Essential things to know before your trip to Mexico


Spanish is the official language and is spoken throughout the country. However, there are as many as 62 dialects, the most widely spoken being Nahuatl, Maya and Mixteco. Although English is spoken in many places – especially among government officials and high-ranking executives – it is advisable to learn some basic Spanish phrases before arrival.


A handshake for men and one kiss on the cheek for women is usually the first introduction in a business setting, and is used as both a greeting and a farewell. Standard business attire is the same as that worn in Europe or the US.


Citizens from 65 countries are not required to obtain a visa before entering Mexico and can stay up to 180 days for both tourism and business. These include the US, the UK, all countries in the Schengen area of the EU and most of those in Latin America. Citizens from other countries should apply for a visa from any Mexican embassy or consulate. These also permit a maximum stay of 180 days.


There are 85 airports in Mexico, 59 of which are international. Due to the vast distances of traveling within a country of nearly 2m sq km, flying is one of the most common modes of transport. Numerous low-cost airlines operate on key routes, such as Interjet, Volaris and Vivaaerobus, and compete with national flag carrier Aeroméxico. Although prices remain low, airport taxes are high, meaning that a round-trip flight from Mexico City to Cancún will cost around MXN2500-3000 ($150-180).

The most popular means of transportation is by bus, with nearly 1bn tickets sold each year. Vehicle traffic, which is heavy throughout Mexico, is especially so in big cities. Mexico City, with a population of more than 20m – the third-largest metropolitan area in the world – grinds to a halt during rush hour, so avoid taxis at this time. Taxis are ubiquitous and very affordable. However, for safety and security, using Uber or the service taxis de sitio (vehicles from a taxi base) is recommended.

Sim Cards

Mexico has three main mobile operators: Telcel, Movistar and AT&T. All providers have country-wide coverage that includes high-speed internet services and numerous branches. The most popular provider is Telcel, and its SIM cards can be bought at any store selling its products. SIM cards cost around $10 and come with air time. Pre-paid data packages are also available and online re-charging is possible with most carriers.


The local currency is the peso. Banknotes come in denominations of 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000 pesos, and coins ranging from 50 cents up to 10 pesos. Most ATMs accept international bank cards. There are many currency exchange offices, but it is advisable to change less common currencies into pesos, euros or dollars before arrival. Many small shops and businesses, as well as open-air markets, do not accept credit cards, so it is advisable to keep cash on hand.


Since restaurant bills usually do not include gratuity, a 10% tip is common. Taxi drivers do not expect to be tipped, but it is common to round up to the next five or 10 pesos when paying. If you have agreed on a fare, there is no need to give extra.


Tap water, though potable, is not recommended for drinking, especially for newcomers. The water contains various microbes that visitors must become accustomed to over a long period of time in order to avoid health problems. Due to this and a large tourist population, Mexico is the world’s largest consumer of bottled water per capita. By drinking tap water a visitor risks contracting the infamous “Montezuma’s revenge,” or traveller’s diarrhoea.


Electrical outlets are standard 110 V, with the same parallel, flat, two-pin system used in the US. Most modern electronics are compatible with electric currents of both 110 V and 220 V, but it is advisable to bring adaptors. For travel in some less-developed areas, it is wise to bring electrical stabilisers for large, important electronics, such as laptop computers.


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Cover of The Report: Mexico 2017

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This article is from the The Guide chapter of The Report: Mexico 2017. Explore other chapters from this report.

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