Mexico practical travel guide – everything you need to know before the trip

Mexico is the perfect destination for exotic holidays or a getaway in a tropical climate. Apart from beautiful beaches, this North American country also attracts tourists with Aztec and Mayan monuments, picturesque colonial architecture with baroque churches, dance, music, delicious cuisine, and many natural wonders hidden somewhere between mountain ranges or rainforests. It was also one of the destinations open during the pandemic for a long time, which has made it extremely crowded in the last year. I don’t think this trend will change any time soon as more and more people are considering choosing Mexico for an exotic journey. It is a very developed country when it comes to tourism, with a great base, and the Yucatan, contrary to the legend, is a safe place for travelers. I have a huge fondness for Mexico, I’ve traveled across this country on a motorcycle, and I believe that it belongs to one of the most interesting destinations. It is diverse, fascinating, delights with nature (the color of the water as in the highly overrated Maldives), has a fascinating history and architecture, and the food is fantastic. Mexico is a must-visit!

If you don’t know where to stary planning your trip, I got your back! Check out this post:What to see and do in Mexico? Plan for a two-week trip to Mexico

Mexico – basic information

Mexico is a country located in the southern part of North America, in a region known as Central America or Mesoamerica. In terms of culture, it belongs to Latin America. Mexico is bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico to the east. The country is characterized by a varied topography and a warm tropical and sub-equatorial climate, which is influenced by the topography. The location at the junction of tectonic plates makes Mexico a country rich in volcanoes, and it is not uncommon to experience earthquakes here.

There were several pre-Columbian civilizations in what is now Mexico, including the Olmecs, Zapotecs, Mayans, Toltecs, and Aztecs. The latter constituted a mighty empire with its capital at Tenochtitlán – the place of what is not Mexico City. The Aztec Empire existed from the mid-13th century to 1521, and at its peak, it covered much of Central America. The Spanish conquistadors conquered the Aztec Empire under the leadership of Hernán Cortés in 1518–1521. After the Spanish conquest, a Spanish viceroyalty was established in modern Mexico. The history of independent Mexico dates back to August 24, 1821. Then, after over 10 years of the war for independence, the Creole troops led by Agustín de Iturbide defeated the Spanish army, and the ruler Juan Ruiz de Apodaca abdicated.

The capital and largest city of the country is Mexico City (Ciudad de Mexico), located in the central part. Other important urban agglomerations are Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puebla, Toluca, Tijuana, León, Ciudad Juárez, Torreón and Querétaro. The geographical regions and tourist regions of Mexico are the California Peninsula, the Californian Coastal Plain, the Western Sierra Madre, the Mexican Highlands, the Eastern Sierra Madre, the Volcanic Cordillera, the Southern Sierra Madre, the mountain ranges at the southern tip of Mexico, the Gulf Coastal Plain and the Yucatan.

Mexico’s natural attractions include the coastal coasts with famous resorts such as Acapulco to the west and Cancún to the east, tropical forests, subtropics, mountain ranges, and caves with cenotes. Among the cultural values of Mexico, the remnants of the Maya, Aztec and Olmec civilizations in the form of well-preserved ruins, breathtaking colonial architecture of cities, towns (pueblos), and villages with beautiful baroque churches and colorful houses and tenement houses are worth noting. The cultural landscape of Mexico is also influenced by music – the famous Mariachi orchestras, or full of local specialties, including spicy varieties of peppers – Mexican cuisine.

When is the best time to visit Mexico?

Mexico has a very diverse climate. This is due to, among other things, a large area, diverse terrain in various parts of Mexico, as well as the influence of sea currents. Therefore, the weather can be completely different in different parts of the country at the same time..

