Go back a few thousand years, and Mexico was once inhabited by an exceptionally interesting population, called the Mayans. Their ability to read stars, forecast storms, as well as their building techniques demonstrated in the Mayan pyramids are still mysteries to scientists today.
The history from the Mayan civilisation is still visible in Mexico’s ancient sites, one of the reasons why Mexico is the 8th most visited country in the world!
Not only is Mexico one of the most visited countries, being the 13th-largest country it’s also the most populous Spanish speaking country in the world. And we can’t forget to mention that the country offers an extraordinary range of incredibly diverse landscapes.
Why should you visit Mexico?
There’s a whole host of reasons why you should visit Mexico; the friendly people, the thriving and lively culture, the fascinating Mayan history, diverse landscapes, and don’t even get us started on the delicious food!
Travelling through Mexico is like visiting a number of different countries as different areas have their own atmosphere, landscape and climate.
Venture to the North of Mexico, and you’ll discover deserts and canyons. In the centre, Mexico proudly boasts thriving colonial cities, tightly clustered in the mountains. Head south and you’ll find an array of Maya ruins, picturesque beaches and dense jungles.
Not many countries in the world can offer such a variety!
Besides these spectacular sites and landscapes, you will be treated with the world-famous Mexican cuisine that was recently added to the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list by UNESCO. Of course there’s plenty of tacos, quesadillas and tostados to try, but look beyond these and you’ll notice that each region has its own speciality and treasure.
Mexico’s beaches and underwater world
If you decide to visit the Pacific coast, deep blue waters with waves strolling over the golden sand beaches will be waiting on you. Destinations like Puerto Escondido are literally a surfer’s paradise.
On the other side of the country, along the Caribbean coast, you’ll find picture-perfect white-sand beaches disappearing into idyllic turquoise waters.
Mexico’s waters offer so much, whether it be surfing, sailing, snorkelling, diving with whales or simply going for a refreshing swim. To top it off, Mexico has some of the best diving spots in the world due to its clear waters and great visibility.
And as if Mexico couldn’t get any better, it also offers a number of islands comparable to Caribbean islands. Isla Mujeres, Isla Holbox and Cozumel are just a few that offer that perfect tropical island getaway.
Keeping in mind the vast size of Mexico, when you only have a few weeks, it’s better to focus your visit either around Mexico City or the area around Cancun. Both parts of the country have so much to offer and we think it’s always better to get a true understanding of what the place is like, rather than just dipping your toe in the water.
Top places to visit in Mexico
These are 3 of our favourite places to visit in Mexico:
Mexico City – most capital cities in the world only need a few days of exploring to get a good understanding of the place. Mexico City is a different story. It’s one of the largest cities in the world and a hotspot for art, politics, history and innovation. The 150 museums alone can keep you entertained for days. It’s also the perfect jumping-off point for a day trip to the impressive pyramids of Teotihuacán. After Mexico City, many travellers take the 2.5 hour bus from Mexico City to Puebla.
Tulum – best described as a bohemian beachside town surrounded by history, that’s getting popular fast. Travellers can’t help but be drawn to its glorious white sand beaches, such as Playa Paraiso, or resist a swim in the clear turquoise sea. Without having to venture far from the beach, perched on top of a cliff, overlooking the ocean is Tulum’s Mayan ruins. The ruins are a sight to see in themselves, but now imagine them placed against an ocean backdrop. Really, views can’t get much better than that. You can easily get from Cancun to Tulum by bus, mini-van or colectivo in about 2.5 hours.
Oaxaca – Pronounced as wa-ha-ka, Oaxaca city is thriving with energy which you can’t help but notice as you explore the churches, museums and Mayan ruins nearby. If you’re a food lover, Oaxaca offers a unique food scene that you have to try. A popular dish to try is mole, which involves a sauce made from chocolate and chillies. Check out this page to compare the bus with the fligth from Mexico city to Oaxaca.
The list of extraordinary places in Mexico definitely doesn’t stop here. Within the state of Oaxaca you’ll find Puerto Escondido, rumoured to be the new Tulum, or head further north to Guadalajara, the home of the mariachi band. Here’s a few more destinations you should check out:
Mexico’s climate likes to keep it simple and only has two seasons: wet and dry.
Dry season runs from December to April, with temperatures averaging at around 28°C. Just bear in mind that if you’re staying in areas of high altitude, the weather can still get pretty cold.
As this is the best time to visit Mexico, you won’t be the only one making the most of the good weather. Big crowds flock to areas like Cancun, as well as the popular Mayan Ruins. Also keep in mind that prices are higher during the dry season, and you’ll need to book in advance.
Wet season is from June to October. During this time, Mexico experiences short, heavy rainfall and more intense temperatures ranging between 26-32°C.
Luckily, t’s still possible to travel during this time. It’s actually when Mexico will be gorgeously lush and green and places will be less crowded. Plus, prices will be lower. The only time that’s probably best to avoid is between August and October. During these months there’s the possibility of hurricanes, especially along both the Pacific and Carribean coasts.
