Mexico has a reputation for gorgeous beaches, Mayan ruins and the luxurious vacation rentals playa del carmen. Visitors from tourists looking for a high-end getaway to backpackers explore Mexico’s colonial history. But first-time visitors are always concerned about travelling to the country. Here are a few things every tourist should know before they visit Mexico.
Mexico isn’t as dangerous as the media makes it out
The biggest concern facing tourists is safety. Mexico doesn’t get the best coverage. Some visitors feel like it’s too dangerous to visit. But that’s not entirely true. Mexico is a vast country, and most of the things you see in the media take place far from the tourist resorts. Yes, crime and gang-related violence does take place. But this rarely affects tourists. If you stay in the resorts, you probably won’t see much of Mexico outside the hotel zones. And if you explore more of the country you’ll be met with warmth and excellent hospitality.
Expect to see lots of armed guards
Armed police ride in the back of open vehicles in many parts of Mexico including the tourist areas in the Riviera Maya. You might find police with big guns standing at checkpoints along the highway leading in and out of towns and cities. Some of the security guards carry handguns outside shops and malls. Don’t let this alarm you. There isn’t going to be a gun fight in the middle of the street. The police are there mostly as a deterrent. At first, seeing the level of hardware carried by the police and security can feel uncomfortable – especially if you’re from a country where the police force doesn’t carry weapons. Give it a few days. You’ll get used to it.
Have your wits about you
Like you would in any city in the world, have your wits about you. Opportunistic pickpockets and scammers will target tourists. And you will need to be careful not to fall victim to one hustle or another. However, if you’ve visited any major city in Western Europe, the level of scams in Mexico is much less. Vendors do hassle you and people do ask for money. But it’s not like what you’d face walking down the street in Paris or Rome. A simple no and shake of the head is enough.
Explore more of Mexico
Mexico is a vast country covering three time zones. Stunning beaches line the coasts with towering mountains forming the spine of the mainland. Colonial towns bursting with colour and life fill the countryside. You’ll find gorgeous Spanish-style churches in most towns and a different ethnic make-up and culture. Embrace the chance to get out and experience the best of Mexico. Thousands of visitors stick to their resorts and fail to immerse themselves in the vibrant culture. If you’re in Yucatan, get out and feel the thriving Mayan history.
Mexican hospitality is second to none
The Mexican’s are a warm and friendly bunch. Visit any town or city and receive a warm welcome from the locals. If you’re away from the tourist areas, you’ll make new friends in no time at all. Eat in the same restaurant twice, and the owners will start chatting to you. Book a night or two in a guesthouse or homestay and have the chance the meet and live with a Mexican family. People from all walks of life often live a laid-back lifestyle. And you’ll have the chance to experience and embrace it when you arrive.
Learn a few words of Spanish
If you want to spend all your time sat in the resorts, you won’t need to know a word of Spanish. But if you want to get out and explore the country, a phrase or two will go a long way. Mexicans who work in the tourist industry almost always speak English. And you should be fine unless you find yourself in rural areas or destinations off the beaten path. Learn a word or two to help order meals in the local restaurants. And have a decent command of the numbers to help with the price and buying things.
Don’t barter all the time
Nothing beats the feeling of landing a bargain. And Mexican vendors at the market will barter all day long. But what you need to remember is that you’re haggling over a dollar or two. The amount for you is meaningless. You wouldn’t really care if you lost the money from your wallet. But from the Mexican perspective, a dollar or two is worth a lot more. If you are going to buy something from the market or a souvenir, have an idea of how much it should cost. And don’t get too worried if you end up paying a few dollars extra.
Finally, it’s worth talking about alcohol. In some parts of the world, you can buy a bottle of beer or wine from the shop and enjoy it in the park. Not in Mexico. It’s illegal to consume alcohol in public, and you could face a large fine if you’re caught. You should also be aware of the bottle deposit for glass bottles in the shop. When you take it back, you’ll get your deposit refunded. This is only a few pesos, but can add up over the course of your trip.
Plan a trip to Mexico
Mexico is an incredible place to travel offering beaches, colonial towns and excellent hospitality. The country you’ll see as a tourist is nothing like how it’s portrayed in the media. And you’ll come away with a warm perspective of Mexico.
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