Mexico offers travelers a wide variety of popular vacation destinations. These include but are not limited to the Pacific Coast destinations of Los Cabos, Mazatlan, Ixtapa, Punta Mita, Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco and Huatulco; the Caribbean Coast hot spots of Cancun, Cozumel, Puerto Morales, and Isla Mujeres; the Yucatan Peninsula region that includes Bacalar, Playa del Carmen, Costa Mujeres, and Tulum; and the Gulf of Mexico locations of Campeche, Mérida, and Veracruz. It also includes the big cities of Monterrey and Mexico City, and a whopping 132 “Magical Towns” steeped in history and culture.
No matter which region of Mexico you choose to visit, it’s wise to do some research before your trip so that you will be informed and prepared. For general information that applies to all of these destinations, read on for our pro tips.
Purchase travel insurance, especially as it can cover a variety of mishaps and unexpected expenses. Some packages not only include health and dental emergencies, but also trip interruption or cancellation, lost baggage, and flight changes. It can even ensure that you are brought home safely in the event of an evacuation due to extreme weather or political uprising. Make sure to ask your insurance provider about coverage associated with Covid. Despite that we’d all love to believe the pandemic is over, the truth is that Mexico is still struggling with the virus and many tourists end up catching it while on vacation.
If you plan on renting a car while on vacation, make sure you are fully insured for the vehicle as well. However, beware of rental scams in Mexico as there are several websites that promise ridiculously low-priced rentals but at the risk of ridiculously high hidden costs. Make sure you book with a reputable company.
See your doctor before you travel, for a consultation regarding your health and recommendations for preventative medicine. When visiting Mexico and the Caribbean, vaccines for Hepatitis A & B are sometimes recommended. Some doctors will go so far as to recommend shots for Typhoid and treatment for Cholera. A product such as Dukoral is highly suggested for the prevention of severe diarrhea due to the potential for E-coli contaminated drinking water.
If you plan on staying in Mexico longer than a week to 10 days, be prepared to offer up proof of your departure date. If you’re proposing to stay longer than a month, prepare to have your request denied. Immigration services (INM) have begun cracking down on the length of time visitors can remain in the country.
Keep your FMM! Upon arrival, tourists passing through customs and immigration will receive their stamped passports along with the small tear-off portion of the immigration form they filled out, usually during the inbound flight. This is a Visitors Permit, known as an FMM, and it is imperative that it is kept safe because you will be expected to hand it in when you return to the airport for departure. If you lose the form, you will need to visit one of the local immigration offices situated in towns and cities across the country, or at the airport, and apply for a replacement before you can leave.
The tap water in Mexico is NOT fit for drinking. Sometimes, even using it to brush your teeth is risky, especially if you accidentally swallow. Even if you’ve taken a preventative medicine, such as Dukoral, to ward off the effects of the contaminated water, it still is not advised that you drink it. If you’re staying at a reputable resort, you likely will be provided with bottled water for drinking, and some in the bathroom as well for brushing your teeth. However, if you plan to explore attractions and activities, consider taking a water bottle with a high-grade filter so you don’t have to worry about your water source. There are several great brands on the market, but we are partial to Epic Water Filters for their convenience and high quality.
Many English-speaking tourists innocently mix up the restrooms when visiting Mexico, by assuming that an “M” on the door means “Men”. It does not! The Spanish word for women is mujeres, so the “M” on the door refers to the Ladies Room. The Men’s Room will be identified with a “C” for caballeros or an “H” for hombres.
Pay in pesos! Despite that paying in US dollars is acceptable in Mexico, it’s not a good idea… particularly if you’re on a budget. The exchange rate will far exceed what your bank or a foreign currency exchange would charge at home. Therefore, it’s best to acquire your pesos before your trip. Make the distinction that you require “Mexican pesos”. This is because there are currently eight countries that use the peso, including Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, the Philippines, and Uruguay. However, each country has its own peso, and each has its own worth. If you can’t make it to a foreign currency exchange before your trip, get your money changed at the airport. And if that’s not possible, get the resort to change a few small bills so that you can use them for tipping, and pay everything else on your credit card, which will charge you the proper rate and without transaction fees.
Use a VPN for digital protection. Sadly, Mexico is known for its scams, and Wi-Fi is among them. Hacking is on the rise, some of which happens even at reputable hotels and resorts. To protect your banking, passwords, and other personal data on your phone, tablet, or laptop, it’s strongly advised that travelers use a VPN to encrypt their information. We highly recommend Express VPN, which is a reputable company that offers secure access and high-speed servers across 94 countries and includes risk-free trials and money-back guarantees.
When booking excursions, make sure you go with a reputable company. Do your research before you leave home so you can compare tours and prices, and check online reviews. However, if you don’t have time to make arrangements before your trip, most hotels and resorts offer credible tour operators, usually located in the lobby. This is a far better option than trusting the random individuals that roam the beaches and touristy areas while selling tours with a worn-out brochure and a clipboard.
Sargassum is the orangy-brown, foul-smelling seaweed that rolls in with the tide, and in recent years has become increasingly more problematic throughout the Caribbean and areas of Southern Florida as it washes up on beaches by the ton. Most of Mexico’s Caribbean Coast and Yucatan Peninsula are affected. Many resorts have nets or other systems in place to divert the seaweed from the beach or employ workers that do their best to remove the sargassum on a daily basis. However, as hard as they try to keep it to a minimum, the unsightly seaweed is something you can expect to encounter, particularly if you plan on visiting between spring and fall when the problem is at its worst. The only way to avoid it completely is to visit Mexico’s Pacific Coast.
No matter what your destination is within the country, do yourself a favor and get off the resort. Yes, it is wonderfully relaxing to lay on the beach or by the pool, and it’s good for a day or two, but Mexico has so very much more than that to offer. And every region is different. So set aside some time to experience it. Discover the culture, the cuisine, and the many arts and crafts. Explore some of the many natural attractions including cenotes, mangroves, mountain ranges, biosphere reserves, and Mayan ruins. Go scuba diving or snorkeling to discover the extensive marine life, swim with whale sharks or turtles, or embark on a whale-watching tour. Enjoy cultural presentations, jungle theme parks, unique shopping experiences, and an abundance of adventure sports and water sports. Tour an authentic tequila distillery, or, discover some of the many charming and colorful towns referred to as Pueblos Magicos — towns recognized by the Mexican government for their ‘magical’ features, including beauty and rich heritage, such as Valladolid. The options are endless.