Travel Guide North America Mexico

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Introduction

Taxi speeding in Taxco

Taxi speeding in Taxco

© All Rights Reserved jack87jack

The present day United Mexican States, usually just called Mexico, has an amazing culture that is the result of centuries of intermingling between the indigenous American cultures and Spanish culture. These cultures have come together to create a modern nation with all the skyscrapers of other Western nations, but with traditional, centuries-old practices still carried on as if white man had never set foot in the New World. For travellers able to tear themselves away from Mexico's metropolitan hot spots and explore the countryside, an engaging insight into prehispanic culture is the reward. But tear themselves away they must, for Mexico's popular tourist spots are popular with very good reason. Whether it be the ancient ruins at Teotihuacan, Spanish colonial towns like Puebla, or the gorgeous seaside resort at Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta or Cancun, Mexico's diversity delights visitors with its brilliant potential. If you really want to get into the Mayan culture travellers should go to Yucatan or Chiapas. The mixture of colonial cities, impressive Mayan ruins like 7th world wonder Chichen Itza and coral white beaches is perfect for a great vacation.

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Brief History

The first major human settlements appeared in Mexico around 9,000 years ago with the domestication of corn, which led to the development of complex agriculture and cities. The most famous of these major civilizations were the Mayans, who built amazing stone cities and temples during their height in southern Mexico from 250 AD to about 900 AD. These city states made of a vast trade network that went all the way to Colorado. After the fall of the Mayans many other cultures came to power and fell until the arrival of the Spanish in 1519. When the Spanish arrived the Aztecs were in control and they were warrior agrarian society with their island capital of Tenochtitlan as their centre. The Spanish conquered the city in 1521 destroying its temple, draining the lake and turning it into the capital of New Spain, which later became Mexico City.

For nearly 300 years the Spanish controlled Mexico. They led a bloody campaign to convert the native population and decimated several different civilizations. The arrival of small pocks destroyed local populations in some areas by as much as 80%. After the appearance of the Virgin of Guadeloupe many native people converted to Christianity. In 1810 Mexico declared its independence from Spain and lead to a bloody 11 year war were half the population fled the country or were killed. In 1845 the United States annexed the northern territory of Texas from Mexico, which caused the Mexican-American War. This war finally ended in 1848 with Mexico losing the northern third of its country that includes all of present day California, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and Texas, and parts of Utah and Colorado.

In 1858 Benito Juarez became president of Mexico and is considered one of its most important people in Mexican history. The first full blooded Native American to be president and coming from Oaxaca, he instilled reforms that bothered the traditional elite class. This led to a French backed invasion, which occupied Mexico from 1864 to 1867. With the assistance of the United States, Jaurez was able to return and serve out 5 terms in total.

In 1910 the Mexican Revolution started and lasted 10 bloody years. The revolution had no winners and basically all sides just decided to end it. After the revolution the economy of Mexico grew, mainly based around natural resources and oil. Today Mexico is a country of extremes and has a very strong sense of identity and purpose.

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Geography

Mexico is located between latitudes 14° and 33°N, and longitudes 86° and 119°W in the southern portion of North America. Almost all of Mexico lies in the North American Plate, with small parts of the Baja California peninsula on the Pacific and Cocos Plates. Geophysically, some geographers include the territory east of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec (around 12% of the total) within Central America. Geopolitically, however, Mexico is entirely considered part of North America, along with Canada and the United States.

Mexico's total area is 1,972,550 km2, making it the world's 14th largest country by total area, and includes approximately 6,000 km2 of islands in the Pacific Ocean (including the remote Guadalupe Island and the Revillagigedo Islands), Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of California. From its farthest land points, Mexico is a little over 3,200 kilometres in length. In the north, Mexico shares a 3,141-kilometre border with the United States. The meandering Río Bravo del Norte (known as the Rio Grande in the United States) defines the border from Ciudad Juárez east to the Gulf of Mexico. A series of natural and artificial markers delineate the United States-Mexican border west from Ciudad Juárez to the Pacific Ocean. On its south, Mexico shares an 871-kilometre border with Guatemala and a 251-kilometre border with Belize.

The geography of Mexico is extremely diverse. In the north the country is mainly desert with some low mountain ranges that are home to amazing mineral resources. While the central part of the country is very dry with absolutely stunning mountains and volcanoes, some of them snow capped year round. The southern part of the country is extremely wet that is home to dense jungle with diverse wildlife, amazing ruins and stunning waterfalls. The Yucatan peninsula on the south has amazing jungle landscapes and stunning white beaches with the blue caribbean sea on the background.

Mexico is crossed from north to south by two mountain ranges known as Sierra Madre Oriental and Sierra Madre Occidental, which are the extension of the Rocky Mountains from northern North America. From east to west at the center, the country is crossed by the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt also known as the Sierra Nevada. A fourth mountain range, the Sierra Madre del Sur, runs from Michoacán to Oaxaca.
As such, the majority of the Mexican central and northern territories are located at high altitudes, and the highest elevations are found at the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt: Pico de Orizaba (5,700 metres), Popocatepetl (5,462 metres) and Iztaccihuatl (5,286 metres) and the Nevado de Toluca (4,577 metres). Three major urban agglomerations are located in the valleys between these four elevations: Toluca, Greater Mexico City and Puebla.

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Regions

Mexico is divided into 31 states and 1 federal district (Mexico City). The 31 states can be grouped into larger regions.

BajaBaja California and Baja California Sur
Pacific CoastSonora, Sinaloa, Nayarit, Jalisco, Colima, Michoacan, Guerrero, Oaxaca and Chiapas
Central Northern MexicoChihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, Durango, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi and Aguascalientes
Central MexicoGuanajuato, Queretaro, Hidalgo, Estado de Mexico, Morelos, Tlaxcala and Puebla (State)
The Caribbean Coast and Yucatan PeninsulaTamaulipas, Veracruz, Tabasco, Campeche, Yucatan and Quintana Roo

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Cities

Mexico City

Mexico City is the nation's capital and one of the largest cities in the world. It is home to amazing museums, art and one of the best old towns in the world. Just remember to check out some of the lighter side of Mexico City like mariachi bands, catinas and lucha libre! It is known to be one of the most dangerous cities in the world but if you be aware of that and take care by not bringing valuable thing you will enjoy this exciting city.

Other Major Cities

  • Acapulco is famous for the song, it's gold sand beaches and it's popularity as a stop for cruise ships. This has been a cosmopolitan destination for more than half a century and continues to draw tourists looking for a bit of sun, sand and sea. The setting here is beautiful, with lush green hills tumbling down into the foamy blue waters of Bahia de Acapulco. Many romantic restaurants and swanky hotels hang on to those lush hillsides and staying for a few days in "The pearl of the Pacific" can be an intoxicating experience, indeed.
  • Campeche is a beautiful colonial city on the Yucatan Peninsula. This walled city is famous for it's pastel colored buildings, defensive ramparts, mansions and a very lively malecon. Visitors can walk atop certain sections of the defensive walls and learn about Campeches's pirate past, or simply use the lofty vantage point to gaze down on cobblestoned streets and those iconic pastel hued buildings.
  • Cancún is an important gateway to the Yucatan beaches and is a playground for partying college students, young couples and even families. Beyond the beaches, resorts, clubs and tacky shopping opportunities, Cancún presents itself as a very likable city - there is a genuine workaday feel going on here.
  • Chihuahua is a very prosperous northern Mexican city with a real western feel to it. Many denizens of Chihuahua can be seen sporting cowboy hats and boots and many businesses in town sell all manner of western wear. There is also a great deal of Mexican Revolutionary history here and visitors can learn more about it by visiting Pancho Villa's mansion or the cell where Miguel Hidalgo was imprisoned along with the spot of his execution in 1811.
  • Guadalajara in central Mexico offers visitors great culture and stunning colonial architecture. Mexico's second largest city is responsible for some of the country's most iconic things; mariachi, tequila and the sombrero all hail proudly from Guadalajara. There are some lesser known culinary treats hailing from the city as well and visitors simply should not miss the earthy, spicy birria stew or the torta ahogada during a visit to Guadalajara.
  • Guanajuato has become very popular with travelers in the past decade. The city is known for it's cultural diversions - theater, and classical music performances draw the bulk of visitors to this UNESCO World Heritage city. Guanajuato owes it's prosperity to the hills surrounding it; one of the worlds richest silver deposits was discovered here in 1558 and mining soon put the city and other nearby communities in the hills on the map.
  • La Paz is a major city on the Baja Peninsula. There is lively nightlife here as well as several very beautiful beaches north of La Paz, where sea kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding are very popular. Sport fishing here is some of the best in the world and anglers have plenty of choices for chartered excursions. La Paz is also a popular vacation spot for Mexicans in July and August, with ferry connections to mainland Mexico via Mazatlan and Topolobampo.
  • Mazatlan is a popular cruise ship stop and has garnered a large expat community from the United States and Canada over the last several decades. This is the home of Pacifico beer and enjoying a bottle or two while feasting on Sinaloense-style seafood is a real treat. Mazatlan also features one of Mexico's best malecons and watching the famous cliff divers during your stroll along this pedestrian thoroughfare makes for an amazing show.
  • Mérida on the Yucatan Peninsula is very quickly becoming a major destination for travelers. This elegant city owes it's prosperity to the henequin trade. Mérida indeed has one of the prettiest plazas in all of Mexico and each Sunday features boisterous live music and dances in the streets fronting this public square. The ruins of Calakmul and Uxmal are nearby, making Mérida a great base for exploring this part of Yucatan state.
  • Monterrey is known as the "oven" of Mexico and also the country's most prosperous city. Monterrey lacks the same colonial charm of many Mexican cities and instead shows it's wealth and prosperity through many modern buildings and flashy shopping districts. There is even a rather impressive subway system running through the heart of Monterrey. The setting here couldn't be prettier due to the backdrop of the dramatic peaks of Parque Ecológico Chipinque.
  • Oaxaca (City) is the capital of Oaxaca state and is one of Mexico's most popular destinations. Museums, galleries, authentic markets, several colonial squares and many cultural fairs throughout the year give Oaxaca City a compelling appeal. Many visitors come here to learn Spanish and enroll in cooking and weaving courses. The city maintains a sizable expat community throughout the year.
  • Playa del Carmen, Cancún's smaller twin sister, enjoys a bit of a more refined reputation. There are still plenty of resorts and accommodations to cater to all manner of tourism and more and more people are beginning to choose this pleasant town as a destination. There is plenty of nightlife here in Playa del Carmen to compete with the international appeal of Cancún.
  • Puerto Vallarta is a major holiday destination with beaches, art galleries, museums and plenty of shopping malls. There is still quite an air of sophistication here, for this has been one of the finer destinations for a beach vacation in Mexico for many decades.
  • San Cristobal de las Casas is a cultural city in the southern mountains of Chiapas state. San Cristobal appeals to expats and backpackers alike. offering outdoor pursuits, language and cooking courses, handicraft vendors, lively indigenous markets, museums and art galleries.
  • Tijuana is a large city in the extreme northwest corner of Mexico near the border with USA. The rough reputation of this border town is slowly beginning to change as hip craft breweries and cultural diversions draw a more varied type of visitor. Tijuana still offers plenty of raucous entertainment though, and the city is also home to the busiest land-border crossing in the entire world, which means you can always expect a chaotic scene if that's what you are looking for.
  • Tulum is popular for its beach side Mayan ruins and a good range of oceanfront accommodations. The popular Sian Ka'an Biosphere Preserve south of Tulum offers plenty of chance for adventurous exploration of lagoons, cenotes and more Mayan ruins as well as wildlife spotting.
  • Veracruz is the main port of Mexico and a very lively beach destination. The city is also the place to come to hear traditional Marimba music played all day throughout the central plaza. There is a fascinating Mexican Naval museum here as well as several fortresses to explore. Don't forget to try the famous Veracruz-style of seafood, prepared with a rich tomato sauce, olives and spices.
  • Zacatecas is a beautiful colonial city tucked into a very narrow valley. The city streets twist and turn in every direction, leading to small plazas here and there fronted by grand, intricate cathedrals. A cable car atop the ridges of the hills spans the valley below and a ride guarantees a dizzying view of the rooftops and narrow streets of Zacatecas.

