Mexico travel guide | Best Mexico travel tips
Traveling to Mexico was a spontaneous decision, according to the plan we were supposed to go to from Peru to Bolivia but due to some visa issues, we just decided to check out Mexico instead. The turn of events was one of our best decisions we did during our South America travel.
When we think about the word fun, Mexico comes to our mind. This country is an indulgence to the senses, with vivid colors, savory food, sandy beaches, and rich culture that goes back centuries ago. We had so much to do, see, and eat that being bored was never an option.
Is Mexico a safe country to travel
To some, Mexico is associated with drug cartels, violence, and corruption but along our travel, we didn’t feel in any kind of danger. Mexican people are warm and welcoming, and most tourist places are travel safe.
Like in any foreign country it’s advisable to be aware of certain areas and of course the pickpocketers. It is good to carry some money on you, we advise you not to carry more that you are planning to spend on that day. Be aware of your possessions and keep them on you all the time. Every city has areas that have a bad reputation – avoid them! Be aware of your surroundings.
Money in Mexico – Mexico travel guide
The official currency is the Mexican peso (MXN $), in some touristic areas they might even accept Dollars. ATM’s are available all over the country, and we didn’t have any problems with withdrawing money. You are better off withdrawing money from bigger banks (Banco Santander, HSBC, Banorte), smaller vendors usually charge more for the transaction.
ALWAYS choose to be charged in Pesos and don’t withdrawal in your currency (Dynamic currency convention).
Visa, Mastercard, and American Express are the most commonly accepted credit cards in Mexico.
Visa + Vaccinations + Water – Mexico travel guide
Citizens of Europe, the USA, Canada, Australia, Israel, and Britain don’t need a visa for a stay up to 180 days. Besides your passport, you may be required to show an onward or exit ticket. We almost missed our flight to Mexico City because we didn’t have an exit ticket from Mexico. We couldn’t board the plane until we bought it, it was quite a stressful situation.
Some recommended vaccines for Mexico: Hepatitis A&B, Typhoid, Cholera, Rabies. Read more about vaccines HERE. We did shots for Hepatitis B and Yellow fever, which we needed for our travel in South America.
Tap water in Mexico is not advisable to drink, so we recommend you buying the sealed water bottles from the stores or use water filters. Tap water is good for cooking and brushing your teeth.
Where to stay in Mexico – Mexico travel guide
Accommodation in Mexico varies in size and quality and it offers choices for all budgets.
We were usually staying in smaller simple hotels or family homes with breakfast included. All the bookings were done a couple of days before and we used Airbnb or Booking. If you are making your first reservation with Airbnb click HERE and get up to a 41€ discount on your first stay – the minimum booking value is 65€!
Transportation in Mexico – Mexico travel guide
Let us start by saying that transportation in Mexico is quite expensive, especially for the common budget backpacker, coming from South America.
The main transportation is with buses, which are well equipped and modern. Buses are connecting all the main touristic areas, and the system is very efficient ( buses leave exactly on time). We recommend you booking the ticket online in advance, which can be a bit cheaper and also save you a spot (usually the buses get full quite fast). We most used CLICKBUS, click HERE to check out the schedules and the prices.
Mexico has also many airports and for those who are short on time, it’s probably best to book a domestic flight. Sometimes the price difference between a bus and a plane ticket is not very big.
Food in Mexico – Mexico travel guide
Mexican cuisine is known all over the world, and we are sure that you have at least one Mexican restaurant in your city. But the food in Mexico is on another level. The rich local ingredients are for sure the main key to the deliciousness of this diverse kitchen.
In each part of Mexico, you may find some differences in the food, but one street food you will find everywhere is the Taco. We can’t say enough about how much we enjoyed these tiny corn tortillas, filled with all kinds of fillings. All you have to do is to choose from the green sauce to the red (extra spicy).
Another popular snack is the Elote – grilled corn on the stick covered with mayonnaise, seasoned with chili powder and cheese. An absolute treat!
In most of the Mexican restaurants, you will probably encounter the Mole – creamy traditional sauce with a lot of ingredients, sometimes even chocolate. You should try it, the dish is tasty, each region has its style so every time you will order it, you will meet some new flavors.
To all burrito and nacho fans! We need to disappoint you, cause you won’t find it in Mexico. We were searching for it in a lot of places and couldn’t find it anywhere. Later we discovered that those dishes are American, not Mexican.
