From Mexico City, the most populous megacity in North America, to the dense jungles of Riviera Maya, Mexico is about as diverse as a country can get. Explore Mayan ruins, bathe in clear cenotes and geothermal springs, wander car-free islands, and undertake some amazing diving and snorkelling along the Pacific and Caribbean coasts.
The culinary scene is another reason to visit, with fusion restaurants and bustling food markets in foodie hotspots like Oaxaca. But it’s the corn-heavy local dishes and street food stalls serving up tacos al pastor that will leave lasting memories of your time here.
Wherever you choose to visit, this guide of things to know before you go to Mexico will start you off on the right track.
Mexico uses type A and B plugs (the same as the US and Canada) with a voltage of 127V 60Hz AC.
The country uses the metric system.
In an emergency, call 911, but in some regions of Mexico, 066 is used instead.
Mexico has a population of over 122 million.
Dry (peak) season runs from December to April, but Mexico is so vast that different regions can be visited year-round.
Overall, February is the best month to visit Mexico as it’s in the middle of the dry season. Carnaval also happens around this time and offers a great chance to experience local festivals and unique cultural events around the country. Hurricanes are a risk from around June to October.
Buses are the most affordable, efficient and widespread transport option in Mexico. Domestic flights are another choice as distances can be vast and flights are usually much quicker and more affordable than travelling by land.
For short distances most travellers will use colectivos, taxis or minibuses, but renting a car is always an option if budget is less of a concern. Only a couple of tourist trains are still running in the country but Mexico City and Guadalajara have subway systems.
Travellers visiting Mexico are likely to enter through one of the main transport hubs of the country. The hub for the central highlands and the capital is Mexico City “Benito Juárez” International Airport.
In the west, Los Cabos International Airport is the main entry point for visitors to the Baja Peninsula. For Riviera Nayarit and the Jalisco coast. Puerto Vallarta International Airport is the main gateway, and for the south and east Cancun International Airport sees the most visitors.
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 - check the official list of countries that require a visa to visit Mexico here. If you are flying in via the US, even if just transferring, you may also need a US visa.
The Mexican peso (M$ or MXN) is the official currency in Mexico. You can pay by card in most shops and restaurants in Mexico, but cash is still needed for street food and smaller businesses. ATMs are everywhere, 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.
The majority of Mexico is safe for tourists to visit, but states along the border with the US are prone to gang-related violence.
Though tourists aren’t usually targeted, it isn’t unheard of to get caught up in vehicle hijackings and armed robberies. Read up on FCO warnings before making any final travel plans.
Hotels are numerous and affordable in Mexico's best tourist destinations. It’s advisable to book ahead during the peak season (December to April) to get a good price, but there will usually be no shortage of places to stay.
A range of budget-friendly accommodation options in Mexico like cabañas and hostels mean that it’s easy for all travellers to explore the country's highlights. Camping is also available around the country but security can be an issue.
Sustainable tourism in Mexico has seen vast improvements in recent years. Ejidos are small-scale tourism services run by the community and offer the same tours as international operators to many of Mexico’s ecotourism destinations. Find them everywhere in states like Chiapas, Oaxaca, Quintana Roo, and the Yucatán.
Open hours can vary in Mexico, with many shops shutting during the hottest hours of the afternoon for a long lunch. Public holidays like Semana Santa (Easter Holy Week) and Carnaval see businesses and transport links reduce hours or close for long periods of time.
The main meal of the day is lunch (known as Comida). It's eaten in the afternoon anywhere between 2 pm to 4 pm, while Cena (dinner) is usually a smaller meal or light snack that’s eaten at around 8 pm.
It’s best to not drink the tap water in Mexico, but most eateries will serve bottled or filtered water anyway. It’s also advised to steer clear of unpasteurized dairy, unwashed salad, or raw food, as the standards aren’t the same as you may be used to back home - stomach upsets from bacteria can be a common problem for visitors.
You will find WiFi in most tourist spaces and accommodation options in Mexico, but it can be slow and it’s best to always use a VPN for security. Data is relatively cheap in the country so buying a local SIM card is a great way of staying connected, alternatively get an eSIM in advance online.
Generally, a little Spanish will get you far in Mexico; social rules aren’t too strict, and most people are warm and welcoming to all visitors.
Some tips to bear in mind are that it is considered rude in Mexico to have your hands under the table during a meal.
Arriving late to a meal is normal, service is unhurried and non-invasive (you will usually need to ask if you want something as it’s considered rude for a waiter to disturb you). There is no rush to leave the table so take your time and enjoy the atmosphere.
A 10-15% tip is standard at sit down restaurants, some will include it on the bill so make sure to always check.
In the wet season, downpours can be heavy, but the weather is still warm. A light waterproof or an umbrella will come in very handy for the times that you are caught out in the rain.
Though states like the Yucatan, Quintana Roo, and Oaxaca are much safer than Mexico generally gets credit for, it’s best to avoid wearing expensive watches or jewellery in public. Pack light and avoid any issues with theft.
Bring 100% biodegradable sunscreen or UV clothing - a zero-waste non-toxic alternative that lasts a lifetime. Sunscreen and insect repellent are widely banned when swimming in the Yucatan Peninsula due to the damage they cause to marine life and the underwater ecosystems of the cenotes. However, the sun is still strong, and UV protection is a must.
Some basic Spanish will go a long way in Mexico. Key phrases to master include “¡Mucho gusto!” which means “Nice to meet you!” and “Disculpe'' or “Perdón” used to apologise or get someone's attention.
Another greeting that's common is “¿Cómo estás?” meaning “How are you?”. Try to always use formal titles such as “Señor” for men or “Señora” for married women and never forget to say “Por favor” (please) and “Gracias” (thank you).
Westerners are usually affectionately referred to as “gringos”, and strangers are generally warmly-welcomed with hugs and sometimes kisses on the cheek. A common way to part ways is to say “Hasta luego” which means “See you later”.
Some Mexican phrases don’t translate at all and can be confusing to Spanish learners. If somebody tells you to “bájale de huevos” they don’t literally mean “lower the eggs”, it's a phrase that means to calm down.
If someone thinks highly of themselves they “echarle mucha crema a sus tacos” which literally translates to “puts a lot of cream on their tacos”.
SpanishDictionary.com: A Spanish to English language app with tons of offline translations for when you can’t access Google Translate.
Uber: Very handy for getting around in cities, though not available everywhere in Mexico.
XE: Up to date exchange rates for working out how Mexican Pesos relate to your home currency (it can be confusing)!
Rappi: like Uber Eats, a food delivery service that’s more common in many Latin American countries.
Planning a trip to Mexico? Read our travel guides