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Sights and Activities

Barranca del Cobre

Sunrise in Copper Canyon

Sunrise in Copper Canyon

© All Rights Reserved ride165

Barranca del Cobre, also known as Copper Canyon, is a series of 6 different canyons in the Sierra Tarahumura, which is in the southwestern part of the state of Chihuahua. All the canyons added together are larger and some parts are deeper then the Grand Canyon in the USA, although no individual canyon in Barranca del Cobre is larger then the Grand Canyon. The Chihuahuah Pacifico railroad goes up and down the canyon, which is known by the nickname Chepe. The canyons are the traditional home of the Tarahumara people, which are known for their long distance running ability. These people have been known to run 160 kilometres in order to run down an animal to kill it. The Tarahumara people still live a traditional lifestyle and practice a traditional religion with a Roman Catholic twist. You can travel through it by train. Chihuahua is the starting point for the famous Ferrocarril Chihuahua al Pacífico which travels two times daily to the Pacific coastline to the city of Los Mochis, Sinaloa and its port Topolobampo, though the beautiful Copper Canyon. One trip is for tourists only and is much faster, the second daily trip is slower, stopping en route at about 15 places and is a combined trip with cargo.

Las Pozas

Las Pozas ("the Pools") is a surrealistic group of structures created by Edward James, more than 610 metres above sea level, in a subtropical rainforest in the mountains of Mexico. It includes more than 32 hectares of natural waterfalls and pools interlaced with towering surrealist sculptures in concrete. Between 1949 and 1984, James built scores of surreal concrete structures which carry the names The House on Three Floors Which Will in Fact Have Five or Four or Six, The House with a Roof like a Whale, and The Staircase to Heaven. Massive sculptures up to four stories tall punctuate the site. The many trails throughout the garden site are composed of steps, ramps, bridges and narrow, winding walkways that traverse the valley walls. Las Pozas is near the village of Xilitla, San Luis Potosí, a seven-hour drive north of Mexico City.

Beaches

Holbox

Holbox

© All Rights Reserved JOSE_MARIA

Mexico has some of the best beaches in the world. Most of the coast of Mexico is white sand with desert or jungle mountains in the background. Some of the beaches have the best nightlife of any tourist scene, were people can drink all night long. Other places are more quiet, romantic or secluded. And for the real trail blazer there is still lots of coastline with nothing on it at all.

  • Acapulco is on the Pacific Coast.
  • Cabo San Lucas in Baja California Sur.
  • Cancun is on the Yucatán Peninsula in Quintana Roo and is the center for some great scuba diving. Unfortunately it has become very touristic with mainly American tourists in huge All Inclusive resorts. Most of the beaches are private.
  • Huatulco is on the southern Pacific coast in the state of Oaxaca. Many cruise ships come to Huatulco and the tourism industry is quite new here. Several very picturesque beaches are strung along the coast here.
  • Isla Holbox - The beaches of Isla Holbox (pronounced hol-bosh) are not as clear as those in the rest of Quintana Roo but this remains a very relaxing destination. Isla Holbox is located on the Gulf of Mexico, northwest of Cancún.
  • Isla Mujeres
  • Mazatlán is on the Pacific coast in Sinaloa.
  • Playa del Carmen is on the Caribbean Coast in Quintana Roo. A bit less touristic than Cancun and all the beaches are public.
  • Cozumel - The beach is not that good but the sea is beautiful and the reef starts right at the beach. So you can go snorkeling right away and see amazing fishes and coral reefs.
  • Puerto Vallarta is on the Pacific Coast in Jalisco.
  • Rocky Point is at the northern tip of the Sea of Cortez. This spot is very popular with Americans from the southwest states and many own seasonal homes here.
  • Tulum is on the Yucatán Peninsula, approx 130 kilometres south of Cancún and also home to some amazing ruins. The beaches are white and the sea is blue. This is the Caribbean Sea as you imagine it to be. It is a lot more quiet than the other beachtowns in Quintana Roo like Cancun and Playa del Carmen.

Chichen Itza

2009.09.05 Chichen Itza (4)

2009.09.05 Chichen Itza (4)

© All Rights Reserved JOSE_MARIA

Chichen Itza is one of the new 7 world wonders and for good reason. The site is located on the Yucatán Peninsula between Mérida and Valladolid. The site is very popular for daytrips from tourists who stay in the Riviera Maya. The main attraction is the big pyramid of Kukulcan or El Castillo. Unfortunately it is not possibly to climb up the pyramid anymore but it is also impressive to see the building and to imagine how the Mayans have constructed it. They must have had quite some knowledge of mathematics and astrology. The ground plan of the pyramid has square terraces with stairways on every side to the temple on the top. Two times a year during the Spring and Autumn equinox it seems like a snake comes down the stairs of the north staircase. This symbolises the feathered snake which represents Kukulcan or Quetzalcoatle. The shadow moves down by the movement of the sun during the rising and setting of the sun. Underneath the temple archeologists have found another temple. Inside the temple was a Chac Mool statue and a throne in the shape of a jaguar, painted red with spots made of inlaid jade. As most other archeological sites Chichen Itza also has a ball field but it is bigger than many others. Although nobody knows exactly how the ballgame was played the pictures on the walls suggest that the game ended quite bloody.

Calakmul

IMG_3910

IMG_3910

© All Rights Reserved edmtp

Calakmul, also known as Kalakmul, is one of the largest Mayan cities ever discovered. Located deep in the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve near the Guatemalan border in the state of Campeche, this ancient city is well preserved. Only found in 1931 the city was a major seat of power for the Kaan dynasty and had a population of over 50,000. The city was a rival to Tikal during the late classical period with the Caracol as an alley. The city was occupied from the 6th century to the 10th century and today is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Palenque Ruins

The Palenque Ruins are the main reason why people come to Palenque. Although not as massive as Tikal, its rival to the south, Palenque is home to some stunning structures and well preserved wall art that few other major Mayan sites can claim to have. Remember that during the busy season Palenque can have over a 1,000 visitors a day, so it can get awfully crowded.

Palenque

Palenque

© All Rights Reserved Lavafalls


Although it is possible to take tours to the ruins most of the time the tours do not stay long enough. This is practically true for day tours from San Cristobal de las Casas, which only give 2 hours at the ruins. In order to really experience the awe, wonder and every corner of this ancient city it takes 4 to 6 hours. It is best to bring good walking shoes and plenty of water. As a warning the mushrooms sold by locals near the entrnace in the spring time are of the magic variety.

Teotihuacan

Teotihuacan was an ancient Mesoamerican city located in a sub-valley of the Valley of Mexico, located in the State of Mexico about 50 kilometres northeast of modern-day Mexico City, known today as the site of many of the most architecturally significant Mesoamerican pyramids built in the pre-Columbian Americas. The site covers a total surface area of 83 square kilometres and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. It is the most visited archaeological site in Mexico.

Other Archeological Sites

The central and southern parts of Mexico were home to the Aztec, Mayan and Olmec civilizations among others and numerous ruins from these civilizations can be visited.

