Arriving in Mexico can be daunting for a first time visitor. With a swathe of areas listed as unsafe for travel by various international governments, Mexico can be a stressful tourist destination to travel to.
But you’ve done your research and know where you’re headed is safe, so what should you expect when you get there?
In this guide, we look at the first things to do and think about when arriving in Mexico, as well as some top tips on visas, Wi-Fi, and getting cash out.
Travellers visiting Mexico are likely to enter through one of the main transport hubs of the country. For the central highlands and the capital, Mexico City, “Benito Juárez” International Airport is the main entry point and is the busiest airport in Mexico.
In the west Los Cabos International Airport is the main entry point for visitors to Los Cabos and the Baja Peninsula, while Puerto Vallarta International Airport offers access to the Mexican tourist destination of Riviera Nayarit and the Jalisco coast.
For the south and the east, Cancun International Airport operates as the main hub. The popular state of Quintana Roo, including Cancun International Airport, charges a tourist tax to all visitors regardless of nationality.
The tourist tax is called VISITAX and can be paid at the airport or in advance online. It applies to anyone over the age of 4 - the fee is USD $29.80 (including government – 259 MXN per person and service fee).
If you are travelling across the US/Mexico border make sure to pay the entry fee (derecho de no inmigrante) of $294 MXN, and get an entry stamp from the immigration office - this can cause issues when leaving if this stamp is missing.
Note that Ciudad Juárez and Tijuana are notorious hotspots in Mexico’s drug war - crossing this area by car can be extremely dangerous.
Citizens of the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and most EU countries do not require a visa to enter Mexico as tourists for up to 180 days.
Chinese, Indian, Russian and South African citizens will need to obtain a tourist visa to enter Mexico (approx. US$51), check the official list of countries that require a visa to visit Mexico here. If you are flying in via the US you may also need a US visa.
All foreign visitors must have a passport with at least six months validity. Visitors must also have a completed Forma Migratoria Múltiple (FMM). This will be handed out at border crossings, international airports and ports or can be filled in online (the cost is usually included in your transport ticket).
All duty-free goods must not exceed US$300 ($75 if arriving by land). Duty-free allowances into Mexico are as follows:
3 litres of liquor (or 6 of wine)
400 cigarettes or 25 cigars or 200g of tobacco
12 rolls of camera film or camcorder tape
It’s also worth noting that you must declare if you are carrying more than US$10,000 with you, and it is illegal to take antiquities out of the country.
Terminals 1 and 2 of the Mexico City International Airport offer free WiFi called “Gratis_CDMX_Aeropuerto”. It covers Terminal 1, and Terminal 2.
Cancun International Airport offers a free Wi-Fi service at all terminals at Cancun Airport. It is called “CUN Wi-Fi” and has a 60-minute time limit.
Always make sure to use a secure VPN to protect your privacy. You can also buy data sim cards at the arrival hall, or get an eSim in advance online.
ATMs are ubiquitous and convenient to use in Mexico, they are often safer and cheaper than exchanging cash. Many have fees of up to US$5 to withdraw cash; any more than this and you should try somewhere else. BBVA Bancomer and Santander tend to have the lowest withdrawal fees.
It’s only around 10 km from Mexico City Airport to the city centre. Public transport options include a 45-minute Metrobus, or 50-minute Metro, but both can be inconvenient due to luggage restrictions and multiple stops.
Taxis take just 25 minutes and are prepaid at the airport with fares from 300 MXN, Ubers are even better with fares from Mexico City Airport to the city centre starting from 200 MXN (around US$11).
Cancun International Airport is around 30 minutes from most hotels in Cancun, 45 minutes away from Playa Del Carmen and around 1 hour and 30 minutes away from Tulum.
Many hotels will offer private or shuttle transfers either included or at an additional cost. The only public transport option is the ADO bus service. They run every 30 minutes from all four terminals to downtown Cancun and all over the Yucatan Peninsula. They stop at the main bus stations in the towns, so you will need to find a taxi or alternative route to your final destination.
Planning a trip to Mexico? Read our travel guides.