TRAVEL TIPS FOR MEXICO: DO'S AND DON'TS
There’s no getting around it – Mexico is a magnificently large country.
Most tourist destinations lie along the coast line.
But further inland, there is also so much to explore.
Exotic, tropical and alluring, Mexico has something for even the most experienced of travelers.
Let us help you plan that perfect holiday to Mexico.
Tips You Need to Know Before Traveling to Mexico
- Get travel insurance. World Nomads is a leader in the travel insurance industry and they have many different plans to suit your specific needs.
- Do your research on your specific destination, but don’t over plan. Allow enough time for travel in between attractions and also for spontaneous outings.
- Do exchange some of your US Dollars for Mexican pesos. Most places nowadays will accept credit cards, but a few mom-and-pop stores still only accept cash. Be sure to check the exchange rate; banks are typically the best places to exchange currency.
- Do get a SIM card for your smartphone upon arrival. That is, unless your cell phone carrier includes Mexico in your roaming plan.
- Do go cenote hopping! These are natural swimming holes that can be found all over the Yucatan peninsula. Each one is unique and if you like to swim, you will become obsessed with them!
- When in Mexico City, don’t use the metro system during rush hour, called hora pico. It is a madhouse! Avoid it from 7-10am and 5-9pm.
- Don’t eat street food without washing your hands first. Hygiene is important! Mexican food is delicious, but be aware of unsafe food handling practices.
- Don’t wander into unsafe neighborhoods. Keep to areas with lots of people, especially at night.
- Don’t drink the tap water. By and large, regular drinking water is not as safe as in the U.S. Always get bottled water to take with you.
- Do not wear expensive or extravagant clothing or jewelry, and don’t carry large sums of money. Mexico is a laid-back country and those who flaunt wealth usually catch a weary eye, not to mention thievery.
When to Travel to Mexico?
The best time to visit is the dry season – between December and April.
During this time there is virtually no rain and the weather is very pleasant, with the coolest temps between December and February.
Conversely, the wet season is May through October, where heavy rains are the norm.
But since Mexico is such a large country, the weather really varies by region.
Do your research on your specific destination and be sure to check the weather forecast just before your trip and pack accordingly.
Mexico Travel Tips for Choosing a Hotel
When in Mexico, you have so many options for accommodation.
The first question you will want to ask yourself is, what kind of experience do you want to have?
That will most likely dictate what sort of hotel you want to stay in.
- All-inclusive resorts are just that – most everything, including meals and some activities, are included in one price.
- Full-service hotels. These are regular chain hotels or private hotels, that have restaurants, room service, pool, etc.
- Boutique hotels. A more intimate hotel experience, where the property is privately owned.
- Bed & Breakfasts. Intimate stay where authentic Mexican cuisine is served in the morning alongside your fellow guests. This can be a great way to start your day.
- Vacation Rentals. Your own little home away from home, often a house or condo.
- Hostel. For the budget-minded traveler. Many hostels these days have private rooms, if you prefer.
What to Pack for a Trip to Mexico
Your packing list will largely be dictated by where you plan to go and what you plan to do.
Do not assume that all of Mexico is warm!
If you will be visiting higher elevations, even in the summer, things can get downright chilly.
Bring a light jacket, preferably with a hood and one that is water-resistant.
A good rule of thumb is to always pack as light as possible, and resist the temptation to pack items that are not absolutely essential.
Anything you are missing can be bought once you get to Mexico.
If you are flying, be aware of the TSA restrictions on what you can and cannot bring on board the plane.
Of course, the weather will be mostly sunny and warm, so remember to bring hats, sunscreen and sunglasses.
In addition, you will want to bring a day pack to carry essentials with you on day trips.
Use the following as a guide for your packing list:
- Current passport and driver’s license
- Health and travel insurance documents, all reservations for flights/hotels/tours, etc.