  • Monte Albán was one of the oldest Mesoamerican cities and is in Oaxaca. This was the capital of the Zapotec people and the site was first occupied about 500 BC. This was also the center of a society ruled largely by priests that controlled several hundred other settlements in the valleys below. Toady, the ruins still have pride of place on a flattened hilltop with commanding 365 -degree views of the valley below and the surrounding mountains.
  • Tajín - Found in the heart of the gulf of Mexico, north of Veracruz. This city was likely founded around 100 AD and represents the Classic Veracruz civilization. Tajín really stands out due to the square niches on the sides of many temples and buildings, giving them a distinctly Asian appearance. The iconic Pyramid of the Niches is thought to have originally contained 365 of these square features and may have been used as a calendar of sorts. As with nearly all sites in Mexico, Tajín contains ball courts - 17 of them to be precise.
  • Ek' Balam - this ruin is close to Valladolid and really worth a visit. Ek' Balam boasts a massive pyramid that is currently being restored, featuring stucco skulls and human figures with wings. You can climb up the big temple and many other pyramids as well. Except for some Mexican families having a picnic you will hardly find any tourists here. This is a great day trip from Valladolid. Nearby the ruins is X-Canché Cenote, where swimming, adventure activities, camping and cabin rentals await.
  • Uxmal - this site is on the way from Mérida to Campeche. Uxmal is an ancient Maya city of the classical period in present-day Mexico. It is considered one of the most important archaeological sites of Maya culture, along with Palenque, Chichén, and Calakmul in Mexico, Caracol and Xunantunich in Belize, and Tikal in Guatemala. It is located in the Puuc region of the eastern Yucatan Peninsula, and is considered one of the Maya cities most representative of the region's dominant architectural style. The site is very big and the architecture is amazing and quite different from other sites.
  • Coba Coba (Spanish: Cobá) is an ancient Mayan city on the Yucatán Peninsula, located in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. The site is the nexus of the largest network of stone causeways of the ancient Mayan world, and it contains many engraved and sculpted stelae that document ceremonial life and important events of the Late Classic Period (AD 600–900) of Mesoamerican civilization. Just about an 1 hour away from Tulum you will encounter Coba. While monkeys are screaming and jumping through the trees you can ride around the site by bike and even climb up the big temple to have a great view over the jungle.
  • Xochicalco is a pre-Columbian archaeological site in Miacatlán Municipality in the western part of the Mexican state of Morelos. The name Xochicalco may be translated from Nahuatl as "in the house of Flowers". The site is located 38 km southwest of Cuernavaca. The site is open to visitors all week, from 10 am to 5 pm, although access to the observatory is only allowed after noon. The apogee of Xochicalco came after the fall of Teotihuacan and it has been speculated that Xochicalco may have played a part in the fall of the Teotihuacan empire. The architecture and iconography of Xochicalco show affinities with Teotihuacan, the Maya area, and the Matlatzinca culture of the Toluca Valley. Today the residents of the nearby village of Cuentepec speak Nahuatl. The main ceremonial center is atop an artificially leveled hill, with remains of residential structures, mostly unexcavated, on long terraces covering the slopes. The site was first occupied by 200 BC, but did not develop into an urban center until the Epiclassic period (AD 700 – 900). Nearly all the standing architecture at the site was built at this time. At its peak, the city may have had a population of up to 20,000 people.
  • Tzintzuntzan was the ceremonial center of the pre-Columbian Tarascan state capital of the same name. The name comes from the Purépecha word Ts’intsuntsani, which means "place of hummingbirds". After being in Pátzcuaro for the first years of the Purépecha Empire, power was consolidated in Tzintzuntzan in the mid 15th century. The empire continued to grow and hold off attacks by the neighboring Aztec Empire, until the Spanish arrived. Not wanting to suffer the destruction that the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan did, the emperor in this city surrendered to the Spanish. Eventually, much of the site and especially its distinct five rounded pyramids called yácatas were destroyed and the city almost completely abandoned. Due to lack of interest in the old Purépecha dominion, excavation of this site did not begin until the 1930s.
  • Tula is a Mesoamerican archeological site, which was an important regional center which reached its height as the capital of the Toltec Empire between the fall of Teotihuacan and the rise of Tenochtitlan. It has not been well studied in comparison to these other two sites, and disputes remain as to its political system, area of influence and its relations with contemporary Mesoamerican cities, especially with Chichen Itza. The site is located in the city of Tula de Allende in the Tula Valley, in what is now the southwest of the Mexican state of Hidalgo, northwest of Mexico City. The archeological site consists of a museum, remains of an earlier settlement called Tula Chico as well as the main ceremonial site called Tula Grande.

Popocatépetl

Popocatepetl volcano in activity

Popocatepetl volcano in activity

© All Rights Reserved marianojf

Popocatépetl is an active volcano located in the heart of Mexico, about 70 kilometres southeast of the capital Mexico City. The mountain has been climbed since a long time ago. The Tecuanipas tribe is said to have climbed it in 1289, followed by the Spanish in the 16th century. Literally meaning the 'smoking mountain', it is the second highest peak in the country and on one of those rare clear days it can be seen from the higher parts of Mexico City. Popocatépetl is one of the only three mountains in Mexico that has glaciers near the summit. Popocatépetl has had over 20 eruptions in modern history, with the eruptions of 1994, 1996, 2004 and 2005 (still continuing as at 2009) [1] being the most recent ones. In the 1996 eruption, tens of thousands of people were evacuated by the government based on the warnings of scientists. The volcano then experienced its worst eruption in thousands of years. Popocatépetl is one of the only three mountains in Mexico that has glaciers near the summit.

Spanish Colonial History

With a long colonial history, Mexico has some amazing places to see from that era. There are wonderful 16th and 17th century churches to explore. There are town squares that look like they should belong in Spain and historic old towns to explore in most of the larger cities. Remember that some of the areas have started to deteriorate, so be careful.

  • Campeche is beautiful colonial city on the Yucatan Peninsula which retains many of the old colonial Spanish city walls and fortifications which protected the city (not always successfully) from pirates and buccaneers. Originally, the Spaniards lived inside the walled city, while the natives lived in the surrounding barrios of San Francisco, Guadalupe and San Román. These barrios still retain their original churches; the one in Guadalupe is almost 500 years old.
  • Cuernavaca has long been a favorite escape for Mexico City and foreign visitors because of its warm, stable climate and abundant vegetation. Aztec emperors had summer residences there, and considering its location of just a 1½-hour drive from Mexico City, today many Mexico City residents maintain homes there. Cuernavaca is also host to a large foreign resident population, including large numbers of students who come to study the Spanish language.
  • Puebla is the capital and largest city of the state of Puebla, and one of the five most important Spanish colonial cities in Mexico. A colonial era-planned city, it is located in Central Mexico on the main route between the capital, Mexico City, and Mexico's main Atlantic port, Veracruz. Due to its history and architectural styles ranging from Renaissance to Mexican Baroque, the city was named a World Heritage Site in 1987. The city is also famous for mole poblano, chiles en nogada and Talavera pottery. However, most of its economy is based on industry.
  • Santiago de Queretaro has been recognized as the metro area with the best quality of life and as the safest city in Mexico and also as the most dynamic in Latin America. It is a strong business and economic centre and a vigorous service city that is experiencing an ongoing social and economic revitalization.
  • San Cristobal de las Casas. Tourism here is based on the city’s history, culture and indigenous population, although the tourism itself has affected the city, giving it foreign elements. Major landmarks of the city include the Cathedral, the Santo Domingo church with its large open air crafts market and the Casa Na Bolom museum. The municipality has suffered severe deforestation, but it has natural attractions such as caves and rivers.

Volcán Paricutin

Volcán Paricutin is located 35 kilometers west of Uruapan in the state of Michoacán. This is a relatively new volcano which formed in 1943 from a hole in an avocado field and continued to slowly grow for 9 years. That slow eruption was responsible for lava which gradually buried the nearby village of San Juan Parangaricutiro. In fact, even though the entire village was buried everyone made it out alive due to the slow progression of the destructive lava. Today, all that remains visible of the ruined village is parts of it's church, which seem to be eerily sprouting from rocks that were once liquid magma. It is possible to climb onto the steeple, which is roughly at ground level, and peer into the open interior. An altar and nave remain and locals enter the church to decorate the former with flowers and other offerings. This part of Michoacán is full of ancient volcanoes that are lush and green with vegetation, however Paricutin is so new there is very little established growth on the slopes and the cone of the volcano resembles a giant pile of black coal.

Laguna Bacalar

Laguna Bacalar is a long and narrow lake in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. It is approximately 42 km long measured from north to south, and less than 2 km at its widest. The lake is renowned for its striking blue color and water clarity, partly the result of having a white limestone bottom. Like most bodies of water in the Yucatán peninsula, the lake is fed by underground rivers, whose regular open pools are cenotes. Because of the porous limestone, the Yucatan Peninsula has almost no lakes, this is by far the largest, and fed by the 450 km underground river that is part of the worlds's largest subterranean water cave/tunnel system, paralleling the coast.

