Five Things First Time Travellers To Mexico Should Know
- Tipping is customary in Mexico. Many of the people working in service roles rely on tips to earn a living wage. In restaurants, a good rule of thumb is to tip 10-20% of your total bill. For taxi drivers, you don't need to leave a tip unless the driver helps to carry your bags.
- Don't drink the tap water. Instead, buy the purified water from one of the shops. It's cheap and will save you from feeling sick on your holiday. You'll also need to use bottled water to brush your teeth, and it's a good idea to keep your mouth closed in the shower.
- Learn some Spanish. While you'll find people speaking some English in the resort areas, for the most part, it's not widely spoken. Spend some time learning essential words and phrases, and it will make your trip much more pleasant.
- Bring sunscreen. The sun is strong in Mexico, and you'll need to apply sunscreen generously to avoid sunburn. Even if you aren't on the beach, you can still burn your skin on an overcast day.
- Save money by taking the bus. Whether you're on a budget or not, travelling by bus is one of the best ways to see the country. The coaches are safe, clean and come with loads of extras. Choose the first class or executive buses, and you'll even get reclining seats with movies.
Best Time To Visit Mexico
The best time to go to Mexico depends on what you want to see and do.
If you want to experience the country's famous cultural events, plan your visit around one. Some of the most famous include the Day of the Dead in October or the Radish festival. Mexico also has a host of natural events like the annual Monarch butterfly migration or hatching season for sea turtles.
The busiest time of year to visit Mexico is from December until Easter. During this period, hotel rates skyrocket, flights are full, and the country's top attractions are packed to the brim. If you don't mind the crowds, make sure you book your trip well in advance to ensure availability.
But if you want to escape the crowds, plan your trip to avoid these key events. It's also a good idea to visit during winter when the temperatures are lower, and the summer crowds have left.
For the perfect beach holiday in Mexico, book your flights during the summer months. From October to May, the coastal resorts are at their best and temperatures are high. But you should keep in mind that hurricane season is from June to November, and it's best to plan around that or risk having your holiday ruined.
Mexico City is the capital and one of the country's most beautiful destinations. Located in the Anahuac Valley, it's surrounded by snow-capped volcanoes and is full of Mexican architecture from the 1950s and 1960s.
The biggest attraction is its 15 square kilometre city centre. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site it contains over 1,400 historic buildings.
Guanajuato is one of ten Mexican cities recognised as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It's full of colonial architecture, cobbled streets, winding lanes and a vibrant culture.
Its highlights include the plethora of art galleries, museums and plazas. Make sure you visit the famous Mummies of Guanajuato exhibit and catch a show at the Juárez Theater.
Merida is the capital city of Yucatan and one of the oldest in Mexico. Established in 1542, you'll find beautiful examples of European architecture and some of the region's best museums.
The city is also only three hours away from one of Mexico's biggest attractions, the Mayan ruins. Base yourself here and go on day trips to Tulum and Chichen Itza.
Oaxaca is one of Mexico's most popular destinations for history buffs. Its old city centre has hardly changed over the centuries and is full of beautiful buildings from the colonial era.
It's also known for its many festivals and events. If you can, plan your trip around Guelaguetza. It takes place in July and is a celebration of diversity among the different communities that call Oaxaca home.
Top Attractions in Mexico
Tulum is one of the most visited Mayan ruins in Mexico. Located in the Yucatan Peninsula, it's within easy reach of Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Cozumel.
Built in the 13th century, the city was inhabited up until the Spanish arrived. Today, the ruins are famous for their cliffside location and important archaeological finds. The most famous being the Temple of the Frescoes, which is full of beautiful reliefs and sculptures.
Entrance for Tulum costs MXN 65 without a guide. But if you want to learn more about the history of the site, it's recommended to get a guide for MXN 600.
Chichen Itza is another popular day trip from either Playa del Carmen or Merida. It's one of the most visited archaeological sites in the country and is one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.
Its highlights include the Caracol, a 1,000-year-old observatory and the Pyramid of Kukulkan, the site's tallest structure.
The best time to visit the ruins is either early in the morning when the gates open or around 3:00 p.m. This way you'll miss all the tour buses and be able to explore the complex in peace.
Just make sure you have the entrance fee of MXN 232 in cash as the card machine is often not working.
Copper Canyon is one of Mexico's most popular natural attractions. Located in the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains, it shares a border with New Mexico in the United States.
The canyons (which are larger than its brother the Grand Canyon) were formed by six rivers converging in the Rio Fuerte. The area gets its name from the copper colouring found all along the canyon walls.
One of the best ways to visit this attraction is to onboard the Ferrocarril Chihuahua al Pacifico train. Or, for the more adventurous, you can explore the region by bike or horseback.
A trip to Mexico wouldn't be complete without seeing what all the fuss is about in the Mayan Riviera.
Made of Cancun, Playa del Carmen and the island of Cozumel, the area has been attracting spring breakers and holidaymakers for years. In fact, about 20% of Mexico's tourism revenues comes from here.
But despite the area being so popular, it's still worth visiting. The Riviera is home to endless crystal clear water, pristine beaches and a bevy of fun activities.
Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
Located in Zocalo square, the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral is one of the largest and oldest churches in the world. It was built on top of an ancient Aztec temple in 1525 and construction took over 250 years to complete.
The cathedral is a must-visit for architecture nerds. It's a blend of three distinct styles which dominated during its lengthy construction; Baroque, Neoclassical and Neo-Renaissance.
Its highlights include the Altar of the Kings, a chapel that contains the remains of the Mexican Emperor Agustin de Iturbide and a Crypt with tombs the city's archbishops.
Major International Airports in Mexico
- Mexico City International Airport
- Cancún International Airport
- Guadalajara International Airport
- Monterrey International Airport
- Tijuana International Airport