Mexico Travel Made Easy: The Ultimate Guide to Traveling Mexico
If you enjoy traveling internationally, you’ve probably heard conflicting reports about Mexico travel. The sensational news stories scare many travelers enough to keep them from visiting this incredible and breathtakingly beautiful country.
However, you don’t have to be one of them. From safety in Mexico, ways to get around, money, water quality, and recommended travel destinations, this Mexico travel guide has everything you need to know about visiting Mexico. Let’s dive in!
Is Mexico travel safe?
Like any country, state, or city, some parts of Mexico are safe, and some you should avoid. Lumping the entire country into one category may be tempting, but it’s incredibly inaccurate. In a typical year, there are just shy of 100 million tourists visiting Mexico.
Do bad things happen to travelers? Absolutely.
However, the number of travelers facing serious safety concerns is few and far between in most parts of the country. If you take a few common sense safety precautions and avoid areas with increased criminal activity, traveling to Mexico can be very safe.
Do you need a passport to travel to Mexico?
As of January 8, 2007, anyone flying from the United States into Mexico requires a passport book, including minors.
If you’re driving or sailing across the border, you can use a passport card and children under 16 years of age can use a birth certificate, naturalization certificate, or other citizenship certificate to reenter the United States.
Check your passport’s expiration date to confirm it is not expired or will not expire during your travels. If it expires or you do not have a valid passport, give yourself plenty of time to acquire one.
Passports can take several weeks or months to receive. You don’t want to run into complications with your travels because you didn’t plan appropriately.
What is the best way to get Mexican pesos?
Mexico uses Mexican pesos as their form of cash (effectivo). Credit and debit cards are accepted in most popular tourist destinations across the country, but smaller food vendors, some tour guides, and smaller towns will mostly operate with cash only. For that reason we highly recommend you bring $3,000 – $5,000 Mexican pesos with you before arriving.
If you need to get more pesos in Mexico, the easiest way is to use an ATM with your debit card. We only recommend using ATMs from well-known banks, especially if you have an account with one. Some ATMs may charge incredibly high fees for non-members to get cash.
Some of the most popular banks for low fees are Inbursa, Banorte, Intercam, Santander, Scotiabank, BBVABancomer, and Banco del Bajio.
Make sure you call your bank in advance to inform them that you’re planning to travel to Mexico. Your bank may lock your account if they unexpectedly start seeing transactions in Mexico popping up on your account. This is the last thing you want to deal with when traveling.
How do you get around in Mexico?
If you drove across the border, getting around won’t be much of an issue since you will have you own vehicle with you. Just make sure you have speciality Mexico auto insurance, which is typically not offered by any major American auto insurance provider.
If you’re not driving across the border, you’ll likely need some help to get around and experience the beautiful and exciting sights. You can always rent the car but renting cars can get expensive depending on your length of trip.
One of the most effective and efficient ways to travel around the country is by bus. This allows you to see and experience Mexico. If you plan your route accordingly this can be a convenient and comfortable way to travel around the country.
If you want to explore the city where you’re staying, a taxi is a great option to consider. However, much like any touristy spot, there are some seedy taxi drivers. Make sure you agree on a price for the ride before getting in. Some taxi drivers will take advantage of tourists who do not know better. Reputable taxi services will often have a table on display that indicates the pricing and fees.
You can also take a collectivo which is a smaller city bus that runs regular routes through the city. It can be as cheap as a $0.10 to ride.
What are the best places to travel in Mexico?
There are many fantastic places to travel in Mexico. However, we’ve selected a few of the most popular spots tourists like to visit in Mexico. Each location provides a unique experience and is home to incredible beauty.
If you’ve spent much time looking into traveling to Mexico, you’ve likely seen the Mayan ruins found in the Yucatan Peninsula city of Tulum.
This is a popular Mexican tourist destination that has some incredible wellness retreats and all-inclusive resorts. Whether you’re looking to spend your time enjoying outdoor adventures or relaxing by the beach, Tulum offers it.
Not only does Tulum offer white sandy beaches and turquoise waters to enjoy during the day, but once the sun goes down the nightlife scene comes to life. You can safely head out to the many local restaurants and bars to enjoy yourself.
Located in the Yucatan Peninsula, Cancun is one of Mexico’s premier tourist destinations. It’s a shorter drive to Tulum, and there’s practically an infinite amount of beaches to enjoy.
Like many other major tourist cities in Mexico, there are many luxury all-inclusive resorts lining the coasts. You can find some fantastic resorts and spas where you can enjoy breathtaking views from your room.
This is one of the most touristy destinations in all Mexico, so it’s not the authentic Mexico experience many are seeking. But if you want to relax on the beach and experience a luxurious and fun getaway for you or the family then it’s a great spot to visit.
3. Puerto Vallarta
If the idea of soaking in the sun and walking on the beach to enjoy the sunset sounds appealing, a visit to the west coast city of Puerto Vallarta is for you. The area is home to lush jungles, five-star resorts, and gourmet restaurants that will please your taste buds.
Residents of Puerto Vallarta are typically amiable and willing to help tourists needing assistance with directions or recommendations. Because English is one of the most common languages spoken here, communicating won’t be a problem.
When planning your travels, it’s important to remember that a beach town like Puerto Vallarta can get very crowded during the holidays. Many residents of major Mexican cities flock to cities like Puerto Vallarta during the holidays.