Other Natural Sites

  • Calakmul Biosphere Reserve - The is the largest reserve in the country. The Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, or Reserva de la Biosfera de Calakmul, is located at the base of the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico, in Calakmul Municipality in the state of Campeche, bordering the Guatemalan department of El Petén to the south. It occupies 7,231 km2 and includes about 12% of the subperennial jungles of Mexico. The Reserve, which was established in 1989, is one of the largest protected areas in Mexico, covering more than 14% of the state. The important pre-Columbian Maya civilization archaeological site of Calakmul, one of the largest-known Maya sites, is located in the Biosphere Reserve.
  • Cozumel is very popular for its scuba diving. You can go snorkeling right from the beach. The coralreefs and fishes are amazing. The island is located in the Caribbean Sea along the eastern side of the Yucatan Peninsula about 82 kilometres south of Cancún and 19 km from the mainland. The island is about 48 km long and 16 km wide. With a total area of 477.961 km2, it is Mexico's largest Caribbean island, largest permanently inhabited island, and Mexico's third-largest island, following Tiburón Island and Isla Ángel de la Guarda.
  • La Bufadora is a blowhole on the Punta Banda Peninsula in Baja California. The spout of sea water is the result of air, trapped in a sea cave, exploding upwards. Air is forced into the cave by wave action and is released when the water recedes. This interaction not only creates the spout, but a thunderous noise as well. The phenomena repeats every minute or so with its volume depending on the strength of the waves. La Bufadora is one of the largest blowholes in North America, often shooting upwards more than 30 m above sea level. The exhibit hall roof top is approximately 24 m above sea level and the blowhole frequently sprays above it.
  • Sian Ka'an is a biosphere reserve in Quintana Roo. Part of the reserve is on land and part is in the Caribbean Sea, including a section of coral reef. The reserve has an area of 5,280 km2. The reserve also includes some 23 known archaeological sites of the Maya civilization including Muyil. Remains of the Decauville railway Vigía Chico-Santa Cruz, which was operated from 1905 to 1932, can be found at several places.
  • Isla Holbox - This little island north of Yucatan is perfect for some relaxing days. However the beach is quite hard because golfcarts go over it the whole time you can make nice walks over the island and take boattrips to other deserted island to see many birds and dolphins along the way. Even more special to go here in the summer months (June to September) because then you have the oppurtunity to go snorkelling with the immense whale shark!
  • Misol Ha is a waterfall located in the Municipality of Salto de Agua, 20 kilometers from Palenque by the road that leads towards San Cristóbal de las Casas. This waterfall consists of one single cascade of 35 m in height that falls into a single, almost circular, pool amidst tropical vegetation. The water is a clear blue color due to its high mineral content. Behind the cascade there is a cave approximately 20 m in length. The pool is suitable for swimming.
  • Agua Azul Falls are a series of waterfalls found on the Xanil River in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas. They are located in the Municipality of Tumbalá, 69 kilometers from Palenque. These waterfalls consists of many cataracts following one after another, taken from near the top of the sequence of cascades. The larger cataracts may be as high as 6 meters or so. During much of the distance the water descends in two streams, with small islands in the middle. The water has a high content of calcium carbonate and other minerals, and where it falls on rocks or fallen trees, it encases them in a thick shell-like coating of limestone.
  • Sumidero Canyon is a deep natural canyon located just north of the city of Chiapa de Corzo in the state of Chiapas, in southern Mexico. The canyon's creation began around the same time as the Grand Canyon in the U.S. state of Arizona, by a crack in the area's crust and subsequent erosion by the Grijalva River, which still runs through it. Sumidero Canyon has vertical walls which reach as high as 1,000 metres, with the river turning up to 90 degrees during the 13-kilometer length of the narrow passage.
  • Cumbres de Monterrey National Park is a national park of Mexico located in the northern portion of the Sierra Madre Oriental in the states of Nuevo León and Coahuila, near the city of Monterrey. The park protects more than 1,770 square kilometers of rugged terrain boasting deep canyons, rivers, waterfalls, and scenic mountain peaks, including the Cerro de la Silla ("Saddle Mountain"), part of Monterrey's famous skyline.
  • Barranca del Cupatitzio National Park is a national park in the Mexican state of Michoacán, centered around the headwaters of the Cupatitzio River. The river emerges from an underground spring, carving a small ravine as the water begins to flow. The park is known for its abundant streams and springs, many of which cascade down the sides of the ravine to form small waterfalls.
  • Cabo Pulmo National Park is a national marine park on the east coast of Mexico's Baja California Peninsula, spanning the distance between Pulmo Point and Los Frailes Cape, approximately 100 kilometers north of Cabo San Lucas in the Gulf of California. Bahía Pulmo is home to the oldest of only three coral reefs on the west coast of North America. Estimated to be 20,000 years old, it is the northernmost coral reef in the eastern Pacific Ocean.

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Events and Festivals

Mexico's rich history and blend cultures gives birth to many amazing festivals and events. Like most Latin American countries everything means somethings and has a purpose. Many festivals are extremely local and are a blend of Spanish, Moorish and Native American traditions and beliefs.

Day of the Dead

Although the Day of the Dead is also celebrated in many Latin American countries except Mexico (and also in parts of Europe, Asia and Africa), the Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de los Muertos) is most intensily celebrated in Mexciowhere where it is equal to a National Holiday. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. The celebration takes place on November 1st and 2nd, in connection with the Catholic holidays of All Saints' Day (November 1) and All Souls' Day (November 2). Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting graves with these as gifts. Although it is about the Dead, it is also a celebration where eating and partying both are common as well.

Guadalajara International Film Festival

Mexico’s oldest and most significant film festival, Guadalajara International Film Festival was established in 1986. Since then, it has been a springboard for some of Mexico and Latin America’s most successful flicks. It has also gained acclaim for its outstanding training programs that support emerging film and documentary makers. The event usually lasts for around nine days and takes place during the first week of March.

Aztec New Year

This is the celebration of the new year according to the Aztec calendar. The date on which the holiday falls in the Gregorian calendar depends on the version of the calendar used,[citation needed] but it is generally considered to occur at sunrise on March 12. The holiday is observed in some Nahua communities in Mexico. To celebrate, ocote (pitch-pine) candles are lit on the eve of the new year, along with fireworks, drumming, and singing. Some of the most important events occur in Huauchinango, Naupan, Mexico City, Zongolica, and Xicotepec.

Machaca Fest

Machaca Fest is an annual music, art, and norteño traditional festival in Monterrey, Nuevo León, the largest city in northern Mexico. The event mainly showcases Latin American talent from Rock en español. Other musical genres are also featured. Machaca Fest unites a mix of national and international bands. Machaca Fest was officially formed in 2011, although its origins date to the 1990s in the local bar scene in Monterrey, due to the success of the Avanzada Regia with Plastilina Mosh, Control Machete, El Gran Silencio, La Flor de Lingo, Zurdok Movimiento y La Ultima del Lucas. The 2011 and 2012 festivals were hosted in the Plaza de Toros Monumental. From 2013 onwards, the festival moved to Parque Fundidora.

Festival Internacional Cervantino

The Festival Internacional Cervantino (FIC), popularly known as El Cervantino, is a festival which takes place each fall in the city of Guanajuato, located in central Mexico. The festival originates from the mid 20th century, when short plays by Miguel de Cervantes called entremeses (singular entremés) were performed in the city's plazas. Guanajuato is a small colonial-era city with a rich cultural history. In 1972, the festival was expanded with federal support to include more events to add a more international flavor. Since then, FIC has grown to become the most important international artistic and cultural event in Mexico and Latin America, and one of four major events of its type in the world.

Heaven & Hell Metal Fest

Hell & Heaven Metal Fest (H&H, el Hell, or Festival Hell and Heaven) is an open air heavy metal music festival. It takes place annually during Fall or Spring, near Mexico City in Texcoco, located in the State of Mexico, in the central part of the country. With over 30,000 festival visitors, it attracts metal music fans of all subgenres including thrash metal, black metal, death metal, power metal, gothic metal, folk metal, and even metalcore, nu metal, hard rock from all over the world. The festival is mostly attended by a Mexican audience from all around the country, but attracts a large number of visitors from Central and South America, as well as fans from Europe and other parts of the world.

International Pasty Festival

The International Pasty Festival (Spanish: Festival Internacional del Paste) is an annual festival celebrating the pasty that has been held in Real del Monte, Hidalgo, Mexico since 2009. Pasties (known locally as pastes), were introduced to the region by Cornish miners in the 19th century and are still made by their descendants. Traditional recipes may be followed, but often the ingredients today reflect local preferences. The annual festival attracts thousands of visitors, who may also visit the Cornish Pasty Museum and attend other cultural events.

FotoFilm Tijuana

FotoFilm Tijuana is a festival that takes place annually in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico. It is a photography and film festival and had over 22,000 attendees in 2017. Held in July at the Tijuana Cultural Center, the event is a showcase for Mexican and international filmmakers, photographers and performers. The festival comprises competitive sections for short films, and includes feature films and documentary films. The first edition was held in 2017, and included the films William: El Nuevo Maestro del Judo, La Habitación, and Heroyna in the main selection. The second edition took place on July 27–31, 2018 at the Tijuana Cultural Center, and included 14 feature films, 12 short films, and a contest for new directors through FilmFreeway, which resulted in six finalists and a winner for the Best of Show award.

Quimera International Festival of Art and Culture

This is an international art and cultural event that takes place in several locations of Metepec, Toluca, Mexico named after the chimera, a mythological creature with parts from multiple animals. For example, Calvario o Santuario, la parroquia de San Juan Bautista y Santa María de Guadalupe, el antiguo Convento Franciscano, el Parque Juárez. It happens once a year, in October. It offers expositions of theater, literature, dance, music and art from international guests. It is a public event and most of the expositions are for free. It is Metepec's most important cultural festival.

