While Mexico is home to world-class restaurants run by master chefs, do not forget to explore the street food and local markets. Here, you will be able to find fresh and cheap alternatives to sit-down restaurants while still experiencing local flavors and family recipes. When looking for a stand to eat at, choose the ones that are crowded — the high turnover means that the food will be the freshest.
2. DON’T DRINK THE TAP
If you are thirsty and in need of a drink, stick to bottled water. Tap water in Mexico has bacteria in it that often gives travelers digestive issues — even locals frown on the idea of drinking tap water. If you are not able to use bottled water when brushing your teeth, make sure to spit the water out instead of swallowing. Bottled water can be purchased at local stores for affordable prices in various sizes from .5L to 2L bottles. When dining out, be sure to ask for “agua pura” (pure water).
3. GO INLAND, MY FRIEND!
Mexico’s 5,700 miles of coastline draw travelers from around the world in search of fun in the sun, and the area’s popularity has ensured that their prices are among the highest. To get the most bang for your buck, venturing inland is your best bet. Plus, you’ll have a better opportunity to meet locals and enjoy authentic experiences.
4. WEAR NATURAL, BREATHABLE FABRICS
Don’t be surprised when locals are wearing long sleeves and pants but it is hot and humid out. Traditional clothing is made from breathable, natural fabrics like cotton and linen as opposed to heat-trapping, synthetic materials. Blending in by wearing local clothing will help keep you cool while also reducing your chances of being identified as a tourist in more popular areas.
5. SAFETY FIRST
Don’t let Mexico’s reputation scare you off — much of Mexico is safe as long as you are smart. Avoid cameras hanging around your neck or holding guidebooks that designate you as someone from out of town. Wearing local clothes will help keep you cool and blend in with a crowd. Watch how much you have to drink and keep your important documents — wallet and passport — someplace safe to protect against pickpockets. Talk to the hotel staff to learn about the best places to explore or where to avoid.
6. WATCH RESTROOM MARKERS
The Spanish word for women is “mujeres” so when you see the letter “M” on the restroom door, it is a women’s restroom and not for “males or men.” Men’s restrooms are marked with an “H” for “hombres” or “C” for “caballeros.”
7. BE AWARE OF IMMIGRATION VISITATION RULES
Mexico’s immigration service (INM) has started cracking down on visitors. When you are at the airport they will ask you exactly how many days you will be visiting Mexico, and if it’s longer than a month you may have to provide proof about when you’re actually leaving. Proof can be in the form of accommodation reservations or outbound flight tickets.
In addition, the INM is now conducting random checks of non-Mexicans on the street, especially in Playa del Carmen and Tulum. Always be carrying your passport.
8. KNOW THE TOILET PAPER RULES
This is going to be a very foreign concept for Americans and Europeans that will take getting used to, but your toilet paper goes in the trash can rather than the toilet. Do NOT flush toilet paper in Mexico. An exception would be that toilet paper flushing is acceptable in some resorts. Always assume that you will not be flushing your toilet paper unless otherwise noted.
9. BUY TRAVEL INSURANCE
During a pandemic is not the time to travel without travel insurance. Travel insurance in Mexico isn’t different from other places but very valuable while traveling in these uncertain times. Road Scholar offers its own comprehensive travel insurance packages that covers emergency medical evacuation, 24-hour emergency assistance, lost, stolen, damaged or delayed baggage insurance, and limited medical coverage for accidental injury or sickness.
10. GET A VPN
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is becoming essential for travel because it prevents theft of online and personal information. VPNs allow you to create a secure connection over a shared connection.