Located on the Pacific Coast of Mexico at the southern portion of Nayarit is Sayulita. This city boasts a very laid-back vibe that feels like it was created for surfers. It’s approximately a 45-minute drive to Puerto Vallarta, which is the ideal place to fly into for your trip.
Whether you rent a car, take a bus, or hire a private cab, once you arrive in Sayulita it’s easy to explore the town on foot. During your time in Sayulita, you can take the opportunity to learn to surf, explore Sayulita Plaza, and sit in the sand at Sayulita Beach.
If you enjoy the challenge of a heart-pounding hike, Monkey Mountain is perfect. It’s a four-hour round trip hike, so ensure you bring plenty of water and snacks. The view from the top allows you to enjoy a view of all that Sayulita offers.
5. The Baja Peninsula
Directly south of San Diego, California is the incredibly beautiful area of Mexico known as the Baja Peninsula. The entire Baja Peninsula is packed full of amazing sites and things to do. From the fresh seafood to the year-round sunshine, you’ll have a hard time leaving Baja.
The weather and water here are perfect for anyone who wants to give surfing a try. The waters off of the Baja Peninsula are unlike any others. In fact, Jacques Cousteau called them the world’s aquarium.
If you make it to the southern tip of the peninsula, you can visit Cabo Pulmo National Park, which offers an incredible opportunity to experience these waters in their purest form.
Whether you’re chasing waterfalls, waves, or the next off-roading adventure, the Baja Peninsula is the perfect spot to relax and play. You can find some fantastic places in small towns along the coast to grab a bite to eat before heading out for your next adventure. Many of these mom-and-pop shops use locally harvested foods to create their delicacies.
Despite its growing popularity, it still experiences fewer tourists than the rest of the touristy hotspots. Given its size, it’s easy for tourists to spread out throughout the peninsula and avoid congesting a specific area.
6. San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende is one of the most romantic historical pueblo magicos in all of Mexico. The beautiful city is filled with lined with colorful homes, dozens of churches, and plazas to gather in.
Located about three hours away from Mexico city, this city is popular among expats looking for temperate climate to call home. The iconic Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel, or San Miguel’s pink church is one of the most famous churches in all of the country.
Make sure to explore the local wine and food of the region. The area surrounding San Miguel in the state of Querétaro is on the routa del vino.
Mexico travel tips
There are a few important things you need to know before you head off and start traveling to Mexico. Let’s look at some important Mexico travel tips that can help you make the most of your time south of the border.
Don’t drink the water
If you haven’t traveled to Mexico before, one of the most important things you need to know is that you should not drink tap water. While the water gets purified at the source, it can become contaminated as it travels to the tap. Many tourists who do drink the water develop water-borne illnesses from bacteria, viruses, and other toxins in the water.
Most restaurants and families get fresh, safe, drinking water from the local agua purificada (water purification plant). If you order water at a restaurant this is where it will come from. Ice is also purified, so don’t need to worry about getting sick. You can buy your own garrafon, or 5 galloon jug of water to have in your home or RV and can refill them as need be.
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Have the proper insurance
Many travelers don’t realize most insurance policies only apply to their home country, whether it’s automobile or health insurance. Once you cross the border, your precious insurance policy will be useless. Not having the proper insurance while in Mexico could cause a major financial disaster or even get you tossed in a Mexican jail.
Driving into Mexico requires Mexican automobile insurance. You should not cross the border without this type of insurance. If you do, you could find yourself in a very serious situation and spend considerable time behind bars in Mexico. Check with your insurance provider to see if there are any options or purchase a policy from a reputable Mexican insurance provider ahead of time.
Learn basic Spanish
While many people in Mexico speak English, that’s not always going to be the case. You may wish you had paid a bit more attention during those high school Spanish classes. Knowing and using a few basic phrases in Spanish can be extremely helpful.
Whether you’re trying to get directions to a restaurant or quickly find a bathroom. While you’re not likely going to master the language overnight or even in a few weeks or months, being able to communicate to some extent can be helpful.
Secure your FMM
Your FMM (Multiple Immigration Form) is an essential piece of paperwork you cannot lose. You may find yourself at a checkpoint during your travels where officials will ask to see it. You will find yourself in a sticky situation if you cannot present it to them.
During your trip, you must secure your FMM as much as possible. Keep it on you and take it with you everywhere you go. You don’t want to risk losing it. If you lose it, you’ll need to visit an immigration office to get a new one. It typically costs around $60 USD to replace and will cut into time you could spend enjoying Mexico.
Pay with pesos when possible
To get the best deal possible, you need to pay in pesos. Will many business owners accept US dollars? Absolutely. However, you’re flushing money down the toilet if you’re not paying in pesos or using your ATM card to get a better rate. Find a bank or other reputable place near where you’re staying to get the best possible rate when cashing in your dollars.
Mexico travel is safer than you think
If you take a common sense approach to safety in Mexico, there’s a good chance you’re not going to have any issues. Do plenty of research when booking hotels, excursions, and rides to ensure everything is legit, just as you would visiting any other tourist destination. You’ll likely find that Mexico is just as safe as any other place, and once you give it a chance, we’re confident you’ll fall in love with this beautiful country.
Liz & Dennis
We’re two travel-loving, real estate investing, foodies exploring North America as full-time RV’ers. This blog is where we share our lessons learned, tips and tricks, and favorite places to eat, see, and RV across North America! We hope it helps you find your wanderlust, plan and prepare for RV life, and get out on the road!
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