18 things to know before you go to Mexico
Mexico is a huge country in North America with more than 121 million inhabitants and 13th largest country in the world. People come here for beach vacations at fancy resorts. And at the same time see the ruins of ancient civilizations and the architecture of the colonial period.
When to go
Mexico’s main temple is the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Mexico is a year-round resort. Mexico’s climate is tropical in the south and subtropical in the north. Temperatures vary from region to region. When the coast is hot in the summer, it is about +15° in the mountainous areas.
The high beach season on the coast is from December to April.
From May to September it is hot, but the beaches and hotels are less crowded with tourists. September to early November is the wind season on the Caribbean coast.
Tourist cities – Mexico City, Merida, San Miguel de Allende, Oaxaca and others – can be visited at any time of year, but one should not forget the summer heat. And Mexico City’s high-rise is quite cold in winter.
Mexico is famous for its luxurious Caribbean and Pacific beaches and colorful underwater world. Cancun, Riviera Maya, Puerto Vallarta, Los Cabos are the best beach resorts in the country.
And the beach Playa Norte on the Island of Women (Isla Mujeres) was voted the best 10 beaches in the world.
Ancient cultures flourished in Mexico: the Olmecs, Zapotecs, Totonacs, Mayans and others. The Aztecs created a strong empire. Between 1521 and 1821 Mexico was a colony of Spain.
Many monuments from ancient civilizations have remained:
The ancient city of Chichen Itza on the Yucatan Peninsula, the sacred city of the Itza people. During the excavations have been found interesting architecture, statues of deities, handicrafts, etc. In 2007 Chichen Itza was recognized as one of the Seven New Wonders of the World. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Vivid evidences of pre-Columbian history of Mexico are the ruins of Tulum and Ushmal, the ancient cities of Maya civilization.
The pyramids of Teotihuacan – the ancient city 40 km from Mexico City – astonish the imagination.
Well-preserved Mayan city of Palenque.
The ancient city of Chichen Itza
Mexico City is one of the largest cities in the world. Its population together with the surrounding settlements is about 22 million people.
The history of the city began with the Aztecs who founded it in 1325 under the name of Tenochtitlan. At the beginning of the 16th century, the Spaniards conquered the city. Today the ruins of Tenochtitlan remind of the ancient Aztec settlement.
There are lots of attractions in Mexico City: the Aztec pyramid of the 14th century, the National Cathedral of the 16th-17th centuries, the palaces of the 18th century, the monasteries. In the city there are more than 100 museums devoted to the history of Mexico, its art, the development of indigenous cultures, etc. Walking around the capital, you can see Aztec ruins next to modern shopping centers and hotels. Tourism in Mexico City is very developed, accommodation can be found on a booking platform.
The city of Merida on the Yucatan Peninsula was founded in the mid-16th century by Spanish colonizers on the ruins of the city of the mysterious Mayan civilization. The large Mayan World Museum is dedicated to the history and culture of the Yucatan and the Mayan people. The city is famous for its street dances on Sundays, when the squares are filled with dancing groups.
Small San Miguel de Allende with its monuments of virgin civilizations has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At the same time, the city is also famous for art galleries, the Mexican Toy Museum, boutique hotels and restaurants. There are thermal springs on the outskirts of the city.
Oaxaca is located in the mountains in southern Mexico. The city center and the nearby pre-Columbian settlement of Monte Alban are on the World Heritage List. Many classic Mexican dishes are native to Oaxaca.
Guadalajara has the second largest population after Mexico City. The cultural capital of Mexico, nicknamed the “City of Roses” for its picturesque gardens and parks. Mexican folk music “mariachi” was born here and tequila appeared here. Also Guadalajara is famous for its Spanish colonial architecture of 16th-18th centuries.
The mountain town of San Cristobal de Las Casas offers ancient temples and caves with beautiful stalactites and stalagmites.
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Seas and Mountains
Mexico is washed by the waters of the Gulf of California, the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Two mountain ranges crisscross the country from north to south: much of central Mexico and the territories to the north are at high altitudes.
Natural Beauty and Indians
There are many natural attractions in Mexico. Among them:
Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, Quintana Roo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The majestic El Arco rock in the form of a huge granite arch on Los Cabos.
Laguna Bacalar or Lake of the Seven Colors is the second largest freshwater lake in Mexico. When the weather is good, seven shades of blue can be discerned in the lagoon’s dazzling water.
You can travel by train through the admirable Copper Canyon. On the slopes of the canyon live Indians who demonstrate their traditions to tourists.
Chiapa de Corso, Chiapas, Mexico
How to get around
Mexico has a large, extensive network of domestic low-cost carriers: Volaris, VivaAerobus, and Aeromexico . There are regular services between major cities and popular resorts.
Intercity bus service is well developed. Buses are clean, comfortable and run on schedule. This is a great economical way to explore Mexico. Fares depend on distance, class of bus and speed.
Less convenient for travel is the railroad. There are some tourist trains to the Mayan cities and others, but they are expensive.
The subway for women.
Interestingly, the Mexico City subway allows women and children to ride separately from men in separate cars during peak hours.
The country welcomes many tourists every year and is quite safe. Especially if you plan to be in resort and tourist areas. However, there are places that are best avoided. For example, the states of Guerrero and Michoacan on the Pacific coast. In general, you should avoid questionable areas and stick to the tourist trails.
Most Mexicans speak Spanish. In the resort area, English is common in popular tourist areas.
The farther you go outside the tourist areas, the less opportunity there is to communicate in English and the fewer signposts for travelers.
Gelagec Festival in Oaxaca
Drug production and trafficking are rampant in Mexico, and drug cartels are active.