Northern and central Mexico is a tropical climate. So we are dealing here with hot summers and cold winters. The best weather conditions for exploring the northern part of Mexico are in the spring – from March to June – when the air temperature is over 20°C, and rainfall occurs sporadically. If you love heat above all else, you can visit this part of Mexico in summer – from June to September – the air temperature often, even daily for several weeks, can even exceed 40°C. This part of Mexico should rather be avoided in late autumn and winter – from November to March – during this time, the air temperature can fall below 0°C, especially in mountainous areas.

Southern Mexico, in turn, is an equatorial climate. In this area, the temperature difference between the warmest and the coldest month of the year usually does not exceed 5°C. However, much more rainfall occurs here, especially during the rainy season. The best time to visit the southern part of Mexico is winter – from December to March when the air temperature remains at around 30°C, and the rainfall is not as intense as it is during the rainy season. However, during Christmas and New Year’s Eve in this part of the country, seaside resorts are crowded with tourists from all over the world. This part of Mexico is not friendly during the rainy season – from May to October – when the temperature exceeds 30°C, but heavy rains may persist for several days in a row.

The best time to go to Mexico if you want to visit as many places in different parts of the country as possible is March.

What is the best way to get to Mexico

The best way to get to Mexico from Europe is flying to Mexico City and Cancún, from European countries such as:

  • Spain – flights mainly from Madrid and Barcelona, but you can also find attractive offers from other major Spanish cities, including Malaga, Seville, or Valencia, with a transfer in Madrid or Barcelona. Flights between Spanish airports and Mexico are operated by Iberia and Vueling airlines,
  • Portugal – flights from two of Portugal’s largest airports – Lisbon and Porto. The flights are operated by the national Portuguese airlines TAP Portugal,
  • Germany – one of the largest airlines in Europe and in the world – Lufthansa – offers flights to Mexico from one of the largest airports in Europe – Frankfurt am Main, it is also worth checking flights to Munich and Berlin,
  • Netherlands – flights from Amsterdam, operated by the national Dutch airlines – KLM,
  • Switzerland – from the country’s largest airport – Zurich – operated by Air Swiss.

The Mexico City airports with the most flights from and to Europe are Mexico City Benita Juárez Airport and Cancún Airport. In addition to European airlines, flights between the Old Continent and Mexico are also operated by Aireuropa and Aeromexico, and in the case of Cancún, you can also find charter flights.

When planning a flight to Mexico, take into account transfers in other countries. If the flight involves a transfer in the United States, you must have a visa (yes, it is required even for transit in the States)

From most places in North America, flying is the most convenient way to travel to Mexico. Aeroméxico flies direct to dozens of destinations in Mexico, and can make connections to many others. The bigger US airlines – especially American Airlines, Delta , United and US Airways – have connections to Mexico City and the more popular resorts from all over the US. Budget Mexican airlines, such as Viva Aerobus, Volaris and Interjet, also run flights into Mexico from a handful of American cities. For the lowest-priced round trip to Mexico City or Cancún in high season, expect to pay around US$420–450 out of Dallas, US$450–500 from Miami, US$400–500 from Houston, US$550–650 from New York or US$400–500 from LA.

What are entry and visa requirements for Mexico

EU citizens going to Mexico as a tourist do not need a visa. A passport valid for at least six months is enough. You can stay in Mexico for up to 180 days based on a passport. Officers of the migration office, when entering the country – crossing the border (both in the case of a land border, as well as at an airport or in a seaport), stamp the entry stamp. Similarly, when leaving the country – they stamp the exit stamp.

However, in addition to a valid passport, when crossing the Mexican border, you will be asked to show another document – a migration form. If you come to Mexico by plane, this form will be provided to you on board. The migration officer will stamp the form. However, if you come to Mexico by land, you will receive the form at one of the border crossings. The immigration officer retains the stamped original of the form, and you will receive a copy of the form to be presented when you leave Mexico. You may be fined approximately 100 USD for losing a document. If you come to Mexico by land, you will also be required to pay 25 USD of tourist tax. However, if you enter the country through one of the seaports, you have to pay a fee of 5 USD. If you come to Mexico by plane, the tourist tax is included in the flight ticket price

U.S. citizens must present a valid U.S. passport book or card, in addition to an entry permit (Forma Migratoria Multiple or FMM) issued by Instituto Nacional de Migración (INM). Travelers should be sure to enter Mexico with valid proof of automobile registration, even if remaining in the border zone.