What places not to miss in Mexico:
Mexico is a huge country, it is also very diverse. We started in Mexico City and headed south to the Pacific coast and later to the East to the Caribbean coast. 2 months were barely enough for our travel but we managed to saw a lot!
Mexico City – Mexico travel guide
Our first stop in Mexico was its gigantic capital city. With a population of over 8 million people, we had a bit of a culture shock to get used to all the smells, sights, and energy around us. Even though we are not big fans of crowded cities, Mexico city was thrilling and we just went for the ride.
The first thing after arriving at our hotel was finding something to eat. Hearing so much about the delicious spicy Mexican food we couldn’t wait to finally try it. Mexico City is known for its massive culinary scene, and everywhere you go, there are restaurants and street food vendors. The food is extremely good, and we couldn’t stop ordering more and more tacos.
Besides the food, the city is also known for its nightlife, full of clubs, bars, and parties. The variety is huge and everyone can find their niche. Every night something is going on and you can party until dawn. Be advised that the local law is very strict against public drinking and it’s not allowed to consume alcohol on the streets and public parks.
Most of the tourist attractions are found in the huge Historic center (Centro Historico) of the city, which is full of important buildings and interesting events happening on every corner.
Teotihuacan: Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon
These 2 great Pyramids, were our first interaction with the amazing history and archaeology of Mexico. You can climb to the top of the pyramids and enjoy the wonderful view of Teotihuacan (the ancient city) and the nature around it. While exploring the city you can also check the museum (included in the ticket) where they display some mindblowing artifacts from the Teotihuacan era.
To get to the site from Mexico City you will have to go to the Northern bus station (México Central Norte) and catch the bus there. The drive usually takes around an hour and a half and drops you off at a walking distance from the entrance to the site.
Xalapa (home of Jalapeno peppers) – Mexico travel guide
The capital city of Veracruz state and also the home of the famous Jalapeño peppers. The city has some parks and museums but not something special. During our stay, we mostly strolled the streets and enjoyed the comforts of a big city.
Xico (Pueblo Magico)
We took a local bumpy bus from Xalapa (less than an hour bus ride) to this beautiful village. The road was amazing, going through green jungles while listening to loud classic Mexican music coming from the bus speakers. You can stop on the way and hike around, there are some impressive walks with waterfalls and nature.
Xico itself is a sleepy picturesque village, with a cute little church, narrow romantic streets, and friendly locals. I think this was the first place where we really felt the pristine Mexican energy and lifestyle. We loved it and we recommend it.
Veracruz – Mexico travel guide
We spend only one day in this city, and we had a great time exploring it. The historic center is full of beautiful colonial municipal buildings, Cathedrals, and churches. We even got lucky to see some live shows on the main plaza. It felt that Veracruz is more of a destination for Mexican tourists than westerns which made the vibe more authentic.
Besides the center, you can also visit the industrial port of the city, observe the big ships, and enjoy a snack from the many street food vendors along the way.
Oaxaca City – Mexico travel guide
Oaxaca region was our favorite part of Mexico, and the first stop was in its capital city. Immediately after the arrival, a big smile came to our faces, the energy of the place is magical with peaceful streets, colorful houses, and street art. We immediately knew that we are gonna enjoy it. The city has a nice mixture of indigenous culture, colonial architecture, and modern art.
You can stroll the city quite easily and most of the tourist sites are walk distance apart. Oaxaca city also has some exciting markets where you can try delicious traditional food and admire their famous handcrafts clothes.
Save also one day to go and visit the archaeological site of Monte Albán (10 km from the city center), the view from the top is amazing and even though not as impressive as other sites in Mexico, we still recommend to check it out (you can never get enough of native American history).
San José del Pacifico – Mexico travel guide
This mystical small village, is a hidden gem in the very touristic area of Oaxaca state, a perfect escape from modern life. Located high up in the mountains, the village is literally in the clouds and the view of the surrounding forest is like nowhere else in the world.
The place is a true mushroom land. It is most known for the wild mushrooms that grow all around, especially the ‘magic’ ones, which are a big part of the local religious practices. We loved the small road that crosses the village center, where you can seat and try their delicious hot-chocolate and amazing mushroom soups.
Besides the unique mushrooms of all kinds, the nature around the village is spectacular and we highly recommend hiking through the cloudy green forests.
