‘¡Hola, visitantes! Bienvenidos a Mexico!’
Mexico is rich in astounding sites of traditional, archaeological, and historical value. From the Bonampak wall paintings vividly depicted inside the mighty Chichén Itzá temples, to the massive canyons and lush jungles shedding the brilliance of the Caribbean Sea, Mexico’s sheer variety of destination sites add that invigorating cocktail of cultural and majestic landscapes.
Come with us today as we discover more treasures Mexico has yet to unfold to us newcomers. This Mexican travel guide will include top Mexican travel destinations to experience, helpful tips to take note of while travelling Mexico, in addition to places where to see the Mayan ruins and remarkable whales in Mexico.
Mexico got its name from the Náhuatl term combining the words ‘metztli’ that means ‘moon’, ‘xictli’ that translates to ‘navel or center’, and the term for ‘place’ which is ‘co’.
Literally translated, Mexico means ‘the place in the center of the Moon’–referring to the Aztecs building Tenochtitlan in the midst of the Lake of the Moon, later to be called Lake Texcoco.
Its official country name is the “United Mexican States”, or Estados Unidos Mexicanos in Spanish, its primary language apart from other numerous languages and local dialects.
This official name was first inaugurated in the 1824 Constitution, retained in the succeeding constitutions of 1857 and 1917. Since then, it has become a federation consisting of thirty-two (32) states.
Other Mexico Facts
- Capital: Mexico City
- Population: 115 million
- Languages spoken: Spanish; some indigenous languages
- Currency: Mexican Peso (M$)
- Time followed: Mostly GMT-6; shifts to GMT-5 during early April to late October; a few western states follow GMT-7/GMT-8
- International dialling code: +52
- Voltage used: 127V 60Hz AC
When to Visit Mexico
You can visit Mexico virtually at almost any time of the year. It has its driest season from mid-December up to April, with July and August being the peak holiday times for huge expectancy of international visitors.
The interior highlands can become quite colder during nighttime. June to October and November are the usual runs of hurricanes in the country.
Most parts of Mexico are generally safe for tourists. However, some states, especially those located along or near the US borders, regularly experience huge instances of gang-related violence, so better avoid these areas for utmost safety.
Situations can quickly change quite relatively. Make sure to pay close attention regarding FCO warnings and also double-check with locals.
The international airports are the following: Benito Juárez Airport or MEX located 13kms. of Mexico City, and CUN or the Cancun Airport, 14kms. from the main part of the city. Visas for Mexico are usually of Mexican visas, too.
TIP: Credit cards and travellers cheques are widely accepted in Mexico.
Mexico’s travel advisory board is the Foreign and Commonwealth, while its tourism board is called the Mexico Tourism Board.
Getting Your Way in Mexico
Mexico’s awesome road network range from simple bus use to luxury inter-city coaches. You can also hire a car for travel, but be warned if this possibility presents itself: traffic is a complete nightmare.
Ferries connect waterways in Baja California to mainland Mexico. Trains are known to be restricted towards some tourist services. You can cover long distance travels within Mexico with internal flights. Airpasses called ‘The Mexipass’ is good when visiting a couple of different places squeezed in a small amount of time.
TIP: Book ahead of time before travelling to Mexico.
Some occasions and festivals you want to time your visit to Mexico are as follows:
- The Night of the Radishes – a Oaxacan festival celebrated during December 23, displaying ornate sculptures carved from radishes; and
- Carnival and Semana Santa – celebrated during Holy Week throughout Mexico, full of much colour and happy-go-lucky partying.
To get the best views possible, ride the Copper Canyon Railway, then take a seat on the carriage’s right-hand side when going to Creel and on your left when travelling to Los Mochis.
Destinations best for adventurers:
- Antigua and Pescado rivers – climb volcanic peaks, descend into the deepest cenotes or spill your way down the white waters
- Quintana Roo coastline – offers superb Caribbean diving experiences while on the west coast
- Wild Pacific and Baja, California – surfers can ride giant rollers beside some beautiful beaches
- The Sea of Cortéz – one of the world’s richest marine feeding grounds found in the north-west– when you’re lucky, spot dolphins, hammerhead sharks, and California grey whales.
- Experience vertigo-inducing train rides from the Baja, California desserts through the Copper Canyon plunging gorges
- Visit the floating gardens of Xochimilco and join the locals in a mariachi-led escapade through canal mazes
- Stroll your way through the Tulum Mayan ruins that overlooks to stunning Caribbean stretches
- Explore the jungle-clad Palenque ruins and the mighty Chichén Itzá pyramid
- Head out to Santiago located north of Los Cabos, asking the locals as you make your way towards Sol del Mayo, a magnificent water hole elevated by a 12m waterfall
- Watch whales and swim with whale sharks, the world’s biggest fish, in Baja, California
- Have an eye-to-eye experience with Guadalupe’s great white sharks
- Reward yourself with fine jewellery from Taxco silver merchants, or Oaxacan or San Cristóbal de las Casas arts and crafts
Board and Lodging
Across Mexico, anyone can find rooms, except in most coastal resorts that get fully-booked fast during peak seasons. During fiesta time, expect worse because lack of rooms can happen anywhere.
Travellers with a tight budget can locate ten-a-penny hostels, avoiding Cancún and other areas where luxurious resort hotels that have private beaches are basically everywhere. Some official campsites are also available.
TIP: Look for hotels that have official prices displaced outside–that’s a must.
Food and Drink
Prepare your stomach when you travel to Mexico; the food is so gastronomically fabulous leaving the table can become quite a struggle.
Have a different definition of ‘Mexican’ food when you experience for yourself the authentic cuisine Mexico has in store for you. As common as Mexican food is, it can still vary from region to region.
Expect to come across dish prepared with love and a bit of bases of corn, chilli, tortillas, and beans. Make sure to try the following Mexican best-sellers:
- Mole Poblano – a thick sauce combining chocolate, chillies and nuts best served with chicken.
- Cochinita Pibil – when you’re in Yucatán, look for this tasty pork dish marinated in garlic and spices, and the best yet scarily hot chilli pepper called habanero.
- Chapulines – a Oaxacan dish of crispy grasshoppers fried in chilli and lime–only the bravest will be tempted to try
When in Central Mexico, make sure to complete your travel bucket list with a few glasses of tequila. Vegetarians should remember that most Mexicans equate vegetarianism with eating no red meat. So, double-check your next Mexican ‘vegetarian’ special doesn’t have fish or chicken.
Health and Safety in Mexico
Mexican cuisine–as scrumptious and rewarding it can be, sensitive stomachs may have bacteria that can cause gastrointestinal problems.
If this is your case, only go for freshly cooked food and gear away from clear greens and salads, unpeeled fruits and crops, and raw seafood, at least for the first few days.
Although Mexico has its fair share of some alarming statistics, especially when talking about crime, you can still have the time of your life when you take sensible precautions and always use your wit. Mexico’s biggest crime problems are petty theft and pick-pocketing, especially in big cities.
TIP: Phone your taxi service from sitios, and not those parked outside nightclubs or restaurants whenever in Mexico City.
Mexico can become your favourite vacation destination or even part of your retirement plan once you experience the goodness it offers. Use this comprehensive travel guide as you make your way through Mexico and say ‘gracias’ for a wonderful time–Mexican style!