Mexico during the Pandemic

Since the first cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus, Mexico’s borders remained open throughout the pandemic. There is no quarantine obligation upon arrival in Mexico, and no testing is required from visitors. On the other hand, border controls have increased – you must have documents confirming the purpose of the trip with information on the length of stay, accommodation, return flight, and financial resources allowing you to stay in the country. Before entering Mexico, complete the form: Questionnaire of Identification of Risk Factors in Travelers. After completing it, you will receive a QR code – it must be presented after landing at the airport in Mexico in an electronic or paper version. Each visitor is required to have his own QR code.

When traveling by plane and during your stay at the airport, you should cover your mouth and nose, and if possible, keep a distance between other people. Wearing masks in public in Mexico is not required, but many people do so. Most stores and service establishments operate with preventive measures, including mandatory disinfection of hands and shoes, temperature measurements are made, and the number of customers is often limited. Some tourist attractions may be closed depending on the region. The rules for the use of beaches are not unified. Regional restrictions may differ from one another.

The above information is correct as of July 2021.

Mexico – required vaccinations

In Mexico there is a risk of getting tropical diseases, but vaccination is not required. Recommended vaccinations (in most tropical countries in the world) are:

  • vaccination against diphtheria and tetanus (DT) – diseases transmitted by airborne droplets; tetanus can be caught even through contact with contaminated soil.
  • vaccination against hepatitis A and typhoid fever – you can catch these diseases, for example, by eating contaminated water or food,
  • vaccination against hepatitis B – vaccination against hepatitis B is to protect against infection in the case of casual sexual contacts, injections, but also in the event of contact with infected blood.

Before traveling to Mexico, it is also worth getting a rabies vaccine. This vaccine is also not required, but a travel medicine doctor may recommend it if there is a risk that the traveler may be bitten by local animals such as dogs, cats, or foxes.

Montezuma’s revenge – a matter of hygiene in Mexico and the basic rules

Taking care of hygiene and appropriate prophylaxis is the most critical element of taking care of health. One of the most common health problems for people visiting tropical regions is diarrhea – often referred to as “Moctezuma’s revenge.” This disease is associated with an infection of the gastrointestinal tract, which can occur as a result of eating microbiologically contaminated food or drink. The bacteria of the species Escherichia coli (coliform bacteria) are responsible for most of the cases.

To avoid getting sick, avoid eating raw food served at room temperature, fresh fruit and vegetables, juices sold on the streets, and drinks served with ice cubes from unknown sources. It is recommended to drink only bottled water. It’s a good idea to pack probiotics in your travel kit. They alleviate gastrointestinal discomfort and help rebuild the intestinal microflora. It is worth reaching for them a few days before departure – thanks to this, we will reduce the risk of travelers getting diarrhea. Also, ask your travel medicine doctor for an emergency antibiotic for any food poisoning. This is the absolute basis for a first aid kit.

Mexico – staying safe

Mexico, unfortunately, is famous for its organized crime, but also a petty crime. Many people are afraid of traveling to this country, but staying in Mexico for a few weeks, I never felt threatened. However, the key is to follow a few safety rules. First of all, always ask local people where they think it is dangerous and which neighborhoods you should avoid. Do not walk around dark side streets after dark, and if you want to visit a bar, pub, or club at night, make sure to take an authorized taxi back to the hotel. Also, do not carry large amounts of money, expensive jewelry, or a camera on your neck. Leave them at the hotel, preferably deposited in a safe. When sightseeing or traveling by public transport, always keep an eye on your backpack.