Mazunte, Oaxaca coast (Pueblo magico) – Mexico travel guide
After visiting some of the best beaches in the world we thought we saw it all, but Mazunte sure proved us wrong. This cute small beach town had everything we desired, blue clear water, soft sandy beach, a young hippie atmosphere, and most importantly a peaceful mind.
We don’t know if it was because of the season or just pure luck but somehow this heaven on earth was almost without any tourists, sometimes we went to the beach and felt it was all for ourselves. The main activity here is to relax and just enjoy life, we spent most of our days chilling on the beach with a nice cold beer and delicious Mexican snacks.
If you come to Mazunte make sure to stay as much as possible, it won’t get any better then this, trust us.
CLICK HERE to read more about Mazunte.
Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca coast – Mexico travel guide
Another great beach town along the Pacific shore, but unlike Mazunte! Puerto Escondido is much more touristic and modern. On the main promenade, you will find all the restaurants, gift stores, and surf shops.
The place is known for its waves and attracts surfers from all over the world, we enjoyed a lot looking at the action that was going on the water. It was also very nice to explore a bit away from the beach areas, to eat and mingle with the locals.
San Cristobal de Las Casas – Mexico travel guide
We weren’t very excited about visiting San Cristobal de Las Casas. After seeing plenty of colonial towns while traveling in South America we didn’t think that Christobal de Las Casas will impress us. The main reason we stopped there was that it is a perfect pit stop between the Pacific coast of Mexico and the Yucatan area.
But it turned out San Cristobal is actually a very nice place to visit, Situated quite high, about 2000 meters above sea level – it is a valley surrounded by green forest all around. In the end, we spend 3 nights there and we had a lot of fun!
Palenque and the Mayan Ruins
The main reason to come to Palenque is of course the famous Mayan ruins site, which was probably the most impressive we saw in Mexico. The whole place is covered with dense bright green jungle, and while exploring you can hear the wildlife noises echos, which make the experience even more exciting.
As being one of the most powerful cities in the Maya era, the archeology and art are breathtaking, we spend most of the day just admiring the beauty of this ancient civilization. In Palenque city itself, there wasn’t much to do, but the chillout vibe, good food, and nice locals made our stay very enjoyable.
CLICK HERE to read more about what to do in Palenque.
Playa del Carmen – Mexico travel guide
When we imagined the Caribbean coast of Mexico, we had in mind clear turquoise water, palm trees, and untouched beaches. A real paradise, especially after seeing so many pictures on the internet. But as they say ‘the bigger the expectations the bigger the disappointment’ and Playa del Carmen was a big one for us.
First of all, most of the town’s beaches are private, belong to the many resorts along the shore, which kind of ruins the natural landscape.
Second of all, the water was full of stinky slimy seaweed (Sargassum) which made it very unpleasant or even impossible to swim in. After a bit of investigation, we discovered that the whole Cancun area is suffering from this environmental hazard so it’s advisable to check in advance before your travel.
Besides all the above Playa del Carmen is very touristic and for us, it just didn’t feel like the ‘real’ Mexico, but more of a ‘Vacation destination’ for westerns.
Tulum – Mexico travel guide
This small Caribbean town was a nice break from all the tourists and noises around Cancun. The atmosphere is peaceful and all along the white sandy beaches, you can find your own quiet place. Besides relaxing on the beach, Tulum is a bicycle-friendly town, and it is a very popular activity to rent a bicycle and explore around.
For our last week in Mexico, we wanted to find a special place before leaving this wonderful country. We heard a lot of good things about the wonders of Bacalar lagoon and decided to check it out. It sounded cool – a unique, sweet water lake of 7 colors, with big swings on the crystal water and white sand on the bottom. The place sounded like the Maldives to us.
Bacalar lagoon Mexico was exactly what we were searching for! Even though it is considered a bit touristic, you can still enjoy a peaceful time away from the overcrowded Cancun area. Perfect place to relax, enjoy good authentic food, and swim in the clean water. If you get bored you can explore the cenotes around or just chill in the shade of cute bamboo huts at the lagoon.
CLICK HERE to read more about Bacalar lagoon.
A perfect travel destination
Jungles, deserts, sandy beaches, lagoons, ancient civilizations, delicious food, and remarkable people are just some of the things that make Mexico so unique and fascinating! There is something for everybody, doesn’t matter what kind of holidays or travel you prefer. We fell in love with Mexico and we are sure you will love it too!