Imagine your best holiday ever then multiply it and you’ll be close to realising the potential of Mexico. The scenery is beautiful, the culture is captivating, the people are warm and welcoming and the atmosphere is like nowhere else in the world. Here are some things to note before your stay.
Ahead of a holiday to Mexico, we must first debunk conventional wisdom – on classic tourist routes, from Mexico City to Cancun – it’s no more dangerous than anywhere in the world. In the historic centre of Mexico City, evenings are as safe as they are in the central streets of London. As in all big cities, you should be aware of pickpockets. Corrupt police officers, while historically an issue in Mexico, have been stamped out with a zero tolerance to corruption.
Mexicans are generally inviting, happy, friendly characters and while people serving you will of course be helpful in part due to the obligations of their job, that’s not the whole story – there’s an affable, good-humoured spirit in the air here.
Tipping is an institution in Mexico as workers rely on the additional income that tips provide. It’s best to tip in cash and in the country’s currency – peso. A service charge is never usually included in a bill, the general rule is to add 15% on to the invoice amount. Staff at hotels will appreciate a gesture on your part if their service has been good – the equivalent of £1-£2 for porters and the same for every day of your stay for the housekeeping team. A guide will expect between 15-20% of the tour price, drivers around half that. Taxi drivers are where tipping customs differ and a tip is not actually expected by taxis unless they’ve performed an additional service, like helping with bags, at which case you can round up the fare.
Tap water is not drinkable. Outside of the cities, toilet paper isn’t flushed down the toilet, but placed in an adjacent bin. As with any travels, it’s wise to carry any medical supplies you may need – Imodium is always good to have on hand. To avoid tummy troubles, avoid fruit juice on arrival, fruit that’s not been peeled by your hand, salads and spicy dishes.
ATMs are available almost everywhere and the use of credit cards is widespread. Shopping markets are often near archaeological sites and they’re a great place to pick up a range of gorgeous souvenirs. Haggling is commonplace and items are often marked up in anticipation, but the bartering process doesn’t yield quite as dramatic results as in other countries, like Morocco.
On the stunning island of Holbox, north of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, there are some ATMs where you can withdraw cash, but many are empty or broken. It’s best to plan ahead and make sure you have the cash needed ahead of your arrival.
If you are transferring to a domestic flight to get to Mexico, clearly label luggage with your name and a contact number, so if the worst happens and your bags go missing, once found, you can be contacted swiftly.
While you may not have heard of a brown seaweed called sargassum, there’s a chance that by the end of your stay in Mexico, you’ll be well familiar with it. It’s a sporadic annoyance to the beaches of the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico – as it covers stretches of coastline with its stringy, brown tendrils and impedes beach activities and swimming. It’s toxic if left to decompose, so hoteliers and locals are often quick to remove it at which point life can resume as normal.