Transportation in Mexico

Mexico is a very large country; therefore, the distances between the country’s main tourist regions are quite significant. There is public transport in large cities, and you can also use taxis or Uber. It is also possible to rent a car. To travel between cities, it is best to use suburban buses. When traveling over long distances, you have the option of traveling by comfortable buses or airplanes.

Car rental

You need an international driving license to rent a car. It is also worth paying attention to whether the car rental offer includes insurance because, with the road signs in Mexico and the local driving culture, traffic accidents are pretty common. Car insurance in Mexico is not mandatory, so you may have to pay for the repair out of your own pocket. As Mexico has its own oil production, gasoline is cheap here, and Pemex, the gas station monopoly, has the same gasoline prices everywhere.

Taxi and Uber

There are two types of taxis in Mexico: authorized and regular taxis. Authorized taxis are more expensive than regular taxis, but they are safer. Their drivers have GPS, and the cars are elegant, clean, nice, and tidy. Traveling with cheaper taxis, like Uber, is much more affordable but also not that safe. The norm is that often their drivers will not bring you to the destination, but only to the area. Unfortunately, in cheap taxis, the risk of being attacked or kidnapped is higher.

Public transport

There is an extensive public transport network in Mexico City. It consists of:

  • Subway12 lines. It’s fast, cheap, and mostly used by the locals,
  • MetroBusy – buses running on a dedicated road lanes; their lines intersect with the subway,
  • Trolleybuses – complementing subway and MetroBus lines,
  • Buses – complementing other means of urban transport.

There are 2 subway lines and buses in Monterrey. Guadalajara has 2 trolley lines and bus connections. Every major city in Mexico has public transport operated by buses. Usually, these are minibusses (called combi by the locals – 1970s Volkswagen Combi or pesero) or colectivo (modern, comfortable vehicles). The last ones can be found, among others on the Riviera Maya, and they will take you, for example, from Cancún to Tulum.


You can travel around Mexico by coaches; there are 3 classes of coaches:

  • III class coaches – commonly known as chicken buses – these are usually old American school buses – run short and medium distances and have affordable connection prices,
  • II class coaches –  similarly to class III buses, they run on short and medium distances, they are much more comfortable than class III buses, but more expensive,
  • I class coaches – they run long distances, often between the most distant cities of Mexico, very comfortable, have air conditioning, TV sets showing movies, meals are served. The largest companies that operate these buses are ETN (mainly in the central part of Mexico) and ADO (mainly in the Yucatan). This is by far the most expensive class of buses – in the case of long routes, it is worth considering air flights.

If you want to travel between remote cities or regions of Mexico, you may consider an airplane instead of a bus. Taking into account how big a country of Mexico is, keep in mind that a bus trip can take several hours or more and is not cheap at all. We will spend much less time on the plane, and in many cases, the trip’s price may be comparable.

There are several airlines in Mexico that offer flights between the main cities of the country, including:

  • Aeromexico – national carrier in Mexico,
  • Volaris – the second largest carrier in the country,
  • VivaAerobus – popular low cost airline,
  • Interjet – low-cost airline offering flights within and outside Mexico,
  • TAR Aerolíneas – another Mexican low-cost airline.

Currency and prices in Mexico

The currency in Mexico is the Mexican Peso – MXN. 1 USD is 20.01 MXN.