Night of the Radishes

The Night of the Radishes (Noche de Los Rábanos in Spanish) is an annual event held on December 23 in Oaxaca, Mexico, dedicated to the carving of oversized radishes (Raphanus sativus) to create scenes that compete for prizes in various categories. The event has its origins in the colonial period when radishes were introduced by the Spanish. Oaxaca has a long wood carving tradition and farmers began carving radishes into figures as a way to attract customers’ attention at the Christmas market, which was held in the main square on December 23. In 1897, the city created the formal competition. As the city has grown, the city has had to dedicate land to the growing of the radishes used for the event, supervising their growth and distribution to competitors. The event has become very popular, attracting over 100 contestants and thousands of visitors.

Saints’ Week (Semana Santa)

Another big family event on the calendar starts on Easter weekend. Semana Santa is a time when most Mexicans head to their family homes or go on vacation. It is vivaciously celebrated in Mexico City where many parades are held, and is one of the capital’s most significant events.

Puerto Vallarta International Gourmet Festival

This is an annual culinary festival held in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, every November since 1995. There were 35,000 visitors to the festival in 2006. Every year the Festival invites culinary professionals from all over the world to cook and to demonstrate their cuisines. The Festival is supported by local restaurants. During the Festival, international and local food and beverage professionals run events around town, with each of the participating restaurants hosting a guest master chef and creating its own events to complement its food offerings. Events during the festival include the Sunday Festival Gourmet Brunch, Wine Tasting, and Cheeses of the World. There are also Chef's Table and Winemakers' dinners hosted by restaurants. The traditional Gala Dinner, called The Spirit of Mexico, concludes the Festival.

Guelaguetza Dance Festival

Celebrated in the southern Mexican city of Oaxaca, Guelaguetza, which is also known as Los Lunes del Cerro, is an indigenous cultural event and one of the largest festivals in the state. Based on a pre-Hispanic ritual, the event in mid-July celebrates indigenous tribes, traditional dancing, dress, native bands, and classic handicrafts. It draws crowds from all over Mexico and is now a major tourist attraction.

Independence Day (Dia de la Independencia)

Undoubtedly Mexico’s most patriotic and revered holiday, the anniversary of Mexico’s independence, achieved in 1810, falls on September 16. Festivities start the previous evening when the country’s president bellows the cry, “Viva Mexico,” from the National Palace. It is a proud, emotional atmosphere, especially in Mexico City’s Zocalo, and a great spectacle to behold.

Day of our Lady of Guadalupe (Dia de Nuestro Senora de Guadalupe)

Although it is not a national holiday, Dia de Nuestro Senora de Guadalupe is probably Mexico’s most significant religious date. Celebrated on December 12, festivities begin a week earlier and occur throughout the country. The festival commemorates the appearance of the Virgin in front indigenous Mexican Juan Diego, and to this day, children go to the church dressed as him during the event.

Three Kings’ Day (Dia de los Reyes Magos)

While everybody else is recovering from Christmas and New Year’s Eve, attempting to stick to their resolutions and hitting the gym, the Mexicans are preparing for the next festival in their calendar, Three Kings’ Day. Dia de los Reyes Magos celebrates the Epiphany and is held on the eve of January 6. It is a big family event, with presents exchanged and large meals including a round cake known as rosca de los reyes (kings’ loaf) served as the centerpiece.

Candlemas (Dia de la Candelaria)

40 days after the birth of Jesus, Candlemas is a religious holiday celebrating the presentation of Jesus to the temple. Held on February 2, the event sees many households throw parties, colorful processions, dancing, live music, and bullfighting.

New Year's Eve

Mexicans celebrate New Year's Eve or locally known as Año Nuevo, by downing a grape with each of the twelve chimes of the bell during the midnight countdown, while making a wish with each one. Mexican families decorate homes and parties, during New Year's, with colors such as red, to encourage an overall improvement of lifestyle and love, yellow to encourage blessings of improved employment conditions, green to improve financial circumstances and white to improved health. Mexican sweet bread is baked with a coin or charm hidden in the dough. When the bread is served, the recipient whose slice contains the coin or charm is believed to be blessed with good luck in the new year. One can expect a lot of firecrackers, fireworks and sparklers being fired. At midnight there is a lot of noise and everyone shouts: "Feliz año nuevo!" People embrace, make noise, set off firecrackers, and sing Auld Lang Syne.

Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo is an annual celebration held on May 5. The date is observed to commemorate the Mexican Army's victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla, on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza. The victory of the smaller Mexican force against a larger French force was a boost to morale for the Mexicans. A year after the battle, a larger French force defeated Zaragoza at the Second Battle of Puebla, and Mexico City soon fell to the invaders.

Carnaval

Late February/early March sees the most vibrant and spectacular festival on Latin America’s calendar, and this is one of the best times of the year to visit Mexico. No matter where you go, it is virtually impossible to escape the party in full-swing. The most elaborate celebrations occur in La Paz and Veracruz where everybody pulls out their fancy dress and puts away their inhibitions. The dancing, drink, and debauchery goes on for days with music, dancing, fireworks, and huge parades.

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Weather

Mexico's climate is divided by the Tropic of Cancer. North of it, the climate is temperate and experiences cooler months during winter. In this part of the country north of the 24th parallel, summers are hot and humid and winters are mild.
South of the 24th parallel, temperatures are fairly consistent year round and vary based on elevation. Areas up with elevations up to 1,000 metres average between 24 °C and 28 °C. Many of Mexico's cities are located in the Valley of Mexico or adjacent valleys with altitudes above 2,000 metres. The climate at that altitude is more temperate averaging 16 °C to 18 °C throughout the year, with cool nights.
Most of Mexico experiences a rainy season during the summer. Regular rains are most likely from June to September. Mexico's northern regions have a dry climate, while the tropical lowlands in the south of Mexico have an average annual rainfall of 200 cm. Mexico has unfortunately suffered from hurricanes many times. Hurricane season usually runs from june to october but in case of a hurricane the Mexicans are very well prepared. Every hotel has got an evacuation plan and if you are travelling with an arranged plan by a trustfull agency they will always help you to reschedule your travelling plan in order to avoid that you are in a hurricane area.

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Getting There

By Plane

These are the main gateways to Mexico, with the busiest being at its capital, Mexico City.

Apart from these cities, there are a few dozen of Mexican cities with direct international connections, mostly from neighbouring countries like the USA, Canada and Central American and Caribbean countries. Check the Aeropuertos Mexico website for more details.

National carrier Mexicana operates services to North America, Central America, the Caribbean and South America. AeroMéxico, the largest airline in the country, has connections to Asia, Europe, Central America, South America and USA.

By Train

There is no international rail connection to Mexico, but Amtrak provides a few services up to the border, where you can cross into Mexico and travel further, mostly by bus. There are a few luxurious tourist trains though, including the Sierra Madre Express connecting from Tucson, Arizona to the Copper Canyon.

By Car

There are plenty of crossing spots (about 40) between Mexico and the USA. San Diego/Mexicali, El Paso/Ciudad Juarez, Tucson/Nogales and Laredo/Nuevo Laredo are the busiest ones.

Cars from other countries need a special permission to go further than 32 kilometres (20 miles). It is recommended to buy Mexican car insurance, even for day visits, when driving in Mexico. Most USA insurance plans do not cover driving in Mexico. There are several companies offering competitive rates for short term Mexican car insurance.

By Bus

If coming from the USA Greyhound has connections with some bus companies in Mexico. There are other border lines also that will take you between 2 cities in both countries and direct bus rides mainly operate from Texas to cities in the north of Mexico. Autobuses Americanos offers cross border services between southern USA and northern Mexico as well, while Autotransportes Tufesa has connections from Phoenix and Tucson and Transportes InterCalifornias travels from San Diego across the border to Mexicali and Tijuana.

In many other cases, you have to take the bus to the border, cross it by foot and then jump on another bus on the other side. Buses will wait for all the travelers to cross the border.

Still, there are also many more direct connections from other countries, mainly from Belize and Guatemala. To and from the latter, there are about 10 border crossings with frequent direct services from Guatemala City and a few other Guatemalan cities to Tapachula, Chiapas and Chetumal. Chetumal is extremely well connected to Belize, with many companies offering direct connections from Belize City and a few other towns in the north and central parts of Belize, like Belmopan and San Ignacio.

By Boat

Belize
San Pedro Water Taxi offers direct water taxis between Ambergris Caye (San Pedro) in Belize and Chetumal, Mexico. Belize Water Taxi offers the same connection and both operate on a daily basis.

Guatemala
There are a few options to get from Palenque, Chiapas, to both Flores/Tikal area in Guatemala by a combination of riverboats and (mini)buses. The route via the Río Usumacinta is the most popular one, with the best connections.

Other than that, it will be by cruise ship when you will arrive in one of Mexico's ports. Although the Caribbean area is the most popular one, with Cozumel and Cancun as hot spots, there are also many ports on the Pacific side, including Ensenada, Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlán, Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco.

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Getting Around

By Plane

There are dozens of airports in Mexico, many of them having international connections, which enable travellers to choose from a wide range of cities for onward transport to smaller regional airports. The biggest carriers within the country are Aero California, Mexicana and AeroMéxico.

By Train

Almost all passenger trains have been suspended since 2000 but several trains remain which are of particular interest. These are operated by Ferromex and basically include only 2 trains:

  • The Tequilla Express operates two tourist trains a week doing the Guadalahara-Amatitán route as a roundtrip on Saturdays and Sundays.
  • The Chepe, which is the most used and most impressive train ride and handles most traffic. It travels on the Chihuahua-Los Mochis route 2 times a day in each direction, travelling across the beautiful Copper Canyon.

For several other services that might be operating (either for locals, or very touristy trains), check the Mexlist website, which has detailed information about local trains, tours etc.