Usually a day off for museums, theaters, and archaeological sites.
As in any other country, you should beware of scammers. For example, when buying an excursion or tour. Check the company’s previous activities and consult with travel professionals.
For city travel, it is worth using Uber cabs, which operate in many Mexican cities.
Mexico has its own currency, the peso. Currently, $1 = 20.31 pesos. Many places accept credit cards. But with exchange rates and bank charges, it’s more pragmatic to have cash.
Mexican cuisine is a motley mix of regional traditions with the addition of regional preferences. There are very often three ingredients in dishes: hot chili peppers, tortillas (corn tortillas) and beans. There are many meat dishes (beef, goat meat, chicken) and spicy vegetable dishes, fish, seafood, legumes, and spices.
There are about 300 kinds of tequila. Don Pedro brandy and Mexican wines are popular.
The locals do not drink tap water. Only bottled water from a store or filtered.
A street cart is usually the cheapest way to eat. But street food needs to be approached with caution. You need to use disposable plates. Try to limit the amount of fruit and vegetables you eat, because they may have been washed down with tap water. Avoid smoothies if they are mixed with water.
Traditional Mexican food that has been heat treated is not an issue.
You don’t need a visa to come to Mexico – An electronic permit, which is processed online, is valid for 30 days from the time it is issued and is only valid for one trip to Mexico.
10 things to do in Mexico
The perfect combination of ancient monuments, snow-white beaches, delicious food, beautiful nature and nightlife.
This country will be interesting for those who want to swim in the Caribbean Sea, and those who want to see the ancient cities of the Indians or the treasures of the Spanish rule.
Dive into the cenotes
These karst caves with lakes are one of the features of the Yucatan Peninsula. Cenotes can look in many different ways: as caves with an inner lake or as wells. They hide numerous grottoes, passages with stalactites and stalagmites, are filled with clear spring water and are often beautifully illuminated.
Sunbathing on Cancun’s beaches
Resort Cancun is truly the pearl of all of Mexico: beautiful beaches with white sand, calm turquoise sea and many hotels. Here you can find entertainment for all tastes: restaurants, clubs, bars, sports games, jet ski rentals and much more. Isla Mujeres is located close to the town, and a ferry runs to it from Playa Tortugas, one of the most popular beaches in Cancun.
See the pyramids of Chichen Itza
The sacred city of Chichen Itza is located 200 km from Cancun, which is very convenient. And there is a lot to see here: the ancient structures of the Mayan civilization, including temples, pyramids, ruins, cenotes, observatories, and altars where sacrifices to the gods were made. In addition to architectural structures, Chichen Itza attracts thousands of tourists as a place with inexplicable energetic power.
Walking the streets of Mexico City
It is the largest metropolis in the world, and at the same time the oldest city in the New World, founded by the Aztec Indians in the 14th century. Walking through the center of the city, built with buildings in the colonial style, you can go to the beautiful Constitution Square and admire the largest cathedral in Latin America and the Palace of Cortez. It is also interesting to visit the “Mexican Venice” – Sochimilco district on the outskirts of the city, which is riddled with numerous canals.
Learn to distinguish tequila varieties
Tequila, contrary to popular belief, is not made from cactus, but from the juice of the blue agave, which is related to asparagus. There are about 300 kinds of this drink in Mexico, but officially there are four varieties, depending on its “youthfulness: Blanco, Joven, Reposado, Anejo. A bottle of quality tequila will have the inscription “100% de agave” or “100% blue agave”. The right tequila is aged in oak barrels, which gives it a pleasant taste and aroma. You can try it in local bars and buy it in supermarkets.
Taste the delicious food
Mexican cuisine is said to be very spicy, but in fact, only the sauces and dressings are spicy. It is impossible not to try corn tortillas, tacos, burritos, fajitas, enchiladas served with rice, beans, vegetables, and potatoes. Also in this country, which has access to the sea, they love and know how to cook seafood. It is worth mentioning that cocoa and hot chocolate have Mexican roots and are served here with chili pepper and various seasonings. As a souvenir you can take back home a jar of guacamole sauce or a bunch of red peppers.
See the underwater world of the island of Cozumel
Cozumel Island is one of the popular resorts of the country. Divers from all over the world are attracted by the underwater coral reefs and tunnels with an amazingly beautiful and diverse underwater world. Above the water world on the island are beautiful beaches, though at times with big waves and strong surf. From May to September you can see the big sea turtles, which at this time come here to lay their eggs. You can get to the island by ferry from Cancun.
Take a look at the Underwater Sculpture Museum
The sculptures of this museum are located on the seabed and over the years have managed to grow coral, algae and shells, which gives them a very unusual look. You can see this museum only by snorkeling or scuba diving. The purpose of this unusual museum was to protect the underwater world by giving extra space for marine life and corals. The statues are located near Cancun and Isla Mujeres.
Visit Shel-Ha Natural Park
This national park is located 120 km from Cancun, near Playa del Carmen and the ruins of the ancient city of Tulum. Visitors will find mangroves, caves, coves, waterfalls, warm lakes, and views of the Caribbean Sea. Shel-Ha is also a huge natural aquarium with manatees, dolphins and turtles. The cost of a ticket to the park includes rental of snorkel and flipper gear, and for an additional fee, you can swim with the dolphins.
Pronounce Teotihuacan without stuttering
The ancient city of Teotihuacan, with its pyramids of the Sun and Moon, is perhaps the most impressive place in all of Mexico. The city was deserted as far back as 500 years before the Aztecs, who superstitiously believed that the gods had built it. Many people come here not only to see the majestic buildings, but also to try to find enlightenment.