; however, other regional majority languages include Nahuatl, Maya, and Mixtec. There are 68 indigenous languages spoken in Mexico. Additionally, English is very popular in Mexico with many Mexicans considering English their second or third language.
How's Your Spanish?
Brush up on your Spanish before your trip to Mexico.
83% of Mexicans are Catholic making Mexico the second-highest population of Catholics in the world (second to Brazil), which is interesting because the first birth control pill was invented by Luis Ernesto Miramontes Cardenas, a Mexican!
Mexico City’s the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe is considered one of the most highly visited pilgrimage sites in Mexico. Built on Mesoamerican civilizations going back 13,000 years, Catholicism was brought by the Spaniards when they colonized Mexico in the 16th century after conquering the Aztecs.
Mexico eventually became a sovereign nation with its independence from Spain in 1821. Throughout more changes and the Mexican Revolution, Mexico is now officially known as the United Mexican States, comprised of 31 states, including the capital, Mexico City.
Family is one of the most important elements in Mexican society and families are typically large. Mexicans enjoy hosting parties at their homes.
Mexican cuisine is widely diversified depending on the region you visit, still rice and corn are considered Mexican staples in addition to its tequila made from the agave cactus. Soda is also widely popular in Mexico.
Mexicans are considered a warm, inviting and colorful people undoubtedly deriving from diverse indigenous and Spanish influences, which also reflect in their clothing, music and art.
POPULAR MEXICAN ACTIVITIES
Fútbol (soccer) is considered the national sport and baseball is also very popular. Mexicans may also enjoy fishing, tennis, swimming, bicycling, track and field, jai alai and going to bullfights or rodeos. Mexicans may observe the traditional siesta and enjoy participating in fiestas (parties) based around the family, religion, traditional cuisine, and holidays with music, dancing and even piñatas.
Mexico uses the peso (MXN or $) – exchange rates are usually favorable for U.S. citizens at about 2 to 1. Check throughout your travel planning phase on any exchange rate changes.
Mexico has all modern forms of transportation, including Uber (research in advance if they are in your destination area), and other regional ridesharing services and apps, so getting around and booking transportation in advance or working on the fly, is no problem.
TIPPING IN MEXICO
Traveling in a new country is easier when you know the country’s tipping etiquette in advance as each country has its own rules. That said, country rules and norms can shift, so here is an international tipping resource for over 70 countries to use as a general guideline that I have found is constantly updated.
What’s not on there is how to tip a concierge, beauty salons or spas, travel or tour guides, etc. For these extras, it is acceptable to tip 10% at minimum. Remember, tipping is for good service only.
Additionally, you should always tip in the local currency (if tipping in cash), and do not be offended if your tip is refused as it may not be the norm. I feel it’s always better to offer a tip for good service than not, unless I know it will be considered offensive, like in Japan.
A key activity to do in your early planning stage is to know, at minimum, the national holidays. I so suggest also looking into the local holidays. It’s a complete bummer to spend time and money to take the holiday of your lifetime and when you show up at one of your key attractions, it’s closed due to a holiday. It’s also not fun trying to travel and have a hard time accessing travel or other essential resources when no one is around because, yes, it’s a local holiday. So take just a few moments to look at Mexico’s holidays.
MEXICO ELECTRONIC ESSENTIALS
Besides money, required ID and your ticket, Mexico voltage is 127V and the standard frequency is 60 Hz and they use both Type A and Type B adapters, like the U.S. Although you don’t have to bring an adapter, check your electronics – if you have one requiring a 3-prong outlet you may want to bring a Type B adapter just in case. Remember, most smart phones, tablets and laptops don’t require a converter, but double-check your device(s) before you leave home. If you are going to another country in addition to Mexico on your trip, you can check the global adapters list to make sure you’re prepared. I have also provided suggested global adapters below for your convenience!
TRAVEL DOCUMENTS FOR MEXICO
From the U.S., you will need a valid passport at time of entry. Visas are not required if your stay is less than 6 months. The U.S. State Department always has their link up to date with pertinent information when traveling to Mexico. It is advised to always check there during your planning stage and again before you leave. If you are not from the U.S., please check your government’s website.
VACCINATIONS FOR MEXICO
Vaccinations may be advised or required for Mexico depending on your Mexican destination. Also, be aware of water quality and altitude advisories. The U.S. State Department always has their link up to date with pertinent information when traveling to Mexico. It is advised to always check there during your planning stage and again before you leave. If you are not from the U.S., please check your government’s website.
SAFETY / FEMALE TRAVEL TIPS
MEXICO TRAVEL SAFETY
Yes, there may be some dangerous areas around the U.S.-Mexican border, and petty and violent crimes, including kidnapping, exist in the Mexico during the day and in tourist areas. However, this should not deter you from visiting Mexico.
As always, be smart and take precautions while traveling. Consult local and U.S.-based advisory boards in advance, if need be, but also do some research and link up with other tourists who have recently visited Mexico – they will offer great insights and advise! A lot of the “Mexico is violent” hype is mostly just that – hype. Remember, millions of people visit Mexico yearly and Mexico would like to see those tourist dollars keep coming back, especially in the high-tourist areas like the Mexican Riveria.
My number one rule for Mexico would be to not keep your ID or cash in your pocket or made easily visible. Beyond that, my standard tips for female and solo travelers (or any traveler for that matter) are:
- always carry photo ID with you; if you don’t want your passport on you at all times, at least carry a copy of it.
- always be “street wise”.
- always be aware of your surroundings, especially if you feel the need to imbibe or feel the need to “let loose” – you’re on vacation so have fun!
- never leave your food or drink unattended.
- keep your belongs on your person, or at least in your view in close proximity, at all times.
- be open to meeting and talking with new people – that is where a lot of the travel experience lies – but be careful on how you divulge personal information.
- research places in advance, if possible, so you know what to expect (i.e., “have a familiar view” – I like to Google the street view of new addresses I’m going to first).
- if something, someone or someplace makes you feel uncomfortable, go with your gut – leave.
BUDGET TRAVEL TIPS
BEST TIME TO VISIT MEXICO
Certainly, anyone would like to avoid the hurricane season in Mexico, which is June through November, and experience the drier season, yes? Consider this dry season – peak season – is when the costs will go up, of course, but there is still a good time to go when weather is warm and prices lower: April and May. Touristy areas, like Cancún, Riviera Maya, Cozumel, Puerto Vallarta and Mexico City – are going to be pricier than the lesser known cities or regions of Mexico. If you’re not afraid to explore and have done your safety research, Mexico can offer inexpensive travel destinations.
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SUSTAINABILITY / ECO TRAVEL
It is very easy to do your part for the planet and implement environmental sustainability into your travel. If you would like to learn more about how you can implement environmentally sustainable, or eco-friendly, travel measures into your travel, please see my 10 Easy Eco-Travel Tips and suggested Eco Travel Resources.
Additionally, if you are flying to, or within, Mexico consider purchasing carbon offsets through your airline or through a third party, like MyClimate.org, Carbonfund.org, or terrapass. Carbon offsetting allows you to buy a certificate to reduce carbon emissions, a major contributor to climate change, which in turn contribute community projects across countries to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. There are several ways to go about this to help reduce your impact to climate change through your travel. Check it out!
Like Canada, my country also borders Mexico and, like Canada, it’s amazing how little time I’ve spent in Mexico! I have been to Cancún and Tijuana, but I confess this is not enough considering all that Mexico has to offer. Top on my Mexico bucket list are to go scuba diving, see the Baja Peninsula coastline, whale watch, and do some tequila tasting – yum!