By Car

Although renting a car gives you maximum flexibility, driving in Mexico can be a bit of a challenge sometimes. There are very good toll roads, but rural roads can be in a bad potholed condition, or aren't even tarred at all. If you feel adventurous though, there are many international and local companies offering cars in resort areas, bigger cities and airports. Yucatan is one of the more popular areas to rent car, especially if you want to visit the historical inland treasures from the coastal zones. The major cities can seem to have very hectic driving rules and can intimidate many drivers.

If you rent a car it is best to pick up at the same place as you drop it off since the drop off feest can be very high if you drop the car of in another city. Renting a car is very popular in the Yucatan area. A good route woulde be: Playa del Carmen - Chichen Itza - Merida - Campeche - Villahermosa - San Christobal - Palenque - Calakmul - Playa del Carmen. This roundtrip would take you about 2.5 weeks.

By Bus

Buses are the way to go in Mexico, combined with a few plane rides now and then to avoid spending too much time in buses. There are loads of companies, but a few examples of bus companies having extensive networks include Estrella Blanca and Autotransportes Tufesa.

The larger cities will have multiple cities, sometimes even for the different bus companies. Most smaller cities will only have one bus station and central counter representing all the different companies. Most bus stations will have ATM's, food options, and bathrooms for 3 to 4 Pesos.

Buses are divided into different classes and can very greatly. Most foreign travellers will mainly use 1st class buses, which have bathrooms and a movie. 1st class buses will only stop at major cities and towns. Elite class buses are much nicer then 1st class buses but the tickets are very expensive. 2nd class buses usually don't have bathrooms and stop in every small town.

In the Yucatan Area most 1st class buses are run by ADO which is a very reliable company. The buses are very comfortable and mostly run on time.

For an overview of schedules and connections, also international ones, see thebussschedule.com.

Collectivos

Collectivos are small vans that usually link small towns to each other and cities. Usually costing 10 pesos per hour these rides can be very tight but sometimes are the only option. Most collectivos will be at different stations or street corners depending on their destination with a large sign in the window with the name of town on it.

By Boat

Popular routes include ferries operating regularly between Mazatlán and La Paz (Baja California) on a daily basis. There are also services between Guaymas and Santa Rosalia, across the Gulf of California and between La Paz and Topolobampo three or four times weekly. From Puerto Vallarta to Cabo San Lucas there are two ferries a week.

On the Caribbean coast, there are two companies offering ferries between Playa del Carmen and the island of Cozumel of the coast of Yucatan. Crossings are about 15 times a day, with very early (starting at 5:00am) and late (up to midnight) sailings being a possibility to do some long day trips. There are also ferries from the mainland to Isla Mujeres.

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Red Tape

Note: Mexico charges 390 pesos (May 2016) per person that has spent more than 7 days (inclusive) in the country, e.g., 1st to 7th is 7 days.
Payable on exit whatever the mode of transportation. N.B. on entrance, officials may say that 7 days is non-inclusive but you will find out otherwise when you exit the country. If you flew into Mexico on a commercial flight, the cost of your plane ticket already included the tourism tax and you absolutely do not need to pay it again upon exiting. You will need to prove to the border officials that you have already paid, by showing the following: 1) Your FMM card you received upon arrival, and 2) An itemized receipt from your flight purchase showing the Tourism Tax
.

According to the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores), certain foreign nationals who intend to stay in Mexico fewer than 180 days for the purpose of tourism or 30 days for business can fill out a tourist card at the border or upon landing at an airport after presenting a valid passport, for US$22. If arriving via air, it is included in the price of the fare. This service is available to citizens of Andorra, Argentina, Aruba, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Bulgaria, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macau, Malaysia, Malta, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago, United States of America, Uruguay and Venezuela (see official list here). Permanent residents of the United States, Canada, Japan, United Kingdom, and Schengen area countries are also eligible for visas on arrival regardless of citizenship.

The Mexican tourist card is a Forma Migratoria Múltiple (Multiple Immigration Form), or FMM. It has a perforation that divides the card into two parts, of which the right side asks for some of the same information requested on the left side. At entry, after reviewing your passport and filled-out FMM, the immigration officer will stamp your passport and the FMM, separate the FMM along the perforation and give the right side of the FMM back to you with your passport. Keep the FMM together with your passport at all times. It is your responsibility to make sure the right side of the FMM is returned to the Mexican government at time of departure so that the bar code can be scanned, thus showing that you left the country on time. For example, if you are flying with Aeromexico, they will ask for your passport and FMM at check-in for your flight home, then staple your FMM to your boarding pass. You are expected to then hand the boarding pass together with your FMM to the gate agent as you board your flight. If you lose your FMM during your visit to Mexico, you may be subject to substantial delays and fines before you can leave the country.

Electronic authorization (Autorización Electrónica) for travelling to Mexico is available on the Internet for nationals from Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine. Other nationalities must contact a Mexican consulate in order to find out the requirements for citizens of their country, and may have to apply for and obtain a visa in advance of travel. If you are in need of other information, Mexico has diplomatic offices in the following cities around the world. The consulates in the USA are typically open for business to non-citizens (by telephone or in-person) only from 8:30AM to 12:30PM.

If you cross the border via road, do not expect the authorities to automatically signal you to fill out your paperwork. You will have to locate the border office yourself.

The immigration officer at your point of entry into Mexico can also request that you demonstrate that you have sufficient economic solvency and a round trip ticket.

If you do not intend to travel past the "border zone" and your stay does not exceed three days, U.S. and Canadian nationals require only a proof of citizenship. Reentry into the United States generally requires a passport, but a U.S. or Canadian Enhanced Drivers License (or Enhanced Photo ID) or U.S. passport card is acceptable for reentry by land or sea.

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Money

See also: Money Matters

Mexico uses the New Peso (MXN). One Peso is made up of 100 centavos. In general people don't like to break notes over 200. This makes breaking those 500 and 1000 notes extremely hard.

  • Banknotes come in denominations of $20, $50, $100, $200, $500 and $1,000.
  • Coins come in 5¢, 10¢, 20¢, 50¢, $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100.

Because many Americans travel to Mexico dollars are excepted in most places. But things are usually a bit more expensive since the exchange rate is usually in your disadvantage.

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Work

Working in Mexico can be an interesting experience. Most expat jobs are hired from abroad then brought into Mexico. There is a growing demand for computer experts and people involved in telecommunications. It is also possible to do NGO/Non-profit work in Mexico. As in most countries in the world, were English is not the mother tongue, there is always a demand for English teachers. American Schools and other bilingual schools also hire foreign teachers in a variety of disciplines from pre-first through high school.

When you want to work in Mexico you always have to apply for a work visum (FM-3). You can do this from your home country at a Mexican Embassy. You have to fill in a bunch of paperwork and when you enter Mexico you should still go to the immigration office (INM) in the town where you will work. Alternatively, you can enter the country with a tourist visa (called an FMT) and apply for your work visa from within the country. You are allowed to request your tourist visa to cover a 180-day period, which will allow you more than enough time to sort out your work visa paperwork. The FM-3 visa can be requested at any INM office. Usually, when you enter the office to request a work visa, you will be given a checklist of documents that you need to assemble. Fees for processing the application are payable at major Mexican banks.

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Study

Many people come to study Spanish in Mexico. Although the Spanish is not as pure as some other countries in South or Central America, Mexican Spanish is fun and good. There are also many private language schools that offer classes all over the country. Therefore a student has plenty of choices about where they want to study. Some places along the coast will offer programs that give Spanish classes in the morning then surfing or yoga lessons in the afternoon.

A very popular place to take a language course is Playa del Carmen. The only problem here is that almost everyone speaks English so you are not really forced to speak Spanish outside of the classes. Therefore it might be better (and cheaper) to take a language course in other Mexican cities such as Guanajuato or Guadalajara, or in Guatemala, where you will be forced to speak more Spanish in daily life.

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Language

Related article: Spanish: Grammar, pronunciation and useful phrases

Spanish is the most commonly spoken language in Mexico, although it is not an official language. It is spoken by 97% of the population. There are 62 indigenous Amerindian languages which are considered national languages.

One of the indigenous Amerindian languages which is still spoken today is Náhuatl. Although King Charles of Spain had decreed in 1560 that all of the Mexican natives were to learn to speak Spanish in order to make it easier to convert them to Christianity, enforcing that decree proved to be a difficult task. The natives continued to speak Náhuatl and held on to their culture. Eventually, it was decided that certain Spanish Catholic priests would learn Náhuatl because it was determined that it would be easier to convert the natives using their own language. By allowing the use of the Náhuatl language to continue to be spoken, Aztecs groups, such as the Tlaxcalans, who worked in alliance with the Spanish, were able to help colonize and spread Christianity to much of central and northern Mexico.

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Eat

Many travellers come to Mexico for the food. Mexican food is amazing and anyone can find something they like. Some areas are more famous for their food such as Oaxaca, Jalisco, and Puebla. Most of the food involves different meats and sauces wrapped in tortillas. Some dishes just have meats in different sauces.

One thing that is not to be missed are avocados. Mexico is the home of the avocado and they put is on everything. Mexican guacamole, however, is traditionally unlike what most foreigners think of as guacamole. Instead it is more like a liquid sauce, and is often very spicy.

Mexicans generally eat their main meal between 2:00pm and 4:00pm. This meal is called "Comida". It is therefore often difficult to find restaurants that serve between 4:00pm and sunset. A late, snackish dinner is often observed after nightfall. Night-time taco stands generally open after dark.

Bakeries are common in Mexico and are called "Panaderias". They often feature a mixture of breads and pastries, many corn-based. Influences of many cultures, both colonial and indigenous can be seen in these products.