Accommodation prices in Mexico

Average price for a night in Mexico – 1135 MXN

  • Average price of a night in a hostel – 325 MXN
  • Average price of a night in a 1-star hotel – 447 MXN
  • Average price of a night in a 2-star hotel – 485 MXN
  • Average price of a night in a 3-star hotel – 991 MXN
  • Average price of a night in a 4-star hotel – 1657 MXN
  • Average price of a night in a 5-star hotel – 3674 MXN
Transportation prices in Mexico

Average car rental price per day in Mexico – 1100 MXN

  • Average compact car rental price – 644 MXN
  • Average economy car rental price – 403 MXN
  • Average price of a car rental in the mini class – 644 MXN
  • Average price of a car rental in the SUV class – 1500 MXN
  • Average price of a luxury car rental – 1700 MXN
  • Average passenger van rental price – 2300 MXN
  • Average cabriolet rental price – 1800 MXN
  • Local one way ticket  – 9,50 MXN
  • Gas (1 l) – 20 MXN
  • Taxi – the start of the ride at standard fare – 34 MXN
  • Taxi 1 km (standard fare) – 10 MXN
Prices in restaurants in Mexico
  • A meal at a cheap restaurant – 100 MXN
  • Meal for 2 in a mid-range restaurant (3 courses) – 500 MXN
  • Local draft beer (0,5 l) –  30 MXN
  • Imported beer (bottle 0.33 l) – 50 MXN
  • Coca-Cola/Pepsi (bottle 0.33 l) – 15 MXN
  • Water (bottle 0,33l) – 11 MXN
  • Cappuccino – 43 MXN
  • Espresso – 30 MXN
  • Cheeseburger (fast-food) – 30 MXN
Prices of food products in Mexico
  • Milk (1 l) – 19 MXN
  • Fresh bread –30 MXN
  • Eggs (12 pcs.) – 29 MXN
  • Local cheese (1kg) – 105 MXN
  • Water (bottle 1,5 l) – 15 MXN
  • Wine bottle (mid-range) – 150 MXN
  • Local beer (bottle 0,5 l)  – 20 MXN
  • Oranges (1 kg) – 19 MXN
  • Potatoes (1 kg)     – 23 MXN
  • White rice (1 kg) –  20 MXN
  • Tomatoes (1 kg) – 22 MXN

Local SIM card

The first thing I recommend you to do is buy a local SIM card with Internet access. There are three main providers in Mexico:

  • Telcel – the most expensive provider, but has the most subscribers and the best service,
  • Movistar – it has fast Internet, cheaper calls, but less serivce coverage than Telcel,
  • AT&T Unidos – it is the cheapest provider, but also has the smallest service, but it is growing fast and offers roaming in the Telcel.

The SIM card in Mexico can be purchased in most grocery stores, including Oxxo stores and offices of individual operators, including most airports – in authorized stores of mobile networks. After purchasing the SIM card, you need to activate it – in most cases, when we ask for help, the sellers in the place where we bought the card will help us.

What to take for a trip to Mexico

Much depends on the type of your trip. If you plan a hotel rest in the Yucatan and a stay in resorts, you will definitely need different clothes than for an intensive tour of the country with a backpack. I traveled the Yucatán Peninsula on a motorcycle with a backpack of a very limited size, but I could fit everything I needed for such journey. 

However, there are a few things that you should consider taking with you, regardless of your style of travel:

  • sunscreen – definitely a must-have in the sun that Mexico offers us. Go with a +50 SPF sunscreen- you will get tanned anyway, but you will not burn like a tortilla over high heat.
  • Mugga spray – mosquitoes in Mexico are a completely different dimension; especially in the rainy season, they are a nuisance. As there is a high probability of contracting dengue and zika in Mexico (you don’t want this – more about it here: How I almost died of dengue fever in Thailand), be sure to buy a product with a high DEET content, e.g., Mugga.
  • VISA bank card – more often accepted than MasterCard, you should have both just in case.
  • adapter – there are different sockets in Mexico than in Europe, so having a universal adapter will make your life easier. Why waste time looking for it when already there.

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Welcome on my blog about traveling, active lifestyle and chasing all the crazy dreams. I have been on 6 continents and in more than 100 countries so far, but I still have so much to explore :)

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Author picture

Welcome on my blog about traveling, active lifestyle and chasing all the crazy dreams. I have been on 6 continents and in more than 100 countries so far, but I still have so much to explore :)

< read more >