I grew up in a Mexican household in the heart of American suburbia, one of those kids who spent their childhood ping-ponging across the border. Summers meant Mexico, splitting my time between the north and west, as comfortable on janky city buses as I was body surfing on white-capped waves. Adulthood meant more of the same, but instead of summer months, it was entire years, and instead of the north and west, it was the south and east.
All these years later, I’m still awed by Mexico’s vastness and diversity, its showcase of unique landscapes, flavors, music, and art. And yet, despite these differences, I see the tendrils that bind Mexico together everywhere: social customs and cultural gems, safety issues, and travel trends. Here are a few tips to make navigating Mexico a little easier.
1. Book early and budget extra for the high season
Mexico is a popular destination year-round but Christmas, New Year’s, spring break, and July see an uptick in travelers, both foreign and domestic. Expect higher prices for accommodation, excursions, car rentals, and even airfare, sometimes double the norm. Hotels also fill up fast – book early, especially on the coasts where Mexicans tend to vacay.
2. Pack for the climate
Mexico is a vast, multi-climate country with destinations ranging from frosty mornings at 8700ft to balmy nights at sea level. Research your destination’s weather so you know what to expect and how to pack – you may need a bikini or umbrella or winter jacket (or all three!). Remember that Mexico sits squarely in the hurricane belt, with its coasts susceptible to big storms from June to November.
3. Bring sunscreen and mosquito repellent
If you need sunscreen or mosquito repellent, bring it from home. While you can find both in Mexico, the options are limited and expensive.
4. Use your ATM card
Though it’s good practice to bring some cash in case of an emergency (say, you lose your wallet), there’s no need to bring cash to exchange – use Mexican ATMs instead. They’re ubiquitous in all but the smallest of towns and are the most economical way to get pesos. But beware of ATM transaction fees! If they’re more than US$5/6 per withdrawal, use a different bank’s machine (BBVA Bancomer and Santander tend to have the lowest fees). Also, if the ATM prompts you to accept a “special” exchange rate, decline it; you’ll still be able to withdraw money, but the bank will apply the official exchange rate, which is always to your advantage.
Source: Lonely Planet