Cheeses in Mexico vary from those found elsewhere. Different kinds of cheese found in Mexico include:

  • Oaxaca cheese (also called Quesillo) - the original string cheese, often braided into rounds, with a very mild taste.
  • Manchego - a medium-hard, white cheese with a bite.
  • Panela - a fresh cheese with the consistency of Feta but with a very bland, creamy taste.
  • Asadero - usually cheese for melting, often used to make quesadillas.
  • Requeson - soft, spreadable cheese much like ricotta.

There are many variations on the tortilla/taco. It is important to understand the distinctions in order to know what you're ordering! Some of these include:

  • Tacos - A corn tortilla lightly pan-fried and filled with some kind of meat. Fillings include: Asada, adobada, carnitas, al pastor. Toppings generally include onion, cilantro, and some type of salsa. In northern states, wheat tortillas replace corn tortillas and goat and beef tacos feature more than pork.
  • Fish Tacos - The Baja states of Mexico is where the fish taco was born. Battered and fried pieces of white fish are served with a cilantro lime sauce and a zesty slaw mixture. On the Baja, most establishments give patrons the choice of either corn or wheat tortillas.
  • Taco al vapor - Steamed tortilla with varied fillings, which can include potato (papas), picadillo, nopales, frijoles, etc.
  • Taco dorado - Hard shell taco with some meat filling. These are often served for free in cantinas when you order beer. These free snacks, and others, are known as botanas and are served to patrons to counter the effects of alcohol on an empty stomach.
  • Quesadilla - Corn (usual) or flour tortilla lightly pan-fried and filled with asadero cheese and folded in half. It is important to note that in some parts of Mexico (e.g. Mexico City), a quesadilla does not necessarily have to include cheese - you must request a "quesadilla de queso". Also in many places, a quesadilla can come with any number of "guisos" or additional stewed toppings, including Potato (papas), picadillo, nopal cactus, beans, rajas, mushrooms, etc.
  • Gringa - This is usually used to describe a tortilla which carries cheese and meat in it (so either a quesadilla with meat or a taco with cheese).
  • Gordita - A thick corn tortilla built with a pocket inside (literally "little fatty") much like a pita bread, with any number of "guisos" as filling.
  • Huarache - A tongue-shaped tortilla with toppings piled on it, chosen from different kinds of meat or "guisos". Usually served with cabbage, onions, cilantro, salsa, and cream on top.
  • Tlayuda - A specialty from Chiapas which is a plate-sized, thin flour tortilla that is well fried, covered in beans, cabbage, and crumbled cheese, and sometimes other toppings. You must cut or tear it into pieces to eat it!
  • Papadzules are a classic Mayan dish from the Yucatan Peninsula consisting of rolled corn tortillas, similar to enchiladas. Papadzules are filled with hard boiled eggs, covered in a spicy tomato sauce and dipped in a thick sauce made from ground pumpkin seeds.
  • Panuchos consist of corn masa that has been cooked until slightly puffy. It is then slit open and stuffed with refried beans, sealed and fried again. It is then topped with pickled onions, avocado, shredded chicken or turkey and chopped cabbage.
  • Salbute Identical to a panucho except not stuffed with refried beans. Traditionally these are served with shredded turkey as the meat topping.

Other Specialties

  • Rosti-Pollo - Roast chicken is a hugely popular meal in Mexico and represents an astounding value for travelers on a budget. Order a whole, or half chicken. Each order comes with french fries, unlimited tortillas and salsa.
  • Birria Stew - Birria is typically goat meat but many establishments prepare it with beef. The broth is a tomato and chili based one although it is not too spicy. Fresh diced onions and cilantro always accompany birria stew as a garnish. Of course, unlimited corn tortillas are served with each bowl.
  • Fish Tacos - The Baja states of Mexico is where the fish taco was born. Battered and fried pieces of white fish are served with a cilantro lime sauce and a zesty slaw mixture. On the Baja, most establishments give patrons the choice of either corn or wheat tortillas.
  • Pozole - Choose either red or green pozole. This corn and chile based soup is very tasty and is served at many comedors and loncherias in marketplaces throughout Mexico.
  • Sopa de Lima - The Yucatan and Quintana Roo states are the places to go to experience this zesty chicken and lime soup. The clear broth and shredded chicken make for a very light but tasty meal.
  • Huitlacoche is a fungus that grows on organic corn ears due to the lack of anti fungal chemicals introduced to the crop. When cooked and added to certain dishes huitlacoche is very earthy in flavor.
  • Cochinita Pibil is a traditional pork dish from the Yucatan Peninsula. the dish is prepared by soaking the pork in citrus juice. Annnatto seed is also used to season the meat and this is what gives cochinita pibil it's very deep red color. A very traditional way to cook the pork is to wrap it in banana leaf and cook it over coals placed in the ground.
  • Chiles en Nogada - this dish is meant to represent the Mexican flag's 3 colors; red, white and green. The red portion of this dish is a garnish of pomegranate seeds, the white from a cream sauce and the green from poblano chili pepper.
  • Tortas are a sandwich made on a bun that can be found in most cities in Mexico. They range from 15 to 30 pesos depending on the area and can have completely different things in them depending on the location, such as beef, pork or cheese. Tortas are a good reliable cheap meal in most cities in Mexico. A typical variation in the state of Jalisco include Tortas Ahogadas, which are tortas which are literally "ahogada", or drowned, in a non-spicy tomato-based sauce. Additionally in Jalisco, "Lonches" are effectively tortas made on typical French-style bread.
  • Mole is a typical and popular dish which generally involves chicken stewed in a chocolate-based sauce. There are many different kinds of Mole, usually named by its color: Verde, Rojo, or Negro, for example. Chocolate is commonly grown in the Chiapas region and is usually prepared with sugar and spices to be used as a drink, known to many foreigners as Mexican hot chocolate.
  • Pan de Cazón means bread of small shark and is a casserole dish popular in Campeche. Similar to a lasagna, this is prepared with layers of shark, refried beans, black beans and a spicy tomato sauce.
  • Cabuche is the flower from the biznaga cactus. this edible flower is a delicacy in San Luis Potosi state. There are many dishes this flower can go into and many ways to prepare it on it's own.
  • Poc Chuc is another specialty from Yucatan and Quintana Roo. This pork dish is marinated in acidic citrus juices mixed with various spices and grilled over a fire.
  • Mollete is an open faced sandwich consisting of a bolillo roll smothered in refried beans and melted cheese.
  • Carnitas are slow braised meats usually bought by weight. These often come with tortillas to wrap the meat in. Any meats cooked in this fashion are always tender and very rich in flavor.

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Sleep

The tourist industry in Mexico is massive. There are hotels, hostels, guesthouses and B&B's for anyone on any budget. Some of the high-end resorts along Mexico's coast cost just as much as any high-end resort in the United States or Europe, although plenty of good cheap accommodation can be found in the more popular tourist areas. In smaller cities, or places rarely visited by foreign tourists, one can still find moderately priced local hotels that range in cleanliness.

Many hotels list their prices at the front desk and haggling for a reduced rate for a stay of a few days or more is acceptable. Many hostels have become more expensive than hotels, especially for a couple traveling together. It is very common to find clean, safe, comfortable and centrally located hotels for 200 pesos. Wi Fi is almost always available at these hotels and sometimes cable television and air conditioning are included. Prices for these same types of hotels are at least double on the Baja Peninsula. It is also acceptable to ask to see a room before paying. Ask to see another room if the one shown to you doesn't suit you. Street noise is a problem in Mexico and rooms facing the road can be very loud. Ask for an internal-facing room if possible. Hot water is often an issue in Mexico and may only be available during certain hours.

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Drink

Beer

Mexico has many brands of national beer that are quite good. Corona, Rio Negro and Pafico are some very popular brands. Pacifico is oddly not well distributed across Mexico and the same can be said for other brands; Montejo, Leon, Victoria, Superior, Carta Blanca and Estrella are national brands that can be difficult to find at times depending on where you are in Mexico. Lately, both Tecate and Indio brands have become the most widely distributed beers next to Corona. Many of the beers mentioned are brewed by Mexico's brewery powerhouses - Modelo and Cuauhtemoc.

One of the traditions in Mexico is to add lime to beer, adding a pleasant acidity. Another popular way to drink beer in Mexico is to mix it with lime, tomato juice, spices and assorted chili-based sauces. This drink is known as a Michelada and is very popular in hotter climates throughout Mexico and actually makes for a very refreshing concoction.

Tequila

For many, Mexico is synonymous with tequila. There are countless brands of tequila, ranging from absolutely horrible to some that are smoother than water. Remember though, you don't have to eat the worm! A good tequila will have a smooth, peppery flavor.
Tequila is the signature firewater of Mexico and nearly all of it hails from the state of Jalisco. Here, small agave plantations and larger haciendas churn out a staggering number of brands. Of those brands, there 5 varieties of tequila:

  • Oro, or gold is possibly the poorest quality of the lot. That gold color this variety is known for is artificial and this tequila really burns the throat. It is best used in cocktails and margaritas.
  • Plata is also known as Blanco and represents the next lowest quality of the 5 varieties but tastes better than the Oro variety. This is unaged and the flavor is much less complex, making it suitable as a mixer rather than a shot for sipping.
  • Resapado means rested and this variety is aged for up to 9 months. Flavor profiles become more complex and respado makes for a good introductory sipping variety. Expect a clean, sharp taste with a subtle peppery finish.
  • Aňejo. This aged variety, conditioned in oak barrels for up to 1 year, is very smooth and sweet. Many people enjoy this variety as an aperitif, or even an after dinner drink. Certain brands of aňejo represent a very good value, especially considering the amount of nuanced flavors created by each distilleries' aging techniques.
  • Extra Aňejo, or vintage, is a relatively new variety. This is aged for 3 years, often using other types of barrels aside from the traditional oak ones. This is best sipped neat. Extra Aňejo has boosted the craft tequila market in Mexico.