How to get around in Mexico
Your budget, the number of people you’re travelling with, whether you have a driver’s license or not, are all factors that will influence how you decide to travel around Mexico. Here’s a short overview of the main transport options:
By bus – Mexico’s bus routes cover a large proportion of the country, making it the best way to travel the majority of the time. They’re often reasonably priced and offer a surprisingly comfortable way to travel. Executive and First Class buses offer reclining seats, A/C, Wifi and a toilet.
By colectivo – Colectivos are essentially Mexico’s version of a minivan. For short trips, particularly along the Caribbean coast, they’re predominantly used by locals to get from one place to another, but can also be used by tourists. As colectivos don’t have much space for luggage, they can only be used as cheap transport for day trips and are not really suitable to travel long distances to your next destination.
By plane – As we mentioned before, Mexico is an enormous country. Thankfully it has an extensive network of domestic airports which makes flying convenient and more time-efficient than other methods. Also, when you book in advance, flight prices tend to be much lower. Keep your eye out for low-cost airlines such as Interjet, VivaAerobus and Valoris. It’s always good to be aware of your travel footprint though. Taking a short-haul flight can be up to 10 times more polluting than taking a more environmentally-friendly option like the bus.
By car – driving around Mexico can be one of the best ways to see the country and truly get ‘off the beaten track’. Mexico has a number of toll roads so make sure you have cash on you at all times to pay for these. Some things to keep in mind if you do decide to drive; there are a number of military checkpoints, especially between states, it’s best not to drive at night and some of Mexico’s roads aren’t in the best condition. Also, car rental isn’t very cheap in Mexico, but sometimes you will be able to find some good offers on Skyscanner Car Rental.
By taxi – Mexico’s taxis are reasonably priced. The majority tend to have a meter, so make sure it’s working before you get in. If the taxi doesn’t have a meter, agree on a fixed price. Uber also operates in most larger cities, so make sure to download the app, even if it’s just to cross-check local taxi prices. Taxi prices vary quite a lot per city. A helpful app to find a good indication for taxi fares is Taxi Fares by Numbeo.
By train – Mexico doesn’t have a train network.
Visa for Mexico
Thankfully travelling to Mexico doesn’t require a lot of paperwork! Currently, citizens of 69 countries can travel to Mexico without the need for a Visa, as long as your stay is under 180 days.
Countries such as the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, New Zealand and those within the European Union, amongst others, are all included in the list of countries that don’t require a Visa. You can check whether you need a Visa here.
In addition, all visitors are required to have a passport that is valid for at least 6 months after the date of entry, so make sure to renew your passport if it’s going to run out soon.
When entering the country, you’ll need to complete an immigration form (FMM), which will be provided to you by the airline or at the port of entry. Make sure to keep hold of this form as you’ll need it for when you leave the country.
Some other things to keep in mind: when travelling to Mexico your airline or border control may ask to see proof of exit from Mexico e.g. a plane ticket, as well as proof of your intentions whilst in Mexico. However, checking and enforcement is sporadic.
The Perfect Packing List for Mexico
If you’re travelling to Mexico, just know that it’s going to be hot no matter what time of the year you arrive. It’s best to bring loose-fitting, cool clothes and of course your swimsuit if you’re making your way to Mexico’s spectacular beaches. It’s also good to bring a jumper/jacket for the evenings if you’re visiting the highlands or mountainous areas.
Aside from the essential travel gear, here are some that have become permanent fixtures on our packing list:
Reusable water bottle – they’re better for the environment and can save you money on water.
A portable charger – there’s probably going to be a time when your phone’s battery is on red, at a time that you desperately need it.
An adaptor – Mexico uses the same plugs as the US (A&B), which is different from European plugs. A universal travel adaptor is a great purchase if you’re travelling between different continents.
What other tips should you know?
Here’s a selection of the best tips and pieces of information that may make your trip to Mexico that bit easier:
Mexico uses the peso (MXN). As of January 2020, $1 was equivalent to around 20 MXN.
It’s good to always have some cash on you as not all establishments take cards. You’ll also need cash for taking the bus, markets and tips too.
It’s always good to know a few essential words before travelling to a place, so here’s a few to get you started:
Hello – Hola
Thank you – Gracias
Please – Por favor
Sorry – Lo siento
Beer – Cerveza
Food and drink
Tacos – you can’t go to Mexico and not have a taco. Served in a corn tortilla, unlike in some other countries, they’re commonly filled with al pastor, chorizo, beef, plus a whole host of toppings.
Tortas – big sub-style sandwiches that are overflowing with meat, cheese, beans, peppers, onions or whatever you want!
Elote – it’s essentially corn on the cob, but on a whole other level. Instead they’re served with an abundance of spices and garnishes such as lime, salt, chili powder, sour cream, to name a few.
Tequila – the throat-burning drink we normally shot with lemon and salt originated from Mexico, need we say anymore?
Mezcal – is often overshadowed by tequila. Both drinks are made from the agave plant, but Mezcal is like a more complex, sophisticated older brother to tequila. You probably won’t want to go back to drinking Tequila after you’ve tried Mezcal.
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