- Bathing suit
- Only 3-4 interchangeable outfits (you can do laundry while you’re there – it’s one of the secrets of packing light)
- One pair of walking/hiking shoes, a nice pair of shoes for going out, and one pair of sandals/flip flops
- Just a few accessories (belts, scarves, simple jewelry)
- Essential toiletries/medications
- Essential electronics (smartphone, laptop, chargers, camera, extra batteries). You can purchase a SIM card for your phone at the airport when you arrive.
Where to Go in Mexico
You want to discover the best places to visit in Mexico, but you don’t know exactly where to go?
Fortunately, you have many choices!
For things to see in Mexico, it really depends on how you want to spend your time south of the border.
Not only are there incredible beaches and fantastic food; it is a land of dramatic landscapes and rich history.
Even if you are not a beach bum, wonderful guided tours and archaeological sites await your wanderlust.
The following destinations are a healthy mix of great beaches, big cities and historical sites.
Without a doubt, Cancun is the official party zone in Mexico, and known as the gateway to the Yucatan peninsula.
If you want gorgeous, sunny beaches with aquamarine waters, look no further!
All along the shore you have beachfront access to the Caribbean, and this is where you will find the best beaches in Mexico.
Having said that, Cancun attractions offer much more than a great beach party and nightlife scene.
Things to Do in Cancun
Explore the Hotel Zone
Cancun is essentially two areas.
Ciudad (downtown) and Cancun Island (Zona Hotelera).
As you may guess, this hotel zone is near many tourist places, and is synonymous with large resorts, catamarans, vibrant nightlife and more beaches!
Shaped like the number 7, it is a 15-mile-long strip of beach, and is where most people stay.
Kulkukan Boulevard is the main road that follows this stretch of beach, and can be compared to the Las Vegas strip.
When you want to get out of tourist-land, the downtown area provides a nice respite from the party atmosphere, lending a bit of culture to your stay.
This is where many of the locals live.
Meander down to Avenida Tulum to experience the “real” Cancun.
There is a nice park called Parque Las Palapas, and the area also has a lot of great street food to sample.
Go Zip Lining in the Jungle
As one of Cancun’s hallmark adventures, you really cannot pass this up if you are at all adventurous.
Go to Selvatica, a great theme park that offers multiple packages with ten different zip lines to choose from!
The capital city is one that you could easily get lost in, and that’s a good thing!
Let the allure of wanderlust overtake you as you soak up the vibrant atmosphere of Mexico City.
Whether you spend two days or a month here, you will never fall short of things to do.
But to narrow it down, here are the highlights:
Things to Do in Mexico City
You’ve no doubt seen the sparkling image of this iconic, shimmering-tiled, orange-roofed building, but to witness it in person is quite another thing.
The art nouveau, art deco architectural wonder graces many a Mexico guide book and is best known for its impressive gathering of murals and Tiffany glass curtains.
It hosts notable events in dance, music and theatre throughout the year.
Located in the heart of the city’s historical center in a wide-open square, its towering shadow looms large over the city’s zocalo.
It is, in fact, the oldest cathedral in Latin America.
Made of stone from the Mesoamerican period, it took a full three centuries to build!
And if you think the outside is impressive, just wait until you’ve seen the inside, it will take your breath away.
Mercado de la Merced
To get the freshest food in the city, head to this traditional Mexican market.
Leisurely wander the stalls and breathe in the sights, sounds and smells of authentic Mexico.
Piles of fresh fruits and veggies are ripe for the picking.
There are also plenty of puestos (street food vendors) but to know which ones are the best, get in the longest line!
Take a Free Walking Tour
This is a good thing to do on your first day, as it will get you quickly acquainted with the city.
Not only will you visit some of Mexico City’s top attractions, but you will also get the inside scoop and tips from locals.
Ask your guide for recommendations on food and other places to visit.
There are several free walking tours to choose from.
Rent a Bike and Visit Chapultepec Park
Coming in at just under 1,700 acres, this urban green space is one of the largest parks in the Western Hemisphere! (Yep, bigger than Central Park in New York City.)
It practically begs you to rent a bicycle and go exploring.