Mezcal

Mezcal is a very intense drink, mainly drunk in southern Mexico. Some of the poorer varieties have a terrible after taste, but the nicer ones can be ok.
Mezcal can sometimes be as high as 60% alcohol, so enjoy this drink with caution! Mezcal is made from 1 of around 20 different species of agave, some of which
can take decades to mature. Only once will a mature agave sprout the flower whose sap is fermented to make this potent potion. Some varieties include:

  • Minero is distilled in clay pots and is a very high quality variety. Subtly smoky in flavor and very smooth.
  • Arroqueňo tends to be a subtly sweet-tasting Mezcal. Many find this to be the most pleasant variety. The flavor begins a bit bitter but quickly finishes sweet and warm.
  • Joven means young, and this variety is simply unaged and therefore a little bit rough.
  • Tobalá is named for an actual variety of agave plant, grown in mountainous regions.

Pulque

Pulque has been enjoyed since well before the Spanish conquest of Mexico but has enjoyed a resurgence in the last decade, especially among the hip crowd. Pulque is simply the fermented sap of the maguey plant. The end result is a very thick, cloudy drink with a slightly acidic taste. This viscous liquid is often given artificial fruit flavoring to improve it's overall uninspiring taste, however many pulque drinkers are purists when it comes to quaffing this strange alcoholic beverage. In Mexico, pulquerias - bars exclusively serving pulque - offer a real authentic drinking experience and many feature roving musicians ready to play a tune for the merry patrons. Pulque has an alcoholic content between 4% and 6%.

Non Alcoholic Drinks

There are a few unusual drinks that are typical in Mexico. These include Horchata, which is a drink made from rice flour and has a very sweet, milky taste. Jamaica is best described as a sweetened iced tea made from Hibiscus flowers. It has a very particular taste that takes some getting used to. It is common in Mexico to refer to fruit juices as "Aguas" of that particular fruit. So "Agua de Melon" is literally the juice of a melon. These aguas are often made fresh from the fruit. "Liquados" are liquid smoothies. They can be made in many flavors, including oats ("avena"), cereals, strawberry, and many others. They often include milk and make very nutritious snacks. In Mexico, "Limonada" refers to limeade made from key limes. You may often be asked to specify if you wish for your limonada to be "mineral" or "natural". A mineral limonada is made by squeezing limes into carbonated water and adding sugar. A natural limonada uses flat water.

  • Chamoyada is a sweet and spicy type of shaved ice, or raspado or Mango sorbet, prepared with chamoy. It is a part of Mexican cuisine, and is also common in regions of the United States with significant Mexican-American populations. The drink is usually sweetened with mangoes or apricots. It is essentially a combination of chamoy sauce, shaved ice, chili powder, and fruit chunks. In certain variations, a whole fruit popsicle, or paleta, is added to the drink and mixed with the shaved ice. The drinking straws served with chamoyadas also often have tamarind candy on the outside. Chamoyadas do not contain any dairy products. The different flavors of chamoyadas can include fruits like mango, lemon, guava, tamarind, pineapple and strawberry.
  • Champuraddo is a warm and thick chocolate-based drink, prepared with either masa de maíz (lime-treated-corn dough), masa harina (a dried version of this dough), or corn flour (simply very finely ground dried corn, especially local varieties grown for atole); piloncillo; water or milk; and occasionally containing cinnamon, anise seed, or vanilla. Ground nuts, orange zest, and egg can also be employed to thicken and enrich the drink. Atole drinks are whipped up using a wooden whisk called a molinillo (or a blender). The whisk is rolled between the palms of the hands, then moved back and forth in the mixture until it is aerated and frothy.
  • Liquados are a Latin American handmade blended beverage similar to smoothies, made with milk, fruit, and usually ice.They are also sometimes called "preparados" (meaning "prepared"). Licuados and other fresh fruit juice drinks are ubiquitous throughout Mexico. They are sold by street vendors, and in special licuado shops, restaurants, and fruterias (restaurants specializing in fresh fruit).
  • Aguas Frescas, (Spanish for "cool waters", or literally "fresh waters") are light non-alcoholic beverages made from one or more fruits, cereals, flowers, or seeds blended with sugar and water. Some of the more common flavors include tamarind, hibiscus, and horchata. Aguas frescas are sold by street vendors, but can also be found in bodegas (convenience stores), restaurants and juice bars.
  • Atole, also known as atol and atol de elote, is a traditional hot corn and masa-based beverage of Mesoamerican origin. Chocolate atole is known as champurrado or atole. It typically accompanies tamales, and is very popular during the Christmas holiday season (las Posadas).
  • Café de olla is a traditional Mexican coffee beverage. To prepare café de olla, it is essential to use a traditional earthen clay pot, as this gives a special flavor to the coffee. This type of coffee is principally consumed in cold climates and in rural areas. In Mexico, café de olla is made with ground coffee, cinnamon, and piloncillo (known as panela in other countries).
  • Jarritos is a popular brand of soft drink in Mexico, founded in 1950. Jarritos is made in fruit flavors and is less carbonated than popular soft drinks made in the United States or Canada. Many Jarritos varieties are naturally flavored. The word jarrito means "little jug" in Spanish and refers to the Mexican tradition of drinking water and other drinks in clay pottery jugs. Produced in Mexico, they are sold throughout the Americas.

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Health

See also Travel Health

There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Mexico. It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Mexico. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended and vaccination against hepatitis B, rabies and typhoid are also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months.

Malaria is prevalent in several parts of the country, including the border regions with Belize and Guatemala, remote rural areas in the southeast (Oaxaca province) and some rare cases elsewhere. It is recommended to take malaria pills and take other normal anti-mosquito precautions as well. Dengue sometimes occurs as well. There is no vaccination, so buy mosquito repellent (preferably with 50% DEET), and sleep under a net. Also wear long sleeves if possible.

Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS. Do not drink tap water ever in Mexico, unless it has been boiled for 3 minutes. Only drink bottled water and make sure the cap has been sealed.

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Safety

See also Travel Safety

Some of the larger cities can be a bit dangerous while most smaller towns are pretty safe. The border areas with Guatemala and the United States can be very dangerous, especially during the night. Although most of the crime is focused around drug smuggling, gun running and human trafficking therefore making it very easy to avoid.

Where there's tourists, there's pickpockets and petty crime, which is why you should consider the following tips:

  • Leave unnecessary valuable items (like jewellery) at home. Leave valuable documents (passport, tickets etc) in the hotel safe - don't forget them when you leave! Scan your passport, driver's licence and ticket and send a copy by email to your own address. That way you can download and print a copy wherever you are.
  • Don't carry too much cash around, or keep your valuable camera in plain sight. Keep a close eye on your money, camera and backpack and stow your money in a money belt or carry it round your neck. On the beach, don't leave your bag lying behind you but use it as a pillow.
  • When travelling by car, on your stops take any visible bags (for example on the back seat) out of the car and make sure you lock the car. Be wary of anyone approaching you the moment you're parking the car or if you've broken down. When travelling by bus, keep an eye on your bags.
  • If you're staying in a hostel, take notice of the other people staying in your room. A current scam that has been going around major tourist areas in Mexico is for locals checking in to a hostel room in the afternoon and checking out later in the evening with other travellers goods. Once your belongings are gone, there is no getting them back. These are backdoor scams that hostel staff are normally in on.

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Keep Connected

Internet

There are internet cafe's in most cities and towns in Mexico. Sometimes photocopy stores or photo processing stores will double as an internet cafe with a couple of computers. Look for signs reading "Acceso a Internet" or "Cibernautica" or "Cibercafe". Charges range from approx. US$1 an hour to US$3 an hour, depending on the location.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

Phone cards can be purchased anywhere in the country and are needed for the majority of public phones. To call any number outside your region you have to dial 01 then followed by the area code. If calling a cellphone from a normal phone start with with 044. If calling cellphone to cellphone just dial the 10-digit number. To make an international call dial 00 followed by the country code then the local number. To call to Mexico, also dial 00 (most of the times) followed by the national code 52.

Post

The Mexican postal service is operated by Correos de México. The post service in Mexico is pretty good although not very cheap. It is reliable regarding the sending of postcards, but it takes at least a week to send it to other countries (US/Canada), more so if you send it to Europe or Australia. For packages it is better to use international services like FedEx or UPS. If you are sending a package internationally with the Mexican postal service, take the package OPEN to the post office, they may want to inspect it. Seal it up at the post office. Post offices typically open from 8:00am to 6:00pm Monday to Friday, and 9:00am to 1:00pm Saturday. You will find post offices (Oficina de Correos) is almost any town or city in Mexico, and some are actually very pretty buildings. To buy stamps it is best to go to the post office, although you can also get them at stamp machines, located outside the post offices, at bus stations, airports and some commercial establishments.

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References

  1. 1 Eruptive History - Popocatépetl - Global Volcanism Program. Natural Museum of Natural History. Smothsonian Institute. Retrieved on 2009–08–02.

Quick Facts

Mexico flag

Map of Mexico

[edit]

Local name
México
Capital
Mexico City
Government
Federal Republic
Nationality
Mexican
Population
112 336 538
Languages
Spanish, 67 native tongues.
Religions
Christianity (Catholic, Cristhian)
Currency
Mexican Peso (MXN)
Calling Code
+52
Time Zone
various (UTC -6 to -8)

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