Cabo San Lucas (Los Cabos)
Located at the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula, this is one of Mexico’s premier beach destinations.
The resort location is the place for a relaxing, tranquil getaway and you may even rub shoulders with the rich and famous.
The entire area encompasses the towns of San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas.
Things to Do in Cabo San Lucas
When not simply relaxing on its many beaches, parasailing, scuba diving and snorkeling are excellent choices for staying active.
Also, this is known as the marlin sport fishing capital of the world, with tournaments, charter captains and famous fishing spots.
Medano Beach also is great for jet skiing, parasailing and kayaking.
Visit El Arco
This is the most famous landmark you’ll find in Cabo.
It’s a natural arch rock formation at the very tip of the peninsula, and a classic spot where sea lions bask in the sun.
You must book a tour to visit this popular place by boat, hire a water taxi or take a glass-bottom boat ride.
A Tale of Two Beaches
Something that is slightly amusing is the name of two connected beaches.
One is Lover’s Beach and the other is Divorce Beach.
Can you guess which one is calmer and which has more turbulent waters?
As far as great accommodations go, Las Ventanas Al Paraiso is an excellent choice.
A desert oasis that offers romantic and atmospheric suites with an array of culinary experiences.
Or the Me Cabo, located on Medano Beach.
Enjoy breathtaking sunset views in exquisite rooms with natural lighting.
A tiny slice of paradise up the coast from Cancun, Holbox Island is still considered a hidden gem, although word is spreading quickly and may not stay that way for long.
To get there, head to Chiquila port in Cancun, and catch the ferry to the island.
Things to Do on Holbox Island
Relax on White Sand Beaches
The clear warm waters and colorful buildings are just the antidote to escaping any hectic lifestyle.
You are truly on island time here!
Explore on a Bike
Several shops on the island rent bikes, so it is easy to pick one up by the hour or day and get riding!
And it is an island, so there’s no getting lost!
Explore Holbox at your leisure, where you can bike right on the beach.
Witness the Bioluminescence
This nighttime phenomenon occurs from June through September.
As long as the moon isn’t too bright, you can go to the beaches, away from town lights, and see these naturally-occurring blue lights in the water, made possible via a chemical reaction that produces light energy within an organism’s body.
While in Holbox, stay at Hotel Casa Las Tortugas, offering a bohemian ambiance indicative of the island.
A culmination of glamour and low-key chic.
For a great day trip from Cancun, head to Tulum.
It’s close proximity to Mayan ruins sets Tulum apart from all other fine beaches in the world.
An ancient walled city sitting on a rocky cliff that offers stunning views overlooking a spectacular white sand beach.
It is touristy, but the mesmerizing turquoise Caribbean waters make up for the throngs of crowds.
Get into the hippie vibe of the place, as not only is it an area of natural beauty, but the relaxed atmosphere will truly put you at ease, and get you in tune with the spiritual side of life.
What to Do in Tulum
Visit the Tulum Ruins
Evidence of the ancient Mayan civilization surrounds you, and was an empire steeped in religious and ceremonial history.
To make it even more incredible, imagine this scene set against the backdrop of a beach with dazzling blue water and white sand.
To make the most of it, come first thing in the morning when it opens in order to avoid the crowds!
While in Tulum, stay at Jashita Tulum.
This hotel offers laidback luxury and a secluded, desert island feel, where you can snorkel and dive, get a relaxing massage at the spa, or attend morning yoga sessions.
No matter what your holiday pleasure, vacationing in Mexico promises sun, sand and a laid-back luxury not found anywhere else.
Do you have additional travel tips for Mexico? If you do, comment below!
If you are looking for a step-by-step guide to help you plan your trip to Mexico, check out The Ultimate Guide to Trip Planning.
If you are headed to Mexico City, check out our example itinerary.
Always make sure your vacation is a life changing experience with Brillini Travels.
If you are still feeling overwhelmed, or simply do not have the time to plan your trip to Mexico, why not let us help you? We will create the perfect bespoke itinerary just for you!